Return to Transcripts main page


Dems Republican Presidential Primary Election now in Puerto Rico; Goldman Sachs' Former Executive Called the Company Toxic; Syrian's Opposition is Fighting Back; Gear Up For A Fight In Ohio; Clooney's White House Meeting With President Obama; Clooney: "War Crimes" In Sudan; Turning The Tables With Viagra; "Tide" The Thieves' Choice?; President Obama's New "BFF"

Aired March 17, 2012 - 18:00   ET


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN HOST: You're in the SITUATION ROOM. Three days, two primaries, and all eyes on Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, as they battle for Puerto Rico and Illinois. Races that add even more volatility to the tumultuous Republican race for the White House.

Also, one year into the Syrian uprising, some of the most disturbing images yet as the government's slaughter of its own people escalates.

Plus, the ultimate resignation letter, a Goldman Sachs executive airs the company's dirtiest laundry in a "New York Times" opinion piece calling his former employer toxic and destructive.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off. I'm Candy Crowley. And you're in the SITUATION ROOM.

Puerto Rico isn't often a hotbed of American politics but it certainly is right now Sunday's Republican presidential primary looming. Twenty delegates are up for grabs and as Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum will be the first to tell you, every one of those delegates counts.

CNN national political correspondent, Jim Acosta, is in San Juan watching it all unfold for us. Jim, you had the opportunity to see both of these candidates.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Candy, and it's going to be interesting to see how this plays out, because naturally Mitt Romney has been given sort of the advantage here in Puerto Rico. He has got the endorsement of this territory's governor, Luis Fortunio, but the governor also a good friend with Rick Santorum. He welcomed Senator Santorum to the island when he arrived earlier this week.

But, I have to tell you what everybody is talking about here on this island is this language controversy that flared up when Rick Santorum talked to a Puerto Rican newspaper and said that the territory's adoption of English as one of its main languages would be sort of a condition for statehood. That immediately created a backlash, one of Santorum's delegates announced that he was withdrawing his support for the former Pennsylvania senator, and then on his way out of the island, Rick Santorum said, well, he really didn't mean that. What he really meant is he wants English and Spanish to be the main languages of this island.

But this is also an issue for Mitt Romney as well, at the CNN debate in Jacksonville, in January, Mitt Romney said that English should be the official language of the United States, so the question of course goes, well, if English is the official language of the United States and Puerto Rico becomes a state of the United States, doesn't that also mean it would have to adopt English as its official language? So we sort of been going around and round on that issue.

Another complicating matter for Mitt Romney, honestly, Candy, is the fact he's run ads targeting Rick Santorum's past support for Sonya Sotomayor, when she was placed on an appellate court so that could be a problem for Mitt Romney here.

The governor, Luis Fortunio, has told reporters he does not agree with Mitt Romney on that issue. So, we are going to watch all of these place out. It's going to be interesting and it's sort of amazing as you said a few moments ago not only every delegate counts and not every state counts but even territories in this primary battle -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Hey, Jim, hang in with us because I want to bring in our CNN Senior political analyst, Ron Brownstein to the discussion.

OK, let's take this sort of one thing at a tile. First of all I didn't think of Puerto Rico as Santorum territory. I thought of it as Romney territory. This whole language things, it just seems to be an odd place to be dropping that.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, and we have part of this run is a very good side the political establishment with him. And as Jim said, that we're worrying about whether whose territory Puerto Rico is a statement about where we are.

But yes, I mean I think it is unusual place for Santorum to find himself in that water but not unusual in another sense. You know, this has been an extraordinarily, increasingly diversifying country. It's been extraordinarily white Republican primary. Fourteen of the 16 states with exit polls, at least 90 percent of the vote has been white and a lot of that white Republican vote are the elements of the white community most concerned about immigration, most concerned about assimilation, most concerned about issues like English as an official language and you've seen almost the magnetic pull of that, that constituency on both Romney and Santorum, and it gets a little more complicated when they get into states or territories that are diverse.

CROWLEY: Jim, let me ask you. Have you been able to see anything or talk to anyone that leads you to believe that Puerto Rico at this point is favoring one or the other? Whose territory is it?

ACOSTA: Well, I mean if you consider the fact that Mitt Romney has the endorsement of this territory's governor, you might assume that is an advantage for Mitt Romney. But as we've seen throughout this campaign, endorsements haven't always added up to victories for Mitt Romney, and that may be the case here. But I will tell you, though, there are signs of his organizational advantage, financial advantage, he is running Spanish language radio ads here in Puerto Rico, touting the fact that Craig Romney, his son, actually speaks Spanish.

He also has a letter to the editor in the Puerto Rican newspaper that is in Spanish. So, he's really sort of blanketed the state in ways that Rick Santorum hasn't, but the fact that Rick Santorum invested so much time here, he spent 48 hours in Puerto Rico, when the Illinois primary is coming up on Tuesday. It just goes to show you that Rick Santorum is thinking about how every delegate counts in this race. He watched those other territories a couple of weeks ago go to Mitt Romney. Those territories in Guam and the Mariana islands, they really offset all of the gains that Santorum had in the Kansas caucuses.

He learned from that mistake and that's why he came to Puerto Rico. The fact he invested so much time here makes Puerto Rico kind of an open question as to where this is going to go, when you talk to people on the ground here, you really hear two different sides. You hear people saying yes, Mitt Romney has an advantage here, but that Sotomayor ad that he is been running, did not play well here.

CROWLEY: Jim Acosta on hardship duty for us in Puerto Rico. Thanks so much, Jim. I know you've got to go. We appreciate it.

Let me follow up one thing on Puerto Rico. First of all, I remember it being important when Hillary Clinton, so we did this four years ago. But, it isn't the first time in the lime light. Puerto Rico is the gateway to Illinois if you will.


CROWLEY: Because that's what happens on Tuesday, and it would seem to me if there's some startling result in Puerto Rico, and by that I mean that Rick Santorum wins, that then dominos in Illinois?

BROWNSTEIN: I think it will be surprising, having spent several days in a controversy about English only if Santorum does win Puerto Rico. And the question of how much impact would have in Illinois, I think is open to question.

Look. Candy, as we both know, the grooves in this race are cut pretty deep at this point. Mitt Romney has won non-evangelical voters in every state there has been an exit poll except for Georgia. Santorum has beaten him among evangelical voters in nine states. To some extent, you can look down the calendar at evangelical versus non- evangelical, college versus non-college, affluent versus more working class, and you can have a pretty strong educated guess about who has the advantage.

Illinois is fascinating because it's one of the states that kind of (INAUDIBLE) point. It leans a little bit in the Romney direction but not as decisively as coastal states like New York, New Jersey, California. About 41 percent of the vote is evangelicals last time. It's enough to keep Santorum in the game but probably enough Romney still has the edge.

CROWLEY: Well, you know, it's interesting because with the other thing we're learning from the exit polls and entrance polls when we have them is that the turnout really has mattered but specific turnout.


CROWLEY: So, if Romney can't turn out his folks up state, which I'm assuming is where he'll plant himself.


CROWLEY: Up towards Chicago, and then Santorum was downside to those rural and farm areas, this really could be a toss-up place which we originally thought, Illinois, Romney.

BROWNSTEIN: No, no. Absolutely. It is closely balanced. If you looked on the calendar, states like Maryland, Delaware, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, California, 35 percent of the vote or less is evangelical. You have to think Romney is a strong favorite given as I said that he's won non-evangelicals everywhere except Georgia.

You look at Louisiana, you look at Texas, you look at West Virginia, you look at Kentucky, Arkansas, strong for Santorum. And all likely. Then you have few places like Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois, North Carolina, that are kind of a battle ground were turnout is likely to matter a great deal.

But again I think with 41 percent of the vote last time being evangelical in Illinois, I think you'd still have to give the edge to Romney. It has a big population that's more upscale, that managerial wing of the party that's actually pretty comfortable with him, but again, Santorum is within reach there.

CROWLEY: I know just quickly you wrote an article in the "National Journal" this week stronger but not secure.


CROWLEY: As a description of where the president is in this election. How does he get secure?

BROWNSTEIN: I don't know if he does. First of all in a more polarized country it's harder for a president to get secure. I mean, with the question is whether it's possible any more to be president of more than half the country, given how divided we are and whether we will see someone get up to the 59 percent or so that Ronald Reagan did.

But the key for the president obviously is economic improvement. The big thing that changed in our poll, heartland monitor poll that we do every quarter, you now 67 percent of Americans saying they expect the economy to do better over the next year than it is today and that is the tailwind that is lifting him. You're also seeing an important separation here, white collar Americans are becoming more optimistic relative to blue collar Americans. They're beginning to feel that they're seeing their 401(k)s improve, housing values improve and the president in '08 ran much stronger among white collar whites and blue collar whites and will likely need the same pattern to resurface if he wins in 2012.

CROWLEY: CNN's contributor, Ron Brownstein, thank you.

BROWNSTEIN: Thank you, Candy.

CROWLEY: It's been a year since the start of the Syrian revolt and the bloody crackdown that has taken thousands of lives. The Syrian regime has been staging mass rallies in support of President Bashar Al Assad. Even as his assault on dissents grinds on. The opposition is fighting back.

This video said to be from besieged Idlib province shows the ambush of a Syrian tank but the regime continues to target civilians here, shelling in the battered city of Homs, as the ground shakes, voices call to god and cry out in pain.

Homs has been the epicenter of this revolt and videos from there have shown many atrocities apparently committed by security forces.

CNN has obtained some of the most disturbing footage yet, about a dozen family members apparently killed in one house in cold blood.

CNN's Arwa Damon filed this report. We should warn you, it shows graphic violence.


ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The men crouch as they move across rooftops. Crawling through holes they smashed through the walls. It's taken nearly a week to get this far. To reach a house on the sectarian fault line that runs through Homs.

"We're rescuing the bodies of the martyrs" the voice on the video narrates. They've heard a Sunni family has been killed. What they find shocking beyond description. The first body that of a woman. In the room next to it, bodies crowded into a back corner, as if they were trying to hide. The dead child's face, a mask of fear, blood splatters the wall.

"Let the world see" the voice ex-claims "look at this massacre in one house." He curses the Shia, the Alawats and Bashar Al Assad. The video shot in the neighborhood of Sabib early in February.

"Look, people, look" (INAUDIBLE) said, overcome with emotion as he curses the regime and the world.

The camera shows more bodies slaughtered in the bathroom. Suddenly on another floor a tiny -- the child cries out, clearly terrified. He comes into view, having to crawl over a body lying in the doorway. He must have been hiding for days. "Don't be afraid. You're safe now. Don't make a sound" one of the men tells the boy. It's not known who killed his family or why, but the men who found the bodies are sure this was a sectarian massacre carried out by thugs allied to the regime.


CROWLEY: Arwa Damon joins us now from Beirut.

Arwa, in the end, I think you sort of answered the question that now it looks sort of increasingly like a sectarian war rather than a rebellion against the government. And in the end, does it make any difference?

DAMON: Well, Candy, what the activists are saying is that the sectarian undertones to all of this are beginning to increasingly rise to the surface, and they're very fearful that they won't be able to control people's desire to want to carry out revenge attacks.

A lot of what we were hearing on our recent trip to Baba Amr in Homs was very reminiscing of what we are hearing in Iraq especially in Baghdad before the sectarian bloodletting there began. You also, have this other phenomenon of kidnappings for trade Aloites (ph) kidnapping, Sunnis Sunni kidnapping Aloites (ph) and then trading with amongst one another.

But at the end of the day, does it matter if there are the sectarian undertones? Yes. It does when it comes to how the country is going to stabilize in the future. At the end of the day, the population is going to have to confront these emerging divisions and that would be potentially a very concerning development. Because if the war in Syria takes on a even greater sectarian nature, you can almost be certain it is going to have a bigger spill on effect to Iraq, already dealing with sectarian divisions and Lebanon, too, as well.

CROWLEY: So -- and would it also make it more difficult, because we know that various countries are looking at ways to try to get aid to some of the rebels. If it becomes more of a sectarian fight, doesn't it give the world a chance to walk away from it?

DAMON: Absolutely. It most certainly would be raising a lot of questions as to what sort of individuals is the world potentially arming or aiding. And that is one of the big concerns, as the international powers try to debate and continue to remain divided on how to tackle the situation in Syria.

The opposition is very splintered at the microcosmic level, yes there's a certain degree of organization but as you move on up, you really see that beginning to disintegrate, and one of the big challenges has been finding viable opposition leadership to speak to, when it comes to trying to determine what sort of aid should be sent in to Syria and so far really, Candy, all political efforts, all diplomatic efforts have fallen fairly flat.

CROWLEY: Arwa Damon in Beirut for us. Thank you so much. Walking out the doors and blowing them wide open. A former Goldman Sachs executive Kansas Scathing op-ed calling the company toxic and more.

Also, the controversy over contraception goes equal opportunity. Details of proposed regulations on men and Viagra.

Also, first it was Rush Limbaugh, now it's Bill Maher. Are liberals getting a taste of their own medicine?


CROWLEY: A long time Goldman Sachs employee has called it quits, but not before ripping the corporate giant to pieces in a scathing op-ed on his way out the door.

Our Mary snow has the explosive details.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Goldman Sachs is known for being shrouded in secrecy with rare public glimpses into the firm at congressional hearings like this one on the financial crisis. And that's why it's so unusual for a Goldman Sachs insider to resign from the firm through a blistering "New York Times" op-ed piece.

Greg smith, an executive director quit after 12 years writing "the environment now is as toxic and destructive as I've ever seen it." He writes "the company puts itself first, ahead of its clients," saying "it makes me ill about how callously people talk about ripping their clients off. Over the last 12 months I have seen five different managing directors refer to their own clients at Muppets."

Goldman Sachs' CEO, Lloyd Blankfein, fired back sending a memo to his staff of 30,000. "We were disappointed to read the assertions made by the individual that do not reflect our values, our culture and how the vast majority of people at Goldman Sachs think about the firm."

William Cohan who wrote a book about Goldman Sachs "Money and Power" said for an insider to do this is unheard of, but he is not surprised by the content.

WILLIAM D. COHAN, AUTHOR, MONEY AND POWER: So much of what he's written about is familiar to me and it's also familiar to the clients who know Goldman does this. They don't like this but Goldman tends to put itself before its clients.

SNOW: Some on wall street question Smith's parting words.

JOSHUA M. BROWN, FUSION ANALYTICS: And I think the whole epiphany concept is a little bit hypocritical. Because odds are things are not very different now than they were in 2000 or 2001 or whenever he began his career.

SNOW: The CEO of Goldman Sachs did address the company's image in an interview with Christine Romans in 2010.

LLOYD BLANKFEIN, CEO, GOLDMAN SACHS: We'll survive only by putting our clients first and the interest of the broader community first. But there certainly is a rise in the suspicion that something is broken here, and that we just don't have those standards and the industry and Goldman Sachs have a lot of work ahead of itself to make the kinds of changes, not just to convince people but to make the kinds of changes that are warranted, from the lessons of the last several years.

SNOW: The question is, what impact will this have? One client is the state of California. Goldman Sachs helps the state sell bonds. A spokesman for the state treasurer says there are no plans to alter the relationship but says "the state of California is not a Muppet when it comes to bond sales and a relationship with banks."

The California treasurer's office adds that even though it's a Goldman Sachs client, it hires independent financial advisers to help make decisions.

In the bigger picture, though, former federal reserve chairman Paul Volcker says, there's a dramatic transformation on Wall Street with firms focusing on profits and away from clients.

Mary Snow, CNN, New York.


CROWLEY: The latest casualty in the firestorm engulfing conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh, may be the liberal comedian Bill Maher. He is getting heat from Republicans and Democrats for his own recent inflammatory comments.

Our Lisa Sylvester is joining us with the details. Like a goose and gander story.


You know, Bill Maher and Rush Limbaugh couldn't be further apart on the political spectrum. But these two guys, share something in common. They're both under fire for comments they've made recently and it raises the question, when does comedy go too far?


SYLVESTER (voice-over): For Bill Maher there's a thin line between comedy and controversy. Maher used a crude obscenity to refer to Sarah Palin, a tweet during Tuesday's primaries took direct aim at the south, quote, "toothless Tuesday, too tight to tally." And Maher has taken on GOP candidate Rick Santorum whose children are home schooled.

BILL MAHER, COMEDIAN: He wants them locked up in the Christian Madrassa that is the family living room, not out in public where they could be inspected by the various of reason.

SYLVESTER: All comedy or doe it cross the line?

Republican strategist, Cheri Jacobus says even for comedy, it's out of bounds. CHERI JACOBUS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: When you are making fun of a candidate's children or you are making fun of someone's religion to the point of being just is downright nasty and when you are calling women names that no woman should be called, then you've crossed the line.

SYLVESTER: Republicans are holding up Maher as a counter example to Rush Limbaugh. Limbaugh used derogatory names to refer to college law student, Sandra Fluke, after she spoke out in favor of women's access to birth control.

RUSH LIMBAUGH, TALK SHOW HOST: It makes her a slut, right, makes her a prostitute?

SYLVESTER: Advertisers have since been fleeing Limbaugh's show and in that controversy's wake Bill Maher. The comedian recently gave a $1 million campaign contribution to the pro-Obama super PAC. Now, there are calls for the money to be returned and David Axelrod, a key player on President Obama's re-election team has backed away from an appearance on Maher's show.

BRYAN MONROE, EDITOR, CNNPOLITICS.COM: You've got him as now a clear supporter of President Obama. He gave $1 million to the super PAC that promotes President Obama. And that makes him a bigger target. Dave Axelrod who was supposed to be on his show suddenly is no longer on the show because he may be a little bit too hot to handle right from the White House's view.

SYLVESTER: Buy Maher has shown no sign of backing down and on his march 9th show defended free speech, even when it comes to Rush Limbaugh.

MAHER: I don't like it that people are made to disappear when they say something or people try to make them disappear when they say something you don't like. That's America. Sometimes you're made to feel uncomfortable, OK?

Right, thank you.

SYLVESTER: Maher remains a bull's eye for the right, Limbaugh for those on the left.


SYLVESTER: We've reached out to priorities USA action, the super PAC that received a $1 million check from Bill Maher and as of now there's no indication the group plans to return the money. HBO, of course, is a sister network of CNN -- Candy.

CROWLEY: It is kind a hard to put this all back in the bottle though.


CROWLEY: The conversation, the public discourse has become cruder and cruder as we go along and just harder to pull it back.

SYLVESTER: To reign it back in, yes. That rhetoric, there are a lot of harsh rhetoric from both side going back and forth.

CROWLEY: Lisa Sylvester, thank you so much.


CROWLEY: It's a mission that brought George Clooney to Capitol Hill and to a White House meeting with President Obama, and finally got him arrested. You'll hear from the actor and activist himself.

Plus, thieves will always go after jewelry or electronics, but why are they now targeting a popular brand of laundry soap? You're in the SITUATION ROOM.


CROWLEY: While the Republican candidates have been hammering one another at every opportunity, the Democrats are joining in now. Vice president Joe Biden went on the attack this week, slamming the GOP rivals by name. This comes as Democrats beef up their campaign operation in the key battleground state of Ohio.

CNN's White House correspondent, Dan Lothian, got a close look -- Dan.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, as you pointed out, you know Republicans have been so busy now trying to get that Republican presidential nomination that the Democrats have been able to get that advantage especially in the state of Ohio, where they have canvassing, opening additional field offices. And as you pointed out vice president Biden flew in to Toledo this week to really hammer away at the president's opponents, directly by name. But Republicans in the state of Ohio say that President Obama faces an uphill battle there.


LOTHIAN (voice-over): In Napoleon, Ohio, a quintessential middle American town of about 8,000 people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm calling this support of President Obama's re- election campaign.

LOTHIAN: The push to get President Obama re-elected heats up. Volunteers work the phones to explain the benefits of his signature healthcare law.

A factory worker -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I had some people, the doe hang up on me. But then, it's OK.

LOTHIAN: A laid off elementary school teacher.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're getting positive feedback. We're looking forward to money calls.

LOTHIAN: The chairman of the state's Democratic Party is taking nothing for granted.

(on camera): How critical again will Ohio be in this election?

CHRIS REDFERN, CHAIRMAN, OHIO DEMOCRATIC PARTY: We pick presidents. It's as simple as that.

LOTHIAN (voice-over): Ohio picked President Obama in 2008 by 51 percent and the ground operation across 88 counties that helped him win never folded up shop.

REDFERN: We have a stronger infrastructure today than perhaps we did in 2008.

LOTHIAN: But what they also have is a president with low poll numbers in a still struggling economy. This NBC News/Marist survey shows 49 percent of Ohio voters disapprove of how the president is handling his job, 45 percent approve. State Republicans say Mr. Obama is vulnerable.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With $4 gas prices, Obama care and the failed stimulus, things don't look good for President Obama up here in Ohio.

LOTHIAN: They're pushing that theme of a president who has failed to improve their lives. As the Obama campaign launches what's expected to be the most aggressive effort ever in the buckeye state, the president flew to Dayton for a basketball game and what amounted to a political lay-up.


LOTHIAN: Then two days later the vice president arrived in Toledo where he delivered a high profile attack on the president's Republican opponents.

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: If you give any one of these guys the keys to the White House, they will bankrupt the middle class again.

LOTHIAN: In a state with more than 800,000 jobs are tied directly to the auto industry, the Obama campaign is taking credit for a dramatic turnaround.

And supporters like the state's former governor, are using the bailout to draw a sharp contrast with Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney who favored a managed bankruptcy.

TED STRICKLAND (D), FORMER OHIO GOVERNOR: I believe it's going to have serious problems in November as he presents his record to the people of our state.

LOTHIAN: But Republicans argue the president has big problems of his own in this state, and on that list is enthusiasm.

JON STAINBROOK, CHAIRMAN, LUCAS COUNTY, OHIO, REPUBLICAN PARTY: You can throw all the pep rallies and campaign stops you want, but you can't get the enthusiasm back that the president had in 2008.


LOTHIAN: So what you're seeing from Republicans now is that they're targeting young voters, the independent voters and here is their message, whoever the Republican presidential nominee is, will do a much better job of fixing the economy and getting the unemployed back to work -- Candy.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: Republican White House hopefuls aren't only taking aim at President Obama on the economy. This week, they're also reacting to the situation in Afghanistan particularly following the brutal massacre of Afghan civilians allegedly at the hands of a U.S. soldier.

Wolf Blitzer spoke about it with the GOP frontrunner, Mitt Romney.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Is it time to start getting out of Afghanistan much more quickly than President Obama has in mind, which is he wants everyone out by the end of 2014?

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, it's certainly time on a regular basis to review our mission there and to see what progress we're making and not to make decisions based upon some actions by a crazed gunman.

We don't determine our foreign policy based on something of that nature, but of course, from time to time we have to assess what the process is there.

I'm very disappointed that the president has not, over the last year or two, talked about what's happening in Afghanistan, what progress is being made, what setbacks there are, describing a timetable that makes sense, describing why his timetable makes sense or not, as the case may be.

My own view is we have to listen to the commanders on the ground, hear what they have to say. We're going to hear input from General Allen in just a few days.

Let's hear their reports and see what prospects we have for having a successful mission of turning over as soon as possible the responsibility for the security of Afghanistan to the security troops there.

BLITZER: So do you agree or disagree with Gingrich that the mission may not be in his word, "doable"?

ROMNEY: Well, there's no certainty in a matter of foreign policy of this nature, of course, and one recognizes that, as one goes into a conflict, but one, over time, collects information to see what progress is occurring, what setbacks are occurring.

But you don't make an abrupt shift in policy because of the actions of one crazed, deranged person, but of course, you assess your prospects over time, again, given the input of the people closest to the action.

But at this stage to say we're going to throw in the towel without getting the input of General Allen, or actually making trips to Afghanistan and meeting with leaders there and meeting with our commanders there and troops there, that wouldn't make a lot of sense.

I'm more deliberate when it comes to the lives of our sons and daughters and the mission of the United States of America.


CROWLEY: After testifying to Congress and meeting with President Obama, George Clooney is arrested. The actor and activist talks about the mission that brought him to Washington.

Plus one of the hottest targets for shoplifting rings is a popular laundry detergent. And President Obama said he was chaff to bits at the visit of Britain's prime minister. Jeanne Moos will explain.


CROWLEY: Actor George Clooney was arrested during a protest at Sudan's embassy in Washington. Before his arrest on Friday, Clooney said humanitarian aid should be allowed into Sudan.

He also called on the Sudanese government to quote, "stop randomly killing its own innocent men, women and children, stop raping them and stop starving them. That's all we ask," unquote.

A day before his arrest, Clooney met with President Obama in the oval office to talk about Sudan. After their meeting, Clooney praised the president for his dedication to the crisis. He said now is a right time for a renewed focus on Sudan.


GEORGE CLOONEY, ACTOR/ACTIVIST: The good news for us was that we do feel like there's a commitment on a very high level and has been, but it feels -- there's been a sustained commitment, but there seems to be a new version of that coming up.

You know, with the escalation of danger to the people in the mountains, there's a real concern of opening some form of humanitarian corridor. Obviously, that's not something we'd do unilaterally.

It would have to be done through many different, with the help of many different countries. There is a great interest in working with China, not in any adversarial relationship, but actually working together for their own economic interests.

Since China is losing a considerable amount of money in oil revenue right now. So there seem to be a unique moment, unique time to be able to act on some of that.


CROWLEY: Clooney also used his star power on Capitol Hill. CNN's Athena Jones has details on his testimony to Congress.


ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): George Clooney isn't just a big draw at the box office. Arriving on Capitol Hill, the actor was greeted by fans, flash bulbs, and even laughter. But the subject was serious.

CLOONEY: I thank you for the opportunity to appear before you.

JONES: Clooney is lending his celebrity to efforts to stop a humanitarian crisis on the border of Sudan and South Sudan. The actor/activist is just back from the region.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Give us a sense of what you really saw on the ground.

CLOONEY: These were not acts of war. These were war crimes.

JONES: Clooney showed a video to the packed hearing room.

CLOONEY: Yesterday, 10:30 in the morning, 15 bombs hit this tiny village, where everyone's hiding in the rocks. And this is an unexploded bomb. It's buried up to its neck in the dirt.

JONES: Clooney says frequent bomb strikes on villages by the Sudanese government as it fights rebels mean the people of the mountains and Southern Sudan live in constant fear. Some 250,000 could face near famine conditions by next month if the government doesn't allow aid in.

CLOONEY: You're a very brave boy. Will you tell him that?

JONES: Noting that South Sudan's decision to stop oil production has driven up the price of oil on world markets and deprived China of 6 percent of its oil, Clooney called for the U.S. to work with China to influence indicted war criminal and Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir.

CLOONEY: Let's send a high-level envoy to China to work on this. Let's use the techniques we've learned from chasing terrorists and find and freeze the offshore bank accounts of these war criminals.

JONES: After the two-hour hearing, it was back to the throngs of fans and reporters.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is next for you? Do you feel this will make a difference?

CLOONEY: We go tomorrow to speak to the president, we speak to Secretary Clinton, and then we'll continue trying to move the bar.


JONES: Now you just heard Clooney say he's meeting with President Obama and it won't be the first time they've met to discuss this subject and one more thing, Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project, which uses satellites to track the suspected war crimes in the region in real time.

He said the group hopes the images can be used not just to try to stop the bloodshed going on there in South Sudan and Sudan, but also as evidence at any future trial. Athena Jones, CNN, Washington.

CROWLEY: And unlikely black market commodity, laundry detergent, we're looking into what's behind a sudden wave of thefts.

Plus a twist in the controversy over contraception. New rules proposed for men and Viagra.


CROWLEY: There's new backlash to the controversy over women's contraception. One lawmaker wants to turn the tables and put new regulations on men. Lisa Sylvester has -- I'm so scared to ask about this, but feel free.

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Candy, you know that this has been an issue on the state and the national level, a focus on contraception and abortion.

But one Ohio lawmaker says if you're looking to have new legislation focusing on women's reproductive health, let's look at the men, and whether they should have access to Viagra.


SYLVESTER (voice-over): Viagra, Cialis and Levitra, these erectile dysfunction drugs have taken the world by storm.

But if Ohio state senator, Nina Turner, gets her way, a man's access to these medications in her state would be restricted. Men would not be able to get a prescription without a signed affidavit by their sex partner.

They would also have to sit down first with a sex therapist to determine if the issue is medical or psychological, and be screened for underlying health issues.

NINA TURNER (D), OHIO STATE SENATE: It is patently unfair in this country that we simply only focus in on a woman's reproductive health. We have to show men that we care about them, too and for far too long female legislators have abdicated their responsibility to tell men what they need to do with their bodies.

SYLVESTER: There's more than a hint of sarcasm in Turner's voice, but she insists her bill is a serious piece of legislation. Turner is one of at least five state lawmakers who have recently introduced bills affecting men's reproductive health.

It's in direct response to a significant uptick in state legislation governing a woman's access to abortion and contraception. In 2011, there were 1,100 provisions introduced in the 50 states, up from 950 in 2010, according to the institute, which tracks the data.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To protect the life of the unborn baby --

SYLVESTER: One such bill has been offered in Ohio by State Representative Lynn Watchman. His bill would ban an abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected. That's usually about six weeks into a pregnancy.

LYNN WACHTMANN (R), OHIO STATE HOUSE: Up to 90 percent or so of the babies currently aborted would be saved due to this legislation. So the very short and quick goal of this is to protect the unborn babies here in Ohio.

SYLVESTER: Wachtmann is a member of the Ohio Right to Life Society.

TURNER: Even if cases of rape and incest, and only if she's on her deathbed --

SYLVESTER: But Turner sounds off on his bill and others like it.

TURNER: Women should have the right to choose. Whether it's contraception or abortion, it is between them, their God, and their doctors, and they should not need a permission slip from the government.

SYLVESTER: Getting her Viagra bill passed is a long shot, but Turner says that's not the goal, it's having the debate.


SYLVESTER: Now Turner is a Democrat, and her party is in the minority in Ohio's House and Senate, and she has found a cosponsor on the House side. They're hoping to have hearings on the bills later this year -- Candy.

CROWLEY: So she's sarcastic about the bill itself, but serious about the subject.

SYLVESTER: Right, she's very serious about the subject. She wants to have the debate and at least raise the question, should we have the same application to men as we do to women, if we're going to have this whole debate about women's reproductive health maybe we should look at men as well.

CROWLEY: Interesting way to go about it. We always think there's no new way to debate something. Lisa Sylvester, thank you so much.

The tide could be turning on the black market. Ahead, why so many thieves are suddenly targeting laundry detergent.

Plus, President Obama and the British prime minister looking a lot like long time BFFs.


CROWLEY: If you had to guess what shoplifters like to steal you might go with electronics, but police increasingly say the target for many thieves is "Tide." CNN's Brian Todd is here to explain why. BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Candy, this could be a reflection of the economy or just a crime wave, but thefts of "Tide" detergent, which is not cheap, had been reported by several retailers and police departments. How serious it is?

We are told that theft rings are hauling the stuff away by the cartful and putting it on the black market.


TODD (voice-over): You're looking at surveillance footage of a major heist. He is not stealing cash or jewelry, but detergent. Patrick Costanzo in St. Paul, Minnesota pleaded guilty to charges that he stole as much as $6,000 worth of detergent and other items over several visits to Wal-Mart.

It's not isolated. This Safeway in Bouie, Maryland was a favorite target. Police tell us one alleged theft ring shown here on surveillance stole several thousand dollars worth of "Tide" detergent in recent months.

Why "Tide?" At between $10 and $20 a bottle, a full cart like this is worth hundreds. Police say it can be easily resold on the black market for less than retail price and --

(on camera): In some cases, they are trading this stuff directly for drugs?

LT. BRADLEY PYLE, PRINCE GEORGE'S CO., MD. POLICE: Yes. Drug dealers have finally realize I can take this $10 rock and I can have you go out and try to steal something and get ten bucks for it. Get my $10 from you.

Or I can tell you want five bottles of tide instead. Once they get one here and steal those five bottles of "Tide," then they can turn around and give them to me.

Now I take them down to the dirty store down the road and I sell them for $6 a piece. Now I have $30.

TODD (voice-over): Police in Prince Georgia's County, Maryland say they have arrested 18 people in one ring for stealing detergent. How could they get away with such bulk?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's very easy to not know what's going on.

TODD (on camera): Why is it so easy to not see it?

CRAIG MUCKLE, SAFEWAY, INC: Well, because you are engaged in your activities. If you are with your children you are managing your kids.

TODD (voice-over): Police and store officials say the thieves were so organized, they acted almost like NASCAR pit crews, staging unattended carts in the aisles, having look outs all around then they move through the aisles quickly. Grab the "Tide" and pile it up and throw their jackets over it so no one could see then they'd be out of the door before anyone would notice. Now some retailers like CVS is placing security devices on "Tide" that triggers alarms.


TODD: In Prince Georgia's County, police tell us they expect to make more arrests of members of that theft ring soon. They have devoted several undercover detectives to taking it down.

Candy, we spoke with some of those detectives and talked to them about how they kind of infiltrated these rings. It's fascinating.

CROWLEY: Unbelievable. It really is. Thanks, Brian. Good story.

President Obama pays tribute to the British prime minister with a state dinner and much more. Up next, Jeanne Moos on how the two state leaders are starting to sound just like BFFs.


CROWLEY: President Obama and the British prime minister are looking a lot like long-time friends. Here's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The cherry blossoms are blooming and there is bromance in the air. The president and the prime minister worked the rope line together, they posed together, did an interview together with the president beaming at his counterpart. Barack and David are definitely on a first name basis.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: So David, thank you.


PRESIDENT OBAMA: So David, welcome.

CAMERON: Barack and I --

PRESIDENT OBAMA: David, we are chuffed to bits that you are here.

MOOS: President Obama threw in Britishisms while Prime Minister Cameron dropped Americanisms.

CAMERON: Alley-oops.

MOOS: Words he learned at his first basketball game where he tore open mustard with his teeth and he and the president chowed down on hotdogs as President Obama instructed him on the finer points of NCAA tournament play.

When they exchanged gifts, the Obamas gave the Camerons a fancier version of this grill and the Camerons gave the Obamas a ping-pong table to commemorate the time last spring when the two got shellacked by a couple of students.

The prime minister said that the grill and the tennis table should be switched.

CAMERON: When you see us standing next to each other, it is quite clear that the person who needs the exercise is the British prime minister and the person who needs the barbeque is the president of the United States.

MOOS: These two even shackled over the war of 1812 during which the British marched on the White House --

CAMERON: To think that 200 years ago, my ancestors tried to burn this place down.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: They really lit up the place.

CAMERON: You have the place a little better defended today.

MOOS: The president and the prime minister put on mustard in unison and chewed in unison. This relationship sure looks finger licking good. Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


CROWLEY: That does it for me. I'm Candy Crowley in the SITUATION ROOM. Be sure to join us every weekday from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. Eastern on CNN and at this time every day on CNN International. The news continues next on CNN.