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THE SITUATION ROOM

Two American Deaths in Afghanistan; Electing the Next Pope; Interview With Kentucky Senator Rand Paul

Aired March 11, 2013 - 18:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: A closer look at some of the men who could become pope.

Plus, she's a congresswoman and Democratic Party chair. She's also a mother of three -- how this working mom makes it all work.

I'm Wolf Blitzer, along with Kate Bolduan. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

More than 2,000 American lives lost over a dozen years and the United States continues to pay a heavy price for the war in Afghanistan. The latest bloodshed, an attack on U.S. forces at a joint American/Afghan base in Wardak Province about an hour west of Kabul. This was the scene outside the base where a man wearing an Afghan national security force uniform opened fire with a truck- mounted machine gun, killing two Americans, including a Green Beret, and wounding at least 10 United States service members.

It's a deadly bookend to a suicide attack that greeted Chuck Hagel as he arrived in Afghanistan on his first trip as the new defense secretary. That was followed by a verbal slap in the face from the president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, who accused the United States of colluding with the Taliban.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HAMID KARZAI, PRESIDENT OF AFGHANISTAN (through translator): The bombing that took place yesterday and was carried out in the name of the Taliban, these actions, in fact, show that the Taliban are at the service of the foreigners and are not against the foreigner. These bombings show that the Taliban want a longer presence of foreigners, not their departure from Afghanistan.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Defense Secretary Hagel has just returned to the United States from Afghanistan.

Our Pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence, was traveling with the secretary throughout this trip. He's joining us now live from Joint Base Andrews, right outside of Washington, D.C. They landed only moments ago.

Chris, Hagel and Karzai have known each other for, what, more than a decade. What was your impression? You were there. What was going on? Because a lot of people are outraged right now at the way Hamid Karzai treated the new defense secretary.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I got a sense that a lot of people were caught off-guard, definitely, by some of Karzai's recent comments. Even though he's made some outlandish allegations in the past, these sort of rose to a different level. And that caught a lot of the delegation off guard a bit.

But I think from the impression I got and in speaking with Secretary Hagel, he is using his years, years, of knowing President Karzai as a way to sort of manage these outbursts in a way. He talked about how he was on that first congressional delegation back in 2002 to go to Afghanistan, how he authored some of the first legislation to provide aid to Afghanistan.

So, he told us that he had a relationship with President Karzai that went back over a decade, and I think he's trying to use that to sort of buffer, if you will, some of these outbursts.

BLITZER: But having said that, Chris, remember, the United States has, what, 66,000 troops still in Afghanistan. They are not supposed to leave, all of them, until the end of 2014, maybe another two years.

The U.S. is still spending close to $100 billion a year maintaining that true presence in Afghanistan. And Hamid Karzai won't even have a joint news conference, a traditional joint news conference with the secretary in his first overseas trip? What a slap in the face that is. Where's the gratitude?

LAWRENCE: Well, let me clarify that a little bit.

We were all set to go to the palace just a couple days ago to hear this joint presser. It was what everyone had been looking forward to, but there were certain security concerns on the ground that made travel to the palace -- we just couldn't do it, Wolf. We couldn't do it. And security was cited as the main factor for that.

What ended up happening was Secretary Hagel, after meeting with President Karzai, came back and briefed us at the ISAF headquarters at the U.S. military base. But from -- what we heard from defense officials was this. They went into this meeting and there were, you know, six aides on each side of the room. And after about five or 10 minutes of discussion, Secretary Hagel asked President Karzai if they could speak privately.

And so, everyone was cleared from the room, and the two of them had a private discussion for over a half-an-hour. And we're told that in that private discussion, Secretary Hagel was both firm and direct with President Karzai, which sort of runs counter to sort of the idea out that has been there that Karzai is making a lot of these statements and the U.S. isn't really responding.

From new information that we have learned now, the U.S. message may have been delivered during that private meeting, Wolf.

BLITZER: But it tells another story. If, in fact, they were concerned about security 12 years into this, the Afghan security personnel backed by NATO and the United States, they can't even protect the president of Afghanistan and the visiting defense secretary to hold a joint news conference. What does that say about the situation in Afghanistan right now?

I understand also, Chris, you were there on the scene when you heard a huge explosion on Saturday while the defense secretary was in Kabul. Tell us about that.

LAWRENCE: Yes, Wolf.

We were getting a briefing at the ISAF headquarters. And we were all sitting around a table and you hear this big boom. Everybody in the room heard it. Even some of the tiles on the ceiling shook a little bit. Then you started hearing some of the after-fire, some of the rat-a-tat, some of the return response to this big boom.

We didn't know what it was at first. About five minutes went by and then all of a sudden someone came into the room and said there's been an emergency declared. Everyone needs to get down in the basement. We were hustled downstairs and we were told that Secretary Hagel, who was on another location on the base, but not near us, that he was safe and secure, that he was going on with his meetings.

And, of course, within a couple minutes we learned that that huge bomb blast had occurred right outside the Afghan Ministry of Defense, which it's only about maybe a 10-minute walk from where we were on the U.S. base, Wolf.

BLITZER: Chris, we're glad you're back safe and sound. Glad the secretary of defense is back safe and sound as well. Thanks for your excellent reporting.

Kate is here. We are going to continue to follow up on this.

(CROSSTALK)

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, absolutely. We want to continue this conversation now.

Despite the troubling developments in Afghanistan, the White House says the plans to withdraw most American forces by the end of next year remain on track. Listen here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There is no questions that, you know, there have been a number of difficult security incidents and there have been comments by President Karzai with which we have disagreed, but our policy has not changed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Let's talk about all of this with Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky. He's a member of the Foreign Relations Committee. It's pretty outrageous when you think about it, Senator Paul. The United States spends all these billions of dollars in Afghanistan, still has 66,000 troops there, and he says, Hamid Karzai, that the U.S. is actually colluding with the Taliban. What do you make of this?

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: Well, it's a great deal of disrespect for a man that largely came into being and came into power because of our help.

It's what I question sometimes when, you know, we're asked to send our young men and women over there to lose their lives and we're treated with disrespect by our allies. So, I find it very troubling. But I think we have accomplished our goals there. We got bin Laden. We disrupted Taliban that was harboring him. We disrupted the government that was harboring him. I think we have achieved our goals, and I think it is time to come home.

BLITZER: You would accelerate the withdrawal schedule. Right now, U.S. troops are supposed to be out by the end of 2014, almost two years from now. What kind of timetable would you like?

PAUL: You know, we have been there nearly 12 years. I think it's time to come home.

I don't think there will ever be a time there's not going to be combat and there's not going to be some form of war. But 12 years is a long time for the host country not to have stepped up now and begin to defend their country. I think they will have to step up, and I think when we do leave, they will step up, or there will be a civil war.

So, I think it is time to come home. The exact timetable, though, I think, has to be done in conjunction with the generals and trying to figure out how you can safely exit a war that you have been in for so long.

BLITZER: It's costing the U.S. taxpayers about $2 billion a week to maintain that military presence in Afghanistan.

Another secretary, the secretary of state, he was in Egypt the other day. He offered another $250 million to the Egyptian government, the Muslim Brotherhood-led government in Egypt. Is this something you support?

PAUL: Well, we have no White House tours right now, but they have got $250 million to give to Egypt extra beyond the $2 billion we give. I can tell you that people are outraged.

When I talk to working-class people and they find that their taxes are being sent to a country that burns our flag and chants death to America, meanwhile, we don't have tours in the White House. You know what the president's done now? He's closing the entrances to the office buildings here. I asked one of the Capitol Hill police. I said, where are they, are they not working? He said, no, they have just been assigned to other locations. This Mickey Mouse games he does, and then he gives $250 million in addition to the couple billion we already give to Egypt, I think it's really a disgrace.

BOLDUAN: Senator, I want to ask you about some domestic politics. This new approach by President Obama being described by some as the charm offensive. He's coming up to Capitol Hill this week to meet with various lawmakers, meeting with Senate Republicans on Thursday. When you see him, what issues will you raise with the president?

PAUL: Well, you know, one I have been asking for a year-and-a- half, and I told him, frankly, that he could go down in history as a great leader if he would fix entitlements.

It's really just math. I mean, nobody really wants the changes, but mathematically you can fix Social Security by gradually raising the age and means-testing the benefits, meaning rich people get a little less benefits than they currently get. You can fix Social Security and you can save it for all posterity, but instead the other side continues to use it as a political weapon.

But if he wanted to rise up and be a great leader, he would come to us and fix Social Security, but not as some grand thing, oh, if you raise taxes more, I will fix Social Security. Why don't you fix Social Security just because it's broken? Why would we have to trade something we have already done once that we think's bad for the economy, which is a separate issue? Why don't we just fix something that's broken because we're good people and we should fix Social Security for future generations?

BOLDUAN: You know the politics of Capitol Hill better than most. Do you think that's even possible for that to happen, only entitlement reform without some serious tax reform in conjunction at this point in time?

PAUL: Absolutely it's possible. In fact, I think the grand deal, the big bargain's impossible.

BOLDUAN: Why?

PAUL: Because there are too many moving parts. Let's say you and I agree on some issues. Why don't we pass the issues we agree on? But if you have 1,000 issues, maybe we never get to an agreement.

But let's say we have 1,000 issues and we break it up into pockets of a hundred, we might be able to get to a hundred. Or if we have a hundred issues, you break it up into packets of 10. We can never get to where we can agree on every issue.

So, for example, the corporate income tax right now is 35 percent. It's 17 percent in Canada. It's in the low 20s in Europe. I would tomorrow cut the corporate income tax in half and do it by itself, because I think many Democrats know that would help the economy and so would many Republicans. But if you make that the sweetener for tax reform and tax reform never comes, that's why the American people are unhappy with us, because we never do anything. But we're looking for too big a deals. Let's carve it up into smaller deals.

BLITZER: What have you learned, Senator, from your dad's experiences as a presidential candidate? Because you now say you're seriously considering a run in 2016.

PAUL: I don't know if it's what I have learned so much as that I think the country is starting to understand that the candidates we're putting forward and what we're talking about as Republicans isn't appealing to a large enough group of people.

And if we want to be the party from the red states, the red states are getting redder, but the purple and blue states are leaving us behind. We have to figure out how to be competitive in California, competitive in New York. One of the things he did figure out is how to appeal to youth. I think the youth are captivated by stands on principle. I think our stand for trial by jury and for not droning Americans was something that a lot of young people accepted. They like you to stand on principle and stand on something you really believe in.

BOLDUAN: Senator Rand Paul from Kentucky, Senator, thank you so much.

PAUL: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: We're just hours away from the start of a secret meeting that will end the announcement -- end with the announcement of a new pope. Watching that, waiting for that -- coming up, a closer look at how it happens and who some of the top candidates are.

Plus, grieving families distraught, first-responders, details of that crash that killed six teenagers and devastated an Ohio town.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: Just coming into THE SITUATION ROOM, the crash, the horrible crash that left six teenagers dead over the weekend happened in a stolen car. The accident was the deadliest in the state in years and it's left many devastated.

CNN's Brian Todd is in Warren, Ohio, for us. He spoke to some of the grieving families and one of the two survivors -- Brian.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf and Kate, state police say this is the single largest loss of life in the history of this county in one accident, the largest loss of life in one accident in the state in about three years.

This is where it happened, this pond on South Pine Street in Warren. This is where the vehicle went in and it flipped upside-down, went into this pond. It filled up with water very quickly, even though there's only about four or five feet of water in there. Since the accident, people have thrown flowers down there and other things.

There's a makeshift memorial right here behind me, a lot of stuffed animals, notes, flowers for the victims. This is still very fresh for the survivors and the victims' relatives, who got very emotional when they spoke to us.

(voice-over): Kyle Behner can barely bring himself to describe it, the moments at the hospital when he had to identify the body of his little brother.

KYLE BEHNER, BROTHER OF VICTIM: It took me an hour to find him, and by the time I found him, they -- they had to have me identify him. I went back there, and all I seen was just tubes and blood everywhere.

TODD: His brother, Kirkland Behner, who would have turned 16 this month, was one of six teenagers killed when the Honda SUV they were riding in lost control, flipped over and careened over a pond in Warren, Ohio. Police have not given a specific cause and say test results for possible drug or alcohol use may not be back for weeks.

As for the vehicle's speed...

LT. BRIAN HOLT, OHIO STATE HIGHWAY PATROL: We do believe the vehicle was traveling at a high rate of speed. The speed limit was 35 miles per hour. However, at this time, we're not prepared to release the actual speed of the vehicle.

TODD (on camera): This is the path the vehicle took. There are the skid marks. Police say the car hit the guardrail right here, flipped over, and these markings, these orange markings on the branches, police say that is the path they have marked off, the path that the vehicle took as it flew into the water.

(voice-over): Eighteen-year-old Brian Henry was one of two survivors. He tells a harrowing story.

BRIAN HENRY, CRASH SURVIVOR: I hit my head off the dashboard. Somehow, I flew to the back. I was in there. It was like being in a little space underwater. Like, I wanted to give up but I couldn't.

TODD: Henry and another young man punched through the back window, swam out, then ran about a quarter of a mile to call 911. Kirkland Behner's mother calls Brian Henry a hero. But she still can't absorb what happened to her son.

DEANNA BEHNER, MOTHER OF VICTIM: He can't come home, he can't come through the door, mom, what's for dinner, what did you cook, mom? I'm not going to hear none of it anymore.

TODD (on camera): Police say there was some seat belt usage in the vehicle, but they are really not giving specifics beyond that. This vehicle could only accommodate five people and was carrying eight at the time of the accident -- Wolf and Kate.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: What a story, Brian Todd.

We're also told, by the way, four divers responded within minutes of the crash and they are still shaken by what they saw. And for some of the firefighters, it was their first major response. They had never seen anything like this before, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Just look at the wreckage of that car.

BLITZER: It's horrendous. And now we're learning that the vehicle was a stolen vehicle.

BOLDUAN: And think. It was -- the car only had seat belts for five people. Eight people are in the car. Speed limit's only 35 miles an hour. It does not look like a very big road. You can only imagine what those poor kids went through.

BLITZER: Our hearts go out to those families.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely.

Watching a lot coming up in THE SITUATION ROOM as well. It's a historical site where popes are elected. We're going to take you inside a virtual Sistine Chapel and show you just how it is done.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: It is the eve of a monumental day in Rome. Tomorrow, 115 cardinals will be locked in the Vatican's Sistine Chapel to begin the process of electing the next pope.

A Vatican spokesman says they will probably hold the first vote tomorrow, but it's not necessarily required.

CNN's Chris Cuomo is in Rome with a look at some of the top candidates.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Here's what we know. The cardinals are ready to vote, the chimney is up, la estufa, the stove, is ready to make the world's most famous smoke. But beyond that, we are only guessing at who will be the papam habemus.

Unlike American politics, cardinals don't campaign and the debates here are more about what they want than whom. Still, certain names keep coming up; 71-year-old Angelo Scola is rumored among Vatican insiders to be a favorite for some obvious reasons. He's from Italy, which has more voting cardinals than any other country, and he's archbishop of Milan, which was Pope Paul VI's position.

Another cardinal in the running, Odilo Scherer, archbishop of Sao Paulo, Brazil. His credentials, respected for his piety, leads the largest diocese in the world's largest Catholic country and relatively young at 63 years old, not to mention he has German ancestry, which may comfort the 61 Europeans voting. But in an odd twist, if neither can garner the required two-thirds majority, the cardinals may see it as a sign that neither is God's choice and drop both, just like the conclave did in 1978 when Pope John Paul II emerged as the surprise choice.

That opens the door to someone like Canadian Marc Ouellet. He's the head of the congregation that decides who becomes a bishop, which is a big job. He also has major ties to South America, which potentially makes him a uniter of the old and new church. This out- of-the-box alternative scenario is what fuels the prospect of an American pope.

To be sure, this is the first time Americans have even been mentioned. The two big names, Boston Archbishop Sean O'Malley, known as taking a hard line on addressing the sex abuse scandal, and New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, a unique combination of church conservatism and, as we saw at his mass, charisma.

ARCHBISHOP TIMOTHY DOLAN, ARCHDIOCESE OF NEW YORK: I'm ready to go home. I ran out of socks.

(LAUGHTER)

CUOMO: Insiders say an American has but a prayer of being pope. However, if you're going into an election where only God could win it for you, the conclave is the place to be.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BOLDUAN: And Chris is joining me now from Rome.

So, Chris, in your piece we get a sense of kind of some of the potential front-runners, but as you're saying, it's difficult to even call them front-runners.

CUOMO: Yes, it really is. I have got to tell you, it's almost a little embarrassing how difficult it is to report this out, because you have to remember these guys don't campaign. The only people who know aren't talking.

Even the word, we call them papabili. That's how they say it in Italian. And the word basically translates to able to be pope. That's where the bar is, because this isn't a typical political election. It's secretive, and that makes it interesting to watch, but tough to cover.

BOLDUAN: So you're there, you have been talking to people, the people who will be doing any kind of talking. What's the sense on the ground of how quickly we could have a new pope? Historically, recently, it's one or two days that they are in conclave.

CUOMO: So here's what we hear. The foreign cardinals came in and there was legitimate tension between the insiders, the Curia, as they're called, and the foreigners. That's why they delayed the date for the conclave. Now, overall in terms of timing, they are at or ahead of schedule, but we also hear from people, Vatican insiders and those who monitor the conclave in general, that they expect it to go longer. Here's why. This really could be a watershed moment for the Catholic Church, Kate. They are dealing with things that they have never really dealt with before and there seems to be motivation for real change in policy.

And that may mean that it's going to take successive votes that can go into days before real consensus is formed.

BOLDUAN: And all the while the suspense will be building as we wait for that smoke. You will be there, a big day tomorrow. And you will leading the charge for us. Chris Cuomo in Rome, thanks, Chris.

CUOMO: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Let's take a closer look now how the process will play out.

CNN's Tom Foreman is inside a virtual Sistine Chapel.

Tom, walk us through the process.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, as you know, the Sistine Chapel on any given day is one of the most public places in all of Italy, maybe in all of Europe, thousands of tourists pouring through here to see the building, which was concentrated in the 1400s, and most of all to see the enormous and magnificent fresco painted by Michelangelo in the 1500s.

But it has now been transformed into the most secretive and private places. The windows have been painted out. They have swept the room for electronic bugs, so nobody can listen in here, because this is where the cardinals will select the new pope for the 1.2 billion Catholics in the world.

Let's look at where they are arrayed around the planet, just to get an idea of what we're talking about here. There are a great million -- a great many of them in South and Central America, 501 million Catholics there. There are a great many more in other places: 285 million in Europe, 186 million in Africa, 89 million in North America. Nonetheless, a lot of people no matter how you slice it.

But the decision, as Chris pointed out, will be down to a very few, in fact. There will only be 115 cardinal electors here. They will likely vote once that first afternoon. They might be able to pick a pope then. Otherwise two votes in the morning and two votes each afternoon, Wolf, until they have a new pontiff.

BLITZER: So, the voting process specifically, how does it work?

FOREMAN: The voting process, as you might guess -- look around this room here. You look at all the history, all of the great traditions that are here, and that's very much what dictates how they handle this process. As the cardinals gather here, they will take a vow of secrecy. There are no cell phones, no pagers, no BlackBerries, no newspapers, no communication with the outside whatsoever until this process is done. They say that upon pain of excommunication, if they were to spread the secrets of what happens in here.

When they gather in this room, it's a very quiet and solemn event, we're told. After they've taken this vow of secrecy, they sit down and they're each given a piece of paper which says on it basically, "This is my vote for pope." They take that piece of paper, and they write upon it the name that they wish.

Then, each one of these people will fold it. Each cardinal will fold his piece of paper twice. He'll hold it over his head, walk down the center aisle up to the alter. Then he will kneel briefly in prayer right here, then holding his vote up where everyone can see it, he will drop it into a receptacle on the alter.

After they're all up there, then a group of three of the cardinals who were selected will take them out and count them, first of all, to make sure there are the same number as everyone else in the room. Then they will read aloud the names so everyone can hear it.

And as each vote is recorded, it will be threaded with a needle and thread to create one string of all the votes, so there's no possibility of one being voted twice. They'll know exactly what happened. As Chris mentioned, if you have a two-thirds vote, there's the new pope. If you don't have 77 votes or more, then this is a no vote. They don't have a new pope yet.

No matter what happens, the ballots are then taken twice a day to the back of the room. That's where they have the stoves that were mentioned earlier. You can see there are two of them: one on the right and one on the left. One on the right is where the ballots go. On the left some other things are burning. They put them inside.

If it's a no vote, they add some damp straw and some chemicals to the stove on the left, and black smoke flows up and out of the top of the Sistene Chapel to say, no, we have not chosen a pope. But, if they do have a decision, they let the smoke run free and clean and white and everyone knows that a new era in the Catholic church has begun -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What an exciting moment that will be. And of course, we'll have live coverage of all of this throughout this week. Let's see how many days it takes.

Excellent report. Good to see you in the virtual -- our virtual Sistene Chapel. Tom Foreman, thank you.

BOLDUAN: Unbelievable access, being able to get in the Sistene Chapel.

It is the armistice that ended the Korean War, and now North Korea is declaring it null and void. Details of nuclear tensions threatening to boil over. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Tension along the world's most heavily fortified border between North and South Korea. It's now heating up at an alarming rate with growing talk of nuclear weapons and war. Our foreign affairs correspondent, Jill Dougherty, has the latest from the State Department.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As thousands of American and South Korean troops carry out their yearly joint military exercises, tension on the Korean Peninsula heats up.

Kim Jong-un's regime, furious over new United Nations sanctions punishing it for its latest nuclear test, declares null and void the armistice that halted fighting in the Korean War 60 years ago. At the Demilitarized Zone between the North and South, Pyongyang cuts off an emergency hotline with the South and threatens to launch preemptive nuclear strikes against South Korea and the United States, drawing fire from President Barack Obama's national security adviser.

TOM DONLON, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: There should be no doubt, we will draw upon the full range of our capabilities to protect against and respond to the threat posed to us by North Korea and -- to us and our allies by North Korea.

DOUGHERTY: The U.S. immediately imposed new sanctions and warned neighboring China about its relationship with the North.

DONLON: We believe that no country, including China, should conduct business as usual with the North that threatens its neighbors.

DOUGHERTY: South Korea, with its new conservative president, says it's considering developing its own nuclear bomb. A highly flammable mix on a peninsula with more than 28,500 U.S. troops, more than 600,000 South Korean forces, and more than a million North Korean soldiers led by an unpredictable Kim Jong-un.

VICTOR CHA, SENIOR ADVISER, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: This particular combination, you know, the intense rhetoric also an unpredictable leader makes this a pretty tense moment.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DOUGHERTY: And U.S. military intelligence is watching North Korea, as you can imagine, very carefully. They've increased surveillance, but so far, Wolf, they are not noticing any abnormal or unusual troop movements by the north.

BLITZER: That's a really, really tense situation. We're going to be covering it, obviously, very closely. Jill, thanks very much.

BOLDUAN: A new book by Facebook's COO is igniting a national debate about women, work, and family. Next, inside the life of Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: A new book out today by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg is called "Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead." Over the next few days, CNN is joining the national conversation on what women want when it comes to career and family. A very important conversation to have.

Our Lisa Sylvester looks at the multitasking capabilities of one woman, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A quick glance at this bagel shop in Florida, and it's hard to notice Debbie Wasserman Schultz is even here. She blends in.

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D-FL), DNC CHAIR: It's cute.

SYLVESTER: Here she is, just another mom.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Your family OK? Yes? Good, good.

SYLVESTER: Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a mother of three, to 13- year-old twins and a 9-year-old daughter. She doesn't like the label of supermom, but it's kind of hard to think of her otherwise.

Chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Florida, breast cancer survivor, up until recently her daughter's Girl Scout troop leader. Well, she's not too bad at sports either.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: My job is, and responsibility and most fervent desire is to be their mom first and build my very rich and full professional life around that.

SYLVESTER: To juggle it all, she relies on her husband, who she has nicknamed St. Steve. He is the primary parent when she's in Washington during the week. Her parents and friends also chip in. Wasserman Schultz does believe women can have it all, with a strong support system.

STEVE SCHULTZ, HUSBAND OF DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: She's probably more the school parent, and I'm the more chauffeur parent.

SYLVESTER: She's on top of her kids, using Skype and face time to make sure their homework and projects get done. She'll schedule her work meetings around her family schedule, but she candidly speaks about the downside of her job.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Shelby asked me last night, you know, "When are you going back, Mom," and every weekend I get "When are you going back, Mom?" And she said, you know, "Sometimes, just -- I don't really -- I don't really like your job in Congress."

I said, "I know. Sometimes I don't like it either." But she also understands that there's really cool things that she gets to do, my kids get to do, because their mom's in Congress. And...

(on camera): What are some of the cool things?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Getting to see the president, going to the White House picnic.

SYLVESTER: And it's not always easy for her children, having Mom in the public eye. Wasserman Schultz was driving her daughter to soccer practice when she heard her good friend, Gabby Giffords, was shot.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: They've actually never really said, "Mom, can you be shot?" But I know they -- I can tell when they worry about it.

SYLVESTER: Like many working moms, for Wasserman Schultz, it's a tradeoff. She believes passionately in women and moms being in Congress to give a voice to issues that would otherwise be ignored.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: The diversity of how we prioritize the agenda, if it's all men, who are -- whether they are parents or not, then their life experience is different.

SYLVESTER: But she says it's not just women who need to rethink the work-life balance issue.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: How do we raise the next generation of boys to grow up believing that equal parenting is important?

SYLVESTER: And her future path.

(on camera): So what's next, you know? Do you want to run for, like, the Senate? Do you want to -- what's next?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: President. That's what I want, speaker or president.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: OK.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's running for president.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SYLVESTER: And she has learned not to just lean in, but to lean on others.

And for her future political plans, she won't tip her hand, but you know, she started her career when she was in her 20s, so she still has a long ramp and still a lot more years ahead in political life.

BOLDUAN: There are a lot of amazing women in politics on both sides of the spectrum who are able to juggle it. It's tough and no sure-fire way to do it, but they seem to pull it off.

SYLVESTER: Yes, you know, I was saying that she's a woman -- everybody had asked me the question, how many nannies does she have? Zero. She doesn't have nannies. I mean, she relies on her husband and family. That's how they are able to get it done.

Important conversation that thankfully we are having. Glad Sheryl Sandberg at least ignited that.

Lisa, thank you so much.

The controversial soda ban in New York City on hold. Straight ahead, details of the judge's last-minute ruling that could change everything and how Michael -- Mayor Michael Bloomberg is responding.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Erin Burnett. And coming up on "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" tonight, my exclusive conversation with Laura Bush. She talks about her daughters and how they're leaning into their careers. We talk about Sheryl Sandberg. We talk about Hillary Clinton, social issues, and the Republican Party.

Plus, two, the first horse meat processing plant to open in this country in six years. We're going to show you what it actually looks like.

And we have an exclusive conversation with the former national security advisor, Jim Jones.

All that coming up at the top of the hour. THE SITUATION ROOM returns after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Residents of New York City are getting a reprieve on the city's ban on those super-sized sugary drinks.

BOLDUAN: CNN's Mary Snow is working the story for us.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was a first of its kind effort in the country to ban soda, sugary drinks, even some types of coffee beverages from being served in containers larger than 16 ounces. The idea was part of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's effort to fight obesity.

But beverage companies, restaurants, movie theaters and others fought back against what they called a nanny state. They went to court, and now a state Supreme Court judge invalidated the city's rules, saying it "is arbitrary and capricious because it applies to some but not all food establishments in the city. It excludes other beverages that have significantly higher concentrations of sugar sweeteners and/or calories on suspect grounds."

Lattes and other drinks that were at least half milk were not on the list. And supermarkets and convenience stores were also exempt. But the mayor has vowed to appeal and press ahead.

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, NEW YORK CITY: If we are serious about fighting obesity, we have to be honest about what causes it, and we have to have the courage to tackle it head on. Seventy thousand people will die of obesity in America this year. Five thousand people in New York City will die of obesity.

SNOW: The American Beverage Association, for one, considered it a victory: "The court ruling provides a sigh of relief to New Yorkers and thousands of small businesses in New York City that would have been harmed by this arbitrary and unpopular ban."

Local businesses were worried about their bottom line, like this theater that says 30 percent of its business is from large beverage sales.

(on camera): This is the largest size. It's 44 ounces. This is the smallest. It's 22 ounces.

(voice-over): The theater would have had to lose those large sizes in favor of 16 ounces or less. It had general manager Russell Levinson worried his small theater would lose tens of thousands of dollars in sales.

RUSSELL LEVINSON, GENERAL MANAGER, MOVIE THEATER: On an independent theater like ours, it's a pretty significant hit.

SNOW: Levinson even says he agrees that large sugary drinks can add to obesity problems, but he said it's not for the government to decide.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: Now, that movie theater that you just saw along with other businesses held off on making changes until this lawsuit was resolved. Now they'll wait until an appeals judge makes the final decision -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Clearly this fight not over. Mary, thank you.

Speaking of sugar, next, the new way to separate your Oreo.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: We all love Oreos.

BLITZER: We certainly do.

BOLDUAN: Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The old way...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): Oreo cream sandwich.

MOOS: ... to un-sandwich the cream, step one.

(on camera): Pull apart Oreo. Step two... (voice-over): ... scrape with incisors.

But now there's a more incisive way. Oreo separator machines. Nabisco is going against its own rule...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): Please don't fiddle with the Oreo middle.

MOOS: ... by commissioning investors to build machines designed to fiddle with the middle.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And then I've got this floss to kind of keep the creamy Oreo halves from sticking to the hatchet blade.

MOOS: Who needs a tongue to scrape off the cream when there's this? This Rube Goldberg-type contraption is one of four separator machines commissioned as part of Oreo's cookie versus cream ad campaign.

Sure, there were setbacks along the way. But this is like reinventing the wheel. The Oreo separator wheel.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The second blade on the other side of the wheel pops up, slices off the cream.

MOOS: And then there was the device built at the University of Minnesota by these two.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I like the cookies on an Oreo.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I like the cream.

MOOS (on camera): Oreo found the two product developers thanks to a previous invention for which they were known. It's called -- we kid you not -- the ketchup crapper.

(voice-over): Bill Fienup and Professor Barry Kudrowitz were grad students when they designed the ketchup crapper for a competition. Now they've graduated to Oreos.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Step three, push top cookie into subject mouth.

MOOS: At least they didn't go hungry for the week it took them to construct this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were snacking while we were inventing.

MOOS: HERB here never got hungry. HERB stands for Household Exploring Robotic Butler.

ROBOTIC VOICE: Separate.

MOOS: HERB's been in development for seven years at Carnegie Mellon. Oreo separating is just a sideline.

ROBOTIC VOICE: Remove precious cream.

MOOS: And wipe off anything that's left with a towel.

Guess who else is going to need a towel after heating the cream into a liquid state?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Atomize liquid cream and spray it into subject's mouth.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I probably get about 20 percent of it in my mouth. It's kind of an exciting experience.

MOOS: These machines don't take a licking. They take the place of licking.

ROBOTIC VOICE: Grab Oreo.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: That's it for us. Thanks for watching. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.

BOLDUAN: I'm hungry.