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WH Looks to Turn Page after Turbulent Week; NK Warns of "Merciless Strike" Ahead of S. Korea-U.S. Drills; GOP, Dems Rip Trump Over Response to Charlottesville Violence; Poll: Trump's Approval Rating Drops to New Lows in Three States; Jerry Lewis Dead at 91; Aired 2-3p ET

Aired August 20, 2017 - 14:00   ET

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


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Hello. Thanks for joining me. I'm Jim Sciutto in today for Fredricka Whitfield.

President Trump looking, hoping, to turn the page after a turbulent week of backlash over his response to the Charlottesville violence.

Much of that criticism coming this morning from inside his own party.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TIM SCOOT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: As we look to the future, it's going to be very difficult for this president to lead, if, in fact, that moral authority remains compromised.

GOV. JOHN KASICH (R), OHIO: Blaming one side or another when we're talking about the KKK or white supremacists. There is no comparison between these hate groups and everybody else.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: Those were two republicans you were hearing from.

Now as the president returns from his working vacation, and prepares for a campaign-style rally on Tuesday in Phoenix, Arizona, a brand new poll shows that his approval numbers in three states that he won have now fallen below 40 percent.

This as North Korea issues a new nuclear threat to the U.S. The rogue nation says that it is now ready to "mercilessly strike" as it accuses the "reckless" U.S. of driving the two countries to the brink of nuclear war.

We'll have more on that in just a minute.

First, we begin in Bedminster, New Jersey, where the president is spending the final hours of that working vacation. CNN's Boris Sanchez nearby in Bridgewater.

Boris, said the president returning to the White House, he will not be there for long, though.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN U.S. CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jim.

The president's 17-day working vacation to Bedminster, New Jersey, wraps up today. He's heading back to Washington, D.C. tonight.

But as you said, he is heading to Arizona this week on Tuesday. He's going to take part in some kind of tour in Yuma. We don't have clarity on specifically what he will be touring, but we know that later that night, he's going to head to Phoenix for a rally, and the White House has been reeling, as you said, Jim, from the president's press conference last Tuesday that received harsh criticism from both sides of the aisle.

Many in his own party are now urging the president to be more inclusive in his language, and specifically, at this rally on Phoenix, someone to see him take a much more conciliatory tone.

One of the president's critics, John Kasich, the governor of Ohio, was on "State of the Union" this morning with Jake Tapper. Listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KASICH: The president is our president. We want him to be successful. People around him have to get to him including his own family to say, OK, you need to show leadership. You need to bring the country together.

You're going to go to Phoenix and make a speech, fine. That's your right. You can go there. He's got free speech just like the rest of us have.

But when you go, try to use that as an opportunity to say something that's going to bring people together.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: Now, some have actually gone further than that, Jim, including the mayor of Phoenix.

Over the past several days, there's been speculation that the president might use this rally as an occasion to pardon Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who's been heavily criticized across the country for racial profiling in the state of Arizona.

The president himself said that it was something he was considering.

Here's a statement from the mayor of Phoenix, Greg Stanton, who writes, "If President Trump is coming to Phoenix to announce a pardon for former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, then it will be clear that his true intent is to enflame emotions and further divide our nation. It is my hope that more sound judgment prevails and that he delays his visit."

Jim, we received no indications, so far, from the White House the president has any intention of delaying this visit. No indication yet as whether or not he may end up pardoning Sheriff Arpaio. Jim. SCIUTTO: Boris Sanchez. They're traveling with the president. President Trump faced his fair share of heat, as we've said this week over his response to the Charlottesville violence.

As we said, it wasn't just democrats. Republicans adding their voices to the chorus of criticism too.

This morning, several lawmakers said their word on the Sunday shows.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KASICH: Where I want to look now is, what are we going to do to deal with the fundamental issues that we have in the country? The issue of race. The issue of police and community coming together and developing policing methods that can unify.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: Anyone that's committing violence ought to be condemned. Anyone. There's no justification for it whatsoever and we can't allow the commander in chief to somehow equate the handful of people that would make those protests violent with any kind of sentiment that condones white supremacy or neo-Nazism.

SCOTT: Well, I think what he said on Monday was fantastic. It would have been even better had he said it on Saturday.

What he said on Tuesday was just really challenging.

What the president should do before he says something is to sit down and become better acquainted, have a personal connection, to the painful history of racism and bigotry of this country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: It is not just fellow politicians who are disappointed in how the president is handling his job today.

A new poll of Rust Belt states that helped push President Trump into the White House show that his approval numbers are dropping to new lows. This is key below the 40 percent mark.

The new NBC News/Marist Poll survey voters in three states that Trump won in 2016, key states, in Michigan, 36 percent of adults approve of his job performance. In Pennsylvania, just 33 percent. Same in Wisconsin.

Of course, you remember what a key role those states played in his election win. All of them surprises, really, taking them away from Hillary Clinton, the democrat.

Let's discuss this now with our panel, Julian Zelizer, is a political analyst. He's also a historian at Princeton University. Tanzina Vega is CNN's race and inequality reporter. And Andre Bauer is the former Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina. Trump supporter, as well.

Julian, I want to start with you.

As we look at these numbers, this poll, we should mention was conducted after the violence, the unrest in Charlottesville.

We're just seven months into the president's term and yet we're three and a half years nearly from the next presidential election. How key are these approval numbers right now today?

JULIAN ZELIZER, POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, they're important, because republicans are not looking at 2020.

Politically, they're looking at 2018. And they're trying to figure out what impact might this have on the midterms. Some republicans are also trying to figure out what impact do the statements from that press conference and other statements that he has made have on the reputation and image of the GOP more broadly?

So I think the poll numbers are significant, even if they come very early in the presidency.

SCIUTTO: Andre Bauer, do you sense nervousness within Trump's team? Do you look at these numbers and see concern about 2018, as well as 2020?

ANDRE BAUER, FORMER LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR, SOUTH CAROLINA: Well, I don't know that you immediately seek concern. You'd always rather have your poll numbers better than going in the opposite direction.

But more than anything, what's important to me is when I supported Donald Trump, I wanted to see somebody come in and make substantial change.

What he's got to do more than anything right now is he's got to make sure that he works with the members of congress. So if they get down on him and he can't get his agenda passed, that's where the real problem lies.

If he can get people back to work, if he continue to make people's lives better, a lot of this other stuff will go away.

But one of the strong suits in my 14 years in the general assembly as lieutenant governor was, I made big friends with certain groups, the Black Caucus, is one of my best groups to work with when I needed things passed. I would come off the podium and talk to them.

He's got to have core groups of supporters, not just republicans that will work with him to get his agenda passed and that's going to be key more than right now battleground states, but people like Kid Rock, who are ultimately thinking about making a senate run when they see these numbers go down, that may discourage him from running.

So those are important in secondary aspects of what the president wants to try to get done.

SCIUTTO: Do you see the president doing the opposite of the advice that you just gave him there, Andre? You talk about reaching out. For one, he's attacking his own republican colleagues, as you know, Mitch McConnell, the senate majority leader, but also certainly not building bridges with, for instance, minority voters in terms of his handling of Charlottesville.

Does that concern you in particular, or more, most immediately for his agenda?

BAUER: Donald Trump is a brave guy and he does a lot of things that are not -- what we would all expect. He's had a good week and a bad week.

But I would say this. In 2000, Donald Trump didn't do real well in the real estate market, but he learned substantially from that in the licks he took. And he talked about it.

In 2008, when a lot of people are suffering, he was able to turn his business what he had learned from failing times and really capitalize on a bad market.

So I hope the bad times he had this past week, he'll learn from those and capitalize on the opportunity to unite this country, unite the two parties to try to work together on common things like a dialogue.

I thought John Kasich was so good this morning talking about making sure that people that felt like they were downtrodden had a piece of the pie that we work together for goodwill and John Kasich did an excellent job this morning on conveying what I thought was a conservative message, but a message that all of us feel the hurt, all of us want to see people do better and all of us want to make sure that nobody feels like the republican party supports the KKK or these hate groups, because we don't.

SCIUTTO: Tanzina, I want to ask you, because Senator Tim Scott in addition to Governor John Kasich added his voice to the chorus of GOP criticism of President Trump's handling of Charlottesville. I want to play this down again on "State of the Union" this morning. He had some very strong words and get your reaction.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCOTT: As we look to the future, it's going to be difficult for this president to lead if, in fact, that moral authority remains compromised.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: That's what republican senator there, Tanzina, saying that the president's moral authority is compromised.

How damaging is that for, particularly, in the African-American community, but beyond that as well.

TANZINA VEGA, CNN RACE AND INEQUALITY REPORTER: I think that you're seeing some really significant comments coming out of this past week, particularly from people in the GOP. After the last election, not this past election, but the last election of President Obama, the GOP had to really do an analysis and came out actually with a report saying how much they needed to get better at connecting with and communicating with communities of color.

Women voters, et cetera. And marginalized communities. I think what we've seen is they've gone the opposite way. They zigged instead of zagging.

So in addition to that, you're also seeing that the president himself is inconsistent on his messaging when it comes to this. We get a late response. Then we get what some people are saying is a decent response. And then we get the press conference on Tuesday.

So I don't -- I think we have to take Americans intelligence pretty seriously, and understand that it's a little insulting to assume that we can just sort of pivot back and forth on issues that are so fundamental to American democracy and society and racism is one of those issues.

SCIUTTO: People have memories. Right? And emotional issues are the ones that tend to stick.

Julian, I want to ask you this though because after the 2016 election, there were -- there was criticism of the Democratic Party, of the standard bearer, Hillary Clinton, but also other candidates. The strategy and criticism from within the party for going too far. Leaning too heavily on identity politics.

Do you see a danger here of overemphasizing, if that's the right word, just purely from a politically strategic perspective. You even heard Steve Bannon in one of his "exit interview," this week saying that the republicans would benefit in his view if the democrats went entirely down that path.

Do you see dangers there?

ZELIZER: Maybe. But I don't think the democrats want to listen to Stephen Bannon for advice.

I think --

SCIUTTO: Just to be clear, it's not just Stephen Bannon who gave that criticism. After 2016, you heard that from democrats as well.

Zelizer: But I think what this week revealed that some of those issues that are often characterized or even dismissed as identity politics are often social rights politics.

It's about racial equality, it's about gender equality, it's about the rights of immigrants. Ideas that have been really at the core of democratic politics since the 1960s.

I'm not sure the right kind of move is for democrats to abandon those or even to dismiss those. It's true they have to pay more attention to the economy. It's true they have to look at how many middle-class Americans feel insecure, but I think they are on to values that have been pretty important. This week revealed why. When the president moved in the wrong direction, addressing what happened in Virginia.

VEGA: Also, if I could jump in for one second. I think --

SCIUTTO: Please jump in. It'll be the final word, because we're running short of time.

VEGA: The trace identity politics is often used to describe only talking when we're talking about communities of color and marginalized communities.

This election cycle, this administration and Stephen Bannon in particular have relied very heavily on white identity politics.

So we need to sort of examine what we're saying and we're talking about whose country we're taking back. And all of these other sort of euphemisms that were used throughout the campaign and beyond.

SCIUTTO: How about American identity politics?

VEGA: Correct.

SCIUTTO: Maybe we can agree on that.

Julian, Andre, Tanzina, thanks so much for joining.

ZELIZER: Thank you.

BAUER: Thank you.

VEGA: Thank you.

Coming up, a sharp, new warning from North Korea right as the U.S. prepares for military exercises in South Korea. Just across the border.

This comes as one former presidential candidate says it is time to take out the rogue nation's missile systems.

Details, right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN Breaking News.

SCIUTTO: We have breaking news. It is sad news to report today. Comedian Jerry Lewis is dead at the age of 91.

He was best known for his iconic movie roles like "The Nutty Professor "and for all the signature Slapstick characters during his run with Dean Martin.

He was also, though, and this is important to remember, a humanitarian. Hosting the annual muscular dystrophy telethon for many years. A true legend that will certainly be remembered. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was born Joseph Levitch in 1926, but he became known to the world as Jerry Lewis. The zany, but lovable, fool in films such as "The Bellboy" and "The Nutty Professor."

Lewis hit it big at age 20 when he teamed up with another young entertainer, Dean Martin.

JERRY LEWIS, AMERICAN ACTOR: Dean was the virile, macho and I was the monkey. I knew we had lightning in a barrel.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Martin and Lewis became one of the most popular comedy teams in history. Thousands of sold-out performances, 16 hit movies and dozens of radio and TV appearances.

On his own, Lewis signed a seven-year $10 million contract with paramount in 1959.

At that time, it was the largest contract ever between a studio and performer. Lewis went on to act in or direct shows and movies for several decades. He later offered this advice to fellow entertainers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEWIS: Be a hit. Score. Get the audience laughing and happy. That's the secret of success in this business.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He didn't just make audiences laugh. Lewis used his fame to make a difference taking up the fight against muscular dystrophy. For more than four decades his annual Labor Day telethons helped raise more than $1 billion for research and treatment audiences laugh. Lewis used his fame to make a difference taking up the fight against muscular dystrophy. For more than four decades his annual Labor Day telethons helped raise more than $1 billion for research and treatment and almost always ended with his signature song "You'll Never Walk Alone."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEWIS: Walk on with hope in your heart and you'll never walk alone.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Lewis struggled with his own health problems over the years including prostate cancer, type I diabetes, pulmonary fibrosis and heart disease.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEWIS: It's been a long, long grueling ride. I've ingested more than 24,000 pills.

(END VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But through it all, he kept his sense of humor.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEWIS: You better laugh at it. Because there's -- the alternative is not funny.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: Indeed, sad news not just for the entertainment industry but for the country. A legend, I think many of us grew up with.

We were learning today that Jerry Lewis died peacefully at his home. He was surrounded by family. He had seven children through his life, and, of course, a legend on the stage, on the screen, and in humanitarian causes as well.

Joining me now on the phone is comedian Penn Jillette. He tweeted this picture out right when the news broke. That's him there with the legend.

Penn, thanks so much for taking the time to join us today.

I just want to ask you yourself, someone who's an entertainer, a comedian. What do you remember most about Jerry Lewis?

PENN JILLETTE, AMERICAN COMEDIAN (via telephone): Well, you know, you always have to say, no matter how much you want to talk about what a humanitarian he was, how long was he was -- you've got to lead with the word funny.

I mean, I didn't get to spend much time with Jerry as I wanted to, and he was always very emotional, that much of a hero and a legend, but I remember -- flying with him. You know? On the airplane flying to Vegas, I think from L.A. two little flight, and every single person that was anywhere near him, was just laughing hysterically.

He had glasses in his mouth and putting the seatbelt on and doing physical comedy and just yelling and just crazy and full of life. This was when he was, you know, in his 80s. And just making the whole airplane happy.

That little clip you had of him saying, make people happy, make people laugh, there's a sense where a comedian being on all the time is supposed to be a negative thing and I guess it can be, but with Jerry, he was our all the time and that made life worth living.

SCIUTTO: You mentioned it there. That was Jerry Lewis, it was the timing, it was the voices, the characters. But he was always such a physical comment. The falling, just the facial expressions. Really unforgettable.

JILLETTE: Yes. He just was completely, was completely funny all the time, and was kind of very, very pure way. I mean, it's just -- I'm going to say it again. He was just deeply funny. Every second.

When I first met him, I kind of tried to be cool and tried to be kind of a positive. He's the old school, we're the new school. You know? Way back then. You just couldn't do it. I just felt a piece of my whole childhood, everything I considered to be funny was built by Jerry and because I've been part of a comedy team for 42 years, Martin and Lewis, you know, Teller and I studied everything about them. Watched every single appearance we could see and listened to everything. We watched all the movies, every comedy teams are an important part of America and they're one of the -- I mean, the biggest there ever was.

They are the biggest most important team and then it only lasted 10 years. Ten years that changed everybody.

SCIUTTO: I was going to ask you that. Particularly you, as someone who's made his name -- as part of a comedy team. A partnership. What you learned from, well, from Jerry Lewis. Certainly from that famous partnership with Dean Martin, what you learn from their partnership but also what yourself and fellow comics learned from him. What were his innovations?

JILLETTE: You know, you could really -- you don't even have to get abstract about this. He invented techniques. He invented the, you know, the video tap that allowed -- allows people who are in movies to direct them. He is the one that allowed us to watch playback in film. He invented that.

There's a lot of just ways that comedy movies are made that were entirely invented by Jerry Lewis. When you go to "The Bellboy, and "The Errand Boy" and the "Caddy." Well, in "Caddy" he didn't direct.

Once he starts directing himself, all your kind of comedy/collector performers, you know, all come directly from Jerry Lewis, and also the way he used the frame. There's a scene, forgive me if I'm wrong, I think it's "The Bellboy," where he said elevator and it's just as close of them then with a toothpick and a close-up and then Jerry.

It's just using the frame of the movie for comedy in ways that had not been done before. I mean, he understood the close-up. He also understand breaking the wall, it's the thing he does or he -- the other one of his movies goes over a balcony and it shows that it's fake.

He showed behind the scenes. It was just a very, very innovative and, innovative, really smart, and constantly funny.

SCIUTTO: We've been showing some of these clips even ones you referred to here. This, as you've been speaking. You see him there. I mean, it is the physical comedy. Didn't have to utter a word to make you laugh, which is just an enormous talent in the field.

JILLETTE: Yes.

SCIUTTO: I wanted to ask you, just for our viewers at home who wouldn't know what a video tap is. Explain how that work. Did he allow it so that he and others who followed him could direct themselves in effect in comedy movies?

JILLETTE: Well, I'm sorry I didn't explain that better.

What happens is -- the film, so used to this video that we just assume that you can see everything right back. When film had to be processed you didn't get to see it until the daily. So someone who is on the set performing and couldn't look through the camera, couldn't see it, would have no idea how the take was and therefore, couldn't really direct officially then. It's not the way Charlie Chaplin directed. You had to decide what the cameraman said was funny.

Jerry found a way to -- I don't know that -- that the technology exactly, but to shoot video through the eyepiece of the camera, as I understand it, so that he could then see a video representation of what they got on a film afterwards and seeing if he was OK with that take.

Now, that, now that we're doing most of, recording on video, they seem less important. But for 20 years, 30 years, that was the way everybody who had to be on camera and direct did it, and it was invented by Jerry Lewis. He has the patent on it, I believe.

SCIUTTO: That's incredible. I would have had no idea. I'm sure a lot of folks watching right now who knew and loved his work wouldn't have known that either.

Before I let you go, I just want to ask you to place Jerry Lewis in the pantheon of great comedians from George Burns to Robin Williams, through Eddie Murphy, today you and through Penn and Teller, where do you place him in that pantheon of great American comic actors and directors?

JILLETTE: I think I want to go a step further.

I mean, people don't really remember this, but when Martin and Lewis were at their peak in the '50s, they were bigger than the Beatles. They were bigger than Sinatra. They were bigger than Bing Crosby. They were bigger than any star has ever been in the history of the United States of America.

When they were in Times Square in a hotel room, it stopped traffic in New York. It was a much bigger deal than the Beatles.

I have a short memories, once in a while, but Martin and Lewis really did change the world, and I think -- you know, to where very focused on individuals, it's important to remember that teams were important.

I think that Jerry Lewis, you know them -- may have meant this a little bit ironically, the title, he was the king of comedy.

I don't think you can think of somebody in the 20th century or 21st century that's more important than comedy than Jerry. But also teams are really important. Martin and Lewis, we still have that connection than it was we had Jerry.

Now with both teams and Jerry gone, we don't have an American comedy team that's that big and that important.

SCIUTTO: The king of comedy. Bigger than the Beatles.

Penn Jillette, thanks so much for your thoughts. It's been a real pleasure hearing your view of the man and the legend.

And the breaking news, the legendary, truly legendary, Jerry Lewis dead at the age of 91.

We're going to talk to his publicist who knew him very well right after this short break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:34:11]

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: And our breaking news -- Jerry Lewis, dead today at the age of 91. A true comic legend for decades, but also a humanitarian known for those annual telethons for victims of muscular dystrophy, did a lot of great work during his time. So sorry to see and report his passing today on CNN.

Joining us now on the phone is Candi Cazau, the publicist for the late Jerry Lewis. Candi, thanks so much for joining us today. I wonder if you can tell us about his final days and weeks? We understand that he was surrounded by family as he passed today.

CANDI CAZAU, PUBLICIST FOR THE LATE JERRY LEWIS (via telephone): Yes, that's correct. He passed away peacefully at his home in Las Vegas earlier today with his family by his side.

SCIUTTO: Had he been ill in recent weeks? Was the family preparing themselves for this?

[14:35:03] CAZAU: Well, he had been slightly ill and spent some time in a local hospital, but came home and was planning on making some onstage live appearances in the future. So, things turned rather quickly, unfortunately, and at the age of 91 as well.

SCIUTTO: It happens, it does. Goodness. He was planning, still planning live performances. That seems very much in fitting with his character and his career.

CAZAU: Most definitely, yes. He was not a quitter. He had plans to go back to New York to do a stage appearance, and also plans in Las Vegas as well, returning to the stage in January of 2018.

SCIUTTO: Planning that far ahead. Candi, I wonder if you could help folks at home understand, I know this goes back. He did his first Muscular Dystrophy Association fundraiser back in the 1966 so a good 50 years of history there. Can you explain what led him down that path?

CAZAU: I really can't because that was something that he kept very much to himself. I know he was asked many, many times why he became involved with the muscular dystrophy telethon and was very hush, hush. He wouldn't even talk to me about that.

So, I actually stopped asking, but it was such a passion for him. Most people would only see him for that 24-hour period, but it was a full-time job for Mr. Lewis. The prep to put that telethon together was three, four months.

Plus, he also traveled the world during that year period visiting all his children whether they lay in hospitals beds or in their homes or in the actual hospitals, he was always there for his kids.

And often I would be in his office and we would be talking just general about everyday activities and tears would start to roll down his face. And I'd say, did I say something wrong? What's going on?

He goes, no. I was just thinking about one of my kids. He had such compassion for these children, but unfortunately, the audience, the public, never saw that. They only saw that for a 24-hour period, but he lived with that every day, every year since 1966 until 2009.

SCIUTTO: It's funny. You say, Jerry's kids there. Of course, Jerry Lewis did have seven children of his own, but I remember that phrase, as a kid growing up. We knew the beneficiaries of his fundraising, victims of muscular dystrophy as Jerry's kids.

That was a very much recognized phrase in American. It's interesting as you describe him. Clearly, his emotional tie to them was very strong.

CAZAU: Exactly. Very, very strong, and very few people also realize that over the course of all of those years, $2.45 billion has been raised. And so Labor Day is not the same.

Without Jerry Lewis, Labor Day just comes and goes. There is no significance of Labor Day weekend.

SCIUTTO: It's $2.5 billion raised for those kids, and as you said, a lot of personal time spent with Jerry Lewis, the man himself. Candi Cazau, thanks so much for joining us and giving us a better sense of him.

CAZAU: All right. Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Please, stay with us. We'll be back with more.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:42:25]

SCIUTTO: A harsh and alarming new threat from North Korea, Pyongyang says it is ready to, quote, "mercilessly strike at any time." The warning comes as the U.S. and South Korea prepare for joint military drills. That's not an accident.

North Korea is always very angry about these drills. North Korea says those exercises are reckless and bring the two countries to the brink of nuclear war. This morning on CNN, Ohio governor and former presidential candidate, John Kasich, warned of waiting too long to act against the North Korean regime.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOVERNOR JOHN KASICH (R), OHIO: If I were the president of the United States, and we had a regime like North Korea and they were able to develop the technology to target the United States of America, we would have no choice, but to take those systems out. No choice and it would change the very -- the very fabric of that peninsula.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: You would not only not rule out, but you would enact a pre-emptive strike if North Korea were proven to be establishing and developing nuclear-capable ICBMs that could hit the United States?

KASICH: Let me put it this way, I wouldn't take a chance on a government that unstable and a leader who is that erratic. To be able to have the capability to launch and to land a missile in Los Angeles and kill people there.

Yes. I would reserve that right and I would make it clear to the Chinese. I would send an envoy to see the Chinese now and say there is a red line. We are not going to sit back and have our people targeted by this regime and you can do something about it.

And if you don't do something about it, you are going to have to live with the results. Yes. We have to protect Americans before we worry about anything else out here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: I want to bring in CNN's Kyung Lah. She is in Tokyo, and global affairs correspondent, Elise Labott, she joins me here now in Washington.

Elise, certainly some very tough talk from John Kasich. Quite a vow to make, if he were to be president. We know he still has presidential ambitions and may challenge for the Republican nomination in 2020.

But we also know that any military option in North Korea has tremendous risks for South Korea.

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And that's why the president and the national security team specifically Secretary Mattis has favored a diplomatic option.

I mean, of course, the military option is always on the table, but you've heard Mattis. You've heard the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Dunford. You've heard all the commanders --

SCIUTTO: Steve Bannon, sort of taken off the table in his exit interview. LABOTT: I think he did, but I think what he meant was that the actual strike would be unthinkable, and so, yes, of course, the president already reserves the right for military option.

But certainly, you've heard general upon general, commander upon commander say that the results would be catastrophic, and so that's why that's really the last resort, worst case scenario, Jim. And I --

[14:45:12] SCIUTTO: North Korea, of course, knows that. They know that Part of their strategy here is to make sure that any strike on North Korea would bring enormous costs to South Korea.

LABOTT: And that's why he knows that, and he knows that a strike on the United States would invite a strike on him. So that's why -- this rhetoric has been flying around between the North Koreans and the United States for years.

I think what you have now are two masters of brinksmanship that met their match. So, neither one really knows what the other one will do, but both know that the actual military action would be catastrophic, not just for the United States but suicidal for the North Koreans.

SCIUTTO: Yes. A lot of presidents and presidential candidates have been promising for years never will North Korea get a nuclear program or missile and here they are.

Kyung, you've been traveling in the region. How nervous have U.S. allies, but also the populations in South Korea and Japan been about the elevation of the rhetoric here from North Korea certainly, but also from the U.S.?

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, frankly, the big wild card here this year is Donald Trump and his rhetoric. That the expectation of this region was that the United States has been steady, has not wavered.

And so, the rhetoric changed the game somewhat, but this is also a region where talk is cheap. They are used to hearing a lot of this rhetoric. Just usually from North Korea, but now you have the United States weighing in.

It's the actions that really make the difference here. So, what we look for after these exercises begin, and they're scheduled to begin, Jim, in just over two hours. As these exercises get under way, and this is something that has been happening every year since the 1970s, you look what will North Korea do?

Last year, as these exercises were taking place, we saw North Korea launch a ballistic missile from a submarine. After the exercises were over, its fifth and largest nuclear test.

It is the actions that this region pays attention to. So, yes, the words by Donald Trump has certainly changed things a little bit, but they're still waiting to see what North Korea actually does.

SCIUTTO: But are you saying, Kyung, that your sense is that after the initial and very real nervousness from South Koreans, Japanese, et cetera, about Donald Trump's rhetoric that they are in effect discounting that now saying that it's not just talk from Kim, but it's talk coming from the White House?

LAH: Not necessarily that it's just talk. That things have certainly risen as far as whether or not there might be a miscalculation. Remember, this is a region they don't necessarily expect nuclear war to break out at any moment, but it is the idea that there may be miscalculation.

That's where the concerns are. There is nervousness, but we've heard the South Korean president say that there will never be war in the peninsula. You've heard Japan's prime minister has come out and reassure people here that they will do what they can to protect Japan.

China weighing in, saying, OK, cooler heads need to prevail. So, there is this sense that they want to try to lower the temperature.

SCIUTTO: China probably relishes that role at least doesn't have because frequently in the past, even pre-Donald Trump, saying, listen, neither side can really -- shouldn't go too far here, shouldn't stir the pot, et cetera. Are they trying to play to some degree the -- if not the peacemaker, the adults in the room on this --

LABOTT: Well, they are trying to be the adult in the room on their terms. So, they want the United States to stop the exercises with South Korea, and Russia said that as well. Maybe we can get -- they say, North Korea to stop their missile --

SCIUTTO: And that served their interest as well, Chinese and the Russians, because it threatens them they think?

LABOTT: That's a non-starter for the U.S., but the U.S. is saying, OK. You want to be a player? This is what you need to do. You have 90 percent of North Korean trade. Stop it.

You have a certain amount of economic -- they may not have the political influence, which I think might have been overrated over the years on North Korea, specifically with Kim Jong-un.

Maybe with his father, Kim Jong-il, there was a little bit more of a rational discussion. But I think it's pretty obvious that China does not have a lot of political influence on Kim Jong-un.

But they do have a lot of economic influence and the U.S. is saying, OK. You want to be the big diplomat in the room, you need to use that economic influence. President Trump is putting a lot of pressure on the Chinese to do that.

SCIUTTO: Show me they are saying, in fact. Elise and Kyung in the region, thanks very much to both of you.

The countdown begins. Crowds are gearing up for tomorrow's eclipse. We'll hear from some folks directly in the path of the ultimate sun block. It's an amazing event. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:54:19]

SCIUTTO: Whether it is getting in line for special eyeglasses, my wife and I doing that earlier today, or getting in line on the highways to get the best viewing, cities and towns, Americans are gearing up for Monday's once in a century total eclipse of the sun.

According to a CNN poll, 60 percent of Americans living in states in the direct path of the eclipse plan to watch the historic event. Nearly half of Americans nationwide plan to take a careful peek.

CNN has crews spread far and wide along the path of this eclipse including CNN's Miguel Marquez who joins us now live from Portland, Oregon.

Miguel, first of all, I'm very jealous of you. I saw one before overseas years ago. No fair. Say that right away, but what's the buzz like there? Is there a huge influx of people coming from all over to catch this?

[14:55:08] MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is going to be jam-packed. The buzz is totally totality. This is like the World Cup and the World Series and the Olympics all jammed into one. The difference here is the main event, only lasts about 2.5 minutes.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Countdown to total eclipse, coast to coast.

ROYCE JOHNSON, CALIFORNIA RESIDENT: This is the sun and this is the eclipse and then this is the moon, and it goes directly at it, and then -- makes it totally dark.

MARQUEZ: In its path -- an astronomical celebration from Oregon to South Carolina. The place to be -- the 70-mile swath of full eclipse for totality, the moon's shadow racing across the country right through 12 states turning day into night.

(on camera): What do you think is going to happen?

BELLA LARSON, OREGON RESIDENT: Like -- I don't think you really should look at the sun.

MARQUEZ: No, you shouldn't.

LARSON: You might burn your eyes.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Good advice. Heed it everywhere. In Chicago, long lines despite the rain for eclipse viewing glasses, eclipse traffic already heavy.

SUSAN MARTINEZ, OREGON RESIDENT: We are hearing a lot of information about traffic's going to be real heavy that day. We're going to be staying home.

MARQUEZ: Cities in small towns along the path of totality, preparing for massive crowds.

(on camera): Do you think you can literally double, triple, quadruple the size of this place overnight?

MAYOR JOHN MCARDLO, CITY OF INDEPENDENCE, OREGON: Easily. Very much so, and the people will be spread out through town.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): In Idaho, all hands-on deck for massive crowds. Across the country, friends staying with friends. Families coming together. Millions on the move even camping out for this once in a lifetime happening.

(on camera): You've been planning this trip for how long?

MARK JOHNSON, CALIFORNIA RESIDENT: At least seven years.

MARQUEZ: Seven years?

JOHNSON: We got two vehicles. Truck campers and left at 4:30 in the morning. We got here about 3:30 in the afternoon.

MARQUEZ: In the path of totality, total eclipse of the theme for everything, from dark of day wine in Nebraska to martinis in Oregon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We take the martini glass and remit with a little bit of Oreo pressed it.

MARQUEZ: And, of course, eclipsical doughnuts.

KENNETH "CAT DADDY" POGSON, CO-OWNER, VOODOO DOUGHNUTS: It's chocolate top, sun ring around it. Break it open -- it's full of sunshine and orange creamsicle flavoring.

MARQUEZ: This eclipse, unique for the U.S. The last time one went coast to coast here, 1918. Woodrow Wilson was president and the first world war was nearing its end.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUEZ: All right. We are absolutely nerding out here. We have the binoculars with the solar filters on. You can actually see sun spots right now. The glasses is what most will have on.

They look kind of like normal glasses, just mirrored. Try to look through them, you literally can't see a thing, unless -- you're staring at the sun, which is where you'll find me -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: And to be clear -- you've got to wear those to look at this, right? I mean, folks should not be attempting to do this with the naked eye?

MARQUEZ: When it hits totality, you can take them off for those couple minutes in totality, but then they have to go back on. Like any day of the year, if you stare at the sun, that's a really dumb thing to do. SCIUTTO: And you got to be totality. You got to have it totally covered, right? So, there's going to be some minutes when it's partially covered before and after again, you should be using those glasses, right?

MARQUEZ: Yes. There will be seconds just before. The bailey's beads and diamonds as they come off that sun. You still have to have them on then -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: OK. Dr. Marquez, thank you very much. Enjoy the show.

We have much more just ahead in the NEWSROOM right after this short break.

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