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THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With John McCain; Stocks Plunge for Second Straight Day; "Border Surge" Key to Immigration Deal; An Unfair Fight in Syria; How Service Can Save U.S. Soldiers; Was Journalist's Death an Accident?; Paperless Plane
Aired June 20, 2013 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Jake.
Happening now, Wall Street's worst day of the year -- fears of what the Fed will do, or more precisely, what it won't do -- send the Dow down more than 350 points.
It's called a border surge -- doubling the number of agents and completing a 700 mile fence. I'll speak with Senator John McCain about this potential breakthrough on immigration reform.
And game on -- as the Heat and Spurs get ready to decide the NBA championship tonight, LeBron James talks to CNN's Rachel Nichols.
Wolf Blitzer is off today.
I'm Jim Acosta.
And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We're starting with that big blow to the markets on Wall Street and almost certainly your retirement savings account. Hang onto your seats and your wallets. The Dow Industrials plummeted more than 350 points today. Throw in yesterday's big drop and the Dow has lost 560 points in two days.
What's the problem here?
Our search for answers begins with CNN's Tom Foreman -- Tom.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Jim, really what's happened here is Ben Bernanke came out and said that they were going to back off of this government program that has really been helping push the economy along. And that's what has sent the markets into a tailspin.
What are we talking about?
I'm going to put this down into simple terms, because he used the word taper. He's going to taper the program.
What does that mean?
Well, imagine the economy to be like a kid trying to ride a bicycle after a spill, trying to get back on balance. The Fed has been helping out to steady and push him along with about $85 billion a month in stimulus.
Ben Bernanke has been looking at some numbers. He's been saying, look, housing is up almost 7 percent in May, unemployment is about 7.6 percent. It's not getting much better, but it's not getting much worse. Inflation, 1 percent. GDP growth is expected at about 2.6 percent.
All of that, he is saying, is enough -- good enough that the government can start easing away from that help, backing off some and saying let's let this economy stand on its own a little bit more. It can roll forward and take care of itself. I'll be there. If it gets in trouble, I'll step in and save it. It will be OK. This is what we should do.
So why are the markets so troubled?
Partially because they're looking at these same numbers and they are not as confident. Their sense is that if you step away from this economy right now and try to let it ride on its own, in fact, you could have a lot of wobbles here in employment and in housing and in a lot of things that they've invested their money in, and they could lose money.
On top of which, Jim, that $85 billion a month has been easy money for them to play with and make more money from. A lot of them would not like to see that taper at all -- Jim.
ACOSTA: Tom, thank you very much for that.
Let's go out front now with Erin Burnett.
She's going to get some more perspective on this and what's happening with the markets -- Erin, as Tom just explained, this economy has sort of been hooked on cheap money for some time now. It sort of reminds me of how we were hooked on that housing market that was just taking off and off and off until we had to pay the price.
Is it haircut time?
ERIN BURNETT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, absolutely. And it's like -- I really like the example Tom was giving of a kid learning to ride a bike. I'd maybe be a little nastier about it, I guess. You could say it's sort of like someone who's become addicted to heroin, right. And heroin is -- it makes you feel really good, but it actually hurts you over time. And eventually, you have to break the addiction.
That's sort of where we are right now. And, yes, this is all coming from the Fed saying, look, the economy might be getting a little bit stronger than people thought, so that means we don't need to just give you this free money anymore.
So in a sense, all this -- this plunge that we're seeing is actually the result of good news.
But I will say this to this analogy about a drug addict, Jim. You know, these rounds of what they call quantitative easing -- easy money, right?
The first one they did, when they said we might pull it back, the market, over a couple of months, fell about 16 percent. The second time -- and they got nervous. The Fed said OK, don't worry, don't worry, we'll give you more of the drug. They gave more of the drug. The market goes up. They're saying we're going to take it away again. The market falls 18 percent over a couple of months.
So this has become a pattern we have gotten used to. So when you see a 4 percent drop over just a couple days, yes, it's big. It's the worst we've seen since the end of last year. But it could be something that goes for a little while, as the market tries to tell Ben Bernanke please, please give us more.
And we'll see if he's strong enough to hold out this time.
ACOSTA: So, Erin, it sounds like the glass is half full there. I mean we are going through some pain right now, but it is, it sounds like, for a good cause, from a fiscal standpoint.
What should people do with their money?
I assume what you're going to say is, hey, don't panic, it's only a couple of days. Things will get better.
BURNETT: I mean you're right about that. Now, look, it could keep going down for quite some time. And, you know, it's unclear.
But I would say, you know, you don't go wholesale and just change everything you're doing because of a couple of days. Primarily because you have a lot of sophisticated people who are used to be in the market who are going to trade ahead of you and make money off of you. So you wouldn't want to do that.
But -- but I would say, a lot of people, Jim, over the past couple of years, in your 401(k) or in your -- any retirement fund you have, your IRA, have maybe been putting a lot of money into bonds, because there's just been this seemingly never-ending bull markets where bonds have just gained and gained in value.
BURNETT: If this continues, interest rates are going to go up and that bull market will come to an end. You're already seeing it with mortgage rates, right?
They're moving up. So you want to refinance your house. You might want to look at your bond holdings and see if you want to get out of bonds.
But, again, you've got to make a bet on when you think this is going to happen. And he's not going to actually stop the free money until later this year, if the economy stays strong.
So this is just the market getting ready for something that they think is going to happen. So I would say definitely be calm, but definitely be prepared for interest rates to go up and prepare for that.
ACOSTA: And, of course, Erin, you will have much more on our money and the markets tonight at 7:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.
ACOSTA: Be sure to join "ERIN BURNETT OUT FRONT" tonight.
ACOSTA: Thank you so in a sense, ), Erin.
BURNETT: Thanks, Jim.
ACOSTA: President Obama will nominate a new FBI director in a White House ceremony tomorrow. James Comey is a former federal prosecutor who became deputy attorney general as he stepped up counterterrorism efforts after September 11th. His appointment comes as the Obama administration deals with spreading fallout over its national security policies, including government surveillance operations.
If confirmed by the Senate, which is about a sure thing at this point, Comey will replace Robert Mueller, who leaves in September, after heading the bureau for a dozen years.
And on another front, there may be fresh hope for winning the freedom of an American soldier held by the Taliban. Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl was captured in Afghanistan in 2009. He's thought to be held by insurgents along the Afghanistan/Pakistan border. Talks with the Taliban are looming. And the State Department says look for the issue of a potential prisoner swap to be raised in the coming days.
The Taliban are expected to offer Bergdahl's freedom in exchange for five detainees held by the U.S. at Guantanamo Bay. So stay tuned for that.
Now, coming up next, the big fight over immigration -- it may be cooling down. Seven hundred miles of border fence and thousands of new Border Patrol agents -- a breakthrough deal, potentially, that is key to immigration reform. I will talk with Senator John McCain, the senator from Arizona, about that.
And one player may be the key if Miami is to hold onto its NBA championship tonight. LeBron James speaks to CNN. That is coming up.
ACOSTA: A breakthrough deal to double the size of the Border Patrol and build hundreds of miles of security fence. Senators are calling it a border surge and it may be the best hope for passing immigration reform.
We begin with CNN chief Congressional correspondent, Dana Bash -- and, Dana, I guess calling it a surge is probably a pretty good tactic. DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, because the name of the game in the Senate is to get a big enough vote to give it momentum going into the House, where immigration reform is a very tough sell. So senators who support this are hoping this change will help.
BASH (voice-over): For Republicans in particular, it's all about border security. That's why they call an immigration deal to beef it up a breakthrough.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The border should not be an issue if this amendment passes.
BASH: Enhancing border security includes doubling the number of border agents to 40,000 and completing the 700 mile southern border fence. Republican supporters emphasize border security measures must be completed and certified before some 11 million illegal immigrants can get on a 13 year path to U.S. citizenship.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Eleven million people live here in the shadows and they live here in de facto amnesty. And, by God, they are being exploited every single day.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A bipartisanship bill to fix our broken immigration system.
BASH: President Obama wants immigration reform for his legacy. Many Republicans want it to keep the party viable in the future, since Hispanic voters are fleeing the GOP. Only 27 percent voted for Mitt Romney in 2012, a precipitous drop since George W. Bush won 44 percent in 2004. He also tried, but failed, to get immigration reform. Still, much of the GOP base opposes any path to citizenship and many Republican senators will still vote now.
SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R), ALABAMA: Amnesty will occur. That's the one thing we can be sure of -- and it will be first.
BASH: We asked Florida Republican, Marco Rubio, a lead GOP supporter, about conservative criticism.
(on camera): For someone like you, from a diverse state with likely higher ambition politically, this is important. For somebody who is in a conservative, very red state, voting for something like immigration reform hurts them rather than helps them.
How do you -- how do you overcome that?
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: Well, I understand why conservatives are upset. They've seen all these promises in the past that haven't been delivered. That's why we're saying that nobody can become a legal permanent residents of the United States unless these border measures pass.
We shouldn't do this for politics. I can tell you, politically, this is as much a negative as it is a positive. People are really upset. And I respect it and I understand it.
BASH (voice-over): Few politicians have as much at stake here as Rubio, a Cuban-American with presidential aspirations who would need those upset conservatives to win a GOP nomination.
(on camera): In all candor, how much of your personal credibility and viability is on the line here?
I mean nobody talks about this without talking about Marco Rubio in the same breath politically.
RUBIO: Well, I haven't -- I honestly have not analyzed it that way. If I...
BASH: Oh, come on.
RUBIO: -- no, because if I wanted to do something political, the easiest thing to do politically is just not deal with the issue, you know, give a couple of speeches and not play and get involved in trying to solve it.
I'm dealing with this because this is hurting our country badly.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
BASH: But, Jim, many of Rubio's fellow Republicans in the House simply are not buying that argument. In fact, positions in the House seem to be hardening against immigration reform rather than softening for it.
And House Speaker John Boehner even compared immigration reform to ObamaCare today, which, as you know, does not bode well for passing the House, the Republican-led House, where it is going to be very, very tough. And, of course, it can be very tough to get it, ultimately, to the president's desk, which clearly they have to do.
ACOSTA: Yes. I'm pretty sure that's not a compliment.
BASH: It's not so much.
ACOSTA: -- thank you very much for that.
Let's bring in CNN chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, and chief political correspondent, Candy Crowley, anchor of CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION."
And it's funny how it all comes back to border security...
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Always.
ACOSTA: Imagine that -- Gloria, why is that?
Why did we come back to border security? BORGER: You know, you and I were talking before the show. I think John McCain discovered that when he was for immigration reform, ran for president in 2000.
BORGER: Went out there on the campaign trail and all people were talking about was enforcing the border.
We just discovered that. We just did our own poll in which we asked Americans, what should the main focus of U.S. immigration policy be?
And take a look at this. Border security first by an almost two to one margin there. So you see, particularly for Republicans, you have to say, look, first things first, we're going to secure the border and then we're going to talk about the path to citizenship. Even, by the way, though the path to citizenship, as Dana points out, 13 years long itself. But you have to get over this hump and convince people.
And it's difficult, because they don't trust the government. So, they think you could put 40,000 boots on the ground. You could build fences, but I don't trust that it's going to work.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, that's a problem with border security is that people see something that you're never going to get. I don't care -- who was it that used to say all the time you build a six-foot wall, there'll get -- you know, there'll be a seven-foot ladder. You know, it a moving target.
So, they've done as well as they could to kind of identify. Let's just throw everything we've got at it. I think it is terribly interesting that in order to collect enough Republican votes to make a big show in the Senate, they're going to spend an extra 30 billion or which I say will all be, you know, pay for in the bill.
It's a pretty -- it's a whopping big bill, and I would love to know if you ask them in that polling what if we told you that you could never get 100 percent border security and what if we told what you the CBO said, which is, hey, this will really help the deficit.
BORGER: -- about 90 percent.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN ANCHOR: Let me ask you about Vice President Biden, because he gave this very big speech today and got a lot of people talking because of the passion that, you know, it was Biden being Biden. And it was surprised me because the White House has sort of had a light foot on immigration so as not to spook the Republicans up on Capitol Hill. Let's listen to what the vice president is saying.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have nothing to apologize for. When we fight for the morally right thing to do because there's a practically, economically sound thing for America to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Gloria, I mean, and Candy, should the White House just stay out of this and let the Republicans work this out?
BORGER: Well, they can't. And they're to the not staying out of it. The president isn't, you know, going full bore press conference out front because he knows that the more he gets involved, the less likely it is to actually pass, because some Republicans will react to him and he doesn't want to become a lightning rod on this.
So, are the folks on the Hill negotiating the Democrats without going back to the White House and talking them privately? No, of course, they're talking to the white House privately. But is the president going out front yet? No.
CROWLEY: And this also fits into the way this president has routinely dealt with Capitol Hill. Show me what you got, right? He did it with health care. He did it with stimulus plan? He did with all these things. So, it's not unusual for him to do that. But, I can assure you once I get an immigration bill and they have a signing ceremony. I mean, this will be another piece of signature legislation that he wanted to help transform --
BORGER: But he did put out a sort of points that he wanted in an immigration measure.
CROWLEY: You know, write a bill or, you know, it's the same kind of --
ACOSTA: And putting all that aside, as Dana pointed out, this still has to get through the House. So, stay tuned for that.
CROWLEY: Better watch there.
BORGER: That's not going to be easy. Right.
ACOSTA: Candy and Gloria, thank you.
Coming up, Senator John McCain reveals he's personally told President Obama the U.S. needs to do more to help the Syrians. We'll ask him about the president's response.
Next, actress, Edie Falco's reaction to the unexpected death of her "Sopranos" co-star, James Gandolfini. That is coming up.
ACOSTA: Tributes and expressions of shock are pouring in for the actor who made Tony Soprano part of television history. Mary Snow has more on that and the other top stories in the SITUATION ROOM right now. Hi, Mary.
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Jim. And we're waiting for result of an autopsy on the body of actor, James Gandolfini. He died unexpectedly yesterday while vacationing in Rome, most likely of a heart attack. He was 51.
Edie Falco who played his wife on the TV series "The Sopranos" says, quote, "I am shocked and devastated by Jim's passing. He was a man of tremendous depth and sensitivity with a kindness and generosity beyond words. The love between Tony and Carmela was one of the greatest I've ever known."
An explosion at a fireworks factor in Canada killed two people today. The blast also started the fire that produced the cloud of smoke and forced people who live nearby out of their homes. The pluck (ph) is about hours drive south of Montreal.
And in China today, five people were hurt in a stampede of soccer fans at the University of Shanghai. Thousands turned out to get a glimpse of soccer star, David Beckham. When he waived, the crowd surged forward. Officials say the people who were trampled didn't suffer serious injuries. Beckham was so upset, he cancelled a meeting with members of a Chinese soccer league -- Jim.
ACOSTA: My goodness. Look at those pictures. All right. Mary, thank you very much.
Coming up next, I will speak with Sen. John McCain about the border surge. Will building a fence and doubling the border patrol lead to immigration reform?
And, there's no such thing as game eight. The Heat and the Spurs will decide the NBA championship tonight. Lebron James talks about it with CNN's Rachel Nichols.
ACOSTA: Happening now --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA (voice-over): John McCain gives us details of his behind-the- scenes talk with President Obama about possible U.S. military action in Syria.
A fiery car crash ends the life of a journalist whose reporting shook up the military's top brass. Now, people are questioning whether it was an accident.
And, talk about economy class, a 5,000-mile nightmare flight with one key amenity missing.
Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Jim Acosta, and you're in the SITUATION ROOM.
(END VIDEO CLIP) ACOSTA (on-camera): Let's get back to one of our top stories. Senators are calling it a border surge, a deal that set some tough conditions for immigration reform but could help make it a reality.
ACOSTA: And joining us now is the Republican senator from Arizona and member of the Gang of Eight on immigration reform, John McCain. Senator, thank you very much for your time. We appreciate it.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: Thank you.
ACOSTA: Let's get straight to this new breakthrough in immigration reform up there on Capitol Hill, this amendment being brought forward by Senators Corker and Hoeven that would deboost security on the border. It would create 700 new miles of fencing and double the number of border patrol agents, if I understand, some of the, I guess, parts of this amendment.
I guess, what do you make of this, first of all? And do you think this is going to add up to a significant number of Republicans signing on to this initiative?
MCCAIN: First of all, Jim, I think it will increase the numbers rather significantly. And as you know, it's very important to send a bill to the House of Representatives that has very strong bipartisan report -- support. I think that this legislation, this amendment, can achieve that. It calls for increased border security and I would remind you that back in 1986, we gave amnesty to three million people.
We said we'd secure the border and we did. Several years ago, we passed other legislation that said we would increase border security. And although border security has been increased, it's still not enough. We hope and believe that this Corker-Hoeven amendment will give people the confidence that we have a secure border.
ACOSTA: And senator, as it turns out, you were ahead of your time on this. Let's play a clip from an ad that you ran back in 2010 where you talked about that dang fence. Let's play a clip of that and talk about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: Have we got the right plan?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Plan's perfect. You bring troops, state, county and law enforcement together.
MCCAIN: And complete the dang fence.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It will work this time. Senator, you're one of us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: And senator, I know you love seeing that one again or hearing that one again.
MCCAIN: That's a great ad, isn't it?
ACOSTA: It is a good ad. Very effective as it turns out. That dang fence, is it going to get finished this time? Probably not, but a significant part of it will be completed, but who is going to pay for all of this?
MCCAIN: We'll be paying for it through fees and through some fees imposed on the visa system, in the legal visa system. So -- but it won't be any increase in taxes or add to the deficit.
ACOSTA: And let's get to Syria, because earlier this week as you know, senator, President Obama sat down in that interview with Charlie Rose and he was asked about Syria and he sort of threw cold water on this whole idea of a no-fly zone. Let's take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you haven't been in the situation room poring through intelligence and meeting directly with our military folks and asking what are all our options and examining what are all the consequences and understanding that, for example, if you set up a no-fly zone, that you may not be actually solving the problem on the ground.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Senator, it sounds like you're not getting your no-fly zone or even something close to it. Does that mean that the rebels are doomed in Syria?
MCCAIN: I don't believe the rebels are doomed, but I don't think there's any doubt that on the battlefield the advantage is clearly with Bashar al-Assad. Why wouldn't there be? Tons of Russian equipment coming in, the Iranian Revolution Guard, jihadists from all over the region, 5,000 Hezbollah fighters and he's still calling it a civil war. What is turning into as a regional conflict and the deciding factor on the battle field is air power.
And we have got to and can just as the Israelis have shown with standoff missiles. They are able to hit targets that they want eliminated. It's shameful.
ACOSTA: Would you like to sit down with the president and talk about this?
MCCAIN: I have. I have.
ACOSTA: To make your case.
MCCAIN: I have already. I have already.
ACOSTA: And what's his response when you make that case to him?
MCCAIN: He said he understands my points and he respects it, just as I respect his position but obviously he has not agreed. And the influence --
ACOSTA: Is it just that he's maybe an anti -- he's just an anti-war to some extent? He came into the White House being the anti-war candidate. As you know, he was very much opposed to the Iraq war. He said in Germany that he's a president who is all about ending war, not starting wars, made that comment.
Is he -- is he just philosophically opposed to ratcheting things up in Syria do you think?
MCCAIN: No, I think he has beliefs that are genuine and sincere and they're obviously different from mine and many -- most other experts. Look, the Middle East is about to erupt. This is -- this is turning into a regional conflict. Lebanon is destabilized, Jordan can't -- the king of Jordan can't last. The conflict is spreading throughout the region. Hezbollah is all in.
This is becoming a Sunni-Shia conflict, Iran -- Saudi Arabia, Russia- U.S. and it's an unfair fight.
ACOSTA: So what about that video of that rebel fighter that -- we've seen it on YouTube. It shows a rebel fighter -- what appears to be a rebel fighter eating a heart of a Syrian government military service member. Why would -- why would we want to get involved in something like that?
MCCAIN: I think -- I think it's terrible. I think it's horrible. And I think civil wars are probably the bloodiest and worst of all. The difference between that individual and that atrocious act is that that was an individual act by a deranged individual. Bashar al-Assad has a strategy of rape, of torture and murder. There's mass graves that have been found all over Syria.
And so it's -- his people and Hezbollah and others are trained to inflict torture and to indulge -- engage in mass rapes in order to cow the population and to commit mass murder. That's the difference here. We're talking about 93,000 people dead. The president said, well, now we know that chemical weapons have killed 100 hundred people. What about the other 92,800 and whatever it is.
Look, this is an unfair fight. It's shameful. If Bashar al-Assad stays in power and the Iranians are able to make that happens, imagine the position of power that Iran has in the region. And look what happens if Bashar al-Assad fails. It's a great blow to Iran. The greatest in 25 years. And they're cut off from Hezbollah, which would mean that Hezbollah would die on the vine.
That's why they're all in in this conflict. And now we're talking about giving them light weapons. Light weapons do not do well against scud missiles and tanks. And it's just -- it's just shameful.
ACOSTA: Well, Senator John McCain, we do know where you stand on this issue. We appreciate your time very much. And we'll be talking to you soon. Thank you, sir.
MCCAIN: Thanks for having me on. ACOSTA: Just ahead, while John McCain thinks the U.S. should provide Syria's rebels with a lot more military help, CNN's Fareed Zakaria warns that could lead to a much bigger disaster. And conspiracy theories into the death of journalist Michael Hastings, suggesting it was no accident.
But first here's a look at what's next on "THE NEXT LIST" this Saturday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRE PETTIS: This is part of the next industrial revolution. Ordinary people have a factory on their desktop.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: This week on "THE NEXT LIST," 3-D printing pioneer Bre Pettis is on a mission to take this once expensive technology and put it directly in the hands of everyday consumers.
PETTIS: You start with a digital design and then you send it to the machine and it builds it up layer by layer.
That same rush that I got as a kid when I fixed something or when I made something, I still -- I still want that. And I want everybody to have that.
I'm Bre Pettis, CEO of MakerBot and I make things that make things.
GUPTA: Find out how Bre is helping to ignite the next industrial revolution, this Saturday, 2:30 p.m. Eastern on "THE NEXT LIST."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: We just heard Senator John McCain make a passionate case for giving much stronger military support to Syria's rebels. Joining me now to talk about that, Fareed Zakaria, host of CNN's "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS" and editor at large of "TIME" magazine.
Fareed, thanks for joining us. We appreciate it. Senator McCain calls this plan to provide only light arms to the rebels, quote, "shameful." I know you just listened to that interview. What is your take on that? I guess this is part and parcel of what we've been hearing from John McCain for some time now, but he is really trying to box the president in it seems.
FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN'S FAREED ZAKARIA GPS: I think Senator McCain is wrong in one profound sense, I believe, which is he really wants the United States to get involved in what strikes me as one of the great civil wars of the Middle East. This is going to be like the Lebanese civil war which took 15 years. Remember the Iraq one, which we precipitated in some senses, took 10 years, 350,000 people were killed, 2.5 million people were displaced, even though we had 180,000 troops on the ground there. This seems very much like that. It is a minority regime as in Lebanon, as in Iraq that is being displaced and there is a great fight between the majority and minority, a fight to death because they both know the stakes are very high. For to us insert ourselves here, it just seems very unwise and very unlikely that we could have much impact.
He's right in one sense, the small arms won't make much difference but of course what he -- what he draws from that -- the conclusion he draws is we should jump in even more fully. And I think that -- that's probably the wrong way to go and I doubt very much that the president will go that direction.
ACOSTA: And Fareed, you not only take issue with John McCain, I mean, you really take issue with President Obama and his policy on Syria. You wrote a column in today's "Washington Post" titled "Obama's Syria is Full of Contradictions" -- "Obama-Syria Policy is Full of Contradiction."
Let me read a portion of it. It says right here, "There is a striking almost bizarre mismatch between ends and means. We want to defeat a ruthless and powerful regime, rescue a country from civil war and usher in a new democratic political order. But those seeking this outcome also firmly believe that we must never consider committing U.S. soldiers to the fight."
You know, nobody wants to put boots on the ground in Syria, Fareed, even though the president and the White House say all options are on the table. That option is obviously not on the table. I mean what do you think the president can do here? If not sending small arms, what should they do?
ZAKARIA: Well, I think it's very dangerous to begin escalating down the road when you really are not committed to it. When you're saying from the outset this is not important enough for us to put boots on the ground. This is not important enough for us to fully engage --
ACOSTA: Even with 100,000 -- nearly 100,000 casualties, the U.S. just sits that out?
ZAKARIA: Well, as I said, there were 300,000 casualties -- civilian casualties in Iraq while we were there. The idea that we could avert, that we can get in the middle of this civil war and figure out who the good guys are, who the bad guys are, stop the good guys from killing the bad guys, let me give you one simple possibility, Jim, which is we succeed in defeating Assad.
What is almost certainly going to happen, and again the historical pattern is clear, is the victorious forces, which are 1,000 militias spread around Syria will then turn on Alawites, the minority group that Assad represents. That's 14 percent of Syria. And there will be a massacre of the Alawites. Tens if not hundreds of thousands of them will be massacred.
So we will change the composition of who's killing whom but it's not entirely clear to me that's a net plus on a humanitarian basis. We have to recognize that unless we are willing to really get involved here and occupy the country or -- or get engage in some kind of massive intervention, the chance that we can shape this -- the outcome of a very murky and complex civil war is limited.
And so we have strain, as I say, the president also wants to kind have it both ways.
ZAKARIA: And so he's trying to do a little bit. And in a sense, you know, the metaphor here is he's trying to get a little bit pregnant.
ACOSTA: Well, we know you'll be exploring this more fully on your show, "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS" right here on CNN. Fareed, thanks very much for that. We appreciate it.
ACOSTA: An article in the issue of "TIME" magazine really caught our eyes. It's partly about something that will help tens of thousands of soldiers and U.S. veterans coming home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The article "How Service Can Save Us" is by "TIME's" Joe Klein, who joins us right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
And, Joe, we were just talking about putting boots on the ground in Syria. Not everybody wants to do that obviously. But --
JOE KLEIN, TIME COLUMNIST: Fareed is right, by the way.
ACOSTA: And -- well, and the reason why everybody is reluctant to do that or even get more involved in Syria is because of the high, heavy toll that has been paid in Iraq and Afghanistan and you lay out a lot of this in your article and what it is like for many of these soldiers. One veteran who sleeps with -- used to sleep with a gun under his pillow until he discovered this grounding opportunity for him to go in the service.
KLEIN: Well, this is actually a good news story, Jim. The way I came to this was I embedded in Iraq and Afghanistan and I saw these kids, our remarkable troops governing towns. You know, not just protecting them but using public works money to build schools and water and sewer facilities and so on. And I thought if they could do it under there -- under fire over there.
KLEIN: They can come back home and be a generation that really affects us in terms -- in terms of public service. And these kid are doing it on their own. What they found is that public service, when you go out and you help other people, it makes you less likely to fixate on yourself. And it helps really -- and it really helps to treat post-traumatic stress.
ACOSTA: And tell us a little bit about Ian Smith because that's the way you start your article about this -- and that's who I was talking about, this young man who was sleeping with a gun under his pillow and how he was able to get out of that.
KLEIN: Well, you know, Ian Smith was an army intelligence analyst, and he came home, he was working three -- he wasn't the classic case. He was actually out there working. He was working three jobs, he was carrying a 4.0 in his community college but he had to drink himself to sleep every night. And he needed that gun, he thought, for protection.
And his good friend, Mike Pereira, who is part of a group called the Mission Continues, which is based in St. Louis but has people all over the country, encouraged Ian to come to St. Louis to work on the service project where they cleaned up a children's center in a poor neighborhood of St. Louis. And all of a sudden Ian found himself with a group of other veterans. It was the same point of reference for all of them. They were back to being a community again.
ACOSTA: And you -- what you find is that going to some of these disasters around the country, like Hurricane Sandy and in Oklahoma, some of these veterans are finding that these opportunities are sort of bringing them out of that darkness?
KLEIN: Right. A group called Team Rubicon does disaster relief not just here but all over the world. I spent Memorial Day weekend with them in Oklahoma City. They were deployed there doing disaster relief. And it was a great experience, not just for the people in Oklahoma, whom they were helping out but also for each other.
At night they would get together and they would talk, not only about the day's work but about the experience of combat and how they felt whole again being with other people who were like them. One veteran said to me, "I've come home."
ACOSTA: Wow. Well, it's a powerful piece. We encourage everybody to take a look at it. And we don't want these veterans coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan to go down the same road as Vietnam. And this lays out a possible road --
KLEIN: A Vietnam veteran --
ACOSTA: -- to recovery for many of them.
KLEIN: A Vietnam veteran said to me I wish we had -- I wish we had this kind of thing. It saves lives.
ACOSTA: All right, Joe Klein, thank you very much. We appreciate it.
Coming up, was the fiery car crash that killed journalist Michael Hastings really an accident? Conspiracy theories are starting to go viral.
And game on as the Heat and Spurs get ready to decide the NBA championship tonight. LeBron James talks to CNN's Rachel Nichols. The heat is on.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ACOSTA: The death of journalist Michael Hastings in a fiery crash early Tuesday morning is raising questions because of his coverage of powerful figures in the U.S. military.
CNN's Casey Wian reports.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where is the driver? Where's the driver.
CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Three years before this horrific car crash took his life, journalist Michael Hastings wrote an award-winning but still controversial article about General Stanley McChrystal for "Rolling Stone," "The Runaway General" quoted the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan making disrespectful remarks about Vice President Biden and other civilian leaders that ultimately ended the general's army career.
Hastings' penchant for unvarnished criticism of military authorities clearly evident when he and Piers Morgan discussed the sex scandal involving another discredited general, McChrystal's successor David Petraeus.
MICHAEL HASTINGS, JOURNALIST: I think there's many other reasons Petraeus should have resigned besides who he's sleeping with that's not his wife.
WIAN: Now conspiracy theories about Hastings' death are spreading online especially after this tweet from WikiLeaks, reading, "Michael Hastings contacted WikiLeak's lawyer Jennifer Robbins just hours before he died," saying that the FBI was investigating them.
(On camera): Los Angeles Police are investigating the cause of the accident which happened right here early Tuesday morning in this high- priced residential neighborhood. Even at this makeshift memorial there are questions about Hastings' death. This card reading, "I pray that your death was an accident and not purposely done by those who don't like you."
(Voice-over): A freelance photographer's dash cam captured images of the Mercedes speeding through an intersection and minutes later what was left after it slammed into a palm tree burst into flame.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Five miles.
WIAN: Near the burning car, a beer bottle. Further away the car's transmission which has fueled speculation online that the vehicle could have exploded before impact.
CNN's efforts to contact WikiLeaks' attorney have been unsuccessful. The FBI says at no time was Hastings ever under investigation. And Los Angeles Police won't discuss their investigation.
WIAN: Now Hastings' last article for the Web site BuzzFeed earlier this month was titled "Why Democrats Love to Spy on Americans" only going to to provide more fodder for those who believe that something more sinister than excess speed was at fault for his death -- Jim.
ACOSTA: And even if it was just an accident, Casey, a very tragic story to see a journalist so young lose his life.
Casey Wian, thank you very much for that.
At the top of the hour, more on what's spooking investors and the fallout for your retirement account and a long haul flight without something essential in the restrooms. How did the passengers manage?
ACOSTA: Now for one of those stories that makes air travelers cringe. A long-haul flight where the plane runs out of, well, something pretty essential.
Let's bring in CNN's Rene Marsh.
Rene, I don't even want to talk about this story, much less hear you talk about it, but let's call them out for it.
RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: All right. Well, Jim, pretty essential. I would have to agree with you. This is pretty essential. We're talking about United Airlines and a 5,401 mile flight, and when you hear what they were short on -- and by the way, they knew that they were short, but they didn't want to delay the flight, so they took off anyway.
MARSH (voice-over): United Flight 931 from London to San Francisco flying high but running low on what some would say is essential on a 10-hour flight -- toilet paper. A passenger snapped this photo of the airline's quick fix. A makeshift toilet paper holder stuffed with cocktail napkins that read "Fly by the Tips of Your Fingers."
CLARK HOWARD, HLN MONEY EXPERT: Airlines are crowding more and more seats, especially into the coach section of international flights, and so they didn't increase the number of bathrooms and then you have so many bathrooms on these international flights that are reserved only for premium passengers. So the poor coach passenger, well, maybe you're going to have to start packing your own toilet paper.
MARSH: United confirms this was a bathroom in economy class. The airline tells CNN, "The aircraft ran low on toilet tissue and our crew improvised and provided customers with paper napkins. We apologized to our customers on this flight for the inconvenience."
United recently placed dead last in one annual report measuring airline performance. United says its merge with Continental was a contributing factor but insists their performance has improved. About their two-ply problem? The airline says finding more tissue would have delayed the flight.
HOWARD: As a passenger, I would rather use cocktail napkins in the bathroom than have an hour or two delay. So I'm with United on this.
MARSH: All right, Jim, so they wanted to stay on time with their departure, some might say they care more about leaving than going. All right. No comedian.
The airline did point out that although some of the bathrooms ran out of tissue, there was some available in the other bathrooms on the flight -- Jim.
ACOSTA: Add it to the long laundry list of problems that have happened on flights that just make passengers very, very frustrated.
All right, Rene Marsh, thank you very much.
And I'll turn things over now to my colleague Jake Tapper for the next hour of THE SITUATION ROOM right now.