Return to Transcripts main page


Obama, 43 Percent Approval; Chris Christie Leads in Iowa Poll; Compromise Budget Clears Senate Hurdle; Ukraine Signs Trade Deal With Russia Despite Protests; Real Santa Donates Toys; Pro Boxing in Cuba

Aired December 17, 2013 - 12:30   ET


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CO-ANCHOR: President Obama, finishing his fifth year in office with -- struggling with low approval ratings, just 43 percent of Americans approve of the way the president is handling his job. That is according to a new "Washington Post/ABC News poll. That is down 11 points from just a year ago.

Want to bring in our Wolf Blitzer from Washington to tell us a little bit about this, Wolf. What do you think about the pressure that the president is under now to get some things done in the next two years?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR, "THE SITUATION ROOM": Well, he's under a lot of pressure right now.

He's obviously lost a lot of support. I think in large measure because of the Affordable Care Act, the way it was rolled out, the problems with the website, clearly the problem that he continues to have about his own credibility -- his repeated promises, if you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan; if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor, promises that clearly have not been borne out as he himself acknowledges. So he's got a lot of work to do to reestablish credibility.

The irony is that, as far as the economy is concerned, there has been improvement over the past year. Unemployment has gone down, certainly not where it should be, but it certainly has gone down 7 percent. That's the lowest it's been since 2008. The stock market is doing well, unemployment, so things have moved better across the board, housing and other indicators.

But he's still got his work to do to reassure the American public that he knows what he's doing and that he's on top of the situation, and that credibility is really critical.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CO-ANCHOR: Wolf, let's talk about this new poll that's out that shows New Jersey Governor Chris Christie now leading among registered voters in Iowa. You see the numbers there.

When asked if the 2016 presidential election were to be held today, who would they pick, and there's the answer. More chose Christie than Hillary Clinton. Look, we can't say it enough. We're two years out from the election. Does it even matter at this stage, or is it still -- it's a good pointer to where things might head? BLITZER: Yeah, two years from the Iowa caucuses, three years from the general election. It's an indicator that Chris Christie is a very strong, potential candidate in a general election against Hillary Clinton or some other Democrat.

His big problem would be winning the Republican caucus in Iowa or a Republican primary in South Carolina. That's because he's perceived as being moderate from the northeast. He would have those problems, although if he were to win the Republican nomination, he would be a very formidable candidate.

The Democrats fear him in a general election. His big problem, though, would be winning that Republican nomination.

MALVEAUX: All right. Wolf, thanks for the perspective, as always.

And, of course, we're going to be following this. We have lots of time. Things could change.

HOLMES: Plenty of time. There will be a -- what, a million polls more between now and then? A million?

MALVEAUX: All right. Thank you, Wolf.

HOLMES: He's gone. He's gone to prep for -

MALVEAUX: Yeah, but it's never too early for those guys to get out there in the Iowa. That's where it all starts. That's where it all happens.

HOLMES: Exactly. No, it is interesting, what the Iowans say. That's for sure.

All right.

MALVEAUX: And the compromise budget deal that sailed through the House, clearing a major hurdle in the Senate, that's today, moves a step closer now to final approval.

Earlier today, this is what happened. The Senate voted 67-to-33 on a procedural vote to move that bill forward. Twelve Republicans joined all 53 Democrats and two independents in the vote to break the Republican filibuster.

HOLMES: Yeah, now, the bill just needs a simple majority to win final passage.

All right, while thousands of protesters have been demanding the resignation of Ukraine's president for pulling away from Europe, or not moving towards Europe, he heads to Moscow to strengthen ties with Russia, economically.

MALVEAUX: We're going to tell you why this East-versus-West, power play could be a problem.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) HOLMES: The Ukrainian president and Russia's president have agreed on a trade deal say that they're going to try to deepen their strategic alliance.

MALVEAUX: Now, the pact comes after a meeting in Moscow today.

While the two men talked about trade and signed this deal in Russia, here's what was going on in Ukraine, protests continuing over the prospect of closer economic ties with Russia rather than Europe.

So, want to go live to Kiev where CNN's Diana Magnay has been covering all those demonstrations and essentially the government's cozying up to Russia.

Is there any chance, Diana, that the protests are going to die down, and are we seeing a power play, essentially, from Vladimir Putin?

DIANA MAGNAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I don't think these protests are going to die down any time soon, and certainly not after the agreement that was struck today between Mr. Putin and Mr. Yanukovych, where essentially, Mr. Putin gave Ukraine the cash injection that it desperately needs, we don't know on what terms, and also a better price for its gas.

So, that helps Yanukovych, Mr. Yanukovych, in the short-term, the president of this country, but it is making the protesters in the square especially angry.

We've been hearing on the stage behind me chants such as, "No to slavery, yes to Europe," chants saying, "We know what the -- what Russia is like. We know what the Soviet Union did to us. Ukraine is not Russia."

And if you talk to people on the square, they're worried that Russia wants to bring Ukraine back into a sort of Soviet Union-style era, way of being ruled. And that's what they're scared of and that's why they're here, Suzanne.

HOLMES: Yeah, and, Diana, this sort of economic bloc, if you like, it's called the Customs Union. Now, Vladimir Putin really, really wants this, and really, to make it work, he needs Ukraine on his side.

How much strong-arming is going on, and how much is this about having a competing bloc in the east against the European Union?

MAGNAY: Well, for the last few months since it became clear, Michael, that Ukraine was looking to move towards the West, was looking at signing this free trade deal with the European Union, Russia slapped sanctions on a lot of the trade that goes between Ukraine and Russia, and that really affected the Ukrainian economy.

Now, if you look at the deal struck today, it looks as though Russia has decided to relieve those sanctions to get trade back on a normal basis, to reverse those trends and to give Russia -- Ukraine the money that it needs. So it looks as though Mr. Putin is effectively going, good, you've stopped that deal with the E.U., you're signing a deal with us. And the big fear here is that they will, this is a step down the road towards the Customs Union that Russia wants, even though that wasn't on the table in today's meeting.

MALVEAUX: And, Diana, real quickly here, why is this so threatening to the West and to the United States?

MAGNAY: It's threatening because if you look at the -- you know, if you look at it from a perspective of Russia trying to consolidate power, especially amongst its former Soviet sort of satellite countries, there is a concern that he's trying to sort of establish a power bloc.

And there's also a feeling that, if Ukraine and the Ukrainian people wish for a democratic future in a state where the rule of law is something that they can respect, in a state where they believe that the police are trying to protect their interests, rather than working against them, you know, that is something that the European Union, that the U.S., those are values that they believe in.

And they don't want to see a country that purports to be a democracy going down the road of a dictatorship.

MALVEAUX: All right, Diana Magnay, thank you so much. We appreciate it.

Following another story, airport security guard in Poland has gotten a pretty nice bonus. When you see what he did actually to earn this, you'll agree he deserved it.

Let's just say the father of this young kid, very, very grateful for this guy. This is a video you're not going to want to miss after the break.


MALVEAUX: All right, you've got to see this. This is a heart stopping moment. This is at an airport in Poland. You got to watch this carefully here. This father places his baby on the luggage counter, looks away for just a moment and then the baby falls off the table and this guy, this security guy, he dives in to the rescue and catches the baby. You see that? Before it hits the floor.


MALVEAUX: You see. Did you see that? This happened last month and the video just now being released and it's gone viral.

HOLMES: Yes. Because you put your kid on a belt, don't you, yes?

MALVEAUX: Somebody should tell him, look, but that is amazing. I don't even know how far the security guard was away from him.

HOLMES: Yes. MALVEAUX: But, I mean, he - I believe that officer - look, you see it?


MALVEAUX: Yes. Just dove.

HOLMES: That was a good catch.

MALVEAUX: Just dove and saved that little kid. He got a bonus, by the way.

HOLMES: What, a sporting contract?

MALVEAUX: Yes, that's -

HOLMES: Going to play for the Poland national baseball team or cricket team. Yes, it was a good catch.

MALVEAUX: It was quite the dive there.

HOLMES: A fine effort.

All right, now, here's a family getting a royal helping hand after their car got stuck. This is in the Jordan capital Amman. And if you look closely there in a second you'll see him. You're going to see the king.

MALVEAUX: There he is.

HOLMES: There he is. King Abdullah. Yes, gets out of his car. He sees somebody is having trouble. I think it blocked his motorcade a little bit. So, instead of sitting there and sending the guards out, he jumped out as well. He was out and about actually checking on the roads after all that snow last week in the Middle East.

MALVEAUX: Yes, it was a freak blizzard. And when he spotted that family that was in trouble. And so somebody taped it. And it's gone viral, as you can imagine. Probably kind of surprised, huh? The king gets out of the car.

HOLMES: He's a nice man. A nice man.



All right, if you think that's cool, have a look at this. Frozen water falls drawing tens of thousands of tourists, this is in China's Sichuan province.

MALVEAUX: A scenic area also home to the iconic pandas and alpine lakes. Love those pandas. Gorgeous, due to some heavy snowfall. Really pretty, pretty pictures there.

And Secretary of State John Kerry's tour of Southeast Asia has him now in the Philippines today. That is where Kerry is expected to visit some hard hit areas by last month's monster typhoon.

HOLMES: Yes, the U.S. donated a lot of aid after that storm. You remember the Navy went in, and others too, the Marines were there. That help isn't just coming from the government, though. Individuals like Clyde Fogle of Kentucky are trying to bring some joy to a place that desperately needs it. CNN's Kate Bolduan has that story.


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Six days a week, 73- year-old Clyde Fogle heads to a workshop in his backyard to make a little magic.

CLYDE FOGLE, TOYMAKER: They are primarily toys with wheels. I've got some cars. I've got some animals.

BOLDUAN: Fogle's been making toys for Operation Christmas Child for close to a decade. The program is run by the charity Samaritan's Purse, and gives gift-filled shoeboxes to children in need around the world.

FOGLE: I see the joy on their faces when they get these boxes. It captures my heart.

BOLDUAN: Woodworking has always been Fogle's hobby.

FOGLE: After I retired, I was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy, which limited me in my physical abilities. I want to give of myself, and I saw in a catalog where I could buy a kit to make 100 cars.

BOLDUAN: Fogle has donated around 100,000 toys to Operation Christmas Child.

FOGLE: I've got a map in my shop. I have a pin for every country that I know my toys have been. If I get tired of doing this, I look at that map. Oh, yes, that's why I'm doing that. So I keep going.


HOLMES: That's great. And if you want to help him out in this endeavor, worthy endeavor, just go to Got all the info there.

MALVEAUX: All right. We'll all be elves to help out Santa.


MALVEAUX: For years pro boxing down for the count in Cuba. But the bouts, they are back and Cubans are loving it. We're going to go ringside next.


MALVEAUX: Could be proof times are changing in Cuba. You got right hooks, left jabs, upper cuts, even a couple low blows maybe. This is something that was banned for years under Fidel Castro and, that, of course, professional boxing.

HOLMES: You said that beautifully, by the way.

MALVEAUX: I know. I know what I'm talking about.

HOLMES: Like Rocky Balboa, the sport has gotten up off the canvas, making a comeback, heading back to the center of the ring. Here's Patrick Oppmann.


PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At Cuba's first professional boxing match in over half a century, there were lights, cameras, and plenty of action. Going pro means Cuban boxers now duke it out without shirts or headgear and fight for five rather than three rounds.

Boxing under the stern gaze of revolutionary icons, there was more blood than usual and plenty of whistling at the young Cabanas who now announce the beginning of each new round. Boxing is in Cuban's DNA. And many of the fans we spoke to said the overhaul of their beloved sport was long overdue.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): It's closer to being professional boxing. Before, the boxers' faces and heads had more protection and the fights weren't as good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): They're boxing now like the professionals. No shirt, no headgear. And it's a better show.

OPPMANN: Following Cuba's revolution, Fidel Castro banned professional sports. Cuban athletes excelled at international competitions, like the Olympics, but had to defect if they wanted big paydays. But when Cuba's main benefactor, the Soviet Union, collapsed, the islands sporting prowess was also laid low.

OPPMANN (on camera): Weakened by defections and a lack of resources, Cuba's legendary boxing program has lost some of its punch. But officials hope that by overturning the ban on professional boxing, the island's fighters will regain some of that former glory.

OPPMANN (voice-over): In April, Cuba joined the fledgling Word Series of Boxing. Fighters now receive an increased, if still modest, salary. And have more opportunities to trade punches with other top boxers around the world, while not losing their eligibility to compete at the Olympics.

"It's a more complex form of boxing," he says. "They are fighting five rounds, all of this contributes to our big dream of winning the real Olympics."

Already, their participation in the new league appears to be paying off. At the inaugural matches in Havana earlier this month, Cuban boxers faced their old ally, Russia. Cheered on by their loyal fans, the Cubans won all five fights and just maybe laid the foundation for something every boxing fan loves, a comeback. Patrick Oppmann, CNN, Havana.


HOLMES: Always were terrific boxers, the Cubans.

MALVEAUX: Yes. I wonder if any women are going to start boxing there.

HOLMES: Who knows.


HOLMES: I don't know. That will be a sign of the times.

MALVEAUX: We want to remind you about this. We need your votes. This is for the top stories of 2013. We want you to go to for year in review.

HOLMES: You're going to see 20 of the biggest news stories of the past 12 months and we would like you to choose 10 for us because we're lazy. Results will be announced online and on TV December 30, 9:00 a.m. Eastern. Number one story right now, the new pope, Francis.

MALVEAUX: That's because we like the new pope.


MALVEAUX: Thanks for watching AROUND THE WORLD. CNN NEWSROOM starts right now. Have a good afternoon.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Right now, the heads of the leading tech companies are meeting with President Obama over at the White House. NSA surveillance and health care, they are both on the agenda.

Right now, the compromise budget deal is moving forward after clearing a key procedural hurdle in the Senate. We'll break down today's vote and preview the final vote expected tomorrow.

And right now, people are lining up across the United States for a chance to win $636 million. That's the grand prize in tonight's Mega Millions lottery.

Hello. I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting from Washington.

We start with the heads of some of the country's top tech companies speaking with the president.