Return to Transcripts main page

@THISHOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA

Pentagon to Shrink Army Enlistment; Bush for President?; Biden Support in SC; Hillary on Cruise Control; Obama Speaks to National Governors Association; Jason Collins Makes History; New Rule for the NFL

Aired February 24, 2014 - 11:00   ET

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


MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN CO-ANCHOR: The smallest Army since before World War II, the Pentagon calling for big cuts, is it enough to keep America safe?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN CO-ANCHOR: Fifteen yards for racism, new rules on the table for what can and cannot be said on the football field.

PEREIRA: Dr. Drew's daughter revealing she struggled with bulimia and anorexia for years, hear how her father's reacting and why she says talking about it helps.

Hi, there. I'm Michaela Pereira.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. Those stories and more right now @ THIS HOUR.

And @ THIS HOUR, President Obama, he will be speaking to the nation's governors at the White House. The subjects, job creation and ObamaCare, no doubt, they will come up.

Last night, the president hosted the governors and he joked about some being hungry for his job.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Tonight, we want to make sure that all of you make yourselves at home, to which I'm sure some of you are thinking, that's been the plan all along.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: It's funny, because it is true.

PEREIRA: Attorney General Eric Holder wants Congress to require retailers to immediately report data breaches to customers and law enforcement.

Now, this is in response to that massive data breach. Remember the one that we had, several of them, in fact, during last year's holiday shopping season.

At Target alone, 40 million people, about, had their debit and credit card information stolen, and as many as 70 million people had their personal information accessed.

BERMAN: A proposal to slice and dice California into six separate states, with names like Jefferson South and Central California, that is moving forward, sort of.

If it can get 807,000 signatures by July 18th, it would go to voters in November. A venture capitalist from Silicon Valley is behind this idea. He wants his area to be its own state, too.

He thinks the state's regions are so vastly different that a single government just can't get things done.

However, I've got to say, this is in all likelihood is going nowhere, because Congress would have to approve this. And I just don't think that's going to happen.

PEREIRA: Not to mention, voters would have a thing or two to say.

BERMAN: Yeah, not sure they want to do that.

PEREIRA: The Pentagon plans to shrink the Army down to its lowest levels before World War II. It is a huge move and it reflects two, very different realities.

BERMAN: The way technology is changing how the U.S. fights wars and then the need to cut costs while maintaining military readiness.

The changes are part of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's new spending proposals which he will officially unveil two hours from now.

We're joined by retired Army Major General James "Spider" Marks. He's a military analyst for CNN.

And, "Spider," you know, I remember in 2001, when George W. Bush came to office with Donald Rumsfeld. They talked about a leaner, meaner military. They talked about technology taking over.

And then September 11th happened, and all of a sudden, we needed a bigger Army.

If we cut down the troop levels to levels before World War II, can America stay safe?

MAJOR GENERAL JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS (RETIRED), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: America can stay safe. It is a real question of what are our capabilities?

Our defense really is based on capabilities. It's not based on a threat. We don't chase every threat that's out there, every other nation that might present some type of a scenario.

We have to establish what's core to our Department of Defense, core to our national security and then we have to ensure that we can provide that.

So, clearly, we're going to have to -- because of the budget constraints, we're going to have to shrink down the size of the military.

And there are ways that we can do that and ways that we should do that, effectively.

PEREIRA: OK, so, let's talk about that real quick, because the fact is, when you say that, that sounds like boots on the ground. We hear that all the time when we talk about the military.

But we are talking actual men and women in uniforms. We're talking about that.

And they are talking about using more technology. We've already seen advancements being made, modern day warfare, cyber-technology being used.

That is expensive. That doesn't come without a price tag, too, though, does it?

MARKS: No, it doesn't. Technology can be very expensive. However, the most expensive weapons system we have is the individual in uniform, because of the long-term costs associated with that.

But the United States has to be smart about this, very, very smart about this. I would suggest that we have to increase our partnership and alliances, so that we have a presence over overseas in multiple locations where there might be a flare up.

Number two, we have to have incredibly strong intelligence so we see the precursors in conflict, so that, if necessary, we can ramp up for those. We also have to have pre-positioned logistics in different locations. We have a long history of doing that quite well.

And then our industrial base has to be able to expand. For example, the F-35 is very contentious. It's a very expensive aircraft. It's an incredibly capable aircraft.

The question is not whether we need it, but how many of those do we need? Simply, like the tank, how many tanks do we need? Those are the key questions that have to be answered as we go forward.

BERMAN: You say eloquently, our most valuable resource is our men and women in the service. I spent time with so many who were doing six, seven, eight, nine tours in Afghanistan and Iraq.

If you cut the troop levels and we are required to do this type of commitment again, won't the same thing happen? Won't we overextend our military again?

And, by the way, I never heard the commanders on the ground in Iraq saying they had enough troops.

MARKS: You never have enough troops. You're absolutely correct. That model of multiple deployments, deployment upon deployment, is not a model that the United States can sustain. If you're trying to conduct counterinsurgency operations, this is the difference here, you're going to need folks. You need a lot of folks on the ground. If you're going to conduct counterterrorism operations, it relies more heavily on great intelligence and great technology. Those are choices.

PEREIRA: Hagel says it will be agile, it will be capable, it will be modern, it will be trained. How far out do you see this vision that he has? How far out are we looking?

MARKS: Our military is there right now, Michaela. It's agile. It's well trained.

PEREIRA: But in slimmer, a meaner, leaner --

MARKS: It's going to be far slimmer military. Remember, in 2001, we had less than 480,000. We're going down below those numbers.

Clearly, Congress has to get on board. Governors have to be on board. Our administration --

BERMAN: The politics on this is not easy at all.

BERMAN: This is the toughest fight. This is the toughest fight, is the political fight.

PEREIRA: We are in a mid-term election year, so -

MARKS: You're right.

PEREIRA: -- fights will be had.

BERMAN: You can bet people will be hanging onto their bases.

James "Spider" Marks, always great to (inaudible).

PEREIRA: Real pleasure to have you here. Thanks for being here with us.

MARKS: Thank you.

PEREIRA: This was exciting.

All right, ahead @ THIS HOUR, Bush for President, does that sound familiar? New signs that a campaign could be a possibility. Plus, the key state where Biden for President is gaining traction.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Welcome back, everyone. So, Barbara Bush has said that it is time for someone outside the Bush family to run for national office.

But @ THIS HOUR, there are signs that her son Jeb might be genuinely interested in a presidential bid in 2016.

PEREIRA: Now, he's been a bit coy in the past. He's never said outwardly, outright no, but sources tell our John King the former Florida governor is making calls to Republican movers-and-shakers, asking some questions that serious candidates ask.

Bush is speaking at an event today on Long Island where presidential candidates have spoken in the past, including his own father and brother.

Our national political reporter, Peter Hamby is here. Good to see you, as always, my friend.

All right, so could the thinking be that Bush is thinking, Chris Christie is not looking so terribly hot these days, seeming a little bit more vulnerable. Is this a good time to strike while the iron's hot?

PETER HAMBY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Yeah, that is certainly part of it. Christie has faltered among the donor class a little bit in recent weeks, obviously, so they are looking around for a different, quote/unquote, "establishment" alternative.

But, look, in Republican politics, there is nobody who knows how hard it is to run for president of the United States more than Jeb Bush. His father did it. His brother did it.

So this could be read as him doing due diligence. This doesn't mean he is going to run, but, yeah, his activity has really stepped up a little bit in recent weeks, making phone calls.

The question I have about Jeb Bush possibly running for president, and a lot of Republicans say this kind of behind the scenes, is the rust factor. He's been out of the game so long.

The last time he ran was 2002 for governor of Florida. And if you see him before conservative audiences, he's kind of hot and cold.

And, look, again, he is a creature of the establishment. Frankly, he is the establishment. His family built up the Republican Party, and all these donors and operatives who live in Washington came out of the Bush ranks.

But he's associated with some of the more unpopular elements of the Bush presidency, Medicare Part D, the spending associated with that, two expensive wars, so that could be a problem for him.

And, again, tonally, he is sort of -- he talks to Republicans, says, we need to modernize, we need to adapt. He is a Spanish speaker.

Some of these things might not play well among conservatives in the tea party set, but look at the last two Republican nominees, John McCain, Mitt Romney. They weren't really darlings of conservatives either, so who knows?

BERMAN: You know, you talk about Jeb Bush being part of the establishment.

So what about the current Republican Party, Peter? Of course, tea partiers are a big part of that, at least driving a big part of the message, nationally and in Congress.

They have no love for George W. Bush. So, how do the tea party people view Jeb?

HAMBY: That's right. The Bush name is both a problem in a primary and in a general election.

Bush is still not exactly really popular among tea partiers. Nationally, George W. Bush's favor ability is on the upswing in recent years. The last favorable rating I saw for was actually around 49 percent, 50 percent, which is good compared to where it was when he left office.

But in a primary, again, associated with some of the big-spending elements of the Bush administration, his attempts to reform the immigration system, which fell flat because of pressure from the right, Bush, Jeb Bush is going to have to differentiate himself from his brother if he does run.

And then again, once we get to the general election, if he is the nominee, the Bush name could be a complication, as well. That's for sure.

PEREIRA: Peter, you have some great reporting on South Carolina, a key primary state for both Republicans and Democrats for 2016.

We also know it's a huge state for Hillary Clinton, but, apparently, you found strong support for the v.p., Joe Biden.

HAMBY: That's right. I went down to Columbia, South Carolina, this is my favorite political state, for a couple days last week to go to one of these Ready for Hillary events, this is that group ginning up support for a potential Clinton candidacy, just to talk to people, see what the feeling was about her.

Because, remember, in 2008, she got absolutely thumped by Barack Obama in South Carolina by 28 points. His win was built largely on the backs of African-American voters who really flocked to him in the wake of that Iowa caucus win in that primary contest.

But, yeah, just talking to people, there is a bit of a -- little bit of a Joe Biden appetite. A lot of the conventional wisdom in Washington, he's not taken that seriously. I was recently in Iowa. His name didn't come up that much.

But in South Carolina, it did. He's got a lot of friends there. He's friends with former Senator Fritz Hollings, the mayor of Charleston, Joe Riley. He's tight with Jim Clyburn in the House. These are big South Carolina names.

He vacations every year at Kiawah Island down on the coast. He's been down to the state many, many times, both for political reasons and White House business.

So I just randomly talked to people and his name came up a lot. Hillary, though, is still without a doubt the big front-runner there and there are a lot of former Obama people going to work for her.

BERMAN: We should say, by the way, this piece, your piece on South Carolina, is burning up on CNN.com right now, so you all go check it out right now, because it is fantastic. I get the sense that the Hillary people, and not the official Hillary people but the Ready for Hillary people, they don't really fear Joe Biden. But that doesn't mean they aren't afraid of some things. You note that there is one thing that a lot of people think could derail a Hillary candidacy in South Carolina.

HAMBY: Again, in 2008, 55 percent of the Democratic primary electorate was African-American. I talked to people down there who predict that, in 2016, in that primary, could be as high as 60 percent. So an African-American candidate who is talented, charismatic could -- could -- derail a potential Hillary Clinton candidacy.

The problem is that nobody I talked to could name who that person was. But just this weekend in some dumb luck, Deval Patrick, Massachusetts governor, said at the National Governors' Association meeting, he told Alex Burns of Politico, he's open to possibly maybe running for president someday. So that could possibly be a name out there.

But again, Hillary is in cruise control. So that's the takeaway.

BERMAN: OK, Peter Hamby, always great to see you. Everyone go check out the piece on CNN.com. Do it right now. We'll talk to you again soon, Peter.

PEREIRA: In the commercial break.

BERMAN: In the commercial break.

And come back after the commercial break because ahead @ THIS HOUR, 15 yards for racial slurs. A new controversial rule on the table in the NFL. Could it really be enforced?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN LIVE FEED)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We don't have a lot of time today. So I want to be very brief, go straight to Q&A and discussion.

We're at a moment when our economy is growing. Our businesses have now created over 8.5 million new jobs over the past four years. But, as I have said several times, the trends that have battered the middle class for a couple of decades now are still there and still have to be addressed. Those at the top are doing very well. Ordinary families, still feeling squeezed. Too many Americans are working harder than ever and just barely getting by, and reversing those trends are going to require us to work together around what I'm calling an opportunity agenda based on four things.

Number one, more good jobs that pay good wages. Number two, training more Americans to be able to take the jobs that are out there right now and the jobs that are created. Number three, guaranteeing access to a world class education for every American child all across our 50 states and our territories. And making sure that hard work pays off with wages that you can live on, savings that you can retire on, health insurance that you can count on. And all of this is going to take some action.

So far, in the past few weeks, I've had to lift the wagers of workers who work for federal contractors to make sure their employees are getting paid at least $10.10 an hour. We've ordered an across-the- board reform of our job training programs, much of it aligned with some of the work Mary's done during her tenure as head of the NGA. We directed our treasury to create a new way for Americans to start saving for retirement. We've been able to rally America's business leaders to help more of the long-term unemployed find work, and to help us make sure that all of our kids have access to high-speed Internet and high-tech learning tools in the classroom.

The point is, this has to be a year of action. And I'm eager to work with Congress wherever I can. My hope is that, despite this being an election year, that there will be occasions where both parties determine that it makes sense to actually get some things done in this town. But wherever I can work on my own to expand opportunity for more Americans, I'm going to do that.

(END LIVE FEED)

BERMAN: Listening to President Obama speak to the National Governors Association at the White House. He has been talking about the economy and his efforts to improve the economy. He also made a joke at the beginning to the governors, many of whom are no doubt eyeing a possible presidential run. The president said, "You were no doubt here to size up the drapes and size up each other." Again, it's funny because it is true.

PEREIRA: Up next, a penalty for racial slurs. New rules on the table for what can and cannot be said on the field.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PEREIRA: @ THIS HOUR, breaking barriers. Jason Collins, the first openly gay athlete to play in the NBA or any of the four major professional sports leagues.

BERMAN: Collins took his place in league history when he joined the Brooklyn Nets on the court yesterday after signing a ten-day contract. He played 11 minutes, he grabbed two rebounds, he had a steal and of course the most impressive statistic, five fouls in 11 minutes. That's hard to do, folks.

PEREIRA: He's large and in charge.

BERMAN: He is. There's a lot of people on the floor because of him.

The Nets beat the Lakers, 108-102. And the very presence of Collins on that court was a big deal after stating publicly last spring that he is gay. It dose represent a milestone in the effort to change a sports culture that is often seen as less than accepting.

PEREIRA: He got a standing ovation there at Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Now, another part of the sports culture that is set to change -- language. The NFL is considering adopting a policy that would penalize players with a 15-yard penalty for using discriminatory language on the field.

We are joined by Cyd Zeigler, co-founder of Outsports.com, and CNN commentator and ESPN columnist, L.Z. Granderson. Gentlemen, a pleasure to have you both with us at this hour.

First to you, Cyd, all right. So if the NFL is going to implement this 15-yard penalty for the N-word, do you think other slurs will be included, including ones that are perhaps homophobic, sexist, or maybe religious in nature?

CYD ZEIGLER, CO-FOUNDER, OUTSPORTS.COM: Yes, for sure. That's where they're headed. I'm a high school football official in addition to running Outsports.com here in Los Angeles, and we consider all kinds of discriminatory and hateful language of the same ilk. And people will get ejected from games, 15-yard penalties.

In New Jersey, any kind of epithet based on gender, religion, sexual orientation or race gets you not just kicked out of that game but suspended for the following as well. So the NFL is starting to catch up to what is already going on in a lot of high school football leagues.

BERMAN: L.Z., I've heard a lot of people, including a lot of players, say this will be awfully hard to enforce. What do you think about that?

L.Z. GRANDERSON, CNN COMMENTATOR: Well, they're right. I applaud what's happening in high school ranks, but the fact is that you have tens of thousands of people in collegiate as well as the pro sport game. And so it will be very difficult to determine with all that noise, and the speed of the game, who is saying what at what particular time. And I'm curious as to how they're going to go back and verify the call. You know, you can go back and see if a football crosses the plane, and if that's the touchdown. You're going to go back and listen to the audio to see if you actually heard that word? I mean, it's going to be very, very difficult to enforce.

But it is a step the NFL is taking and I don't want to pooh-pooh it, because it is an important step. You shouldn't have those slurs going on in a workplace environment.

BERMAN: I do wonder about people complaining about it being hard to enforce, though, L.Z. Because, you know, in baseball, you can't argue balls and strikes when the ump -- they can hear you. In basketball, you can get a technical foul for something you say on the court or to the ref. You know, in football, a lot of calls are judgment calls anyway. They always seem to penalize the second guy who comes to a fight; they miss seeing the first guy.

It seems that they'll enforce these rules as well as they can, and they might stick. What do you guys think about that? GRANDERSON: Well, what did they say about Seattle's home team, right? What did they say about the fans there? We talked about the decibel level and how difficult it was to hear. Can you imagine trying to hear a player in the middle of a scrum that said the N-word while those fans are cheering like that? That's why we're saying it's very difficult to enforce.

Between the speed, the number of people on the field, and the crowd -- the crowd size and noise -- it will be difficult to determine who said what and thus difficult to enforce.