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Gen. Michael Flynn Being Considered as National Security Director; V.A. Secretary Veterans Day Speech; Obama's Final Veterans Day Address. Aired 11:30-12pa ET

Aired November 11, 2016 - 11:30   ET


[11:30:00] BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: He had a very difficult relationship with leaders in the U.S. Military, in the U.S. Intelligence community. He was someone who is very strong-willed, is very certain of what he believes, in his opinions. You can read his writings on this. He's been interviewed many times. He's a very adamant personality. You're right, he's the one, he's been very loyal to President-elect Trump. He's likely to be rewarded for that loyalty. Likely to become national security adviser.

So how will he interact with the other key members of the team? Leading name for secretary of defense right now may be Senator Jeff Sessions, Republican of Alabama. He is no shrinking violet. If Rudy Giuliani becomes secretary of state, he's no shrinking violet. There's likely to be a lot of very strong feelings, to say the least, in the national security circles of a Trump administration.

What it really boils down to is the question of risk. As you address these threats, how sure are you about what North Korea may be up to and what do you want to do about it, how much do you want to send additional U.S. forces to fight Mosul and put U.S. troops at risk, how much do you really want to confront Vladimir Putin or not, what is the risk of either option. That's really what national security decision making boils down to at the end of the day for a commander-in-chief, to get his best advice, then assess the risk of the options he's presented.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: General Marks, when you hear, of course, these are most likely scenarios as Barbara well points out. No announcements have been made, of course, with who will be joining the president-elect on his national security team. But when you hear of a national security adviser, Michael Flynn, when you hear Secretary of Defense Jeff Sessions, what message does that send to you in your 30 years of service in the U.S. Army?

MAJ. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS, CNN MILTIARY ANALYST: Well, I think the additional person that would need to be identified in that is the sec-def, secretary of defense and national security adviser. That group of three really, as Barbara described, create the pattern for decision making for the commander-in-chief, for the president. So how well --



BOLDUAN: I'm so sorry to interrupt you.

MARKS: No, please.

BOLDUAN: I only interrupt you because the secretary of Veterans Affairs is speaking right now at the Veteran's Day ceremony.

Let's listen in.

ROBERT MCDONALD, SECRETARY OF VETERANS AFFAIRS: -- in front of Captain Miller's grave. Captain Miller gave his life in combat to save Private Ryan's. Ryan says to Miller and all veterans, "I have tried to live my life the best I could. I hope that, at least in your eyes, I have earned what all of you have done for me."

I'm a veteran. When I come to Arlington, I imagine myself saying that to every veteran resting here. I hope that in your eyes, I have earned what all of you have done for me. We would all do well to kneel at any one of these markers and repeat Ryan's words. We would all do well to turn to a veteran and ask, am I earning it.

Seven years ago, today, right here in Arlington, President Obama made a sacred vow to veterans, America will not let you down, he said. We will take care of our own. And then he fulfilled that vow. President Obama and Congress provided the largest single year V.A. budget increase in over three decades his very first year.


MCDONALD: Under his leadership, the V.A. budget has nearly doubled. He opened V.A.'s doors to nearly half a million veterans who had lost their eligibility in 2003 and he supported three presumptive conditions for veterans exposed to Agent Orange. Even though there are two million fewer veterans than in 2009, there are nearly 1.2 million more veterans receiving some type of V.A. care and services. One point -


MCDONALD: 1.2 million more veterans are enrolled for V.A. health care. 1.3 million more receive disability compensation. Half a million more veterans have V.A. Home loans and we have seen a 76percent increase in veterans receiving educational benefits. Homelessness in half since 2010. Veteran unemployment's dropped -


[11:34:59] MCDONALD: Veteran unemployment's dropped by over half in the last five years. Unemployment for post-9/11 veterans has dropped by 70 percent.

America will not let you down, the president said. We will take care of our own. He stood by that commitment year after year after year. And for good reason. America met Sergeant First Class Cory Rensburg when President Obama

introduced him during the 2014 State of the Union address. The president had met Cory four and a half years earlier in France. Cory was one of the elite Rangers who had parachuted in to commemorate the D-Day landings. Then, Cory returned to Afghanistan for his tenth tour. The president next saw Cory in a hospital bed in Bethesda Naval. He had been grievously wounded by a 50-pound roadside bomb outside of Kandahar. Cory couldn't speak. He could barely move. But he gave the president a thumbs-up. Three years later, when the president and I traveled to Phoenix, President Obama quietly took a detour. He needed to see Cory. Cory had made a miraculous progress in the Tampa V.A. Poly-trauma Unit, so this time, with help, Cory stood, saluted, and said what would expect, "Rangers lead the way, sir." Cory's the epitome of that rare combination of qualities that characterizes the very best among us. A dogged sense of duty, indomitable courage and plain American grit.

President Obama admires that in Cory. He admires it in all American veterans. It's why he loves them.

Ladies and gentlemen, our honored guest, the commander-in-chief and the 44th president of the United States, Barack Obama.





OBAMA: Thank you.


OBAMA: Thank you very much. Thank you so much.


OBAMA: Thank you. Thank you very much. Please.


OBAMA: Thank you. Thank you. Please.

Thank you.

Secretary McDonald, Mr. Halliman (ph), distinguished guests, and most of all, our extraordinary veterans and your families, the last time I stood on these hallowed grounds on Memorial Day, our country came together to honor those who have fought and died for our flag. A few days before, our nation observed Armed Forces Day honoring all who are serving under that flag at this moment. And today, on Veteran's Day, we honor those who honored our country with its highest form of service, you who once wore the uniform of our Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines or Coast Guard. We owe you our thanks. We owe you our respect. And we owe you our freedom. We come together to express our profound gratitude for the sacrifices and contributions you and your family made on the battlefield, at home and at outposts around the world.

But America's gratitude to our veterans is something always grounded in something greater than what you did on duty. It's also an appreciation of the example that you continue to set after your service has ended. Your example as citizens.

Veteran's Day often follows a hard-fought political campaign, an exercise in the free speech and self-government that you fought for. It often lays bare disagreements across our nation. But the American instinct has never been to find isolation in opposite corners. It is to find strength in our common creed, to forge unity from our great diversity, to sustain that strength and unity even when it is hard.

[11:40:27] When the election is over, as we search for ways to come together, to reconnect with one another and with the principles that are more enduring than transitory politics, some of our best examples are the men and women we salute on veterans. It's the example of young Americans, our 9/11 generation, who as first responders ran into smoldering towers, then ran to a recruiting center and signed up to serve. It's the example of a military that meets every mission, one united team all looking out for one another, all getting each other's backs. It's the example of the single institution in our country. Soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen who represent every corner of our country, every shade of humanity. Immigrant and native born, Christian, Muslim, Jew and non-believer alike, all forged into common service. It's the example of our veterans, patriots who, when they take off their fatigues, put back on the camouflage of everyday life in business partners and bosses, our teachers and our coaches, our first responders, city council members, community leaders, role models, all still serving this country we love with the same sense of duty and with valor.

A few years ago, a middle school student from Missouri entered an essay contest about why veterans are special. This is what he wrote: "When I think of a veteran, I think of men or women who will be the first to help an elderly lady across the street. I also think of someone who will defend everyone regardless of their race, age, gender, hair color or other discriminations."

After eight years in office, I particularly appreciate that he included hair color.


But that middle schooler is right. Our veterans are still the first to help, still the first to serve. They are women like the retired military police woman from Buffalo who founded an Am-Vets post in her community and is now building a safe place for homeless female veterans with children.

(APPLAUSE) OBAMA: They are men like the two veterans from Tennessee, one in his 50s, one in his 60s, who wrote to say they would happily suit up and ship out if we needed them. "We might be just little old," they wrote, "but we will be proud to go and do what we were taught to do."

Whenever the world makes you cynical, whenever you seek true, look veteran. Look to someone like First Lieutenant Irving Learner. Irving was born in Chicago to Russian-Jewish immigrants during World War I. As a bombardier in the Army Air Corps, flying dozens of missions toward the end of World War II. When he returned home, Irving did what a lot of veterans do, he put his medals away, he kept humble about his service, started living a quiet life. One fall day walking down Sheffield Avenue on Chicago's stranger stopped him. He said, "Thank you for your service and he handed him a ticket to see the Cubs play in the World Series."


OBAMA: now, it's a good thing Irving took that ticket -


-- because it would be awhile until his next chance.


Irving worked hard managing the warehouses for his brother-in-law's tire company. He got married to a sergeant in the Women's Air Corps, no less. He raised four children, the oldest of whom, Susan, is celebrating her 71th birthday today.

[11:45:18] On a June morning many years ago, another one of Irving's daughters, Carol, called to check in. Her mother answered but was in a rush. "We can't talk," she said, "your father is being honored and we're late." Carol asked, "Honored for what?" And the answer came, "For his heroism in the skies above Normandy exactly 50 years earlier."

You see, Irving's children never knew that their father flew over those French beachheads on D-Day. He never mentioned it. Now when they call to check in, his children always say thank you for saving the world. And Irving, sharp as ever at 100 years young, always replies, "Well, I had a little help."


Whenever the world makes you cynical, whenever you doubt the courage and goodness and selflessness is possible, stop and look to a veteran. They don't always go around telling stories of their heroism. So, it's up to us to ask and to listen, to tell those stories for them, and to live in our own lives the values for which they were prepared to give theirs. It's up to us to make sure they always get the care that they need.

As Bob mentioned, when I announced my candidacy for this office almost a decade ago, I recommitted this generation to that work. And we have increased funding for veterans by more than 85 percent. We have cut veterans' homelessness almost in half. Today, more veterans have access to health care and fewer are unemployed. We helped disabled veterans afford prosthetics.


OBAMA: We are delivering more mental health care services to more veterans than ever before because we know that not all wounds of war are visible. Together, we began this work.

Together we must continue to keep that sacred trust with our veterans and honor their good work with our own, knowing that our mission is never done.

It is still a tragedy that 20 veterans a day take their own lives. We have to get them the help they need. We have to keep solving problems times at the V.A. We have to keep cutting the disability claims backlog. We have to resist any effort to outsource and privatize the health care we owe American veterans.


OBAMA: On Veteran's Day, we acknowledge humbly that we can never serve our veterans in quite the same way that they served us, but we can try. We can practice kindness. We can pay it forward. We can volunteer. We can serve. We can respect one another. We can always get each other's backs. That is what Veteran's Day asks all of us to think about.

The person you pass as you walk down the street might not be wearing our nation's uniform today, but consider for a moment that a year or a decade or a generation ago, he or she might have been one of our fellow citizens who was willing to lay down their life for strangers like us, and we can show how much we love our country by loving our neighbors as ourselves.

May God bless all who served and still do. And may God bless the United States of America.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: About a 13 minute, a very poignant address by President Obama, his final speech on Veteran's Day as commander-in- chief. He thanked everyone there he's speaking to. Thanked all 19 million veterans in this country for the service that they give. And he remarked, he remarked at the beginning how poignant it is and important it is that this is happening during this election week, during a time where we just finished a period of strife, election strife, as it were, and we are all coming together now during this peaceful transition, and a key element of that is our nation's military and veterans and people who served.

BOLDUAN: When the world makes you cynical, the president said, look to a veteran. A poignant message coming out of his remark there's.

Let's bring in major, retired Major General James "Spider" Marks. Your impression of the president's final address, General, as

commander-in-chief on Veteran's Day?

[11:50:15] MARKS: Kate, very, very powerful. I have to tell you, this president really gets to the heart of all of those who serve and those who haven't had the opportunity to serve, get the clear message there's incredibly honorable, our ability to honor those that came before us.

You know, it's important for veterans to understand who came before us, because, you know, the soldier's first duty is to remember. On you get that accomplished then you go about your tasks and it wake it all fit, and then you understand the context. So, this president does that exceptionally well.

I liked his comment about how the military is really a place that has successfully conducted over and over and over again social experimentation and it's a model for how that can be done so exceptionally well. And all institutions, all forms of industry, all forms of governance should take a look at how the military does that, which really starts with a shared vision of what's important, and everybody buys into that, and then you get about the business of getting the work done. It doesn't matter who you are or what you look like, et cetera. That's just, come on, guys, hat up, let's go, we've got stuff to do.

BERMAN: Kimberly Dozier, I want to bring you in.

We did just listen to the president, his final Veteran's Day's address as commander-in-chief. What do you think his legacy will be among the armed forces?

KIMBERLY DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: I was just thinking how he's had such a conflicted relationship with the military. The speech showed how President Obama has tried to reach out to them, understand them on a personal basis, but my father, we just lost this year, was an example of this conflicted relationship. World War II veteran, a marine, he respected the office, but he had issues with the policies of the man himself. And when he talked to veterans and active-duty troops right now, that's what they say. Many of them say, he didn't understand that we needed to make the missions a success in Afghanistan and Iraq with a little bit more investment, a little bit longer.

And, also, a lot of these communities, these military communities are in parts of America that have been slow to see the benefits of the slow recovery from the recession.

So, while Bob McDonald talked about rushing finances and aid institutions, agencies across the nation, they haven't felt it soon enough and that's a reflection on the presidency.

BOLDUAN: And, Barbara Starr, you've covered many addresses, sat here and watched these addresses over the years. We were both interested to see if the president made any note, took any nod to the hard-fought political battle that the country just went through, and he did. What do you think that -- what -- how is that received within the pentagon, do you think?

STARR: Well, I think an of the t2troop many of the senior military leaders, they're in -- and I suspect the president, there is the long view. Since the beginning of time. Since the first foot soldier, I'm sure there was a soldier in the Revolutionary War who thought George Washington just didn't get it, didn't understand what problem was. The troops don't often think the boss gets it.

But we are in an extraordinary period. Remember, we're 15 years after 9/11. Essentially, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the key military leaders right now who will be advising Donald Trump, are veterans themselves. Combat veterans. One four-star right now had two combat jumps under fire. There are few people in this country who can say that. There is another four-star -- three-star, excuse me -- who got blown up multiple times on his tours of duty in Mosul. I was talking to a Marine Corps general yesterday here in the building. He wears a Purple Heart. He had just come back from Arlington where he kneeled at the grave of the troops he had buried.

So, you have an extraordinary moment that Donald Trump is coming into as president-elect. These men -- and they are mainly men, let's be clear about that -- are combat veterans who understand. Now they will have to find a way forward with the new president.

BERMAN: Barbara Starr, Kimberly Dozier, Spider Marks, General, thank you for being with us.

Veterans, thank you.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

[11:54:51] BERMAN: We'll be back in just a moment.



BOLDUAN: Voting now under way for the CNN "Hero of the Year." Here's one of this year's top-10 heroes. Meet Harry Swimmer (ph).


HARRY SWIMMER (ph), CNN HERO: We run an assisted therapeutic riding program and we work with special needs children and I'm a very lucky man to be able to do that.

I met a little girl, non-verbal, deaf. Wondered what she would be like on horse? So, I said to the grandmother, how about we bring her but to the farm and see what she does on a horse. I brought her out here, put her on a pony she lit up like a candle, and I said, this is what I wanted to do.

These children come to me with all kinds of disabilities, verbal and non-verbal so much from -- from doing something that other children don't do, that they can do.

When the children are on a horse you can't tell that they're disabled. They ride like anybody else.

These children come to me every day with open arms and I love every one of them, and this is their farm as much as it is mine.


SWIMMER (ph): I love you, too.


BOLDUAN: That is sweet. Vote for Harry and any of your top-10 favorite heroes right now at

Happy Veteran's Day, everyone. Thanks so much for watching. Thanks for joining us AT THIS HOUR.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman, along with Kate Bolduan.

"Inside Politics" with John King starts right now.

[12:00:02] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: John and Kate, thank you.

Welcome to "Inside Politics." I'm John King.

We are live today from just across the street from the White House. You see that beautiful shot on a glorious day here in the nation's capital, the White House, the Washington Monument, the Jefferson Memorial off in the distance. Thanks for --