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THE SITUATION ROOM
GOP's New Approach; Governors' Historic Role In Saving Political Parties; Military Drones Integral In Hostage Rescue; "It's Our Land...We Will Not Leave"; Feds Sue Over Financial Crisis; President Obama Losing His Voice?; Vote on Gay Scouts Tomorrow; 911 Call from American Sniper Killing
Aired February 5, 2013 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, a new message for the Grand Old Party.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), MAJORITY LEADER: We've got to be about helping folks make their life work again.
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BLITZER: A potentially life saving new tool in future hostage crisis -- crises. Military microdrones.
And the ban on gay Boy Scouts. We're going to debate it with the head of the Southern Baptist Convention and a former scout who wants the organization open to all.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: For Republicans, it was a shocking defeat that caught so many of their leaders at the highest levels off guard. Many were stunned by President Obama's November re-election, convinced that the struggling economy, the president's lackluster debate performance would give them the edge. But they lost every demographic except white men. And the GOP has spent the weeks since then trying to figure out how to make itself more appealing to the new face of America.
The House Republican leader, Eric Cantor, unveiled his party's new approach at a closely watched speech today here in Washington. But beforehand, he gave a preview to our chief congressional correspondent, Dana Bash.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Why do the House Republicans need an extreme makeover? CANTOR: You know, I'm not agreeing with the statement we need an extreme makeover. What I think is that there's a lot of lessons to be learned from the last election. And, you know, frankly there are a lot of moms and dads out there that are hurting right now, a lot of working people that are having a real struggle trying to get through the month, and too many millions of Americans out of work. And I think what we all need to do is to focus on how we're going to make life work for those people again.
BASH: You mentioned the last election. Across the board, I don't need to tell you Republicans, specifically Mitt Romney, did poorly with every single demographic except white men. That's a problem.
CANTOR: Well, certainly. And I think that what you saw is Republicans maintain a majority in the House because we've been true to the kind of principles that I think most Americans believe in. And it is facing the individual, accountability in government, not spending money you don't be have --
BASH: And has that been a problem, that, you know, we've heard from Republicans, we want to shrink the government, we want to cut the deficit, but not the why?
CANTOR: I definitely think we are very much about solving the big problems and macro fiscal problems. The president hasn't joined us.
But the reason we're doing that is we want to help people. We don't want to see interest rates skyrocket. What's that going to do to people who are already struggling to pay their mortgage? We don't want to see taxes go up anymore. What's that going to do to somebody who already has now just experienced a tax hike?
We want to make life work again, and the path to do that does include trying to get a handle on the fiscal situation here in Washington. But it also means putting in place policies that help people with their health care costs, their education needs, college tuition and the rest.
BASH: You want to make people's lives better. Some might ask how you can do that and still slash the federal budget the way you want to slash in order to meet your other goal, which is to reduce the deficit.
CANTOR: Well, again, these are, you know, things that we're trying to do all to benefit Americans, right? and I think if you take the sort of suggestion that somehow you just keep spending money at the federal level and that's going to make life better for people -- my goodness, we should have it pretty good right now given that we're spending a trillion dollars a year more than we have. I don't think that's the answer.
BASH: One last question. How do you answer skeptics who say, here's Eric Cantor out there again with his third or fourth plan to try to remake the image of Republicans who may need an image makeover?
CANTOR: All I know is I met Joseph Kelly yesterday, whose kids go to the D.C. Preparatory School. I don't think he cares or thinks about rebranding or repositioning or anything. What he cares about is the fact that his life and the life for his daughters has gotten a lot better since the D.C. Preparatory School admitted them in.
That's the in that we've got to be about. We've got to be about helping folks make their lives work again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Let's discuss what we just heard with our chief national correspondent, John King. John, does Eric Cantor seem to have a pretty good prescription to help the GOP?
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, good luck to him. As a guy who loves the vibrant political debate, it would be nice if the Republicans improved their image some. But he has a steep hill.
The Democrats have problems, too. But as Eric Cantor looks to move the Republicans, the big challenge is can you do this when you're a leader of your party within the branch? He, by the nature of his job, has to get into partisan fights with the president. By the nature of his job has to deal with the very tough task, Speaker Boehner, his boss, and with Eric Cantor's majority, have to deal with managing their own coalition.
If you look traditionally through time, the best thing he could probably do is help the Republican party in Congress stop hurting the party's image in the sense that if you look nationally - and the Democrats have the same problem in Congress. Congress has such a low approval rating, but the Republicans do get blamed for obstructing the president's agenda. So, if they could help stop the bleeding, that would be progress, number one.
But if you look historically overtime, when the Republican party was having a crisis, it was Ronald Reagan, a former governor who came to the rescue, if you will and re-created a Republican brand that had a generational impact. When the Democrats are in trouble in the late 80s and early 90s, it was a governor, Bill Clinton, a different kind of Democrat, as he labeled himself.
So, traditionally when parties go through losses like this, the next guy to ride in on a horse if you will - traditionally a governor.
BLITZER: So, which Republican governors should we be looking at?
KING: Well, there are a whole host of them. And that's one reason why when people say the Republican party is in a lot of trouble, if you look at the map, there are 30 Republican governors. So, they still have 30 of the states out there. And a lot of them -- you have a New Jersey race in 2013. You have a Virginia race in 2013. Those will be two races that will be closely watched.
And then in 2014, a lot of this rising class of Republican governors are running for re-election, Chris Christie, potentially a 2016 candidate. John Kasich of Ohio, potentially a 2016 candidate. Suzanna Martinez, someone who was thought of potentially as a Mitt Romney running mate, but was only her first term. A Latina governor running for reelection.
So, if you look around the map in a lot of big battleground states, a lot of interesting politicians will be on the ballot in 2013 and then 2014. That again, if you look back through history, it is those races where you tend to find the next generation leadership in a party.
Now, there are many in Congress in both parties who say, well, Senator Obama became President Obama. But traditionally, if you look to take a broader historical view of the new faces, the re-energizing the party, if you will, comes from a governor.
BLITZER: Yes. I think Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan, they may be upset to hear that.
KING: They might.
BLITZER: They're pretty ambitious guys themselves.
KING: And they'll be busy too. And in some ways, that complicates Eric Cantor's task. He's the House majority leader, but Paul Ryan is his friend. Marco Rubio, they have ambitions as well. It's hard when you're in a place where so many people have ambitions, whether it's internally in Congress or externally thinking about the presidency. Makes it hard.
BLITZER: You make a great historic point about governors. Thanks very much. John King reporting.
We're just getting in some new information from the NFL about that power outage that disrupted the Superbowl for more than half an hour. Brian Todd is in New Orleans. He's working the story. What are you picking up, Brian?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, just got word from the NFL and from one of the managers of the Superdome that there were at least power fluctuations during Beyonce's rehearsal in the week leading up to the Super Bowl. This statement from the NFL reads in part, "During rehearsals, there were some fluctuations in the frequency of the power supply but not in the amount of the power supply to the building. Frequency of -- frequency fluctuations can present problems for sensitive technology including high definition television cameras," the NFL says. The NFL says, there were no mass power outages at the rehearsal.
That is from the NFL talking about fluctuations in the power in the Superdome during rehearsals. We also just got word from Doug Thornton. He is a top official at SMG, the Superdome's management group. He talked about what happened during Beyonce's rehearsal. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DOUG THORTON, SMG/SUPERDOME MANAGEMENT: Yes, we had a couple of fuses blown. There were a couple of circuits that were overloaded. But it had nothing to do with this power outage. It's totally unrelated.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Thornton said these are common occurrences when you're dealing with outside show producers who are not familiar with the circuitry of the building. Both Thornton and the NFL said that because of those fluctuations, they didn't want to take any chances. And so they had Beyonce's show and her production team produce the power all on their own, on a separate power system from the grid that supplies the Superdome. That's why they're saying Beyonce's performance at halftime, her actual performance had nothing to do with the power outage, Wolf.
BLITZER: Interesting development. I know you're working the story. Get more for us, Brian todd, in New Orleans on this scene. Thank you.
We're also learning right now some new details about how that Alabama hostage standoff came to an end 24 hours ago and how new military technology could help hostage negotiators.
BLITZER: All right. This just coming into THE SITUATION ROOM. We're getting a statement from the 5-year-old Ethan's mother. Ethan, that little boy who was rescued yesterday. A hostage in Alabama. Almost six, his birthday is tomorrow.
She's speaking out now for the first time in the wake of that nearly week-long standoff. She's saying, and I'll put it up on the screen, part of the statement. "Ethan is safe and back in my arms, and I owe it all to some of the most compassionate people on earth. I will never be able to repay those who helped bring Ethan home. And then there are our friends and neighbors who showered us with love and prayers during this week-long ordeal and those who have provided food and other necessities for the many officers who worked tirelessly to bring an end to this situation." She adds, "My family and I ask that you respect our privacy and give us a little time. Time to heal, time to put this nightmare behind us, time to move forward." That statement just released. Statement coming from Ethan's mom. And we, of course, wish Ethan, his mom, the whole family only, only the best.
Now let's continue though to take a closer look at how that hostage situation was resolved. Let's bring in our Pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence. He's joining us now with more on the operation, a very sophisticated operation that freed that little boy and what similar operations could look like in years ahead. Chris, what are you seeing?
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. What we're now learning that the FBI used drones likely provided from the U.S. military to keep around-the-clock surveillance on that particular bunker. That's coming from former FBI official Tom Fuentes who has been talking with his sources. But really, the future and what the FBI may be able to do down the line goes way beyond what was done here.
LAWRENCE (voice-over): A little boy barricaded in a bunker with a killer. As the crisis stretched into a seventh day, an FBI hostage rescue team practiced how to save him. Law enforcement sources now say the FBI built a mockup of the bunker and trained on how they'd go in.
But how would they know what was happening below? A law enforcement source tells CNN authorities managed to slip a camera into the hideout.
TOM FUENTES, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: We're going to try to introduce microphones and fiber optic lenses into a location like that.
LAWRENCE: But in the near future, federal agents and local police may have undetectable drones that can drive, fly, or swim into nearly any environment.
PROF. NATHAN BUSCH, CHRISTOPHER NEWPORT UNIV: There may be as many as 30,000 unmanned vehicles in the air.
LAWRENCE: Professor Nathan Busch says designers are modeling the newest drones on nature.
BUSCH: So, you know, mimicking the actions of insects, the way that they crawl, for example, or fly.
LAWRENCE: They may be so small and agile the drones could access tight spaces, impossible for police to get to today. When the army was funding research into small robotic birds, we got a good look at each other.
(on-camera) Right now, the hummingbird can only fly a little bit longer than 10 minutes, but at that size, imagine what it could do in ten hours.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It could fly through small clearings and through trees and see inside.
LAWRENCE (voice-over): And if one crashes or the camera fails, developers at the University of Pennsylvania already have drones flying in synchronized formations. In the hostage crises of the future, it could give police a swarm of available replacements.
LAWRENCE (on-camera): And we know that defense secretary, Leon Panetta, personally approved a request from the FBI to get high tech surveillance equipment to that site. My colleague, Barbara Starr, previously reported that that equipment did arrive on site before this standoff ended and there was a small team of military personnel who would have been there operating it. She learned that that was probably the kind that they used to detect buried I.E.D.s in war zones.
The one thing we cannot determine if the FBI actually had to use that technology, but it really goes to show the coordination between the military and some of these civilian and federal law enforcement agencies, Wolf.
BLITZER: Certainly does. So happy that that little boy is just fine right now. Chris Lawrence, thank you.
CNN's Anderson Cooper, by the way, is going to have much more on the aftermath of the Alabama hostage crisis later tonight. John Walsh will share his own experience, coping with trauma. That happens 8:00 p.m. eastern, 8:00 p.m. eastern, only here on CNN.
Let's go to Syria right now and a vital center for Christians around the world armed by Christians who strongly support the embattled Syrian president and are vowing never to leave. CNNs Fred Pleitgen is getting a rare exclusive look inside Syria right now. He's joining once again from Damascus. What's going on with Syria's Christian community, Fred?
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's interesting, Wolf, because for so many months now, we've been talking about the big danger here in Syria being this conflict, getting radicalized and the party is getting entrench across sectarian lines, but one of the things we really haven't heard about is where the Christians in Syria stand.
And certainly, not all of the Christians support Bashar al-Assad, but we managed to go to a town about an hour outside of Damascus where they do support Bashar al-Assad and I want to show you what I saw.
PLEITGEN (voice-over): A checkpoint in the predominantly Christian town, Saidnaya, but this is a government outpost. It's manned by a local Christian militia loyal to the Assad regime. None of the men would speak to us on camera, afraid they'll become targets for the opposition.
(on-camera) The militia has several checkpoints throughout the town of Saidnaya, but they also have several hundred men under arms who patrol the streets here to make sure that no militants infiltrate the fairly safe area.
(voice-over) Housam Azar organizes the group. Driving through Saidnaya streets, he tells me he can't imagine Syria without Bashar al-Assad.
HOUSAM AZAR, SYRIAN CHRISTIAN (through translator): "I don't know why, but we love the president very much," he says. "We love him allot. Sure there have been some mistakes, but we love the president a lot."
PLEITGEN: Christians make up about 10 percent of Syria's population. So far, most of them have not joined the uprising against the Assad regime, weary of Islamist militants within the ranks of the opposition. There are 44 churches in Saidnaya. The town is a center of pilgrimage for Christians from around the world.
But standing on a hilltop, Housam points to nearby towns he says have opposition fighters in them, some of them radical Islamists who have fired mortarts at Saidnaya and even kidnapped people from here.
AZAR: "We will not leave," he says. "Syria is our country and Saidnaya is our town. We will not leave even if it's destroyed, if it's bombed every day and a thousand people die. It's our land and we will not leave it."
PLEITGEN: And so, the Christian militia members man their checkpoints and patrol the streets, fearful the opposition might try to oust them from their homeland should they prevail. As the Muslim call to prayer rings over the many church tops of this town where Christians and Muslims live side by side, many here worry the conflict in Syria might put an abrupt end to a calm that has lasted for generations.
PLEITGEN (on-camera): And of course, Wolf, one of the things that we always have to point out is that we do have an official journalist visa from the Assad government. And what they do, obviously, is they watch what we do very, very closely. They send people after us to watch us as well. However, on this trip to the Christian town, we did not have a government minder with us.
This is clearly a community there in Saidnaya that feels that they are under threat and when that also (ph) clearly feel that they are afraid of what might happen if, indeed, Bashar al-Assad is to fall -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Fred Pleitgen in Damascus for us, a rare opportunity to see what's going on there. Fred, thanks very much.
And I want to alert our viewers here in the United States and around the world, you can see more of Fred's extraordinary reporting from inside Syria. Simply go to CNN.com/World.
Horrifying 911 tapes from the moments after a Navy S.E.A.L. sniper was murdered at a Texas gun range. You're going to hear what his sister is now saying about the suspects. Stand by.
BLITZER: We're just getting some new information here into the SITUATION ROOM. New information about the nomination of the former senator, Chuck Hagel, to be the nation's next secretary of defense. Let's go to Capitol Hill straight to our chief Congressional correspondent, Dana Bash. What are you learning, Dana?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, CNN has learned that Chuck Hagel's confirmation to be the next defense secretary now appears all but certain, and the reason that we can report that is because of some excellent digging by our producers, Ted Barrett (ph) and Rachel Streitfeld (ph) here.
And what they have found out is that they have found at least five Republican senators who have said that they would oppose any filibuster to block Hagel's nomination. So, mathematically, what that would mean is that even if there would be a filibuster, which is still an if, he would likely have the votes to overcome that and would go on to become the next defense secretary.
They talked to a lot of senators, a lot of senators' offices and they came up with five. Two of them -- only two of them are actually going to support Hagel's nomination, but the other three, Richard Burr, John McCain, and Todd Coburn who've all told us that they would oppose a filibuster if it came to that.
We don't know when this vote is going to happen. First, he has to go through committee. That is likely going to happen later this week. And -- so, the Senate vote will happen sometime shortly after that, but this is, again, some really enterprising reporting from our producers, Ted Barrett (ph) and Rachel Streitfeld (ph).
BLITZER: Dana Bash up on the Hill, looking much better, obviously, for Chuck Hagel right now, probably, wouldn't have to worry about a filibuster, but one quick question. Even though someone like John McCain says he wouldn't vote for a filibuster, it's at least clear to me based on his questioning and statements, he won't vote at the same time to confirm him either.
BASH: Correct. That's correct. When it comes to the floor, he would vote against -- potentially vote against. He hasn't said that for sure, potentially vote against Hagel's nomination. But, the question at this point is whether or not Hagel would be blocked altogether, whether they could even get to that point, and McCain has said he would not participate in that kind of filibuster.
BLITZER: Yes. All right. So, maybe we can forget about a filibuster and let's see what happens. Dana doing excellent reporting from Capitol Hill with her team. Thanks to all of them.
A controversial lawsuit over the financial crisis. We have details of who the government wants to hold accountable now for the disaster that cost investors, average Americans, billions and billions of dollars.
BLITZER: It's the giant credit rating agencies, Standard & Poor's, and it's now in the news. The credit rating agency certainly has had some problems lately, but the U.S. government now says it should pay, pay for its part in the financial crisis of 2008.
A government lawsuit accusing S&P of giving misleading advice in the weeks and months leading up to the collapse.
CNN's Lisa Sylvester is working the story for us.
Lisa, give us some background. What's going on with this lawsuit?
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there, Wolf. Well, $5 billion. That is the amount the Justice Department wants Standard & Poor's and its parent company, McGraw Hill, to pay up. The Justice Department accuses S&P of a scheme to defraud investors. A scheme that hurt pension funds, 401(k)s and helped bring about the collapse of the housing market.
SYLVESTER (voice-over): 2004, home values were shooting up and getting a loan from a bank was easy. No money down loans, interest only loans, no prove of income loans. Wall Street was packaging up tens of thousands of these mortgages and selling them as investments. Who bought them? Private investors, pension funds, and 401(k) managers. The credit rating agencies have raided many of these mortgage related investments, AAA,
The Justice Department now says many of these portfolios were actually super risky, and one by one, those folks who bought more than they could afford went into foreclosures. The investments started to go bad.
Now who is to blame? The U.S. Attorney General's Office says, among others, the Standard & Poor's rating service. One of the nation's main credit rating agencies.
TONY WEST, ACTING ASSOCIATE ATTORNEY GENERAL: It's sort of like buying sausage from your favorite butcher, and he assures you that the sausage was made fresh that morning and is safe. What he doesn't tell you, what he doesn't tell you is that it was made with meat he knows is rotten and plans to throw out later that night.
SYLVESTER: S&P says these claims that it deliberately kept ratings high are not true. Quote, "S&P has always been committed to serving the interest of investors and all market participants by providing independent opinions on credit worthiness based on available information. Unfortunately S&P, like everyone else, did not predict the speed and severity of the coming crisis and how credit quality would ultimately be affected.
SYLVESTER: And the Justice Department says the rating agencies had a conflict of interest because the people paying them were the investment banks, the very banks that were selling these securities. The Attorney General's Office won't say, though, if it's looking at the other two credit rating agencies, Moody's and Fitch -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Lisa, thank you.
And Delaware's attorney general, Beau Biden, is joining us right now.
You like what the Justice Department is doing? BEAU BIDEN (D), DELAWARE ATTORNEY GENERAL: Very much. I think what Tony West, the associate attorney general, as well as the attorney general, Eric Holder, did today along with 12 other states, one of which is my state, Delaware. Very important step to accountability in the whole mortgage finance meltdown that happened in this country.
BLITZER: Why has it taken so long? This is five years after. We were in a near depression, whole economic meltdown. What's -- why has it taken so long?
BIDEN: No, it's another step. You know, last -- the last two years we spent a lot of time going after the robo-signing scandal which resulted in a $25 billion settlement. Holding five of the biggest banks and their servicing arms accountable for the robo- signing scandal.
This is the step to that. S&P is being held accountable for really, you know, telling the American people one thing and telling its investors one thing but knowing the facts were different. You know, they lost their objectivity and their independence. They didn't even follow their own rules. And that's what these complaints we found said today.
BLITZER: They issued a statement, in fact, saying the lawsuit is entirely without factual or legal merit. They say, look, you're going to forecast business, you make mistakes, but there was no deliberate effort to mislead the American people.
BIDEN: It -- it's worse. They didn't even follow their own rules and maintain their own independence and objectivity. It's kind of like if you have, you know, sausage at the deli and you're trying to sell it. And you tell everybody, the consumer coming in, that the sausage is fresh but you know full well that the inside of that sausage is rotten meat. That's essentially what they did not just to the consumer but to their investors. The investing public that rely on that.
Look, the reason we're such a great country is because our markets have credibility and honesty and what S&P has done is kind calling into question that honesty and credibility. And that's why you see the U.S. Department of Justice filed the suit it filed today as well as a dozen -- dozen other attorneys general.
BLITZER: Their whole business, though, is based on their credibility, their reputation. Why would they deliberately want be to mislead investors?
BIDEN: Very simple fact. And you know this having covered it. A conflict of interest. If they tell their investors of the facts sometimes, they know they might not get business from their investor. If they actually rate something to what it really is, the reality is that investor might not come back to them and ask them to do another rating. So they sometimes -- it appears from my perspective at least and the complaint we filed today, they gave their clients, they gave the investing -- the people that paid them their income, their money, the answer that they wanted to hear.
Because if they told them the truth, they might lose business and lose market share. That's the inherent conflict of interest that exists in this space of the ratings agency.
BLITZER: And --
BIDEN: Specifically S&P.
BLITZER: Now how much money do you hope to collect from the S&P? Because there's a report in the "Wall Street Journal," $1 billion.
BIDEN: Well, I think Tony West said today, the associate general, talked in the multiple billions. There's a dozen states that filing complaints. This isn't just about the money, though, it's about transparency and accountability and telling the American people what happened -- what happened to the economy. And this is central to what happened to the economy.
BLITZER: If you get the money, where does it go?
BIDEN: Goes -- for our state it will go to the Consumer Protection Fund to make sure that things like this don't happen and we can investigate things like this that have happened.
BLITZER: Do you -- do you distribute it to those people who lost money in the housing industry or whatever?
BIDEN: Well, the federal government might have some capacity to be able to do that. Ours will go to a consumer protection fund to help the consumer ultimately down the road. You know, any time the -- the other side, S&P has hired a really wonderful, one of the preeminent First Amendment lawyers in the country, Floyd Abrams, among others, and any time you have to hire a First Amendment specialist, you know your defense is not that strong.
And, you know, my colleague in Illinois and my colleague in Connecticut, two leaders on this, have gotten beyond motions to dismiss. They've already filed these cases over the last 24 months and I feel good about the types of cases we've brought at the state as well as the federal level.
BLITZER: Are more cases down the road -- I know you didn't include Moody's, you didn't include Fitch. Are more cases down the road?
BIDEN: I can't comment on what the U.S. government is doing. But I can -- we're going to look at all aspects to this. And so I'm interested in all the ratings and analytics and when it's had some of these things.
BLITZER: That sounds like a potentially -- like a yes?
BIDEN: Well, I -- look, we're looking at the whole -- the whole -- the whole ratings piece of this. And S&P, who's we filed against today, and I'm going to look at the entire -- the entire spectrum of rating's agencies.
BLITZER: Beau Biden, the attorney general of Delaware, thanks very much for coming in.
BIDEN: Thanks, Wolf. Thanks for having me.
BLITZER: President Obama losing his voice. We're going to explain. That's next.
BLITZER: The man behind so many of the president's most memorable lines is leaving.
Our White House correspondent Brianna Keilar has more now on John Favreau.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Obama is losing his voice. His chief speechwriter, John Favreau, is leaving the White House. Favs, as he's known around the West Wing, has helped write almost every major speech of Obama's since he was a senator.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's the will and the determination of the American people that change this country. Yes, we can.
KEILAR: From his first run for president.
OBAMA: We are an American family and we rise or fall together.
KEILAR: To Obama's November acceptance speech in Chicago. Favreau was seen working on it in this official White House photo as Obama awaits Mitt Romney's concession call. Favreau collaborated with the president on all of his State of the Union addresses including the one he is set to give next week.
Favreau met Obama at the Democratic convention in 2004 while he was a 23-year-old staffer on John Kerry's presidential campaign.
OBAMA: And out of this long political darkness a brighter day will come. Thank you very much, everybody. God bless you.
KEILAR: Shortly before the speech that launched Barack Obama into the political stratosphere.
DAVID AXELROD, FORMER WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISER: So they sent the poor kid in there to tell the keynote speaker that his favorite phrase would have to be removed from the speech and that was their introduction to each other. Little did we know that that kid who ran that awful errand would end up being such an integral part of Obama's future.
KEILAR: Obama hired Favreau in 2005. When elected he made the then 27-year-old his chief speech writer. Hotly pursued by the media, "GQ" magazine then called Favreau a Facebooking frat boy. A reference to this photo of him inappropriately touching a cardboard cutout of Hillary Clinton that surfaced on the social media site shortly after Obama's election. Favreau apologized to his boss' soon-to-be secretary of state and got back to work.
Now after eight years together writing hundreds of speeches --
OBAMA: Four years ago I was locked in a brutal primary battle with Hillary Clinton. Four years later she won't stop drunk texting me from Cartagena.
KEILAR: Including comedic ones like we saw at the White House Correspondence Dinner, Favreau may be leaving the White House but he'll only be a call away.
AXELROD: I wouldn't be surprised if the president called John in in the future to help out on those -- on a one-off basis because he has a great, great comedy touch as well.
KEILAR (on camera): Favreau is collaborating on the upcoming State of the Union but his second chair, as David Axelrod put it, Cody Keenan, is taking the lead. He helped President Obama in the remarks that he gave in Arizona following the shooting of Congresswoman Gabby Giffords. For Favreau, it was the president's inaugural address that was really his swan song.
Brianna Keilar, CNN, the White House.
BLITZER: A highly anticipated vote tomorrow. Will the Boy Scouts lift the ban on gay scouts and leaders?
BLITZER: The Boy Scouts of America are expected to vote tomorrow on whether to lift the organization's long standing ban on gay scouts and leaders. The issue certainly has sparked lots of debate at the highest levels.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RICK PERRY (R), TEXAS: Scouting is about teaching a substantial amount of life lessons. Sexuality is not one of them, never has been, it doesn't need to be.
OBAMA: The Scouts are a great institution that are promoting young people and exposing them to, you know, opportunities and leadership that, you know, will serve people for the rest of their lives, and I think that nobody should be barred for that.
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BLITZER: All right. Let's talk about it with the president of the Southern Baptist Convention, Richard Land, who is joining us also. The co-founder of Scouts for All, Zach Wahls. He's the author of the book "My Two Moms: Lessons of Love, Strength and What Makes A Family."
Gentlemen, thanks very much for coming in.
Mr. Land, first to you, what's wrong with letting gays be Boy Scouts or Scout Masters? What's wrong with that?
RICHARD LAND, PRESIDENT, SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION: Well, first of all, the Boy Scouts, according to the Supreme Court, had a core value of traditional sexual morality and that's why they were allowed not to have homosexual Scout Masters in the 2000 decision. They're a private organization. They don't get government money. It's not a -- it's not a government entity.
And in this country we have freedom of association and we have religious freedom, and for over 100 years the Boy Scouts have been based upon Judeo-Christian morality and traditional Judeo-Christian morality does not include homosexuality as a morally straight lifestyle. And they're entitled to continue that policy if they choose to. And if they don't, they're going to lose the heart and soul of their membership. Six months ago in a study that they completed after 2 1/2 years they said that the vast majority of the parents that entrusted their youth to Boy Scouts were in agreement with the policy that's currently in place.
BLITZER: All right, Zach. What's wrong with that argument?
ZACH WAHLS, CO-FOUNDER, SCOUTS FOR ALL: Well, you know, Wolf, when I was 6 years old I joined the Cub Scouts like most young kids do, to experience the great outdoors. After about a year, you know, our Cub Scout pack needed another then leader. And my mom Jackie took over as a then mother or mama grizzly, if you will.
She was a leader for a few more years. The scouts loved her. A few parents, and like Richard, I suppose, probably were a little apprehensive. But after they found that my moms were just interested in providing an enriching scouting experience, they didn't have anything to worry about.
I graduated from the program when I was 18. I spent more than 12 years in the program as an Eagle Scout. And I feel that the scouts have always been about being friendly, courteous, kind, cheerful, and to listen to Richard talk about families like mine, parents like mine, who spent their careers caring for men and women in uniform at the Veterans Affairs Hospital and the way that he does, calling them, you know, people who are trying to recruit kids for homosexual clubs or calling being gay the one sin that he knows about that he finds, quote, "totally incomprehensible," above, perhaps, even murder or rape, it's really troubling.
You know, I feel that like people like Richard --
BLITZER: All right. All right.
BLITZER: Let's let Richard Land respond to that. Go ahead. LAND: Well, I would just say, look, you know, I'm not the source of my moral authority. The source of my moral authority is not personal. It's the Holy Scripture. And for nearly 2,000 years now, the Christian faith, and before that the Jewish faith has based on its sacred text, believed that homosexual behavior is immoral.
And I'm not -- I'm not out to -- I'm not out to belittle homosexuals. I'm out to say that Boy Scouts have a right to have an organization that says that it wants to build boys who are morally straight and they have a right to define morally straight as heterosexual.
If those who want a different organization want to have that organization, then they can have it. It's a free country. They're free to start an organization. If the Boy Scouts change --
BLITZER: All right, Zach, go ahead.
LAND: -- their policy, Wolf.
WAHLS: Yes, Wolf, speaking --
LAND: There will be -- there will be a change in the Boy Scouts.
WAHLS: Wolf, speaking as a straight Eagle Scout, you know, Lord Baden Powell, the founder of the scouting program over 100 years ago, wrote, quote, "We hold no brief for any one form of belief over another."
And frankly, for people, you know, like Richard, this isn't able the Boy Scouts. This is about the problem that they have with parents like mine. This is about, you know, them trying to advance an agenda of promoting a specific way of understanding the world, at the expense of people all over the country.
The reality is that people of the Christian Faith, including Presbyterian clergy, numerous United Methodist Ministries, the ELCA, the United Church of Christ, have all strongly endorsed this proposal, saying that ending this ban would uphold the values of dignity and respect that scouting was founded on. And frankly, scouts for equality, our organization couldn't agree more.
BLITZER: Well --
WAHLS: And that's why we've been working on this --
LAND: Well, Zach --
BLITZER: Hold on, Mr. Land. Hold on, Mr. Land. Why not -- why not --
LAND: I think it's rather presumptuous of that -- BLITZER: Mr. Land, why not let --
LAND: My agenda is.
BLITZER: Why not let various troops make this decision themselves, if there's Catholic group that doesn't want to allow gays or if there's a Mormon group that doesn't want to allow gays, but there are other Christian faiths that do or Jewish denominations that are open to that? Why not let each of these troops decide for themselves?
LAND: Are you asking me or Zach?
BLITZER: Yes, I'm asking you.
LAND: Well, first of all, it will only be a temporary solution. Those who are advocating this have already said that this is inconsistent. The people who are -- whoa re wanting this change said that this is still allowing discrimination to take place. They want a policy. They're as unhappy with this policy change as I am. They want this to be a no choice matter, and basically, they -- as "The New York Times" just pointed out in an editorial, the Boy Scouts will now lose in court over this local option.
Because the reason they were able to keep a ban on homosexual scoutmasters in 2000 was because the Supreme Court found this was a core value of the scouts. A local option is not a core value. It's a preference.
BLITZER: Let me ask Zach.
LAND: That means that they will lose their biggest legal defense in court --
BLITZER: Because that --
LAND: And there will be litigation --
BLITZER: Hold on, hold on, hold on.
BLITZER: It looks like the Boy Scouts may go with this core option, in other words, this local option, as it's called, and allow local troops to decide for themselves. Is that OK with you, Zach?
WAHLS: No, it's a step in the right direction. And there's no doubt about it, we're glad that Richard agrees that this is discrimination and we're glad that he's seeing it that way. But we know --
LAND: I didn't say that. I didn't say that, Zach.
WAHLS: Our organization feels that discrimination at any level, whether it's the national level or the local level sends a harmful message to kids, gay or straight, and it's inconsistent with the moral of scouting that, you know, as somebody who went through the program for more than 12 years, that's pretty antithetical to everything I learned.
BLITZER: Gentlemen, we're going to continue this --
LAND: Zach --
BLITZER: We're going to continue this discussion, unfortunately we can't right now. We'll see what the Boy Scouts of America decides tomorrow and maybe after the decision we'll have both of you back to continue this conversation.
Richard Land, the president of the Southern Baptist Convention, Zach Wahls, co-founder of Scouts For All. Appreciate it very much.
WAHLS: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: Horrifying 911 tapes from the moments after a Navy SEAL sniper was murdered at Texas gun range. You're going to hear what his sister is now saying about the suspect.
BLITZER: There's a dramatic new development in the investigation of this weekend's shooting death of the former Navy SEAL and best- selling author, Chris Kyle. Authorities have just released the recording of the 911 call made by the family of the man accused of the killing.
Let's go straight to CNN's Ed Lavandera. He's watching this story for us. What's the latest, Ed?
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we'll set up this phone call just a little bit here, Wolf, but this is on Saturday afternoon. And the suspect in this case, a man by the name of Eddie Ray Routh, who's accused of killing Chris Kyle, the famed sniper, Navy SEAL, and his friend Chad Littlefield at a gun range southwest of Fort Worth, after authorities say that after he left there, he went to his sister's house, almost 70 miles away, and confessed to the killing. And after he left that house, his sister, Laura, and Gaines, her husband, called 911.
LAURA BLEVINS, EDDIE RAY ROUTH'S SISTER: Listen. My brother just came by here. I was -- he's now left. But he's told me that he's committed a murder.
UNIDENTIFIED DISPATCHER: OK. Hold on --
BLEVINS: And I'm terrified for my life.
UNIDENTIFIED DISPATCHER: OK. Hold on.
BLEVINS: Because I don't know if he's going to come back here.
UNIDENTIFIED DISPATCHER: OK.
BLEVINS: They went out to a shooting range. Like, he's all crazy. He's (EXPLETIVE DELETED) psychotic. I'm sorry for my language.
UNIDENTIFIED DISPATCHER: No, you're --
BLEVINS: I don't know if he's on drugs or not, but I know that he's been -- let me talk to your -- let my -- my husband's going to talk to you because I'm so nervous.
GAINES BLEVINS, HUSBAND: Hello?
UNIDENTIFIED DISPATCHER: Yes, go ahead and tell me what he said.
G. BLEVINS: He said he killed two guys at a shooting range. But he was recently diagnosed with PTSD and he's been acting real weird since that. He just got out of a mental hospital, actually.
(END VIDEO CLIP) LAVANDERA: So, Wolf, more insight there into the mental state of Eddie Ray Routh, which is interesting, because this erratic behavior dates back to at least September. We got ahold of a police report, where his parents called authorities here in the Dallas area, and saying that their son was threatening to kill them. So this erratic behavior, and he was then taken to a mental hospital and evaluated.
So a little bit more fuller picture of the mental state of the suspect in this tragic case -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Very tragic indeed. Ed Lavandera reporting for us. Thank you.