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Obama Punts Syria Strike to Congress; Syria Strike: Military on Hold; David Frost Dies

Aired September 1, 2013 - 07:00   ET


VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): This is not some romantic tryst. It's behind the scenes at the White House. We have the real story about how the president made his decision.

PROTESTERS: We don't want another war!

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): While Washington mulls over striking Syria, hundreds of Americans are already protesting possible military action, but will they be able to convince their congressmen before a vote is cast?


KEILAR: Good morning, everyone. I'm Brianna Keilar.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. It's 7:00 a.m. at CNN world headquarters. This is NEW DAYS SUNDAY.

KEILAR: It is a risky move by the president, one that puts his prestige as commander in chief on the line.

BLACKWELL: In a remarkable turn-about, Mr. Obama now says he wants Congress to sign off on a U.S. military strike on Syria, but he didn't say what happens if Congress responds with no.

KEILAR: We are covering all of the angles this hour. We have the president's announcement, reaction in Congress and also in Syria, very different. Plus, the behind-the-scenes moves that led the president to these words.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: After careful deliberation, I have decided that the United States should take military action against Syrian regime targets. This would not be an open-ended intervention. We would not put boots on the ground.

Instead, our action would be designed to be limited in duration and scope, and that's why I've made a second decision. I will seek authorization for the use of force from the American people's representatives in congress. For the last several days, we've heard from members of Congress who want their voices to be heard. I absolutely agree.


BLACKWELL: And Congress has already started the ball rolling, with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee holds a hearing on Tuesday on the use of force against Syria. Republican leaders say they will not end the House's summer vacation early. Members return September 9th as planned. And that means the final votes for retaliation for the chemical attack may not come until mid-September, maybe even later.

KEILAR: We're covering this unexpected in the Syria story with Jim Acosta at White House. We have Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr at her post there at the Pentagon this morning. And Nick Paton Walsh will be joining us from the United Nations.

Well, the president did not decide to seek congressional approval until Friday night. Not everyone on his staff agreed with him initially, we're told.

BLACKWELL: CNN's senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta has the behind-the-scenes details.

Jim, it's fascinating. Was Mr. Obama's decision to go to Congress a surprise even to his own advisers?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It was absolutely a surprise, Victor and Brianna. Good morning.

I just want to let you know that this was not only a surprise to everybody in the White House. It was a surprise to everybody who covers this White House. Just as the president was prepared to go it alone, he decided at the very last minute to ask the Congress to go along with him. And aides to the president laid all of this out to reporters yesterday afternoon after the president's stunning announcement in the Rose Garden.

And the way they described this, the president was really privately kicking around this idea of seeking congressional authorization on his own without really talking to anybody about it all week. And then, after Secretary of State John Kerry made that forceful statement over at the State Department Friday afternoon, President Obama pulled his chief of staff aside, Denis McDonough, and said let's go for a walk around the south lawn of the White House. And it was during that time that the president confided in his chief of staff that he had made this decision to basically take a time-out and consult with Congress and seek their authorization.

Now, after that, the president, the chief of staff returned back to the West Wing. The president held a meeting with his national security staff. And according to aides inside the White House, a very fierce debate broke out. Not everybody agreed with the president's decision. But after that discussion was held, aides say the national security team got behind the president.

He then called his vice president, Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry, and then, Chuck Hagel, his defense secretary, to relay the news and then brought back his entire national security and intelligence team back to the White House Saturday morning for what they call a principals meeting, where they finalize this decision.

And then the president came out and basically told the world that he had made this last-minute decision to hold on just for a little bit -- Brianna and Victor.

KEILAR: And, Jim, talk specifically about some of the key members of the president's cabinet. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Secretary of State John Kerry. Were they on board?

ACOSTA: Well, from what we understand from talking to administration officials, yes. Now, they will say, these officials do say that this did come as a surprise, so don't -- you know, let's not get too swept up in the spin here.

But administration officials that I spoke to yesterday said about Chuck Hagel, let's put this one on screen, if we have that graphic available. Senior U.S. officials saying about Chuck Hagel, "As a former senator whose views on the limits of war are well known, it's not hard for Chuck Hagel to agree with the president." That's according to a U.S. senior official.

And then another senior administration official talking about John Kerry, the secretary of state, said, "No concerns about the president's decision here. He was in the Senate for 29 years and has made consultation with Congress a huge priority since he became secretary of state."

Brianna and Victor, it sounds like the debate that was going on inside this White House, if you start pulling away the people that the officials will say were with the president, it sounds like it was the president's inner circle that had concerns about this, and that's really not too surprising. They're talking about giving some of the president's war powers away to the Congress, at least temporarily, for this decision.

Now, if the congress says no, administration officials that I've talked to in the last 24 hours have said the president still reserves the right to act. They say he can still use military force, even if the Congress says no.

BLACKWELL: We know presidents never like to dilute the powers of the executive branch.

Jim, I want to ask you about the Congress. You know, more than 100 members signed this letter to the president asking for a full debate on any possible military action in Syria, but the debate has already started, really. What have members of Congress been saying so far after this Rose Garden speech yesterday?

ACOSTA: Well, Victor and Brianna -- and, Brianna, you know well how this goes because you've covered both the president and the congress. He's been dealing with a Republican House of Representatives that is very much opposed to his agenda. He's got Tea Party-backed Republicans in the Senate that he's got to deal with, and then he's got members of his own party who are very, very concerned about using this kind of military action in a situation where the national security of the United States is not really being threatened.

And here are two examples of that from yesterday. Ted Cruz, Republican from Texas, and Charlie Rangel, Democrat from New York. Here's what they had to say.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: In my view, U.S. military force is justified only to protect the vital national security interests of the United States. And to date, the administration has not focused on those interests.

REP. CHARLES RANGEL (D), NEW YORK: I don't see where America is threatened. I don't see where our national security is threatened. And perhaps between now and the time we get back in September 9th, the president will have information that would allow the Congress to effectively see where this danger is.

ACOSTA: Now, administration officials that we spoke to yesterday, Brianna and Victor, do acknowledge that this strategy on the part of the president does come with some risk. Not only could the Congress say no and then potentially, you could have this tug-of- war between the two branches of government, the legislative and executive branch, you also have the situation where Bashar al Assad, in the view of this administration, could launch more chemical weapons attacks between now and then. That is also of concern to people inside this White House, guys.

KEILAR: Sure, Jim, and it's not every day you find an issue that unites liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans. Our senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta -- thank you.

Now, let's head over to the pentagon, where the prospect of an imminent strike on Syria is now on hold.

BLACKWELL: Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr joins us now.

Barbara, resources in the region have been at the ready, on hold for a few days now. What does this holding pattern mean for the U.S. military?

STARR: Well, Victor, Brianna, good morning.

You know, does the Pentagon support the president? A spokesman for the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, says absolutely, yes, fully on board with the delay. He says General Dempsey believes it should be hard, in his words, for the nation to go to war.

So, right now, the official word is they're firmly behind the president's decision, of course. Those warships will remain on station, the tomahawk missiles are ready to go, but they are beginning to see over the last several days the Syrian military move their forces around, disperse, go into defensive crouch, if you will.

So, once the decision is made, the military will have to make sure it's got all the targeting information it needs, retarget those missiles, if they have to, so they can go after what they want to get to. They are continuing to watch very closely satellites overhead keeping track of those Syrian military moves.

BLACKWELL: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon for us this morning. Barbara, thank you.

The world, not just Syria, not just Americans, the world is waiting to see what lawmakers in Washington decide.

KEILAR: Germany's foreign minister says the United Nations should use the time to find common ground on what to do in Syria. So far, the U.N. Security Council hasn't drawn up a resolution calling for a military strike.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is at the U.N. with more on that and what the international community is saying -- Nick.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, Barack Obama made it pretty clear he didn't see the U.N. as really consequential in his decision-making, calling it completely paralyzed, basically, because of the Russian and Chinese veto against resolutions on Syria here. But clearly, he does care about global public opinion, and we have a process under way at the United Nations here which could result in evidence, in a conclusion that chemical weapons were used inside Syria.

The inspectors have now taken their samples from Syria from the alleged sites where chemical weapons were used. They're some of them in the Hague, in the Netherlands, and we understand from a briefing yesterday, the process of getting them ready for testing is under way and the man in charge of that, the weapons inspector, Dr. Ake Sellstrom, will brief U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today on how that process is going.

The question really is how long is it going to take? And we've heard from one independent expert that at a rush, this could be done in a week. We've heard suggestions from the men actually doing the inspections that it could take as long as three. So, a huge window of potentially a month until we actually see those final results, and if we do actually hear the U.N. inspectors say they found evidence of chemical weapons on the ground, that's as far as their mandate goes. They won't apportion blame.

But as you hinted, there could be a window potentially for Germany or another perhaps less advocate power of military strikes to try and get the Security Council to at least agree that chemical weapons were used in some sort of resolution.

But the issue really here is I think while anything that happens at the United Nations may help bolster global public opinion, that chemical weapons were used and perhaps something needs to be done. Barack Obama is certainly not making the events here and the results from the U.N. inspectors' tests part of his argument why the U.S. should act. They believe they have the evidence and the regime is responsible, Brianna. KEILAR: Nick Paton Walsh, thank you.

BLACKWELL: It depends on which lawmaker you ask. We're hearing conflicting opinions in each party. More after the break.



OBAMA: For the last several days, we've heard from members of Congress who want their voices to be heard. I absolutely agree. So, this morning, I spoke with all four congressional leaders, and they've agreed to schedule a debate and then a vote as soon as Congress comes back into session.


KEILAR: So, what are the people who will debate and vote on the Syria question saying?

BLACKWELL: Republican Congressman Peter King is the former chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, and he is not happy. He put out this statement. I'm going to read part of it.

"President Obama is abdicating his responsibility as commander in chief and undermining the authority of future presidents. If Assad's use of chemical weapons against civilians deserves a military response, and I believe it does, and if the president is seeking congressional approval, then he should call congress back into session at the earliest date."

KEILAR: Now, Republican Senator Rand Paul thinks the president made the right call. Here's Paul's statement. He said, "I am encouraged President Obama now says he will fulfill his constitutional obligation to seek authorization for any potential military action in Syria. This is the most important decision any president or any senator must make, and it deserves vigorous debate."

BLACKWELL: Well, plenty of other members of Congress are eager to chime in on the president's decision, Democrats, Republicans, and most of them agree with the president's move.


SEN. BILL NELSON (D), FLORIDA: I have seen the evidence, and it is clear and compelling that Assad has used chemical weapons. These are weapons of mass destruction against his own people. And I don't think among the family of civilized nations that we can allow him to get away with this.

CRUZ: I am very glad that President Obama has listened to the bipartisan calls for him to go to Congress and seek congressional authorization before any possible use of force in Syria. That was the right thing to do. And in making that decision, it seems he agrees that there is no imminent threat requiring action before Congress can consider the issues and make the decision. NELSON: Assad has violated all the norms of civilized behavior, and he needs to be taught a lesson.

RANGEL: Under what authority do we place our young men and women in harm's way without the U.N. national security, without the U.N., without Great Britain, without France, without anybody supporting us? Where is there any statement in our Constitution or otherwise that America has an obligation to get rid of evil people?

CRUZ: The objective is simply to express disapproval, that I think that objective is ill served. We are not the world's policeman.


BLACKWELL: Now, as we're hearing from members of Congress, remember, they are still in recess. We're hearing from a few of them. And most of the people who are speaking out are pleased with the idea that they will get to consult on this.

KEILAR: They want input.

BLACKWELL: They will get to chime in. We do not know yet what the final decision will be from Congress. That will happen some time in mid-September, maybe even later.

KEILAR: Yes, still very up in the air, and that's what's so sort of fascinating in a way about this decision that he made. We just don't know exactly what's going to happen. But still to come, there are also people from coast to coast who are on the fence about this. They're taking to the streets.


PROTESTERS: The people united. Stop the war! The people united. Stop the war!


BLACKWELL: Why these protesters and others across the country want the U.S. to stay out of Syria.


KEILAR: Welcome back to NEW DAY.

We've learned this morning that a legendary broadcaster has passed away.

BLACKWELL: British journalist Sir David Frost was probably best known in the U.S. for his interviews with Richard Nixon after he resigned the presidency. The BBC says Frost was giving a speech on board the Queen Elizabeth cruise ship last night when he had a fatal heart attack. Frost was 74 years old.

KEILAR: British Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted in response to this. He said, "My heart goes out to David Frost's family. He could be and certainly was with me, both a friend and a fearsome interviewer."

BLACKWELL: New this morning, Nelson Mandela has been discharged from a South African hospital.

KEILAR: The 95-year-old former president had been hospitalized since June 8th because of a lung infection.

BLACKWELL: Mr. Mandela will continue recovering at home but he is in critical and at some times unstable condition, according to the south African president, Jacob Zuma's office.

KEILAR: There's been a spike in radiation levels at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan that was left crippled by a tsunami two years ago. The radiation there was measured in the pipes in containers that hold water at the facility.

BLACKWELL: TEPCO is the company in charge of that cleanup. Officials say just one drop of contaminated water dripped out of the holding tanks when there was a worker touched the pipe, and there is not a leak.

They also said they're making every effort to keep the worker safe.

Tim Tebow will not be suiting up in a New England Patriots uniform this year. The Pats cut him days before the new season kicks off. The former Heisman Trophy winner is probably the biggest name to get axed this preseason, but always a class act, Tebow took to Twitter to thank the team for giving him an opportunity, and he vowed to make it back to the NFL.

KEILAR: Well, you know, it's Labor Day weekend.


KEILAR: So, that means for many people, except for us, right?


KEILAR: But I feel like we're sort of part of your last trip to the beach and the barbecue, because here we are, right, sort of joining you. But a lot of folks are out there trying to get a little sun in still.

BLACKWELL: Although there's no burger here. There is no, like, barbecued food.

KEILAR: Where is it? Can we get some burgers?

BLACKWELL: I know, can I get some chips? OK, let's get to what we're really talking about, maybe the thunderstorms and rain that could disrupt this holiday.

Let's bring in Karen Maginnis in CNN weather center.

KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I know you were traumatized by all the dragon con events --

KEILAR: Yes, I thought it was Halloween.

MAGINNIS: Either that or Tim Tebow. But I think this will smooth things over just a little bit. Take a look at this beautiful, beautiful picture we've been watching over the last few minutes as the sun rises over beautiful Anna Maria Island.

KEILAR: It's like we're there!

MAGINNIS: It is! It's gorgeous! We've been watching people fish and just walking around. It is a stunning picture. This afternoon, though, could see some thunderstorms. Frontal system is sweeping towards the east in its wake.

We'll see those showers and thunderstorms increase even more as we go into Monday. Yes, that's what you wanted to hear.

Temperatures soaring into the 80s and 90s, triple digits in south Texas. Yesterday we saw 104 in Dallas. Should be about 97 degrees coming up for tomorrow. And then, for Salt Lake City, a little brief cool-down, but back up to the 90s again -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Could we see that sunny picture again, just one more time? Oh, it's like, I feel -- oh, I can feel the sun on my skin.

BLACKWELL: Can you really?

KEILAR: You just need a pina colada.

BLACKWELL: I think of these warm nights. I think that's the feeling.

KEILAR: Karen Maginnis, thank you so much. Have a great weekend.

BLACKWELL: Still to come, some people are very critical of the president's decision to get the okay from congress before striking Syria.

KEILAR: Still, others are applauding it. So, the question is, what does this mean for President Obama's legacy?


BLACKWELL: Bottom of the hour now. Welcome back. I'm Victor Blackwell.

KEILAR: And I am Brianna Keilar.

BLACKWELL: And just when it looked like President Obama was ready to strike Syria, he surprised the world and even some White House insiders by announcing he'd seek approval from Congress.

KEILAR: We now know more, though, about how the president reached his decision. It's pretty fascinating. Officials say that around 6:00 Eastern Time Friday, he took a 45-minute walk with his chief of staff, Denis McDonough, and then he called his top national security advisers into the Oval Office. Officials say that some of the president's closest advisers initially disagreed with him.

Now, though, the administration is firm in its request for congressional approval.

So, President Obama reiterated Saturday that a decision to strike Syria would not include boots on the ground.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now, after careful deliberation, I have decided the United States should take military action against Syrian regime targets. This would not be an open-ended intervention. We would not put boots on the ground. Instead, our action would be designed to be limited in duration and scope.

Over the last several days, we've heard from members of Congress who want their voices to be heard. I absolutely agree. So, this morning, I spoke with all four congressional leaders, and they've agreed to schedule a debate and then a vote as soon as congress come back into session.


VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: The White House is expected to hold a classified briefing for members of Congress this afternoon. Congress is out of session until September 9th, which means a vote on the use of force will not come at least until then.

KEILAR: Well, let's try now to put this all into context and consider how this could affect the remainder of President Obama's presidency and also its place in history.

Joining us now from Austin, Texas, is Douglas Brinkley. He is a historian at Rice University.

Thanks, Doug, for being with us.

And first off, I want to get your sense of what you think the reasoning is behind the president's decision here to ask Congress for authorization. Is this about deliberating or is this about saving face or maybe even looking for a way out of this?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, I think it was to start it off being blind-sided by Great Britain. We cannot underestimate what a blow that was to have our great ally, Great Britain, say we're not going to be part of this. You have to go it alone.

Once stripped of that key ally, it started looking like there was no coalition of the willing. It would be the United States, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and possibly France going in. That wasn't enough of an international mandate. I think it showed that NATO is becoming quite ineffective, that once you have the United States and Britain on the opposite page, and the president couldn't rely on NATO as we did in places like Bosnia, for example, or a more recent intervention in Libya, so, he felt quite isolated, the president, and he drew his own red line.

And I think when he took that walk you just talked about, he decided, look, I have to make this America's red line, I have to make it congress's red line. And, hence, he picked this strategy.

KEILAR: Do you think he really has a shot with Congress here?

BRINKLEY: It's very tough. Doable in the Senate, for sure, although I'm not convinced he's going to get the vote even in the Senate, but it's very doable there. Congress is going to be tough. He has to, right off the bat, start convincing his base, antiwar liberals, people that you're starting to, you know, come from California or New York, liberal constituents who have said I've had enough of Iraq, I've had enough of Afghanistan, I don't want to be brought into another Middle Eastern war.

If this was such a national security emergency, we would have acted immediately. Now, we're just stalling while congress is on recess to take a vote.

The president has lost momentum. He's going to try to pick it up hard today. You're going to see John Kerry being circulated around all the talk shows, and they have to do a full court press now to convince congressmen, really vote by vote, they're going to be calling on them to do whatever they can to turn this into the favor of intervention, a strike against Syria.

KEILAR: But let's say, Doug, Congress says no or the house says no, and you have Democrats and Republicans who at this point we know will not authorize the use of force. If Congress says no, it's difficult to see how lacking support from Great Britain, lacking support from Congress, that President Obama would go ahead with a strike.

Let's say that's the end game. There is no strike. How, then, will the president be judged here by history in spelling out a red line, allowing Syria to cross that red line, and there not being any repercussions?

BRINKLEY: He won't be judged well. It will seem like a bit of a bungle, to put it mildly, because once you raise the stakes up in a world and say if you cross a certain line, it's going to force an action by the United States, then the U.S. doesn't act, it's a black eye for the president and for the nation as a whole.

He will try to keep the moral high ground and say, you know, the next time chemical weapons are used, if they are used again in Syria or somewhere else, he's going to say I told you so. We had to confront this evil head on when we saw it. Instead, we've kicked the can down the line. And so, maybe history will treat him OK from a moral point of view, if you like. But from a just geostrategic, you know, chess-playing move, this is not going to go well for the president in history if he can't get this vote. KEILAR: What did you see yesterday's decision as? Did you see it as a blunder? Do you see it as the best of bad options? How would you describe it?

BRINKLEY: I think it's the best of bad options. I think the president's largely right about, you know, we can't live in a world where chemical weapons are being used. And I think the more you read the intelligence report and you think about the gassing of boys and girls and women and villages in such a heinous way, it gets your gander up.

When we consider this is right on the Israeli border and you have a mad man like Assad, a despicable player stockpiling and willing to use chemical weapons, it is a serious international threat.

But I think the president has decided to go Bush 41, if you like. Back in the original gulf war, you know, we had the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. That was in the summer, August of '90. We didn't go in with our troops until '91 and do military action in January of '91 -- meaning some months went past and we went around and took the temperature and tried to gather up support, both in Congress and around the world.

And so, you see the president going a little more that route than the George W. Bush route.

KEILAR: Sort of war-light, if you will, maybe.

Historian Douglas Brinkley, thank you so much. Appreciate your time.

BRINKLEY: Thank you.

KEILAR: Now, coming up later this morning, John Kerry is going to be on CNN.

BLACKWELL: The secretary of state joins our Gloria Borger to talk about the situation in Syria and the U.S. response. "STATE OF THE UNION" is right here at 9:00 a.m. Eastern.

A lot of people are asking, why is America the world's policeman? Why is the U.S. responsible for calming the violence in places like Syria? More on the debate.

That's next on NEW DAY.


BLACKWELL: Welcome back.

While the Pentagon gets ready for a possible strike on Syria, Damascus is likely making precipitations of its own.

KEILAR: CNN's Tom Foreman spoke with retired Army General James "Spider" Marks about what steps the Syrian military might be taking to brace for an assault. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Every hour, every day that the debate goes on here is more time in which Syria can, no doubt, get ready. Just a few days ago, there would have been satellite signals and radar signals and telephone signals, all sorts of things we could hone in on or U.S. forces could hone in on. Now, you would expect something different.

MAJ. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Absolutely, Tom. Assad may be a monster, but he is very clever. He's unplugged all of his systems that emanate a signal. He's intentionally going to black right now so it's harder for us to find him.

FOREMAN: So, even if we know where a facility is, if the U.S. knows where a facility is, it's hard to know what would even be there now. For example, if you had an office that handles radar communications or command and control, what would be in that facility now?

MARKS: Until we open the door, we don't know. We think we know, but we have to assume at this point that all the contents of those fixed facilities have been packaged up and distributed throughout the countryside.

FOREMAN: What about things like missiles and rockets?

MARKS: If weapons system's not being used, it's in a garrison facility. Again, we probably would see those weapons systems dispersed to places where they wouldn't be effective, like underneath overpasses.

FOREMAN: And you can't move air fields, but you certainly can move aircraft.

MARKS: I would bet you right now those aircraft are already in Iran. In fact, let me tell you something else. When we invaded Iraq, Saddam Hussein buried his aircraft in the dirt.

FOREMAN: Unbelievable, some of the things that might be done out there with this much run-up time. And this is radically different than what we have seen in recent years from the Israelis, who have really emphasized the element of surprise.

MARKS: Tom, the Israelis will not give up the element of surprise, and they don't spend time building a coalition. For example, in September 2007, the Israelis struck a nuclear facility in eastern Syria and destroyed it, and just last month, they attacked Syrian anti-ship cruise missiles in Latakia and destroyed them as well.

FOREMAN: And when did the U.S. find out about those attacks?

MARKS: When they were finished. FOREMAN: That's a very different world and makes a different playing field right now as both the country of Syria and the United States wait to see what's coming next.


KEILAR: Tom Foreman, thank you. >

BLACKWELL: We told you how politicians in the U.S. are reacting to the president's surprise decision on Syria, but what's the reaction around the globe?

KEILAR: Coming up on NEW DAY, we'll gauge the world's response and bring you a live report from London. >


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): DJ Robbie Wilde lives in a world of rhythm and bass -- he just can't hear it. Severe ear infections as a child left Wilde completely deaf in his right ear and 80 percent deaf in his left.

ROBBIE WILDE, "THAT DEAF DJ": My mom was crying, you know, when the doctor said it. Me being the one, you know, the one with the hearing loss, you know, I went up to my mom and I'm, like, mom, it's OK, I'm going to be all right, I promise you. Like, you'll see, I'll be fine.

GUPTA: Although hearing is the most important sense in a DJ's life, Wilde was still determined to make it.

He went to DJ school to learn the art of turntablism and he relies on a computer to see the music. Red is a kick from the bass. Blue, that's a snare. Greens are vocals.

WILDE: You know, I don't want you to see me as a deaf DJ or a deaf kid trying to DJ, I want you to see me as a great DJ that happens to be deaf, you know, because I don't want sympathy. I don't want -- let's give him a gig because, you know, he's hearing impaired.

GUPTA: Wilde's skills got noticed by HP and also earned him a spot in a commercial thrusting him on the world stage.

WILDE: It doesn't matter that I can't hear the music.

GUPTA: Besides, Wilde says, some things are just better left unheard.

WILDE: You know, there's a lot of sounds out in the world you don't want to hear. I like it muffled, you know? It's, you know, I like who I am. I'm proud of who I am.

GUPTA: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN reporting.




DAVID CAMERON, UK PRIME MINISTER: It is very clear tonight that while the house has not passed a motion, it is clear to me that the British parliament, reflecting the views of the British people, does not want to see British military action. I get that, and the government will act accordingly.


BLACKWELL: That was British Prime Minister David Cameron explaining why his country would not join a proposed U.S. military action against Syria. It was a very big announcement related to a very special relationship, and it came as a surprise to many, given the U.K. has traditionally been America's most reliable ally.

CNN's Erin McLaughlin is in London with more.

Erin, good morning.


British Prime Minister David Cameron was quick to take to twitter last night, tweeting, "I understand and support Barack Obama's speech."

Many of his proponents here I pointing to the president's speech yesterday as a validation of sorts of the prime minister's own decision-making process, the decision, of course, to take the vote to parliament regarding potential military intervention in Syria, a vote that was shocking to many a shocking defeat, members of his own party calling it a botched rushed job. The vote also calls into question the special relationship between the United Kingdom and the United States. Fears that the president put to rest yesterday in his speech in which he called Britain the United States' closest ally.

Elsewhere in Europe, the president's speech having an impact in France. Members of the opposition now calling on French President Francois Hollande to put France's own potential military intervention in Syria to a vote in parliament.

The French President Francois Hollande has been a proponent of a limited coalition-backed military action in France. Something as deeply unpopular in France, the latest opinion polls show as many as two-thirds of the population in France are not in support of France's military intervention, so now there's a debate scheduled for parliament in France on September 4th. Following that debate, now opposition leaders are asking for Hollande to put it to a vote, which he at the moment is not constitutionally obliged to do -- Victor.

BLACKWELL: Erin McLaughlin in London -- thank you.

KEILAR: Now, back here in the U.S., thousands of protesters here opposed military action took to the streets from Boston to Indianapolis to Dallas, Los Angeles -- people making their position clear.


PROTESTERS: Obama! Hands off Syria! Obama! Hands off Syria!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the most significant thing about President Obama's speech today is you could hear in the background people chanting "hands off Syria" from a mass demonstration outside the White House.

PROTESTERS: Don't bomb Syria! Don't bomb Syria! Don't bomb Syria.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How do you solve a conflict where they're killing their people by dropping bombs and killing their people?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An investigation needs to be done to find out who the perpetrators are, not necessarily using military action against anyone yet.


PROTESTERS: We say no war! We say no war!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want the American president to know that we want peace. We don't want war. Leave him alone to take care of his government, because people are dying every day, and he's just making everything -- everything worse, and we don't want that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The people have spoken on this war. Polls show that over 90 percent of the American public do not want military strikes.


KEILAR: Well, there is a lot of debate right now over whether the U.S. should be the world's super cop, responsible for policing other countries' problems.

BLACKWELL: Many members of the president's own party cannot agree.


REP. ALAN GRAYSON (D), FLORIDA: We are not the world's policeman. That is not our responsibility. If the United Nations decides to authorize members, including the United States, to do something about it, then that is a bridge we can cross at that point.


KEILAR: Others, though, say, yes, the U.S. should step in.

BLACKWELL: Fouad Ajami told CNN's Anderson Cooper has why.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) FOUAD AJAMI, SENIOR FELLOW, STANFORD UNIV. HOOVER INSTITUTE: We are -- we are the great power, and we are the organizer of world order. We provide world order. We protect world order.

And Chris is right. The case of the Turks, they could do more. They would do more. But they would follow American leadership. So would the Saudis. So would the Jordanians.

It is the burden of Pax Americana. The American peace is what keeps the world intact. And if in the United States doesn't do it, no one else will do it.


BLACKWELL: Fouad Ajami on "AC360" on Friday.

Now, the massive fire in Yosemite National Park, changing gears here, it is still burning, and now officials say the fight could take longer than they initially thought.


KEILAR: Anna Maria Island there in Florida, and sort of taking everyone, victor, if you're not away getting beach time on this Labor Day -- well, look, we're bringing it to you. It's exactly the same thing, isn't it?

BLACKWELL: And I happen to love the music, too. Throw in a little earth, wind, and fire. Give me a sunrise. And we saw some jet skis going by.

KEILAR: Paddle boards. People are having fun there.

BLACKWELL: It looks like fun.

KEILAR: Almost like we're there. Almost --


KEILAR: Not quite.

BLACKWELL: Actually, nothing like we're there.

KEILAR: OK. That's true.

BLACKWELL: Looks like fun.

KEILAR: Beautiful, and the bird there.

You know the wildfire that's burning in Yosemite National Park? This is pretty amazing, because it may not be contained until October 20th, we're learning. That's a month later than originally predicted.

BLACKWELL: Yes, this is the rim fire. It's now the fourth largest wildfire in California history. More than 340 square miles have burned, but firefighters, they are making progress. They say the fire's now 40 percent contained. Investigators in California are trying to figure out why a house in L.A. collapsed. Just in the middle of a neighborhood here.

Authorities say the homeless used this abandoned home as a shelter there. There were fears some people could have been trapped, but the fire department did not find anyone. And no injuries have been reported.

All right. Imagine finding this in your backyard.

KEILAR: See? You get perspective when he runs by the tree.

BLACKWELL: And when he starts looking in the window.

KEILAR: He seems tiny, and you realize he's huge. So kids and their parents were on high alert in Texas. That's because this large exotic lizard was on the loose. We're talking a four-foot lizard here, and as you can see, he was a fast mover.

BLACKWELL: Yes, managed to pull off a couple of quick escapes. But they eventually captured this unexpected visitor. Captured, put into a cage. Yes.

You can hear people in the video screaming.

KEILAR: That would have freaked me out, as well.

Well, thanks so much for starting your morning with us.

BLACKWELL: We have more ahead on the next hour of NEW DAY, which starts right now.


OBAMA: After careful deliberation, I have decided that the United States should take military action against Syrian regime targets.

KEILAR (voice-over): The president has made his decision, but will Congress agree? The military strike that once seemed right around the corner now appears to be farther off on the horizon.

JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: There will be no end to the test of our resolve and the dangers that will flow from those others who believe that they can do as they will.

BLACKWELL (voice-over): It was one of his bolder speeches as secretary of state. But after President Obama appears to have put the brakes on an imminent strike, does John Kerry's address sound like a misfire?

Late-night meetings, long walks around the garden, rendezvous behind closed doors, this is not some romantic tryst. It's behind the scenes at the White House. We have the real story about how the president made his decision.