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More Towns Fall to Militant Onslaught; Militants Create Sunni Divide; Iraqis Rally in Baghdad; Hillary Clinton Out of Touch?; USA to Face Germany in World Cup

Aired June 23, 2014 - 17:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: John, thanks very much.

Happening now, show of force -- thousands of Shiite militiamen parade through Baghdad. They're vowing to fight the Sunni led ISIS forces, who are closing in on the capital.

Is Iraq on the verge of a sectarian civil war right now?

Surprise visit -- the secretary of State, John Kerry, makes an unannounced trip to Baghdad, pledging support for the embattled prime minister, with conditions.

Is the U.S. seriously considering air strikes?

And comment controversy -- Hillary Clinton throwing some fuel on the fire with new remarks about her financial status.

Is she out of touch with middle class Americans?

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Fear and tension are both growing by the hour in Iraq right now, with ISIS militants seizing city after city, town after town. The Sunni fighters now have a direct line to the western outskirts of Baghdad, where Shiite forces say they're prepared to fight to the death in a sectarian battle for control of the country.

And in the middle of it all, a surprise appearance today in Baghdad by America's top diplomat. We're covering all angles of the crisis with our analysts and our correspondents inside Iraq, as well as here in Washington.

Our senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson, is in Baghdad.

He begins our coverage this hour -- Nic, what is the latest?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, John Kerry has just left the city here. He got agreements from the leading politicians here to stay committed to a time line for forming a new government. That is actually quite a protracted process. And in the meantime, ISIS fighters continue to make substantial gains in the country, all the way up to the border with Jordan, close to the border with Saudi Arabia, sweeping in now from the border from Syria, as well.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTSON (voice-over): ISIS forces continue sweeping Iraq and closing in on Baghdad, with substantial new gains in the north and west of the country, taking control of more towns and an Iraqi air base in Tal Afar.

ISIS now controls at least 70 percent of Al Anbar Province, where U.S. troops waged a deadly battle against insurgents just a few years ago.

But Iraq's army is unable, and in some cases, unwilling, to stop the ISIS advance.

A senior U.S. defense official tells CNN the U.S. believes multiple Iraqi divisions outside of Baghdad have dissolved and are plagued by problems in morale, leadership, training and equipment.

With the crisis worsening daily, Secretary of State John Kerry made an unannounced trip to Baghdad, where he met with Iraqi leaders, including embattles prime minister, Nouri Al-Maliki. Kerry said Al- Maliki has agreed to a July 1st deadline to begin forming a new government, a requirement for U.S. support in fighting ISIS militants.

JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: The support will be intense, sustained. And if Iraq's leaders take the necessary steps to bring the country together, it will be effective.

ROBERTSON: And with ISIS forces moving closer to Baghdad each day, Kerry said U.S. strikes could come at any time.

KERRY: Make no mistake, the president has moved the assets into place and has been gaining each day the assurances he needs with respect to potential targeting. And he has reserved the right to himself, as he should, to make a decision at any point in time, if he deems it necessarily strategically.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

ROBERTSON: And another key step in that process now falling into place, as well, immunity from prosecution for the military advisers who will come here to assess the strength of Iran's military, where it's weaknesses are, what equipment they need.

We understand that this time it will be, initially at least, six 12- men teams -- Wolf.

BLITZER: This is sort of a rhetorical question, but I'll ask it to you, Nic.

What does it say that 11 years after U.S. forces went into Iraq, removed Saddam Hussein from power, the secretary of State of the United States still can't visit the capital of Baghdad publicly, make an announcement that he's coming?

It all has to be done very mysteriously, secretively, because of the security dangers.

What does that say about all that has happened over the past 11 years?

ROBERTSON: Arguably, Wolf, that this is the worst situation that he could be coming in, because those ISIS fighters are very close to the international airport where he flew into, and therefore, there's a, you know, the threat to him was ever more real than it was in those 11 years.

It is a stark statement that after leaving Iraq, that it hasn't been able to, with all the help, particularly the help given to the military here, that it isn't able to secure -- to provide a secure place where a visiting secretary of State can come in with a higher degree of security than he has at this time.

I mean what we're seeing in Iraq at the moment is perhaps the worst -- some of the worst fears of diplomats being realized, the fact that the country is dividing into three parts. Very hard to put it back together, a terrorist force digging into the countryside where once U.S. troops had managed to quash and push out al Qaeda.

It is, if you will, a terrible statement of just how far back, even, Iraq has come in that time -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, all that effort, all that blood and treasure and people are asking, understandably so, what for?

Nic Robertson in Baghdad, thanks very much.

Be careful over there.

While ISIS made up almost completely of Sunni fighters, many Sunnis, of course, do not support the militants, although they share their hatred of Shiite prime minister, Nouri Al-Maliki.

Our senior international correspondent, Arwa Damon, has more on this part of the story.

She's joining us from Irbil right now.

That's in Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region -- Arwa, you talked to Sunni leaders.

What are they telling you?

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this force that is making its way toward the capital of Baghdad is a very complex tapestry of different insurgent groups. On the one extreme, you have ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. It s end goal toll create an Islamic caliphate. But all of these groups are united under the umbrella, a determination to make sure that Nouri Al-Maliki is removed from power and that Shia domination is brought to an end.

But these various tribal leaders have been readying themselves for this battle for quite some time.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAMON (voice-over): Around a year ago, we traveled to Iraq's Sunni heartland of Al Anbar Province. The highway into the city of Ramadi transformed into a demonstration ground against Shia prime minister, Nouri Al-Maliki. The tribes were getting ready for battle should Iraqi forces try to enter.

SHEIK ALI HATEM SULEIMAN, SUNNI TRIBAL LEADER: (through translator): We've been ready for a long time. We're certain that Al-Maliki is a liar. The political process is just a game. Our weapons are everywhere -- light medium and on up.

DAMON: But Sheik Ali Hatem had also vowed that the tribes would not again be a nurturing ground for terrorism. His tribe was among those eventually allied with the U.S., turning against al Qaeda, in some of the darkest days of the American occupation.

So what happened?

SULEIMAN: ISIS is trying to ride the wave of the Sunni revolution. It's trying to exploit it. And we won't accept this.

DAMON: But to a certain degree they have, for now.

SULEIMAN: (through translator): It's not in our interests to fight a variety of groups. We don't have the capability to fight everyone. The problem is with Maliki.

ISIS is killing and ISIS has an agenda. But all the Shia militias right now are wearing an official Iraqi uniform and are killing Iraqis. Everyone is focused on ISIS. The tribes will not ally with ISIS.

DAMON: The problem is, Sunni insurgent groups and the tribes are not all united, but Iraq's Sunni population does have genuine grievances.

SULEIMAN: (through translator): America needs to not look at Iraq through a single lens. There is a real revolution, real revolution. Maliki is polishing his image. America needs to listen to us. We don't have an issue with anyone, we just want our rights. We have a right to live here.

DAMON: And Sheik Ali Hatem warns America needs to remember something very important from its devastating era in Iraq.

SULEIMAN: (through translator): ISIS

Is going to open a door in Iraq that can't be closed. We are aware of this. You can't stop ISIS without the tribes. America shouldn't think that the Maliki government can stop ISIS.

Maliki is the real danger to us. We can get rid of ISIS whenever we want. And rest assured, we will fight them. DAMON: That might prove tougher than he boasts. Already in many areas like Mosul, ISIS is clearly the one in control and calling the shots, having already opened the door to this new bloody face of the country's history.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

DAMON: And while secretary of State, John Kerry, following his meeting with Nouri Al-Maliki, was speaking about the need for an inclusive government at this stage, it increasingly seems, Wolf, as if Maliki is not the man who can do the job.

Also today, speaking to CNN's Christiane Amanpour was the president of Iraqi Kurdistan, Massoud Barzani, who made it very clear that he believed Maliki needs to go.

IKEBE: It seems almost everyone seems to think Nouri Al-Maliki must go in Iraq.

All right, thanks very much, Arwa, for that.

Up next, the growing threat of sectarian civil war in Iraq -- thousands of Shiite militiamen, they are marching through the capital of Baghdad, vowing to fight Sunni forces to the death, some wearing suicide vests.

And Hillary Clinton sparking new controversy with her remark that critics say shows that she's out of touch with average Americans. Details of her comment, the fallout, that's coming up, as well.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Shocking images from Baghdad. A massive show of force as an estimated 20,000 Shiite militiamen march through the streets of the capital bearing weapons, including what looked like suicide vests. Their message? They'll fight to the death to keep the mostly Sunni forces of ISIS from taking Baghdad.

Mike Giglio is the Middle East correspondent for Buzzfeed. He saw all of this unfold. He's joining us on the phone right now from Baghdad.

So, tell us what it was like, Mike. You were there. You saw this demonstration. Give us a little feeling for what was going on.

MIKE GIGLIO, MIDDLE EAST CORRESPONDENT, BUZZFEED: Thanks, Wolf.

Yes, it was really an amazing show of force. I was shocked by how many people were there. The AP estimated 20,000. It could have been much more than that. And almost all of them armed. Some very heavily. I mean, you saw everything from missiles (ph) and AK-47s to RPGs and RAD rockets in the back of pickup trucks. And it was really a pretty impressive show of force, I think with a very loud message.

BLITZER: What does it say -- what does it say, Mike, about the situation in Iraq right now that a demonstration like this, these Shiite militiamen are marching through the streets of the capital of Baghdad?

GIGLIO: It says that the Iraqi army really doesn't have control. And that the local population really doesn't have any faith in the Iraqi army's ability to defend them. So people are taking it upon themselves to take up arms and to send a message themselves to the militants in the north, saying, "We can defend ourselves if the government won't."

BLITZER: There was one really poignant picture, very dramatic, of some of these marchers -- we're showing it right now -- wearing what looked like suicide vests. Obviously, they were sending a message wearing these suicide vests. Were they real suicide vests or just sort of artificial?

GIGLIO: I don't think they were rigged up to blow. And I'm not sure whether those were actual explosives or not. I mean, they breezed by pretty quickly. But I am pretty sure that was a suicide battalion, and those people were marching in formation to send a message that, you know, "When it comes time for this, we're ready to die for the cause here."

BLITZER: ISIS is really driving regular Iraqi army troops, security personnel into desertion. They're just running away from these guys. Explain. You've been there for a while. Explain what's going on. Why is the Iraqi military simply crumbling?

GIGLIO: You know, I think it's more deep-seated than we've really realized at this point. I spoke to an army captain who's from Fallujah. And ISIS took Fallujah in January. And he told me the first thing that ISIS did when they took the town was to go door by door and threaten the families of anyone in Fallujah who was a member of the armed services or the police force.

And this captain had taken his family out of the city. But he was hiding here in Baghdad. And he thought that ISIS knew where he was even here. He told me that he thought they had databases of everybody in the security forces and the armed forces in the country. That they knew their movements, knew their ranks, knew their salaries and knew their families.

And I ran that by some analysts and some politicians here. And they said that's their understanding of ISIS capability, as well. They have infiltrated the state to that extent. And I think when that's going on, and these people really have fear in their hearts, they know that it's not just going to be a battle on the battlefield. That their families are in danger, as well. And I think that they're really terrified.

BLITZER: Mike Giglio is the Middle East correspondent for Buzzfeed. Be careful over there. It's a rather dangerous situation, as we all know. Thanks very much for joining us.

GIGLIO: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Let's get some more. Retired U.S. Army Colonel Derek Harvey is joining us. He's a former intelligence advisor to General David Petraeus in Iraq.

Colonel, thanks very much for coming in.

COL. DEREK HARVEY (RET.), U.S. ARMY: Good to be mere.

BLITZER: Did the U.S. government, the Iraqi government underestimate ISIS?

HARVEY: I believe that they did underestimate ISIS and the nature and character of the leadership and the vision of the ISIS campaign that started about 18 months ago with shaping operations to undermine the security forces as outlined in the preamble.

BLITZER: It looks like extremists among the Sunnis, ISIS; extremists among the Shiites, these militiamen, were marching through Baghdad, seem to be taking charge right now what we would call more reasonable moderate, middle types; they seem to be scared. They're not really participating any more. Is it too early to write them off? This is going to be a clash between Shiite militiamen who are extreme, really loyal to Iran, for that matter, versus the Sunni militants who are ISIS terrorists.

HARVEY: Well, it looks like the extremes are dominating. ISIS is clearly the vanguard of the Sunni Arab resistance. But it is much broader and deeper than that. It's got multiple insurgent groups like Issad al-Duri's (ph) organization, called the Nachabadi (ph) Army, the Iraqi Islamic Army and other groups. Plus many of the former Sons of Iraq or the awakening members have joined in the fight.

BLITZER: You spent five years in Iraq, serving there with General Petraeus among others. Here's what the Kurdish, regional Kurdish president, Massoud Barzani, told our Christiane Amanpour today: "We cannot remain hostages for the unknown. The time is here for the Kurdistan people to determine their future and the decision of the people is what we are going to uphold."

Here's the question: are we on the verge of seeing a partition of Iraq into a Kurdish autonomous area, a Sunni area and a Shia area?

HARVEY: I think we're on the verge of that unless some strong measures are taken not only by the United States but the international community to shape a change in government towards a unity government and try to put this back together again. But part of this has to be reaching out to the Sunni Arab community and driving a wedge between moderate Sunni Arabs and ISIS.

BLITZER: You say ISIS really -- the heart of ISIS isn't in the Iraq, but it's in Syria right now. And if the U.S. were to start launching air strikes against ISIS targets in Iraq, it had be a waste unless the U.S. did the same thing in Syria.

HARVEY: The best outcome would be for us to link Syria and Iraq into one campaign plan. The Iranians link it together. They see it as one battlefront, and we should, too. The heart, the brain and the resource base for ISIS is in Syria, northeastern Syria. BLITZER: I suspect the American public has no great appetite to get

involved militarily like that. A huge campaign in Syria and in Iraq. But we'll see. Colonel, thanks very much for coming in.

HARVEY: Glad to be here.

BLITZER: Thanks for your service.

When we come back, Hillary Clinton igniting controversy over her wealth for the second time in two weeks. Is she out of touch with middle-class Americans, as her critics are suggesting, and will Republicans, possibly even some Democrats, pounce?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: New questions right now over whether Hillary Clinton is out of touch with middle-class Americans after more comments about her financial status that are reigniting a controversy she started just a couple of weeks ago.

Let's bring in our senior political correspondent, Brianna Keilar. She's got the latest details. What's going on this time?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this was a print interview, where the author discussing income inequality and how it's going be a central part of the 2016 election, asked how Clinton could be credible on this issue, seeing as she has such huge personal wealth, and here's what she said.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Hi, everybody.

KEILAR (voice-over): In an interview with Britain's "The Guardian" newspaper, Hillary Clinton says people, quote, "don't see me as part of the problem, because we pay ordinary income tax, unlike a lot of people who are truly well off, not to name names. And we've done it through dint of hard work." Her comment comes on the heels of a similar faux pas.

CLINTON: We came out of the White House not only dead broke but in debt. We had no money when we got there, and we struggled to, you know, piece together the resources for mortgages for houses, for Chelsea's education.

KEILAR: Mortgages, plural. The Clintons, though several million dollars in debt when they left the White House, have since raked in more than $100 million writing books and giving paid speeches. She reportedly earns $200,000 per speaking engagement.

Clinton quickly backtracked.

CLINTON: Let me just clarify that I fully appreciate how hard life is for so many Americans today. It's an issue that I've worked on and cared about my entire adult life. Bill and I were obviously blessed. KEILAR: And so too are Clinton's possible 2016 opponents, Vice

President Joe Biden sounding a little more down-to-earth at a White House event on working families.

BIDEN: Don't hold it against me that I don't own -- that I don't own a single stock or bond. Don't hold it; I have no savings account.

KEILAR: Biden does actually have a savings account, and his wife holds stocks, though he was one of the least wealthy members of Congress.

Elizabeth Warren, a darling of liberal Democrats, seemed floored by Clinton's comments. "Washington Post" columnist Ruth Marcus recently interviewed her. "When I asked what Warren made of Clinton's book tour comment about being dead broke on leaving the White House, Warren paused for a full 19 seconds," Marcus writes. "'I was surprised,' she finally said."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Martin O'Malley.

KEILAR: And Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley in Iowa this past weekend sees an opening to position himself as a populist.

GOV. MARTIN O'MALLEY (D) MARYLAND: A stronger middle class is the cause of all economic growth.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR: Now, this book tour that Clinton is on right now is seen as a messaging test drive for a potential presidential run, and these comments show that she is stumbling on that as she reenters the political realm, Wolf.

BLITZER: Stumbling a bit. All right. Thanks very much, Brianna, for that. Let's dig a little bit deeper on this and more. Joining us, our senior legal correspondent, Jeffrey Toobin. He has a brand-new article on Ted Cruz in the new issue of "The New Yorker" magazine. Plus our CNN political commentators, the Republican strategist Ana Navarro and Democratic strategist Donna Brazile.

Ana, let me get your reaction first. Democrats trying to downplay their wealth. What do you make of this?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: This is a discussion that no strategist wants to be having. If you don't believe me, go ask the Mitt Romney strategists. It is a losing argument.

And you know, Wolf, when she first started doing these things, I thought, well, she's rusty. At this point, I'm thinking, no, she's not rusty. She's got foot-in-mouth disease. Because she's now the taking several shots at trying to explain this issue, and she keeps digging the hole deeper.

It's fascinating me that her husband, who lives in the same rarified air, who's made as much money -- they're joint assets, and yet he has the ability, the gift, the political gift of making you feel like he feels your pain. Hillary Clinton just seems to not be able to get it right.

BLITZER: All right, Donna, I want you to react but I want to quote what you told "The Washington Post." And I'll put it up on the screen. "I hope Hillary never apologizes for trying to earn a living. She's no different than Colin Powell, no different than Jeb Bush, no different than anybody else who's left public office and looked for ways to make an income. What is wrong -- what is wrong with a woman having the same earning potential as any man?"

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right.

BLITZER: But you're suggesting there's a double standard for her, even though John McCain has been criticized for not knowing how many houses he had and Mitt Romney was criticized for having an elevator garage, all that kind of stuff.

So what's the point you're trying to make?

BRAZILE: Well, I think initially, when these stories started coming out, people were saying, oh, my God, she makes that much money?

Wolf, there are a lot of people who leave public office or public service and they go out and try to make an income. They go to big law firms or they go on corporate boards. In Hillary's case, she's out there, you know, giving lectures, giving speeches. And there's nothing wrong with that.

When you talk to Hillary Clinton, she talks about fighting for the middle class, helping the working poor. The last thing you can sit around a table and talk to Hillary Clinton about is how much money you're earning, because that's not on her mind.

BLITZER: But -- but you have --

BRAZILE: -- what she's (INAUDIBLE) --

BLITZER: -- but you're a talented political strategist.

BRAZILE: Yes.

BLITZER: You -- looking back, she shouldn't have spoken that she and Bill Clinton were dead broke and shouldn't have made that comment about the truly well off as opposed to her just now.

BRAZILE: Well, yes --

BLITZER: Those are sort of like -- she'd like to take those comments back.

BRAZILE: You know what, is she all polished and ready to run for president?

No. She's on a book tour, having a conversation with the American people. Look, we know that many of these politicians are not in the poor house, so to speak. But we also know that people like Hillary Clinton, she spent her entire life fighting for the middle class. If you look at the latest CNN poll, 60 percent of the American people believe that that is what she stands for.

BLITZER: All right, I want to bring Jeffrey and Ana back into this.

But quickly, Joe Biden, when he was saying those things today about he doesn't have a bank account, he doesn't have any money, he's just a struggling kind of guy, it sounded to me and so many other people, he was really taking a little dig at Hillary Clinton.

Do you think he's going to challenge her?

If she runs, will he run for the Democratic nomination?

BRAZILE: Well, you know, I am quoted as being a Hillary Clinton supporter. Well, I'm also a Joe Biden supporter. If Joe Biden decides he wants to run, go right ahead. The Democratic bench is really, really large and I hope Joe Biden -- but he has been in public office most of his adult life. And I can attest to the fact, because I've had dinner with him, that he is not a rich man.

BLITZER: He's obviously not a rich man.

(CROSSTALK)

NAVARRO: If you noticed --

(CROSSTALK)

NAVARRO: This is not the first time --

(CROSSTALK)

NAVARRO: -- this is not the first time Joe Biden does that. You'll remember a few months ago, Hillary was speaking at a public speech and she made a crack about how she hadn't driven a car since 1996.

BRAZILE: She lives in New York, Ana.

NAVARRO: And the next day --

BRAZILE: Because she lives in New York.

NAVARRO: -- Joe Biden came out and said how much he loved driving around in his, you know, in a Corvette, I think it was.

So I think, you know, Joe Biden is, pardon the pun, trying to be the average Joe and realizing that Hillary Clinton has a vulnerability.

(CROSSTALK)

NAVARRO: -- ability.

BLITZER: A lot of us remember that video at the White House Correspondents Association Dinner, when he was driving around in a car. Maybe he was trying to make a little dig at Hillary Clinton in that video, as well -- all right, Jeffrey, you've got a great article in the new issue of "The New Yorker" magazine on Senator Ted Cruz, who would like, I assume, to be the Republican presidential nomination.

You spent a lot of time with him.

Give us your assessment of this guy.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think what a lot of people don't realize is what an accomplished lawyer he was before he will became a senator. He's only 43 years old, but he already had argued nine cases in the United States Supreme Court, including some very significant ones. And I think what I drew from spending time with Cruz was that, you know, he has the mentality of an appellate lawyer. He's always making an argument. He is not someone who is interested in compromising and making a deal and settling the case. He just wants to make the case to the American people.

And that's why, at least, in part, his views are not middle of the road. You know, he is not like Rand Paul, who has sort of libertarian views on some issues, he's not like Marco Rubio, who has middle of the road views on immigration. He is running to be the most conservative candidate in the 2016 race. And I think, at least for the nomination, that's probably a pretty good place to be.

BLITZER: And when you say he's very intelligent, you spoke to Alan Dershowitz, the Harvard Law professor. He's been a professor at Harvard Law School for almost 50 years or so. He says Ted Cruz is, what, one of the smartest he's ever taught?

TOOBIN: Absolutely. And Alan Dershowitz does not have Cruz's politics. And that -- one of the things that, you know, this kid was a -- he was, as a kid, he was a superstar. You know, he grew up in Houston. His father was a Cuban emigre, very politically conservative. And he took classes, as a teenager, in the Constitution with a very conservative teacher.

And, you know, his views have not changed at all since he was a teenager. You know, he comes from a very conservative community. He is someone who is a true believer, who's a 100 percenter, who's extremely articulate, very popular in Texas, certainly. And I think he certainly is -- has found himself in a place that's very good for the Republican nomination. It's very problematic in the general election.

BLITZER: Let me get a quick thought from you, Ana. And I'll put on the screen a line that be Jeffrey wrote in his "New Yorker" article referring to Ted Cruz. "The only Republicans he wants to challenge are those who want to cooperate or compromise with Democrats."

What's your assessment?

Does he realistically have a chance of being the Republican presidential nominee?

NAVARRO: Frankly, Wolf, I think it will be very difficult for him, because I think there will be other people who fill that name niche, maybe Ben Carson, maybe Rick Santorum, also very much to the right of the Republican Party. And it will dilute the vote. He also -- he and Rand Paul also compete for a certain part of the vote.

I agree with a lot of what Jeff has said. I do wish that Ted Cruz didn't want so much -- that the niche he's carved out for himself hadn't been to be the skunk of the Republican Party, and that he would spend more time going after Democrats and less time going after his own Republican colleagues.

BLITZER: And very quickly, Donna, would you be happy if Ted Cruz were the Republican nominee?

BRAZILE: Oh, yes. He's a show horse, he's not a workhorse. So let him run.

BLITZER: All right. That was very good.

BRAZILE: He's a show horse.

BLITZER: Donna, Ana, Jeffrey, guys, thanks very much.

When we come back, President Obama shares some intimate moments of being a father in an interview with our own Kate Bolduan. What he tells her about raising two daughters.

That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Another critical issue on President Obama's agenda, working families. The president and the first lady, Michelle Obama, hosting a Working Family Summit right here in Washington today, amid a new White House evident to try to get Congress focused on the issue, as well.

CNN "NEW DAY" co-anchor, Kate Bolduan, sat down with President Obama to talk more about exactly what he's planning to do.

Kate is joining us now.

I know that he got personal on a lot of this, but tell us what his objectives are -- Kate.

KATE BOLDUAN, HOST: Well, with, you lay it out really well, because first I asked him, with everything on his plate right now, especially on the international front, how does he think he can get the country and the Congress to focus on these issues of workplace flexibility for families?

He says this is something that families are already talking about around their kitchen table, Washington just needs to listen. He wants to see the private sector step up and do more to help families. But he also says he wants to see the federal government do more, as well.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BOLDUAN: You know this, but you talk to 10 different people, you're going to get 10 different challenges that they face in trying to succeed at the work and life balance, to succeed at both.

What are the three things that you would like to see companies, employers, businesses do to make it work, because you know those priorities don't always align?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes. There are some things that we know will make a difference in people's lives. Paid family leave -- we're the only advanced country on Earth that doesn't have it. It doesn't make any sense. You know, this is not just a women's issue.

One of the most precious memories that I'll ever have is when my first daughter, Malia, was born, I was lucky enough that my schedule allowed me to take that first month off. And, you know, staying up at 2:00 in the morning and feeding her and burping her, you know, creates a bond that is irreplaceable.

And a lot of companies are already doing it and it's working. And Michelle and I have talked about this. You know, when we knew that employers had our backs and were the willing to give us the flexibility to look after family, that made us want to work harder for that employer, even if it meant taking work home with us.

So we have unpaid family leave right now, but for a whole lot of families, it means they can't use it, because they just can't afford it.

Number two, workplace flexibility. If I've got a parent teacher conference, you know, we always say that we want parents involved in our kids' education. There are millions of families out there who can't even imagine taking time off to go to a parent/teacher conference.

And then the third thing is the issue of child care. You know, we don't do a very good job providing high quality, affordable child care. And there are a lot of countries -- a lot of our competitors do it. That means that it's a lot easier for women to be in the workforce and not have to make choices that ultimately mean they're, in some cases, getting paid less or having less opportunities.

I should add on that list equal pay for equal work. We've done some things administratively on that front. I always say that shouldn't be a woman's issue, because I always wanted Michelle to make sure that she was getting paid fairly, because when she brought her paycheck home, that went into the overall pot to help us pay our bills.

BOLDUAN: You know, Republicans, they will be critical of some of the initiatives you try to --

OBAMA: I think I -- I think that's fair to say.

BOLDUAN: They are.

(LAUGHTER)

BOLDUAN: But it is no secret -- OBAMA: Shocking.

BOLDUAN: -- that -- it's no secret the Democrats' midterm election strategy is to pitch to women, to get the women to come out to vote. They've said that.

OBAMA: Yes --

BOLDUAN: Is this all politics?

OBAMA: I was raised by a single mom who had to work, go to school and raise two kids and didn't come from a wealthy family. We were helped by my grandparents. And the primary breadwinner there was my grandma, who never got a college education, but worked her way up from a secretary to being a vice president of the bank, but also hit a glass ceiling.

I got a strong, successful wife, who I remember being reduced to tears sometimes because she couldn't figure out how to juggle everything that she was doing. And I got two daughters that I care about more than anything in the world. And so this is personal for me and I think it is personal for a lot of people.

This is not just a women's issue. This is a middle class issue and an American issue. I'd welcome a -- a bipartisan effort with ideas coming from the private sector, and from Republicans and from Democrats and, you know, from nonprofits and faith community, about how we make sure that we're supporting families and reducing their stress. And that's what this Monday's summit is all about.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: So, Kate, what are the chances that the president will find that kind of bipartisan support in Congress for any major change on this important issue?

BOLDUAN: You've got a couple of things, Wolf. You know everyone has a family, everyone wants their family to be able to balance their life and work. But you also know the environment on Capitol Hill. I mean, there have been some proposals floating around, some support for paid family leave. Three states alone have been taking it on themselves to see if it will work. Some support for a tax break for child care. Some push for tax breaks for home offices.

But it comes down to an ideological divide at the end of the day. The question is, how much should the federal government be intervening in these matters and how much should the private sector, should businesses have, how much say should businesses have in what flexibility works for their employees and their business. That of course, you know, is where D's and R's, that's where they are very different. That's where they divide.

But the politics, no matter what happens, even if nothing happens, the politics do not hurt here. One show of that is just how much star power they brought out for this event. The president, the first lady, the vice president and Jill Biden all coming out to show their support for this event. You know that Democrats are making this a big part of their midterm strategy. So this can't hurt them.

BLITZER: Can't hurt indeed. Good politics to be sure. Important issue also to be sure.

BOLDUAN: Yes.

BLITZER: All right, Kate, thanks very much. Good work.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: And you can always catch much more of Kate along with Chris Cuomo, Michaela Pereira, tomorrow, every weekday morning on "NEW DAY", begins at 6:00 a.m. Eastern. 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. every morning right here on CNN.

Coming up at the top of the hour, the Secretary of State John Kerry's surprise visit to Iraq as the dangerous crisis there deepens. We're live in the region with the very latest.

Plus, we're also live at the World Cup in Brazil where the U.S. is gearing up for another nail-biting showdown after a rather devastating finish.

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BLITZER: And this news just coming into the SITUATION ROOM. We're getting reports of an 8.0 magnitude earthquake in Alaska. It occurred beneath the Aleutian Islands chain, said to be 71 miles deep. Tsunami warning has been issued.

We're going to bring you more information as we get it. But once again a tsunami warning up in Alaska. We'll watch what's going on.

Other news, only seconds away from a guaranteed advance to the next round, Team USA lets up a goal in the extra time against Portugal for a devastating draw that crushed millions of Americans swept up in World Cup fever.

One of those Americans, the "NEW DAY" co-anchor Chris Cuomo is joining us now from Brazil with more.

So it now goes to Thursday. The USA and Germany. If there's a tie in that game, both teams move forward. And you know there are a lot of conspiratorial theories out there that both of these teams might be aiming exactly for that. I doubt it. I think both teams want to win. But what's the mood down there, Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR, "NEW DAY": The mood right now is incredibly jubilant. Rio is such an exciting and electric city, let alone when it is host to the World Cup here in Brazil, Wolf, which calls itself (speaking in foreign language), right, they call themselves the country of football so the place is just on fire. And there are a lot of Americans here.

Now there's a conspiracy talk. There is a basis for it in World Cup history. 1982, German, Austria, there was a feeling that Germany stopped playing after scoring a goal, didn't need to, a little bit of allegation more than any real proof of it. And that carries forward to today.

Why? Because the U.S. coach, Klinsmann, was not only a coach of huge reputation in Germany. He coached the German side. He was also a legendary player there. And he raised and mentored the current coach. So there's a feeling well both of you only need a tie, maybe you take it easy so you both move on.

There is every reason to believe, including the latest statements from both coaches, that that is a lot of rubbish. It's not going to happen. The point of the World Cup is to come and compete, and the U.S. team is expecting to go out and play its hardest. And they're hoping for a win, Wolf.

BLITZER: I'm sure they are. I don't buy that conspiracy at all.

You know, they scored that tying goal in the 95th minute, it was very hot. They actually had to stop and take a water break. Was fatigue, water, you think that might have been a problem for USA?

CUOMO: They say no. They're incredibly well conditioned. They're a young team. It was hot. I think the heat index was well over 90 degrees when the match started in the evening here. And you know, that was certainly a factor. The refs have a certain temperature where they have to call the time-out, so they called it. But it didn't look to those who understand the game that the U.S. was laboring from a fitness perspective. They get a few days before their next match.

Really they just got caught out of position, you know, but that's part of the nature of this sport, Wolf, because things can happen at any moment, you know. So I do know this, taking the draw wasn't the worst thing for the U.S. There are more permutations that have them moving forward than that. And the team learned a valuable lesson. You've got to play to the last minute when you're playing against the best. And we've heard it from the players, Wolf. I think their head is in the right place for Thursday.

BLITZER: Let's hope. Chris, thanks very much.

Chris Cuomo on the scene in Rio for us.

Coming up, Iraq under attack, the militant onslaught gains more ground with fighters moving closer by the day to Baghdad.

Plus, Iran's hand in the fighting. We're learning more about the mysterious daring commander fighting ISIS. Does he have American blood on his hands?

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