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THE SITUATION ROOM
North Korea Moves Missile, May Plan Launch; Remembering Roger Ebert; GOP Boss Slams Media on Abortion; Rutgers Will Pay Bonus to Fired Coach; Secret Service Director's Personal Info Posted?
Aired April 4, 2013 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: For many, his movie reviews made him a star and his real life battle made him a hero. We'll remember the legendary film critic, Roger Ebert.
And are those forced spending cuts now forcing cancer clinics to turn away patients?
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.
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BLITZER: So far, it's been only a war of words between North Korea and United States, but the north is now raising the stakes again. A U.S. official says it has moved missile and launch components to its east coast amid signs it could be planning a launch. North Korea says the United States is pushing the region to the brink of war. The Obama administration now trying to answer with some diplomacy.
Let's go straight to our White House correspondent, Brianna Keilar. She's working the story and has the latest. What is the latest, Brianna?
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you know, you talk to White House officials and they'll tell you consistently dealing with North Korea there's sort of this ultimate desire, I guess, you could say, to be the grownup in the room, and they feel forced to do that at times, but this does appear to be an effort to give Kim Jong-Un a bit of a diplomatic offering in what has become this escalating war of words.
The White House insists, though, that their recent sort of show of force and the rhetoric that you've seen and also some very real actions like those B-2 bombers with nuclear capabilities participating in those joint exercises with North Korea moving two U.S. warships closer to the North Korean coast line, the White House insists that those things were necessary.
A show of force to deter North Korea and show that there are real consequences for this hostile posture that it's been taking. But today, coming from the state department, yes, some diplomacy. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VICTORIA NULAND, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESWOMAN: But we have also been saying all the way through that this does not need to get hotter, that it can -- we can change course here if the DPRK will begin to come back into compliance with its international obligations, will begin to cool things down, take a pause.
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KEILAR: Now, the situation has reached a fever pitch here in recent days, but it's something that has been escalating now for months, Wolf, as you know, since December when North Korea successfully launched a ballistic missile into orbit. This was a step obviously towards being able to deliver a nuclear weapon.
That's why it was so concerning. Then, in February, another nuclear test. This was followed by more U.N. sanctions in March, and we've really seen things ratchet up from there, Wolf.
BLITZER: So, basically, what are you hearing from officials over there, Brianna? How are the White House formulating this response? Because obviously, one miscalculation could trigger all-out war.
KEILAR: That's certainly right, and I think that's why you're seeing some of this change in tone that we've seen today. But I will tell you just the attention to North Korea is something that has increased dramatically here in recent days, Wolf. Obviously, President Obama is being briefed a lot more and Secretaries Kerry and Hagel, CIA Director Brennan, they're all very much in more contact over North Korea.
But the group that's really been spending the time in the situation room, spending the hours talking about North Korea are their deputies. They have, I'm told, by a senior administration official, they have been meeting much more frequently here in the last week and a half. That includes Tony Blinken who's the deputy national security adviser and then you have the deputy, basically the deputy secretaries or the undersecretaries for defense, for state. the deputy director of the CIA and the vice chairman of the joint chiefs of staff.
They have been very much in discussions, Wolf, and almost in kind of constant contact where they're meeting in person here at the White House.
BLITZER: Brianna Keilar watching all of this unfold. Brianna, you're going to be coming back with more information. Stand by. In our next hour, by the way, we're going to have a SITUATION ROOM special report. We will focus entirely on this new North Korean crisis. That will begin at the top of the hour, 6:00 p.m. eastern right here on CNN.
But there's other breaking news we're following right now about an American cultural icon. His movie reviews made him a star and his real life battle with cancer made him a hero to so many people here in the United States. The Pulitzer Prize winning film critic, Roger Ebert, died today. CNN's A.J. Hammer takes a closer look at his distinguished career.
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BLITZER: Unfortunately, it looks like we got a technical problem there with our A.J. Hammer's report. So, we're going to try to fix that and get back to that report, the obit of Roger Ebert.
Just a little while ago, the White House did release a statement about Roger Ebert. The president of the United States saying this, and I'm quoting President Obama, "Michelle and I are saddened to hear about the passing of Roger Ebert. For a generation of Americans and especially Chicagoans, Roger was the movies. When he didn't like a film, he was honest. When he did, he was effusive, capturing the unique power of the movies to take us somewhere magical."
That's the president of the United States releasing his statement. Let's get a closer look now at Roger Ebert and his very influential work. The executive producer of Ebert's groundbreaking show "At The Movies" is joining us right now, David Plummer. Give us a thought, David, because this is a loss for all of us.
DAVID PLUMMER, FORMER EXEC. PRODUCER, "AT THE MOVIES": You know, honestly, it is a loss for all of us. I mean, hearing what President Obama said, you know, it just goes to show what a huge force he was. I mean, this is a movie critic. The president of the United States isn't going to say the words that he said in that statement for anybody and it goes to show that Roger sort of went past just being a movie critic and became much bigger than that, and honestly, much bigger than many of the movie stars that he covered.
He was a bigger celebrity than many of them. So, a huge loss today both personally and, you know, on a national level.
BLITZER: How passionate was he about his work?
PLUMMER: He's the most passionate person I've ever met about the movies, about his work. I mean, the man continued to just have -- his work load was so above and beyond what any other critic in the country was doing. He continued, I think, last year he reviewed more than like 350 movies, somewhere around there.
That is a huge work load. And while it may be just sitting in the dark watching a movie, that's still a lot of work and a lot of writing that has to be done, and he continued to do that all the way through last year.
BLITZER: Despite his illness and we'll have more on that in a moment. David Edelstein is joining us also right now, the film critic for "New York" magazine. He really changed the way so many of us saw film critics, didn't he?
DAVID EDELSTEIN, FILM CRITIC NEW YORK MAGAZINE: Well, I like to call him the mayor of "Movie Criticville." Most of our breed are kind of twisted loners whereas Roger, you know, beginning, once he stopped drinking and stopped going to the Playboy mansion which he did, I guess, in the 1970s, he really began to think of himself as a public figure, almost a politician.
He actually brought people in, not only to the joy of movies, but to the joy of talking about movies. He set an example with Gene Siskel for actually having a dialogue in which people just didn't say I liked it. Well, I liked it too. Well, I liked it too. Well, I didn't -- you know? I mean, it was actually -- you could actually dig in. And I think one thing that Roger had, he didn't have a particularly strong aesthetic.
What he did have which I'm sure we all envy who are on television is the ability to begin a paragraph and know exactly what he's going to say at the end of the paragraph. The man fought and spoke in paragraphs, and he could really -- he was a great teacher. He could kind of lead you into something and make you experience it with him and do a good reporter's job of, you know, telling you exactly what it's about which most of us fail at abysmally.
BLITZER: What will be his legacy, do you believe?
EDELSTEIN: Well, I think it's that. I think he -- you know, but in the beginning, you know, he was -- he and Gene Siskel used to be on TV because everybody knew they kind of loathed each other and they used to fight and they were sort of the fat guy and the other one and what gave Ebert the legitimacy was that big fat Pulitzer of his.
But by the end, he actually created this huge and wonderful and giving and loving and open community around himself particularly on the web, also in his writing and also on television. I mean, I think for the vast majority of people this dying profession of ours, film criticism, he legitimized it and he legitimized film love and he was our mayor. He was our leader. We will miss him terribly. The gap is already there.
BLITZER: And David Plummer, in these last few years, we all watched his struggle with cancer. He was very, very open about it. He was tweeting a lot, reporting, writing, even though it was obviously painful and difficult. Tell our viewers a little bit of how he inspired so many people as a result of this fight, this war he had against this cancer.
PLUMMER: Yes. You know, I mean, I think when you're faced with the sort of adversity that Roger was faced with, you have two choices. You have choice to go hide away and never be seen again or you have the choice to come out and face it and let everyone see who you are and then go on living about -- you know, living your life.
And he chose to do that. He chose to show people, you know, what he looked like, to show people that even though he did look a little strange, he was still the same Roger Ebert. And so, I think that he was an inspiration to a lot of people that were facing some very tough times.
And, you know, the guy, I think, became more productive after he got sick. I mean, when he discovered twitter, that was like his lifetime -- his life line to his fans because, you know, he couldn't speak anymore, so he couldn't talk to them on TV, but he could still communicate with them on Twitter. He could communicate with them directly and they loved him for it.
BLITZER: They certainly did. All of us did. And he will be missed because he did, in fact, change the way all of us deal with movies and film critics and a lot, lot more than that. David Edelstein, David Plummer, guys, thanks very much for reflecting a little bit on Roger Ebert.
EDELSTEIN: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Coming up, what would Ronald Reagan think about same- sex marriage? Two of his children take some different positions on the subject.
And are forced spending cuts forcing cancer clinics to turn away patients? That and a lot more coming up right here in the SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Those forced spending cuts sweeping through the federal government are forcing cancer clinics to turn away some patients. What's going on? We asked Lisa Sylvester to take a closer look at this. What are you learning, Lisa?
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we are getting a better look at how those forced budget cuts are impacting the lives of regular Americans, and for cancer patients, it could be big changes to where they received their treatment. At the heart of it is a Congressional mandate for two percent cut for Medicare payments.
SYLVESTER (voice-over): Thomas McCloskey has non-Hodgkins lymphoma. He's been coming to this cancer clinic in East Setauket, New York for nine years. He gets regular infusions for his immune system, and occasionally, chemotherapy. But the clinic informed him a few weeks ago that he cannot continue his treatment here. The reason? Congress's forced budget cuts have reduced Medicare payments to providers by two percent.
THOMAS MCCLOSKEY, CANCER PATIENT: This thing is totally ridiculous. You know, they can't cut two percent. I can cut two percent and I can without hurting my family. This hurts people. Don't they realize that? Let them come -- let's change their life.
SYLVESTER: For McCloskey, that means going to a hospital instead where he fears longer waits and more out of pocket expenses. The issue here? The federal government under the Medicare program sets the price for drug reimbursement. Oncologist, Jeff Vacirca, says cancer clinics are already operating at slim margins. What the two percent cut means is they'll be reimbursed at less than the market cost for drugs. JEFF VACIRCA, NORTH SHORE HEMATOLOGY/ONCOLOGY ASSOC.: For the drugs which are under water right now which tend to be the more expensive ones, if you continue to administer them in your office while you're losing money because the cost is so high, practices won't stay in business.
SYLVESTER: A survey by the community oncology alliance found 72 percent of cancer clinics will refuse to take on new Medicare patients or will ask existing patients to find treatment elsewhere. An independent study found the difference between treatment at a hospital and care at a clinic is $6,500 annually.
A group of cancer organizations has written letters to lawmakers to press the agency overseeing the Medicare program to exempt cancer drugs and treatment from the two percent cuts. The centers for Medicare and Medicaid services won't comment on the issue. But Thomas McCloskey has lots to say.
MCCLOSKEY: They make laws and we have to live by them, and it's terrible.
SYLVESTER (on-camera): Now, about 66 percent of chemotherapy patients receive treatment currently at a physician's clinic. If these clinics are no longer offering the cancer treatment, that raises a whole other issue, whether the hospitals can even absorb all of these new patients. So, right now, the easiest way to fix this is for Congress to step in and to try to get those cancer drugs exempt -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Any initiative you're seeing in Congress to do that, Lisa?
SYLVESTER: Well, it's interesting. Since this news broke within the last 24 hours, since this became an apparent that this was an issue, there were some 50 lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle, both Democrats and Republicans, who have reached out to this oncology group saying, we want to support legislation. We want to start legislation to try to fix this.
It's not even clear at this point, Wolf, if Congress even intended for cancer drugs to -- for this to apply to the two percent cut, but that is the reality we're facing, and unless, there's some kind of Congressional action, unless, there's some pressure to bear on the Medicare agency, we're not going to see any of this change, Wolf.
BLITZER: I suspect the pressure will mount. Lisa, thanks very much.
We're starting to see obviously the effects of these forced spending cuts. So far, though, the public, at least, is not necessarily demanding a solution to what is seen as this fiscal impasse. Our chief political correspondent, Candy Crowley, is joining us right now with some analysis. Candy, where do we go from here? CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It sounds like Lisa is on to something. I think when these things crop up and they reach the point where half of Congress is looking at it, that they will piece meal, try to fix some of these things. But I think the general ship has sailed as far as I can see at least, politically, on the so-called sequestration, these forced budget cuts.
They went into effect. No one that I can see has been out there saying we need to undo these now. We've seen the president saying, well, just in solidarity for those who are going to be furloughed, I'm taking a pay cut. We saw the defense secretary saying the same thing. But I don't see anyone out there saying this needs to be fixed. So, I think that ship has sailed, but when things come up like this.
And we knew it would take a month or two months for some of the effects to be felt. So, when things like this come up, I think you are going to see congressmen or senators coming forward and saying we need a bill to fix this. So, it'll be pretty piece meal it sounds like.
BLITZER: I suspect you're right. The president, by the way, is making his first fundraising push of this a second term in office. Let me read to you, Candy, and to our viewers what he said about the 2014 contest last night at a fundraiser in California.
He said, "My hope is that we're going to see more and more Republicans who say, you know what, I didn't come here just to fight the president or demonize Nancy Pelosi. I came here to get some stuff done. I could get a whole lot more done if Nancy Pelosi is the speaker of the House."
That was the president saying that. He'd get a lot more done. The president, though, seems to be walking a bit of a tight rope here. He's raising money for Democrats, while at the same time, trying to work with Republicans. How do you do that without alienating, let's say, the Republicans in your -- you got this charm offensive. You're reaching out to them, but then, you're blasting them at these fundraisers.
CROWLEY: Seems like a two track approach. Politics are the reality of Washington. Sooner or later, the president was going to start fundraising. What this does, clearly, is give people in the House, Republicans in the House, Republicans in the Senate the opportunity to say, the president isn't dealing with us sincerely. He is out, you know, once a week, once a month, however long, bashing us because what he wants is gridlock.
What he wants is gridlock because that's how he thinks he's going to get a Democratic House. On the other hand, the president's a little stuck because Democrats were a little wary that he wasn't going to help them raise money, that he's more interested in this other group that came off of his Obama for America that's now issues oriented. That that's where he wanted to raise money.
He promised the House and Senate Democrats that he would raise money for them. So, it's something a president does. We all know the president would prefer a Democratic House, but it certainly does add to the heightened suspicion that is already, as you know, fairly high on both sides.
BLITZER: Interesting development involving the late president, Ronald Reagan. His children now very publicly, Candy, they're taking opposing stances on same-sex marriage. I'm going to play a couple of sound bites. Listen to Patti Davis saying she believes her father, if he were alive today, would support same-sex marriage and then her much more conservative half-brother, Michael Reagan, disagreeing.
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PATTI DAVIS, DAUGHTER OF PRES. RONALD REAGAN: I think he would be puzzled on the one hand at why anyone would have a problem with people wanting to be married because he wanted government out of people's lives.
MICHAEL REAGAN, SON OF PRES. RONALD REAGAN: I don't believe in gay marriage. Many people don't believe in gay marriage. I think you can have a debate on that. I don't believe it. I think it does send a slippery slope. I think if you accepted the redefinition of marriage, then you're going to have to accept the redefinition all the way down the line.
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BLITZER: So, Candy, what do you think of this fight, this Reagan fight over same-sex marriage?
CROWLEY: Well, I don't think it's unusual, probably, for some families across America and certainly not for this one. Michael Reagan has long been a conservative talk show host and Patti Davis has always been a liberal as has her brother, Ron, her other brother, Ron. So, they disagree on whether same-sex marriage should be legalized doesn't strike me as strange.
And I have not heard Michael take a stance on what his father would have thought, but it's -- you know, it is a pretty predictable argument. What's interesting about this, of course, is that conservatives still look at Ronald Reagan whether (ph) social conservatives or fiscal conservatives as the iconic Republican.
And so, it's interesting to hear his daughter's take, I think, on what she thinks her father would have thought
BLITZER: Certainly is. All right. Who knows? He's not around to tell us what he would have thought right now on this issue. Candy, thanks very much.
When we come back, a Democratic congresswoman mocked in the gun debate. You're going to find out what she said that one Republican called and I'm quoting now, "stunningly stupid."
Plus, we're just learning that the new secret service director may have been the victim of a pretty serious crime. We'll explain right here in the SITUATION ROOM. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: Happening now, the chairman of the Republican Party makes a bold attempt to link a leading woman's health organization with the killing of newborn children. Is he putting the GOP rebranding effort under way right now at risk?
Hillary Clinton has a new book on the way and a new 2016 supporter who's ready to begin laying the ground work for a potential presidential campaign.
And as North Korea's threats against the United States reach a fever pitch, we're devoting a special hour here in the SITUATION ROOM to the looming crisis. That's coming up at the top of the hour. Stay with us. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.
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BLITZER: Even as the GOP struggles with an image problem, it talks about rebranding itself. The Republican National Committee chairman, Reince Priebus, has taken a page, apparently, from the old playbook linking women's health provider, Planned Parenthood, to the killing of newborn children and blasting the media for not covering a controversial hearing.
CNNs Athena Jones is covering this for us. She's got the details. Explain what's going on here, Athena.
ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. The RNC is really fired up about controversial testimony from a Planned Parenthood representative in Florida. The group says the media has pretty much ignored these stories, so we thought we'd take a look.
JONES (voice-over): The Republican National Committee chief vs. the media. Party chair, Reince Priebus, says most major news outlets ignored what this woman said about whether a doctor should save the life of a baby born alive during a failed abortion.
ALIAS LAPOLT SNOW, PLANNED PARENTHOOD REPRESENTATIVE: We believe that, you know, any decision that's made should be left up to the family -- to the woman, family, and the physician.
JONES: The lobbyist for Planned Parenthood was testifying last week before a panel of Florida lawmakers about a bill that would tighten laws governing abortions when she said this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You stated that the baby born on a table is a result of a botched abortion that that decision should be left to the doctor and the family, is that what you're saying?
SNOW: That decision should be between the patient and the health care provider. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think at that point the patient would be the child struggling on the table, wouldn't you agree?
SNOW: That's a very good question. I really don't know how to answer that.
JONES: The abortion rights supporter's doubt about whether to save the hypothetical child could have been big news, Priebus says. He argues the national media jumped at the chance to cover last week's passage of a tough new North Dakota law restricting abortion but gave Planned Parenthood and its supporters a pass on this potentially embarrassing story.
Planned Parenthood had to clarify its position, saying, "While the law addresses a situation that is extremely unlikely and highly unusual, if the scenario presented by the legislation should happen, of course, a Planned Parenthood doctor would provide appropriate care to both the woman and the infant."
Abortion is a big issue for Republicans with more than 60 percent saying it should be illegal in most or all cases.
ROSS DOULTHAT, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: This gives the RNC a chance to reassure social conservatives that even though the winds are blowing against them on gay marriage, on abortion, the Republican Party is in the fight for the long run.
JONES (on-camera): And one more thing here, I spoke with the RNC about this and they say this is not a party issue. It's not a Republican base issue. It's a human issue, and they say anyone who heard this testimony would find it, quote, "repugnant."
But the official I spoke with also said that when conservatives see the RNC holding the left accountable on issues like this, it's also good for the party. So, there you go, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Athena, thanks very much.
Let's dig a little bit deeper on this very sensitive issue. Is it a miscalculation for the RNC chairman to go after Planned Parenthood right now?
Let's discuss in our "Strategy Session". Joining us, our CNN contributors, the Democratic strategist Paul Begala and the Republican strategist, Ana Navarro.
Ana, first to you. Smart politics for Reince Priebus to do this or maybe not so smart given the effort to try to rebrand the Republican Party and make it more friendly, shall we say, towards women?
ANA NAVARRO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, you know, in the column he wrote in "Red State", Wolf, he brought up two different issues. One was the media bias, which is something that conservative Republicans feel does exist and that we have to exist in that environment. And it is true that this case, this hearing, this testimony by Planned Parenthood received very little media coverage even in Florida.
As you know, I live in Florida. I'm a political news junkie. I have practically not heard anything about this until I saw the column by Reince Priebus. And there is something that is, I think, nonnegotiable for Republicans and it's not when life begins. We can disagree on that, Republicans and Democrats can disagree on that. Even Republicans amongst themselves can disagree on that.
But certainly we can agree that when a baby is born, when a baby -- when there is a botched abortion and a baby is on a table, at that point it is a life that deserves some help from a doctor. So I think the issue is not the same as when you're talking about gay marriage or when you're talking about immigration, when you're talking about tone when speaking to minorities and policies, when dealing with minorities. It's a different issue, it's one that's really of the heart for Republicans and Reince was making the two points.
Media bias and that this is just an untenable position. And as we saw, Planned Parenthood reacted and corrected what was an awful lobbyist's testimony.
BLITZER: Yes. They certainly did. What do you think, Paul?
PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: First off, from the reporting I've seen, the woman testifying was not a doctor, not a nurse, not a healthcare provider so she didn't know the healthcare policy that Planned Parenthood has. As a political guy, though, it is a huge mistake for Republicans to continue what my party has labeled the war on women. You know, the Planned Parenthood, only 3 percent, 3 percent of the health services Planned Parenthood offers are abortion services. All the rest, the other 97 percent, are preventing unwanted pregnancies, preventing cancer, cervical cancer, breast cancer.
They do an enormous amount of work, great work for women and actually some men all across America. One in five American women has been treated at a Planned Parenthood clinic. When Republicans go to war against Planned Parenthood they're going to war against the American women. It's not good policy and it's frankly very bad politics, I think, for the Republican chairman.
BLITZER: Let's move on and talk about Hillary Clinton for a moment while I have you, because I was intrigued by James Carville, our friend.
BLITZER: Remember James Carville? He -- he's is now behind this Ready for Hillary PAC e-mailing supporters. I'll put it up on the screen. "There hasn't been a presidential election in my lifetime when Democrats have been as united behind a potential candidate as we are today. We owe it to Hillary to start putting the building blocks of her campaign together now. The modern political campaign demands it." Paul, not very subtle from James.
BEGALA: Well, you know James, and I am -- you know, I'm a good, old fashioned shoe leather reporter. Well, this was hard to do but I was actually able to reach James Carville. Somebody I speak to every day for, I don't know, 28 years now. Here's what he said. These very nice people who run this PAC support Hillary, he supports Hillary. They asked him to sign an e-mail. He did so. He's not joining a PAC or any other organization. You know James. He's not a joiner. But he was happy.
Look. This is not I think news flash. James Carville wants Hillary to run for president. Let me make some more news. I want Hillary to run for president. I think she'd be a great president. But that's all that this is. And I think -- I hope she runs. And I know actually she watches every, Wolf, she's a huge fan.
Hillary, please run. The country needs you. You'd be a wonderful president.
BLITZER: You think she is a lock, Ana, if -- for the Democratic nomination? Because a lot of people thought that in 2007 and 2008 and a relatively unknown Democratic senator from Illinois eventually got the Democratic presidential nomination.
NAVARRO: You know, Wolf, I can't predict Democrats. They seem to like unknowns unlike Republicans. But right now in this 2016 preamble it seems everything is topsy-turvy. Like Paul I'd like to see Hillary Clinton run. I think she'd be an adult in the room and I think we'd see a much different campaign than what we saw just this November which was a very trivial campaign about dancing horses and dogs.
I'd like to see adults actually debate issues that affect the country and I think it'd be great to have a woman on the ticket. Now we have on our side some great adults that could go up against her and we have a Hillary Clinton who has been a stateswoman for the last four years, not a politician. So it's a different ring.
And I think it's great what James Carville is doing. The raging Cajun is a loyal guy. He loves the Clintons. Guess what? She penned a book deal and keeping up the flames of presidential speculation is going to keep her feet up high for her speaking fees and is going to help sell that book. Ask Sarah Palin.
BLITZER: All right. We'll see what happens on both of those fronts, the book and the campaign. If in fact there is a campaign.
Guys, thanks very much.
Up next, could one of the most notorious white-collar criminals be getting out of prison earlier than expected? New information coming in.
Also coming up, could the new director of the U.S. Secret Service be the victim of a crime? (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: Climbing in a new strain of bird flu plaguing China.
Lisa has got that. She's got some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
What's the latest, Lisa?
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the country's state-run news agency now confirms a fifth person has died in an outbreak never before detected in humans. The previously reported deaths occurred in the eastern part of the region. Chinese authorities are trying to find the source of the human infections.
And 44 people including more than 30 civilians have been killed in an armed attack on a court building in Afghanistan that went on for almost nine hours according to an official. Another 100 people were injured. The official says the firefight is now over and nine armed attackers have been killed by Afghan security forces.
And former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling may end up with a shorter prison sentence than he expected according to the Justice Department. Skilling was sentenced back in 2006 to 24 years after being convicted on a number of charges including fraud and insider trading. The Justice Department says his original sentencing was conducted under improper guidelines. They energy trading company collapsed under the weight of a massive broad scandal and declared bankruptcy in 2001.
And the long-rumored Facebook phone seems to be one-step closer to becoming reality after today's unveiling of Facebook home, a custom home screen for Android smart phones. The new feature integrates Facebook services like Instagram and Facebook Messenger into one operating system. After a user downloads it those services become available from virtually anywhere in the device -- Wolf.
BLITZER: New technology coming in. All right. Thanks very much.
Just ahead, so why is Senator Rand Paul backing a group that accuses his fellow Republicans of being soft on gun control? Stay with us.
BLITZER: The Rutgers University basketball coach Mike rice is gone but the controversy over his abusive behavior and delayed firing is not going away. The New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, he weighed in today saying, and I'm quoting him now, "This was a regrettable episode for the university but I completely support the decision to remove Coach Rice."
CNN's Pamela Brown is joining us from the campus of Rutgers University right now. She got all the latest developments including what was a bonus, Pam, for the fired coach.
What's going on?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Wolf. We have been on campus today trying to get some answers. The day after firing head basketball Coach Mike Rice Rutgers University officials staying tight lipped over the Athletic Director Tim Pernetti and the university president over how they handled the situation after learning of allegations of player abuse. And as you mentioned there, Wolf, we have learned today that Mike Rice will walk off campus with a bonus.
BROWN (voice-over): He was fired for this.
MIKE RICE, FORMER RUTGERS MEN'S BASKETBALL COACH: You (EXPLETIVE DELETED) fairy.
BROWN: Punching, grabbing, and kicking his players. But Mike Rice, whose annual salary was just increased to $750,000, also will get a $100,000 bonus for staying with Rutgers through the end of this season. Had he been fired when university officials found out about the video, he wouldn't have gotten the bonus. Amid calls for the dismissal of the athletic director some Rutgers faculty members are so fired up they're calling for the university president, Robert Barchi, to step down.
BELINDA EDMONDSON, DIRECTOR OF WOMEN'S AND GENDER STUDIES: We're a great university but I think our president does not -- he does not uphold our values as a university.
BROWN: The investigation into Rice's behavior began as the university was vying for membership in the Big Ten.
EDMONDSON: I don't see how we can stand in front of our students and say that we do this research but when it comes to Big Ten money and when it comes to sports and getting in the Big Ten that all those things go out the window and you can call people the filthiest, most homophobic and misogynistic words, and that's OK because this is about sports.
Sports is not separate from education.
BROWN: Now the focus is on who at the university knew what and when. And in an interview Tuesday Athletic Director Tim Pernetti said this.
TIM PERNETTI, DIRECTOR OF INTERCOLLEGIATE ATHLETICS: I was aware of the tape when I handed down the suspension at the end of December.
MIKE FRANCESA, WFAN RADIO HOST: Did your president see the tape?
BROWN: But in a statement released yesterday Barchi said he watched the video for the first time Tuesday. Our attempts to reach Pernetti and Barchi at the university were unsuccessful. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, ma'am, not today.
BROWN: As the fallout grows some of Rice's former players are saying the video is not what it seems.
TYREE GRAHAM, DEFENDED FORMER RUTGERS COACH MIKE RICE: A lot of those times on the film when he was jacking up a player or throwing a ball he was really joking.
BROWN: Still some faculty members want to garner more support for a letter demanding greater accountability on the part of Athletic Director Tim Pernetti. Also in the state capital there are calls for a legislative investigation into what happened here on campus -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Pamela Brown at Rutgers University. Much more on this story obviously in the days ahead. Thanks very much.
Just ahead here in THE SITUATION ROOM why is Senator Rand Paul backing a group that accuses some of his fellow Republicans of being soft on gun control?
And North Korea's threats against the United States reaching a fever pitch. We'll have a special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM on this crisis with North Korea. That's coming up right at the top of the hour.
BLITZER: We're following some new signs that Rand Paul's star is certainly rising inside the GOP. The Kentucky senator is slated to headline a key dinner in the traditional first of the nation primary state, that would be in New Hampshire, next month.
Joining us right now to talk about his growing star power, the managing editor of "TIME" magazine, Rick Stengel.
Rick, thanks very much for coming in. You've got a new article in the new issue of "TIME" magazine entitled "The Rebel: Can He Reshape A Party that Never Quite Took His Father Seriously."
What's the bottom line? Because he certainly seems to be moving way beyond anything his father, Congressman Ron Paul, did.
RICK STENGEL, TIME MANAGING EDITOR: Yes, I would say what he's doing, Wolf, and here's another political word in this context, is he's triangulating. He's triangulating between the libertarian supporters of his father, between his own Tea Party supporters and to regular conservative Republicans. He's trying to bring them together under the same tent, which nobody has ever done before. And it may not be possible. But he's giving it a try.
BLITZER: You know, he's doing all sorts of things that don't necessarily fit into standard conservative or Republican banters, if you will. One thing he's doing right now, he's also apparently backing a group that supports a group called the National Association for Gun Rights, releasing ads attacking some Republicans for being not tough enough as far as guns are concerned.
I'll put up a -- I'll play a little bit of a clip of one of these ads. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Virginia Congressman Eric Cantor says had has a plan to improve the Republican Party. But it starts with passing Obama's gun control schemes. Cantor wants to hurt even more gun owners into a federal data base registration system. Eric Cantor doesn't sound like a Virginian or Republican anymore. Eric Cantor sounds like someone else.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Now apparently Senator Rand Paul, he seems to be OK with this group, or at least he's involved a little bit, he's not backing it completely. But what does that say to you?
STENGEL: So, Wolf, the group is trying to do what? I just -- I only heard the tail end of the ad.
BLITZER: The group is saying that some Republicans aren't tough enough in fighting these new efforts to impose greater gun control and they specifically point to Eric Cantor, the majority leader in the House, saying Eric Cantor doesn't sound like a Virginian or a Republican anymore.
BLITZER: Because he's open to some possible changes.
STENGEL: So I would say there that Rand Paul is tacking away from the libertarian views of his father. Now the libertarians would say anything like this probably doesn't make sense. Why does it make sense to have these kinds of controls? He's saying, look, he's saying to regular -- to conservatives, hey, I'm with you guys. I'm not a libertarian. That would be my interpretation of that.
BLITZER: Yes, he's certainly rewriting a new chapter and he's moving away to a certain degree from his dad. He's writing his own chapter, but he's moving up clearly among a lot of Republicans and conservatives. And certainly libertarians out there.
Thanks very much, Rick Stengel.
STENGEL: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: From "TIME" magazine, for coming.
When we come back, there's news involving the new Secret Service director potentially the latest victim of a crime that's in a string of other government officials and celebrities.
And the crisis in North Korea. We have a special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM, that's coming up right at the top of the hour.
BLITZER: The Secret Service and the FBI are investigating yet another incident involving a Web site that's posted suspected personal information belonging to senior government officials and celebrities. The latest victim, get this, the new Secret Service director, Julia Pearson.
CNN's Rene Marsh is joining us. She's got the details of what's going on.
What is going on, Rene?
RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A posting of what it claims to be the personal information of a well known, another well known person. Now this time it is the new director of the Secret Service. The site lists what it says is Julia Pearson's Social Security number and a Transunion credit report, which has what appears to be both bank and mortgage information. In addition to what credit cards Pearson has.
Now the FBI won't say if any of that information is accurate. But last month, this same Web site posted what it claimed was the personal information of other government officials and celebrities. People like Mitt Romney, Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, Oprah, Lady Gaga, the list is extremely long. And again, we cannot verify that any of the posted information is accurate or even up to date.
The FBI won't say how this information may have been obtained, meaning was this information hacked, or did they get it by some other means. Now I did just make contact with Transunion and they insist that their Web site was not hacked. They say that the perpetrator somehow collected enough information, enough personal information to access the credit report online.
Wolf, one more thing, we want to say that both the FBI and the Secret Service say that they are investigating this latest incident -- Wolf.
BLITZER: I would hope they are. Rene, thanks very much for that report.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. This is THE SITUATION ROOM, special report, North Korean crisis.