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THE SITUATION ROOM

An End to Saturday Mail; CIA Nominee to Get A Grilling; GOP Rising Star to Answer Obama; Christie: Ex-White House Doctor A "Hack"; "We Should Be Free From Gun Violence"; Arrests Coming in Acapulco Rapes; From Outdoor Gear to Managing Great Outdoors

Aired February 6, 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, red ink is doing what snow, rain and other elements could never do. After 150 years, the U.S. Postal Service plans a halt to most Saturday deliveries. What it means for you.

Governor Chris Christie lashes out at a former White House doctor who openly worried that his weight could cause him to die in office. Wait until you hear what's going on.

And she got her first gun when she was 10 years old, but after her own daughter died in the Colorado movie theater shooting, this grieving mother makes an emotional case for gun control.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Neither snow nor rain nor either nasty elements could stop mail delivery, but billions of dollars in losses will do just that. After raising stamp prices, closing post offices and taking other cost- cutting measures, the U.S. Postal Service today made a drastic announcement.

Here's CNN's Athena Jones.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PATRICK DONAHOE, POSTMASTER GENERAL: And making this change to our delivery schedule is a big ticket item that is simply too big of a cost savings to ignore.

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Starting in August, the Postal Service plans to stop delivering first class letters on Saturdays. Packages will still be delivered.

So are customers upset?

TIM NORMAN, POSTAL CUSTOMER: It's not cool. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE).

NORMAN: I want mail on Saturday.

Why not?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Frankly, it really doesn't bother me. I'm retired and I -- I'm not worried about getting my checks or anything, if I get them Saturday or Monday.

JONES: With more and more people paying bills over the Internet and using e-mail instead of snail mail to keep in touch, the Postal Service has seen big losses, nearly $16 billion in 2012. Officials say moving to five day service will save $2 billion a year. A 2006 law requiring the Service to prepay health care benefits for future retirees has added to the financial strain.

The postmaster general says Congress needs to help the Service solve its money problems.

DONAHOE: I would like Congress to do a number of things, to resolve health care issues for us, instruct the Postal Service to take their own health care plan and get out of the federal system, refund our federal employer retirement system and just not say anything and let us move ahead with the six to five day mail delivery.

JONES: But some lawmakers might try to block this plan to end Saturday delivery, since changes like this usually require Congress' approval, and the politically powerful American Postal Workers Union says it will weaken the nation's mail system.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

JONES: Now, the question a lot of folks are asking is how will this affect me?

Well, I can tell you that in addition to packages still being delivered on Saturday, mail addressed to PO boxes will also still be delivered. And post offices that are now open on Saturdays will remain open -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Athena Jones, thanks very much.

As the president's adviser on Homeland Security and counter-terrorism, he may be known to the public from this moment, as the White House waited out the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

But now, as the president's pick to head the CIA, John Brennan faces some tough questions about the tools used to fight terrorists.

CNN Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, is joining us.

She's been looking closely at this story.

What's the latest -- Barbara? BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, Wolf, this will be John Brennan's first public testimony as an Obama administration official. Expect to see fireworks at this confirmation hearing. The real question may be how this 25 year CIA veteran handles the public spotlight.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STARR (voice-over): In a crisis, it's often John Brennan giving President Obama his 3:00 a.m. wake-up call.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He is one of the hardest working public servants I've ever seen. I'm not sure he's slept in four years.

STARR: There may be even less sleep if Brennan is confirmed as the next CIA director.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM JANUARY 7, 2013

JOHN BRENNAN, CIA DIRECTOR NOMINEE: I will make it my mission to ensure that the CIA has the tools it needs.

STARR: Tools like drones to target terrorists. Brennan has helped establish secret drone bases in Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, including reports Wednesday of a base in Saudi Arabia, where he was once the CIA station chief.

Democrats threatened to hold up his nomination, demanding answers about the legality of killing Americans overseas involved with al Qaeda. It's just one controversy he faces at the confirmation hearing.

There's his role in the administration leaks about covert operations like the cyber attack on Iran's nuclear program and his knowledge of harsh interrogations when he was at the CIA during the George W. Bush years.

CHRISTOPHER ANDERS, ACLU: The American public is entitled to know the details of what it was that -- what was his role in the Bush administration with the torture program.

STARR: Outrage over the interrogation program scuttled Brennan's chances to lead the CIA in Obama's first term. But now, he's ready for the political heat.

BRENNAN: Although I consider myself neither a Republican nor a Democrat, I very much look forward to working closely with those on both sides of the aisle.

STARR: As President Obama's top White House counter-terrorism aide, Brennan continues to be seen as all-powerful.

FRANCES TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: I think, for sure, John is regarded, in terms of the intelligence community, even where he is now, as a first among equals. (END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: Now, if Brennan goes over to the CIA, he will report to James Clapper, the man who is the director of National Intelligence, his boss, someone he's known for many years. But if there is covert action -- secret covert action, Brennan will still have the authority to walk right into the Oval Office and talk to the president directly about that. That still gives him an awful lot of power -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Enormous power as director of the CIA, I should say.

All right, Barbara, thank you.

The Republicans have picked a rising star to respond to President Obama's State of the Union address next week. The first term Florida senator, Marco Rubio, will give the GOP response in both English and Spanish. The House speaker, John Boehner, says Rubio carries the party's banner in a way few others can.

So does that mean he could also be the standard-bearer in 2016?

Our chief national correspondent, John King, is here in THE SITUATION ROOM -- and, John, how significant is this development?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's very significant. And you mentioned he's a rising star.

Here's one of the reasons it's significant. I don't know if you can see this on television. But they announced this not only in English, but in Spanish, as well.

The Republicans have a crisis among Latino votes. We hold that truth to be self-evident.

You mentioned 2016. Marco Rubio is thinking about 2016. But Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, the House speaker, John Boehner, they made this choice. Sometimes there's a debate, a little bit of an argument, who should we pick?

They say there was no debate this time, that they viewed Marco Rubio as the right person, the son of immigrants, a good story to tell, came up in a middle class family. They think he's the right messenger at this time. They think he helps the Republican Party, Wolf, in 2013 and 2014 begin what they concede is a very complicated and challenge rebuilding process.

If it also helps him in 2016, so be it. But they think, number one, they think he's a good communicator. Number two, he'll talk about smaller government. I'm told this will not be a traditional response. He will try to rebut the president's State of the Union. He's going to try to give a speech about this is the Republican message. And they say he will draw some polite but very sharp contrasts on the size of government, on taxes, and will say one issue the Republicans hope to work with the president is immigration.

BLITZER: Is there a downside to this? KING: Well, there can be. Some people who have given these speeches -- A, how many of these do you remember?

The president gives a speech, Democrat or Republican, in the House chamber. Both chambers of Congress are there. The Supreme Court is there. The diplomatic corps is there. There's a lot of applause. It's a big event.

Then somebody has to step in front of a camera in a quiet room and give a response. So the optics are just never as good or exciting as any president, Democrat or Republican.

In the Obama presidency, Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana; Bob McDonnell, the governor of Virginia; Paul Ryan, who was the vice presidential nominee for Mitt Romney, but the House budget chairman; Governor Mitch Daniels. They gave them in the first four years.

I ask those of you watching around America, how many of you really remember those?

BLITZER: Bobby Jindal we sort of remember.

KING: Bobby Jindal we remember, because it was flat.

BLITZER: Right.

KING: That's the down side for Rubio, is if it goes over very flat, it could hurt him in the short-term. But we tend to score these things on how it was that night. He's definitely a rising star in the party.

If he gives a lousy speech -- I don't expect that he will, I think he'll be -- he's a good communicator -- you've met him, you know he is -- then he has plenty of time to recover.

But you remember in the past, Christie Whitman did this in the Clinton years, when she was governor of New Jersey, Christie Todd Whitman. She did it in the legislative chamber to try to create some of that energy. We're told Marco Rubio will be more of a traditional, by himself to camera response. There's a downside, if he bombs. But, look, this is a rising star in the party and they think that he's the perfect choice at this moment.

You mentioned 2016, trust me, the leaders, Boehner and McConnell, are much more worried about 2013.

BLITZER: Yes, and I -- I think that the Hispanic community will be appreciative of the fact...

KING: Right.

BLITZER: -- that he's also going to do it in Spanish.

KING: That's -- it's the beginning...

BLITZER: (INAUDIBLE). KING: -- it's the beginning of a rebuilding process. And, look, Republicans have a crisis in that community. And if Marco Rubio can help them, well, this would be a first step.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

KING: You bet.

BLITZER: Chris Christie responding to a CNN report. He's not happy about what a former White House physician told us about his weight. You're going to hear his angry outburst. That's coming up.

And President Obama makes an unusual choice for a cabinet secretary -- why the head of an outdoor outfitting company will soon be part of the Obama administration.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Our national political correspondent, Jim Acosta, touched off a big controversy when a former White House doctor told him she worries that Chris Christie may die in office.

The New Jersey governor is now furious about all of this.

Jim Acosta is back here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

What's -- what's going on?

Why is Christie now lashing out?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, he responded to what this former White House physician, Connie Mariano, said yesterday, her warnings about the New Jersey governor's health. And Chris Christie called the doctor a "hack" and told her to shut up at a news conference earlier today. The back and forth started on Monday night, when the potential presidential contender appeared on "The Late Show with David Letterman" to talk about his weight and other issues.

During the interview, as he was joking about his size, Christie, as a lot of viewers noticed that night, took a bite from a donut. That concerned a former White House physician I spoke with yesterday. She has treated three different presidents, from both parties. And she told CNN in an exclusive interview yesterday that Christie could die in office if he's elected president if he doesn't get his health under control.

Here's what she had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONNIE MARIANO, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PHYSICIAN: Well, I'm a Republican. So I like Chris Christie a lot. I want him to run. I just want him to lose weight. I'm a physician more than I'm a Democrat or a Republican. And I worry about this man dying in office.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ACOSTA: Now, at an event in New Jersey today, Christie was asked about the doctor's comments and he did not hold back.

Here's what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I find it fascinating that a doctor in Arizona who's never met me, never examined me, never reviewed my medical history or records, knows nothing about my family history, could make a diagnosis from 2,400 miles away. She must be a genius. She should probably be the surgeon general of the United States, I suspect, because she must be a genius.

I think this is -- listen, this is just another hack who wants five minutes on TV. And it's completely irresponsible, completely irresponsible. My children saw that last night. And she sat there on TV and said, "I'm afraid he's going to die in office." I have four children between nine and 19. You know, my children, my 12-year-old son came up to me last night and said, Dad, are you going to die?"

I mean come on. It's just irresponsible stuff. And people who have a medical license, who have the privilege of having a medical license, should, in my view, conduct themselves more responsibly than that.

If she wants to get on a plane and come here to New Jersey and ask me if she wants to examine me and review my medical history, I'll have a conversation with her about that. Until that time, she should shut up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: Strong words there. Now, I had a chance to talk to Dr. Mariano over the phone earlier this afternoon. She says Governor Christie called her earlier today to complain about her comments, but the doctor, she is not backing down either.

She told us, quote, and here it is on screen, "It's unfortunate that he took it in that manner. It was meant to be constructive, but when i see someone who looks like him, you don't have to be a White House doctor to be concerned about health issues. It is true that i did not examine him, but when you see it, you can't help it, it's an issue. He went on David Letterman and ate a donut and said, bring it on, so he brought it on."

And Dr. Mariano is inviting the governor to visit her at her practice in Arizona for a full physical, but based on her conversation with Christie, she says it's unlikely he will make that appointment. And Wolf, just a little bit about Dr. Mariano. You know Dr. Mariano from your days covering President Clinton. She told me over the phone, this is how she used to talk to President Clinton.

This was the way she got him to get his act together about his health because, obviously, he had health issues when he was president of the United States, was a little overweight, needed to get that under control. And she said she meant it in the same way, that tough talk might yield better results when it comes to the governor and his weight right now.

BLITZER: Yes, I remember when I covered the Clinton administration, covered the president during those years in the White House, she was very, very assertive and she was very important in helping him after he left office. We all know he needed heart surgery. He had some serious problems.

Since then, he's totally changed his diet. He basically doesn't eat meat anymore. He's almost like a vegan right now, but he's paid a price for that, as we all know.

ACOSTA: That's right. And she tells me she has no regrets about the controversy. She's unhappy that the governor took her comments this way, but she said, you know, if all of this gets one person who is obese out there, who's not Governor Christie, and that person gets help, starts getting in shape because of all of this, she feels like she did a public service.

BLITZER: And it's interesting that he was -- they obviously saw your report yesterday when you had that exclusive interview with her, and it really resonated with him and his family.

ACOSTA: It resonated with his family and his family is, obviously, concerned about this. He talked about that. He said one of his children came up to him and said, daddy, are you going to die? So, it's obvious that her comments struck a real nerve, and perhaps, they weren't put in a most artful manner, but she says this is the way that a doctor should talk to her patient.

BLITZER: Yes. Thanks very much.

ACOSTA: You bet.

BLITZER: It was the last time she talked to her daughter alive. Up next, you're going to find out how that deadly Colorado movie theater massacre dramatically changed one grieving mother's life.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANDY PHILLIPS, AURORA SHOOTING VICTIM'S MOTHER: She said, I can't wait for you to get here. I need my momma. And I wrote back that I need my baby girl. And that was the last thing we said to one another.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Some well-known Hollywood stars converged on Washington today, joined by lawmakers, activists, victims' families from around the country. They're urging Congress to act on President Obama's plan to reduce gun violence, including background checks for all gun sales and an assault weapons ban. Among those leading the charge is the mother of a Virginia Tech shooting survivor.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LORI HAS, MOTHER OF VIRGINIA TECH SHOOTING SURVIVOR: We live in America. We should be free to go to the movie theater, the grocery store, elementary school, college, anywhere we choose. We should be free from gun violence. That is our right and that is our desire here today, to ask Congress to give that right to every American. We all deserve to be free from gun violence.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: One gun owner we spoke to is now a strong advocate for gun control and a lot of it may have to do with this text. I'll quote, "Get some sleep, mom. I'm really excited for you to come visit. Need my momma." That's the last text her daughter sent her before being gunned down in that horrific Aurora, Colorado movie theater massacre. Lisa Sylvester is here on the SITUATION ROOM. She's got details on this story. It's a powerful story, indeed, Lisa.

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, you know, there are a lot of different voices in this gun debate that we will be hearing from, but this is the story of one mother. She's not opposed to people owning guns. In fact, she grew up with guns, but she knows what gun violence can do to forever devastate a family.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SYLVESTER (voice-over): Sandy Phillips of San Antonio, Texas was 10 years old when she received her first gun as a present from parents who were avid hunters.

PHILLIPS: So, I have a lot of respect for weapons. I also have a lot of respect for life. And sometimes, those two do not go well together.

SYLVESTER: July 20th of last year, her 24-year-old daughter, Jessica Dowey (ph), died, shot twice in an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater.

PHILLIPS: I got a phone call from the young man that was with her, Brent, telling me that there had been a random shooting and I asked him if he was OK and he said, I think I've been shot twice. I said, where's Jesse? And he said, I'm sorry. And at that point, I guess, I was screaming, from what my husband has told me.

And I was screaming, please tell me she's not dead. And then my daughter was also taken out of the theater by two policemen that came across her body and she was still breathing. She was dying, but she was still breathing. And they picked her up and put her in the back of a cruiser with an Officer Blue who held her as she was dying.

SYLVESTER: The shooting happened on a Friday. Phillips was scheduled to visit her daughter the following Tuesday. Jessica had just moved to Aurora. Right before the movie started, Jessica sent her mom these text messages that she shares with us.

PHILLIPS: The last thing she said to me was, I need my momma. She texted that at the theater. She said, I can't wait for you to get here. I need my momma. And I wrote back, I need my baby girl. And that was the last thing we said to one another.

SYLVESTER: Now Sandy Phillips, who is still a gun owner and has been a member of the NRA, has become a strong voice for gun control.

James Holmes allegedly bought I think four guns and thousands of --

PHILLIPS: Six thousand rounds of ammunition on the internet, and yet, you and I have to go through a screening every time we get on a plane. Does that make sense?

SYLVESTER: Phillips wants to see anyone buying a gun undergo a background check and she wants assault weapons to be banned.

There are people who will say, we have a Second Amendment. This is the constitution, United States constitution, and that right is protected in the U.S. constitution.

PHILLIPS: The Second Amendment says that we are entitled to bear arms. It doesn't say what kind of arms, number one. Number two, it was written a long time ago when the only weapon that we had was a musket.

SYLVESTER: Sandy Phillips and Jessica were very close. It was hard for Phillips to let her daughter leave the nest, but she cheered on Jessica on her pursuit as an aspiring sports journalist. It's the little things now that Phillips misses the most.

PHILLIPS: Text messages that came throughout the day. The tweets that she was famous for, little sass, crass, and class, as she put it. She was that feisty, lively, outgoing, loving, funny girl, and I miss everything about her. Everything.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SYLVESTER (on-camera): And Sandy Phillips has been working with the Brady campaign to prevent gun violence and supports President Obama's gun control proposals. The NRA in a statement on the Obama administration's proposal said, quote, "Throughout its history, the National Rifle Association has led efforts to promote safety and responsible gun ownership. Keeping our children and society safe remains our top priority and the NRA will continue to focus can on keeping our children safe and securing our schools, fixing our broken mental health system, and prosecuting violent criminals to the fullest extent of the law."

That statement from the NRA. But this is a really tough story when you start thinking about just how many lives have been impacted by gun violence. Sandy Phillips is just one of many stories that we've heard again and again and again being repeated. And so, it's a perspective as we keep in mind as we go forward in this debate, Wolf.

BLITZER: What a heartbreaking story to hear that mom remember her daughter. Just so sad.

SYLVESTER: And the thing that really comes across is that she was very close. You know, these two were very close.

BLITZER: I need my momma, she said

SYLVESTER: I need my momma, you know --

BLITZER: I need my baby girl.

SYLVESTER: Right. Jessica she had just moved to Aurora ten days before. And so, her mother was going there the following week to help her set up her apartment. I mean, that's what the context with those text messages. She was going there to help her set up her apartment, get settled. You know, she was looking for a job, you know? So, it's really heartbreaking. It's just heartbreaking all the way around, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Lisa, thanks for that report.

Tony Bennett, by the way, was one of the celebrities at that news conference here in Washington today. He's going to be my guest in the SITUATION ROOM. That's coming up at our next hour, 6:00 p.m. eastern hour. You're going to want to hear what he has to say about gun control and more.

A rising Republican star laying out some controversial views on America's role in the world. Coming up, my conversation with Senator Rand Paul.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Syria's bloody civil war is now closing in on the heart of the capital. Fighting heavy in the eastern suburbs of Damascus. Listens to sounds of war in this neighborhood.

Government forces are using air strikes and artillery to try to hold back the rebel advance. CNN's Fred Pleitgen is inside Damascus where the toll on civilians is devastating.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Our time-lapse video shows the aftermath of heavy fighting in a Damascus suburb. An all-too-common scene as the civil war draws closer to the city center.

And ordinary people here are increasingly feeling the impact. Salah Nasser has been waiting in line for hours to get bread in this government-run bakery. The retired soldier has to feed his wife and seven children.

SALAH NASSER, SYRAIN (via translator): I queuded (ph) up yesterday from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., he says. And I still couldn't get any bread. Some people bring their children to put them in the queue to get more bread, and others don't get any. Everyday, a battle for the bare necessities, a desperate situation that brings tears to Salah's eyes.

PLEITGEN: Pretty much everyone here will tell you a similar story. They stand in line for hours everyday, and then it's not even clear if they are going to get bread. The bread here is actually subsidized. It costs 15 Syrian pounds for one loaf. That's just a couple of cents. The alternative for these people is buying it on the black market where the price is ten times that. And most of those here simply can't afford that kind of money.

The bread lines are a direct result of this. Damascus is suffering from a severe fuel shortage. Delivery trucks with ingredients for bread often stop running, and car owners spend hours cueing up for gas at the few stations that have any. People come and fill canisters because they fear there will be a shortage, he says, and that is actually what creates the real problems.

With many Syrians fleeing the court and tourism virtually nonexistent, the conflict is hitting the economy severely. In an historic old town at the traditional copper and brass workshops, the craftsmen make everything from trays to pots to ornaments.

Alah Biahi's (ph) family has been in the brass-crafting business for generations. But with the violence, much has changed. Production greatly dropped, he says. We now have to work with imported brass because the local brass is not available. And he adds that imported brass is much more expensive but Syrian brass has not been available for more than a year because the factories were in Aleppo and in Homs.

The brass and copper crafts trade in Damascus has survived for hundreds of years, through wars, revolutions, and civil unrest. And even now, the men continue to hammer away, although they clearly worry about the conflict that slowly seems to be eroding the social fabric of this country.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PLEITGEN: And, of course, Wolf, on a day like this when there's this intense fighting in the city of Damascus, that feeling that seems to be moving closer, the conflict is getting worse, is something that is weighing more heavily on the minds of the people here in Damascus. Wolf.

BLITZER: And Fred, you've been in Damascus now for a few days. Give us a little sense of how close the fighting is getting, right into the heart of the capital.

PLEITGEN: Well, I'll tell you something, Wolf, today was the most intense fighting that we've seen since we got here a couple of days ago. And people who have been speaking here from Damascus say this is some of the worst fighting that they've actually seen since the conflict began more than two years ago. When we woke up this morning, there was artillery was coming down pretty much the entire time. (AUDIO GAP)

The past couple of days there's been maybe an artillery shell fired every five, six, seven minutes. But today, it was real barrages. There were warplanes in the air. I made it to one suburb south of Damascus. And when we made it there, we sort of filmed what was going on. And you could just see plumes of smoke over that town. You could clearly see that a lot of very heavy ordinance had been dropped on that place and was continuously being dropped. Now the rebels, some groups for their part saying that they have launched an offensive to take Damascus. The government denies it and says it's very much in control. And certainly from our vantage point, it appears that it is in control. But the government is also saying that it has also launched an operation to (INAUDIBLE) from their positions.

So, it really is unclear what is actually going on. However, there is some very intense fighting going on and of course that is something that is making a lot of people here very, very nervous, Wolf.

BLITZER: Fred Pleitgen on the scene for us in Damascus. Fred, thank you.

And Senator Rand Paul, the Republican from Kentucky, is joining us now in THE SITUATION ROOM. Senator, thank you for coming in.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: Glad to be with you, Wolf.

BLITZER: On Syria, what should the United States be doing? Sixty thousand Syrians have been killed. Hundreds of thousands are refugees. It looks like the slaughter is continuing. What should the U.S. do?

PAUL: I think war is a horrible tragedy when you talk about famine, pestilence and horrible and gruesome death. It comes when you have war.

It's not always easy, though, to choose sides when things are murky. There are about a million Christians in Syria, and they came to Syria because they were worried about the government that we allowed to become installed in Iraq. So now you have a million Christians in Syria, and they have actually been somewhat protected by Assad because Assad was a minority within a majority of Muslims. But he protected the Christians. So they have mixed feelings.

The rebels, many of them are al Nussra (ph), are related to al Qaeda or radical elements of Islam. And so, I'm not so sure I want to give weapons to people who really may be more anti-Israel than the current government and more anti-Christian than the current government. So, sometimes, as difficult as it is, it just may not be the best thing to side with people who may turn out to be worse than the current government.

BLITZER: Any humanitarian initiatives the U.S. should be undertaking?

PAUL: You know, I think any time people are distraught and in such turmoil, humanitarian is something that people should consider, whether it should be voluntary or orchestrated by a government. I really just think we shouldn't be involved with arms, is something that I'm adamant that we shouldn't be giving arms.

And one of the questions I asked Secretary Clinton the other day is, are we orchestrating arm sales from Libya to Turkey and then on to these warring factions? Now, the official administration says we're not. But a week before the ambassador was killed, there was a ship that left Libya with arms, and they have actually interviewed the captain of this ship who talked about the weapons going to rebels, some of whom were bickering over who got the weapons and who didn't get the weapons.

BLITZER: You delivered a major foreign policy address today over at the Heritage Foundation. Well-thought out speech on a whole bunch national security issues. Why now? Why did you decide to do it? Because you knew that it was going to jump-start the speculation you want to establish foreign policy credentials for a possible run in 2016.

PAUL: You know, I just joined the Foreign Relations Committee. I wanted to spell out what my vision is for the foreign policy. I think it's a unique position and one that I think needs to be expressed. We often have sort of two polar extremes and really just one, for the most part, that we're everywhere all of the time. The other extreme is that it would be nowhere any of the time and that would be isolationism.

I think there's a more realistic approach somewhere in the middle, and it would involve active policies such as containment. So, I talked a lot about George Kennan who I think may be one of the most famous diplomats of the last century, thought to be one of the chief architects of the ideas of containment, which kept peace for 70 years.

And I think there's some of that may apply to radical Islam in that radical Islam is a widespread ideology. It's anethetical to freedom and I think has to be opposed at various parts around the world. But I don't think the standard approach of having 100,000 troops in countries is really the approach that we need.

BLITZER: Are you -- because you have a very nuance position when it comes to Iran and its nuclear ambitions, and I want to you explain it. The president says there should be no policy of containing a nuclear Iran. The policy must be preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power. Where do you stand?

PAUL: Well, see, I don't completely disagree with that. I do think there should be some strategic ambiguity, though.

I think that we should never announce that we're going to contain a nuclear Iran. But I also think it's unwise to say that we're never going to contain a nuclear Iran. I think being silent on some issues is better because there is a chance one day we wake up like we did with North Korea, like we did with China, like we did with India, like we did with Pakistan. If we preclude all responses other than war, then that's what we will have, war, if we wake up one day and find that they are. Even if they were preemptively bombed, there's still a chance that they get a nuclear weapon at some point in time.

So I think some things are better left unsaid. It's sort of like in the presidential debates when you get these hypothetical questions. Announcing what you would do in every hypothetical situation is probably not a good idea for the leader of the free world because really some things need d to be unknown.

I have said that all options should be on the table, and I do agree with that. But I also don't think we should be walking around with a swagger saying, you know, we'll drop a nuclear bomb on Tehran. I think that's reckless also.

So, there's certain things that need to be known that are better left unsaid at some time.

BLITZER: Very quickly, because we're almost out of time, where do you stand on U.S. drones targeting American citizens who suspected of supporting al Qaeda or being involved in terrorist plots, killing them without any judicial review?

PAUL: I'm really troubled by it. The administration -- there was a document leaked that says that an imminent threat doesn't have to be an immediate threat. Someone on my staff said, you know, only a bunch of lawyers could say that an imminent threat doesn't have to be immediate.

So, I'm concerned about a bunch of people from the executive branch sitting around at a table with flash cards saying, do you want to kill him? What do you think? Should we kill him, or what do you think?

You know, one of the people who was targeted and killed was a 16-year- old boy. Now, he was related to somebody who was a terrorist and who was an enemy of the country and who renounced his country. Even the people who do that, I would try them for treason. I would make it a pretty quick trial, but I would have some judge reviewing this, whether it's a FISA court or some kind of judge. If it has to be secret, it could be FISA.

But ideally, if you're a traitor, let's try you for treason. If you're not going to show up, try and there will likely be a conviction. But let's don't just have a bunch of people from the executive branch going through flash cards. I don't think that killing someone without any judicial oversight is an appropriate activity for the president.

BLITZER: Senator Paul, thanks very much for coming in.

PAUL: Thank you.

BLITZER: Women raped and tied up with their own bikinis near a popular tourist resort. Up next, we're going live to Acapulco in Mexico, for new information on who the police say may be responsible.

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BLITZER: The popular vacation resort of Acapulco, Mexico, which brought in close to half a million tourists last year, could take a hit this coming spring break in the aftermath of a horrifying incident in which six women were tied up with their own bikinis and raped.

CNN's Miguel Marquez is in Acapulco for us. He's joining us now.

Miguel, how close are Mexican authorities to making some arrests?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they believe they are very close, Wolf. This is the beach where those attackers came from and this is the house here where they went to.

Investigators telling us there are seven of them that they are watching. They are also saying that the victims knew the attackers before this happened, saying they bought drugs from them.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Mass gunmen entered the sea front vacation bungalow from the beach around 2:00 a.m. What happened next, horrific. Six women in their 20s and their male companions tied up with their own cell phone cords and bikinis. The women raped, the men helpless to stop it from happening.

"It's a delicate situation," he says, "but we will apply the full weight of the law against those responsible."

All the victims, tourists from Spain. One woman from Mexico was left unharmed. Some neighbors say they heard music coming from the beach house late that night, suggesting there may have been a party. With no gate, fence, or security, the house easily entered, invaded from the beach.

This shocking crime has struck worry and fear in those who know and love this popular vacation destination.

KATHY CHARELTON, VACATIONING IN ACAPULCO: I'm excited to be here but at the same time, a little nervous.

MARQUEZ: The attack comes as tens of thousands of teens and 20- something Americans spring breakers prepare to ascend on Acapulco for the annual rite of sun, beaches, and parties.

The city of Acapulco has been an oasis of relative calm in the Mexican state of Guerrero. A place hard hit by drug-related violence, the U.S. State Department recommends deferring nonessential travels to the northwestern and southern portions of the state and even in Acapulco itself, the best advice, exercise caution and stay within tourist areas.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUEZ: Now, Wolf, investigators are also telling us that those seven individuals, some of them, if not all of them, are under surveillance. They know who they are, they say, it's just a matter of building their case here and they say the forensic evidence is damning in this case. They have it all. They have it air tight but before they make arrests, they want to have all that together and then move in -- Wolf.

BLITZER: This story could have a huge impact on tourism to Mexico. How worried are officials there about the impact of all of this? MARQUEZ: Enormously. They are throwing everything they can at this investigation in order to bring these individuals to justice. They want people to realize that Acapulco is so safe. They've doubled the number of police and military patrols going through the city itself and tourism this year has started to turn the corner. The bookings are up across the city in their hotels. They don't want that to go away. They don't want that momentum to stop -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Miguel Marquez on the scene for us in Acapulco. What a horrible story that is.

From roughing it in the great outdoors, overseeing the great outdoors, all 500 million acres of it. Up next, the unusual assignment bringing the REI brand name -- brand name to the White House.

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BLITZER: If you know the name REI, you probably know a lot about sports gear and roughing it in the great outdoors. Now the woman behind that company has been tapped by President Obama to oversee the country's great outdoors, all 500 million acres of it, as the country's next secretary of the Interior.

Our White House correspondent, Brianna Keilar, is joining us with details -- Brianna.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, there, Wolf. This is a pick that environmentalists just love. Conservatives that I've spoken to like Sally Jewel's business background, but they're concerned about her membership on an environmentalist board, that at times has sued the federal government over how it's used public lands.

But either way, this is an unusual pick because Jewel is not a Western lawmaker, as so many secretaries of the Interior have been. But it's really her varied resume that got her the gig.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR (voice-over): President Obama made an out-of-the-box pick for his next Interior secretary in Sally Jewell, the president and CEO of REI. That's right, the supplier of outdoor gear.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: She knows that there's no contradiction between being good stewards of the land and our economic progress. That, in fact, those two things need to go hand in hand.

SALLY JEWELL, INTERIOR SECRETARY NOMINEE: I have a great job at REI today, but there's no role that compares in the call to serve my country as the secretary of the Department of Interior.

KEILAR: At the helm of REI, Jewell runs a business with an environmental conscience, as she described in an interview with CNN in 2010.

JEWELL: There's no mission without margin. We have to run a healthy business in order to have a mission to give back.

KEILAR: If confirmed, Jewel will oversee 500 million acres of public lands, including national parks and federal land leased for oil drilling. And White House officials say that's where her other experience comes in. She was once a mechanical engineer for major oil company, Mobile, and spent two decades working in banking, including at Washington Mutual.

Jewell will replace outgoing secretary, Ken Salazar, and she'll bring some diversity to the president's recent personnel picks, as he's taken heat for all of the white men filling the top roles in his Cabinet and staff. She'll also bring an unusual distinction.

OBAMA: I'm willing to bet that she will be the first secretary of the Interior who frequently hikes Mailbox Peaks in her native Washington state and who once spent a month climbing mountains in Antarctica, which is just not something I'd think of doing.

(LAUGHTER)

Because it seems like it'd be cold, and I was born in Hawaii.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR: Obviously, not too cold for the soon-to-be secretary of the Interior if she is confirmed, Wolf. But there's still a number of positions in the president's Cabinet that are either vacant or are soon to be vacant. That includes Commerce, Energy, the EPA as well as Labor. So we'll be hearing some more names soon.

BLITZER: And I assume there'll be more women among maybe some of those jobs as well, especially at Commerce, potentially at Labor as well. Is that what you're hearing?

KEILAR: That's right, that is what we're hearing. I think that's very much a safe assumption -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brianna Keilar, over at the White House. Thank you.

A bunker rigged to blow. Just ahead in our next hour, we have disturbing new details emerging in the wake of that nearly week-long Alabama child hostage standoff.

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BLITZER: New England is now bracing for what could be a major, maybe even historic snowstorm.

Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that, some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

What's going on, Lisa?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. Well, forecasters say a brewing nor'easter could bring more than two feet of snow to parts of New England by the weekend. A blast of cold air from the Great Lakes is expected to combine with a storm heading up the East Coast Friday into Saturday morning.

The National Weather Service issued a blizzard watch for most of eastern Massachusetts and north and central Rhode Island.

And photos taken by the New York mother killed during a recent vacation in Turkey are now on sale. A friends says the family is selling her work online to help support her two young sons. The amateur photographer was found dead last month in Istanbul, where she had traveled alone. Turkish police have detained a man, but no charges have been filed.

And take a look at this in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, this morning. A frightening sight on Interstate 95 after a bakery delivery truck crashed and then dangled precariously over the ramp. You see it right there. Police say a passenger in the truck died and another victim was treated for trauma. It took crews about an hour and a half to bring that truck safely back on to the highway.

Yes, looks like quite a mess, I'm sure, caused quite a traffic jam as well -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I'm sure it did. All right, Lisa, thank you.