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Bush Meets Behind Closed Doors; Jeb Bush Sends Message; Carson Takes Lead In Iowa Polls; Trump Questions Carson And Seventh Day Adventist;s Carson Compares Abortion To Slavery; Earthquake Strikes South Asia; Russians May Attack Internet; Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair's Apology. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired October 26, 2015 - 13:00   ET


[13:00:00] ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for that. And thank you, everyone, for being with us. WOLF starts right now.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer. It's 1:00 p.m. here in Washington, 8:00 p.m. in Baghdad, 9:30 p.m. in Kabul. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us.

Happening this hour, Republican presidential candidate, Jeb Bush, is meeting with his family and biggest donors behind closed doors. All this comes just days after slashing salaries and staff. One topic that will likely be discussed at the meetings today, Bush's poor showings in the latest polls. The latest one in Iowa from Monmouth University just out has Bush coming in fifth right now behind Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. And get this, he's 24 points behind the front- runner, Dr. Ben Carson.

Let's get right to our Senior Washington Correspondent Joe Johns. Joe, what do we know about this Jeb Bush family and donor meeting that's underway right now?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we -- Wolf, we do know these were regularly scheduled meetings, first over the weekend with Bush 41, his wife, Barbara, the parents, also donors there. Big-money donors, in fact. An attempt to reassure them that all is well with the Jeb Bush campaign, even though he's seen some tough sledding over the last days and weeks.

Again, meetings today in Houston. This time with Bush 43, George W. Bush, and more donors. Of course, we do know the one thing Jeb Bush certainly has in his favor is the fact that he comes from a very well- established political family here in the United States. And we also know, as they are promoting, the fact that sometimes in politics, at this stage in a presidential campaign, the first can very well be last when the primaries come around -- Wolf.

BLITZER: He -- we do know, he seemed to show some frustration with what's going on in this race right now. Listen to this.


JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If this election is about how we're going to fight to get nothing done, then I don't want anything -- I don't want any part of it. I've got a lot of really cool things that I could do other than sit around being miserable, listening to people demonize me and me feeling compelled to demonize them. That is a joke. Elect Trump if you want that.


BLITZER: To some, it suggested that he was ready to maybe throw in the -- throw in the towel if things get uglier and uglier all the time. How's he responding to some of the criticism that's come up in the aftermath of that comment?

JOHNS: Well, Trump continues to suggest that since he got into the race, it's caused very big problems for Jeb Bush. And he's also said, more than once over the last few days, that his entry into the race has essentially caused huge problems. And the recent staff moves suggest that if Jeb Bush can't run his own campaign, how should voters expect him to run the country?

Let's listen to some more of what Trump has said about Jeb Bush.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So, he's meeting now with mom and dad. No, it's true. He needs counsel. And he was very angry over the week. He said, you know, if this is going to be this nasty, let them have Trump as their president. It's going to be nasty. Hey, Putin is a nastier guy than me.


JOHNS: Trump, of course -- Trump, of course, has his own problems right now, trailing Ben Carson in the polls in Iowa. Here, at this event in Atkinson, New Hampshire, he did take the opportunity to point out the polls that show him doing very well and to really de-emphasize the polls that suggest he's trailing in Iowa -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, he's number two in Iowa right now. Three polls that have come out in the past few days, although he's still number one in all the national polls and the number one in the other states as well. So, we'll keep it into some sort of perspective.

Joe Johns. Thank you.

Let's take a closer look at what's going on. Joining us, our CNN Political Commentator, the Democratic Strategist, Hilary Rosen, and our CNN Political Commentator S.E. Cupp.

S.E., what's going on in the Jeb Bush campaign right now? Because that comment that we just heard him saying, you know what? If you don't want -- if we're going to be demonizing, --


BLITZER: -- you know, go ahead, elect Trump, if that's what you want. That sounded as if he was getting so frustrated. CUPP: I think he is frustrated. He has -- he has admitted no one

could have predicted how influential Donald Trump was going to be for how long in this presidential election. Everyone is recalibrating. And when you're not self-funding, like Trump is, you have to be responsible with your donors' money.

So, it's really no surprise that Jeb Bush is sort of, you know, taking a look at where the organization currently stands and having some tough but useful conversations about how to move forward.

[13:05:04] And I think his message is clear. He does not want his campaign and his candidacy to continue to be defined by Trump and having to defend or reject everything that comes out of his mouth. He wants to talk about issues.

BLITZER: Yes, and he also --

HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He kind of brought this on himself.

BLITZER: Pardon?

ROSEN: I think he's brought that on himself, in a way, because he is letting his campaign be defined by Donald Trump. And I -- and I -- it's a little -- you know, I think Donald Trump's kind of right here. It's petulant of Jeb Bush to be saying that the problem that he's having in this campaign is all about Donald Trump.

BLITZER: Let the record show that Hilary Rosen says that Donald Trump is right.

ROSEN: He's got to have -- he's got to have some message. And I think part of his frustration is that he doesn't have a particularly compelling message that is exciting Republican primary voters. I don't think that's entirely Donald Trump's fault.

BLITZER: And Trump makes a fair point, if you can't deal with me, how are you going to deal with Putin?

CUPP: I mean, it's a great sort of rhetorical jab which Trump is great at. But I think a lot of Americans would feel more comfortable with Jeb Bush sitting across from Vladimir Putin than Donald Trump.

BLITZER: Well, the polls don't show that.

CUPP: Well, I don't know. On that -- on that one question -- if we ask people that one question, --

BLITZER: Well, on national security -- who is better at handling national security or foreign policy?

CUPP: Yes.

BLITZER: Our poll shows Trump is better at it than the other Republicans. CUPP: I don't know, I mean, I think -- I think people can say that

very casually. But if they really are thinking about those hard moments in a very dangerous world, I mean, Trump is pretty undisciplined. I'm not -- I'm not sure people would really feel comfortable.

BLITZER: Not everything, though, Hilary, is going Trump's way right now, especially --


BLITZER: -- in Iowa. Three polls, within a matter of days now, showing Dr. Ben Carson significantly ahead, double digits in this latest poll. You see it right there, 32 percent Trump, 18 percent Cruz, and Rubio at 10 percent. Jeb Bush, look at this, eight percent in Iowa. Here's how Trump reacted to Dr. Carson's lead. Listen to this.


TRUMP: I'm Presbyterian! Boy, that's down the middle of the road, folks, in all fairness. I mean, Seventh Day Adventist I don't know about. I just don't know about.


BLITZER: All right, so Dr. Ben Carson is Seventh Day Adventist. He says he doesn't know about it, but he's brought that out. What do you make of that?

ROSEN: I think plenty of people in Iowa know what a Seventh Day Adventist is. And I think we've seen Ben Carson consolidate the religious conservative vote which is very strong in Iowa for a Republican primary. It's carried that state, in the last several Republican nominating contests, with Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee.

And, you know, Ben Carson could collect it, too. In some respects, Trump would do better to keep his mouth shut about other people's religions and focus more on his message. But, you know, clearly, those religious conservatives are going to matter less in New Hampshire. They're going to matter less in South Carolina. They're going to matter less in Nevada, so --

BLITZER: But they do matter a lot in Iowa right now.

ROSEN: -- they matter a lot in Iowa.

CUPP: They do. And to Hillary's point, I mean, Seventh Day Adventist, 18 million people around the world. This isn't a couple of guys in a church basement somewhere.


CUPP: It's actually something that, especially Iowa Evangelicals are very familiar with. It's protestant. It's a branch of Protestantism. And like every other religion of that size, there's a spectrum. Fundamentalists, Adventists might disagree, scripturally, with other evangelicals but progressive Adventists will not. It is politically -- it makes absolutely no political sense for Donald Trump to try and scare Iowa voters about Ben Carson's religion when that's probably one of the main reasons they are liking him so much.

BLITZER: And then, remember, Donald Trump said -- he says, I just don't know about it.

ROSEN: Well, then don't talk about it maybe.

BLITZER: That's what that -- that's deserving (ph).

Dr. Ben Carson, he's now ahead in Iowa. He's number two in most of the other national and polls in some of the other states as well. He had this exchange on "Meet the Press" yesterday with Chuck Todd. Listen to this.


CHUCK TODD, NBC HOST, "MEET THE PRESS": What if somebody has an unwanted pregnancy, should they have the right to terminate it?

DR. BEN CARSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No. Think about this. During slavery -- and I know that's one of those words you're not supposed to say, but I'm saying it -- during slavery, a lot of the slave owners thought that they had the right to do whatever they wanted to that slave, anything that they chose to do. And, you know, what if the abolitionists had said, you know, I don't believe in slavery. I think it's wrong. But you guys do whatever you want to do. Where would we be?


BLITZER: Well, let's talk about this for a moment, because Dr. Carson says no exceptions, as far as abortion is concerned, rape, incest, no exceptions. He says this is still murdering the baby.

ROSEN: You know, Dr. Carson has been on the way extreme on this issue. He also said, which we didn't play in this interview, that women view their unborn child as the enemy, if they choose to terminate a pregnancy, which is completely offensive to women who are making an extremely difficult choice.

[13:10:17] Look, I just think he, ultimately, is too extreme for this country. And -- you know, but this is a change election for Republicans. That's -- you know, we've experienced change elections on the Democratic side. This is a change election for Republicans. They're grasping at straws looking for the most change candidate. I think that's why you're seeing Carson way out there. That's why you're seeing Trump out there. The question is, is there going to be somebody else who comes in with sort of a more mainstream view that actually can get a majority of Americans' support?

BLITZER: Very quickly, go ahead.

CUPP: Well, I mean, I -- if you're pro-life -- I'm pro-life. If you're pro-life, that message actually probably appeals. And so, that's why he's doing well among Republicans. It is not -- that particular point is not representative of the mainstream, so I'm not sure, in a general, how well that plays.

BLITZER: S.E. and Hilary, guys, thanks very much.

We're following breaking news out of South Asia right now where scenes of panic and destruction are beginning to emerge from the rubble of a massive earthquake. The 7.5-magnitude quake struck northern Afghanistan near the border with Pakistan. But was so intense, it could be felt as far away as India and China. At least 180 people have been killed, including 12 Afghan girls who died in a stampede trying to escape their school. It's still not clear how much the death toll could climb, since the quake took down communication in so many places.

Journalist, Catherine James, is joining us now live from Kabul with the latest on the damage. Catherine, what are you seeing there? What are you hearing?

CATHERINE JAMES, JOURNALIST: Hi, Wolf. Yes, today was a scene of panic, even in Kabul where we felt the quake. For myself, I was in a two-story build -- three-story building. And, initially, the jolts here aren't that uncommon. You feel them from time to time. But this one is definitely -- probably one of the biggest, in recent decades, that was felt here.

And, in this situation, we started calmly walking. And as the quake went -- continued, probably at about the 30-second mark, a few people did start to panic. And even in my building, one person yelled, run. And there was at least 15 people trying to get through one door.

And once we got out into the street, I saw at least three women break down in tears and another woman faint. And I think it comes off the back of quite an intense few weeks here in Afghanistan. And these kinds of things just add to that pressure that is felt here.

There's also going to be -- for the regions that have been affected, they've already had some quite extensive security issues, and this will just further compound that problem.

BLITZER: It certainly will. That death toll almost certainly will rise. This is a very remote area so communication, as I said, is very difficult right now. What are they bracing for in Kabul?

JAMES: In terms of numbers of casualties, it's really not clear. It's nighttime, at the moment, so any kind of rescue efforts are completely hindered by that. The remote areas are very difficult to access. And, keep in mind also, it's a very mountainous region so there's been landslides. There's risk of further landslides.

And just earlier this month, we saw one of the provinces that has been affected. Kunduz had about a two-week battle for its provincial capital and the regions next to it have also been affected. And Badakhshan, in the northeast, is one of the most food-insecure provinces. And the world food program had already been talking about its difficulties in getting even the basic necessities to people in those areas. And this is likely to further compound and also, perhaps, increase the number of displaced in the region.

BLITZER: Catherine James in Kabul for us. A horrific story that we're watching. And, presumably, those numbers will go up. Thanks very much for that. We'll stay on top of that breaking news.

Also coming up, the former British prime minister, Tony Blair, now apologizing for the, quote, "mistakes" of the Iraq War.

Plus, "The New York Times" is reporting that a Russian spy ship is operating dangerously close to undersea cables that carry nearly all global Internet communications. We have the details, the possible Russian plans. Much more coming up.



BLITZER: The British prime minister -- I should say, the former British prime minister, Tony Blair, was one of the strongest U.S. allies in the Iraq War, and now he's apologizing for the bad intelligence that led to the 2003 invasion, saying the decisions, the mistakes that were made back then ultimately played a role in the rise of ISIS and other extremist terrorist groups. In an exclusive interview with CNN's Fareed Zakaria, Blair also said removing Saddam Hussein from power was still the right thing to do.


FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST, "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS": Given, however, that Saddam Hussein did not prove to have weapons of mass destruction, was the decision to enter Iraq and topple his regime a mistake?

TONY BLAIR, FORMER BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: You know, whenever I'm asked this, I can say that I apologize for the fact that the intelligence we received was wrong, because even though he had used chemical weapons extensively against his own people, against others, the program in the form that we thought it was did not exist in the way that we thought. So, I can apologize for that. I can also apologize, by the way, for some of the mistakes in planning, and certainly our mistaken in our understanding of what would happen once you remove the regime. But I find it hard to apologize for removing Saddam. I think even from today in 2015, it is better that he's not there than that he is there.


[13:20:17] BLITZER: Fareed's joining us now live from New York.

Sort of a qualified apology from Tony Blair, saying, yes, there were no weapons of mass destruction, the intelligence was bad, but getting rid of Saddam Hussein was still the right thing to do, even though Saddam Hussein, as you and I know and everyone knows, had also nothing to do with 9/11. ZAKARIA: That's right. This was something that happened in the wake of

9/11, could never have happened without 9/11, because it gave the Bush administration the kind of license to do it. The public was willing to accept something like this. And yet, you know, there is some truth to what Blair says in this sense. I've been thinking about it, you know, in doing this documentary, Wolf. As you know, 60 percent or so of Iraq is Shiite. They were horribly persecuted by Saddam Hussein. About 20 percent are Kurds, and they were horribly persecuted by Saddam Hussein. So, probably from the point of view of the Iraqi people, an Iraq without Saddam is still, with all its problems, better than with him. The question, of course, becomes, was it worth it for the United States to have spent all this blood and treasure in doing it?

BLITZER: Yes. It's sort of a surprise, and you got him to apologize, saying there were no stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, the intelligence was bad. He formally apologized for that. But it's rare in these kinds of political circles to hear that kind of apology. We haven't heard that kind of apology from President Bush or Vice President Cheney or defense secretary -- then Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, right?

ZAKARIA: You know, it's striking, Wolf. In doing this documentary, I tried to get to the highest levels of the Bush administration. Mostly people didn't want to talk. The ones we were able to get were utterly unrepentant. You couldn't get anyone to say even small things. You know, smaller-level decisions were mistakes. And then when they would say they were mistakes, everyone was pointing the finger at everyone else.

I think Blair was genuinely reflective. I think I caught him in a reflective mood, and he was willing to note not only, as you say, that the intelligence was bad, but that the postwar planning, there were serious mistakes for which he apologized. And he acknowledged that all this did probably contribute to the rise of ISIS. Yes, that is not something you hear much -- in American politics, as you know, it's very tough to get people to admit that anything they did was wrong, because then it becomes the story. Better to just stick fast and claim you've never made a mistake in your life, which, of course, strikes me as kind of bizarre for anyone.

BLITZER: Yes, and a lot of people say the decision after the invasion to go ahead and basically destroy the Iraqi military set the scene eventually for the sectarian warfare we're seeing now. Many of those Iraqi generals, for example, who were Sunni, have become the leaders of earlier al Qaeda in Iraq and now ISIS. And that's one of the reasons why that country is in such a mess right now. And I'm sure you point that out in your documentary tonight.

I want you to listen, though, right now to Donald Trump. He says the U.S., the entire world, the people of Iraq would have been better off if the U.S. had stayed out of Iraq, and for that matter, stayed out more recently from Libya. Here's what Trump told our Jake Tapper on "State of the Union" yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Right now, Iraq is a training ground for terrorists. Right now, Libya, nobody even knows Libya. Frankly, there is no Iraq and there is no Libya. It's all broken up. They have no control. Nobody knows what's going on.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST, "STATE OF THE UNION": So the world would be better off with Saddam Hussein --

TRUMP: One hundred percent.

TAPPER: And Gadhafi in power?

TRUMP: One hundred percent.

TAPPER: If they were --

TRUMP: Now as far as Assad is concerned, let's talk about --

TAPPER: What about the human rights abuses and --

TRUMP: Let's talk about -- well, you don't think they're happening now? They're worse now than they ever were. People are getting their heads chopped off. They're being drowned. They're -- right now they are far worse than they were ever under Saddam Hussein or Gadhafi.


BLITZER: You could certainly make the case that Iraq, under Saddam Hussein, was being contained at the time, and U.S. no-fly zones. He wasn't really a threat. Iran has now come in, as Trump likes to say, and has a dominant role in Iraq. Right now in Libya, with Gadhafi, he gave up his effort to develop a nuclear capability. As bad as he was, what's going on in Libya right now is so much worse, the terrorism that's unfolding. What do you say when you hear Trump make those points?

ZAKARIA: You know, as you say, look, there's a powerful argument there to be made. I think this is a kind of position worth hearing out. There's a kind of old-fashioned, real politics school in the United States that perhaps would have always advocated this. The trouble is this, and Tony Blair talks about this in the documentary. He says, look, in Iraq we went in and took out the regime and what followed was chaos and Islamic terrorism. In Libya we went in, took out the regime, but didn't get involved in nation-building, chaos and terrorism. In Syria, we didn't do anything, didn't take out the regime, what has resulted? Chaos and Islamic terrorism.

[13:25:16] The region is in turmoil. So, play it out, Wolf, if you had Saddam Hussein in power and the Arab Spring had broken out and then went to Damascus -- you remember that's what happened, it started as an uprising following the Arab Spring. It would probably have happened in Iraq as well. The Kurds might have risen. The Shia might have risen. Remember, 80 percent of the country didn't like Saddam. And then he would have probably responded. So it's quite possible that something very much like Syria would be taking place in Iraq now had Saddam been there. The big difference is, the United States would not have owned the problem because it did not precipitate it.

BLITZER: And as Trump likes to say, the U.S. has spent, what, at least $1 trillion or $2 trillion in Iraq, lost thousands of lives. So many American troops came home severely injured. And who knows how many tens or thousands of Iraqis were killed in the process as well. I'm really looking forward, Fareed, to your documentary later tonight. It's entitled "Long Road to Hell: America in Iraq." It airs at 9:00 p.m. Eastern tonight only on CNN.

Fareed, thanks very much.

Coming up, a rare glimpse into the elite Delta Force and the raid on an Iraqi prison that revealed America's evolving role right now in the war against ISIS. We have the video and the details. That's coming up next.