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STATE OF THE UNION WITH CANDY CROWLEY

Killer Sent His Family The Manifesto Just Before Rampage; President Obama In Afghanistan; Killing Rampage In Southern California; Interview With California Rep. Lois Capps; Eyewitness To Rampage

Aired May 25, 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: I'm Candy Crowley in Washington. We are following new developments in that mass shooting near the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Six people were killed 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 30th. Police found the future killer polite and courteous and determined he did not meet the criteria for an involuntary hold.

I want to bring in now Pam Brown. Hey, pam. I understand that you have some breaking news here regarding the family?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. I spoke to a family friend by the name of Simon Astaire and he basically walked me through a detailed account of the history of Elliott Rodger and those moments right before he went on that shooting rampage when his parents were on a frantic chase to find him.

This family friend, Simon Astaire, told me that as Elliott Rodger was carrying out his deadly rampage, his parents were frantically trying to get to Santa Barbara, trying to find him, because they had just received that chilling manifesto from their 22-year-old son. We learned that Rodger had sent this manifesto, 140 pages, to a couple of dozen people, including his family members, including his therapist, and others. And he had sent it right before he went on the shooting rampage, where he killed six people.

And we learned that his mother discovered it at around 9:17, pacific time. She then went to his YouTube page, where he was known to post videos and that's where she discovered the retribution video, where he talked about wanting to go to a sorority house and slaughter as many women as he could. The mother, according to Astaire, then called the father, Peter Rodger, who hadn't seen the manifesto, apparently, and said -- told him what was going on.

The mother called 911, alerted police to the situation and then we're told by Astaire that as they were on their way to Santa Barbara, they heard about a shooting that happened there. And of course, their worst fear came true. They later found out that their 22-year-old son, Elliott Rodger, was responsible for that shooting. And Candy, there has been a lot of talk about the welfare check back in April, when police went to the home of Elliott Rodger after being tipped off that, you know, his parents were concerned. Essentially, we were told by Astaire that the mother called the therapist and said she hadn't heard from her son for a while, saw those videos on YouTube. And so the therapist called the hotline this mental health hotline in Santa Barbara, which then contacted police. And police said when they went to the home, there was nothing alarming. And basically called the mom to reassure her that her son was OK. Here's what Sheriff Bill Brown had to say about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHERIFF BILL BROWN, SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, CALIFORNIA: The problem with an incident like this is it's obviously the work of a mad man and you are -- you know, it's just unfortunate that these kinds of circumstances occur, but there are very, very limited ways in which they can be prevented.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: So, Candy, there's a lot of unanswered questions here with something missed. You know, we know that Elliott Rodger talked in his manifest -- manifesto, how he thought this was a close call, how he was worried police were going to discover the guns in his room and foil his plans to go on this rampage, but essentially, the sheriff said that, you know, the six responding officers to that call did not believe that he met the criteria to be brought in for an involuntary mental exam.

But we do know in talking to this friend, Simon Astaire, that Elliott had a history of mental health issues. In fact, he had been seeing therapists on and off since he was 8 years old. At the time of the shooting rampage, he had been seeing two therapists. So of course this is very difficult for his family, the friend says that his family is just going through unbelievable grief right now. He said that they are loving parents, but of course, right now, they are asking themselves that question, could they have done more? Candy?

CROWLEY: Breaking news on any number of stories. This one, the president has taken a little Memorial Day weekend trip. He is in Afghanistan. He has just landed at Bagram Air Force Base for a visit with the troops there, with their commanders. We are also told that country music star Brad Paisley is traveling with the president, that he is there to perform a surprise concert for the troops in just a couple of minutes.

On board air force one, Susan Rice as we know the president's National Security Adviser. I want to bring in Barbara Starr, who is, of course, our Pentagon correspondent. Barbara, tell me what you know about this trip.

We will get back to Barbara in just a second. I can tell you a little bit more about what I know is that the presidents tend to use this time to talk to the commanders, to get their sense of how things are going on the ground. This comes at a particularly tough time for the military, simply because there have been so many stories about the scandal at the Veterans Administration. So, certainly, this always tends to be a visit that bucks up the troops. Certainly, the president -- I believe this is his fourth trip to Afghanistan, by my count. But in fact, I want to bring is it Barbara Starr at the Pentagon? We are going to try her again? Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Candy. I think we have our technical issues sorted out now. You know, any presidential travel always takes place with some sort of political perspective, of course, the burgeoning issues about veterans scandals here in Washington, the course of the war, all of that. But make no mistake, on this Memorial Day weekend, for the president to go to a war zone that is still very much a hot war zone, visit the troops there, talk to them, tell them how much he appreciates what they are doing that is no small thing.

These trips, these presidential trips to war zones, whether they were Iraq or Afghanistan, President Bush, President Obama, these are security nightmares to put the president into a war zone. So, these have very closely held trips. Generally, never revealed until the president lands, kept very, very secret because, of course, the first concern always is his security.

President Obama, I don't think a big surprise if he wanted to go to Afghanistan again and visit the troops. It's been a while since he's been there the war in Afghanistan, many people feel Americans have somewhat forgotten. There are 30,000 troops in that war zone still risking their lives every day. Thankfully, the casualties are down. The number of wounded are down. But still, great risk for American forces, all of them serving in that war zone.

So, I think we can expect to see the president in the coming hours visit with the troops, go to the hospital at Bagram, see them, but we are getting some indication that he is going to try and stay out of Afghanistan politics. There is a runoff election for president scheduled for next month, very sensitive business who will succeed President Hamid Karzai, who has been a tough customer for the U.S. to deal with, very contentious situation. They are going to look forward to getting the new president in there perhaps in the coming weeks, Candy.

CROWLEY: And those elections, really important, it seems to me, to the withdrawal of American troops that the president has called for. Give us a sense of that timetable and of the prospects of American troops staying there, which the United States has wanted to do, but does not yet have an agreement with whoever is going to be running Afghanistan.

STARR: That's exactly right. And the president is expected to talk to his commanders on the ground about this situation. Here's where we are. There will be a runoff election to succeed Hamid Karzai, who couldn't run again, next month. It will take some time in Afghanistan to get those votes counted, some weeks to announce a new president. So, we are not looking at a change in the presidency perhaps until late summer, but the key issue has not gone away. The U.S. would like to see Afghanistan sign a security agreement. Karzai has refused to do so so far, a security agreement that will permit some number of U.S. troops to stay in Afghanistan, help train the Afghans, still work on going after al Qaeda and key Taliban terrorist, but mainly to continue to train the Afghans to look after their own security.

If they can't get that agreement, all U.S. troops, all U.S. combat troops have to be out of Afghanistan by the end of this year. So one of the key decisions that President Obama has to make is this, the assumption is a new president in Afghanistan will sign, the candidates said they will. Then the president of the United States has to decide how many troops does he want to leave there? The ranges that you hear are anywhere from 3,000 to 10,000. But this is a decision - a decision that the president needs to make only himself and probably fairly soon, because there's about 30,000 troops there and most of them are going to pack up and go.

That's going to be a pretty major muscle movement for the U.S. military right now. So they need to get some of this sorted out. They need to basically find a way ahead over the next several months. Candy?

CROWLEY: Barbara, stay with me for a second but I want to bring in our White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.

Jim, Barbara is perfectly right, I'm not sure if you heard it, this is - this is huge for troops when this particular war has not been in the headlines and yet, there are thousands and thousands, as Barbara reports, 30,000 of them, still over there, still fighting. But it also begins what's going to be a pretty big week for the president, focused on foreign policy.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Candy and I think Barbara laid that out very well. You know, Afghanistan has been very much a forgotten war in the minds of many Americans and so this trip by the president, his fourth during his presidency and the first since May 2012, will definitely highlight the price that is being paid in Afghanistan.

And as Barbara was saying, this is a very big year for the president when it comes to Afghanistan. This White House is determined, whether they have a bilateral security agreement with the Afghanistan government or not, to pull U.S. forces out of that country by the end of the year. They will lead a residual force, if they can, you know, hammer out some sort of security agreement for the years to come, but that will be a light footprint type of force. And so this is the beginning of the end of U.S. engagement in Afghanistan and I think this trip by the president marks that, to some extent.

There are a couple of other things going on, Candy. This V.A. scandal that has been going on right now and the president has been stung by that. And so we understand that in addition to giving a speech there in Afghanistan, he will be visiting a hospital when he is on the ground there. And so the president will be seeing, you know, exactly the sacrifice that is being paid firsthand. And Candy, you're right. This is a very big week for the president when it comes to foreign policy. On Wednesday, he will be at West Point delivering the commencement address. And during that commencement address, he is expected to lay out, according to White House officials, his foreign policy vision for the last two and a half years of his presidency. He's come under heavy criticism, as you know, Candy, over the last several weeks.

During that trip to Asia he was peppered with questions at almost every stop. What does the Obama doctrine say about Syria? Do you allow this - a bloody war, this bloody civil war to continue without any U.S. involvement or does the U.S. get involved? And so, the president is expected to lay out some themes as to when the U.S. gets involved, when it doesn't get involved. We will hear some more about that on Wednesday.

There's no question about it, this is a huge trip for the president and a huge trip for the soldiers who are serving in Afghanistan. A lot of them, I'm sure, had this feeling that Americans just aren't paying that close attention to what's happening over there.

CROWLEY: Jim Acosta, let me ask you to stand by, and I want to sort of add to our repertoire here and bring in our Jim Sciutto. He has been in Kiev. There are elections today in Ukraine and one of the reasons we think that many people have not paid as much attention to Afghanistan is the Syrian war that Jim Acosta mentioned, but also, what's going on in Ukraine and the criticism of the president.

So, Jim, first, just tell us what is going on in Ukraine, insofar as today's elections are concerned.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, up until a couple of hours ago, about halfway through the Election Day, the turnout nationally, about 40 percent, that's still leaving several hours to vote. At least here in Kiev and the western part of the country, we saw a great participation, long lines certainly in polling stations here in the capital. That, of course, contrasting with the situation in the eastern regions bordering Russia.

We just returned from there this morning. Donetsk, Lugansk where (ph) violence has been concentrated and where only a fifth of the polling stations were open because - and we spoke to a number of witnesses out there who saw these (ph) armed militants, pro-Russian separatists, forcibly shutting those polling stations down and intimidating voters from going, making them fear for their lives. So, that's a problem.

You have an imbalance now with good turnout in the west, the central part of the country. Lower turnout in the east because of that interruption. That's what's happening today. But as you mentioned who would have guessed, Candy, that this year crisis in Europe would be at the top of the president's foreign policy agenda, but that's just what's happened here, overshadowing, to some degrees, as you say the challenges in Syria, in Asia and also in Afghanistan, winding down the war in Afghanistan. This is a continuing crisis.

A big question today, can Ukraine emerge from these crucial national presidential elections with a figure who can unite this country that is divided in many ways, divided between east and west, divided between affinity for the European union and affinity for Russia? And also a country that's already had its borders violated with Russia annexing Crimea earlier in the spring? That is a challenge here, it's a challenge for Ukraine, it's a challenge for Europe and certainly a challenge for the president.

CROWLEY: Jim, first, I just want to tell our audience that we do expect the president, landing in Bagram in about an hour -- 1:00 our eastern time to address the troops. Obviously, we will take that.

The question I still have for you, Jim Sciutto, is because you've covered so many different parts of the world, as you look at the president's trip, a surprise trip to us at any rate, to Afghanistan, do you see this as a period on that promise he made almost six years ago when he began to run, saying, "I will end this war"?

SCIUTTO: I think that's got to be part of the message, especially as we come to Memorial Day tomorrow. I also think that this is an administration now that is struggling somewhat to explain to the American people its foreign policy strategy. And we learned some time ago that the president will make a major speech this week at West Point to outline that strategy, to -- as his adviser, Ben Rhodes said, that many Americans see the trees but they don't see the forest.

And you will remember that comment, I think Jim Acosta alluded to it when he made his Asia trip that now-infamous comment where the president said we want to hit doubles and singles and not home runs. Well, that's not what's expected of the United States as you travel around from here in Europe to the Middle East, where I have spent a good amount of time to Afghanistan to China. Whatever many people in these countries think of the U.S. as you know, as well as me, it's often very critical, there is an expectation of a defining role and you hear from many people that they haven't seen that.

And I will just tell you, in Ukraine, I have been traveling in the eastern part of the country and here in Kiev and I have asked many Ukrainians, what do you think of America's role so far in this crisis? And many have said, well, we've liked the words that we have heard coming out of Washington, but we haven't seen the actions match those words. And that's critique I think that you hear in many countries around the world now and that's something that the president is going to try to perhaps push back on when he gives his speech at the West Point -- at West Point later this week but also, with a visit like this, a marquee visit to Afghanistan, the site of a -- well, more than a ten-year war that he is - that he is now winding down.

CROWLEY: Right. And Barbara Starr, I hope you are still with us from the Pentagon, because I wanted to ask you, always I remember with when the war in Iraq was winding down, there was a big back and forth about leaving troops. In the end, we left none, because there was no agreement. But there was a lot of talk about how many and what role. Is there conflict between the Defense Department, State Department, or the Defense Department and the White House, as this administration decides what does a post-U.S. combat role in Afghanistan look like? STARR: There's a lot of different options on the table. How much they are in conflict, you know, I think still remains to be seen. The Pentagon, surely, the generals, the commanders, would, as you would expect, want to go for the higher number, because they want to get as much done as they feel they can. So, they are more in the 10,000 range.

We've heard a lot about this range of 3,000 troops being left behind. And pardon me what military commanders will tell you is that 3,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan really isn't enough to do anything. You would have to have so many devoted to security, you would have none left to help train Afghans.

But what is a post-U.S. Afghanistan really look like? I think that's still very much remains to be seen because fundamentally, the concern is that once the U.S. security footprint is gone, the big security footprint, the big bases are gone, many shut down already, but there's still a big U.S. footprint, that the Afghan forces may have trouble holding on and the Taliban and al Qaeda may come back into Afghanistan, Candy.

CROWLEY: Barbara Starr, Jim Sciutto, Jim Acosta, I know you will be with us throughout much of the rest of the day. We want to take a quick break because when we come back, we want to turn to the other story and that is the mass killing in California at U.C., Santa Barbara in the wee hours of Saturday morning. We are going to talk to Congresswoman Lois Capps. She is the representative to that district and she will be with us on the other side of this break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY (voice over): That is Brad Paisley. Guess where he is. He is in Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. Guess who took him there? The president of the United States.

The president making a surprise visit to Afghanistan, the country obviously has been off the front pages but it has been life for the 30,000 troops who remain there now. The president left late Saturday night, Washington time, he arrived late in the night, under cover of darkness and landed between 11 and 12 this morning, Eastern Time. The President intends to speak to these troops and it will be about 1:00 eastern time, and of course, we will be covering that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: I want to also talk about when the president left and before he left, the White House did put out a statement about our next story and that is the mass killings at -- near the campus of U.C. Santa Barbara. The president said -- the White House said, "The President and First Lady's thoughts and prayers go out to the families and friends who lost a loved one as a result of the horrific shooting. Yesterday, the President was briefed by Lisa Monaco, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism. The President will continue to be updated as new information becomes available." Again, the President in Afghanistan now, on a memorial -- for a Memorial Day visit, talking about a real tragedy here at home in the wee hours of Saturday, a gunman, who was also armed with a knife, killed six people and then apparently, turned the gun on himself, committing suicide.

Joining me now, Congresswoman Lois Capps, her district includes Isla Vista - Isla Vista, sorry, which is where we find her right now. I know you were there last night as well, I believe, Congresswoman. Tell me about it.

REP. LOIS CAPPS (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, you know, Candy, I'm here in the heart of this community, always so vibrant, it's peaceful on this Sunday morning, my heart is broken and it was broken last evening as well as we gathered, I want to say thousands of us, to honor the memory of the lives that were taken in such a senseless, tragic way and to give hope and voice to the future by this community that seeks to heal now.

CROWLEY: And when you look at situations like this, because they have occurred in various ways and various iterations across the country way too many times certainly to report on, certainly to be a part of, does the lawmaker in you say, what can we do and if she does, what's the answer?

CAPPS: Well, yes. My views on gun safety measures and my strong convictions about the important of community mental health resources, those are well known. But I'm here at this spot here, Christopher Michael Martinez was a young man who grew up not very many miles north of here. This is the spot where his life was taken in such a senseless way, Candy. I want to be able to give voice to the heartbreak that this community is now feeling and the need to heal, the need to focus on rebuilding community here. So many communities face these challenges.

CROWLEY: You bring up Christopher Ross. His father did appear before cameras, really shortly after this happened and you talk about heartbroken. This is some of what he had to say. I want to play it for our viewers.

CAPPS: (INAUDIBLE).

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD MARTINEZ, FATHER OF SHOOTING VICTIM: Why did Chris die? Chris died because of craven, irresponsible politician and the NRA. They talk about gun rights, what about Chris' right to live?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Does this (ph) (INAUDIBLE) Congresswoman of fury and grief. It's just -- it's very, very hard to watch and impossible to bear. We should first point out that three of the victims, I believe, were stabbed to death and others were shot. But setting that aside, does he have a point? Is there something that you see that is doable in the mental health area, in the gun area? In the -- one of the things the police chief I will say said is that he thinks the mental health community needs to step up more.

CAPPS: This is a moment for us to give way to a tragedy that was just so powerful in Christopher's father's message to us all. I take that to heart. I'm just overwhelmed with the loss and totally dedicated to wanting to give a voice to what the father is asking all of us to do on behalf of the son he no longer has.

CROWLEY: It is hard. I also -- I know that you hope to speak to Sheriff Brown, Santa Barbara County. They, of course, are leading this investigation. He has spoken out a lot recently. We had him on this show. I want to play you something that he said at the first news conference about incidents like this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHERIFF BILL BROWN, SANTA BARBARA'S COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE: The problem with an incident like this is it's obviously the work of a mad man and you are -- you know, it's just unfortunate that these kinds of circumstances occur, but there are very, very limited ways in which they can be prevented.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: It is certainly not an acceptance on his part of this kind of violence, but there is a feeling that there is just an -- in this country, with these laws, there are certainly are things that you can be as vigilant as you want. In this case, this young man apparently had seen lots of psychiatrists and mental health workers. He had a gun perfectly legally in California, which had pretty strict gun laws, and it does make you wonder, you know, they are just the things not preventable.

CAPPS: I do commend our sheriff. The team did a very courageous response to this incident in Isla Vista. Who knows, it could have been much worse. But what I want to do now, Candy, and stay so clearly, how can we give voice to these yearning students and community members who say this loss is something we don't want to see continued? How can we come together as a community? How can we support one another, so that a young person like this man, does not fall through the cracks?

And that's what I'm dedicated to doing, and I know I speak on behalf of so many folks here in this community, peaceful today, but a scene of real terror and tragedy such a short time ago.

CROWLEY: You can't help but mourn for the families and the friends that are left behind. Congresswoman Lois Capps, thank you for spending part of your morning in California with you -- with us. We appreciate it.

CAPPS: Thank you, Candy.

CROWLEY: Back to our other story, surprise visit by the president of the United States. He is in Afghanistan. There you see him meeting with officials from Bagram Airbase. Surely they knew he was coming, but we did not know. He was greeted by U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, James Cunningham and General Joseph Dunford, who is commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

The president brought with him a country western singer, Brad Paisley, who is currently entertaining the troops, which surely is a great Memorial Day surprise for them. We also expect that the president will be giving a speech, described as a rally of sorts, to the troops, 1:00 Eastern Time. We are going to continue to follow this story and to bring you, of course the president's speech, all technology staying with us, we certainly will do that and expect it to be so.

So a surprise Memorial Day visit by the president of the United States and country western star, Brad Paisley and you might want to take a vote afterwards and see which one the troops are more excited to see, but this certainly is a big bolster to these troops because this has been, in a large sense, a war that despite the fact it is ongoing, 30,000 American troops are there, it has been out of the headlines recently.

So, a little presidential love from the president who took off Saturday night in Washington and is now on Bagram Air Base with the troops. We will be back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Got some pictures to show you here, screen left. That is the president of the United States. He is in Afghanistan, walking there and greeting there various officials from Afghanistan including the U.S. ambassador there. He took off from Washington late at night. He arrived at Bagram late at night.

Now, top right of your screen is a concert. That guy is Brad Paisley. He came with the president to entertain the troops on Memorial Day. This is the president's fourth trip to Afghanistan, a war he is about to wind down and maybe his final trip there. We are not really sure.

We want to bring in now, around the table with me, Penny Lee, a Democratic strategist and former adviser to Senator Harry Reid, Corey Dade, NPR contributor and writer of "The Take, A Politics Blog at The Root" and Ford O'Connell, a Republican strategist. Wow. Who have thunk it?

COREY DADE, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, "THE ROOT": You wanted optics, here they are.

CROWLEY: On the job. Look, let us give the president his due. This is not a totally safe thing to do but presidents do it and they are as protective as anybody, let's face it, but also it does mean something to these troops. We want to get the non-cynical part out of it and say this is important to them, because it's been largely off the front pages.

PENNY LEE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: It is a thing, especially on Memorial Day, when so many of them are serving there and have been serving there multiple visits or multiple tenures, so to go over there and thank them, not only for their service, what they have done and also to hear from the commanders on the ground to hear what is really happening, they are making critical decisions, both with the elections in Afghanistan and what type of security forces will be left. So, it's really great and a real morale booster for the troops serving in Afghanistan.

CROWLEY: The timing is interesting. Memorial Day seems like a good time, but it also -- we have a VA scandal going on. The president's being questioned in an election year about his leadership abroad and whether he has strengthened or weakened America abroad. But this is really one of his signature accomplishments, should it all go as planned, was winding down this war in Afghanistan.

DADE: Right. Winding down two wars and what he's also trying to do in Afghanistan is prevent what happened in Iraq, which is getting that security agreement signed with Karzai's successor so that he can have U.S. troops on the ground once they wind down this war. But here at home, he couldn't have hoped for anything better to set up his foreign policy speech at West Point, outside winding down the wars, he hasn't clearly articulated a foreign policy vision.

FORD O'CONNELL, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I agree with Corey here. I tip my hat to the president. This is what you've got to do on Memorial Day. But let's be honest, there is a little cynical politics at play at here. This is about optics. His approval rating on foreign policy is 39 percent. He is getting pounded in the media right now about the VA scandal. He is looking for anything to really change the narrative right now and I think he is going to try to piggyback this trip into the West Point speech nd really change basically the subject.

LEE: It was at the West Point speech in 2009 that he actually announced the surge in troops to Afghanistan. So it's an interesting book end that you have here about, you know, both this in between going there and visiting and seeing what has happened since that surge has occurred and what the parameters and what the dynamics need to be changed. A real interesting book end on the speeches.

O'CONNELL: Winding down Afghanistan is extremely popular with the Democratic base and right now on the -- I understand that. In general, he is getting pounded on both sides of the VA scandal and this is one of these things --

LEE: He does not make a decision whether to wind down troops based on the VA scandal.

O'CONNELL: I'm not saying that, Penny. What I'm saying is right now, Democrats aren't behind what he is doing with the VA scandal so he needs people in general to be on his side and he is going to try to do this any way possible. The VA scandal is a bipartisan issue, like being in Afghanistan. But at the end of the day, we know that he needs to harp back to his base to try to change the narrative.

LEE: I would just say on this Memorial Day, I think what he is doing to honor and pay respect to the troops in Afghanistan --

CROWLEY: Be multi-determined. There could be doing a great thing with some really good political punch to it. Corey, it does hit me, the questions to the president when he has been overseas, well, you said, you weren't going into Syria. You weren't going into Syria and now the Ukraine is a mess. This is a nice pitcher to say remember how I ended the wars over here and we don't need to push into armed combat every time something is wrong? Perhaps -- that kind of thing.

DADE: Let's remember, the American people are war fatigued, quite frankly. They are not -- polls are showing that they are not for an, aggressive interventionist type of foreign policy. I think what we are going to see at West Point is him pivot, winding down the wars, I upheld my promise. We are now going to pivot and here's my vision for the next two years going forward for the next foreign policy and I think we are going to hear something a little more nuanced that talks about intervention when necessary with the global partners that the U.S. has.

CROWLEY: I feel like there's been a struggle to define the Obama doctrine?

O'CONNELL: Well, what is the Obama doctrine? I mean, what is it with respect to China, Russia, Iran?

DADE: What could it have been winding down two wars? You can't get too far afield of those two wars, you have to get those -- wind up. You have to finish those wars before you start articulating a whole new vision.

O'CONNELL: Corey, the world is a dangerous place. At the end of the day, I don't think anybody wants America to be the world police, but we also know that if we don't get the foothold on the situation, someone else is going to and basically, that's what the president's up against. He made some rookie mistakes, he drew some red lines in some places and basically, not whether or not he is having a dete-a-tete with Putin. The problem is everyone else is paying attention. China knows what's going on. Iran knows what's going on. This is a very dangerous place.

CROWLEY: And one of the things we can say is pivot to Asia. They have been trying to do for two years and every time Syria happens and now Ukraine happens and we may find ourselves in a place later this year, maybe around election time, where China becomes the world's biggest economy.

LEE: And like you said, only so many footprints put into the entire world, because our troops are stressed, having battled for two wars in the last 12 years. But interesting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu just said the red line was the right thing and his approach to Syria has been the right approach and you are starting to see --

O'CONNELL: What about Iran?

LEE: And you are starting to see the reduction in the chemical weapons in Syria. So, he is saying that, you know, having the international community behind you and not the cowboy politics we have had of the past is actually sensible in the right approach to bring in --

O'CONNELL: I agree with you but the idea of peace through strength means perceived to be strong. Let's be honest, the president made errors on the international stage. Our economy is not going very strongly either. Talking about the pivot to China, Russia and China are pivoting together with the gas deal coming up and going to help them boost their economy. That is going to make China stronger and we are busy over here, not passing the Keystone XL pipeline, not looking into fracking, et cetera. We need to be strong, both domestically and on the international scene.

CROWLEY: Let me ask you all to stick with me, we have two breaking stories, as you know today. I'm going to take a quick break, but when we are back, we want to speak to a witness to the rampage in California.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: A couple stories keep you up-to-date on. The first is the president has gone to Afghanistan, Bagram Air Base, to be exact, he brought along with him Brad Paisley, the man you see singing right there who is entertaining the troops. We expect the president to address them at about 1:00 Eastern Time. We, of course, will be following that.

We also want to go to one of the eyewitnesses to what was essentially a massacre. Six people dead, 13 injured, when a killer went on a spree, basically quite close to UC Santa Barbara. I want to bring in Nick Pasichuke, he was run over by the killer. Nick suffered two broken legs and had to undergo surgery as a result. Nick, first, how are you?

NICK PASICHUKE, EYEWITNESS (via telephone): I'm doing all right, right now. I'm just trying to get better as fast as I can.

CROWLEY: Yes, we'd like to you do that. I imagine that just hearing your voice will be nice for your friends and family who have yet to talk to you. Tell me what happened.

PASICHUKE: Basically just had gotten food at Free Bird's and was long boarding down the street, while my friend in front of me was on his bike. And needless to say he and I were just talking and out of nowhere, get swooped up by a car and thrown about 50 yards, so far down the street is all a real blur and the next thing you know, I'm an at ground, can't move my legs. And, yes.

CROWLEY: Nick, first, do they expect a full recovery for you and second, were you aware of anything else going on other than the fact that you had been hit by a car?

PASICHUKE: No, I actually didn't know about any of the other victims in this event until 15 or 20 minutes after I was hit and laying on the ground and police and other medical personnel first arrived.

CROWLEY: So, you were conscious at this time when the medical personnel and the police arrived? How did you first find out that this was part of the much larger event?

PASICHUKE: Before medical personnel arrived, they informed me it would be a while before medical personnel would be there because they were attending to multiple gunshot victims.

CROWLEY: Wow. What goes through your head? You're a student there, I'm going to assume?

PASICHUKE: No, I'm actually student at the University of the Pacific in Stockton.

CROWLEY: OK. So you were visiting or is this home for you?

PASICHUKE: Yes, I was actually visiting some good friends that go to school down here.

CROWLEY: You know, Nick, we are used to thinking of college campuses, and certainly the towns that they are near or in, as places that are relatively safe. How often does something like this -- you never expect something like this, but does the matter of safety come up a lot when you are on a college campus living there?

PASICHUKE: Honestly, going to school in Stockton and being in such a reputably bad neighborhood, you don't expect stuff like this to happen to you. You just can't really comprehend that whole event and everything leading up to it occurring to you. It's just one of those things that happen, wrong place, wrong time. And just kind of got to move on I guess as well.

CROWLEY: Yes, we hope you do. Your family -- was your family surprised and have you spoken to them to let them know that you are reasonably well and recovering?

PASICHUKE: Yes, I have spoken to both my mom and my dad as well as my little sister. I actually have my mom here in the hospital with me. And you know, they were a little in shock at first, as I had one of my good friends who actually watched the incident call them and it's one of those things where in complete disbelief.

CROWLEY: Nick Pasichuke, best to you and your family. I hope you have a quick recovery.

PASICHUKE: Yes, thank you.

CROWLEY: Coming up next, on the president's trip to Afghanistan. That's Brad Paisley went there, too. He is giving a little concert to the troops. The president will speak. Expect him about 1:00 Eastern Time, after the concert.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: That's President Obama, he is getting off the plane. He is at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, the Memorial Day weekend trip to Afghanistan to give a speech to the troops. We expect that about 1:00 Eastern. That's not the president, of course, that's Brad Paisley. He's country star, a country music singer, and he is entertaining the troops. After him, we expect to hear from the president.

Right now, I want to go back to our reporters, Jim Sciutto and Nick Paton Walsh, both of them are in Ukraine. Barbara Starr is at the Pentagon. I want to begin with Michelle Kosinski at the White House. Michelle, the purpose of this trip, as you see it?

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The way it was presented by Ben Rhodes with the National Security Council was that the primary goal was to thank troops for being there. This comes at a time where the drawdown is continuing. There about 32,000 American troops still in Afghanistan. Bagram is the biggest base there.

And the way he put it was that the president wanted to go there in person and express his gratitude to them. We know that he'll be giving a giving a speech in just a few minutes now if they are running on schedule, go to a hospital to meet with wounded troops and also award some medals. This comes at a time of some controversy, we know in our country, how we have been taking care of our troops.

And we have heard from the president twice when he gave his weekly address, saying that it's our sacred duty to protect troops once they come home, that we need to work harder as a nation to take care of them and also spoke in the briefing room last week.

It was Wednesday, at the heart of this controversy over the Veterans Administration and how we are taking care of troops in our VA hospitals here. He gave a speech saying that that was his top priority. So we are waiting to hear from him now -- Candy.

CROWLEY: That's our Michelle Kosinski. We also have Jim Sciutto, Barbara Starr, a variety of reporters who are going to help us out again. We are awaiting the president's remarks. He is at Bagram Air Base, taking a little Memorial Day weekend trip there and bringing along with him a country western star of some fame, I will say something, obviously, that the troops are going to enjoy.