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STATE OF THE UNION WITH CANDY CROWLEY

Russian Troops Move Toward Ukrainian Borders; Mystery of Flight 370; Interview with Earl Johnson

Aired March 23, 2014 - 12:00   ET

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


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN HOST: Fear and wondering in the West as Russian troops move aggressively toward the eastern Ukraine border.

Turmoil and frustration inside the mystery of Malaysian Flight 370.

(MUSIC)

CROWLEY: "All right, good night", and then Malaysian Flight 370 was gone. Seventeen days missing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TONY ABBOTT, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: There is increasing hope, no more than hope that we might be on the road to discovering what did happen.

(END VIDEO CLIP

CROWLEY: Man against nature in one of the world's most hostile pieces of ocean territory. We look at the challenge of the deep end of the stormy southern part of the Indian Ocean with its high seas and powerful currents.

Plus, how in the world does a 777 disappear in an era of GPS?

And, Putin pushes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SUSAN RICE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: This is obviously a very worrying and fragile situation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: The U.S.-Russian relationship sours considerably over Crimea. What now for U.S. priorities dependent upon Russian import -- restraining Iran's nuclear weapons, stopping the slaughter in Syria?

Then, the fourth anniversary of Obamacare, the deadline for sign up approaches amid election season. Our political panel looks at the nexus between the two.

This is STATE OF THE UNION.

I'm Candy Crowley in Washington.

The aerial search for Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 is over for the day. Australian government officials say there were no significant sightings. French satellite images shows potential objects in the search corridor of the southern Indian Ocean. No word yet on when those images were taken.

And Malaysian authorities said today the last transmission from the plane showed no change in the plane's route. The search area is now 28,000 square miles. The U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon crew said conditions were terrible today, with low cloud ceilings and poor visibility.

CNN's Andrew Stevens is in Perth, Australia.

So, obviously, the weather not helpful. What happens tomorrow in terms of the weather and whether these flights can go?

ANDREW STEVENS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we wait and see whether these flights with take off the in the morning, Candy. At this stage of the day, it's just turned midnight p -- so another trip out tomorrow for at least eight aircraft. They're going to be joined by two Chinese aircraft as well.

But it's interesting, talking to the pilots coming back and talking to own Kate Bolduan who just got off the final flight coming back in tonight, she was out on target for something like two hours for the flight there and back, and she was saying the weather -- visibility in some stage were virtually zero, those cloud right down to sea level. That's something we'd heard from other pilots as well. And then it cleared.

So it's still patchy. Those planes are very rugged workhorses, particularly the military ones. Maybe more of a problem for the corporate jets that are going in, but for these military workforces, they can get in. They got a lot of sophisticated radar, but we keep hearing from Australian officials, Candy, that it's all about eyes on. They want visual things from spotters in planes. That is the key to solving this mystery as in getting firm ID on what any wreckage is and whether it can be linked back to Flight 370.

CROWLEY: And, Andrew, what are we to make to this whole finding a wooden pallet floating with the straps on, that whole whatever was on the pallet? Is that something or nothing?

STEVENS: It's a lead. It's being described as a lead. The -- we can't give more information because no one has more information than that. It was found in a debris field of interest in the target zone, which makes it potentially something more than just a lead.

It ties in with the satellite images, Candy. These are all objects of significant importance and cannot be ruled out obviously until they're found and identified as to exactly what they are.

So nothing's been ruled out at the moment. That pallet, it was spotted yesterday, planes went back to the place where it was supposed to be, didn't find anything. There are buoys in that part of the sea to try and track the currents to make sure that the planes can get back to where that debris would be.

But they haven't been able to. Partially, it's visibility very difficult. Partially, there are big currents there. It's a big stretch of water and they're just having real difficulty pinpointing things.

CROWLEY: In Perth, Australia, for us -- Andrew Stevens, thanks very much and good night.

Ultimately, nothing will be more important in this investigation than this noise.

(PINGER AUDIO EXAMPLE)

CROWLEY: Surprisingly soft but that is the ping from the plane's black boxes which if they find the debris will be what leads them to all those-important data recorders. We are past the halfway mark of the 30-day battery life of them -- of the black boxes, which were actually red.

Joining me now, Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff is a member of the House Intelligence Committee, who has been briefed by U.S. officials on the missing airliner.

And Stephen Trimble, an aviation reporter and editor for "FlightGlobal."

Thank you both for joining me.

First question, why are we halfway through the life of a battery? It can't cost much to change out batteries for something that lasts longer than 30 days.

STEPHEN TRIMBLE, AVIATION REPORTER, FLIGHTGLOBAL: Well, every component on an aircraft goes through a very expensive certification process. So, when these black boxes were design and certified there was a spec developed and that was certified. If you change anything in that, it's a very long and costly process to re-qualify it to the conditions that a black box has to survive.

CROWLEY: And you mean re-qualify for government and FAA regulations.

TRIMBLE: Exactly.

CROWLEY: That's kind of a problem then, isn't it?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Well, it seem crazy, though, Candy, in this day and age we can have a major civilian airliner vanish into thin air and we're down to a 30-day ping in order to try to find it. The technologies are there to much better track aircraft by satellite instead of relying on these outdated systems.

And as you point out, to make those black boxes easier to find with longer survivability, I hope that this pushes us in that direction, as well as I hope it pushes us to close the other gaping hole that's been revealed and that is the fact that so many thousands of passengers travel on stolen passports.

CROWLEY: Whether it had anything to do with the disappearance or not, it was kind of startling to people to find out that it was -- seemed relatively easily to get a passport and get on a plane with it, even though those passports had been reported stolen. So, that's -- that's something they'll move into as soon as they can find this -- hopefully find this plane.

What is the technology out there and what is the hesitation to installing it on at least these big airplanes that fly over these large expanses of water, little easier to find them on land? And so, what is the hesitation there?

TRIMBLE: It is just cost. I mean, the technology is there. Local storage of data --

CROWLEY: Let me just stop you. When you say the technology is there, to?

TRIMBLE: Yes. To transmit the aircraft's -- to track the aircraft and also to note --

CROWLEY: In real time.

TRIMBLE: -- in real time and also be aware of what's happening on the aircraft in real time or when there's a significant event that's worth finding out about it.

CROWLEY: So, in reality we could have known if there were cameras in the cockpit, if there was -- that were beam me back somewhere. I mean, to the cloud or back down to earth, someplace we could possibly know where this plane was two weeks ago.

TRIMBLE: Cameras might be a bit of a stretch because there's a lot -- that's a very costly data feed. I'm not sure it would help us exactly pinpoint it.

But the data that is being recorded every second on the aircraft by the black box, it's tapped into all the computers that are in the cockpit, getting hundreds and thousands of data points every second, that kind of information is stored on the aircraft so it goes down with the aircraft.

And so, to find that information we have to find the aircraft and then hopefully find the box and hopefully it survived.

SCHIFF: There has to be a cost-effective solution to this where we can transmit the data that we need, maybe not all the data but in the event the flight deviates from the flight path or there are problems with some of the equipment, mechanical failure where vital information is transmitted to satellite because if you compare the cost of doing that -- and I know it's substantial -- to the cost of this search, which is substantial and growing, as well as the trauma to the people wondering what happened to their loved ones, and the fact that the delay in finding out what happened to this aircraft could have real consequences. If it's a mechanical failure and we don't know about it, and another plane goes down, that would be just compounding this tragedy. If we don't find that box in the next two weeks, if we don't find the wreckage, we may never find the box and we may never know exactly what happened.

CROWLEY: I imagine that the airline's objection to this is if they put it in it would be their money and the search is our money. That's taxpayer money. So -- but these are people that charged for Cokes and extra bags and -- I mean, surely there is a way to kind of look at flights maybe just the routes and doing to some planes.

TRIMBLE: Yes, there are specific aircraft that are assigned to these extended operations routes where they're going into remote arias and crossing oceans where this -- you could confine it to those. Of course, in this particular case, this aircraft didn't -- wasn't on one of those routes. It was -- it may have diverted from that route.

CROWLEY: They're supposed to be --

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: -- path across the water.

TRIMBLE: And I think one of the things regulators have got to focus on is finding out how to foolproof those systems that should have been working but that stopped in that handover between Malaysia and Vietnam.

CROWLEY: Right, there's a gap really when there was not a tower watching it, essentially.

TRIMBLE: Right, when the transponder went off.

CROWLEY: Right.

Congressman, talk to me about two things first. Is there -- is there a role for Congress here to demand that certain things be installed on airplanes, even given that it's going to take regulation, it's going to take forever to do?

SCHIFF: Absolutely there's a role for Congress here, particularly considering the expense we're going through to try to find this plane. I'd like to see the Congress -- I would expect the Congress to have hearings with the NTSB, with the FAA, to find out what is the state of the technology, how quickly they're moving to satellite transmissions, how cost effectively can we deal with this problem with finding the black boxes, extending battery life, or making them deployable.

So I think Congress will do that. Now, requirements in terms of our own airline industries, that may have an effect on industries around the world because we're so involved in the aircraft manufacturing standards. But we should be working with the International Civil Aviation Organization as well to get them to implement steps.

CROWLEY: Right. We should have led the way in certain ways. Congressman Adam Schiff, thank you so much for being here.

Stephen Trimble, good to see you again as well.

From monstrous waves to strong currents and sheer size, the southern Indian Ocean won't easily give up clues to what happened to Flight 370. We'll talk with two search and recovery experts, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Joining me now: Luca Centurioni, an oceanographer with the Scripps Institute of Oceanography. And Art Wright (ph), he is a retired Navy captain who led several ocean searches.

First to you, Mr. Centurioni, the prime minister of Australia, who I guess as close as anyone to the search area, described it as the most inaccessible area on earth. I understand it's pretty inhospitable as well.

Can you describe to me generally the atmosphere, the currents, the waves, that kind of thing in the search area?

LUCA CENTURIONI, SCRIPPS INSTITUTION OF OCEANOGRAPHY: Certainly, he was referring to the atmospheric conditions now. My field is more ocean currents. The currents there are somehow strong for the open ocean. They're not particularly strong, as you can experience for example in the gulf stream.

But, you know, they can move debris like this amount over the course of several weeks. And what they can also do and something that happens everywhere in the world's ocean is to disperse objects on the surface of floating debris, and that is certainly complicating the search operation.

Of course, weather has not been cooperating in the past few days, and the forecast isn't good either. That despite of the operation is certainly the main factor because as was said before, we do need to find something that we can start from in order to go back to the presumed site of the crash, if that is what has happened.

CROWLEY: Right.

And, Captain Wright, knowing the weather here, it's fall turning into winter in that area of the world, you know, I'm told the seas can go 20-foot waves. You've just heard that the current is pretty rapid.

How does that change the calculation in a search mission? What does that do to it?

ART WRIGHT, RETIRED NAVY CAPTAIN: Well, Candy, in my opinion, what you need is a deep-toed sonar, which covers a wide swath so you can get a lot of area in the time. So, once they have selected the starting point the search box, in other words, they decided which sort of debris they have and where the airliner might have gone down, then you want to get all the assets you can into locating the debris field. The beauty of a deep-toed sonar is it's connected to the tow ship by a long cable in the case of 4,000 meters depth, you would have a cable 10,000 meters long towed from a ship between 190 feet and 250 feet.

CROWLEY: And --

WRIGHT: And weather-wise, I have -- I've seen those devices deep- towed sonars recovered in 30-foot wave, 30-foot seas.

CROWLEY: So, and obviously the ships can handle that as well. So the waves are not for these big -- for these big ships that would be towing the underwater device, the weather's not a particularly threatening thing.

WRIGHT: You might have to pick your course to go in a certain direction because some courts might be untenable. And you have to be able to maintain your course at a slow speed. You're going to tow it about 2.8 nautical miles per hour --

CROWLEY: Yes.

WRIGHT: -- which is -- and you'd be towing deep and slow and just mowing along making sure that you've got every square meter covered and your analysts are looking at every square meter.

CROWLEY: And, Mr. Centurioni, when you talk about the strong current, not as strong as the gulf stream, as I understand what you said, how -- if a piece of plane debris is at the bottom and it's not surrounded by -- you know, it's not mountainous terrain, just at the bottom without a lot of inhibiting things not caught on anything, how far could a current move it over the course of a week or so, something that was already settled and on the bottom?

CENTURIONI: If it's set on the bottom, I don't expect it to move very much. You know, the captain has mentioned that hydrophones should be used on ships. And that's certainly a very good point.

The concern is more finding a place where you can go out and look. And you need to be able to narrow down the search area for the kind of underwater operations. So the concern is not as much for currents moving debris at the bottom. It's for the currents moving debris at the surface.

CROWLEY: To the surface.

CENTURIONI: And that is -- right. I mean, that's where having the most intense and when they're most effective in disperse debris. And you need to be able to track it back to the site of the crash and then that's where you want to focus your underwater search. Similar to what happened with Air France airplane.

So, in my opinion, we still need to find some evidence on the surface.

CROWLEY: Something on the surface that would make you want to go deeper. Right. Right.

And finally --

CENTURIONI: And then you want to track it back.

CROWLEY: And finally, Captain Wright, let me just ask you, once you have identified some material of this debris and you know it's debris from a plane, be it part of a wing or whatever, if it's on the surface, you know, seat belts and cushions, whatever it is, how in this kind of weather do you go about retrieving it?

WRIGHT: Retrieving it is pretty simple. You see it, then the important thing is to backtrack where it came from.

CROWLEY: Right.

WRIGHT: That's where Luca comes in. He backtracks where it came from. And then that's what you want to center our search on.

As far as recovering your equipment, there are many, many ways to do that, picking it up. It's not a problem.

CROWLEY: OK. All right. Listen, I want to thank you both, Captain Art Wright, Luca Centurioni, thanks for your expertise.

Coming up later in the hour we will talk with a former Red Cross minister about how the families of those aboard Malaysia Flight 370 can be helped to cope with grief and the unanswered questions.

But when we return, dangerous fictions. That's how Madeleine Albright described Vladimir Putin's world view and she's calling on President Obama to rethink military support for Ukraine. The former secretary of state is coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: NATO's top commander says Russia is amassing a very sizable military force on the eastern border of Ukraine, up a little to the south -- down a little in the south. U.S. Air Force General Phillip Breedlove also told a think tank in Brussels today that Russia is acting much more like an adversary than a partner.

Joining me now, Madeleine Albright, former secretary of state and former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Thanks for being with me.

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Great to be with you, Candy.

CROWLEY: So, the Russians say, oh, we're just having troop exercises along this border, kind of a curvature, and nothing to worry about, but the administration is worried.

What is Putin up to now?

ALBRIGHT: It's hard to tell. I think that he's basically trying to threaten and show that he has power. I think it's very worrisome. He -- they may be just trying to find a land bridge to Crimea, but the bottom line is it is putting pressure on everybody, especially this interim Ukrainian government that has an awful lot it has to do and it needs to concentrate on putting the country, Ukraine, that is, back into some kind of economic order.

CROWLEY: Because it's a new government. I mean really a brand-new, of the -- you know, of the street protest and all of that, and still getting its act together.

I want to talk to you a little bit about the U.S. relationship with the Soviet Union and I want to begin with sort of a collage of sound bites from administration officials starting before Russian troops moved into Crimea.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine.

JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF THE STATE: Intervention would in our judgment be a very grave mistake.

OBAMA: No country has the right to send in troops to another country unprovoked.

We're making it clear there are consequences for their actions.

SUSAN RICE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: It will have consequences and it already has.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

CROWLEY: So, here we are. There have been weeks and weeks and weeks of warnings to Putin. He ignored them all. Crimea appears to be his. He's now doing heaven know what is along other borders with Ukraine.

It seems as though the U.S. is not -- the U.S. and the West have not yet found what will move this man.

ALBRIGHT: Well, part of the problem is that Putin is living in his own world with his own set of facts and it's very hard to move somebody that is operating in a way kind of the victim of his own propaganda. That's the first part.

I do think that the administration has made very clear that Russia will be isolated, and those steps have already begun. I think what's really important, Candy, these were scheduled meetings that President Obama has in Europe now. They've added a few others.

CROWLEY: Coming up this week.

ALBRIGHT: Coming up this week. And I think that this will really give an opportunity to the president and the European allies and other allies to really make what I think is a pretty clear message even clearer and make very clear that there are going to be these consequences. The problem is that the kinds of steps that have been put into place, economic sanctions, take a while to bite. And we're very impatient.

But from everything that I've read, it has affected the Russian market. It is going to affect and will affect this bank. There are a lot of Russian oligarchs that are traveling or having or want to travel and can't get their money out.

So there are steps that have been taken that are the consequences.

CROWLEY: But is this really about Russia or is this about Putin? There have been several folks that have written column, et cetera, and talked about the fact that this is about Putin, that he -- you know, you can say all you want, oh, this is going to really punish Russia, but it has to get to Putin because it's about his ego and about expanding his power.

So what gets to him?

ALBRIGHT: I think ultimately the fact that he does want to have some kind of public support and as the people are affected in some form, these oligarchs, especially, by economic measure, he won't have it.

But the bottom line is this is about Putin. He personally thinks he can restore the greatness of Russia, and he also what I'm troubled by about him is he thinks he needs an enemy, and so it is not a way to kind of move the process forward. The Russian people themselves, I do understand, they used to be a superpower and is not anymore, but Putin is glorifying, I think in the sense, thinking that he is old Russia and restoring it, he is living in the past, and ultimately he's going the wrong direction.

CROWLEY: Now, vis-a-vis the Ukraine, the U.S. is working on some things in Congress, congress is working on opening up some funds, et cetera. I asked Tony Blinken, who's a deputy national security advisor, about providing arms or weaponry or, you know, what-have-you, to the Ukrainians which they've asked for and here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TONY BLINKEN, DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: When it comes to military assistance, we're looking at it. The facts were these. Even if assistance were go-to go to Ukraine, that is unlikely to change Russia's calculus or prevent an invasion.

CROWLEY: But many more troops, just seems like Ukraine might like a little more weaponry.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: (AUDIO GAP) outnumbered, but can the administration -- so the argument is it's not going to stop Russia anyway.

ALBRIGHT: Well, I think it's very right of the administration to think this through, because it's very complicated. What I think needs to happen -- CROWLEY: Isn't time of the essence here? You have these troops along the border and --

ALBRIGHT: Part of what is happening, NATO is going to be meeting also in Brussels. The president will be there.

I think what has to happen is the NATO alliance has to make clearer that we are in solidarity with the Ukrainians. There are a number of ways. For instance, do exercises, I would really recommend that through this partnership for peace.

I also think that the main thing here for Ukraine is the economic support. I think the part about Crimea, which is a tragedy for the people in Crimea, is a terrible thing because it's diverted attention from how to put Ukraine back together economically. And so, there are these various assistance needs to be put in place.

One of the things I'm hoping is I read that in the defense budget they want to eliminate some of the programs that would help to modernize the Ukrainian military. I hope the president reverses that because that military does need help.

CROWLEY: I'm going to ask you about the relationship as a whole for the U.S. and Russia, and that is can you see in the next couple months, the next six months, the U.S. and Russia sitting down to discuss the future of Syria and whether Assad is actually getting rid of his chemical weapons? We sort of started down that path with the Russians.

Can you see the U.S. and Russia sitting down to try to get Iran to come along and in fact come up with the final deal on not having nuclear weapon ambitions? Can you see that happening? Hasn't the relationship so soured that we've now kind of lost that partnership?

ALBRIGHT: I actually can because all relationships are complicated, multifaceted, and I think that the Russians are involved in Syria and to some extent on Iran because it suits their national interests, not because it just suits ours.

And so, there are different people involved in it, and I think that it is possible to separate it. Obviously it makes it harder. But because they see it as something that's important, I can see it going forward.

In both cases, Syria and Iran, they're complicated on its own, whether with the Russians or not. And attention needs to be paid to those two areas also.

One of the problems having been in the government often what happens is there's an emergency of some kind that kind of sucks up the air. But there is a huge opportunity. I'm so glad that the president is going to Europe. And, you know, it was interesting. Putin was trying to divide Europe by what he was doing. He's actually helped to unite it.

CROWLEY: Yes, yes. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, it's always good to have you here. I hope you'll come back more often.

ALBRIGHT: I'd be delighted. Thank you, Candy.

CROWLEY: Thank you.

When we return, the deadline to enroll in Obamacare is approaching pretty fast and Democrats are pushing its virtues before the clock expires.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), CALIFORNIA: I believe that it's a winner and, by the way, it's called the Affordable Care Act. It's called the Affordable Care Act.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: What Obamacare numbers on March 31st mean for the numbers in Congress on November 4th. Our panel is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Joining me around the table: Neera Tanden, president and CEO with the Center for American Progress, Susan Page, Washington bureau chief for "USA Today," and CNN "CROSSFIRE" host, Newt Gingrich.

Welcome all.

It is the fourth anniversary of Obamacare. I forgot your cards so I thought instead we could talk a little bit about it.

Let me -- let me start out with a Pew Research Center poll asking folks' opinion of the Affordable Care Act. Mid-march is when the poll ended. Approve of it, 41 percent, disapprove of it 53 percent.

This is not at the moment a smashing success.

NEERA TANDEN, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: It's not a smashing success politically or in the polls, but I would say that same poll had the vast majority of Americans don't want to repeal the law. They'd rather fix it, go forward. They'd reject efforts to repeal it.

And I would say that the facts on the ground are really important here -- 5 million Americans have health insurance. We hope we'll get those numbers higher by next week when the deadline ends, when the deadline is here.

CROWLEY: They wanted 7 million. So they're under target.

TANDEN: Well, we don't know, actually, because if you look at Massachusetts' numbers in that last month, they had a dramatic increase. So, we actually don't know if we've hit 7 million.

The most important thing is the nature of people who enroll, how healthy they are, how sick they are. That's going to be the big question to see what the premiums are going forward. But 5 million is a success given the first couple months of problems.

CROWLEY: Newt, I want to give you a chance to respond. But incorporated into it this question, is it now impossible? Let's say the Republicans take over everything in 2016. Is it now impossible to repeal all of Obamacare? Once people have an insurance that they've never had before, and that's some of who these 5 million are, once people know that their current condition will not affect their future health care, that's going to be very, very difficult to repeal.

NEWT GINGRICH, "CROSSFIRE" HOST: Well, I think Republicans are going to have to find a replacement model that people think works. Some parts of Obamacare such as guaranteeing no preconditions that are very, very popular. I don't think anybody's going to go in -- you've seen Eric Cantor, the Republican majority leader, and others all say, look, there are pieces we're going to keep.

The question is in the long run, does this fix America's health care problem? It doesn't. If you look at a state like New Hampshire where there are 17 hospitals that are now excluded by the only insurance, the single insurance company for New Hampshire under Obamacare -- clearly, that needs to be fixed.

And if you look at people who can't get to their doctor for things like cancer, I think clearly there are things that have to be dramatically fixed.

But even then, you know, much more profound rethinking of our health system, because it is too expensive and it creates I think long-term challenges for all of us as a country.

TANDEN: I would just point out it's been four years we've been waiting for the replacement from Republicans. And I think one of the problems is they know every other replacement costs more money or actually ensures fewer people or has real challenges. But I'm looking forward to --

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: Some on the table. I know that. I don't think it's going to get through the Senate anytime soon.

TANDEN: Or it's not even going to pass the House.

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: Play this out for me politically in 2014 or 2016.

SUSAN PAGE, USA TODAY: So, four years and they haven't had a Republican alternative, four years and the administration has failed to convince a majority of Americans this was the right thing to do. It's a big political problem for Democrats. We saw it hurt the Democratic candidate in that special Florida House election.

You see the key Senate races where Democratic incumbents are trying to defend seats in red states and swing states, they are not in full- throated defense of the Affordable Care Act. Over the fullness of time, maybe this will be a big success and Americans are very glad it happened. But if you're looking just in the political short term, I think this is a big problem for Democrats in November.

CROWLEY: You do the last minute.

GINGRICH: I think it's a compounded problem. You have a very weak economy. You have a very uncertain health bill. The two come together.

I don't think a single Democratic senator in a close race will end up supporting Obamacare and standing proudly next to Nancy Pelosi saying this is the right thing. They're all going to run from it. That tells you something.

TANDEN: There's $20 billion of ads being run against it, not enough money on the other side. That is definitely a problem in changing the politics. There's been a lot more money spent against it than supporting it.

CROWLEY: Neera Tanden, Susan Page, Newt Gingrich, thank you for joining us on this auspicious anniversary occasion. We'll talk to you again at the next anniversary. Thanks.

And when we return, helping the families of missing passengers and crew on Malaysia Flight 370, desperate for answers in a situation with only questions. We will talk about how they're holding up, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: A traumatic experience to say the least for the family of the passengers on Flight 370.

Our Jim Clancy is in Kuala Lumpur where some are still clinging to the hope that their loved ones are alive.

Jim, thanks for joining us.

I don't know. There's probably no worst place than limbo, which is where these families are.

Give us your sense whether they have gotten maybe a little more support or help from the government there.

JIM CLANCY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's no doubt that they've gotten some of the direct answers. More on that in a moment.

Let me paint a scene for you. This is in a hotel here in Kuala Lumpur today. A woman crying, bawling, really, inconsolably, people trying to support her. That woman we all saw earlier in the week being carried unceremoniously out of a press conference, trying to break into that and demand the truth.

She's said to be attended constantly by counselors and others. Police shadowing some of the families to make sure there's no repeat of that, to make sure the media stays away.

The families tend to congregate in these hotels in Kuala Lumpur together. They support each other. They don't want anything to do with the media. They know the media can't give them any answers.

They did get some answers this week, and the questions were brutal. They wanted to know how their families died. They wanted to know if they suffered. They wanted to know what it would be like in a plane that lost a door and suddenly there was decompression at 35,000 feet.

The answers weren't easy on anyone, Candy. There's no doubt about that.

And then you have the pilots' families that have really suffered because the two pilots have been singled out by some tabloid newspapers. They've been smeared with things like fanatic, political fanatic, talking about the serious phone calls before the flight left. Malaysian authorities have gone out of their way to dismiss all of that.

They don't want to talk to the media anymore. We can't do them any good. They talk to Malaysian authorities and, you know, Hishammuddin is saying that -- the defense minister/transport minister, said it himself that we can't give them the one answer they want, and that is, where are our loved ones?

No one can tell them that. And all of that hope has given way to despair. Like Phil Oaks said, and maybe we say a prayer for them tonight, as Phil Oaks said, there but for fortune go you or I -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Yes, Jim Clancy, thank you so much. You're going to make me cry just describing it, much less seeing some of these pictures we've seen this week. Get some sleep, and thanks so much for your input.

With me now, Reverend Earl Johnson. He is a former national disaster spiritual care manager for the Red Cross.

I know you have counseled people through a number of crises. I want to play while we're talking some of the pictures that we've seen earlier last week of these families weeping in front of all these -- the media trying to get in to get answers. There's so much wrong with this picture.

How do you approach this? What has gone wrong here?

REV. EARL JOHNSON, FORMER NATIONAL DISASTER SPIRITUAL CARE MANAGER, RED CROSS: Well, Candy, first of all, assisting the families of the disasters needs to be a part -- an immediate part of the response and integrated into that response.

Yes, first things first, it's important to find the plane or evidence of where it is or whatever. That's essential, too. But supporting the families and identifying resources to support them needs to start at the beginning. And what's unique about those photographs and Jim Clancy's report is these are some of the same questions that families and loved ones of other aviation incidents are asking. And so we have a large body of information and lessons learned.

And we know the good part about those scenes of the lady is it finally got the attention of the government and briefings starting regularly. But unfortunately that should not have been the case even though the Malaysian government is doing the best they can.

CROWLEY: And what about when this first begins? What's the first thing you want to do to give as much comfort or provide as much tranquillity as you can in what is clearly a chaotic situation, in which there are no answers?

JOHNSON: Well, exactly, because I anticipated grief and recognizing that these disasters, these mass fatality, catastrophic events, one, being so unique but they're also -- they put up tremendous tasks and needs that need to be resolved.

And so, a lot of times it's not about saying something. It's providing a safe place for these people to be to congregate, to give them the dignity, the respect because, they are so vulnerable and they can be exploited. It's just not fair.

And, you know, the families can get lost in the first couple of hours. But, you know, the sooner you start giving services, the better it is. A family and friends reception center at the airport, which is generally an airline club, where they can congregate with mental health nurses, spiritual care chaplain, that will be there that will help them navigate just the basics, because they're not going to be able to have coffee or rest the evening when they know that their loved one is in harm's way.

CROWLEY: Right.

And finally, in the minute we've got left, if there are stages of guilt -- I mean, I'm sorry, stages of grief, and the first denial. This is like going to be a never-ending stage for some people. How do you, when there's no body, no answers, no anything, how do you get people through that day after day?

JOHNSON: Well, I think we have to plan for the immediate needs and the long-term needs. In the absence of actually finding the plane, these people are going to need services. They're going to have to have resources identified. They're going to have to have family connections. You're going to have to see, you know, how to support these families because a number of them were their breadwinners.

CROWLEY: Meet with them --

(CROSSTALK)

JOHNSON: Exactly.

CROWLEY: Reverend Earl Johnson, thanks for give us a little insight.

JOHNSON: You're welcome.

CROWLEY: I appreciate it. I spoke this weekend with a singer Fergie Duhamel about another kind of victim, another kind of survivor who needed an assist. She was in Washington to highlight a global initiative to combat violence against women.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STACY "FERGIE" DUHAMEL, AVON GLOBAL AMBASSADOR: When I heard that one in three women is affected by gender-based violence in her lifetime, it was shocking to me. And it just goes to show there are a lot of things that we don't know and a lot of women who are afraid to speak out and it's great to encourage women to speak out about it and get some help.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: More of my interview with Black Eyed Peas singer on our Web site CNN.com/SOTU.

Thanks for watching STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Candy Crowley in Washington. If you missed any part of today's show, find us on iTunes, search "State of the Union".

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