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Fifth Graders Denied White House Tour; Portman: I've Had A "Change Of Heart"; Interview With Rep. Dan Kildee

Aired March 15, 2013 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, a GOP trailblazer has a stunning change of heart about same sex marriage and reveals why in an interview you will see only here on CNN.

Did a freshman Democrat get a smackdown from President Obama behind closed doors? I'll ask him live this hour.

And what do Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden have to do with the "Golden Girls?"

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

BLITZER: We begin with these live pictures that you're seeing coming in from a small airport, executive airport in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. We are now told that a piper PA-31, that's a small plane, shortly after taking off from that airport, crashed into a warehouse and you see these vehicles that have been destroyed in the process.

We don't know injuries. We don't know the extent of injuries or, worse, God forbid, what happened, but you can see the residue left over from firefighters, rescue workers who came to the scene to deal with the fire there. Once again, this is the Fort Lauderdale executive airport. Large columns of smoke were visible for several miles just a little while ago. But firefighters on the scene doused those flames, and now, they're dealing with the rest (ph).

We're going to update you and bring you more information as it becomes available. Once again, these are live pictures coming in from the executive airport in Fort Lauderdale.

Other news we're following here in the SITUATION ROOM, you might call them some of the youngest people impacted by Washington's forced spending cuts. Fifth graders who are missing out on what may have been a chance in a lifetime chance to get inside the White House and see it up close. CNN national political correspondent, Jim Acosta, is over at the White House, watch what was going on, has details -- Jim.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, two weeks after those automatic spending cuts kicked in, people across the country are only beginning to feel the effects. Just ask the students we talked to earlier today. They were hoping to get inside this house just behind over my shoulder.


ACOSTA (voice-over): These fifth graders from East Lawn Elementary came all the way from the small town of Burlington, North Carolina for the school's annual field trip to Washington. Late last month, they received this confirmation for a tour of the White House, but this is as far as they made it.

UNIDENTIFIED KID: Because they're cutting their budgets.

ACOSTA: Instead, they're getting a civics lesson in the meaning of the word "sequester."

UNIDENTIFIED KID: I'm ticked off.

ACOSTA: Jakiah Sellers is like the rest of her classmates held fundraisers to come up with the $300 each of them needed for the trip.

Do you understand what's going on here? I mean, why this is happening?

JAKIAH SELLERS, EASTDAWN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL STUDENT: Yes, because Obama don't want nobody to see his beautiful house.

ACOSTA: Feelings are hurt.

STACEY STALLINGS, EASTLAWN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL TEACHER: That was the highlight of our trip for our students, and it's a once in a lifetime opportunity that some of us may never get again.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This is a very unfortunate circumstance that is a result of the sequester.

ACOSTA: White House officials say they had to make a choice between canceling tours and furloughing secret service agents. They also point to other painful cuts from the air traffic control towers in small cities facing closure to the reduced hours at the national archives.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These cuts will harm not help our economy.

ACOSTA: To cuts in science research at the national lab, President Obama visited today.

OBAMA: They don't trim the fat. They cut into muscle and in the bone.

ACOSTA: Talk to Amanda Harrison whose husband, John, just lost the tuition assistance he receives from the marines due to the automatic cuts. It's a program that enticed him to join the marines, in the first place.

AMANDA HARRISON, WIFE OF MARINE: You don't get to maintain a good job. I'm sorry. As a service member's wife, you know, we give up a lot. And this was a little something in return for everything we do.

ACOSTA: Back at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the students who wanted to get an up close look at the White House are instead getting a tour in broken government.

UNIDENTIFIED KID: This is the people's house, so we should have gone inside the house.

ACOSTA: A tour that comes at a high price.

DIANE SANDERS, TOUR CHAPERONE: Terrible example to give the kids.

ACOSTA: It's sort of like breaking their promise.

SANDERS: Breaking a promise.


ACOSTA (on-camera): Earlier this week, the president said arrangements are being made to rebook some of those canceled tours for students who are coming here to Washington, but White House officials say that is still being worked out and they also cautioned not all of the tours will be put back on the schedule here at the White House.

They stress, Wolf, that those tours, many of the tours just like the rest of the cuts around the country are here to stay for now.

BLITZER: And they're pointing out they insist officials at the White House, the secret service decided to do this because they were forced into making some painful spending cuts. Is that right?

ACOSTA: Well, we've heard a couple different stories this week. The white house says the decision came inside the White House. The president said the decision came really from the secret service, but really, the secret service presented the White House with sort of an array of options and they said, look, you can go with furlough and secret service agents.

You can go with cutting their pay or you can do away with these tours which cost about $74,000 a week and the decision was made to scrap the tours for now. But obviously, people here at the White House would like to see those tours come back just like the students, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. Those kids would like to see those tours come back as well. Let's see how long it takes to get those back on track. Jim Acosta, thank you.

He's one of the most prominent figures in the GOP. The man who was constantly at Mitt Romney's side during the 2012 presidential campaign, not only as a possible running mate but also as the Obama stand-in helping Mitt Romney prepare for the debates. Now, Senator Rob Portman of Ohio is changing his position on an issue that many in his party don't agree with him on, the issue of same sex marriage.

And it's for a very personal reason that he shared exclusively with our chief Congressional correspondent, Dana Bash. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ROB PORTMAN, (R) OHIO: I'm announcing today a change of heart on an issue that a lot of people feel strongly about. It has to do with gay couples' opportunity to marry.

And, during my career in the House and also the last couple years here in the Senate, I've taken a position against gay marriage really imparted in my faith and faith tradition and had a very personal experience, which is my son came to Jane, my wife and I, told us that he was gay, and that it was not a choice and that, you know, that's just part of who he is.

And he'd been that way ever since he could remember. And that launched an interesting process for me which was f rethinking my position, you know, talking to my pastor and other religious leaders, and going through the process of at the end changing my position on the issue. I now believe that people ought to have the right to get married.


BLITZER: Dana is joining us now. You're getting some reaction from other conservatives, other Republicans to Senator Portman's announcement.

BASH: That's right. And when it comes to Congress, I think the best way to describe Republican Congressional leaders is cautious. They're being cautious. It's clear they're not comfortable. Look, they know Rob Portman well. They like him, they admire him, they respect him. Many of them are really close with him. They know his son, Will, who he's revealed is gay.

They don't want to offend him, but they also don't want to offend the conservative base. Most of the conservative base still is very much against gay marriage. Listen to what Speaker John Boehner who, of course, is from Portman's home state of Ohio said.

He said, "Senator Portman is a great friend and ally, and the speaker respects his position, but the speaker continues to think that marriage is between a man and a woman." That was Speaker Boehner's spokesman.

And that's still very much the feeling inside the Republican Party. And I want you to listen to what the former republican presidential candidate, probably future presidential candidate, Rick Santorum, said about this.


RICK SANTORUM, (R) FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not too sure that the rationale behind what Senator Portman was doing is something that has broad application to the debate. You know, the fundamental principles that attach to the institution of marriage really haven't changed as a result of that personal story. We need to look at what's right, what's right for the American public, and more importantly, what's right for children. And, so, we'll continue to fight for those things.


BLITZER: Basically, Senator Santorum is saying he totally disagrees with Senator Portman on this sensitive issue.

BASH: He absolutely is. Yes.

BLITZER: Yes. He's not changing his position at all, Sen. Santorum.


BLITZER: But some younger conservatives, there is a conference going on right here in Washington, the Conservative Political Action Conference. There could be a generational gap, if you will, on the issue of marriage equality.

BASH: There really is. As we know this, that is true across society. That it is a generational issue, and you saw it with Senator Santorum and others who I just referred to saying that they still believe marriage is between a man and a woman. They are of the older Republican generation.

You mentioned CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Committee, that's going on right now. There are a lot of activists there, probably the most conservative activists from around the country, and the younger people, we talked to some of them, many of the youngers basically say that they have a live and let live attitude. Listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our economic policies are sound. Our national security policies are extremely sound. And if some of the domestic issues could be left to state issues, I think more people would embrace the party, appreciate some of our stances and other things of that nature.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do think that it is kind of important to adapt a little bit more to the 21st century and the civil liberties issue.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE" I personally know many gay conservatives, and I think that they would appreciate that, and they stand for all the values that we stand for and happen to have found themselves in a situation where they don't have the same rights as everyone else which I don't think is right.


BASH: So, kind of a lot of shoulder shrugging which, of course, we all see among the younger generation, but it's very interesting, I think, fascinating to also hear that from again among the most conservative activists in the country. Not that they're saying that they're necessarily for gay marriage, but they say that gay Americans should just kind of be left alone which in many ways is also part of the conservative, maybe more libertarian principles and philosophies. BLITZER: Live and let live. Let the government stay out of these kinds of issues a lot of young people think like that as well. All right. Good work, Dana. I know your interview, we got a lot more of it coming up in our next hour here in the SITUATION ROOM.

BASH: Be here.

BLITZER: Terrific work. Thanks very much.

Coming up also, did a freshman Democrat get a little ribbing from President Obama behind closed doors? He's here, that Congressional Democrat, to join us live in the SITUATION ROOM. We're going to talk about what happened.


BLITZER: Let's get back to that breaking news. You see these horrific pictures coming in from that small airport in Fort Lauderdale. Small plane that crashed into a warehouse at the airport, a small piper, we're told. Piper PA-31 crashed into the warehouse. You see a lot of damaged vehicles. Firefighters on the scene dousing the fire there. Smoke had been seen for miles.

Chris Jewett is joining us in the phone right now. He works nearby, witnessed the crash. Chris, what did you see?

CHRIS JEWETT, WITNESSED PLANE CRASH: Well, actually what occurred was I was on the phone. I work in the office across the street from the accident, and basically, the whole building shook. It felt like something crashed into the building itself, a car or something. We walked out of the back of the building to see what happened and we see flames coming over the top of the building.

So, we circled around to the front and went across the street in the car lot, from what I told is like a tow truck car lot, and flames and black smoke is just billowing out and cars are on fire and you can see the pictures describe it. But, people were just running out and one of the tow truck drivers who actually ran out.

I spoke with him, and he basically told me that the plane landed in front of him or crashed in front of him, and he barely made it out before the cars had exploded.

BLITZER: Because we're told that the plane took off from that small executive airport in Fort Lauderdale, but then, quickly crashed into that warehouse destroying all those cars. That's what you are hearing as well, right, Chris?

JEWETT: Yes. That is correct. I heard it from several people that are actually there. People were scrambling to move their cars and pretty much get away from it. And, yes, they said a plane was coming in. It came pretty hard. And they said the plane pretty much just dropped on to the lot.

BLITZER: Hold on for a moment, Chris. Our own John Zarrella, he's down in the area as well and knows this airport quite well. First of all, John, have you heard anything about injuries, how many people were on that piper twin engine plane?

VOICE OF JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, Wolf. Not yet. Haven't gotten any indication as to, you know, who was on the plane, how many were on the plane, where they were going. None of those details filled in yet. But just from that airport as the witness was pointing out, it is an executive airport.

You get a lot of twin engine planes, single engine planes. A lot of jets going in and out of there. Many of the executive jets flying in and out of that airport as well (INAUDIBLE) where the new York Yankees used to play in Fort Lauderdale. Those planes coming in and out of there, you know, overhead very low all the time. So, it is a very, very busy, small executive airport but a lot of traffic in and out of there -- Wolf.

BLITZER: How far is it from the major international airport in Fort Lauderdale?

ZARRELLA: Just a few miles. It's probably, I would say, no more than about five to eight miles north of Fort Lauderdale International.

BLITZER: So, it has nothing to do with Fort Lauderdale International Airport. This is a totally separate, small airport.

ZARRELLA: That's correct. It is totally separate executive airport. Totally separate airport. Nothing to do with fort Lauderdale International.

BLITZER: All right. John, I'm going to let you work your sources over there and tell us what happened to the people on that plane and then you'll get back to us, update us. John Zarrella is on the scene as he always is. Chris Jewett is still with us as well. He was an eyewitness to this crash, saw what was going on, and you see these live pictures coming in from our affiliate, WSVN, down in South Florida.

They're still dealing with the aftermath. It looks like, Chris, at least, I'm guessing, 15 or 20 vehicles if we get a wide shot over there may have been destroyed. Is that what you saw?

JEWETT: That's about correct. When I was actually there about three or four actually blew up while we were watching people get out and moving their cars. Three or four actually blew up. The rest (ph) caught on fire, and it was so hectic you couldn't really look in. You're just more concerned about getting people out of there and making sure everybody was away from the area.

BLITZER: It looks like these cars were parked in a parking lot, that maybe people who had gone on some of these planes, not necessarily a very heavily trafficked area, is that right? Empty cars basically destroyed?

JEWETT: Well, those cars from what I was told that lot is actually a tow truck lot. So, those were actually tow truck drivers are bringing them in and those cars have all been towed. So, that's where they all came from. The area is typically (INAUDIBLE). I work at the fuel cell right across the street from where we've heard.

And we're an FAA repair shop. We deal with commercial aviation and we deal specifically in fuel units. So, it's pretty scary considering that how much fuel for an aircraft we have in our building alone and how combustible and flammable that is.

BLITZER: All right. Chris, thanks very much. We'll stay in close touch with you. Chris Jewett joining us from the scene as well. John Zarrella is working his sources. Once we get information on the extent of injuries, we'll update our viewers.

We'll take a quick break. When we come back, freshman Democrat in the Congress get a smackdown from the president of the United States behind closed doors? The congressman is standing by live. We'll discuss.


BLITZER: There is a surprising report out there suggesting President Obama delivered a little bit of a smackdown to a freshman Congressional member of his own party. "Roll Call" describing it as a gentle ribbing. Let's discuss what's going on with the newly minted Democratic representative, Dan Kildee, of Michigan. Congressman, thanks very much for coming in.

REP. DAN KILDEE, (D) MICHIGAN: Thank you very much.

BLITZER: I saw the story in "Roll Call." I'll put it up on the screen a few words from it. "Kildee then proceeded to ask what one person described as a somewhat long winded question about the importance of creating jobs for his economically distraught district." You're from Flint. "I can tell you're a freshman because you didn't pay much attention to the "State of the Union," Obama joked. I talked about that." A little bit of a smackdown to you right? What happened?

KILDEE: Well, I think he assumed that I was missing the manufacturing innovation centers which is what he talked about in the "State of the Union." I was actually raising a much bigger issue about cities like Flint and Detroit and Saginaw. Cities that have had, you know, significant economic dislocation and are structurally unsound.

In fact, not only did I not miss the point about manufacturing innovation centers but the previous day had been meeting with White House staff following up on the "State of the Union."

BLITZER: So, you're pretty familiar with the proposals he outlined in his "State of the Union" address.

KILDEE: Very familiar. I've been advocating for them for a long time. And here's the thing, it was a lighthearted moment. I think you sort of --


KILDEE: It was a closed meeting among Democrats, and it was a lighthearted moment. There was a lot of banter between the president and other members. I wasn't the only one that sort of, you know, created a little kerfuffle. But, look, you're not going to find a bigger fan of President Obama. We're friends. I'm a freshman, but I've been with him now five times since I was elected. So, I don't --

BLITZER: So, when he looked at you, he knew who you were. He recognized you.

KILDEE: He calls me Dan. In fact, the thing that he said that nobody seems to be reporting is he said that he thought I was sort of classing up the place, but I guess, that's not interesting.

BLITZER: So, there are no hard feelings.


BLITZER: No animosity?


BLITZER: He wasn't like ribbing you a little bit.

KILDEE: Look, here's the thing. I'm in the SITUATION ROOM with Wolf Blitzer talking about distressed cities. Any way that I got here is a good thing. The president and I are on the same page. I've been working with his administration even before I got elected on trying to find new ways to breathe life into distressed places.

This manufacturing innovation center is one of them, but I'm promoting a whole series of fixes that will take cities like Flint and lots of other cities around the country to a different place. Allow them to participate in the economic growth that the president is asking for.

BLITZER: Because what Flint is going through -- has been going through, Detroit is about to go through now, that the governor named as a special executive to oversee -- we hope it doesn't happened the bankruptcy proceedings.

KILDEE: It's really tough. There are cities that have been left behind in this economy.


KILDEE: Flint is one of them. It's been going on for decades, and my belief and this is what I said to the president is that we need to think about significant new investment in these places, not just allowing, you know, the rising tide of the economy to take lots of cities with them. Cities like Flint and Detroit will be left behind.

So, what I was raising with the president and had been talking to his administration about for some time is a whole series of strategies that will allow us to retrain workers, deal with the blight and abandonment, deal with the aging infrastructure in those places, create a platform for them to actually be able to benefit from economic growth. And the president and I are on the same page in getting there. BLITZER: Good luck to you, your district in Flint and the area I know they're going through some tough times in Detroit as well. We had the governor on the show here yesterday.

KILDEE: Thank you very much.

BLITZER: Appreciate it.

KILDEE: All right.

BLITZER: Up next the public apology. Mitt Romney returns to the national stage to stand before the GOP and says it's time to learn from his mistakes.

Also, Romney's former running mate, Paul Ryan, talks about where America could be heading and it's just short of an economic apocalypse.


BLITZER: Former GOP presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, was back on the national stage today with key members of his own party, apologizing for letting them down in his first public speech since losing the presidential election.


MITT ROMNEY, (R) FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I left the race disappointed that I didn't win. But, I also left honored and humbled to have represented the values we believe in and to speak for so many good and decent people. We've lost races before in the past, but those setbacks prepared us for larger victories.

It's up to us to make sure that we learn from our mistakes and my mistakes and that we take advantage of that learning to make sure that we take back the nation, take back the White House, get the Senate, and put in place conservative principles.


We may not have carried on November 7th but we haven't lost the country we love and we have not lost our way. People like Bob McDonnell, Scott Walker, John Kasich, Susannah Martinez, Chris Christie, Brian Sandoval, these are the people we got to listen to and make sure their message is heard loud and clear across the country.

I'm sorry I won't be your president but I will be your co-worker and I'll work shoulder to shoulder alongside you.

You see, in the end, in the end we'll win. We'll win for the same reason we won before. Because our cause is just and it is right.


BLITZER: All right. Let's talk a little bit more about what's going on with our chief political analyst Gloria Borger and our chief political correspondent Candy Crowley, the anchor of "STATE OF THE UNION."

He says, Romney, that the party needs to learn from his -- his mistakes. What are those lessons?


GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think by watching him you could see what they -- what they were. This is a man who is having trouble connecting with voters. I don't think he particularly connected with this conservative group. It kind of puzzles me why he chose this as the first place to make his first kind of public speech.

The thing that interested me the most about it, Wolf, was that he went out of his way to mention Chris Christie and Governor Bob McDonnell of Virginia, two very popular governors in their own states who were not invited to address this conservative group. So I think it was a little bit of a big tent message coming from him, too.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think if you look at his mistakes and Reince Priebus was putting together a "Mistakes of 2012," what went wrong --


BLITZER: The chair of the Republican Party.

CROWLEY: -- next week. Chairman of the Republican Party. I think one of the things about --

BORGER: Very long, though.

CROWLEY: Yes, it's very long. One of the things about Romney and that every candidate can look at is watch what you say in the primaries. You know, the fact of the matter is I think if you look back and particularly when you look back at Latino votes, that sort of thing, you know, we know the old canary, you have to run to the right and then run back to the center. You can't do it anymore. It's just not -- it was too far of -- too far of a run for him and I think it really began to doom him at least in terms of demographics.


CROWLEY: When he was talking -- when they were talking about Hispanics, started talking about self-deportation. So those primaries really are tough especially on Republican candidates.

BORGER: Don't forget this was the place, this speech, where Romney called himself severely conservative.

BLITZER: A year ago.

BORGER: If you recall. A year ago. What a difference a year makes. Now he is talking about Chris Christie, right?

BLITZER: Listen to Paul Ryan, the Republican vice president -- presidential nominee, because he had a little dark picture that he painted.


REP. PAUL RYAN (R), BUDGET CHAIRMAN: Our debt is already bigger than our economy. At some point lenders will lose confidence in us. They will demand higher interest rates and when they do interest rates across the country will skyrocket on mortgages, on credit cards, on car loans.

And then pressed for cash the government will take the easy way out. It will crank up the printing presses. The dollar would sink. Our finances would collapse. The safety net would unravel. And the most vulnerable? They would suffer the most. A debt crisis would be more than an economic event. It would be a moral failure.


BLITZER: That's a pretty dark picture he is painting over there.

BORGER: It is. And it's the Paul Ryan we know. This is the Paul Ryan, chairman of the Budget Committee. I don't think this was really for Paul Ryan an audition for 2016. I think this is somebody who really wants to be the next speaker of the House and wants his career to be in the House and what he is talking about is what he knows about which is the budget.

So whereas some other Republicans are saying, you know, you can't just limit your remarks to the budget. You can't just talk about austerity. It's not our platform. That's where Paul Ryan feels comfortable.

CROWLEY: And this is where he feels comfortable. I don't -- I don't count him out for 2016 by any means but I will say that contrast that to Bobby Jindal's speech, the governor of Louisiana, who said we are obsessed with zeroes.

BORGER: Right.

CROWLEY: You have to -- we cannot be the party of cutting. We cannot be the party that's constantly saying what we can't do without. We have to be the party of growth. And what you saw was the inside-the- beltway Republicans and the outside-the-beltway Republicans.

BLITZER: Speaking of Bobby Jindal, let me play a clip. This is Bobby Jindal. Remember a couple of weeks ago he is speaking about a stupid party, if you will.

BORGER: Stupid club -- party. Right.

BLITZER: The -- that was on Republican Party, here's what he said today.


GOV. BOBBY JINDAL (R), LOUISIANA: Today's conservativism is far too wrapped up in solving the hideous mess that is the federal budget. The burgeoning deficits, the mammoth federal debt, the shortfall in our entitlement programs, even as our president creates even new entitlement programs.

Today's conservativism is in love with zeroes. We seem to have an obsession with government bookkeeping.

I'm here to tell you this is a rig game. It is the wrong game for us to be playing. Yesterday was the fiscal cliff. Today it's the sequester. Tomorrow it'll be the fiscal apocalypse and then it'll be fiscal Armageddon.


BLITZER: That's a pretty different message than Paul Ryan.

BORGER: Yes and it's a different message and it's pretty simple. We have to be about people. We have to stop being about numbers. We have to be about the middle class and what people care about and let them know that we care about them. Pretty simple.

CROWLEY: And again, this is why Mitt Romney is saying, look, to these governors, because they're actually interacting with people and the outside-the-beltway Republicans look at the inside-the-beltway Republicans saying you don't get it. And you saw that in stark relief at the CPAC.

BLITZER: But they're both Paul Ryan and Bobby Jindal, certainly rising stars in the Republican Party.

BORGER: Next generation.

BLITZER: Yes. They certainly are. All right, guys. Thank you very much.

CROWLEY: Thanks.

BLITZER: See you Sunday on "STATE OF THE UNION".

CROWLEY: I'll be there.

BLITZER: 9:00 a.m. Eastern and noon.

CROWLEY: Yes. You got that right.

BLITZER: I know. I watch.

CROWLEY: Thanks.

BLITZER: Thank you.

Among her guests, by the way, the chairman of the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, this show coming up Sunday.

Just ahead does this pair look like the Golden Girls to you? We're going to tell you why we asked when we come back.


BLITZER: All right. Check this out. Do the people in this White House photo remind you of, shall we say, the "Golden Girls"? The Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell says they do.

Let's discuss what's going on in our "Strategy Session." Joining us the Democratic strategist Donna Brazile and the Republican strategist Ana Navarro. Both CNN political contributors.

All right. Here's the Republican leader in the Senate Mitch McConnell. Here is the sound bite.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MINORITY LEADER: Don't tell me Democrats are the party of the future when their presidential ticket for 2016 is shaping up to look like a re-run of "The Golden Girls."


You know, we got Rand Paul, we got Marco Rubio, we got Paul Ryan, and a slew of smart, young, and energetic governors ready to take America into the future.


And the other guys, they got Hillary and Joe Biden.



BLITZER: All right. He's laughing but does he have a point?

DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Absolutely not. You know, first of all the theme of that wonderful sitcom was "Thank You for Being a Friend."

Mitch McConnell, we'll take Miami because as you well know that's where the TV series was based. We'll take the senior vote, we'll women's vote. But you know what? Mitch McConnell is running scared so he's just trying to make it up as he go along.

BLITZER: He may have his own problems getting re-elected in Kentucky. But what do you think?

ANA NAVARRO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Look, I was there for the speech. It went over very well. Hardly did I know he could tell a joke much less laugh at one. But I do think that Mitch McConnell has to be a little careful because he's awfully more -- a lot more close in age to Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton than he is to Marco Rubio.

BLITZER: But no one is talking about Mitch McConnell running for the Republican presidential nomination.

NAVARRO: No, but he is running for re-election in Kentucky. BLITZER: Running for reelection.

NAVARRO: He did very well in that speech today but you could tell that he's throwing out Rand Paul's name a lot.

BLITZER: Well, here's what he said --

NAVARRO: And very close.

BLITZER: Here's what he said about Rand Paul. I'll play the clip.


MCCONNELL: You know, we got Rand Paul. He's the perfect example of what I'm talking about. He's a warrior. And we need more warriors.

Rand reminded the world that politics isn't just about tactics. Rand reminded us last week and it was truly inspiring.


BLITZER: He likes Rand Paul. A lot of Republicans right now like Rand Paul. His father was sort of on the sidelines if you will when he ran for the Republican presidential nomination. But Rand Paul sort of emerging in the new center of the Republican Party.

BRAZILE: Well, he probably wanted us to forget that he supported Tray Grayson in the Republican primary back in 2010.

BLITZER: Who was challenging Rand Paul.

BRAZILE: Who challenged Rand Paul. But, you know, Mitch McConnell did not go to the Senate floor tonight because I watched the entire proceedings until after Rand Paul became a Twitter hit. So I don't think Mitch McConnell really is embracing Rand Paul. What he is doing is he's embracing the Tea Party and he's trying to prevent himself from having a primary challenge.

BLITZER: Ana, you understand these Republicans. Go ahead and explain.

NAVARRO: Well, I think what Mitch McConnell needs is for Rand Paul to embrace him.


NAVARRO: And I saw Rand Paul's speech yesterday at CPAC. Very crafty. That man is in campaign mode already. He's got his slogan going, "Stand with Rand. I stand with you. You stand with me." And I think Mitch McConnell wants Rand to stand with him.

BLITZER: He's not a shy guy. And he says he's seriously thinking, already seriously thinking of running for the 2016 nomination.

NAVARRO: There were -- Wolf, there were all sorts of signs of a campaign that's already going on. I think -- I think he's campaigning very hard to win that straw poll in CPAC which would of course make a lot of press. It's something his father did several times and I think would be very meaningful. I would not be surprised if that's the result tomorrow.


BLITZER: He's --

BRAZILE: I look forward to having a Rand Paul ticket in 2016. I would not have to work as hard and, god knows, Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden could beat him before daylight.

NAVARRO: But Mitch McConnell does make a good point, which is that right now we have incredibly a much younger bench than what the Democrats have.


When you look at the names --

BRAZILE: We don't know if Martin O'Malley will run. We don't know if Deval Patrick or Elizabeth warren or Mr. Cuomo, Governor Cuomo of New York. We have a big bench as well.

NAVARRO: All right. But Joe Biden has all but declared and he would be one of the oldest candidates to ever run.

BLITZER: Donna, be careful what you wish for.

BRAZILE: It's not age, as you know. Age doesn't matter.

BLITZER: Be careful. 1976. I'm old enough to -- a lot of Democrats were only hoping Ronald Reagan would get that Republican nomination. That movie star, you know, and all of a sudden who was elected in 1980?

NAVARRO: And I remember when age mattered, when John McCain was running age mattered.


BRAZILE: I remember -- I remember the day when they dismissed the fact that we could have our first African-American so I know a lot of things can happen. But you know what?

BLITZER: A lot could happen.

BRAZILE: Better days ahead for the Democratic Party.

BLITZER: All right. Don't go away, ladies. We got more to discuss including President Obama. He admits to a wistful day dream involving, get this, a fake mustache.


BLITZER: All right. We're back with our strategy session. Here is a question. Could President Obama be walking among us without us even knowing? Maybe not but he shared the fantasy in an interview ahead of next week's trip to Israel.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: One of the things that is toughest being president, and that's true here in the United States but it's certainly true when I'm traveling, is just the spontaneous interactions that you have when you just walk into a restaurant or you go to the beach or meeting people day to day and getting a sense of how they're feeling, what they're thinking about the world, about life.

So, you know, sometimes I have this fantasy that I could put on a disguise and, you know, wear a fake mustache and I could wander through Tel Aviv and go to a bar, you know, have a conversation or go down to, you know, a university and meet with some students in a setting where it wasn't as formal.

And, you know, we're going to try to find as many opportunities as I can to interact directly with the Israeli people but you've tapped into something that, you know, chafes at me. It is the toughest thing about being president, is you -- you know, you can't just slip out and interact with people without -- without having a bunch of guys with machine guns.


BLITZER: Yes. I've heard that from several presidents. That was an interview with Channel 2 in Israel that he conducted on the eve of his departure.

It's not easy being in that bubble, is it?

BRAZILE: No, it's not. And I've heard that also from other presidential candidates, and presidents, of course. But, you know, President Obama stands out even without being president. He's tall, he's good looking. I think most people would recognize him even if he wasn't president.

But the opportunity to go to Israel at this time of the year is just a great experience. And I hope he has a wonderful experience.

BLITZER: I hope he does as well. You know, Donald Trump spoke at CPAC today as well. You were there, you were listening. I'll play this clip.


DONALD TRUMP, CHAIRMAN AND PRESIDENT, THE TRUMP ORGANIZATION: The Republican party is in serious trouble. The 11 million illegals, even if given the right to vote -- you know, you're going to have to do what's right. But the fact is, 11 million people will be voting Democratic.

From the standpoint of conservatives and Republicans, you've got to win elections. When you have people that are well-meaning but governors saying it's the stupid party, and I heard that statement, I said, what a horrible statement to make.

When you send $400 million, and it's a failure, and you don't have one victory, you know there's something seriously, seriously wrong. If Mitt made one mistake, and I like Mitt Romney a lot, but if he made one mistake, it's that he didn't talk enough about his success.


BLITZER: You were there. How was he received?

NAVARRO: Don't remind me, I'm still twitching from having to listen to that speech. But I think that speech went down like a ton of bricks. He didn't have a very packed room. It was half empty. Frankly, I think it was very upsetting. He was very critical of just about everything, boasted all about his money. It was random thoughts on the world according to Donald Trump. It did not make sense. It was dysfunctional, incoherent, rambling. It was a -- you know, a very bad speech when you judge it by any measure.

BLITZER: Were a lot of people wondering he was invited but Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, not invited?

BRAZILE: The governor of Virginia not invited.

NAVARRO: I think you know -- look, I think that people thought that Donald Trump would provide some entertainment. He didn't. Frankly, he struck, you know, a chord that we haven't heard in CPAC. CPAC has been pushing immigration reform. It's one of the issues that they've been pushing this year. And obviously Donald Trump did not get that memo, or chose not to read it.

I'm a big tent Republican, Wolf, so I never talk about let's exclude somebody or let's throw somebody out of the party but I've got to tell you, something Donald Trump tests my principle of big tent Republicanism.

BLITZER: Ana Navarro, not holding back. Donna Brazile, she never holds back.

BRAZILE: Amen to that.

BLITZER: All right.

BRAZILE: I agree with everything.

BLITZER: Guys, thanks very much.

The United States now beefing up its missile defense systems against North Korea. What's going on. We'll have an update, that's coming up at the top of the hour.

Also, JPMorgan Chase gets a lashing on Capitol Hill after some very risky trading that produced billions of dollars in losses.


BLITZER: Billions in losses put another banking giant in the hot seat up on Capitol Hill. Did it try to hide what was going on.

Lisa Sylvester is here. She got a closer look at the investigation into the latest financial debacle.

What happened, Lisa?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you know, with our modern banking system, banks that take our deposits, and they don't just stick it in a vault, they actually turn around and they invest that money. Sometimes they hedge against losses from bad loans and sometimes it's actually to make a profit. But the question is, are they investing in safe investments or investing in risky stuff?

Senator Levin has an answer to that. He says banks need more oversight and regulation. Case in point, JPMorgan.


SYLVESTER (voice-over): The news was stunning when JPMorgan Chase had to restate first quarter earnings last year.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, ANCHOR, CNN'S STARTING POINT: And back to our breaking news. We were talking about JPMorgan and the Q-1 and Q-2 earnings report.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We were talking about somewhere about $2 billion. We now know that it's going to be about $5.8 billion.

SYLVESTER: Traders at JPMorgan were making huge bets on financial instruments. When it all went sour, it produced more than $6 billion in losses. After nine-month investigation, the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations finding JPMorgan piled on risks, hid losses, disregarded risk limits, manipulated risk models, dodged oversight and misinformed the public.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I'm not sure that there's many organizations and companies and corporations in America that could get away with such a thing.

SYLVESTER: According to the Senate committee, e-mails show that the company's credit derivatives portfolio tripled in size in the first three months of last year as traders doubled down. To cover their losses they used internal profit/loss reports. One employee suggesting that things had gone too far saying, quote, "It's getting idiotic."

Senator Carl Levin accused the current vice chairman of JPMorgan of misleading the public and investment analysts during a conference call last April when he tried to downplay the damage surrounding the company's synthetic credit portfolio.

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), CHAIR, PERMANENT SUBCOMMITTEE ON INVESTIGATIONS: You thought that was a balanced presentation of the SCP, on April 13th?


LEVIN: You thought it was a balanced presentation? Not disclosing it, it was losing money, not disclosing that it violated all five risk limits regularly? Some cases for months. You think that's accurate to just tell them you're comfortable, that the regulators know all about this, that your risk people, your top risk people approved all these positions?

You think that's a -- honestly now, do you think that's a balanced presentation to investors?

BRAUNSTEIN: Senator, in hindsight, there's lots more information that we learned.


LEVIN: No, no, not that you learned. You had that at the time.

SYLVESTER: In a statement, a JPMorgan spokesperson said, quote, "While we have repeatedly acknowledge significant mistakes, our senior management acted in good faith and never had any intent to mislead anyone."

JPMorgan stock took a hit Friday. But the long-term impact could be on the banking industry. And whether Congress limits just what a bank can do with customer deposits.

CLIFFORD ROSSI, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND: Where we started to see things sort of come apart a bit was the use of these, not just for hedging, but also for speculative activities.

SYLVESTER (on camera): To make money, not just cover the losses, but to actually make money.

ROSSI: Exactly.


SYLVESTER: Now keep in mind all of this was going down last year. That's four years after Wall Street had to be bailed out by taxpayers. And that is why some of the sentiment from lawmakers on Capitol Hill was -- didn't you learn anything from that experience? So we'll have to see where they go forward with this investigation -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I rarely see Senator Carl Levin as irritated as he was right there.


BLITZER: But people are worried about these mistakes. They could come back to plague us.

Liza, thanks for that report.