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Obama Gets Personal Talking about New Initiative; Interview with Elijah Cummings; Treasury Says Budget Deficit Went Down; New Generation Surveillance Cameras to Track Crime; Iran Impacting U.S.- Israel Relationship

Aired February 28, 2014 - 13:30   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Issues of race, drugs, growing up without a father, are in the spotlight today, because of very personal and candid remarks by President Obama about his own personal struggles. While announcing an initiative to help young men of color, the president spoke emotionally about the challenges he faced growing up.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I didn't have a dad in the house. And I was angry about it, even though I didn't necessarily realize it at the time. I made bad choices. I got high without always thinking about the harm that it could do. I didn't always take school as seriously as I should have. I made excuses. After I was finished, the guy sitting next to me said, "Are you talking about you"?


I said, "Yeah."


And the point was, I could see myself in these young men. And the only difference is that I grew up in an environment that was a little bit more forgiving.


BLITZER: Congressman Elijah Cummings is joining us right now, a Democratic Congressman from Maryland.

I know you were there in the East Room of the White House, Congressman. Take us inside for you personally what was it like to hear the president really express these kinds of emotions?

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS, (D), MARYLAND: I tell you, it made me feel emotional, Wolf, as an African-American man who was once an African- American boy, and to see those young men standing there. But the fact is that not only did the president himself in those boys. Wolf, he allowed those boys to see themselves in him. And that is very, very critical. And that's the part that's been missing. We've got a president who has been elevated to where he is. But a lot of those young boys probably felt, at some time, that this was unreachable. By him allowing himself to be seen, that is, to strip himself and let them know that he had been through what they had been through, I think is made a tremendous difference.

As a matter of fact, one of the young boys said to me before I left -- I said, "what did you think of this"? And he said, "You know, I realize the president is just like me."

BLITZER: Did you go through a similar kind of experience?

CUMMINGS: No. I grew up poor, but my mother and father were always there, Wolf. But at the same time, most of the young men in my neighborhood, you know, the fathers were not there. They just went through a lot. And as a matter of fact, most of the people that I grew up with either didn't live very long or they ended up in prison. Just very difficult situations.

And so the African-American boys need to have a sense of hope. A lot of times, as the president said, it has become the norm to expect they will not do well and expect that they will go to prison, expect that they will be harmful to other people. And we have to change that view, Wolf. Because there are so many who do well. And I think this initiative is a giant step in the right direction.

BLITZER: Because the president correctly pointed out, we all get numb to these statistics.

CUMMINGS: That's right.

BLITZER: Young minority kids just dropping out of school. They can't read. Winding up on drugs, going to prison. It just seems to get so bad.

So here's the question, Congressman. You're a powerful member of the United States Congress. These were important, historic words we heard from the president yesterday. But they were words. How do we make sure that we all -- all of us -- follow up right now and do something about this problem?

CUMMINGS: Wolf, I -- that is the key question. First of all, with the president starting this, I think that's good. And now he has to put himself in it, and I know he'll do that. And all of these -- a lot of these organizations, Wolf, doing great things. They just need some resources and need some attention to help young men have that sense of hope and give them something to look forward to, which will cause many of them to stay in school and do well.

But our whole society, we've got to look at even our young kids starting really zero to, say, third grade. And make sure these young men are learning to read. Because Wolf, if you don't learn to read by the end of the third grade, you are in trouble. Because after that, you're reading to learn. So if you have never learned to read, you've got a problem. And basically, you feel as if you are like a blind man standing on the corner, trying to wait for somebody to lead them across. Nobody comes. BLITZER: Yeah.

CUMMINGS: And so --


BLITZER: The challenges are there for all of us.

CUMMINGS: There's a lot of work here to do. But I applaud the president for what he's done.

And, you know, the other thing, Wolf, that I had -- I saw Trayvon Martin's mother and father. They were sitting there. And I imagine they had the same feeling that I had. When I saw all those young men, I thought about my nephew, who was tragically killed. And you know, you just want to say, I want to embrace these boys, because I want them not to go through what my nephew and what Trayvon Martin went through. And I want to lift them up so they can be all that God meant for them to be.


CUMMINGS: And that gets very emotional, I must say.

BLITZER: Emotional for all of us to see that and to see the problems. And I'm glad the president -- some people are criticizing, saying he should have done this a while ago, he's a little late. But you know what, better late than never. It's an opportunity now to try to do something, because we have a real crisis in our country.

CUMMINGS: Wolf, it is the urgency of now.

BLITZER: Yep. I totally agree.

All right. Elijah Cummings, thanks very much. I know you're doing your best you can to try to mentor a lot of these young men, and all of us have to do a lot, lot more. I'm glad the president did what he did yesterday.

Thank you very much.

CUMMINGS: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back with more news.


BLITZER: Let's do a quick check of the markets right now. Take a look, Dow Jones up 126 points right now. Stocks have been on the rise today, this after a key market index, the S&P 500, pushed even further into record territory.

The Treasury Department says the country's budget deficit dropped to its lowest level in six years, during 2013. The federal deficit was $680 billion in the last fiscal year. That's down from about $1.1 trillion the previous year.

Rona Foroohar is a CNN global economic analyst, managing editor of "Time" magazine.

So it's a dramatic -- about 15 percent drop in the deficit, which is still high, but a lot less than it used to be, Rona. What happened?

RONA FOROOHAR, CNN GLOBAL ECONOMIC ANALYST & MANAGING EDITOR, TIME MAGAZINE: Well, in short, the country's growing again. We have been in a recovery for the last year. It hasn't felt like one to a lot of people, but growing your way out of a deficit is always the best way to do it. That happened during the boom period of the Clinton years. That's what a lot of people have been hoping would happen once we got past the fiscal headwinds in Washington, the gridlock in Congress, so we get back on a growth path.

What's interesting, though, there is actually a CBO study out looking at the longer-term impact on budget deficits. And we have to keep growing faster in order to keep it down. If we go back to a 2 percent economy, those numbers will tick right back up. So the jury is still out on this.

BLITZER: Because that CBO report that came out the other day, it said right now the deficit has gone down and has done down significantly over the last five years from what the president inherited. But it's going to start going way back up again, unless the country does something about the long-term entitlement spending, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid. That's where the real money is.

FOROOHAR: That's right. You know, we've known for some time now that we are going to need a budget that both increases tax revenue in some smart ways, but also lowers entitlement spending and really reforms entitlement. That is an issue that we haven't grappled with yet. And we are going to absolutely have to do that longer-term.

One thing that's been very hopeful in the latest GDP numbers is that business spending is up a little bit. Even though the fourth-quarter number was revised down, business spending was up. In order to keep business spending going up, you need to give a sense of certainty about entitlement reform.

BLITZER: Rona Foroohar, thanks very much for joining us.

FOROOHAR: Thank you.

BLITZER: Cities across America could soon turn to a new generation of surveillance cameras in a bid to reduce crime. The cameras developed by an Ohio company could track an entire city at one time from nearly two miles in the sky.

Brian Todd is joining us. He's just back from Ohio. He saw this surveillance system.

How does it work?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Incredible technology and capability, Wolf. They go up in a specially equipped Cessna, high-powered cameras that can surveil for six hours at a time, 25 square miles at once, a huge swath of a given city.

The way it works is, they get word of a crime, a 911 call comes in. They can track back to the time the crime has been committed and isolate the location. Because that area has been already captured on surveillance, they can see it unfold. And we have an example here. They showed us videotape from Juarez, Mexico, 2009. If we can roll that videotape. This surveillance camera captures the getaway of a suspect. He gets away in the red vehicle, circled, just after a murder has been committed in that street on the lower left. They show him running away, getting into this getaway vehicle. They're tracking it back now to the time before the murder is committed. And then you see those little specks there. That's the murder being committed and people chasing after the robber. And then they show him getting away. Those pixels there show the murder unfold. It's really incredible. They track his getaway. They track where all of the cars involved go. They find out where the house is. Really incredible technology. This helped police make arrests in that case.

Now how many crimes can they capture in a given mission? I talked to Ross McNutt of this company that does this, Persistent Surveillance Systems. Take a listen.


ROSS MCNUTT, PERSISTENT SURVEILLANCE SYSTEMS: A city the size of Dayton, we'll see eight to 10 times emission. In a city similar to Chicago with 670 crimes per square mile, we'd expect to see 30 to 40 crimes a mission.

TODD: And the mission is about six hours.

MCNUTT: The mission is about six hours. And what we're able to do, again, is give you the tracks of where these people come from and go to.


TODD: Ross McNutt says they have witnessed a total of 34 murders, Wolf, and gotten confessions that account for 75 murders.

BLITZER: So it's sort of like in the sky closed-circuit TV video cameras that could record what's going on. And investigators could later look at it and get some evidence. Do they think this is going to reduce crime?

TODD: They do think it will. They think that just when people know in a given city that these things are up there, it might deter crime. The police chief of Dayton, Ohio, told us, he wants to bring in young people who might be, you know, predisposed to commit crimes and watch -- to see this technology at work, and say, look, look, you're being watched up there, so you better think twice about it.

BLITZER: Big Brother is watching.

TODD: That's right.

BLITZER: Brian, thanks very much. I know you'll have much more coming up on "The Situation Room" later today.

Pursuing peace in the Middle East. The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu getting ready to come to the White House. They're meeting with the president on Monday. We'll take a closer look at how Iran could be impacting this critical U.S.-Israeli relationship.


BLITZER: President Obama scheduled to meet Monday with the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House. The "New York Times" reporting the president will press for an agreement with a so- called framework to what is known as the final round Middle East peace talks.

For some perspective on this, let's go to Jerusalem. Joining us, the former Israeli ambassador to the United States, our new CNN Middle East analyst, Michael Oren.

Ambassador, thanks very much for joining us.

Is it realistic to assume that peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians, despite the president's own personal involvement -- we know the secretary of state has been deeply involved -- is really going to go anywhere?

MICHAEL OREN, CNN MIDDLE EAST ANALYST & FORMER ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S.: Well, always good to be with you, Wolf. Good evening.

You know, when you put down a framework agreement in the peace process, it's usually a sign that things aren't going very smoothly. If they were going smoothly between Israelis and Palestinians, you wouldn't need the framework agreement. And according to reports in the Palestinian press today, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has already rejected and had categorized as outrageous some of the components in this framework agreement that Secretary of State Kerry is putting down on the table. And certainly both sides may express some reservations about this framework agreement. It could actually turn into a framework of disagreement.

But the major key thing here, Wolf, is to keep the parties at the table. Palestinians keep on saying they're going to leave the negotiations, they're going to go to the U.N. and declare a Palestinian state unilaterally there, without negotiating with Israel. The Israelis certainly don't want that. The United States doesn't want that. So the framework agreement is a way to keep the Palestinians at the table, even if it's an imperfect way to keep them at the table.

BLITZER: We know Iran we know Iran will be high on the agenda, the interim nuclear deal that they brokered with Iran, a deal that the prime minister of Israel, Netanyahu, made clear he doesn't like it at all. How serious of a division is this between Washington and Jerusalem. OREN: Well, it's sort of a structural division, Wolf. America is a big country and far away from the Mideast and not threatening with annihilation every day. A small country wiped off the map. President Obama has wiggle room and taking risks with Iran and give Iran more time and they can have a peaceful program. Israel's margin for error with Iran is exactly zero. The prime minister said Iran should have no ability and no nuclear facilities. There is that built in gap. The two sides, the United States have been discussing this for a long time. That will be a major issue from the president and the prime minister meeting at the 12th time in the White House on Monday.

BLITZER: That tension, will it be evident to all of us? Clearly, there major differences.

OREN: Well, the president, for example, has called on the Congress not to pass legislation that would ramp up the sanctions on Iran at this time. Has even threatened to veto a resolution if it comes to the Senate. Prime Minister Netanyahu has been supportive and ramped- up sanctions against Iran. There is a difference right there. Again, America, far away, has wiggle room. Israel, in the back yard of Iran, has none.

BLITZER: So are you suggesting that the Israelis don't trust this president?

OREN: It's not a matter of trust. It's a matter of different perspectives and capabilities. I'm not going to shock anybody in your audience by saying they don't have aircraft carriers and a strategic bomber. The United States has these things. Again, the margin for error is much less should Iran decide to break out and create a nuclear weapon. The timing is actually crucial for Israel. It's not a matter of trust as much as it is a matter of perspective and a matter of placement geographically and military capabilities.

BLITZER: Michael Oren, joining us from Jerusalem. We are following them on Monday. We will see what emerges when the prime minister of Israel and the United States get together again.

Up next, we're going to tell you why the president and the vice president took a run around the White House. Not in shorts, but with their ties on. What was going on here?


BLITZER: Recognizing the symptoms of a heart attack is not as easy as you may think. Our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, takes a look.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Heart disease is our nation's number one killer. That is partly because a lot of people don't know the warning signs for a heart attack. They wait too long to get medical help. According to the American Heart Association, about 325,000 Americans a year die of a heart attack before they get to a hospital. The best way to survive is to be aware of the early warning signs. Today we decided to give you the top five.

Chest pain, obviously. It usually comes from the center of the chest and lasts a couple of minutes. It can go away and recur. Many talk about the feeling of fullness or tension that lead to other parts of the body as well, sometimes the back or the jaw or the arm.

Shortness of breath. This may happen with or without chest pain.

Cold sweats. That usually comes with the pain. What happens is your skin will feel cool and clammy and that sweating can cause a lot of fatigue.

Other signs may be nausea or dizziness and the feeling that you can't focus.

The key is to head the signs and act quickly. I have seen so many patients reluctant thinking their pain is indigestion or gas. Don't be afraid to call 911. It could save your heart as well as your life.


BLITZER: Very important information. Thank you.

This week, the first lady, Michelle Obama, celebrating four years of her Let's Move initiative to end childhood obesity. To mark the occasion, President Obama and Joe Biden got into a little bit of action and the key words.


JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Is the president ready to move?

OBAMA: Absolutely. Let's Move.



BIDEN: Man, you are hard to keep up with.

OBAMA: After a good work out, a lot of us will be in trouble with Jill and Michelle.

OBAMA: Same time next week?

BIDEN: Same time next week.


BLITZER: A little jog around the White House. I want to see them in their jog jogging outfits, in the gym on the treadmill or the Stairmaster. That will inspire a lot of folks to do the right thing. And remember, guidelines say kids need 60 minutes of exercise every day and adults need 30 minutes every single day.

That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I will be back at 5:00 p.m. Eastern in "THE SITUATION ROOM."

NEWSROOM starts right now with Brooke Baldwin.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: I know someone who hopes on the treadmill every morning, Wolf Blitzer. Thanks.