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THE SITUATION ROOM
Winter Storm to Hit East Coast; Obama's Job Approval Dips as Furloughs Take Hold; Jeb Bush Not Ruling out Presidential Bid; Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Dies
Aired March 5, 2013 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer, along with Kate Bolduan.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NICOLAS MADURO, VENEZUELAN VICE PRESIDENT (through translator): At 4:25 in the afternoon today, on the 5th of March, the president, Hugo Chavez, passed away.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: That's Venezuela's vice president, Nicolas Maduro, announcing the death of the president, Hugo Chavez, after losing a long fight with cancer.
Hugo Chavez and his socialist regime never missed an opportunity to rail against the United States and its influence in the region, even until the very, very end. As he lay dying, Venezuela expelled two U.S. Embassy officials and suggested that Chavez's enemies may have infected him, causing him to get cancer and die.
Our coverage this hour begins on the scene in Caracas.
CNN's Shasta Darlington is standing by.
What's been the reaction, Shasta, so far?
SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, what we're really seeing is a kind of nervous tension.
You know, as we have said, this is a polarized country. There are a lot of people, over 50 percent of the population, the voting population, at least, that really fervently supported Chavez. But there are a lot of people who felt that he was tearing the country apart, that he was making it a more divided place.
And neither side wants to see violence, but I think they also want to make sure that this delicate situation doesn't lead to that. So what you saw a lot of, there are people who are showing some outpourings of grief, but a lot of people who just want to get home. There's a lot of nervous tension here.
This is a moment that a lot of people have been expecting for a while. They just don't want to be out on the street, they don't want to see any clashes. This is a time for everyone to deal with this in their own personal way, Wolf.
BLITZER: The reaction on the streets, I take it, a lot of people are mourning right now. There's a bitter division within Venezuela over Hugo Chavez, but he did have a tremendous amount of support at the same time.
DARLINGTON: Absolutely, Wolf.
You know, just last week, there was a poll that showed that 57 percent of the population still thought that he was going to recover. And that's largely because they wanted him to recover, even though he hadn't been seen in public for almost three months, ever since he went to Cuba, to get the cancer surgery.
What they wanted was they wanted this charismatic leader, who'd led this socialist revolution and really reduced some of the class differences that had characterized this country, they wanted to see this man recover and come back and get into power. On the other hand, by reducing these class differences, Chavez had also taken a lot of power and money away from a lot of people who were used to running this country.
He also reduced some freedoms, a lot of the freedom of the media, a lot of what people thought was political freedoms. He limited the options of a lot of the opposition. So, a very polarized country and especially in recent weeks, with all of this confusion, these doubts about his health, people wondering who was really controlling the country. We have seen students take to the streets, demanding the truth.
At the same time, his followers have camped outside the military, the military hospital where he was being treated here to show their support for him, Wolf.
BLITZER: Certainly, that's a fair assessment. Shasta Darlington on the scene for us in Caracas. Stand by, Shasta.
Kate Bolduan is here as well in THE SITUATION ROOM watching what's going on.
You're getting more.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. And the impact that Hugo Chavez had on that country, you can be sure the lasting impact, Wolf, will be felt and debated for years and years to come.
Jim Clancy is looking at the controversial leader's legacy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIM CLANCY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Venezuela's Hugo Chavez melded populist politics, socialism, and his own personally cult with blowtorch rhetoric. He relished being at the center of controversy. Little wonder his friends and foes read the Chavez legacy in stark contrast.
EVA GOLINGER, CHAVEZ ADVISER: He's made Venezuelans feel proud to be Venezuelan again. And that is something, I think, that really no other leader has ever done in that country before. In fact, they were doing the opposite.
ROGER NORIEGA, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: Well, unfortunately, Chavez came into power in Venezuela promising the people that had been left on the margins and ignored by the political class in that country a new opportunity to participate in the economy, to participate in decision-making in the country.
Unfortunately, he's destroyed the economy and centralized all power in his hands, decimated the democratic institutions in the country and left Venezuelan democracy in even worse shape. So it's a pretty negative legacy.
CLANCY: Like Guevara, Castro, Allende, and others, Chavez's rhetoric often aimed at the United States or multinational corporations. It invoked the promise of a socialist utopia. But Hugo Chavez had what most other Latin American leftists did not, oil.
Venezuela has among the largest oil reserves in the world, along with Saudi Arabia. That oil wealth enabled Chavez to offer up free education and health care in his own country. Even cash-strapped Americans in the Bronx enjoyed Chavez's largess, with free heating oil in the dead of winter.
The price of his socialist agenda, Hugo Chavez himself. Term limits were abolished. Even his critics admit he could have gone on winning elections indefinitely. His biggest failure may be his unilateral success, a legacy of one. Before his death, critics said Chavez was leaving Venezuela in the control of narco-traffickers.
NORIEGA: Unfortunately, Chavez is already passing power to military folks who are -- really have criminal backgrounds, who, according to the U.S. government, are kingpins involved in narco- trafficking.
GOLINGER: Well, none of that has ever been proven. Yes, there are accusations out there. The United States government has placed several high-level Venezuelan officials on their own lists, where they say they have been involved in drug trafficking, but they have never presented evidence to back those accusations.
CLANCY: Hugo Chavez himself called Golinger Venezuela's girlfriend for her staunch support.
GOLINGER: We're seeing a Latin America that's much more unified and sovereign and independent than it was a decade ago, and this has to be credited to President Hugo Chavez.
CLANCY: But critics like Noriega say his alliances around the globe paint a different picture.
NORIEGA: Well, I don't want to engage in a lot of name-calling. He says he was a Maoist. He supported all of the fascist regimes in Libya and Iran and now in Syria. And so he -- as they say in Spanish, I can tell you who you are when you tell me who your friends are.
CLANCY: Friends and foes, the Chavez legacy is filled with both.
Jim Clancy, CNN.
BOLDUAN: Jim Clancy, thanks so much.
I mean, we have been seeing the reaction is really pouring in, not only from -- really from around the world, but especially from all parts of Washington, not only to Hugo Chavez's death, but also to Venezuelan accusations the U.S. is plotting to overthrow Chavez's government.
BLITZER: And today the Venezuelan government expelled two U.S. Embassy officials.
Let's bring in our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr. She's washing the fallout.
What are you seeing, Barbara?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Kate, even as Hugo Chavez lay dying, the acting leader of the country took to the airwaves to accuse two U.S. military officials of espionage.
STARR (voice-over): Venezuela's vice president, Nicolas Maduro, announced a military attache in the U.S. Embassy in Caracas had been expelled for plotting against the government.
MADURO (through translator): The officers tried to get in touch with active military men in Venezuela, first to investigate military forces and then to propose to them to destabilize Venezuela.
STARR: The Pentagon identified the man as Air Force Colonel David Delmonaco. Venezuela's foreign minister later said a second U.S. attache was also expelled. The Pentagon would only identity that man as Devlin Kostal and said he had already been in the U.S. and won't be going back to Venezuela.
Washington denies the charge that any embassy officials were engaged in plots -- Chavez a thorn in the side of the U.S. for years.
HUGO CHAVEZ, VENEZUELAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Yesterday, the devil came here.
STARR: In 2006, he attacked President George W. Bush. CHAVEZ (through translator): Yesterday, ladies and gentlemen, from this rostrum, the president of the United States, the gentleman to whom I refer to as the devil.
STARR: In 2009, Chavez gave President Obama a book on American abuse in Latin America when the two met for the first time at the Summit of the Americas.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think it was a nice gesture to give me a book.
STARR: But by 2010?
CHAVEZ (through translator): Obama to me, until now, has been a great disappointment.
STARR: The U.S. has accused Chavez of supporting radical movements in Latin America and even Hezbollah operatives. He's been a close ally of both Cuba's Fidel Castro and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Chavez, experts say, always knew how to play all the sides.
CARL MEACHAM, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: He -- with one hand, he tries to be the eventual evolution of Fidel Castro to the left, and on the other hand, he tries to make nice, so it looks like he is not so bad.
STARR: Now, already strained relations, you might say, with whatever the new administration is in Venezuela, the State Department issuing a statement about those allegations against the attaches and saying -- and I quote -- "This fallacious assertion of inappropriate U.S. action leads us to conclude that, unfortunately, the current Venezuelan government is not interested in an improved relationship" -- very tough words from the State Department about the expelling of the attaches.
But, look, Venezuela remains an important economic partner for the U.S. About 500 U.S. companies are represented inside Venezuela -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Barbara Starr, thanks very much.
We just got a statement, by the way, tough statement from the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Ed Royce, the chairman saying, among other things: "Hugo Chavez was a tyrant, who forced the people of Venezuela to live in fear. His death dents the alliance of anti-U.S. leftist leaders in South America. Good riddance to this dictator."
That statement from Ed Royce, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
We're going to continue to watch this story, other news as well, including the worst snow in years now pounding the Midwest, heading for the East Coast of the United States. So when will it end? We have the forecast.
Much more news coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BOLDUAN: Brr, that's all I can say. A new blast of cold, wet misery, misery for many, millions of Americans facing the heaviest snow this winter so far.
BLITZER: It's bad and it's about to get worse, especially here. Take a look at what's been going on in Chicago. The Windy City could get 11 inches.
Here on the East Coast, it's not clear how bad it will get when the storm blows through tomorrow.
Our meteorologist Alexandra Steele is standing by at the CNN Weather Center.
But let's go to Ted Rowlands. He's in Chicago right now.
Ted, what's it like?
TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it has been snowing all day. The wind has picked up. Basically, you asked what it's like. It's miserable.
ROWLANDS (voice-over): Across the upper Midwest, driving was treacherous as snow continued to fall throughout the day. Salt trucks in Chicago were out in force trying to keep the freeways open before the evening commute. In some parts of North Dakota and Minnesota, more than a foot of snow is expected to fall.
Airports are struggling to keep planes flying at O'Hare, where about 900 flights have been canceled. The normally packed United terminal was near empty Tuesday.
Fashion designer Marc Defang is trying to get home to Charlotte to deal with a family emergency.
MARC DEFANG, FASHION DESIGNER: They say it was canceled so I got a ticket to the flight and now it's canceled again. So, now I have no idea which flight I'm going to go on. So, I'm going to ask them again. Hopefully, I get on a plane and go home. Yes, I want to go home badly.
ROWLANDS: Most schools and many businesses around Chicago were closed Tuesday. Those that had to come into the city were having a tough time getting around.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These main streets, they look OK, but when you go on the ulterior streets, they are really bad.
ROWLANDS: This is the third major storm to slam the Midwest in as many weeks. While many people say they are ready for spring, a few people we met say they actually like this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm a skier, so what more can you ask?
ROWLANDS: That guy's in the minority, for sure, Wolf.
In the Midwest, of course this is the third storm in as many weeks. A lot of people are hoping that spring truly is just around the corner -- Wolf.
BLITZER: It will get here, no doubt about that. Ted, thank you.
BOLDUAN: Still ahead, a historic day on Wall Street. We will tell you what's behind the Dow's big jump to an all-time high.
BLITZER: It's been a truly historic day on Wall Street today.
BOLDUAN: Yes, it was a huge day. Stock prices closed at an all- time high. The Dow Jones industrials gained more than 125 points, ending the day above 14253, breaking a record set back in 2007.
Take a look at how the Dow has been on the rise. Back in mid- November, after the election, it was below 12600, so what's driving this rally now?
Let's bring in our chief business correspondent, Ali Velshi.
Ali, this is your forte, definitely not mine. Explain this to me. What is going on?
ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: I have got a slightly different version of the same chart that you just showed. Today, it tells you what's been driving this thing up.
Go back to March 9, 2009. Wolf will remember that day. We were talking and it ended up being the low of the market, after the financial crisis. All right, the financial crisis ended in June, but, see, the market had already gone up by then. By October, believe it or not, unemployment had hit 10 percent.
But the market kept going up. Had a rough time in 2010, and then by the end of 2010, it had ended higher, because in November, the Fed had done the second round of stimulus, pouring money into the economy, making interest rates lower. Let's get through the middle of 2011. This was the debt debacle. That really cost the market.
But, still, the end of 2011 was higher than the beginning. So you have got 2009, 2010, 2011, still strong markets, 2012, same thing, rough year. Right around the middle, in September, we saw the Fed coming in with what we called QE3, yet more money. Remember, the Fed is putting $85 billion into the economy every month. We were discussing with the forced budget cuts taking out $85 billion over seven months in total.
And here you go toward the end. You see this big peak, where we topped what we did in 2007. Here's the other line I want to show you. These are jobs. Harder to see on TV, but take a look at this. We were losing 800,000 jobs in the beginning of 2009. We started gaining jobs all the way through the middle of 2010.
That was census jobs. Those went away and we lost jobs again through the second half of 2010. 2011, we'd largely built. 2013, we'd built, then went down a little bit, then went up again. This is the problem. This spread between job creation and the Dow is what's making a lot of people think that the Dow, the stock markets, are not reflecting the economic reality that so many people are feeling.
And that's a fact. The Dow is the stock market. Most people think about jobs and GDP as the economy. It's not as strong as stock market performance is.
BOLDUAN: Is it just completely disconnected? You have these record highs, but the economy is still struggling. Do you just have to separate the two, the economy and the Dow at this point?
VELSHI: Think about one thing. Stock markets tend to be leading indicators. They look six to nine months into the future. People are betting on next year's or later this year's earnings by the companies that they invest in. Jobs tend to be a lagging indicator. They sort of tend to tell you what went on behind.
If you believe in that sort of thing, you might say the stock market is telling us something I have been saying to you, Kate, that the economy and the U.S. is actually improving. We have had more than 30 months of job growth, so the stock market might be saying, we think things are OK.
Remember one other thing. Jobs are specifically U.S. The stock market, made up of 30 companies in the Dow or 500 in the S&P 500, they get more of their income outside of the U.S. than they do inside of the U.S., and the rest of the world is actually looking pretty good, Kate.
BOLDUAN: All right. We will wait and see just how long this rally lasts. Ali Velshi, thanks, man.
VELSHI: All right.
BOLDUAN: Up next, Jeb Bush sits down with our own Jake Tapper and he gets emotional at one point. You're going to see that interview when we come back.
BLITZER: The White House has just released a statement from President Obama on the death of Hugo Chavez, the president of Venezuela.
Let me put it up on the screen and read it to you. This is from the president.
"At this challenging time of President Hugo Chavez's passing, the United States reaffirms its support for the Venezuelan people and its interest in developing a constructive relationship with the Venezuelan government. As Venezuela begins a new chapter in its history, the United States remains committed to policies that promote democratic principles, the rule of law, and respect for human rights" -- that statement just coming in from the president, first official statement from the U.S. government since the passing of Hugo Chavez a couple of hours ago.
BOLDUAN: That fits into the category of a measured statement, just as it should be at this moment.
BLITZER: Yes, much more measured than some of the statements coming from Capitol Hill.
BOLDUAN: Absolutely, that we have been seeing. You're absolutely right, Wolf.
BOLDUAN: We're also seeing some early fallout, though, from the forced cuts in federal spending, a big story we have been following.
The first furlough notices have gone out and we're told this one that you're seeing on the screen right now is one of hundreds of letters the Army has sent, warning that civilian workers will have to stay home without pay one day a week beginning in late April.
President Obama seems to also be starting to feel the pinch politically.
Our national political correspondent, Jim Acosta, is at the White House this evening.
Those furloughs, Jim, not unexpected. That's something that we've been expecting, leading up to the forced budget cuts. But what are you hearing at the White House this evening?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate and Wolf, along with all of those programs of the federal government, the president's poll numbers are also facing some cuts, and there are signs the White House is paying attention to that and perhaps changing its tactics.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Those forced budget cuts are about to hit home, as in, his home. The White House visitor's center has announced it is halting all of its tours, starting this weekend, indefinitely.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Due to staffing reductions resulting from sequestration, we regret to inform that White House tours will be canceled, effective Saturday, March 9, 2013, until further notice. ACOSTA: That likely won't help President Obama's approval numbers. According to the latest CNN poll of polls, just 48 percent of Americans give a thumbs up to his job performance, down from 52 percent since mid-February.
As for who's to blame for the automatic cuts, a CBS News poll finds its almost even: 38 percent say Republicans in Congress, 33 percent say the president and Democrats. But the White House cautions, it's seen polls go up and down before.
JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Before we say anything's clear based on one poll, could we just remember, just think back a few months, to the summer and fall of 2012, how we cautioned everyone to not suffer from amnesia about, you know, the folly that comes from chasing one poll's results.
ACOSTA: Still, after spending weeks touring the country to point the finger at Republicans, the president now appears to be launching a charm offensive, calling a slew of GOP senators, though not all of them.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: I expect the president to talk to various members. Frankly, I wish he'd done more of that over the years.
ACOSTA: But Republicans are still turning up the heat, questioning why the government just spent $50 million on new uniforms for airport security screeners. Others in the GOP are mocking the administration's initial false statements on the cuts' impacts.
SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: President Obama reminds me of the little boy who cried wolf.
ACOSTA: But Democrats say the cuts are real, pointing to the health-care program serving 9/11 first responders.
REP. JOSEPH CROWLEY (D), NEW YORK: I didn't see a single member of Congress running into the burning towers that day. And yet, this Congress has determined -- is determined, this Republican Congress is determined to cut those benefits.
ACOSTA: Leaders on both sides say they're well aware the public is tiring of all-out budget chaos in the capital.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: It is not good for the country, for us to continue to go through this.
CARNEY: Americans are rightfully upset by the dysfunction they see in Washington.
ACOSTA: Which is why the White House and both sides, both parties here in Washington, sound optimistic about a deal that may be coming soon on some kind of agreement to keep the government running for the next six months. But there is some skepticism, at least on the Republican side, about the president's attempts to reach out to the GOP, in the last couple of days. One GOP aid telling me, Kate and Wolf, that they hope that this is not just an attempt by the president to check some boxes -- Wolf and Kate.
BOLDUAN: Checking boxes and photo ops, it happens on both sides. That's for sure. Jim Acosta, thanks so much.
BLITZER: As the mess here in Washington plays out, both parties are starting to think about 2016, and Republican Jeb Bush says he's not ruling out a run for the White House. Here's more of Jake Tapper's interview with the former Florida governor on presidential politics, his family, and the hot issue of immigration.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Your brother tried to push immigration reform.
JEB BUSH, FORMER GOVERNOR OF FLORIDA: Mm-hmm.
TAPPER: Your brother had a lot of skin in the game, and I covered it on Capitol Hill.
TAPPER: What could he have done differently, if anything?
BUSH: Man, he got to the two-yard line before there was a fumble. It was -- it passed the house. It had 60 votes in the Senate, the magical number. And as I understand it, both -- the leadership in both parties kind of gave a pass to the freshman senators to say, "Look, if this is going to put you in a bad position in your election coming up," which would have been 2008, "don't do it."
TAPPER: This conversation has prompted a lot of speculation about what your plans might be in 2016. I know you haven't ruled anything out and you haven't announced anything either.
TAPPER: What kind of factors will you be weighing in the next year as you make this decision?
BUSH: Well, I'm not going to factor anything in a year. That's the only thing I've decided, which I think I have enough self- restraint to be able to pull off. Which is to continue to pursue this hectic life that I have. I have an education reform foundation that is booming.
I mean, it's -- we got all sorts of great things that we're working on. And I have my business, and I have my family. So I'm not going to think about this for at least a year.
TAPPER: But you'll make a decision sometime in 2014? Is that a fair assessment?
BUSH: I don't know. Just -- the only thing I've decided is that I'm not going to think about it for 2013. It's -- it's just too far out for me, personally.
TAPPER: You've been the son of a candidate. You've been the brother of a candidate. You've been a candidate yourself. Now, it looks as though you will be the father of at least one -- at least one candidate, with one son talking about maybe running for statewide office in Texas, the other contemplating...
TAPPER: ... a possible congressional run in Florida.
BUSH: It's amazing.
TAPPER: What's it like being the papa of a candidate?
BUSH: Now I know what my dad feels like, why he would get emotional every time he was, like, in a setting where George or I were, you know, in pursuit of some office of some kind.
TAPPER: He would want to punch in the face people that went after his boys.
BUSH: He'd cry first. So in the case of my son, I saw him -- I was in Austin working on education reform issues in the capitol, and he spoke for five minutes prior, and wow, I mean, no "ums," no "ahs," totally, credibly handsome, articulate, thought it through, thoughtful, engaging...
TAPPER: Very proud?
BUSH: Oh, man.
TAPPER: And what about -- and what about your other son?
BUSH: Jeb is my partner in business and father of the most beautiful little girl in the world and...
TAPPER: You're welling up a little bit, talking about your sons.
BUSH: Yes. And my daughter. Family really matters. It's a big deal. I'm proud of both of them. I'm proud of my daughter, as well.
TAPPER: Your father had a -- had a health scare recently.
TAPPER: We're all glad he's out of the hospital, and he's doing better. I'm sure this period. You're a baby boomer and we're now -- we're now in a period where, unfortunately, that wonderful World War II generation is leaving is us.
BUSH: It's really a powerful emotion to see the greatest man, the most vigorous man I've ever met in my life, become frail. It's really -- it's -- it's hard.
But he's handled it, you know, with incredible dignity and incredible humor, of course. That's my dad's new deal. He's -- he's pretty inspiring in that regard. And my mother, which is something I think a lot of people struggle with, as well, which is, or don't think about, which is the caregiver, you know, and a couple that have been together for -- my mom and dad have been married 69 years. The longest serving -- you know, the longest marriage for any president, ever.
TAPPER: Ever? Is that right?
TAPPER: Sixty-nine years.
TAPPER: What is their secret? When you ask them, what do they say?
BUSH: It's just a, you know, consistent love that can -- I'd say about 40 years ago, I could be at the dinner table with my parents and they could talk without talking. You ever see that experience with your parents, you know, where you -- they can talk by looking at each other, by expressions. It's a, kind of a higher, elevated love.
And I -- you know, I've been married now 39 years, and I've begun to kind of have that same feeling -- my wife and I have a similar kind of secret communication, too. It's just a bond that -- that you have over the long haul.
BLITZER: And Jake Tapper is joining us, once again.
Jake, saw a little different side of Jeb Bush right there. He got pretty emotional. Were you surprised?
TAPPER: I was not surprised that he got emotional. I was surprised that he got emotional when talking about his children. I kind of thought that he would be more emotional, though he was plenty emotional talking about his father, in the same interview. But when he was talking about the pride that he felt in George P. Bush, in Jebby Bush, in his daughter, his eyes did well up very noticeably.
BLITZER: They certainly did. Let's talk about the possibility. Is it possible, is it realistic to assume, people are asking, a third Bush president of the United States? What do you think?
TAPPER: I think it is certainly possible. I mean, he would come to the table with a lot of possibility when it comes to fund-raising. His brother obviously was able to do that very, very well.
And Jeb Bush would have access to a lot of that, those same donors. He is very much a candidate of the establishment. And obviously, from a very populist state that President Obama won twice, the Sunshine State of Florida.
That said, I would not say that the energy is with, right now, an establishment candidate. Right now, you see -- you hear from the Republican rank and file, they are more excited about a more conservative candidate.
Of course, that does not necessarily mean that the more conservative candidate, whether it's Rand Paul, the senator from Kentucky, or Ted Cruz, the Republican senator from Texas, that does not mean that that person would win, because, obviously, having the establishment behind you, as Mitt Romney showed, can really help you get the nomination.
BLITZER: But as Jeb Bush himself says, he's not even thinking about that this year. We'll see if he starts thinking about it next year.
Jake, thanks so much.
TAPPER: Thank you, Wolf.
BOLDUAN: That was a great interview that he had with Jake right there. That was great.
Still ahead, more on Hugo Chavez's death. Coming up next, Larry King interviewed Chavez when he came to the U.S., and Larry King is going to join us live.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN.
BOLDUAN: Back to the breaking news this hour. The death of Venezuelan strong man, the leader of the country, Hugo Chavez.
Let's talk a little bit more about that with a longtime member of the CNN family who interviewed Chavez within the last few years. We're talking about our own Larry King. Larry is currently the host of "Larry King Now" on Hulu and Aura TV, joining us on the phone.
Larry, I'm going to play a little clip. You'll remember this. This is when you interviewed Hugo Chavez back in 2009 right here on CNN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LARRY KING, FORMER CNN ANCHOR: Do you expect it to be better with President Obama? Because you called him. You said there are two Obamas. What do you mean?
HUGO CHAVEZ, FORMER PRESIDENT OF VENEZUELAN (through translator): I explained this already. We have an Obama that talks about peace yesterday, to sponsor peace, to promote peace, as one of the pillars of his foreign policy. I accept this calling, and we join him in this calling for peace. However, there is another Obama, the one who approved the installation of seven military bases. That's another Obama. the Obama sponsoring war, using force and depressants of military officers and using the U.S. weaponry against the Latin America. We want the Obama of peace.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What did he think, Larry, about the president, President Obama? We know he called the former president, George W. Bush, the devil. But what did he really think about President Obama?
KING (via phone): I think he was honest. I think he was mixed on him.
He's an enigma, guys. Very interesting character. First, he can speak English. He chose to do the interview interpreted. That was a hectic day for me, Wolf. I had taped Ahmadinejad in the morning, did Chavez in the afternoon, and Moammar Gadhafi at night.
KING: All three in the same day, were here for the U.N.
I followed that up right away, talking about Bush. He said that Bush, the reason he called him evil was that Bush tried to assassinate him. And he said he had proof -- that he had proof. Venezuelans confessed to him that they were part of an assassin team. He was kind of paranoid, Wolf.
He had many facets to him. He liked to sing. He was a crazy American baseball fan, but he was very defensive. He didn't trust Hillary Clinton; he didn't trust America. He was -- unlike other leftists, he was not anti-religious. He said he was a practicing Catholic. He believed in Jesus Christ.
He was -- he was a very convoluted figure to me. There were many facets to Chavez. I think he was -- I think he was, in many sense, a failed leader in his country, but he sure -- he was very defensive.
BOLDUAN: What kind of insights did you gain into Hugo Chavez, the person? I mean, he's known as a larger-than-life figure, but when you had the opportunity to interview him, what struck you about him?
KING: He was the kind of guy, he was larger than life. He was huggable. Had he been an American Republican or Democrat, he'd have been an elected official. He had a way -- he generated a positiveness about him. He was very engaging. The crew liked him. You know, the people around him liked him. You could tell that the people working with him liked him. He was effusive.
You know, a lot of things he said I thought were incredible. You know, he thought that there was definitely a holocaust in Israel, but on the other hand, he thought Israel, despite being small, was a menace to other nations. So he was all over the board.
But it was a fascinating hour. I mean, he was -- he was a fascinating guy to be around. I'd have loved to have done him again.
BLITZER: You had quite a trifecta that day.
KING: I know.
BLITZER: Gadhafi, Ahmadinejad, Hugo Chavez.
You're not surprised that today the vice president of Venezuela accused what he called foreign enemies of poisoning Hugo Chavez, in effect, creating a severe infection and cancer to kill him. That came from the vice president of Venezuela today.
KING: Maybe, Wolf, maybe Obama has a cancer drone.
BLITZER: I don't think so.
KING: It's possible.
BLITZER: All right, Larry, Larry King, great to have you back here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
KING: Good to talk to you. My pleasure.
BOLDUAN: Thanks, Larry.
BLITZER: Speaking of drones, there are new concerns about the danger of drones closer to home. An aircraft like this may have come shockingly close to a passenger plane at JFK Airport in New York. We have details.
BOLDUAN: More reaction is coming in to the death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Our Brian Todd is outside the Venezuelan embassy here in Washington, D.C.
Brian, what are you hearing?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kate and Wolf, not a lot of human activity out here right now. The flag, as you can see, at the Venezuelan embassy is lowered to its -- to the lowest point on that pole over there.
A couple of people have come by in recent hours to put flowers at the steps of the embassy. One young man just a few moments ago laid a single yellow tulip on the steps of the embassy.
You know, Venezuela has no official diplomatic relations with the United States right now, so there's no ambassador here, but an official of the Venezuela embassy did just step out and spoke with me off camera a few moments ago. This official did not want to go on camera because of the nature of the relationship.
But this official told me, I asked her about just any color that she could give me around -- about the circumstances around the president's death, who was with him. She said she believes at least two of his daughters were there. He has three daughters and a son. She believes at least two of his daughters were with him. He was at the hospital at the time he passed. He does have a grandson. This official was not quite sure whether the grandson was with him or not. President Chavez was married twice, divorced twice. Neither of his former wives were there, according to this official.
I asked her about the timetable for elections. She said elections will be held. They're not sure of a timetable yet. Of course, President Chavez wanted Nicolas Maduro, the vice president, to succeed him. Unclear if that's going to happen. I asked her about some of that. She said, "Look, we're just not sure of any kind of a timetable now for elections."
So a little bit of color from an official here at the Venezuelan embassy.
BOLDUAN: And did -- did you get any reaction from this official to some of the statements that we've heard from inside and outside Washington? I mean, they've ranged from a very measured, toned statement coming from the president of the United States.
But on the flipside, I mean, there have been some harsh statements coming out from some members of Congress. One, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee saying good riddance to the dictator in his statement. Any reaction to that?
TODD: No, not really. And you know, I corresponded with people at the Venezuelan embassy over the past several years. At this time, she really didn't want to speak about any of that. She just wanted to tell me a little about the personal circumstances.
They are very cognizant here at the embassy, and they have been for several years that I have been dealing with them, of the contentious relationship Hugo Chavez had with American officials. I just got a sense from this official this evening, this was not the time to deal with any of that.
BLITZER: Brian Todd, thanks very much.
Just one quick clarification. The U.S. and Venezuela, they have diplomatic relations but not right now at the ambassadorial level. We'll see if that relationship improves now that Hugo Chavez is dead.
We'll have much more on the breaking news, the death of the Venezuelan president, at the top of the hour on "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT." We'll be right back.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Ever wonder how you'd react if you suddenly saw someone else in trouble?
BOLDUAN: Oh, yes, absolutely. Well, a video that's gone viral is raising that very question. Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Set up a hidden camera, get one actor to pretend to strangle another with an electrical cord, then ask what would you do if you walked into a murder in progress?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (SCREAMING)
MOOS: Scream bloody murder?
It's the latest viral video from an agency called Thinkmodo. The creators say out of about 110 people, around 20 percent actually tried to stop the strangulation.
Beating with a bouquet?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No!
MOOS: Trying to drag out the victim?
They call it "Elevator Murder Experiment," but it's really meant to promote a movie starring Colin Farrell that includes a strangulation scene.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you (UNINTELLIGIBLE) enough to kill a man?
MOOS: "Dead Man down" it's called.
At least this downer of an elevator experiment left no one dead. Though one guy sprayed a fire extinguisher.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Some of it looks a little staged to me. You know, the fire hose and so on.
MOOS (on camera): The question is, are the people in the video genuinely reacting, or are they just acting?
(voice-over): The creators told us they used Craigslist to bring most of the people into the building under the false premise of attending a focus group. Then they sprang the elevator prank on them. They admit the dogs were added to have an animal reaction.
(on camera): What would you do?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would jump in there.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think I'd be beating anybody down. I think I probably would have called.
MOOS (voice-over): Meaning 911.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a Coach bag.
MOOS: This woman says she would have used her purse on the strangler. Some would like to murder the video. "It's like a horrible psych experiment... borderline sadistic." "These 'real' promos keep happening, and one of these times, the actor's going to get shot."
(on camera): The one who really gets a lot of flak is the guy at the end of the video...
(voice-over): The guys who just points his camera phone. "That one taking the pic is sick." "That scumbag." "Oh, thanks for the help, jackass."
Turns out the scumbag is a part-time actor named Keith Mackler (ph). The creators admit that shot was staged to recreate a moment they missed. Somehow it feels like we're the ones left holding the bag.
Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
BLITZER: That Jeanne, she's always got something good.
BOLDUAN: I would hope I would react well. I don't know.
BLITZER: That's it for us. Thanks very much for watching. Remember, you can always follow us on Twitter. You can tweet me, @WolfBlitzer.
BOLDUAN: And you can tweet me, @KateBolduan. And you can tweet us at -- @CNNSitRoom, which I apparently can't say.
BLITZER: That's it.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.