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New Day

Trump Reverses Position on Waterboarding and Torture; Remembering Nancy Reagan; Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired March 07, 2016 - 08:30   ET


[08:30:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Very much, as always. Look forward to having you on the show. Brian Morgenstern (ph), the same. Always welcome.



Donald Trump backing down from his position on torture. At first he was all for it. Now he's clarifying that stance. But the story does not end there. Up next, the new plan.


MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Here we go for the Monday edition of the five things to know for your NEW DAY.

At number one, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders exchanging their sharpest attacks yet during last night's fiery CNN debate in Flint. The rivals sparring on the economy, guns and ties to Wall Street.

After a split Super Saturday showing, Donald Trump looks to rebound in Republican primary contests tomorrow in Michigan, Mississippi and Idaho, plus caucuses in Hawaii.

North Korea is threatening indiscriminant nuclear strikes against South Korea and the U.S. as those two nations begin their largest ever joint military exercises. The drills involve more than 300,000 personnel.

ISIS is claiming responsibility for a suicide attack in Iraq that killed at least 35 people, injured scores more. A truck loaded with explosives blew up at a busy security checkpoint south of Baghdad.

[08:35:02] Well, Peyton Manning is calling it a career after 18 seasons going out as a reining Super Bowl champ. The Broncos quarterback expected to make it official this afternoon at a news conference in Denver.

For more on the five things, be sure to visit


CAMEROTA: OK, Michaela, we are remembering the life and legacy of Nancy Reagan. The former first lady dead at 94 years old. Former adviser to President Reagan, David Gergen, will be here to share his memories.


CUOMO: OK, Donald Trump is changing his position on torture. After his comments supporting waterboarding and worse at the most recent GOP debate, he drew harsh criticism from military experts. Trump now says he won't ask military leaders to break international law, but he wants those laws changed.

Let's discuss. We have New Hampshire state Representative and former U.S. Marines First Sargent Al Baldasaro and CNN military analyst and former Army commanding general for the Europe and - for Europe and for the 7th Army, Lieutenant General Mark Hertling.

[08:40:04] General, it's good to have you with us this morning. Gentlemen, thank you.

So, let's start with Al Baldasaro. OK, you support Donald Trump, yes?



BALDASARO: And, thank you, general, for your service.

CUOMO: So when you hear Donald Trump talking about torture and what's good and what's bad and why and what to tell the military, make the case for why it's OK.

BALDASARO: The reason I - when I hear him talk about torture, and I think when Megyn Kelly said, you're willing to break the law, he never said he was going to break the law. He said the troops will do as I say as a commander in chief. He did straighten (ph) his comments there on this here. Now, I know - I served 22 years in the Marine Corps. Not as much as the general. Very familiar with code of conduct. Very familiar with the Geneva Convention. Very familiar with the Newtonburg (ph), you know, courts and - back in World War II.

What he's saying is basically they're cutting off heads. They cut off of guys in my (INAUDIBLE), in my state of New Hampshire. I don't understand. I keep saying American values. Whose interpretation of American values? Was it American values when Ronald Reagan killed the family of Gaddafi and he was silenced for 25 years? How about on Obama, that killed the son and shot the wife there, SEAL Team Six, when he killed Obama. You know, the general can't and other people can't be picking and choosing in their interpretation of American values. Donald Trump's right on, but he's wrong to go to the legislators.

CUOMO: You're talking about the - the takeout of Osama bin Laden there as one of your examples.

General, what's your sense?

LT. GENERAL MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, a couple of things, Chris.

I picked up two things that I had a visceral response regarding the debate. Mr. Trump tried to walk it back the following day. But the first was the expanded use of torture. And all studies and everything we've seen, and I've had to run interrogation facilities in combat. All indicators are that torture does not work. It's used by individuals to generate revenge or frustration or oppose authority, but it does not generate information. There are much better ways to get information through proper interrogation techniques. And the military has never done enhanced interrogation techniques. That's been others who have done that.

But the second thing that scared me in the debate that really had a response for me was when Mr. Trump said he is going to order the military to do this and they will - and, quote, "they will do what I tell them to do." They're not going to refuse me. If I say do it, they're going to do it. Those are the things that really concern me about some of the things Mr. Trump is saying because, first of all, it's toxic leadership and, secondly, someone needs to remind Mr. Trump that the military is not his palace guards. They take an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. They also abide by the rules not only of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the UCMJ, but they also abide by the U.N. mandate against torture and the Geneva Convention protocols against torture. We do not do this. It is not within our purview.

CUOMO: So, representative, respond to the general's point about what we do, which goes to your point about who we are. Is it a fair criticism of what Donald Trump is saying, that the idea of, look at what ISIS does. We have to do the same and maybe even worse, that that's not the way America wins is by meeting the worst of its enemy in terms of how they treat humanity.

BALDASARO: Right. Well, you know, what I can say to the general is, I - you know, I sit on the state and federal (ph) of veterans affairs for 10 years. We don't have access, just like Donald Trump does not have access that the general has to the CIA studies on the torture, whether it worked or not. Donald Trump, just like many of us veterans that are supporting Donald Trump, look at this and say, maybe it worked or it don't, but Donald Trump is one who identifies generals, OK, who will stand up and speak out and will explain to him what the rules are, OK.

For many years even myself during Desert Storm, the rules of engagement, we were very aggravated when they told us, take our magazines out. No general stood up for us. The generals in the past of me growing up are examples of America. I wish we'd spend more time fighting for that veteran that's being kicked out of the army there for going after a police officer on - after he raped a little boy, but yet we are - we are talking about trying to read between the lines what Donald Trump said. And I - many of us veterans support Donald Trump.

CUOMO: I understand that, but not trying to read through the lines at all. I'm reading right on the bold faced parts of the line, representative, of what he said in different iterations of this. General, find word.

[08:44:51] HERTLING: Well, I - I think that's the point, Chris. What we're hearing from a lot of the candidates, and I'm trying to remain as apolitical as possible, are things that just don't make sense. And some of the candidates are saying, hey, we're getting advice from the generals. And, in fact, when Mr. Trump said this, he named two names, one of which wasn't a general that he's watched on TV, the other one was a general and it was the wrong name.

So what I would suggest is he - that he take some people under advisement and listen to them. Be a little more humble in his approach and maybe be a little bit empathetic as opposed to proclaiming that he has all the answers. Because right now this is not only affecting those in the military who are supporting him -- and I got tons of letters after I wrote that CNN commentary about what the military will and won't do from serving military people that are concerned about this election. And you know, I think we not only have to look at our internal military, but we look at how we are viewed around the world. This is not helping our cause in the fight against terrorism.

CUOMO: General, Representative, thank you both for coming on NEW DAY to make your points. Appreciate it and thank you both for your service.

HERTLING: Thank you, Chris.


CUOMO: All right. So what do you make on this issue? What's right? What's wrong? What's good? What's not good? Tweet us @newday. You can follow us all. We're all on social media. I'm off for Lent, but I'm reading. You can also go on Facebook.


PEREIRA: You know, we certainly hear former President Ronald Reagan's name invoked on the campaign trail a whole lot. His wife Nancy, though, a driving force behind his success and his legacy. We will talk about the late first lady's influence on American life and politics next.


[08:50:02] PEREIRA: All right. Tributes are pouring in this morning following the passing of former First Lady Nancy Reagan. She died Sunday at the age of 94.

We have a real treat. Joining us now is CNN's senior political analyst have former adviser to President Reagan, David Gergen.

You know, it's been interesting. I think we have all been appreciating the obituaries and writes that we've been seeing, people remembering our former first lady. But you had such an incredible access to this couple, to the first lady and to the president. How will you remember her? DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: In a very, very warm way.

And one gets very nostalgic, too, because the current politics are so contentious and so uncivil and they were classy and -- both of them together. And of course there was the love story. But I also remember her as the enforcer. And one was quite careful not to cross Nancy.

If I could have a moment first, a little story that brings out both of them. We were down in Williamsburg where President Reagan was hosting what's called the GA Conference where heads of eight different developed countries and he had to be prepared for each one of these bilateral meetings. He was meeting with (inaudible) and all that. And so we had to do big briefing papers for each one of these meeting. And it got to be a very thick book for the next day for a Wednesday. And Jim Baker, then the chief of staff and the best, took this briefing book to the president and said Mr. President, when you take it home tonight please don't -- please read quickly. Because he always read slowly. But he would always read. But we knew Nancy was going to be out there and look at that big, thick briefing book and she was going to have our heads in the morning.

And so we were all at this great trepidation as we woke up the next day and when the president came in to have breakfast with us and he got about 15 minutes into the eggs and he looked up and he said, ah fellas, I've got a confession to make. I sat down with your briefing book last night and it was really, really good but did you know that "The Sound of Music" was on last night? He said and you know that is my favorite movie. So I never had a chance to read your briefing book. And we thought, wow, thank God Nancy is not going to be after us.

But how could he possibly succeed in these meetings without all the stuff we fed him? And you know what? He was better that day than we had ever seen him. Because he had a big picture. And the two of them have this sort of calmness about life that you don't see today. They took life as it came and they had seen so much, they had done so much, they were comfortable with each other. Very importantly, he did not need the presidency for his ego.

Sometimes you see -- I worked for Nixon. He needed the presidency in order to feel like he had a life. Some people are like that. But I think Reagan was a better president because he wasn't so ambitious as that he wanted to do it, but he was okay and he had Nancy at his side. She was his refuge. She was his anchor. You know, he loved to go home at night. More than anything else, they liked to spend an evening alone together. You know, they'd be eating TV dinners, watching the news, talking, then he'd do some work. But they just liked to be quiet. And as staff member, you never invaded that privacy. You respected that privacy.

CAMEROTA: That is amazing. I mean, what an illustration of their dynamic. Their children knew that. I mean, their children have talked about how they were the great loves of each other's life and yet today, Ron, Jr. talked about how in being his protector, Nancy Reagan somehow became the target of some of the critics more so than he. GERGEN: I think that is right. Often there is somebody who has to be

the enforcer and they often take a lot of criticism. But you know, he found her when he was -- when he was at a low point in his life.


GERGEN: Well, he had -- his movie career in the late '40s had stalled out. And then Jane Wyman, his wife, walked out on him. He was in really pretty rough shape. And they met -- Nancy and he met in 1949. And at first they were attracted to each other, but he wanted Jane to come back still. And so that relationship -- it didn't flower until there was recognition she wasn't coming back and they got married in 1952.

But when they got married, his whole inner life change and his outer life changed because General Electric came along and said would you host this TV program? And he started doing that and he started crisscrossing the country on behalf of General Electric, gave a lot speeches and that is how he evolved into being the speechmaker he was. He also turned more conservative during those -- 1950s.

He was a -- When he was young he voted for FDR first time out. He voted for Franklin Roosevelt four times in a row. He was a Democrat. But in the 1950s he says the party walked away from me, I didn't walk away from it. But he became much more conservative. And by the end of the 1950s he was -- he had a new life. He had a life with Nancy, he had a new career and he was propelling forward on the political scene.

CAMEROTA: Fascinating.

CUOMO: I could listen to it all morning. I was always very enamored of and inspired by what I saw with Nancy. I got to spend a lot of time around her. She was a very impressive person.

GERGEN: Classy --

CUOMO: Very much so.

PEREIRA: Absolutely. Absolutely. You almost wonder what she would make of all of this that's going on right now.

[08:55:01] David, thanks for joining us --

GERGEN: Thank you. Thank you.

PEREIRA: And sharing these quiet memories of a great lady.

GERGEN: I appreciate.

CUOMO: A special woman who did many special things. A "Good Stuff" example to be sure. Let's give you some more right after the break.


CUOMO: Time for "The Good Stuff." How about some Monday motivation? Another reason to get into an Uber. You got a driver named Scott Anderson. He's got cerebral palsy. Now he picked up the job to earn money for his wife and kids, but he has something very special to offer his passengers. You see, Scott is a motivational speaker.


SCOTT ANDERSON, INSPIRATIONAL UBER DRIVER: They'll come in discouraged just in their jobs and relationships and it allows me (ph) to encourage them and give them hope.


CUOMO: So obviously passengers find out what is going on in Scott's life and he starts to talk to them. And one of them wanted him to meet their nephew who also has cerebral palsy. He gave Jake advice on girls and college.

PEREIRA: Oh. All right.


ANDERSON: I don't care if she's literate or not, you need to study together.


PEREIRA: I like that.

CUOMO: You need to study together. Jake said he hopes to be like Scott one day.

PEREIRA: What a great man.

CAMEROTA: That is a great story. You just made Monday better.