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CNN NEWSROOM

Government Shutdown Showdown; John Kerry on Syria

Aired September 19, 2013 - 15:00   ET

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


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: First, you have House Speaker John Boehner. He has scheduled this vote tomorrow on a bill to keep funding the government. And attached to that bill is a measure to -- quote -- "defund Obamacare."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The law's a train wreck, and it's going to raise costs. It's destroying American jobs, and it must go.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: So the position of a lot of House Republicans appears to be, fine, we will keep the government running, but only to spell the end of Obamacare.

But then you have the other Republicans and they're saying this, that that is simply taking things just a little too far, that threatening to shut down the federal government if they don't get our way on Obamacare, take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. KELLY AYOTTE (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE: Obamacare, and I have supported repealing it. That's one of the reasons I ran for the United States Senate, as you know, in 2010, but I don't think that shutting down the government is going to be productive.

SEN. TOM COBURN (R), OKLAHOMA: The only effective way to truly stop Obamacare, and I think we ought to do it, to stop it, would to be totally reverse it. We don't have the votes to do that.

REP. SCOTT RIGELL (R), VIRGINIA: Someone asked me earlier on a radio show, well, are you voting to shut the government down? I say, no, absolutely not.

REP. JOHN FLEMING (R), LOUISIANA: I think we're going to have enough adhesiveness among ourselves to stick together and, you know, Ted Cruz and Mike Lee have been asking for this fight. The conservative base have been asking for this fight, so we're going to give them the fight.

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R), UTAH: Nobody is talking about killing each other or doing those types of things. We're talking about fully funding the government. Nobody is talking, nobody is talking about a government shutdown.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: So, of all that mash-up of sound, the last person you heard from there was Congressman Jason Chaffetz saying, no, no one is talking about a shutdown.

So it's all a little confusing because it seems to be precisely what some of the Republicans seem to be threatening.

So, Gloria Borger, can you help us sort this whole thing out?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I'm pulling my hair out listening to this, honestly.

BALDWIN: Isn't it true that quite a few Republicans seem ready and willing to shut down Obamacare, and if not, shut down the federal government?

BORGER: Well, even Karl Rove in an op-ed in "The Wall Street Journal" today said, look, Republicans are essentially on a fool's errand here. They're trying to make a political point, which is they want to kill Obamacare. Fine. We have heard this for years now, Brooke.

And House Republicans finally drag their speaker into this, kicking and screaming. He laid down the gauntlet, said, OK, we're going to vote to defund Obamacare, we're going to send it over to the Senate, and then they feel like they have been deserted in the Senate by Senate Republicans and now they're hanging out there.

What are they saying? We're not the ones who want to shut down the government. It's those people, those Democrats who are going to vote against us. They're the ones who want to shut down the government. It reminds me of my kids when they were younger and they would have a fight, and you would say, whose fault is it, who started it? And they point to the other one.

BALDWIN: And they would point at one another?

BORGER: Exactly. Exactly.

BALDWIN: Yes. Yes. What about Democrats, though? What do they have to say here? Usually, one party kind of enjoys when the kids are pointing at one another. The others are sitting back and saying, ha- ha-ha, that's so fun to watch.

BORGER: Look at them, they're in trouble, right?

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: Are they worried at all about Obamacare?

BORGER: The Democrats understand that Obamacare is not going to be repealed. What they're doing is they're standing back now and they're pointing neon arrows, neon fingers at the Republicans and saying look at these guys. They don't know what they're doing. They can't agree on what they want to do.

And, by the way, all of you independent voters out there who don't want to shut down the government, take a look at this, because they understand that the American public doesn't want to shut down the government. They understand the repercussions of shutting down the government, particularly politically for the Republicans.

They're sitting back right now and saying, OK, watch them make a mess of it. At a certain point, we're all going to have to rescue ourselves from this chaos that's been created.

BALDWIN: OK. Hope you're not pulling too much of your hair out because this is just beginning here, Gloria.

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: We have another week to go.

BALDWIN: Yes, we do. Gloria, thank you.

And we have talked before about this competition among conservatives to see who can hate Obamacare the most. Well, here's an idea as to what we're now seeing. When we talk here about disdain for Obamacare, this is an ad out today from a self-described libertarian outreach group. Watch this. OK. So those folks don't like Obamacare much.

There is zero doubt about that with this ad.

Rene Marsh is joining me now from Washington with more on this.

Where to begin? Who is behind the ad, Rene?

RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is a group by the name of, and they call themselves a libertarian group, Generation Opportunity.

Again, Brooke, let's put this into context. This is all coming out just days before that critical October 1 enrollment date and opponents of the president's health care law, they're really ramping up the ads. One of them, you just saw there, and they're really pushing the envelope. These ads in the creator's own words are creepy.

And the group says they're hoping to convince people not to sign up for the Affordable Health Care Act if they don't want to. See another ad that they just put out for yourself. Take a look. All right, well, these ads, they're geared toward to 18- to 29-year-olds. They're appearing online, on Web sites like YouTube and Hulu.

Again, the group is Generation Opportunity. They told me today when I spoke to them on the phone that they believe that a fine, you should just go ahead and pay that fine. It would be cheaper for the individual to pay the fine and instead of signing up for affordable health care and instead, you could go ahead and buy a private health care policy that doesn't cover all of the things that the health care law would require.

They believe it would be cheaper to go ahead and get that fine. They're going to pump an estimated $750,000 into even more ads like the ones you just saw there.

BALDWIN: OK. You're saying the group itself who put the ads out, they are calling them creepy. I have to imagine that the responses are already coming.

MARSH: That's right. We have started to get some responses.

We know that one liberal group, they're pushing back on the ads, saying that this is nothing more than scare tactics, trying to scare college students into not getting health care. They also say that ads like the ones you just saw there, that you're looking at there, are giving the impression that under the health care law, doctors would be doing more invasive exams, and these liberal groups are saying that's nothing but a myth.

But we should point out, when you look at the numbers and you look at the kind of ads that are on the airwaves, these ads against the health care law...

BALDWIN: Rene, got to interrupt you. Forgive me. Got to go straight to the State Department, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry talking Syria.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Lunch was good. Thank you.

As you all know, before I became secretary, I spent 28 years in the United States Senate, and I witnessed some great debates and some of the best senators there produced some of the best debates that I have seen sometimes.

And some of the senators, I learned, liked to debate about just about anything. As my pal John McCain was fond of saying, a fight not joined is a fight not enjoyed. But it was also in the Senate where I personally heard former Ambassador of the United Nations turned Senator from New York Daniel Patrick Moynihan end more than a few debates with his own bottom-line reminder.

You are entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts. And those words are really worth using and focusing on as we head into next week's General Assembly meeting in New York of the United Nations.

We really don't have time today to pretend that anyone can have their own set of facts approaching the issue of chemical weapons in Syria. This fight about Syria's chemical weapons is not a game. It's real. It's important. It's important to the lives of people in Syria. It's important to the region. It's important to the world that this be enforced, this agreement that we came out of Geneva with.

And for many weeks, we heard from Russia and from others, wait for the U.N. report. Those are the outside experts. That's a quote. That is the independent gold standard. That's a quote.

Well, despite the efforts of some to suggest otherwise, thanks to this week's long-awaited U.N. report, the facts in Syria only grew clearer and the case only grew more compelling.

The findings in the Sellstrom report were as categorical as they were convincing. Every single data point, the types of munitions and launchers that were used, their origins, their trajectory, their markings, and the confirmation of sarin, every single bit of it confirms what we already knew and what we told America and the world.

It confirms what we have brought to the attention of our Congress, the American people, and the rest of the world. The U.N. report confirms unequivocally that chemical weapons, including the nerve agent sarin, were used in Syria. And despite the regime's best efforts to shell the area and destroy the evidence, the U.N. interviewed more than 50 survivors, patients, victims, health workers, first-responders.

They documented munitions and subcomponents. They assessed symptoms of survivors, analyzed hair, urine, blood samples. And they analyzed dirty soil and environmental samples. And what did they learn? They returned with several crucial details that confirm that the Assad regime is guilty of carrying out that attack, even though that was not the mandate of the U.N. report.

But anybody who reads the facts and puts the dots together, which is easy to do, and they made it easy to do, understands what those facts mean. We, the United States, have associated one of the munitions identified in the U.N. report, the .122-millimeter improvised rocked, with previous Assad regime attacks.

There's no indication, none, that the opposition is in possession or has launched a C.W. variant of these rockets, such as the kind that was used in the 21st of August attack. Equally significant, the environmental, chemical, and medical samples that the U.N. investigators collected provide clear and compelling evidence that the surface-to-surface rockets used in this attack contained the nerve agent sarin.

We know the Assad regime possesses sarin, and there's not a shred of evidence, however, that the opposition does. And rocket components identified in the ground photos taken at the alleged chemical weapons impact location areas are associated with the unique type of rocket launcher that we know the Assad regime has.

We have observed these exact type of rocket launchers at the Assad regime facilities in Damascus and in the area around the 21st of August. So there you have it. Sarin was used. Sarin killed. The world can decide whether it was used by the regime, which has used chemical weapons before, the regime which had the rockets and the weapons, or whether the opposition secretly went unnoticed into territory they don't control to fire rockets they don't have, containing sarin that they don't possess to kill their own people, and then, without even being noticed, they just disassembled it all and packed up and got out of the center of Damascus, controlled by Assad.

Please. This isn't complicated. When we said we know what is true, we meant it. And now, before I head to New York for the U.N. General Assembly, we have a definitive U.N. report strengthening the case and solidifying our resolve. Now the test comes. The Security Council must be prepared to act next week. It is vital for the international community to stand up and speak out in the strongest possible terms about the importance of enforceable action to rid the world of Syria's chemical weapons.

So I would say to the community of nations, time is short. Let's not spend time debating what we already know. Instead, we have to recognize that the world is watching to see whether we can avert military action and achieve through peaceful means even more than what those military strikes promised.

The complete removal of Syria's chemical weapons is possible here, through peaceful means. And that will be determined by the resolve of the United Nations to follow through on the agreement that Russia and the United States reached in Geneva, an agreement that clearly said this must be enforceable, it must be done as soon as possible, it must be real.

We need everyone's help in order to see that the Security Council lives up to its founding values and passes a binding resolution that codifies the strongest possible mechanism to achieve the goal and to achieve it rapidly. We need to make the Geneva agreement meaningful. And to make it meaningful in order to eliminate Syria's C.W. program and to do it with transparency and the accountability, the full accountability that is demanded here, it is important that we accomplish the goal in New York and accomplish it as rapidly as possible.

Thank you all.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: On a related subject, let me just ask you whether you think the president might meet with President Rouhani to test the seriousness of what Iran has said?

KERRY: The White House needs to speak to that.

QUESTION: Is it a positive sign coming from Rouhani in these interviews -- in this interview?

KERRY: Rouhani's comments have been very positive, but everything needs to be put to the test. We will see where we go, and at the right moment, I think the White House and the State Department will make clear...

BALDWIN: OK, so just heard from the U.S. secretary of state, and in an unanticipated really message, the crux of that being, listen, it's incredibly important as he's traveling to the U.N., to New York next week with the Security Council meeting and making good, passing this resolution making good on what he discussed with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, when he was in Geneva not too long ago talking about the crisis that is Syria, talking specifically about this U.N. report that came out Monday that definitely says sarin gas was used on August 21.

Jim Sciutto, chief national security correspondent, joining me now here.

Jim, just curious, why do you think he came out now? Is this just the halfway point between the U.N. security -- U.N. report coming out and heading to New York?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: I think what you see there is the secretary, John Kerry, exasperated with the comments and denials he's hearing from the Russians in just the five days since he was in Geneva and negotiated this deal, those Russians denying, still trying to sell the story that it was Syrian rebels who could have launched the chemical weapons attacks and not the Syrian regime.

Secretary Kerry quoting Daniel Patrick Moynihan to begin saying you're entitled to your own opinion, but to not your own facts. Kerry didn't mention the Russians, but it was clear he was talking about the Russian denials and he proceeded to knock each one of them down in succession.

BALDWIN: He said also at the top this fight is not a game. How big a sell do you think this will be?

SCIUTTO: This has been his word really since he arrived in Geneva last week, and I was traveling with him, that this is very serious. By saying this is not a game, again, this is a dig against the Russians who he says might be trying to score political and diplomatic points with these denials and other criticisms of the Americans that have followed since the deal.

And remember this is a secretary of state who was in the room with Foreign Minister Lavrov, very difficult negotiations, but came out still with a deal that he believes is workable. Just then, you saw him end his comments by saying this is possible. It's possible for the international community to remove and destroy Syria's chemical weapons through peaceful means.

So, in effect, don't destroy this deal. That's what he's saying to the Russians, he's saying to others in the international community who are going to be in New York next week for the U.N. General Assembly. But he was -- remember, Kerry started as a prosecutor in Massachusetts. You saw him there acting as a prosecutor, ticking off the information, the kinds of rockets that were used, where they were launched from, the kinds of rocket launchers, just to say from his point of view that the Russian position is untenable.

BALDWIN: And just quickly, what exactly -- when we talk about -- when we hear him talking about the need to pass this resolution, I remember watching you reporting on everything coming out of Geneva and remembering that this possible agreement that Syria would then sign the chemical weapons convention and also that they would basically let the world know where those chemical weapons lie. Will that thing come out of the resolution or is that separate?

SCIUTTO: The resolution is meant, as the secretary just said there, to codify or enshrine the agreement that the Americans and Russians made in Geneva, because that is just two countries. Right? Syria wasn't even a party to those talks. The Russians say they will bring the Syrians to comply.

What Secretary Kerry wants is for the international community to basically sign this document, approve this deal, so that there's international backing for it, and enforcement, he hopes, going forward.

BALDWIN: Jim Sciutto, thank you very much. We will be watching the U.N. Security Council very closely next week. Jim, appreciate it.

Coming up next, the pope with a blunt admission today. He says -- quote -- "I am a sinner." The pope opening up with some incredibly candid comments on everything from homosexuality to divorce to women. The interview released just a couple hours ago. We will tell you what else he said.

Plus, $800 million in sales in just 24 hours. "Grand Theft Auto 5" is the controversial video game that is setting all kinds of records. Coming up, we will try to explain what makes this game so popular worldwide.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: It's not a book, but an article of revelations for Catholics. The pope gives an interview 12,000 words long, and all kinds of topics from homosexuality to women priests to poverty, even describes his own self as a sinner in the interview.

It just released today in 16 countries. And here's just one example for you of the pope's candor that seems to contradict past leaders of the church. This is a quote from his interview in "America" magazine -- quote -- "We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage, and the use of contraceptive methods. I have not spoken much about these things and I was reprimanded for that. It's not necessary to talk about these issues all the time."

I want to go now to father James Martin, an editor at the Catholic publication "America."

Father Martin, there are lots and lots of headlines in this spectacular interview. What is the biggest revelation in your opinion?

REV. JAMES MARTIN, "AMERICA": I think the quote that you just mentioned is one of them, that he was reprimanded for not talking about those hot-button issues.

But I think he talks about a lot of things in terms of his view of the church, his outreach to women, to gays and lesbians. He talks very candidly about his own failings as a Jesuit superior. It's really remarkable. And when we were reading the English translation in "America," we were all pretty stunned.

BALDWIN: It's very un-pope-like pope behavior, but that seems to be how he is.

The pope, you mentioned women, specifically talking about women, about female priests. He has not supported that idea, but he uses some interesting words here to talk about women of the church. This is another quote. "The feminine genius is needed wherever we make important decisions. Women are asking deep questions that must be addressed. The church cannot be herself without the woman and her role."

What do you think Catholics here worldwide will take away from the pope calling the church herself?

MARTIN: Oh, actually, that's actually pretty common.

BALDWIN: Is it?

MARTIN: Yes, I think what people will look at is the fact that he says the church needs a deeper theology of women, which is pretty striking because when you think about it, it means that he feels that the church's theology on women is not deep enough.

So it's very broad-minded, and, frankly, in the interview in "America" magazine, it's like sitting down across the table with the pope and having a cup of coffee with him and talking about God and the faith and the church and very wide-ranging and very genial.

BALDWIN: It's incredible, just hearing about his -- remember the plane ride from Brazil back home to Italy and how he was opening with so many people there and here he is again. It's refreshing.

Father James Martin, thank you so much.

MARTIN: My pleasure.

BALDWIN: And floodwaters, those floodwaters destroying everything in one man's home. And so what did he do? You're looking at it. Sat down to play the piano and started playing this Tears for Fears song. This video has gone viral. I talked to him. Hear why he did it next.

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