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Obama, Raul Castro Hold Historic Meeting; Obama: Clinton Would Be An "Excellent President"; Saudi Arabia: More than 500 Houthi Rebels Killed. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired April 12, 2015 - 07:30   ET




[07:30:50] VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Bottom of the hour now. Welcome back.

President Obama is back in the U.S. after his historic trip to Panama. Historic, because, yesterday, he sat down for talks with his Cuban counterpart Raul Castro, ending a decades-long standstill in U.S./Cuban relations. Well, key stumbling blocks persists between the two nations. But President Obama says neither side has benefitted from a half century of strained relations. And he adds, quote, "It was time for us to try something new."

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Now, the president talked about more than just U.S./Cuban relations. He also took a jab at Republican Senator John McCain for calling Secretary of State John Kerry, quote, "delusional". That was earlier this week when they were discussing the Iran nuclear deal.

CNN national correspondent Sunlen Serfaty is live at the White House with the details on this one.

Good morning, Sunlen.


Well, this bickering between President Obama and Senator McCain stems from these two competing, differing interpretations of what's actually in the deal. The U.S. officials are selling it one way. The ayatollah in Iran is selling it in a completely different way.

So, Senator McCain has been picking up on these differences over the fundamental and key differences over this deal. In a radio interview, he brought Secretary of State John Kerry's honesty into question. He called Kerry delusional for trying to sell what he says is a bill of goods about this deal saying he believes it's the ayatollah, the supreme leader in Iran, who is probably right about the details here.

Now, clearly, this touched a nerve with President Obama. He brought up Senator McCain's comments in Panama without being asked.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When I hear some, like Senator McCain recently, suggest that our Secretary of State John Kerry, who served in the United States Senate, a Vietnam veteran, who has provided exemplary service to this nation, is somehow less trustworthy in the interpretation of what's in a political agreement than the supreme leader of Iran, that's an indication of the degree to which partisanship has crossed all boundaries.


SERFATY: And Senator McCain responded quickly to President Obama last night. He says that these are widely divergent views on what's in the deal and they need to be reconciled and then took to Twitter. And he had a snarky tweet here. Here it is. He says, "So President Obama goes to Panama, meets with Castro and attacks me. I'm sure Raul is pleased."

Now, all this back and forth sets up what likely will be a testy week ahead on Capitol Hill. Congress returns tomorrow -- Christie.

PAUL: All right. Sunlen, thank you so much.

BLACKWELL: Well, Hillary Clinton may be planning to officially jump in the presidential race later today. She already has a key supporter, President Obama. Watch.


OBAMA: With respect to Hillary Clinton, I'll make my comments very brief. She was a formidable candidate in 2008. She was a great supporter of mine in the general election. She was an outstanding secretary of state. She is my friend. I think she would be an excellent president.


BLACKWELL: All right. CNN political director David Chalian joins us now.

David, so many things to talk about here, because the president is not saying this about Joe Biden. But how close does Secretary Clinton want to be to President Obama?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, she has got to strike a balance, right? I mean, clearly, the country wants some change from the Obama administration. That's a natural thing after eight years.

His approval ratings are still sort of upside down. I think our most recently poll showed 6 in 10 Americans said they really want to support a candidate that represents a clear break from the policies of the Obama administration. Hillary Clinton is keenly aware of that, yet, she cannot dance so far away from him that she alienates his base of support, which is going to be critical to her success.

There is much more risk for her in separating out than there is in making sure to embrace him, embrace his overall vision but then being able to find clear moments where she can carve her own path.

[07:35:10]And I will just say, Victor, you are right about the fact that the president is not saying similar words, a phrase for Vice President Biden, not that he doesn't like his vice president, he does, but he was asked specifically at that press conference in Panama yesterday about Vice President Biden and he didn't deal with that at all. Whereas you saw, he basically came this short of giving Hillary Clinton a formal endorsement.

BLACKWELL: Yes, it's interesting that we are having this conversation about how close should she be to President Obama. Julian Zelizer has a piece on, an op-ed, in which he compares Hillary Clinton to Al Gore. Many people thought in 2010 he ran too far away from President Clinton.

But I want to read one sentence that gets to another point in which Zelizer writes, "Gore had trouble connecting with voters. He seemed to remake his image constantly." He's concerned that could be a problem for Hillary Clinton.

You know, she is remaking herself as a grandmother. After her win in New Hampshire, she said that by listening to voters, she found her own voice. She was 60 years old at the time.

Will they buy another reinvention of Hillary Clinton?

CHALIAN: No voter is going to buy sort of a clean slate. Every voter is going to come to Hillary Clinton with a lot of information already. That is not the case with a lot of the Republicans that are running who are sort of fresh to the scene for many voters, whether that's Rand Paul or Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio who is announcing his campaign for president tomorrow.

Hillary Clinton has been in the public stage for nearly a quarter century. But are they going to recast Hillary Clinton in some ways as you said to emphasize her new position? Where she is now entering this presidential race as a grandmother?

In fact, she just released a new epilogue in the paperback version of her book that came out last year, the new epilogue states how the birth of her granddaughter really made her think that she had to double-down on her call on service. So, she's starting to sort of put that rationalize out there about why after all of these years of service, after all these years on the public stage, she is feeling ready for this moment, and she does need to make that sale. There's no doubt about it.

I will say, the best comparison to Vice President Gore is the fact she is like a quasi incumbent almost, because there's not real stiff competition on the Democratic side. It's like when Vice President Gore was a sitting vice president and the entire apparatus of the Democratic Party was basically behind him. Hillary Clinton is finding herself in a very similar position right now.

BLACKWELL: All right. Let's talk about former president Clinton. My team was able to pull up the video from 2007, December, in Iowa grocery store in which the former president and then senator Clinton walked in. You see what happened here. People wanted to speak to the president and the senator was left looking around where her husband had gone to.

What will his role be this time around?

CHALIAN: I think his role is going to be what it always is, first and foremost, which is a very active strategic adviser to Secretary Clinton. I don't think that there are going to be real sort of major decisions about the direction of the campaign that he is not playing a role in. He can't resist it. And he is a great political mind, but people on both sides of the aisle give him credit for that.

I do think that he claims he was in a "Town and Country" magazine. He did a whole spread and claims he is a back stage adviser. We're told not to expect Bill Clinton out there on the stump right away. He's going to give Hillary Clinton her space to get this launched.

But I'm sure he's going to be utilized as a major fund-raising tool, and in big moments, he does have the ability, as he did for Barack Obama at the 2012 Democratic convention to really help frame and argument and make a sale to voters unlike many politicians on the stage today. So, that's what I think we will see from him.

BLACKWELL: Yes, the president, President Obama, has called him on more than one occasion that he should be the secretary of explaining stuff.

All right. CNN political director David Chalian, thank you so much.

CHALIAN: Thanks, Victor.

PAUL: You know, hundreds of Yemenis are protesting the Saudi- led airstrikes in their country, saying they're a violation of international law. We're going to ask our expert about that next. He's got a few things to say.


[07:42:45] BLACKWELL: Eighteen minutes to the top of the hour.

This morning, new details on the crisis in Yemen. Saudi Arabian officials say that more than 500 Houthi rebels have been killed since the start of the Saudi-led airstrikes. There had been more than 200 air strikes in a little more than two weeks. Also, a Saudi source tells CNN that Saudi Arabia is using U.S.-made Apache attack helicopters in some areas.

Meanwhile, hundreds of Yemenis are protesting the military aggression, calling it a violation of international law.

Let's bring in CNN military analyst, retired Major General James "Spider" Marks.

General, let's start with some of the reporting from "The New York Times" this morning, reporting that the Saudis are threatening a ground invasion. How likely do you think that is and how would that change this equation, as we see these protests in the streets?

MAJ. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS (RET), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I think, number one, Saudi wants to make sure it can at least protect its integrity so it has forces, obviously, deployed along the border with Yemen. The likelihood of an invasion clearly would be some trigger event that would preclude President Hadi who is now in Riyadh, in Saudi Arabia, not in the capital in Sana'a in Yemen. If he could not in any way be able to be returned, in other words, if there was no possibility of trying to create some form of stability or cessation of hostilities, I think the Saudis might take the additional step to try to create some type to force a solution that clearly has not -- they have been able to achieve through the air alone.

And we have seen that in our efforts against ISIS in both Syria and Iraq, that air power can do an immense amount. I mean, it can really contain the fighting and really kind of keep the enemy's head down, but you're not going to have an ultimate solution that gets some type of control on the ground unless you have forces that are there.

BLACKWELL: And I imagine if the Saudis launch this ground invasion, that would preclude the U.S. from getting involved at all?

MARKS: Well, it would preclude the United States from having a direct hand. They are involved right now -- the United States is involved right now.

BLACKWELL: More than logistics.

MARKS: From the form -- from the standpoint of providing good intelligence and logistics. We have a longstanding relationship with the Saudi government in terms of selling them military equipment and we've trained them over the course of many, many years.

[07:45:02] BLACKWELL: All right. General Marks, thank you so much.

MARKS: Thanks, Victor.


PAUL: Sticking up for the police. A driver's video goes viral after he shows everyone how a traffic stop is supposed to go, when you follow an officer's instructions. Find out why he did this. We're going to talk to him, next.


PAUL: This video is chilling and it set off outrage and demands for answers and change in police tactics after an unarmed black man was shot and killed by a South Carolina cop. The body of that victim, Walter Scott, was laid to rest during a funeral service yesterday. Hundreds of mourners attended that ceremony.

The officer charged with murder in this case, Michael Slager, is in isolation in prison right now. Officials say they're currently monitoring his mental health.

But in light of those events in South Carolina, one person in that same state filmed a short video after being pulled over last week. Will Stack is his name and describes obeying the officer and showing how nothing happened during that stop. That video has gone viral now. Millions of you are watching it and sharing it.

Listen here to why he recorded it.


WILL STACK, RECORDED TRAFFIC STOP VIDEO: People need to understand that not all officers are crooked, not all officers are racist and bad people, and that not all people who get shot or tased or arrested by officers are innocent victims.

[07:50:01] You know, just because you're black doesn't mean you're a victim. Just because you're white doesn't mean you're a racist. Just because you're a cop doesn't mean you're a bad person.

This world really needs to stop putting labels on people and things and see them as who they are.


PAUL: And Will Stack is with us now.

Will, can you hear me? How are you doing? Thank you for being with us.

STACK: Thank you for having me.

PAUL: So good to have you.

I'm wondering, you know, you're 21 years old. You put this thing online. What is -- have you gotten any reaction that has surprised you? What are people saying to you about it?

STACK: Well, honestly, the big turnout is the biggest surprise. I was just a kid just posting a video about how I felt about something. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that it would get this big.

I've gotten a lot of positive feedback from it, and I have gotten some questions. I've gotten some people asking me things about it, asking me to clarify certain things. So --

PAUL: Like what? What are they confused about?

STACK: Well, I guess people thought -- some people thought that because of what I said in the video because of the positivity of the video that I was saying that there is no problem in America, and that's -- that's not the case. I understand that there is a huge problem in the world in general when it comes to race and when it comes to civilian/officer relations. I wasn't saying there wasn't a problem. We all know there's a problem. We all know change needs to come.

What I was saying is it is possible for that change to come because not everybody is a bad person. Not all officers are, you know, crooked people out to get you. There are good people. There are good officers in this world.

And as long as we know that there is good in this world, then change is still, you know, hopefully to come.

PAUL: Of course, you're in South Carolina where Walter Scott was shot and killed. What was your reaction to that whole thing? And have you had -- have you heard from police since you posted this video, any officers?

STACK: When I first saw the video, I was -- I was pretty shocked because, you know, here I see a man running away and he's several, several feet away from the officer when the officer opened fire and it's just something that I didn't expect to see. And then later I saw the other video showing that he ran out of the vehicle.

And so, I understand that he should not have run. You know, he should not have -- you know, tried to escape or elude an officer. But at the same time, as an officer of the law, you have protocols and that officer did not follow those protocols.

Even further, when I saw the video of the officer dropping something beside the body of the then deceased man, it just kind of -- it kind of -- it kind of upset me because, you know, I try to keep an open mindset and I try to be positive about things. But some things like that, it's an open and shut case.

PAUL: Yes.

STACK: So I'm glad that it's being handled the way that it is and I'm glad that the reaction to handle it was so fast.

As far as the response goes, it's been incredible. I've gotten messages and friend requests from thousands of people and tons of officers saying that, you know, I'm an officer in this state and, you know, I'm white, and I don't have any problem with anyone of any color. I just want to protect. I just want to serve, that kind of thing. They just thanked me for putting some kind of positivity out there.

And at the end of the day, you know, I know there's a lot of problems in America, but the number one goal, the number one reason for me making this video was to spread some positivity.

PAUL: And you did just that.

Will Stack, it was great to see. Thank you so much for that and for spending some time with us this morning. We appreciate it. Take good care, OK?

STACK: Thank you.

PAUL: Sure.

BLACKWELL: Hillary Clinton set to announce her candidacy for president in just a few hours. This morning, there are new details about her campaign message. We'll have those. And critics are already taking aim. We'll have that at the top of the hour as well.

Also coming up next, Tiger Woods is playing some of the best golf that fans have seen from him in years. Is he in contention to win the Masters? We'll take a look at that.

Also next week on CNN, marijuana is changing the way Colorado does business. Yes, marijuana. And we've got a new look, a unique look inside two Colorado dispensaries fighting to stay open.


BLACKWELL: All right. Today's the final round of the masters. You know the names at the top, near the top at least. You've got Tiger. You've got Rory. You've got Phil at the top of the leaderboard.

And there's a 23-year-old phenom, Jordan Spieth, who is stealing all the headlines at golf's most prestigious tournament.

PAUL: Yes. Coy Wire is joining us now.

And what a name this guy is making for himself, fast.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS: Not just stereo play by an artist. No one in the history of the Masters has put on a show like Spieth has put on. No one has had a better first three rounds than Spieth has had this year. At 16 under, he broke the record shared by Raymond Floyd and Tiger Woods.