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THE SITUATION ROOM
North Korea Threatens to Attack United States and South Korea; Osama Bin Laden's Son-In-Law Captured; New York To Implement Ban On 16-ounce Sodas Starting Tuesday; Will Lower Unemployment Numbers Help Obama In Upcoming Negotiations?; From Political Rivals To BFF
Aired March 9, 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: President Obama is getting ready for his next get-together with the Republicans. Is his term offensive working?
North Korea's leader cheered by his military after a new league of nuclear threats. Now we may have a new weapon.
And New York's a ban on big sugary drinks only days away? And coffee servers and drinkers are confused.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and from around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.
President Obama takes his new outreach campaign to Capitol Hill this week. He is trying to improve his relationship with Republicans by some offering frank talk and a good meal.
Our chief congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, is standing by
But first, let's bring in our national political correspondent, Jim Acosta. He is over at the White House.
What an amazing week, a real turn around as far as the president's charm offensive is concerned. What is going on?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That is right, Wolf. It has almost been Washington in black and white this week, a flashback to a bygone era, when Democrats and Republicans used to seat down and together to each other and tried to solve the nation's problems and the president was trying to do just that with this charm offensive, inviting the Republicans senators, roughly a dozen of them out to dinner at a fancy hotel here in Washington earlier this week. And then, meeting with an old campaign rival. The former vice presidential candidate, Paul Ryan for lunch at the White House on Thursday. He heads up to the hill this week to do more of the same with the Republican and Democratic lawmakers from both the house and Senate. And so he will be doing more of this.
We just saw, in an effort to bring back some talks for reaching a kind of grand bargain. The sort of grand bargain on the deficit that he failed to reach with house speaker John Boehner back in 2011.
And just an interesting thing to note, Wolf, in addition to all of this, the president and first lady apparently dined with Bill and Hillary Clinton on the evening of March the first. This was first reported by Politico. But this dinner, apparently, happened over here at the White House. And we're trying to press the White House for more details on all of this. But apparently, this is all a part of the president's almost sort of a reset button in term his of his relations with Republicans in Washington.
BLITZER: Well, the reaction from some of those key Republicans so far has been pretty upbeat. I assume the White House is pleased, the Republican senators, most of them, said very nice things. Paul Ryan said it was a pretty good lunch over at the White House. But the key question is, will this result in a new deal?
ACOSTA: And the White House has said they are being very cautious and realistic about it. White House press secretary Jay Carney said earlier this week, that they are not naive about what is going on here. Obviously, there are two different feelings in terms of how to get the country back on the right track, in terms of getting this economy really going. They are feeling good about this jobs report that came out on Friday. But almost instantaneously, there was a reaction from Republicans over up on Capitol Hill saying that what is really holding back the economy is the crushing national debts. These are accumulating deficits.
And at the same time, they are saying that the White House is just not going to get its way when it comes to raising taxes. And that is, of course, very much a big part of the White House's plan to get to some kind of deficit reduction deal. They would like to see those loopholes and deductions reformed in a way that brings more revenue to the government. And so far, the Republicans just are not having it. So, it is going to take some more time. It is going to take more that a charm offensive, Wolf. BLITZER: Yes. A few baby steps, but as you point out, they have a lot of work to do.
Jim Acosta at the White House, thanks very much.
All right, let's go to Capitol Hill and get some more on the president's charm offensive. The surge also, as senator Rand Paul's star power all of the sudden.
Our chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash is here in the SITUATION ROOM.
Amazing week on Capitol Hill. But what is the fallout so far from Republicans and Democrats to this charm offensive?
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, obviously, for Republicans this is what matters most. And what I'm hearing from Republican senators, I talked to several of them who had dinner with the president. And they say what was really striking was that at the end of the -- at the end of the evening, they both realized that there is a genuine sincerity in the other's arguments. That they really just have different philosophies.
And you know, it seems so obvious that they would have this kind of meal, that they have this kind of interaction because it is how you and I interact, it is how every human being interact. And it is just, it was remarkable that it took so long for it to happen.
They were all very, very cautious about the whole idea that it would produce some grand bargain and some, you know, kumbayah moment that was really matter when it comes to the deficit. But it is baby steps, baby steps, that a lot of people say took a very long time.
BLITZER: There are a lot of Democrats and Republicans hoped there would be a grand bargain before, let's say, the end of July, early August, when the nation's debt ceiling has to be raised once again. So, that is an informal deadline, if you will, looks like the government won't have to shut down. They don't necessarily have to worry about it.
But, all of a sudden, senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, he is emerging as a real star this week because of the old fashioned filibuster.
BASH: It was remarkable. The fact he was on the floor for almost 13 hours, didn't sit down, he couldn't, barely took a drink of water because nature would call, that ended the filibuster after midnight. And what was, I think, there were so many different ripple effects from this.
One is, I know you talked to some Democrats on your show. I did too. That he was getting praise from Liberals. It really showed how strange be bedfellows are when you look at the whole idea of civil liberties versus the need to be involved and to be aggressive and to call (INAUDIBLE).
He got one Democrat to go on the floor with him. But really, he got a lot of praise from the ACLU-type Democrats sticking up for him. On the flip side, the other side, his own party, he really was beaten up by the Wall Street editorial page, which generally like people like Rand Paul.
And of course, John McCain, Lindsey Graham, more hawkish Republicans who say he did a disservice to the country by questioning the idea of using what they call necessary tactics.
BLITZER: And Rand Paul said at the end of this week, he is seriously considering running for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.
BASH: Exactly. Not a big surprise, he has hinted that in more ways than one to me and others, I'm sure to you, as well. It was pretty obvious as you saw him out on the campaign trail with his father who ran for president this past election cycle. But he was wanting to be the next Paul to run.
BLITZER: It is one thing to hint, it is one thing to say. I'm interested.
BLITZER: He is a blunt guy, doesn't hold back.
BASH: He does not.
BLITZER: All right, Dana, very good work this week. Thanks very much.
A dramatic turn on the war on terrorism this week, Osama bin Laden's son-in-law appearing in a federal court this week in New York, very close to where al-Qaeda brought down the world trade center towers on 9/11. Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, an al-Qaeda's spokesman pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy to plot, to kill Americans. He was captured abroad recently. And the decision to take him to New York instead of the U.S. facility of Guantanamo Bay in Cuba is raising fresh controversy.
Joining us now, our CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen, and our CNN senior legal analyst Jeff Toobin.
First of all, Jeff, what do we know about Sulaiman Abu Ghaith?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, the indictment against him, he is actually spare. He is described as a spokesperson. And one thing the government has to do as the case proceeds to trial is show that he actually advanced a conspiracy to kill Americans, didn't just advocate, didn't just give rhetorical support. The current charges against him are pretty minimal on that score. Although, the government certainly has will have many months to fill out the case against him.
BLITZER: Peter, he was the one that appeared on all those videos in September of 2001, in October 2001, warning the west, warning Muslims stay away from the United States. Stay away from those high rise buildings, don't get on planes. We're coming after you. At that time he was selected, I assume, by bin Laden to be the spokesperson?
PETER BERGEN, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: Yes, I mean, he married bin Laden's daughter. I mean, I second what Jeff said. I mean, the indictment against this guy is incredibly thin. And I don't think that is surprising because having, you know, followed him on and off over the last decade or so. This was a guy who popped up on a lot of those propaganda videotapes that you mentioned, Wolf.
And then basically disappeared. He was living under house arrest in Iran, basically sort of on ice, not able to really do anything. He was not included into the 9/11 attacks before they happened according al-Qaeda videotape that was discovered after the fall, the Taliban in Afghanistan.
And he is sort of a nonentity. And I think one of the reasons that he has gone to New York is conspiracy is not necessarily a war crime, of the type that would be tried in Guantanamo. And courts in New York have 100 percent conviction rates on these types of terrorism charges. Whereas a trial in Guantanamo is a very uncertain effect in convictions. And you know, only one percent of the people there have been actually being successfully convicted. BLITZER: On that legal issue, Jeffrey, listen to senator Lindsey Graham. He himself is an attorney. He is very much opposed to the decision to send him to New York. He thought this was an enemy combatant who by longed in Guantanamo Bay before a military tribunal. Listen to Senator Graham.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: To the administration, why did you not send this person to Guantanamo Bay to be held as an enemy combatant for intelligence-gathering purposes. I have been firm against torture, but I do believe that Guantanamo Bay is a secure military facility that provides this country a great asset. And we received a lot of information from Guantanamo Bay detainees.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: As you remember the uproar few years ago, when they were thinking of sending Halik Sheik Mohammad (ph) for Guantanamo Bay to be tried before a civil court in New York and eventually was reversed. What do you think about the pros and cons, legally speaking, either sending him to Guantanamo Bay or New York?
TOOBIN: Well, it is true there is a major difference between the two in terms of interrogation. In a criminal court where he is now, he will receive a lawyer who undoubtedly say to him stop talking to prosecutors, don't say anything. In Guantanamo, there will be more flexibility to interrogate him.
But the difference between the two is that the federal government has been very successful in getting convictions and life sentences in these cases brought in Manhattan. And Guantanamo has been a legal morass. So if you want to see this guy locked up securely for life, New York is probably a better bet than Cuba.
BLITZER: The other argument against sending him to New York, Jeffrey, you can give us perspective on this. Actually, I'm going to let me let Peter weigh in.
Peter, the notion that once there is a trial, let's say he pleads not guilty. There is going to be a long trial, he could call witnesses, his attorney would call witnesses. This could be a propaganda bonanza, if you will, for al-Qaeda against the United States. What do you make of that argument?
BERGEN: Well, lots of people from al-Qaeda have been put on trial in New York, even before 9/11 and that was never the case, Wolf. I mean, I think it is sort of a red herring that is trotted out to use a horrible mixed metaphor very routinely, and yet, it is really never been the case that somehow this turns into a great propaganda coup for al-Qaeda. And that somehow, when they get put into Florence, Colorado, the super max prison, that they are going to be turned into martyrs, none of that every happens.
BLITZER: Peter Bergen, Jeffrey Toobin, we will continue this conversation in the weeks and months to come. Thanks very much. Coming up here in the SITUATION ROOM, North Korea threatening a nuclear attack against the United States. And may have a dangerous new weapon. So what is the north erratic young leader up to?
And criminals reaching you through your cell phone? Thousands and thousands of people have already been scammed. Information to let you protect yourself. That is coming up.
BLITZER: It has been just over 20 years since the first text message has been sent, and now Americans send more than 184 billion texts a month.
Criminals are also using the texts in scams to try to take your money. The federal government sent out a warning this week and Lisa Sylvester has the report.
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is what the message looks like, hey, you, you, you can get a thousand dollar gift card from Walmart.
CHARLES A. HARWOOD, FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION: It's tricking. It is post link. It is tempting, and they end up want to click on it.
SYLVESTER: It is not from Walmart, it is from a marketing company. How common are these text messages? My producer David Gracey has received several of these.
DAVID GRACEY, CNN PRODUCER: It said, congratulations! You won a free gift card. But after the third text, I got it under a week saying I won a free gift card. I knew I couldn't be that lucky.
SYLVESTER: The FTC is cracking down, charging 29 individuals and companies from around the U.S. with sending more than 180 million unwanted text messages. First, spam text messages are illegal. And the FTC says these so-called free gift cards are anything but free. If you actually click on the link you have to keep putting in more and more personal information.
HARWOOD: There are 13 different offers they're required to complete, supposedly to just receive the gift card. The offers they're get they presented with include offers to apply for credit, include offers to sign up for a free trial offer for various products. At the end of the day after they complete all those steps, 13 steps, they're oftentimes then presented with something that says now, find three more people who will fill out this information.
SYLVESTER: According to a study by Cloud Marks, 60 percent of consumers say they received a spam message in the last year. Blocking the text message is not so easy.
STEVE WERNIKOFF, FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION INVESTIGATOR: The telephone companies have a method to attempt to block the spam text message, but you need to know the number you want to block. And the problem with these scams is that the numbers change so regularly.
SYLVESTER: So, what should you do if you receive one of these text messages? Well, the FTC says forward it to your carrier by typing in 7726, or spam. And what about the promise of the free gift card?
When you had your people go through the process did they end up with a gift card?
HARWOOD: None of my investigators particularly received a gift card.
SYLVESTER: These scams are offering gift card from major retailers, like Best Buy, Walmart and Target. The FTC says these companies have nothing to do with the scams. The folks behind it are individuals and marketing companies trying to gather your personality information.
The FTC is now asking the court to put a stop to it and they want the companies to reimburse consumers who may have lost money on the spam offers.
Lisa Sylvester, CNN. Washington.
BLITZER: And a ban on sugary drinks about to go effect in New York? But it is only sodas, the uproar are also over big coffees, what is going on? We will tell you.
BLITZER: If you live in New York or just if you're visiting, your coffee order may soon get a bit more complicated. It is all part of Mayor Bloomberg's ban on sugary drinks, it all takes place on Tuesday, complying with it is not as easy as you think. CNN's Mary Snow is in New York. She is watching the story for us.
All right, explain, Mary, what is going on?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, well you know, coffee orders are supposed to be simple. But, here is what we know, lattes won't change because they have milk, large coffees with sugar is another story. At least, one coffee chain is bracing its customers. We found many surprised to find out the breath of the city ban.
SNOW (voice-over): Along with the cup of coffee, a side of new rules. Dunkin Donuts is handing out these flyers to its New York City customers on how new regulations spills over into its coffee business,
It is part of the ban on super sized sugary drinks that goes into effect Tuesday. It is part of the city effort to fight obesity. To comply, Dunkin Donuts will no longer put sugar in coffee over 16 ounces. You will have to do it yourself. KAILA GANT, COFFEE DRINKER: I'm surprised. I thought it was just like sodas and like iced teas. I didn't even know it was coffee until just now.
STEPHANIE FORD, COFFEE DRINKER: It is annoying. I believe it is unnecessary. There are so many other things to worry about in the city.
SNOW: The city is not banning restaurants from putting sugar in the coffee. The department of health says the limit per barista is four packs of sugar to 20 ounces. And customer themselves can add as much sugar as they want.
But Dunkin Donuts says, it wants to cut down on any confusion. McDonalds also says it will tell customers to add their own sugar for coffee over 16 ounces. Both places say they're prepping the workers to be ready.
At restaurants, sodas this size is what the city doesn't want served. This is 20 ounces. This one is still OK. It is 12 ounces and customers can order as many as they want. But at restaurants like this one that prides itself on Texas sized servings, it makes a difference.
ERIC LEVINE, DIRECTOR, DALLAS BBQ: Everything is big.
SNOW: Eric Levine is the director of Dallas BBQ which has 10 restaurants.
Are you going to stop using those 20 ounces?
LEVINE: We will when the law says we have to. Right now, we are sort in a limbo and we are allowed by city law to hold off to until, I think, about June.
SNOW: The city says it will not enforce violations for three months, as restaurants adjust. Levine is waiting to the result of the lawsuits filed by restaurants, beverage companies and others to try and stop the city from its ban on super sized drinks. He estimates all the changes will cost his business tens of thousands of dollars, and plenty of headaches.
LEVINE: I have a lot of aggravation, menu changes, sign changers, digital boards, facebook, Web sites, information training, posy touch computers, everything.
SNOW: Now, another big company that is holding off making changes right now was Starbucks. It says there are a few gray areas of sorting through. And it is using the city's three-month evaluation period to see what changes it needs to make to be in compliance.
So Wolf, the Ventes are safe for now.
BLITZER: At least, for now. Let's what happens on Tuesday. All right, appreciate it very much, Mary.
And new talking and defiance by North Korea after its provocative nuclear tests. And now the United Nations is pushing back. I will speak about all of this and more to the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Susan Rice.
BLITZER: North Korea, Kim Jong-Un welcomed the troops at the front line with South Korea. The communist regime unveiled new threats against the United States, and much of the rest of the world this week, including a warning of a possible nuclear attack. The U.N. security council pushed back by passing tougher sanctions against North Korea's nuclear program.
Here is CNN's Anna Coren from Seoul.
ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tensions remain high here on the Korean peninsula, following days of aggressive rhetoric from North Korea that says it is ready for war. The rogue state, which made the extraordinary threat of a pre-emptive nuclear strike against the United States says it is still willing to nullify the armistice agreement that ended the Korean war back in 1953. Now, it says they will do this once the United States and South Korea begin their joint military exercises which start early next week.
Now, no one really knows what it means but there are fears that there could be provocations from Pyongyang. This comes in the wake of U.N. sanctions that were voted unanimously by the security council.
And with China's support, it sends a very strong message that they're also fed up with North Korea's belligerent behavior. In the meantime, South Korea says, if military is on high alert and ready for any attack -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And ambassador Susan Rice is joining us from the United Nations right now.
Ambassador, thanks very much coming in.
SUSAN RICE, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UNITED NATIONS: Good to be with you, Wolf.
BLITZER: What do you make of North Korea's threat now to launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike against South Korea and the United States if the latest U.N. sanctions just approved go into effect?
RICE: Well, they will go into effect, Wolf, because today we unanimously passed another round of very strong sanctions against North Korea because of its February 12th nuclear tests. And these sanctions will make it very much difficult for North Korea to finance and procure materials for and technology for its nuclear and ballistic missile programs. We have heard these sorts of threats from North Korea before. And frankly, they are not going to achieve anything. The better course for North Korea would be to recognize that it is isolated internationally. The entire international community is united in its opposition to the nuclear program and behind these sanctions. And North Korea ought to instead heed President Obama's call to return to the path of peace and to uphold its international obligations.
But the past record suggests that we may see more provocation.
BLITZER: Well, provocation is one thing, but do they actually have a capability of striking the United States right now?
RICE: Well, Wolf, I'm not going to get into sensitive discussion of their technical capabilities, but the United States has the ability to defend itself against any North Korean ballistic missile attack.
I think North Korea really ought to think carefully about continued threats and provocations, refrain from those, and recognize that the path it's on is leading to the impoverishment, the greater impoverishment of its people and the isolation of its leadership. Even China, Wolf, has had a belly full of North Korea and is more frustrated than I've seen it in many years.
BLITZER: Because the Chinese decision to co-sponsor this resolution, that's a huge deal, given the fact that China is the main sponsor, if you will, the main supporter of the North Korean regime.
RICE: Well, China and the United States negotiated this resolution intensively over the last few weeks. And it contains some very strong provisions that previously China had been reluctant to contemplate.
And now, given the latest in the series of provocations, and the fact that North Korea is pursuing a course of action that threatens China's interests -- its economic interests, its interests in regional peace and stability, as well as that of the larger international community -- they, too, agreed it was time for much tougher action.
BLITZER: As you know, there are nearly 30,000 U.S. troops along the demilitarized zone in South Korea, facing potentially a million North Korean troops on the other side, with heavy artillery. Are they going on a higher state of alert as a result of these threats coming from North Korea right now?
RICE: Well, I can't comment on the alert status of our forces, but I can tell you that we are always vigilant and prepared for the sort of threats that we've heard from North Korea in recent days. We'll be in the process of an annual military exercise with South Korea, which is something that we do regularly, and that, obviously, also is the reason for our particular vigilance about what may be going on in the north.
BLITZER: In recent days, Dennis Rodman, the NBA star, he visited North Korea and he actually spent two days with Kim Jong-un, as far as we know, the first American to actually meet the new young Korean leader. And he came back, and he told George Stephanopoulos this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DENNIS RODMAN, FORMER PROFESSIONAL BASKETBALL PLAYER: One thing he asked me, give Obama something to say and do one thing. He want Obama to do one thing. Call him.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: He wants a call from President Obama?
RODMAN: That's right. He told me that. He said, "If you can, Dennis, I don't want to do war. I don't want to do war." He said that to me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: As you remember, going back to the campaign in 2007/2008, you were a key adviser to the then-candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination. He left open the possibility, he said he's ready to talk without preconditions, with any of these leaders around the world, including these totalitarian regimes.
Do you think that this Dennis Rodman proposal is something the president should pick -- pick up on and call Kim Jong-un?
RICE: Wolf, I don't see President Obama picking up the phone and calling Kim Jong-un anytime. But the United States has been and remains open to a negotiated settlement, open to the resumption of the six-party talks, which the resolution today reaffirmed, which is, our preferred means of ensuring that the Korean Peninsula is, in fact, de- nuclearized.
BLITZER: On Syria, while I have you. A year or so ago, you were here in THE SITUATION ROOM. I asked you to look into the camera and speak directly to Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian leader, and you did. And you said this. I'll play the clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICE: I'd say the United States stands with the people of Syria, fully and unequivocally, in their aspirations for peace, for democracy, and for a brighter future. Your days are numbered, and it is time and past time for you to transfer power, responsibly, and peacefully. The longer you hang on, the more damage you do yourself, your family, your interests, and indeed, your country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. We're seen on CNN International, as well. They're probably watching in Damascus. Do you want to -- do you want to speak to the Syrian leader once again right now?
RICE: Well, Wolf, I think the message that the United States has been conveying and that I delivered last year applies this year. The fact is that, unfortunately, tragically, this war has intensified. Bashar al-Assad has used an ever-more deadly attacks and tactics against his own people, including SCUD missiles of all things. And the country is becoming increasingly fragmented. And the rebels are gaining territory and holding territory. The region is at greater risk.
And Assad can't last. And there's no question about that. The only question is how much destruction he will reap before he goes.
BLITZER: Are you still confident his days are numbered?
BLITZER: Ambassador Rice, thanks very much for joining us.
RICE: Good to be with you, as always, Wolf.
BLITZER: In the midst of these new threats by North Korea, there is some evidence out there right now that Kim Jong-un may be testing a dangerous new weapon. Let's bring in our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, who has been doing some reporting on it. What do we know, Barbara?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, there is growing evidence that North Korea -- if you thought you were worried about their long-range missiles, there is a new worry that they're developing a new long-range missile that could potentially someday hit the United States.
But here is why this one is of such a concern. It is the KN-08. It can be launched off a road mobile launcher. It has been seen in the military parade.
What we're talking about is this missile sits basically on top of a truck that the North Koreans can drive around the countryside, hide it from U.S. satellites overhead, move it around very quickly. Launch it very quickly before U.S. intelligence could be able to pick up any signs that its on the move.
You combine this mobile capability with their recent nuclear tests, where they said they had developed some miniaturized nuclear warhead, potential capability. You put those two things together - small nuclear warhead, road mobile -- you have the worst-case scenario of a missile that the North Koreans could fire that the U.S. may not be able to catch very quickly. Wolf?
BLITZER: Pretty ominous development. Lots of tension in the Korean Peninsula. Barbara, thanks very much.
Coming up, unemployment falling to its lowest level since 2008.
Just ahead, President Obama's next get-together with the Republicans. We'll talk about that, what it could mean as far as his charm offensive is concerned. Lots to discuss. Stand by.
BLITZER: The latest employment numbers show the jobless rate fell to 7.7 percent last month. That's the lowest since 2008. And the economy added 236,000 jobs since February, much higher than the previous months. All this coming as President Obama has been reaching out to Republicans, including a high-profile dinner with some key Republican senators.
Joining us now to discuss, our senior political analyst Ron Brownstein. He's also the editorial director of "The National Journal." And CNN's chief political correspondent Candy Crowley, the anchor of CNN's STATE OF THE UNION.
Candy, these numbers are good, presumably good political news for the president. Does it really help strength his bargaining position, going into the next few months, a grand-bargain type negotiation?
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, I actually don't think so. And I am not sure I can articulate why. But I think that these are better numbers than we've seen what, in four years, at least in terms of the unemployment rate. But it's still -- most economists say it is still kind of eh. So, I don't think it is some bit coup (ph).
Look it's great. And everybody can hail this is great. But what they're talking about now is the debt and deficit. And insofar as you're bringing more money into the U.S. Treasury, it's always good to bring down the unemployment rate. But I don't know if it this strengthens the president's hand.
BLITZER: And we're thrilled, obviously, for those 236,000 people who actually got a job this past month. That is obviously very, very good news. But what do you make of the impact it could have in these negotiations? And I think there will be some serious negotiations. I don't know if they'll reach a deal, but they might.
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, by historic standards, as Candy says, I mean, this may be the upper end, but still not what we've seen in previous recoveries. By contemporary standards, this is very good. And I think it does give the president one argument here, which is that there is a view among some economists that the uncertainty in Washington is really one of the last big barriers preventing the economy from moving at least up another gear, if not the kind of gear in the '90s.
nd I think when you get good economic news, I think it does provide some opportunity to argue that if we can provide more certainty to the country with some sense that we're not going to go through these self-inflicted confrontations month after month, but instead set it on a long-term path, maybe that would have some positive impact.
BLITZER: It would be positive if they could reach a deal on raising the debt ceiling before the end of July, early August, the next time they have to do it. Because if they don't, that would end a very uncertain message to a lot of the big business operators who want to hire people.
BROWNSTEIN: Hard to believe we would go through that again, after what happened in 2008 -- 2011. But not inconceivable. I mean essentially, you have this situation where neither party I think has fully adjusted to the reality they are here for at least two years. And probably giving the 2014 dynamics for sharing power. You know, Republicans face the reality, the thing they want most, to control the long-term growth government requires some restraint on entitlements. As long as President Obama is president, they are not going to get that without accepting more revenue. And of course, the president I think has to be serious from the other end about finding a way to kind of move forward on the entitlement end.
So, right now, they're finding it easier to fight than switch.
CROWLEY: The good news is that words are porous, and so revenue doesn't have to mean an increase in tax rates. So they have to find some way to make it palatable to Republicans. And when you talk about cuts and entitlements, there's a way to do that while saying, oh, we're protecting everybody's benefits. So, they can find their way around this if they want to. But nobody is going to get there, for precisely what Ron just said.
BLITZER: And listen to the House speaker John Boehner reacting to this charm offense.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE SPEAKER: This week, we've gone 180. Now after being in office for over four years, he is actually going to sit down and talk to members. I think it is a sign, a hopeful sign, and I'm hopeful that something will come out of it. But, if the president continues to insist on tax hikes I don't think we're going to get very far.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: If the president is going to insist --
BROWNSTEIN: There you go.
BLITZER: The president is going to insist on raising tax revenue, whether you do it through eliminating loopholes or deductions, exemptions. If -- he says he is not going to raise rates, although he wants that Buffet Rule to go into effect, which in effect would raise rates. There's this issue of taxes is the key stumbling block right now.
CROWLEY: Well, it is and also entitlement cuts. I mean, I think we have been so focused on tax increases or increased revenue, we really haven't gotten to the big fight, which is about where, and how to cut entitlements and what about benefits and age brackets and all that kind of thing.
I think what is to me is sort of brilliant about the charm offensive at this particular moment, is if the president can get a long-term deal out of this, then he is on his way to that kind of transformational presidency that he wanted. If he doesn't, he can spend next year going I have tried everything. I had them to dinner, I talked to them on the phone. They still won't deal with me. So what I really need is a Democratic House.
BROWNSTEIN: It's true.
BLITZER: He also was reported by "The Washington Post" a week ago to - appear to be his major concern is winning a Democratic majority in of the House of Representatives in 2014. So, his last two years, he would have Democrats in the majority of the House, Democrats in the majority in the Senate. And then he could get his way. What did you make of that story?
BROWNSTIEN: Well, first of all, very difficult to do. The Democratic coalition so dependent on the minorities and young people who turn out at much lower numbers in midterms than in presidential years. We almost have two different electorates now, and if the Democrats are going to take back the House any time soon, it will much more likely be 2016 when their voters tend to come out in larger numbers.
But look, I don't think charm or even leverage really gets you that far anymore. There are only about 15 Republicans in districts that Obama carried. They're not that many. What you have, though, is a convergent of interest, as I said before. Ultimately, neither party can get very much of what they want out of the budget talks without coming together on some kind of agreement.
The only alternative, really, is waiting - for the Republicans, waiting until after Obama's presidency. And as I said, if that's your strategy, you do have the risk in 2016, you might not be controlling the House after that.
So really, what is the alternative for the two sides other than making a deal, or a long-term stalemate?
BLITZER: Ron Brownstein, thanks very much. Candy, we will see you on STATE OF THE UNION Sunday morning, 9:00 a.m. Nancy Pelosi, by the way, will be joining Candy 9:00 a.m. Eastern. Also noon Eastern on STATE OF THE UNION. She's got a good, excellent lineup, including Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor making some waves right now. Kevin McCarthy, the Republican majority whip, as well. STATE OF THE UNION, 9:00 a.m., Sunday morning.
Up next, from fierce political rivals to the very best of friends. You will find out what former president George H.W. Bush is revealing in some newly published letters about former president Bill Clinton.
BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: It's a relationship that should make any politician here in Washington stop and take note. Two former presidents, one a Republican, George H. W. Bush, the Democrat who defeated him, Bill Clinton, now so close they almost seem like family.
GEORGE H. W. BUSH, 41ST PRESIDENT: Thank you all. BLITZER (voice-over): They were one-time rivals.
BUSH: My biggest problem with Governor Clinton is that he's on one side of the issue one day and on the other the other day, and we cannot let the White House turn into the waffle house.
BLITZER: Now best of friends. A political odd couple doing good around the world. Their relationship, the subject of several newly published letters by George H. W. Bush.
BILL CLINTON, 42ND PRESIDENT: May all the Democrats forgive me this close to the election. I love George Bush. I do.
BLITZER: "I so appreciated your words about our relationship, about our friendship," Bush wrote to Clinton after a 2006 award ceremony. "It was from your heart. I hope you know I feel the same way."
ANDREW CARD, FORMER BUSH CHIEF OF STAFF: They've become really great friends. In fact, almost like family. And that's part of a jealousy problem for the rest of the Bush kids. They think they've got this other brother named Bill Clinton.
BUSH: And until you've been on the ground and see it, it's hard to realize the scope of the challenge that lies ahead.
BLITZER: They first came together publicly after the 2005 tsunami in Southeast Asia and traveled extensively together over the years.
Here's what Bush wrote to close friend and former "TIME" magazine columnist, Huge Sidey, "Clinton is a fascinating character. He has opinions on everything, no matter what."
During that tsunami relief trip, Bush, like many others before him, would be confronted by Clinton's legendary problem staying on schedule.
"I had always heard that Bill Clinton had his own time, Clinton Standard Time. He does. I, on the other hand, am compulsively on time."
And two other attributes Bush immediately noticed, both Clinton's energy --
BUSH: You should have seen him going from town to town, country to country, Energizer Bunny here killed me but --
BLITZER: And love of talking. "I soon realized as the trip got under way, if we got in a bind for things to say or answers to be given to questions, it was reassuring to know that he was the man."
CARD: President Clinton is a phenomenal talker. So they were the perfect couple. Because President Clinton could talk and talk and talk and President Bush would listen and listen and listen, and be the straight person for the jokes. BLITZER: But Bush, too, could try for a laugh from Clinton, writing to him after Clinton nodded off at a Martin Luther King Day sermon.
"I could indeed feel your pain," Bush wrote, invoking Clinton's famous catch phrase. "I have been there myself, more than once I might add, and it physically hurt as I tried to keep my eyes open."
Two political opposites. Now sharing the common bond of the presidency and friendship.
BLITZER: The newly updated Bush letters, by the way, just released this week.
Coming up, it's the ultimate cliff hanger. A woman too terrified to jump gets some unexpected help from her boyfriend. Jeanne Moos is next with this really unbelievable video.
BLITZER: To say this next story is a cliff hanger would be an understatement. It's the breathtaking push that went viral. Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When push came to shove, was it just a love nudge?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know I love you, right?
JESSICA POWELL, RELUCTANT JUMPER: Please don't push me off. Please don't.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am not.
MOOS: Or did her then-boyfriend not take no for an answer?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not going to push you. I'm not going to push you.
POWELL: Honey, honey! Ahhh!
(via phone): I felt like all of my insides had moved up into my chest.
MOOS: By now, millions have seen the infamous push, but this is the first time you'll hear her side of it. Jessica Powell and Creighton Baird, part of an extreme rope swing video, being put together by Devin Graham, but when it was Jessica's turn to jump...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three, two, one, zero!
MOOS: ... even a countdown couldn't jump-start her. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two, one, zero!
POWELL (on camera): I don't want to do it.
MOOS: For 45 minutes, she tried, and then kiss turned to shove.
POWELL: Ahhh! I'm breaking up with you!
BAIRD: I just got dumped!
MOOS: But before you say, "You jerk," consider what Jessica told Creighton 45 minutes earlier.
POWELL (via phone): You know, I'm really nervous about this. I don't know if I'll be able to jump. If I can't jump, you need to push me.
MOOS: But when he did, his reputation took a dive, as he told "Inside Edition."
BAIRD: I feel I have taken Chris Brown's spot as the worst boyfriend in America.
MOOS: Make that worst ex-boyfriend. Her at-the-end-of-her-rope line...
POWELL (on camera): I'm breaking up with you!
MOOS: -- had them in stitches on "Kimmel." But it turns out...
POWELL (via phone): I've since broken up, not anything to do with the video. I have zero hard feelings for Creighton.
MOOS (on camera): The breakup happened about a month after the show for reasons Jessica prefers to keep private.
(voice-over): But when she climbed a rope back up the cliff to Creighton, right after he pushed her...
POWELL: I think I punched him first, but then I -- I gave him a big hug and told him thanks for -- for making it easy for me.
MOOS: She says the reason for giving this interview, her first, was to clear his name. And though her one liner is already being parodied by Boy Scouts...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm breaking up with you!
MOOS: ... Creighton is no cretin.
POWELL: He's not a monster, he's not mean, he's nothing like Chris Brown. No offense, Chris Brown.
MOOS (on camera): At least it was the relationship that ended up on the rocks...
(voice-over): ... and not Jessica.
POWELL (on camera): Ahhh!
MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN...
POWELL: I'm breaking up with you!
MOOS: ... New York.
BLITZER: Amazing, amazing video. That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. The news continues next on CNN.