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Shooting Rampage; Interview with Jeff Miller, Bernie Sanders

Aired May 25, 2014 - 09:00   ET


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: Young, disaffected and angry, a killing rampage in California.


CROWLEY (voice-over): Today: a familiar heartbreaking tragedy and a singular mix of disbelief and grief.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don't think it will happen to your child until it does.

CROWLEY: We will have the latest from Isla Vista with the sheriff leading the investigation.

Then, D-Day at the VA.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want every veteran to know we're going to fix whatever is wrong.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We haven't just let them down. We have let them die.

CROWLEY: What is wrong? Who is we? And what are they going to do about it? The mess at the VA with the chairmen of the Senate and House Veterans Affairs Committees, Bernie Sanders and Jeff Miller.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: If he really knows that little about what's going on in his own administration, then I recommend he get reengaged right now.

CROWLEY: The president's critics say his year of action is really a stroll along the sidelines.

OBAMA: Good morning, everybody.

CROWLEY: The president's management style with our political panel.

And, finally, remembering the fallen and failing the survivors -- a veteran on Memorial Day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I now realize Memorial Day is really one of the loneliest -- one of the most -- loneliest holidays that we have. CROWLEY: A conversation with U.S. Army vet and executive producer of the documentary "Coming Back, Wes Moore.



CROWLEY: Good morning from Washington, D.C. I'm Candy Crowley.

We will begin today near the campus of U.C. Santa Barbara. Six victims are dead and 13 injured by a troubled young man who later died in an apparent suicide. The killer posted disturbing videos to social media, prompting a relative to contact police, who did a welfare check on April 30.

Police found what would be a future killer to be at that time polite and courteous and determined he did not meet the criteria for an involuntary hold.

I'm joined now by Sheriff Bill Brown of Santa Barbara County. He is in charge of the investigation.

Sheriff, first of all, I know these are trying times. So, we appreciate your time this morning.

Do you have outstanding pieces of this puzzle that you don't know, or do you think you have the full story?

BILL BROWN, SHERIFF OF SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, CALIFORNIA: Well, we're still wrapping up some details, finalizing the notification of next of kin and the positive identification of the remaining victims who were fatally injured by the suspect.

And so there's a few loose ends that are going to be wrapped up probably today or tomorrow. And then it will begin the lengthy process of putting all the pieces of this puzzle together in terms of the investigative aftermath. But, for the most part, I think we have a pretty clear picture of what -- of what happened.

CROWLEY: Have you been able to talk at any length with the parents of the shooter?

BROWN: Our investigators have been in contact with his parents.

CROWLEY: But you haven't interviewed them at this point? You have been in contact with them, but have not -- they have not been part of an interview?

BROWN: They have been interviewed, and they were notified on Friday night that he was dead in the aftermath of this incident.


When you look at these YouTube videos, some of which were available before the welfare check that police -- were done, can you use those or did you see those in the advance of the welfare check of this young man? I'm trying to find out if there is someplace in this system that might have been able to see this young man as deeply troubled.

BROWN: My understanding of what happened on the April 30 welfare check was that a third party had actually contacted our Mental Health Department here in Santa Barbara County.

Someone from the Mental Health Department had contacted a relative of Mr. Rodger's. And the relative had indicated that there was some concern about his well-being. And the person from the Mental Health Department had then contacted our agency and asked that we conduct a welfare check to determine if he was a danger to himself or anyone else. And deputies from the sheriff's office contacted him. They found him to be rather shy and timid, polite, well-spoken. He explained to the deputies that it was a misunderstanding and that he was -- although he was having some social problems, it was unlikely he was going to continue to be a student here and was probably going to go home.

And he was able to convince them that he was not at that point a danger to himself or anyone else and wouldn't have met the criteria for an involuntary hold to examine him further.

CROWLEY: Sheriff, what -- is there a hole in the system somewhere? What's wrong here? You know, police do law enforcement. And I'm sure not all of your policemen are psychiatrists or therapists. What's -- what's wrong in this formula of trying to say, I really think my child or my son or my roommate, there's something wrong here? What's missing?

BROWN: Well, it seems to me the fact of the matter is, there's a general lack of resources in community mental health treatment generally.

And there's also probably a lack of notification by health care professionals in instances where people are expressing suicidal, or in certain cases homicidal thoughts or tendencies. And it's a delicate question. And it's a delicate balance. You want to certainly intervene and obviously try to prevent a tragedy such as we have experienced here.

On the same token, you don't want to stigmatize people who are seeking treatment for mental illness and you don't want to prevent them from doing so because of the potential stigma that's attached. So, it's a double-edged sword in some respects.

And it's easy to look at these situations from a Monday-morning quarterback perspective, but there certainly is a problem and an issue. And if you look at tragedies like we have experienced, the common denominator in almost all of these mass murder situations does appear to be people with severe mental illness who are either untreated or undertreated who have access to firearms and then snap and go off and commit these terrible, terrible crimes.


Sheriff Bill Brown, I know you have a busy day ahead, as well as the folks who work under you. We appreciate your time.

BROWN: Thank you, Candy.

And if I could just take a moment to just commend my staff for the incredible way that they responded to this incident, both on the night it occurred and in the investigative aftermath. They have done a magnificent job.

And there's no question in my mind that the night that it occurred, the resolute and heroic manner that they engaged this suspect in two separate gun battles and put him to flight really resulted in many lives being saved. He had over 400 rounds of ammunition left and could have killed so many more people and injured so many more people.

And it's a tremendous testament to the job they did that evening.

CROWLEY: Sheriff, thanks so much for your time.

BROWN: Thank you, Candy.

CROWLEY: I want to bring in Mary Ellen O'Toole. She's a former senior profiler at the FBI.

Let me ask -- put to you the same question. First of all, we believe, and it's being reported, CNN has found, that this man had -- had been seeing a therapist, psychiatrist, certainly had been seeking mental health help.

He does seem to fit, however, when you look at some of his writings in the diary -- let me just set this up. And this is from his diary, where he wrote: "Cruel treatment from women is 10 times worse than from men. It made me feel like an insignificant, unworthy little mouse. I felt so small and vulnerable. I couldn't believe that this girl was so horrible to me, and I thought that it was because she viewed me as a loser."

So, there's bullying, isolation. There's violent video games involved. I feel like we have seen this before. MARY ELLEN O'TOOLE, FORMER FBI SPECIAL AGENT: Well, we have seen it before.

And we know that there are warning behaviors before each of these incidents. And these warning behaviors can individually appear to be somewhat benign or, maybe better stated, pretty typical of a 22-year- old. But it's incumbent upon people that do the threat assessments to take a look at 360 degrees around the person you're doing the assessment on.

So, are they immersed in violent videos? Are they keeping a diary? Are they making a video? I want to see that stuff. Let me see it. Let me know what's going on, because if you just read that little snippet from his manifesto, that would not raise anybody's interests, frankly.

But, if you started to look at the video and the threats of murdering the stepbrother and the stepmother, totally different story. (CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: ... retribution.


CROWLEY: The problem, I think, with this is, there seems to be a step missing. Something is missing. It does occur to me that almost everything that could be done legally at this point seems to have been done. It was a young man, he was already receiving -- receiving psychiatric care. The police get a call from a mental health clinic. So, the mental health folks were involved. The police go over and use their tools and say, you know what, he doesn't fit the criteria for us to be able to lock him up involuntarily.

What's wrong?

O'TOOLE: Well, there were a number of steps here that to me, in my opinion, seem to have been either overlooked or normalized.

Number one, by the time that welfare check was requested, families know at this point they're already afraid of that person generally. There are many, many years prior to that welfare check of issues, which seems to have been the case here. You have roommates that probably observed behavior, but didn't interpret it the right way.

You also have mental health people. And, eventually, that's going to come up. What was it that they didn't see that should have raised their concern?

CROWLEY: One of the things that the sheriff had said in one of his news conferences yesterday was basically these kinds of things are going to happen and there's very little that we can do to prevent it.

And it reminded me of a time that I spoke with an expert on schizophrenia, because we were having some -- some of the violence was coming -- although most schizophrenics are not violent, we were having some violent actions by those diagnosed as schizophrenic.

And he said -- and I said, well, how can you tell? How can you tell? He said, the best way to tell whether a schizophrenic will be violent or not is previous violence, which means maybe there isn't a lot to be done when you watch what we're being told at least about this young man and the help that he did get.

O'TOOLE: I really -- I don't see that. That's not my experience with these cases.

There are warning signs along the way. And when I say warning signs, I'm not talking about -- I am talking about getting the guns or -- we know that there's a phenomenon called leakage, which is saying -- saying something ahead of time about what you're going to do, which he did in his manifesto. And there will be other signs of leakage.

But that thinking process, that injustice collecting -- that's a term that the FBI came up with in 1999 -- along with a young man who is thinking suicidally, homicidally, nihilistically, so his thinking process goes back to the time he's a teenager. That's when we have to recognize these -- this development into someone who hates the world, he hates humanity. And now you have got the warning signs.

So, he's already on a path. We can spot -- these are not impulsive crimes.

CROWLEY: Right, but everybody may not have the full picture. The parents clearly knew he needed help. The police went, because that's their job. The mental health authorities say, you might check. They might not know he's got three guns anywhere.

They didn't check his room. He even mentions, boy, if they checked my room, it would have been over. The fact is that you cannot just grab somebody out of the room because someone has said, I'm really worried about this person.

O'TOOLE: No, but that's what I'm saying. When someone -- you get a call and someone is asking for a welfare check, these people...

CROWLEY: By welfare check, we mean the police going to -- on their welfare -- checking on their welfare.

O'TOOLE: Yes, making sure, are you OK? Is everything OK?


O'TOOLE: When you talk to these people, when you listen to them, they can come across in a very convincing way: Hey, I'm fine, no worries.

You cannot accept just their words. You have to look at behavior. You have to go beyond the fact that they're friendly.

CROWLEY: I guess they're assuming maybe the mental health folks did, so there's some cross not doing their jobs, I think, or not being equipped to do it, I think, in the case of police, who aren't psychiatrists -- but many conversations to come, I would suspect.

Thank you so much for your time today. I appreciate it.

O'TOOLE: You're welcome.

CROWLEY: And when we return: President Obama says caring for the nation's veterans is a sacred obligation. Now, how to make good on that obligation?

We will talk with the leaders of the Veterans Affairs Committees.


CROWLEY: Joining me now, Congressman Jeff Miller. He's a Republican from Florida who chairs the House Veterans Affairs Committee. And Senator Bernie Sanders, he's an independent from Vermont. He joins us on the phone due to some technical difficulties we're having. He's the chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.

Gentlemen, thank you both.

As the oversight committees, we -- we added up the number of hearings that, together, that the two of you have had since 2013, the beginning of the last session. And it was well over 90. You had 10 joint ones.

And you have to wonder now, looking at this mess, and everyone saying, well, we knew this and knew that, but looking at this mess now, is this not also a failure of oversight, Congressman?

REP. JEFF MILLER (R), FLORIDA: Well, I will tell that you our committee in the House has been working on this issue for well over a year.

In fact, I wrote the president back in May of 2013 and expressed the issues that we had found in regards to wait times. We have had, collectively, in the House over 70 oversight hearings about issues that range from disability claims and the backlog, the backlog in access to care.

So, sure, I mean, everybody is probably culpable in this. But we're doing what we have been asked to do. And that is to find out the information.

CROWLEY: But oversight sort of says to me, Senator Sanders, that you all are watching these guys.

And now, all of a sudden -- not all of a sudden to you all, but to many people -- we're learning of these wait times, of veterans who are dying while waiting. And you look and think, well, what good is congressional oversight, if you all have been working on it for a year or two years or, let's face it, going back a decade, not you two specifically, if...

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: Well -- well, Candy, let me just...

CROWLEY: Go ahead.

SANDERS: ... jump in and say that, obviously, anybody who is gaming the situation, cooking the books, totally unacceptable.

Clearly, there are incompetent administrators. And we have got to deal with that issue as well. But I think one point that sometimes gets lost in the shuffle, Candy -- and if you speak to veterans, and if you speak to the veterans organizations, you know what they will tell you? They will tell you that, by and large, the quality of care that veterans receive in VA hospitals and clinics around this country is good to excellent.

I had a hearing a week ago Thursday, and that's what the veterans organizations said.

CROWLEY: Sure, Senator, but, if you can't get in, it doesn't do any good that it's great care.

SANDERS: Well, no, that is -- that is quite right.

And what I think one of the concerns is, is that the VA has established a self-imposed goal of getting people into the system in 14 days. That's pretty ambitious. That's more ambitious in general than the private sector.

And I think there are places around the country where they simply do not have the resources to accommodate the fact that two million more people have come into the system in recent years. And I think some people may be cooking the books to make it look like they're accommodating people in 14 days.

CROWLEY: Doing the guidelines, yes.

And, Congressman, I wanted to ask you about, like, let's assume that people at the VA, particularly those in administrative positions, are there because they care about veterans or they care about medicine. They certainly didn't want people to die while waiting for care. Let's just assume that for a moment.

Why in the world wouldn't they stand up and say, we can't meet this 15 days; we have got aging Vietnam vets, aging Korean vets, a whole new group of vets coming in; we can't possibly meet this?

Why cook the books? Bonuses? What's -- what's the rationale?

MILLER: Bonuses and promotions, for sure.

And I would tell you this. They have had the ability to allow veterans to go outside of the VA system for a long period of time, and they are just now saying, we're going to start moving forward in that posture.

CROWLEY: Well, Senator Sanders, why wouldn't they say, we can't care for these folks; let's send them over to Mass General or wherever they are?

SANDERS: Candy, that is -- I think you have hit the nail on the head. That is the issue.

And instead of being able to say or saying straightforwardly, you know what, we can't get people in, in 14 days, it's going to be a month, it's going to be two months, and we need one of those two things -- either we relax those requirements, which I hope we don't have to do, or else we say, we don't have the resources.

And if you want people in, in 14 days, we're going to need more doctors, we're going to need more nurses, we're going to need more staffing. But, certainly, nobody should be lying. And I think Jeff Miller has been talking about accountability. Jeff is right.

But I think the other area that we have to talk about is that two million new veterans coming in, in the last few years, some of them with PTSD, TBI, very difficult cases. Do we have the staff in all areas of this country to accommodate the needs of those veterans?

Frankly, between you and me, I'm not sure that we do. The veterans organizations have been telling us loud and clearly that we don't. I suspect they're right.

CROWLEY: Well, Congressman Miller, and, in fact, isn't that the -- like, if you take the 50,000-foot view and you look at this, isn't what's screaming, we don't have enough people to care for all these folks at the VA?

And you -- both of you all have pushed for and gotten increases in spending at the VA. In fact, spending at the VA has gone up over the last decade, and particularly over the last four or five years. But doesn't this say to you, we're not giving them enough money; if this is really our commitment, we need to plow money into this, because there aren't enough doctors, nurses, et cetera?

MILLER: No, what you have is an issue of manipulation and mismanagement.

If money was the issue, this problem would have been solved a long time ago. VA is not using the resources that they're provided appropriately. And we can give you...

CROWLEY: Like what?

MILLER: Well, just recently, $500 million to refurbish conference rooms and provide new furnishings, to require veterans to go five hours for surgery to the surgery and five hours back.

They're paying for transcription and the cost of the surgery.

CROWLEY: So, they should be sending them to a closer hospital and saying, we will pay for it.

MILLER: We have got to move away from a World War II concept into the 21st century, not tear the VA system down.

You will hear people say that's what folks want to do. What we want to do is to, number one, give veterans the option to go where they want to get their health care, when they want to get their health care, and not be forced into a system that has to have the numbers to survive.


CROWLEY: Senator -- go ahead, Senator.

SANDERS: Let me just jump in to say this.

I'm not going to -- when you have a system -- and you have to understand how big the system is -- they're treating 6.5 million people a year, 230,000 people every single day. Is there waste in the system? Absolutely. Jeff is right. And we have got to focus on that. But, at the end of the day, when you have two million new veterans coming into the system, some with very difficult and complicated problems, I do think we have to take a hard look and see if we have the resources. You know, if we are going to send people off to war, we have a solemn promise to make sure that, when we -- when they come home, we are going to take care of them. CROWLEY: Sure, but -- so, do you think more money needs to go to these hospitals, so they can hire more doctors, get more rooms, whatever the problem happens to be? You think there should be an increased money to meet this demand?

SANDERS: Well, we passed legislation -- we didn't pass it. I proposed legislation, which, unfortunately, only got two Republicans supporting it in the Senate, which would have gone a long way to improve health care and other services for our veterans.

But, to answer your question, I suspect we are going to need more funding if we're going to do justice and provide the high-quality care that veterans deserve.

CROWLEY: Congressman, I'm going to give you the last question.

When you look at the fire that General Shinseki has taken as head of the VA, is -- would his resignation, or firing, whatever you want to call it, accomplish anything? Or has this become a political football now?


MILLER: Well, I wouldn't call it a political football.

I believe people want to see accountability. And that's what the House of Representatives has been trying to demand through the bills that we have passed through our committee and certainly on the House floor.

I have said Secretary Shinseki doesn't need to go until we see the final report and see exactly how much he knew and when he knew it. But the fact remains, the VA already knows that there are 23 veterans who have died because they were on waiting lists.

CROWLEY: Right, so it -- but -- and yet you're holding off.

I would say, I just wonder whether this is now -- you talk about how complicated it is and how big it is and all of these things, and yet it seems like none of that would be cured with firing the head of the VA.

MILLER: Oh, this is much -- this is much larger than the secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

CROWLEY: Like what?

MILLER: Well, you have got an entrenched bureaucracy that exists out there that is not accountable, that is shooting for goals, goals that are not helping the veteran. The person that is supposed to be served is not the bureaucrat. It's the veteran.

CROWLEY: I just -- Senator Sanders, I'm sorry. I'm way over time. So, I just want you to chime in again, because that's why I'm saying, well, what happened to oversight? This an entrenched bureaucracy like...

SANDERS: Well, let me just respond, if I could, Candy, to what Jeff was saying.

CROWLEY: Well...

SANDERS: Look, it is an enormously difficult job running a system that large.

I think, in many ways, Shinseki has gone a very good job, going from paper electronics -- paper claims to electronic claims records, in terms of education -- homelessness has been reduced.


SANDERS: So, I don't think it's fair to blame Shinseki for all of the problems. Can he do better? Yes. Can we all do better?

Bottom line is, every veteran in this country is entitled to high-quality health care. And we have got to make sure that that happens.

MILLER: Candy -- Candy...

CROWLEY: Yes. I...

MILLER: ... we have 118 outstanding requests right now at the Department of Veterans Affairs in regards to oversight that they will not answer.

CROWLEY: Which is crazy. You're supposed to have oversight. Can't you just subpoena them? They subpoena everyone else. It just seems like, send us these people.

MILLER: We have -- we have -- we have subpoenaed them, and they will be appearing before our committee Wednesday night.

CROWLEY: All right. We will be watching.

Congressman Miller, Senator Sanders, thank you so much. We appreciate it.

Next up: Remember no-drama Obama?


REP. DAVID SCOTT (D), GEORGIA: Mr. President, we need urgency. We need you to roll up our sleeves and get into these hospitals.


CROWLEY: The panel is next on the politics of leadership.


CROWLEY: Joining me around the table Penny Lee, she's a democratic strategist and former adviser to Senator Harry Reid. Corey Dade, NPR contributor and writer of "The Take," a political blog at "The Root." Alex Castellanos, CNN commentator and Republican consultant.

Can I just start with, if you have an oversight committee that can't get bureaucrats to come talk to you like -- does that sort of smack the bureaucracy that's just gone rogue?

COREY DADE, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, "THE ROOT": Yes. It's about the worst time they need to be holding back, especially the V.A. I mean, this is -- this is a moment when they need to be as assertive and transparent as possible.

ALEX CASTELLANOS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think that's -- maybe that's the place to focus. You know we -- it's easier to blame President Obama now because all of a sudden he's shocked to find he's ignored the V.A. for five years. I'm sure he's going to give himself a very stern talking to here. But the truth is, Democrats have tried to fix this and haven't. Republicans have tried to fix this and haven't. Veterans themselves, Shinseki who (INAUDIBLE) about this has tried to fix this and haven't. Maybe they haven't because they can't.

This is an old top-down Washington bureaucratic system. Imagine if we built a factory to fix your health care, right now, to give your health care. Your health care is intimate, personal, different than anybody else's, but a big old Washington bureaucracy trying to take care of that. Guess what? It just does not work. The answer --

CROWLEY: This sounds like the Republican approach to government healthcare.

CASTELLANOS: Because it is. By the way, Krugman, Paul Krugman has said, welcome to socialized medicine. This is the V.A. And by the way, it works great. Well, guess what? Not so great.

CROWLEY: It may not work great, but apparently the health care is good if you can get in. That's the problem.

PENNY LEE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yes. Yes, that's the problem. It has always been (INAUDIBLE) even when we were going through the health care debate with look at the V.A. model is that so many veterans once they get the care, it's very specialized and it's very much geared towards what their specific injuries are.

As the senator was saying earlier, look, we have 2 million more people into the system than we've ever had before. I think it's time that we reexamine the model. Because the model I think is what is broken. And we need to hold those that are in charge accountable for that. CASTELLANOS: Let me take just a bit of exception though. 2 million more people? This has been going on for decades. This has been going on forever. Again, this is -- the more complex something is, the less politicians and bureaucrats can serve you well. The answer --

DADE: I don't think this is argument for --

CASTELLANOS: Yes, it is. Let's open up --


CROWLEY: I'm going to let you get a sentence out here.

DADE: I think -- I think --

CASTELLANOS: Let's open it up.

DADE: I do think we need to look at the president's response here in part. This is -- this is a president who as a senator was on the veteran affairs committee. He even criticized the Bush administration for its inability to bring reforms.

CROWLEY: Set those expectations way up here (ph).

DADE: So, he -- and then he campaigned for re-election on making veterans priority in his administration. So here he is coming out. When he comes out, he waits three weeks. And when he comes out and says if these allegations are true -- that is not the kind of optic that he wants right now.

CROWLEY: While we're on the subject of optics, we did have his news conference where he talked about, well, I just want to wait. And we did have him announce a new housing secretary, et cetera, et cetera. But I want to show you the other part of his week.

He was headed over to the interior and he took a stroll on the mall and said hey to tourists. Then he went to Cooperstown to the baseball hall of fame where he talked about tourism and looked at the museum. Then he went up to Chicago to fundraise and stopped by a hometown eatery that he really loves and goes to. Cameras there, too. So, talk to me about optics.

LEE: I would just say just because, you know, the president might not have it every single day of every single speech in addressing this, that's not to say the work isn't being done. And he is one -


CROWLEY: Optics. I was just going with the optics here.

LEE: He is one that has shown that, look, he's going to allow his managers to get back and say what is at stake so he can put together the right plan. We've seen this before in many of the other crises. (CROSSTALK)

DADE: I don't think it's one or the other. I don't think he has to show he has his hand on the button and at the same time can't do sort of the politicking that he needs to do. This is -- this is a president whose campaign, you know, is done. But he needs a campaign for his party. He needs to get his numbers up. So, doing these kinds of tours, that's normal.

CROWLEY: Exactly. But I just wonder with -- we even saw Democrats complain about -- hello, could you go to a V.A. someplace and do something? I know its P.R. I know it's all those things. And the president can do all kinds of things while appearing to be touring. But the fact is at some point does no drama Obama become a drawback?

DADE: Absolutely.

CASTELLANOS: Very much so. And you know, I hate to be in the position of defending Barack Obama here. I think the problem is bigger than any one man or party right now. I think it is the system.

But when your house is on fire, you don't want the firemen going to Cooperstown. This is a national crisis. It is a crisis about the people we say we value the most, and what do we know about this president, very bright man? Cerebral man, lives in his head and gets bored sometimes with the mundane trivia of actually having to make things work and get things done. Valerie Jarrett has said he's bored, this president this time.

You know what? Like most of us -- like most of us our strength is our weakness. His strength is he's a man of ideas. His weakness is the same thing.

LEE: I mean, I have to disagree with you on that. When things come about, you saw this, deep oil -- deep oil, when the gulf war -- when the gulf -- sorry not war. When the oil crisis was happening in the gulf, he went because there was a mismanagement. They hadn't inspected these for four or five years. So, he sent his team in. And now that whole system has changed, so that can be prevented (INAUDIBLE). So, when he has an issue at hand, he goes in. He solves it. He puts the right team in place. It is a big bureaucracy as we have all acknowledged. He can't have his finger in every single pot. But when the crisis occurs, he is able to go in there and strategically and surgically go in and fix these (ph) issues --


LEE: What he will do -


DADE: It's often when he responds to these crises (INAUDIBLE) is there but one of the problems was he came out late. He came out -- he tends to come out right when something gets to become a big crisis or public embarrassment. Now, when he actually executes, he has done an excellent job in executing. He's certainly not someone who likes to give into the fanfare. And he resists the calls of the dogs to fire his people and that sort of stuff. There's certainly loyalty. But (INAUDIBLE) he needs to pay attention to the -


CROWLEY: You've 10 seconds. Yes. CASTELLANOS: He's not a man of action. He's reticent take action. He likes to think first. He draws red lines and then reconsiders. That's Barack Obama.

CROWLEY: I'll have you back. You could (ph) -- you could (ph) come back, Penny Lee, thank you so much.

Up next, the loneliest holiday.


WES MOORE, ARMY COMBAT VETERAN: I don't stand here because we're any smarter or stronger or better than the people we lost. We were lucky and we're thankful for that luck.

CROWLEY (voice over): Right now, that's the Pentagon and bikers are getting ready for their annual ride around Washington, D.C. to remember Vietnam vets Rolling Thunder. My interview with veteran advocate Wes Moore is next on STATE OF THE UNION.




CROWLEY (voice over): It is Memorial Day weekend in the United States. That actually is a picture from outside the Pentagon. It is live. You begin to hear motorcycles. That's because Rolling Thunder, a Vietnam era group that honors MIAs, POWs is about to start. They're right through Washington, Rolling Thunder.

This of course is the time to remember and honor military members who died in the line of duty. Right now, as we say, there's Rolling Thunder, remembering not just those who are dead, but others who have been missing from Vietnam still. And part of honoring the fallen is taking care of those who survived.

I talk about that with Wes Moore, an author and army combat veteran who fought in Afghanistan. He's also the executive producer of "Coming Back with Wes Moore" which chronicles the stories of veterans adjusting to life back home.


CROWLEY: Flat out, is the United States of America failing its veterans?

MOORE: We've had a level of structural dysfunction that's existed for well over a decade with this. You know, a lot of the issues that we're seeing right now at the V.A. are not new issues.

CROWLEY: Do you blame Eric Shinseki, should he go?

MOORE: Even if we get the resignation, then what? There are still -- there are still structural barriers that are in place. And so, you know, we've had now four secretaries of the V.A. since 9/11. And we still have the same barriers in place.

So, while I think there needs to be real accountability and we need to figure out where this train goes and anyone who had any sense of what was happening, particularly as it now starts melding into the criminal side, needs to be held to account for that. We can't simply think we're going to fire someone and that's going to solve a problem.

CROWLEY: You consider yourself fortunate. You came back to a supportive family, you came back to a job. So, that made your transition easier. But what was hard about your transition?

MOORE: Even with those things, everything was hard about the transition because you're not coming back as the same person. And that's one of the things we wanted to highlight with coming back is we always -- we often think that just because a person makes it home, we can now breathe a sigh of relief and say, whew, I'm glad that's over. Without understanding that that person is coming back as a changed person. The environment that they're coming back to is a changed environment. So, that transition still becomes real even if you have things in place.

Now, this isn't to say that, you know, what we didn't want to do is delve into the swamp of insincerity on either side. This is everybody has issues and we're all ticking time bombs or anything along those lines, because statistically that's not even true. But the fact is is that we have to be able to account for levels of transition. We have to be able to account for the fact that the family that you're coming back to, the community that you're coming back to and you as a person are fundamentally changed.

CROWLEY: Some of the details you've written about is just like trash in the road.

MOORE: Yes. (INAUDIBLE). You know, when you're -- when you're in Iraq or in Afghanistan, everything is a potential threat. And so, you know, you see a pile of trash, that could potentially be a pile of trash or it could be a hidden IED. And so you're now coming back to an environment where you see a trash can on the side of the road and your brain is doing flips. I had the same thing with me with lights where -- for my time in Afghanistan, we had 100 percent light discipline. So, there are no white lights because white lights can be seen from miles away.

So, what happens when one week that's your reality and then two weeks later you're in Times Square? You know, your brain is doing flips. A lot of veterans who I know when they're in classes they need to sit near an exit because they always want to know where is the exit point. These are things I think a lot of people don't think about what that transition is like for a lot of vets but it's very real when you think about (INAUDIBLE).

CROWLEY: Possibly the vets don't know until they come home.

MOORE: And we don't prepare for that.

CROWLEY: Do you remember someone special on Memorial Day? MOORE: I remember growing up, I didn't really think much about Memorial Day. Memorial Day was the start of summer and Memorial Day was going to have barbecues. And in many ways, I now realize that Memorial Day is really one of the loneliest holidays that we have.

And I think Memorial Day just means so much more to me now because when I think about Memorial Day now, I think about Toby and I think about Brian. I think about friends who now are no longer here to celebrate with their families. They shape how I think about every day.

I stand here because of them. You know, we all understand, anyone that's been in combat, there is a certain fatalism and such an arbitrary nature about this. I don't stand here because we are any smarter, or better, or stronger, or better than the people that we lost.

We were lucky and we are thankful for the luck. And we just always want to make sure that their memory is never forgotten, their families are never forgotten. Whether it'd be those that were lost in combat, whether it'd be those that came back home and took their own life because they realized the war, they couldn't leave it behind.

In the past now 22 months I've lost three friends, to suicide, all military veterans. One of them was a dear friend and we talked about coming back who's my former roommate. Who everything seemed to be going well. He had a job. He just got married to a wonderful woman and had an extraordinary mother and got a call one day that he had shot himself.

I think that often times we don't think about them on Memorial Day and we need to because these are people who love this country and fought for this country just like everyone else. These are all people who we will think about and we'll celebrate and support not just on Memorial Day but for every day.

CROWLEY: Wes Moore, I think you probably have given a lot of people pause on Memorial Day weekend and maybe get them to remember a little, if not, a specific person, all of the people. So, thank you so much for joining us on this day. I hope your memorial weekend goes well.

MOORE: Bless you. Thank you so much.

CROWLEY: Wes Moore plans to spend part of his Memorial Day calling the family and friends he lost to war. We'll be right back.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CROWLEY (voice over): That -- you are looking at is a makeshift memorial at Isla Vista, California. It's where we go (INAUDIBLE) Sara Sidner. There has been an outburst of violence in the city that has left residents stunned. Six victims were dead, 13 were injured.


CROWLEY: Sara, tell us more about how this community is reacting.

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, they have been coming to the vigils. There were hundreds of people that showed up at UC, Santa Barbara with candles, tearing up.


But there are vigils at the places where students have been killed. And you're looking at one here. This is the I.V. market. This is where Christopher Ross Martinez came in, 20-year-old student doing really well in school, came in to grab a bite to eat and ended up shot and killed. He never made it to the hospital.

His father broke down in tears in front of cameras yesterday as he tried to explain what this has done to his family and that he wanted to tell parents you think it can never happen to you but he says it can, it happened to us. We've lost everything, we lost our son.

We also want to tell you about Veronika Weiss and Katie Cooper. Two girls who were walking by a sorority shot and killed. And there were witnesses to this. We talked to a witness who described seeing one of them die before his eyes. A terrible scene here for all of the community.

They are trying to cope with this by remembering the victims and trying not to focus on the suspect, Elliott Rogers, who has put out 141 pages of a manifesto and videos that are so chilling, so disturbing that this community has really been shaken, Candy.

CROWLEY: Yes, Sara Sidner, I know again another story you don't want to cover. But thanks for being there. That's Sara and others from CNN will be there bringing you the latest developments from this story all day long and next week (INAUDIBLE).

Thank you all for watching. I'm Candy Crowley in Washington. Be sure to set your DVR to STATE OF THE UNION if you can't be here live. If you missed any part of today's find us on iTunes.

Fareed Zakaria, "GPS," starts right now with the latest on today's elections in Ukraine.