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THE SITUATION ROOM
Budget Cuts Begins to Take Hold; Obama-Clinton Relationship; Obama-Clinton Rifts Revealed; Sinkhole Swallowed Florida Man; Rodman: "I Love Him, I Love Him"; Manhunt In "Miracle Baby" Hit And Run; Hanging Out With Michelle Obama
Aired March 4, 2013 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: We're keeping watch on some of America's busiest airports right now. Are they feeling the pinch of those forced budget cuts?
Plus, behind the smile -- there's new evidence that Hillary Clinton's working relationship with the president wasn't as cozy as they claim.
And Ambassador Dennis Rodman. The White House weighing in on Kim Jong-un's new pal.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
It's the first full day, workday, I should say, since the forced budget cuts went into effect. Most Americans probably haven't felt a thing, at least not yet. President Obama's credibility though is being tested, after the various warnings he's given about the impact of those cuts, some very dire, some more cautious.
Our national political correspondent Jim Acosta's over at the White House with the latest -- Jim.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, President Obama is insisting that Americans will start feeling the pain from these forced budget cuts that are now going into effect.
And while the White House is rejecting the notion that it's engaging in any kind of hype, one Cabinet secretary today had to admit that he got some of his facts wrong on some of the impacts.
ACOSTA (voice-over): From the table in the Cabinet room, President Obama warned the consequences of those automatic budget cuts are coming to kitchen tables across the country.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is an area deep concern. I think everybody knows where I stand on this issue. We are going to manage it as best we can to try to minimize the impacts on American families.
ACOSTA: The Department of Homeland Security says reductions in overtime for customs workers resulted in long lines at international airports around the U.S. over the weekend.
JANET NAPOLITANO, U.S. HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: We are already seeing the effects at some of the ports of entry. The big airports, for example, some of them had very long lines this weekend. I would say 150 to 200 percent as long as we would normally expect.
ACOSTA: A spokesperson for secretary Janet Napolitano cautioned she was not referring to TSA security checkpoints. The TSA says expect those wait times to spike later in the spring, as the agency won't fill up to 1,000 personnel vacancies by Memorial Day weekend. Passengers we found said they're not feeling it yet.
KEVIN MURDOCK, TRAVELER: Sequestration hasn't hit or bitten for us yet and we're pretty regular travelers.
ACOSTA: But the White House may be undercutting its case with some budget hype. Consider Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who now says he misspoke when he claimed last week that teachers were already receiving pink slips.
ARNE DUNCAN, U.S. EDUCATION SECRETARY: I want to apologize for not being as clear as I should have been. When I said pink slips, that was probably the wrong word. I should have used job eliminations.
ACOSTA (on camera): What is the administration doing to make sure that these numbers are not hyped, because might that undercut your message?
JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Here's the thing. If you disagree with the CBO and with outside economic analysts who say that up to three quarters of a million jobs will be lost, well, you should make that case. There's no way to do what the sequester calls for and not create these negative effects.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Americans may not be feeling the punch, but there are plenty of spending cut punch lines. Over the weekend, the S. in "SNL" stood for sequester.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: We no longer have full body scanners at the security lines, so we're asking everyone to take a photo down the front of their pants and just text that to us.
ACOSTA: With Washington becoming a joke, it's no surprise both sides appear willing to pass a measure that would avoid a government shutdown at the end of the month.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I'm hopeful that the House and Senate will be able to work through this.
ACOSTA: White House officials say that they hope that the Congress will replace these forced budget cuts by closing some tax loopholes, but a top GOP aide tells CNN he doesn't believe -- quote -- "There is any chance they can increase pressure enough for us to raise taxes again." Translation, these cuts may be here for a while.
BLITZER: And even as the cuts are here, Jim, the president met with his Cabinet today. He made it clear, you know, as important as the whole issue of these forced budget cuts issues, he wants to move on, talk about comprehensive immigration reform, gun control. He's got a whole agenda out there.
ACOSTA: That's right.
And that top GOP aide that I talked to said that were the president to try to replace this forced spending cut measure, this so- called sequester, he would have to spend all of his political capital and do away with some of these efforts to bring about immigration reform and gun control.
So that Republicans are basically saying at this point, you want to go after these cuts, you want to replace these cuts, it's going to cost you.
BLITZER: Jim Acosta is over at the White House. Jim, thanks very much.
Let's right now to a stunning breakthrough in the treatment of HIV. Doctors announcing they have cured a child who was born with the virus, something that's never been done before. The question now, could this lead to a cure for more than 1,000 babies born around the world with HIV every single day?
Our senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, is joining us.
She's been looking into this major development.
What are you finding out, Elizabeth?
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, what we're finding out is that this action, this occurrence that has taken place, it wasn't a fluke. It was actually the result of a mother who didn't listen to doctors' orders.
COHEN (voice-over): It's a startling announcement. Doctors say they have cured a 2-year-old in Mississippi of HIV, the infection she'd had since birth gone.
ROWENA JOHNSON, FOUNDATION FOR AIDS RESEARCH: It's fantastic news from any number of angles, of course, that a child has been cured. But this actually happened really quite easily and quite inexpensively.
COHEN: The cure came about as kind a fluke. The baby was born to an HIV-positive mother and the baby was HIV-positive too. She was put on HIV drugs, but the mother, for some reason, stopped giving them to her when she was about 15 months old. She was taken back to the doctor just before her second birthday. And the doctor found the baby was HIV-free, even though she'd been off medication for five months. JOHNSON: What fantastic news. This is something I don't think anybody would have expected.
COHEN: The key to success here might have been that the baby received relatively high doses of three HIV drugs soon after birth. Usually, HIV-positive newborns get low doses of one or two drugs after birth. If other babies can be cured after just 15 months on drugs, that would be huge. Now HIV-positive babies take these drugs for life and they can be toxic.
More studies need to be done, but this case may have inadvertently paved the way for other babies to have a brighter future.
COHEN: I just spoke with the baby's doctor and she says that the baby is doing great. She's completely healthy. She is not on any HIV drugs -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Is this little girl, Elizabeth, 100 percent HIV-free?
COHEN: Not 100 percent, Wolf. When they look with very sensitive tests that are used only in research labs, they can find little remnants of HIV DNA in her body.
It doesn't have any effect on her. She's not sick. But because she has those remnants, you can't say she's 100 percent free of HIV. In fact, some doctors are calling this not a cure, but what they call a functional cure.
BLITZER: Functional cure. What does this mean going forward? Where do we go from here?
COHEN: Well, right now, you mentioned earlier, Wolf, that about 1,000 babies a year -- a day, rather, are born around the world are HIV. Those babies are put on these drugs for life. It's expensive. Those drugs can be toxic.
So if this can be -- this proof of principle turns out to be true, you can take babies off these drugs after, let's say, a year, and you wouldn't keep them on for life. That would be a huge advantage for babies around the world, a big difference.
BLITZER: Huge difference, indeed. Elizabeth, thanks very much.
By the way, later, I will be speaking to the world-renowned expert on AIDS, Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health. We will talk about the importance of this breakthrough in the treatment of HIV. That interview will air here in THE SITUATION ROOM 6:30 p.m. Eastern.
Britain's Queen Elizabeth is out of the hospital and back at Buckingham Palace after a bout with a stomach bug. The 86-year-old monarch was smiling and walking on her own when she was released today. Buckingham Palace saying her one-night stay at a London hospital was a precaution. It's the first time in a decade the queen has been hospitalized. She's called off her official engagements for the rest of week.
Over at the Vatican, Catholic cardinals are now holding talks before they start choosing the next pope. We're told they still haven't decided when the process will officially start. About a dozen cardinals who will be involved in the conclave still are making their way to Rome, four days after Pope Benedict's resignation. A Vatican spokesman says a new pope could be chosen and in place within two weeks.
Now the words we keep hearing over and over again this winter. There's another big snowstorm on the way.
BLITZER: We're learning more about the shocking death of an 87- year-old woman inside a California retirement home. The staff refused to give her CPR, despite desperate pleas from a 911 operator who recorded it all.
CNN's Miguel Marquez is in Bakersfield, California. He's joining us now with those recordings.
It's pretty shocking to hear it. But explain what happened.
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Shocking, to say the least, Wolf. And Bakersfield police now say they're investigating this case to see if there are any criminal charges that could be brought.
911 OPERATOR: We need to get CPR started. That's not enough. OK?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, we can't do CPR at this time.
911 OPERATOR: OK, hand the phone to the passerby. If you can't do it, hand it to the passerby. I will have her do it. Or if you have got any senior citizens there, I will have them do it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.
MARQUEZ (voice-over): Beyond shocking. A nurse at this Bakersfield independent facility for the elderly flat-out refuses to help 87-year-old Lorraine Bayless when she collapsed on the ding room floor.
911 OPERATOR: Is there anybody that works there that is willing to do it?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We can't...
911 OPERATOR: Or are we just going to wait -- we're going to let this lady die?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, that's why we're calling 911.
911 OPERATOR: We can't wait. She can't wait right now. She is stopping breathing.
MARQUEZ: The 911 operator practically begs the woman at the facility who identifies herself as a nurse to either help or find someone who can.
911 OPERATOR: Anybody there can do CPR. Give them the phone, please. This woman's not breathing enough. She's going to die if we don't get this started. Do you understand?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I understand
911 OPERATOR: OK.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am a nurse. But I cannot have our other senior citizens who don't know CPR...
911 OPERATOR: I will instruct them. I will instruct them. Is there anyone there who is...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I cannot do that.
911 OPERATOR: OK. I don't understand why you're not willing to help this patient.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am.
911 OPERATOR: OK. Great, then I will walk you through it all.
911 OPERATOR: EMS takes the liability for this, Colleen. I'm happy to help you. OK? This is EMS protocol. OK?
MARQUEZ: Instead of helping, the woman seeks out a supervisor. The Tennessee company, Brookdale Senior Living, that owns the Bakersfield facility, says the woman was hired to be a resident services director, not a nurse, and that Glenwood Gardens facility is an independent living facility and is not licensed to provide medical care to any of its residents.
The facility says it followed its protocol by calling emergency services and staying with the patient until emergency personnel arrived.
MARQUEZ: Now, that 911 operator at the very end of that call, all she does is sigh. The 911 emergency personnel show up, they take the woman to the hospital. She expires at the hospital here in Bakersfield.
The company, Glenwood Gardens here, is saying they're conducting an internal review to see how all of this happened and whether or not any of their own internal protocols were broken -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Do we know how long it took for those emergency medical personnel after they got that 911 call to reach the scene?
MARQUEZ: It took six or seven minutes. I have just spoken to a former fire department employee here who says they responded several times to this place and it's the only location that he knew in town that would not perform anything, not just CPR, but even if somebody fell down, just fell off their chair, wouldn't even help that person up into their chair unless emergency services were called and they came to do it, Wolf.
BLITZER: Miguel Marquez, thanks very much for that report.
We're also getting a surprising inside look right now at President Obama's foreign policy team. We're hearing about some bitter rifts he had with the former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton.
Also ahead, Dennis Rodman's new friendship with North Korea's leader earning him a slot on a Sunday talk show. The White House is not amused.
And later, what made the first lady, Michelle Obama, so nervous.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: It was absolutely nerve-racking. It was pretty -- it was pretty intimidating, but I got through it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: In Hillary Clinton's final days as secretary of state, we heard a lot about her supposedly very warm and fuzzy relationship with President Obama. But now, we're hearing a very different side of the story about some old political tensions that have resurfaced.
Brian Todd has been looking into this story for us.
What are you seeing, Brian?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, according to one former State Department insider, Wolf, those tensions go back to the 2008 presidential campaign. Vali Nasr's new book details how Secretary of State Clinton had to fight to get her voice heard at the White House and how her top deputy, himself a foreign policy titan, was almost shut out completely.
TODD (voice-over): A former State Department insider is out with an explosive new book detailing rifts between President Obama and Hillary Clinton and her top deputy. Vali Nasr worked for Richard Holbrooke when Holbrooke was at the State Department under Clinton. Holbrooke's portfolio: special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Nasr writes that Holbrooke and Clinton had a good partnership, but that Holbrooke and sometimes Clinton were frozen out at the White House. Quote, "Both Clinton and Holbrooke, two incredibly dedicated people, had to fight to have their voices count on major foreign policy initiatives. Holbrooke never succeed."
Nasr believes it was mostly due to political bitterness. People closest to President Obama, Nasr writes, wanted to settle scores for Holbrooke's tenacious campaign support of Clinton who was herself eyed with suspicion by the Obama insiders. At times, it appears the White House was more interested in bringing Holbrooke down than getting the policy right.
We could not get Vali Nasr to speak with us on camera. Former Assistant Secretary of State James Rubin worked with Richard Holbrooke and Madeline Albright in the Clinton administration. He called Holbrooke the consummate foreign policy professional.
JAMES RUBIN, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE: Clearly some personal grudges, some concerns that Richard Holbrooke was, in the minds of the Obama White House, too big for his britches, played out in the making of policy toward Afghanistan and Pakistan and that's the tragedy.
TODD: Nasr depicts a president who did not have time to listen to Holbrooke. Even though Holbrooke was tapped with being a key point man when Afghan President Hamid Karzai, quote, "Holbrooke was not included in Obama's teleconferences with Karzai and was cut out of the presidential retinue when Obama went to Afghanistan."
RUBIN: Look, in the end, he's a big boy, he knew what he was getting into, and the Obama administration knew what they were getting into. Unfortunately, not every personnel pick works. And clearly, there were many people inside the administration who wished that the president had never chosen Richard Holbrooke for this important job.
TODD: On the question of Holbrooke not being included in teleconferences with Karzai or in the Afghanistan trips, one White House official told us that it was not customary to include State Department officials in presidential video conferences with President Karzai. And she said secrecy surrounding presidential trips to Afghanistan made it impractical to take Holbrooke on those trips.
We could not get a response from Hillary Clinton to Nasr's book. Richard Holbrooke passed away in December of 2010 -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And Vali Nasr, who wrote this new book, not officially coming out for at least another month, right?
TODD: That's right.
BLITZER: What he says is the president did not only fully embrace Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or Richard Holbrooke for that matter, but relied on others that Vali Nasr said weren't necessarily up to the job.
TODD: Absolutely. He said, essentially, they were neophytes who were just in tune with the political side of things. He says the president had a disturbing habit of funneling major policy decisions through what Nasr calls a cabal -- that's a word he used -- the cabal of inexperienced White House advisers whose turf was strictly politics. We couldn't get a response -- we tried, we could not get a response from the White House to that passage.
BLITZER: We're going to Vali Nasr here in THE SITUATION ROOM once his book comes out. And he's going to go out I assume when he starts doing some TV interviews. I should point out, he's the dean of the Johns Hopkins University --
TODD: That's right.
BLITZER: -- School of Advanced International Studies. This is where I graduated --
TODD: Your alma matter.
BLITZER: -- from, so I know him.
BLITZER: Thanks very much for that. He's a very serious, good guy.
"Saturday Night Live" springs a surprise, and it has to do with the pope, THE SITUATION ROOM and me. We're going to reveal all. That's coming up.
BLITZER: Demolition crews have resumed work at a Tampa home where a man was swallowed up by a giant sinkhole. Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
What's the latest?
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, sad to report that the 37-year-old Jeff Bush has been declared presumed dead. Rescue workers have given up any hope of retrieving his body. He was asleep last Thursday when the crater opened up under his bedroom. Crews plan to demolish the rest of the house before they begin stabilizing the sinkhole. Two nearby homes have been evacuated.
Bush's family says they are discussing plans for a memorial service and a possible marker at that site.
So-called smoking gun e-mails have been unveiled in a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Michael Jackson's mother and his children. Trial is set for next month. The e-mails reportedly suggest that concert promoter AEG Live was worried about Jackson missing concert rehearsals and sought Dr. Conrad Murray's help to get the pop star ready. Murray was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in Jackson's death.
And less than 100 points to go before the Dow hits an all time high. The Dow added 38 points to push closer to its October 2007 record of 14,198. Wall Street, though, is shrugging off the political mess over forced spending cuts and concerns that China's economic growth is slowing. The S&P 500 and NASDAQ also ended the day up.
All right. Who wouldn't want to be on this list? "Forbes" magazine is out with its annual tally of the world's richest billionaires. After more than a decade in the top three, Warren Buffett now claims the fourth spot.
Zara tycoon Amancio Ortega is number three. Microsoft founder Bill Gates is second. And at the number one spot, Mexican telecommunications mogul, Carlos Slim. His reported net worth, $73 billion.
OK, here a CNN, we are gearing up to report on the real-life selection of a new pope. But if you are a fan of "Saturday Night Live," you already saw the big announcement right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good morning. I'm Wolf Blitzer, and this is THE SITUATION ROOM.
This week, with the Catholic Church mired in scandal, the conclave of cardinals gathered to select a new pope.
Erin Carvanal (ph) is standing by at the Vatican. What can you tell us, Erin?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wolf, there's speculation that the front- runner is Cardinal Peter Turkson from Ghana. If selected, he would be the first African pope, which some say would signal a new more progressive Catholic Church.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, whoever they choose, he'll need to be a dynamic fresh face capable of moving this church past the scandals into the 21st century.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wolf, I need to interrupt you. There is white smoke rising from the Sistine Chapel, meaning that a new pope has been selected.
And here come the cardinals. And from the looks of it, the new pope is not Turkson. The new pope is 9-year-old Oscar nominee Quvenzhane Wallis.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wow. I don't think anyone saw this one coming. Well, I think I speak for all of us when I say, go, pope-y, go, pope-y, go.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The new pope is riding a cardinal like a horsey.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, look at that. Wow, I could watch that all day, huh? How about that? Horsey rides in the Vatican. That's got to be a first, but probably isn't.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, Wolf, she is cute as hell.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is she enough to turn the fortunes of this beleaguered church?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is the pope Catholic?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She is not, and I don't think anyone cares.
When we return, scientists find a shocking new cause of cancer and it is (INAUDIBLE).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Do I mumble?
SYLVESTER: They got the beard part right. They got the theme music wrong. But overall, it was a good laugh.
BLITZER: He did a good job.
SYLVESTER: You've been on "Saturday Night Live" before and you've been a feature there.
BLITZER: As I tweeted, I'm flattered when they do that. They mention THE SITUATION ROOM.
SYLVESTER: Exactly. It's good publicity for us. It's good publicity for you. We all get a laugh. Everybody loves it.
BLITZER: He's good. He needs new glasses, though.
SYLVESTER: He needs new glasses. The beard is right -
BLIZTER: The beard is good. Jacket is good. Situation Room --
SYLVESTER: Exactly, they got that.
BLITZER: Time to get the glasses up to date.
SYLVESTER: Exactly. You got new glasses, I remember that. BLITZER: Thank you. Much more news coming up here in the - rrrr - SITUATION ROOM. some kids have a pressing question for the first lady.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE CHILD: Hello, Mrs. Obama. Our favorite dance move is raise the roof.
MICHELLE OBAMA: Let's see. Oh, yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE CHILD: What is your favorite dance move?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: We're going to reveal what the first lady's favorite dance move is. That's ahead right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: All right. Let's dig a little bit deeper now into those explosive reports about possible rifts that occurred between President Obama and his former top diplomat, the then-secretary of state Hillary Clinton. Let's discuss in our Strategy Session. Joining us, the Democratic strategist and CNN contributor Paul Begala. Also joining us, CNN contributor David Frum. He's the author of the book "Why Romney Lost." He's also a former Bush White House speechwriter.
You saw Brian Todd's report. Vali Nasr, who worked for Richard Holbrooke, now the dean of SAIS, the School of Advanced International Studies here in Washington. A well-known, very smart guy. He says there was a serious problem. You know Hillary Clinton well. Was there a serious problem as far as you know?
PAUL BEGALA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: No. In short -- I'm sorry to be so blunt. Look, Dr. Nasr is an impressive person. He's an important person. I could be wrong about this, but I think this was his first posting in the government. And we need foreign policy experts. But we also, sometimes if people don't know politics, they're shocked, shocked that politics and personalities sometimes cause some friction.
But like they say at NASCAR, rubbing is racing. I mean, I've been at this a long time. The relationship between the power players at State, the White House and Defense, was as good as I have ever seen. We remember in the Reagan administration where State and Defense in Weinberger and Schultz weren't even talking to each other. In the W. Bush administration, when you had Rumsfeld as power at the Pentagon and General Powell, this remarkable talent at State, they didn't get along.
This all actually worked quite well for President Obama and Secretary Clinton. So, I don't know the specifics about what Dr. Nasr's saying, but I think it's kind of par for the course.
DAVID FRUM, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I'm outside of my area of expertise with this inter-Democratic politics, so I have to be very mindful of the limits of what I know. But here's what one heard a lot about in 2008. It was a very bitter race between President Obama -- the future President Obama and Hillary Clinton.
And Richard Holbrooke was a very partisan figure, and was making phone calls all over Washington, saying to the young people or the secondary people who had defied the Hillary Clinton machine that they would regret it. That there would be consequences. And some of those people were bold and still nonetheless aligned with President Obama, thinking they were going to get their rewards, only to discover that Hillary Clinton became secretary of state and all of Richard Holbrooke's threats actually came true. And if you supported President Obama, you got a worst job - the future President Obama - you got a worse job in the Obama administration.
So there may be some ill feeling about that. As I said, this is not my area. This is Paul's area. But I don't believe in --
BLITZER: All right. Let me move you back to your area, Mitt Romney. You wrote a whole book about why he lost. He was on Fox News yesterday and he said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY, FORMER GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I still care. And I still believe that there are principles that we need to stand for.
I look at what's happening right now. I wish I were there. It kills me not to be there, not to be in the White House doing what needs to be done. The president is the leader of the nation. The president brings people together, does the deals, does the trades. Knocks the heads together. The president leads. And I don't see that kind of leadership happening.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: He was pretty blunt. He said it kills him not to be in the Oval Office right now, leading on the sensitive issue of these forced budget cuts.
FRUM: One of the things I thought was very hopeful and interesting about what Mitt Romney said was his acknowledgement that the sequester is bad news. This is not our first step toward a rational deficit reduction program. It's bad news. And if we could at least all agree on that, we could get away from these cuts that are landing on the defense budget, $47 billion is going to come out the defense budget between now and the end of the fiscal year. Even as the United States is winding down two wars. This is not the way to go. I'm glad Mitt Romney is saying that.
BLITZER: Everybody agrees, Paul, this is not the best way of cutting spends. Across the board, meat-clever kind of cutting, spending. They would like to do it with a scalpel, a much more intelligent way, but they haven't been able to come up w a deal. BEGALA: Right. And with all due respect to Mr. Romney, he ain't the solution. I'm glad it's killing him. I'm glad. Because you know, it's killing the middle class. At least he's suffering a little psychic pain. As it's killing him, as he said in that incredibly selfish statement we just saw, he was sitting in a $12 million mansion that he bought for cash, Wolf. And now you know what he's going to do? He's going to tear that mansion down, build one four times bigger with an elevator for his car, and yet he only pays a 14 percent tax rate. That's killing me. That's killing the American middle class. That's what he ought to be talking about.
He should have stood up yesterday and said, look we are in a world of hurt. The sequester is bad. Wealthy people like me should not use this Romney rule loophole by which they only pay 14 percent on a $20 million income. That's what he should have said. He could have really helped his country --
BLITZER: But he's not doing anything illegal. That's the law. That's the income, that's what you pay.
BEGALA: Absolutely that's the law! Absolutely.
BLITZER: He doesn't have a salary. If he had a salary, he'd pay 39 percent.
BEGALA: Exactly. So, if he were a waiter, he'd be paying a higher tax rate than the 14 percent that he's paying as a multimillionaire. Perfectly legally, but it's an outrage.
FRUM: What Paul is saying is a perfect example of why we are in so much trouble. That is a statement of fiscal policy. And you can't say this enough, that Washington's consumed with who should pay how much tax, how much more tax, and who should get how much less benefit.
Meanwhile, we have an economic crisis. We're now entering year six. And it is not met by increasing taxes and cutting spending in this year. You want to get to prosperity first. And the idea that you're going to say, what we're going to organize the country around is resenting what Mitt Romney has as if that has anything to do with anybody else's problems.
BEGALA: It's not what he has, it's what he refuses to pay. Well, the loophole he takes advantage of, legally. That's an outrage.
You're right fundamentally. Mitt could have done that as well. He's a business man and a smart one. He created millions of jobs in Bangalore and in China and made millions himself. He could have said, look, we need short-term growth. We need stimulus now and long-term deficit reduction. He could have said a lot things instead of just whining --
BLITZER: He's going to be speaking in the coming days at the Conservative Political Action Conference, CPAC, here in Washington. How much influence, if any, do you think he's going to have over the next few years?
FRUM: If he set his mind to it, he could potentially have a lot. Mitt Romney commands a lot of resources, both financial and other kinds. And if he's willing to invest the patient effort to build a voice for a more governing kind of Republicanism.
You know, we have got a very lopsided party in the Republican world. We have a very strong organized self-conscious -- you might call it a right wing. But the wing that is -- that features people like Chris Christie and the former Mitt Romney, that wing is unrepresented. If we had some kind of coherent organization that said Republicanism is also about governing, that it's not going to be about the kind of message that you hear from some of the more destructive and nilistic voices in the party, he could be a very powerful figure.
BLITZER: You want to add anything?
BEGALA: He is the clueless Joe Jackson of the Republican Party. To do the Republicans a favor, he should just stand down, go away, enjoy his very lovely family -- it was smart that at least half that interview was with his wife. She's very impressive. I always felt like the wrong Romney was running for the Republican party last time.
BLITZER: You do not like Mitt Romney.
BEGALA: I do not like Mitt Romney. But I'm a big fan of Ann, I have to say!
FRUM: He has to let it go, but it's -- I think there's a little bit of super PAC money still in -- trying to spend it, and he's doing it here on CNN's air waves.
BLITZER: Guys, thanks very much.
A note for our viewers. Jake Tapper will interview the former Florida governor Jeb Bush tomorrow on the 2016 presidential race. A whole lot more. You can see Jake's interview with the former Florida governor. That will air right here in THE SITUATION ROOM tomorrow.
The basketball star, we should say, the former basketball star, Dennis Rodman, can't stop gushing about his new best friend. The North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un. Up next, the White House is now weighing in on their surprising relationship.
BLITZER: He's a former basketball star. He's certainly been a reality TV star as well, but who would have pegged Dennis Rodman as a guest on one of the major Sunday talk shows? It's another strange twist to the already very bizarre story of Rodman's friendship, yes, friendship, with North Korea's leader Kim Jong-Un. Let's bring in Tom Foreman into THE SITUATION ROOM. You've been taking a closer look. We use the word bizarre. It's all very bizarre.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, kind of took a bad bounce on him, didn't it? It looked like it was going to be one of those friendly sports diplomacy stories. It really, really turned into something else.
FOREMAN (voice-over): Never much for diplomacy during his NBA days, Dennis Rodman now has the diplomatic world calling foul after he visited North Korea, partied with the secretive leader Kim Jong-Un.
DENNIS RODMAN, FORMER NBA PLAYER: I love him, the guy's awesome.
FOREMAN: And then came home to a jaw-dropping interview on ABC.
RODMAN: He's my friend. I don't condone what he does, but as far as a person, a person, he's my friend.
FOREMAN: That was the theme for Rodman even as the host, George Stephanopoulos, repeatedly asked about accusations of the North Korean regime starving, imprisoning and murdering its own people for many years.
RODMAN: He's a great guy. He's just a great guy if you sit down and talk to him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's a great guy would puts 200,000 people in prison camps?
RODMAN: Well, you know, guess what, we do the same thing here. The kid's only 28 years old, 28. He's not his dad. He's not his grandfather. He loves basketball. Now, Obama loves basketball. Let's start there.
FOREMAN: At the White House, no word on President Obama's reaction to that overture, but it was made clear the administration is not amused.
JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: North Korea ought to be focusing on its own citizens and opportunities to improve their lives. And the United States has channels of communications directly with the DPRK and those are the channels we choose to employ.
FOREMAN: Rodman told ABC, he'll go back to North Korea if he can and he took pains to pass on a key message from Kim Jong-Un.
RODMAN: He wants Obama to do one thing, call him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He wants a call from President Obama? RODMAN: That's right, he told me that. He said, if you can, Dennis, I don't want to do war. I don't want to do war. He said that to me.
FOREMAN: I can't get over that one picture. It looks like they're sitting there at a Knicks game. Rodman was in North Korea as part of a documentary being done by "Vice," which is working with HBO to air the program. We'll let you know, CNN and HBO both owned by Time Warner.
I don't' know what's going to happen with all that, Wolf, but after that interview went south, Rodman's publicist immediately pulled the plug on all the other interviews that were coming up, including one with you.
So I don't think we're going to hear anything from him in the near future or if we do I think it will have a different tone.
BLITZER: We probably will at some point because he's Dennis Rodman.
FOREMAN: He's never been that quiet I suppose.
BLITZER: He's not a shy guy.
FOREMAN: No, he's not a shy guy. I'm not sure I'd take money that he'll actually go back to North Korea despite him saying he wants to.
BLITZER: I think there's a lot more to the story. We're going to continue checking into it. Tom, thanks very, very much.
As we're about to head into what we call "March Madness," a lot of people can't stop talking about the ending of this high school basketball title game in New York State. Take a look at this.
New Rochele was about to lose to Mount Vernon when New Rochele's Calil Edny steals the pass. Check this out. He launched the 55-foot shot with less than one second on the clock. At first the ref said it was after the buzzer, but then they reversed the call. Obviously, cue the celebration. Look at this. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And Mount Vernon's going to hold on to win. Hang on. Goodness! Are they going to count that? No! They're wiping it off!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: You got to give him a lot of credit. Amazing. All right, congratulations.
The first lady, Michelle Obama, calls herself mom in chief. You're going to find out what she says she'd never talk about over at the White House with her daughters, Sasha and Malia. That's next.
BLITZER: Now to the manhunt in New York, police believe they identified a suspect behind a horrifying hit and run crash that killed a pregnant woman and her husband. The couple's newborn was delivered, but sadly he too has died.
CNN's Mary Snow is following this tragic story for us in Brooklyn. Mary, what happened?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this story is so heartbreaking that it gained widespread attention far beyond this insular community. People here had been clinging to hope that the baby would live. But now they're dealing with a triple tragedy and they're demanding justice.
SNOW (voice-over): Their baby was considered a miracle. Born by c-section after both his mother and father were killed by a hit and run driver. One day after his parents were killed, the baby of Nathan and Raizy Glauber also died.
It deepened the pain of the religious community of Hasidic Jews where mourners stood shoulder to shoulder in the street for funerals of the young couple. Both were 21. The brother of Raizy Glauber is turning to his faith.
JOSEPH SILVERSTEIN, RAIZY GLAUBER'S BROTHER: Whoever did not go through this can't even contemplate what this is to lose a sister and her husband and more at once so suddenly. God created this world. This was his will. This was what he wanted. This is what he did and we accept it.
SNOW: As the shaken community mourns, police search for the hit and run driver who fled the scene early Sunday. Police put out this photo identifying 44-year-old Julio Acebedo as a man wanted in connection with the crash.
The Glauber's were on their way to the hospital in a cab because pregnant, Raizy, did not feel well. Police say a BMW slammed into them, going over 60 miles per hour. In this community, which abides by strict religious rules, women didn't want to talk publicly out of concerns of modesty. People struggled not to show emotion. But in a place so tight-knit, they say a tragedy like this one spares no one.
DAVID NIEDERMAN, RABBI: We believe that now -- the parents and the child are now at peace in heaven.
SNOW: The rabbi we spoke with said this wasn't about two families being affected, this has touched everyone here. Police say the suspect that they are looking for had a prior criminal record and that involved a murder charge dating back to the 1980s and a DWI charge as late as this February. Police -- we have not been able to verify the suspect's records -- Wolf.
BLITZER: What a story, what a sad, sad story, a tragic story. Our deepest, deepest condolences to the family, to the entire community, shocking development. Mary Snow, thanks for that report.
The first President Bush has a new amount of papers that are being released right now. And talking about his relationship with his son, George W. Bush, and at times he got frustrated, and at times he was so proud. Up next, the story you'll get first right here on CNN.
BLITZER: Now to the first lady, Michelle Obama. She's out promoting her "Let's Move" campaign and taking the motto to heart. She seems to be everywhere these days from her surprise Oscar appearance to today's event, what's called a "Google Hangout Online." CNN's Erin McPike is joining us with more. What's going on, Erin?
ERIN MCPIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Mrs. Obama is trying to raise awareness for childhood obesity however she can. According to the CDC, obesity has doubled for children in the last 30 years. More recently, she's been encouraging schools to get gym classes back into kid's schedules.
And today, she answered basic questions from parents, teachers and the third grade class and gave some of her personal tips. Now as you know, she calls herself the mom in chief.
Well, now that her adolescent daughters are getting a little older and into those pesky teenage years, you might be interested to know that she doesn't talk about weight at home because she thinks it's bad for their self-esteem.
Now, the first lady also says she keeps apples all over the White House because it's her family's go to snack. Get this. Mrs. Obama said she makes Malia and Sasha to take their dog, Bo, outside to play after dinner and really work him hard.
She said balanced diets are important for dogs too. Now, of course, she doesn't have magical advice on how to get younger children to eat better. She said the same thing you and I probably heard when we were little.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: There are kids out there that would give anything to have that wonderful lunch that you have because they don't have a lunch at all. So we have to think about them before we throw something out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MCPIKE: Now, not all of the questions today were about the bottom line. If you're still wondering about that much buzzed about Oscar appearance last month, well, it turns out that even the most famous women in the world get a little nervous. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
M. OBAMA: I was a little more nervous than I thought I'd be. I thought I'd drop the envelope. I thought I'd get the name wrong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MCPIKE: Well, at least she didn't trip like Jennifer Lawrence, Wolf.
And now, if you want to ask the first lady a question, she's taking questions again on Twitter on Wednesday. Her handle is @flotus -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Erin, thanks very much.