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Obama Speaks at Wounded Warriors Event; Stakes High in Tonight's CNN Clinton-Sanders Debate. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired April 14, 2016 - 11:30   ET



[11:32:57] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Right now, the Annual Wounded Warrior Project Soldier Ride. It's a four-day cycling event for wounded service members and veterans.

President Obama speaking to the group right now at the White House. Let's listen in.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Good morning, everybody. Welcome to the White House!

Thank you, William, for your outstanding service, and your beautiful family. I heard I think your youngest one saying, "Daddy! It's Daddy!"


So she's proud, too. Hey, you.


I want to thank the outstanding advocates on behalf of our men and women in uniform and our veterans. First of all, our Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Mr. Secretary McDonald. Please give him a big round of applause.


And somebody who's got veterans' backs every single day -- Vice President Biden. Please give him a big round of applause.


Now, let me just first of all say, this seems to be an exceptionally good-looking group here. I do want to check, though, to see how the distribution is. First of all, I understand we do have some Army here.




Air Force!




Coast Guard! All right, Coast Guard.


And we've got some of your biggest fans, which is our extraordinary military families.


Now, we hold a lot of events here at the White House, but few are as inspiring as this one.

[11:35:00] Over the past seven years, this has become one of our favorite traditions. This year, we've got 40 active duty riders and 25 veterans. Many of you are recovering from major injuries. You've learned how to adapt to a new life. Some of you are still working through wounds that are harder to see, like post-traumatic stress.

And like countless riders across the country, part of this great movement is to help each other, for all of us to see each other get other across that finish line. And that's how America is supposed to work. That's how our military works. And it doesn't stop when you take off the uniform.

We're joined by Marine Captain Jessica Bilkovich. Where's Jessica? There she is, back there.


Jessica was injured in training, but went on to serve in Afghanistan. And over time, her injuries compounded. In addition to intense back pain, she was also struggling with post-traumatic stress and depression. It took her six months to make the phone call for help, but thanks to the love and support of her husband, she finally reached out. And as part of her treatment, she discovered cycling.

On her first ride, Jessica says, "I felt so free, like a weight was coming off." The Soldier Ride gives her the chance to do what she loves. And, Jessica, you are an inspiration, and we could not be prouder of the example that you're setting for so many people.


We have Army Staff Sergeant Casey McEuin. Where's Casey? Casey is back there.

(APPLAUSE) A decorated veteran, Casey served for 15 years with the 4th Infantry Division, including in Afghanistan. Injured in an attack on his outpost, he had to medically retire, something he had never imagined. And he felt lost, struggling to find work and living out of his Jeep.

And then, some veterans' service organizations helped him get back on his feet. And today, he's still fighting for his brothers and sisters in arms, working at Hire Heroes USA, which helps connect our returning heroes with job opportunities. Casey is a proud rider today. We are proud of you, Casey. Thank you.


And that's what's so remarkable about this ride, dreamt up by a bartender.


Some of my best ideas have come in a bar.


You, too, huh?


But this is one of those ideas that the next day, actually it was still good.


It's a reminder -- that was not in the script.


It's a reminder of the power of one person to launch a movement that changes people's lives. It's a reminder of the sacrifices that our men and women in uniform have made to keep our nation free. And it's a reminder that, for those who are called to serve, their mission doesn't end on the battlefield -- it's one you carry with you for the rest of your lives.

Our veterans will tell you themselves, they may have put away their uniforms, but they're not finished serving their country. That includes our wounded warriors who here today, who often tell me that as soon as they can, they want to serve their country again. Service is in their DNA. Giving back is what you all do.

But as we all know, many of our returning heroes still have a hard time connecting opportunities to community and finding ways to serve. And today, I want to thank our incredible veterans' service organizations who step up for veterans every day, making that connection. Organizations like The Mission Continues.


Organizations like Team Red White and Blue.


Organizations like Team Rubicon.


So I know you guys are ready to ride. I just want to close with a quick story. We're joined today by Air Force Technical Sergeant Jason Miller.

Where's Jason?

There's Jason right there. Jason served four combat tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. He came home with his body intact, but inside, he was struggling with wounds nobody could see. And Jason doesn't mind me telling you all that he got depressed enough that he considered taking his life.

Four years ago, he wrote me a letter about what he was going through. And he told me about how hard it was to get the services and the support that he needed. As luck would have it, right around that time I happened to meet with Team Rubicon, which deploys veterans for emergency response to disasters.

And in addition to making sure that the VA was following up with Jason, I also asked Team Rubicon to get in touch with him. It helps when you're Commander-in-Chief.

[11:40:04] You've got -- folks take your phone call.


Team Rubicon reached out. Jason ended up joining Team Rubicon; deployed to Moore, Oklahoma, which was devastated by a tornado. And feeling an immediate bond with his teammates, he threw himself into the work of helping people pick up their lives. In the process, he found a path to a new life of his own.

And when Jason talks about what this new opportunity to serve means, he quotes Gandhi. He says, "The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others."

And Jason's spirit, the spirit of all of you, is the story of our armed forces. It's about dedicating your life to a cause that is bigger than yourself. It's about support and love for each other and for our country that flows through everybody who serves under our proud flag. And it's about the country that pledges to be with you every step of the way, not just when we need you, but also when you need us.

That's why every day that I have left in this office, I'm going to keep doing everything that I can to make sure that we serve you as well as you've served us. And that means making sure you get the care and benefits that you've earned and that you deserve. It means making sure you and your families have the opportunities to continue to contribute to our nation's success, to achieve your own dreams.


You represent what's best about our nation, and I hope all of the American people along the route will come out and show their support for these heroes, not just today but every single day.

So God bless you. God bless all our military families, all who serve. God bless America.

With that, we are going to let William strap up, and then I am going to blow the horn, which I always really enjoy.


All right. Come on.


I got my horn. You know --


OBAMA: I just realized I've done this quite a few years. I think that I need some volunteers to help me this year.


My Navy guy?

BIDEN: Come here, angel. What's your name?

OBAMA: All right. You guys ready? Here's what we're going to do. When you're ready, here's what we're going to do. I have some volunteers here. So I'm going to blow the horn first, but we're going to let everybody --


This is an unusual start. We're going to hear, like, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven. There are going to be 11 blows of the horn.

All right? Are you guys all prepared?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do we leave on?

OBAMA: You leave on 11. When it's me, then you'll know it's time.

All right. You're going to start off and pass it down. You just press that thing.


(APPLAUSE) Way to go guys. Good job. Good job. Good job.


[11:45:08] BERMAN: All right. Just terrific pictures. Terrific images --

BOLDUAN: And they're off.

BERMAN: -- from the White House right now.

President Obama with some help kicking off the wounded warriors ride. No you can see it here, on the South Lawn, I think, of the White House. The president making remarks and had the children, I believe, of some service members help him blow the horn several times to get the race started.

BOLDUAN: I didn't count them, but something like 11 or something. But, you know, when do they actually start cycling? Not until the president gets to blow the horn.

BERMAN: I don't think the vice president got a chance to do it. Let the records show. He didn't let the vice president --

BOLDUAN: You know what? Poor Joe Biden.

BERMAN: I know, terrific pictures.

BOLDUAN: Terrific event and a beautiful day to be taking this off in Washington, D.C. So, this is a wounded warrior annual ride at the White House. This taking off event right now at the White House. Wonderful to have that moment.

BERMAN: And then back to politics. At the Brooklyn Navy Yard, former political rivals to potential running mates. Just a few months ago, Marco Rubio accused Cruz of dirt any campaign tricks. Now, wait until you hear what Ted Cruz is saying about Marco Rubio these days. It sounds pretty different.


[11:50:42] BOLDUAN: We are live from the Brooklyn navy yard, just look at us.

BERMAN: Oh, man.

BOLDUAN: We're over here. Hi, guys. The site of tonight's showdown between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Five days out from the now all-important New York primary.

BERMAN: Joining us here, CNN political commentators S.E. Cupp and Margaret Hoover and long time New York political reporter, Andrew Kirtzman. He is now a political consultant.

And, Andrew, I got to say, like waking up this morning, it was all over the local news. You know, the helicopters covering the events and the rallies everywhere. There's so much energy. This feels like such a big event tonight.

ANDREW KIRTZMAN, PRESIDENT, KIRTZMAN STRATEGIES: Yes. Well, you know, there's an old saying if you're going to hit a home run, do it in Yankee Stadium. Well, you know, this is Yankee Stadium and that is almost the bottom of the ninth inning. This is an incredible race.

Bernie Sanders, you know, had this remarkable victory in Wisconsin and has been completely knocked off his stride. You can feel kind of the air coming out of the balloon last week, made all these kind of attacks against Hillary Clinton. Didn't quite work.

And then he has a historic rally at NYU, Washington Square Park last night, 27,000 people. And, you know, the electricity is in the air. It's a good, good time for political junkies.

BOLDUAN: Hillary Clinton's campaign is disputing the number of people that showed up.

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Almost feels like a swing state -- a battle ground state.

BOLDUAN: Welcome to the new normal. Every state is a swing state.

KIRTZMAN: New New York.

BOLDUAN: So let's talk about the Republicans. How about that?

So, S.E., one of the big questions right now is -- well, the most important question, basically, at the moment is delegates. Where are they, who are they going for? And now, what is the magic number? If it's not 1,237, then what is it?

Donald Trump's campaign -- they're meeting with folks on Capitol Hill, laying out, according to reporters, laying out their strategy. They think they've got a path. They think they n get to the mark.

CUPP: Yes.

BOLDUAN: If they don't, what are you hearing? What is close enough?

CUPP: I think they -- I agree. I think they have the path and I think they'll get there before the convention. I really do.

You know, the map is not great for Ted Cruz going ahead. Donald Trump has New York coming up. I think he's going to do very well in New York. And a couple other friendly states following close thereafter.

So, I think he's going to get it and all of this hand-wringing and speculation, what a brokered convention will look like. I just don't think we're going to get there.

But, of course, anything is possible. Look, Trump has had a bad couple of weeks. No one can argue that. And if Ted Cruz really cobbles together the great organization that he has up until now, and really puts that -- you know, builds that into more momentum, anything is possible. But I think he's got it. BERMAN: S.E., thinks Donald Trump will get there, Margaret. What is

the number of how close he needs to get and still have a chance? We're all fishing --


BERMAN: But is it 10, is it 20, is it 50 delegates?

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It depends on the day. I saw a report from the RNC yesterday it's 1,100. You talk to anybody anywhere near the Cruz campaign or surrogates and you say one. If he is one shy of 1237, you better believe they'll have a fight on the convention floor.

BOLDUAN: I can't change what a majority is.

HOOVER: I mean, the reality is, the rules are the rules.


HOOVER: Whoever is going to have the nomination is going to get 1,237-plus. But the question is, do you fight on -- I mean, when do you have the real fight, or at what point does the momentum shift and then solidify around the front runner? I mean, that's what hasn't happened yet. What we're seeing now is a momentum shift.

CUPP: But you have John Kasich promising to go, regardless, right?

HOOVER: But John Kasich has the fourth most amount of delegates. So, I mean --

CUPP: Don't tell John Kasich that.

HOOVER: But I think --

BOLDUAN: Marco Rubio --


HOOVER: The momentum shift is starting, and Trump is primed for it here in New York, just in terms of finally getting a win. But it's happening as a ripple effect down the entire organization, right? He's starting to get serious, respectable consultants and political analysts and political operatives on his team.

I think you're going to start to see another round of endorsements, frankly for him, elected leaders.

BERMAN: Senators? People who work with him?

HOOVER: Eventually there will be red state senators in safe seats who not just Jeff Sessions from Alabama, but who ultimately, you know, should this momentum really pick up, decide he's going to be the party's nominee.

BOLDUAN: Like Jim Risch -- (CROSSTALK)

HOOVER: But it's going to start to happen. This momentum shift will have real consequence.

[11:55:01] And you're even starting to see the hashtag #neverTrump fatigue, even, you know, rippling around. It's not made a lot of difference.

KIRTZMAN: Yes, take a step back for a minute. I think that Trump somehow miraculously forgot to put together a delegate operation. Realized at the last second, which is pretty phenomenal to watch from the outside. And now he's fighting a two-front battle.

Number one, he's final hired some professionals who know what they're doing behind the scenes and fighting a public opinion war to try to portray the whole thing as one giant rigged process. Throw the others on defense.

The bottom line is, there is no magic number and there is no kind of Republican deity that is suddenly going to swoop and decide, OK, you know, that's it. This is war. There are no rules in this.

CUPP: It's a bizarre choice for Trump, going into New York where he's primed to do very well. To instead be talking about his losses and really point out, you know, the -- expose the gaping holes in his organization. It's all that's really done.

Talk about New York, where you're going to win. Stop talking about the rigged system that you are winning, by the way. It's just a bizarre political decision.

BOLDUAN: He thinks it's going to turn people out more because they think it's rigged against him. We'll see.

Guys, great to see you.

BERMAN: Thanks so much, guys. Appreciate you being here with us.

All right. Coming up for us next, the top three things to watch in tonight's Democratic debate here at the Brooklyn navy yard. You will want to hear them. Back in 90 seconds.

BOLDUAN: Count 'em!


BERMAN: We are just hours now until the big CNN debate, live from the Brooklyn navy yard.

Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, face off at this event, 9:00 p.m. tonight.

BOLDUAN: To find out what voters should watch for in tonight's big debate, let's bring in CNN political analyst and author of "How's Your Faith," David Gregory joining us now. David, what is the number one thing? You're talking about tone.

Everybody has kind of said, tone is going to matter. What are you going to be watching for in the tone tonight?

DAVID CORN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you want to see how both of them interact with each other. It's gotten testy, nothing by Republican standards on the Democratic side, but it's gotten more personal, it's gotten more contentious. Not just about issues, but qualifications, temperament, about who is really prepared for the job.

So, I really look to see how they each other. Does Hillary Clinton focus on Bernie Sanders? Does she want to take him down a notch in the eyes of perhaps his supporters or the broader Democratic electorate?

That's important, because this is a closed primary. So he has got to turn out a lot of Democrats on Tuesday to do well here in New York. Can she kind of cut him off at the pass there by going after a lack of specificity on issues, lack of understanding, more complexities on issues in public policy that she talks about. Or does she want to just focus on the Republicans, and play more rope-a-dope with him, since he is looking for the fight here.

This is oxygen for him. This gives him a shot at the title when he's far down in the polls here in New York.

BERMAN: He has a different choice to make, too. Doesn't he? He has to choose how he engages here. He has to choose how badly he wants to try to win this, if he has to go after Hillary very, very hard.

CORN: I totally agree with that. And I would temper what I said by saying she always has to keep in mind, a lot of these Sanders supporters, a lot of them, not all of them, but a lot of them are not necessarily anti-Hillary. They may vote for her in the end.

You know, I don't think they have anywhere else to go, naturally, politically. They may be holding their nose a bit. But they like Sanders as an alternative, as a movement politician.