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THE SITUATION ROOM

President Obama Apologizes for Remarks about California Attorney General; Interview with Austan Goolsbee; President Obama Apologizes; Senate Democrats Not Budget on Same-Sex Marriage; Hillary Clinton, Rock Star; Interview with Gov. Rick Perry

Aired April 5, 2013 - 17:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Jake, thanks very much. Happening now, a stunning apology from President Obama after his comments about a state attorney general, a close friend, are widely criticized as sexist.

A punch to the gut. Even the president's former chief economist is wincing at the grim new jobs report. Is the economy slipping back into serious trouble?

And the Texas governor, Rick Perry, speaking his mind on guns, on immigration, and on the letter he gave the president two or three years ago that still hasn't received, in his words, a response.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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BLITZER: All those stories ahead, but we begin with an ominous new sign that North Korea is edging closer and closer to launching a new missile. The north today warned foreign diplomats in the capital of Pyongyang that it will not be able to guarantee their safety if fighting breaks out, and the North Korean regime suggested all those diplomats evacuate the capital.

Adding to the alert, word that North Korea has two missiles now ready for launch. The White House says that would fit the North's pattern of behavior.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We've obviously seen the reports that North Korea may be making preparations to launch a missile, and we're monitoring the situation closely. And we would not be surprised to see them take such an action.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: We're going to have a SITUATION ROOM special report focused entirely on this latest North Korean crisis. That's coming up in our next hour right at the top of the hour, 6:00 p.m. eastern only here on CNN. Here in the United States, a rare apology from President Obama over comments he made at a fundraiser, which in just a matter of a few hours, ignited a fierce debate around the country about successful working women and whether or not it's appropriate to acknowledge their looks. CNN's Rene Marsh is working the story for us. She's got the latest details. What are those details, Rene?

RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I'll tell you this, if you've been on social media, if you've turned on your TV, then you may already know this has become a hot public debate. The president feeling the heat after saying California's attorney general is a looker. Harmless or over the line? You decide.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARSH (voice-over): Kamala Harris, a potential candidate for governor or maybe even the next U.S. attorney general. By many accounts, a rising star in the Democratic Party, but her resume isn't grabbing headlines. What President Obama said about her Thursday at a private fundraiser in California is, calling her, quote, "by far the best looking attorney general."

SAM BENNETT, SHE SHOULD RUN: It 's sexist. That simple comment drops her like a stone electorally and makes voters much more likely to see her -- much less likely to see her as qualified or worthy of their vote.

MARSH: A harmless compliment or a sexist remark, it sparked a debate.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The president also causing a bit of a stir with some comments he just made.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Also raising eyebrows overnight the president out in California.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's not as if he called her a slut.

MARSH: The president acknowledged Harris' accomplishments saying, quote, "She is brilliant and she's dedicated and she is tough" before mentioning her looks.

BENNETT: If she were a male elected official, Obama would not have said and he's a handsome guy. It wouldn't have happened.

LEONARD STEINHORN, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: The debate requires a lot more context and a lot more knowledge because we don't fully know the extent of their friendship, which they claim to have.

MARSH: The president has been on the defensive before, fighting perception of a boys club attitude. The picture of his inner circle, all men, had many asking, where are the women? The president has turned that around, recently appointing women to his cabinet, most recently, the secret service director. He's not the first politician to cause a stir.

MITT ROMNEY, (R) FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Binders full of women.

MARSH: Nevertheless, the president's polling among women remains strong.

What should the president have said when he introduced her?

BENNETT: Everything he said except the last thing he said, which is comment on her appearance.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARSH (on-camera): All right. Well, I spoke with a professor of politics and communications at American University, and he says image is very much a part of our culture whether we like it or not. He points to pictures of the president in his swim trunks that made it into magazines that generated comments just as much as a sleeveless Paul Ryan lifting weights. He says image is an equal opportunity subject in politics -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Rene Marsh, thanks very much.

Let's go to the White House right now. Our correspondent, Brianna Keilar, is there with reaction. Didn't take very long for the president to do something rather extraordinary, Brianna.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And that was to apologize to Kamala Harris last night as soon as he got back from the bay area of California where he had that fundraiser where he made the comments, Wolf. Obviously, President Obama wasn't trying to be sexist, but he's had to be very sensitive to issues involving women.

We talked somewhat recently in the last few months about the fact that the top members of his cabinet and his cabinet level positions are men so he's been sensitive to that and the White House was very sensitive to the uproar that these comments caused.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: President Obama yesterday called California attorney general, Kamala Harris, "by far the best looking attorney general." It created quite a buzz and an uproar. Some see it highlight as they see as a troubling pattern of a woman's success being linked to her appearance and it's unseemly for the president of the United States to say that. How has he reflected on his comments since making them and has he called Harris?

CARNEY: The president did speak with Attorney General Harris last night after he came back from his trip and he called her to apologize for the distraction created by his comments.

KEILAR: He felt like he messed up?

CARNEY: Look, I think I made clear he apologized for creating this distraction and believes very strongly that Attorney General Harris is an excellent attorney general, and that she's done great work and she's dedicated and tough and brilliant.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: Harris's office has also put out a statement in response to the president's comments. Her communications director saying the attorney general and the president have been friends for many years. They had a great conversation yesterday, and she strongly supports him. So, wolf, clear that she's not taking any offense, but we should also point out that when you look at some of the president's comments in the past, he frequently does talk about people being good looking.

The thing is, they tend to actually be men when he's saying that. He said it in just a number of times. This time, though, when he said it about a woman, it created quite a buzz.

BLITZER: Certainly did, especially if you follow social media, Brianna. Thanks very much.

Let's dig a little bit deeper. Joining us now, "Politico's" deputy managing editor, Rachel Smolkin. Rachel, do you think the president needed to apologize?

RACHEL SMOLKIN, POLITICO DEPUTY MANAGING EDITOR: I think it was inevitable that he would. You can argue about whether he needed to, but clearly, something that took the White House off message a little bit, and the president would want to clear up any misunderstanding, shall we say, about the remarks.

So, I didn't think that was surprising today nor did I think that the relatively supportive statement that Attorney General Harris issued in response was very surprising.

BLITZER: Is this a big deal or a little deal? You don't often hear a president of the United States formally issue an apology.

SMOLKIN: It's a little deal. We're all sort of waiting for all the news of next week to happen so it happened in a little bit of a news vacuum, although, today, we had some budget news to give attention to. We don't usually hear this kind of language from President Obama, certainly not about women.

So, that made it unusual. I don't think we'll be hearing more language from him along these lines any time soon. I think he'll return to more traditional methods of complimenting his attorneys general.

BLITZER: It does spark a little bit further discussion, though, of some of the earlier criticism the president received that there was like a little old boys network inside the White House, that women weren't getting enough of a role. There weren't enough women in the cabinet. You're familiar with all that talk?

SMOLKIN: That's a persistent criticism. Certainly, we've been hearing more of that early in his second term and specifically surrounding some of these cabinet picks. So, it stirs that up a little bit, although, it's important to remember these are two different things and this was made in the context of complimenting Attorney General Harris on her professional record as well. So, it's not that she was being left out of any substantive decision making or a role in the administration.

So, a little bit different kind of situation. The divergent reactions to this have also been very interesting for everyone who's been offended by it, and certainly, there are people out there who have been, who also have seen some women going, I don't know. It seemed like kind of a complimentary thing to say.

BLITZER: Were you offended at all?

SMOLKIN: I was -- that's a good question, Wolf. I wasn't offended by it. I was surprised by the language, because it was a departure for the president. So, that made it an interesting moment. I know here in the newsroom, we talked about it a lot, stirred a lot of interest here and, of course, all over social media.

I think any time you have one of those issues of women in the work place, it does stir up a lot of feelings on both sides. And as James Carville said today, probably, best to just stay away from that entirely because some women will be complimented, some will be offended, but why go there?

BLITZER: It stirred up a lot of commotion and discussion in our newsroom here at CNN as well. I'm sure newsrooms all over the country. Rachel, thanks very much for coming in.

SMOLKIN: Thank you.

BLITZER: Just ahead, did the president really need to say he's sorry? We're going to further explore what's going on. Donna Brazile, Ana Navarro, they're standing by for our "Strategy Session." We'll talk with them about some other important stuff as well.

And some pretty sorry jobs numbers were released today. Even President Obama's former chief economist says the latest report is, in his words, "like a punch in the gut."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Stocks fell today as an ugly jobs report hit Wall Street with what one trader called, I'm quoting now, "a cold slap of reality." All three major indices ended down that followed a labor department report showing the economy added only 88,000 jobs last month. The unemployment rate actually slipped to 7.6 percent, but that was because nearly half a million people, 500,000 people, left the job market.

Even President Obama's former chief economist is calling the job report a punch to the gut. Austan Goolsbee has moved on from the White House back to the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business. Austan is joining us now. Your words, a punch to the gut. How bad were these numbers, Austan?

AUSTAN GOOLSBEE, UNIV. OF CHICAGO BOOTH SCHOOL OF BUSINESS: I thought they were pretty bad. I mean, I was asked the question to describe it and I said that I think it was people got -- it made a little worse feeling because people got ahead of themselves last month. It was such a very positive report. It even got revised upward.

But I've been saying for several weeks, I thought that it was inevitable we were going to start to see a slowdown because the economy is just not growing fast enough to sustain the kind of job growth we saw last month. I didn't expect it would be this negative, but it was a pretty tough report.

BLITZER: Because only 88,000 jobs. They were expecting, some of the analysts, as many maybe as 200,000 jobs. So, what's it going to take to make sure that we turn this around?

GOOLSBEE: Well, unfortunately we're not getting a lot coming from the policy side it's going to turn it around. It's going to have to come from the private sector and the big rise of corporate profits and investment is going to have to lead it. I think what you've seen is the sequester starting to spook people and its impact on the growth rate is probably going to shave I'd think about half a point off of the growth rate.

And if it does that, that's likely to put us back into territory where we might see the unemployment rate starting to drift back up. So, I'm not sure that consumer confidence is really going to be the driver of this expansion. It's going to have to come from the business sector.

BLITZER: When we say that half a million people simply left the jobs market in the United States, I assume that means some of them retired or moved on. They're getting older. Some may be ailing. But a lot of them, apparently, just have given up hope of finding a job so they quit. Is that right?

GOOLSBEE: Yes. I think all of those are right. And then, the -- what you've seen over the last couple years, I mean, Wolf, as you and I say every month, you never want to put too much in any one month's number. If you take a longer average so you can get a picture of the trend, you've seen kind of two major groups where there've been a lot of -- a big drop in labor force participation.

One is among young people where the unemployment's been very high, but at least maybe, they're going back to school or getting more skills. The other has been at the other side of the age distribution, 50 and up, and that's a lot tougher. You know, that's got to be people discouraged trying to switch jobs. This is the weakest part of the labor market, that long-term unemployment problem and the drop out of the labor force problem.

BLITZER: What do you think, Austan, of the president's decision. He's going to be releasing his own proposed budget next week and it's, apparently, going to include some cuts in the rate of growth and Social Security and Medicare and a lot of liberal Democrats are not happy to hear that.

GOOLSBEE: I agree. You know, he's got some of his own people kind of up in arms that he was willing to propose that. Now, from what I gather, he's only putting that on the table as part of a broader package. He's not voluntarily saying, hey, I just want to cut entitlements. He's saying if we could get more revenues, I'm willing to do revenues with cuts and let's do it as a broad package.

I hope that all of the sides will come together and that they will be able to do some grand bargain, but I'm not overly optimistic having seen this play out three or four times in a row now.

BLITZER: Yes. Nobody is overly optimistic when it comes to that so- called grand bargain. Austan, thanks very much for coming in.

GOOLSBEE: Yes. Thanks for having me again, Wolf.

BLITZER: And coming up, she's an old friend, so why did the president have to call and apologize formally after praising her abilities and her looks? You're in the SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: A chilling new glimpses inside the mind of the alleged Colorado movie theater shooter, James Holmes. Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in the SITUATION ROOM right now. What's the latest, Lisa?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, new papers released by prosecutors reveal that Holmes' psychiatrist warned campus police about how dangerous he could be and that he talked about killing people. He reportedly sent her threatening texts, and at one point, mailed her a bizarre package containing $400 in burned bills.

Holmes,, apparently, acquired an arsenal of almost 1,000 bullets or shotgun rounds. He's facing the death penalty for the killings of 12 people in the massacre last July.

And horrifying video from our Chicago affiliate of a roll over school bus crash that left one person dead in another vehicle. Thirty-five children had to be transported to the hospital with minor injuries. No details yet on what caused that accident.

And, for the first time since becoming pope, Pope Francis is publicly addressing the sex abuse scandal that rocked the Catholic Church. According to the Vatican, he's urging the church hierarchy to act decisively and carry out due proceedings against the guilty. The pope says the issue is important to the church's credibility and worship.

And the federal judge in New York is ordering the FDA to make the so- called morning after birth control pill available to people of any age without a prescription. That ruling overturns a 2011 decision by Health and Human Services secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, requiring a prescription for girls under the age of 17. The justice department indicates an appeal of the ruling is under consideration.

Now, check out this amazing video. You got to see it. All eyes were on this Oakland As fan who managed to catch a ball that flew into the stands with one hand.

(LAUGHTER)

SYLVESTER: Look at him there. Looks like he didn't even put his drink down to do that. The As beat the Seattle Mariners at last night's game, but perhaps, they should consider add this guy to the team. How about that, Wolf?

BLITZER: Nice catch. Saved the glass, too, as well.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Very impressive, Lisa. Thank you.

When we come back, President Obama's controversial comments about California's attorney general and her good looks. Did he actually need to call her and apologize for saying that?

Plus, my interview with the Texas governor, Rick Perry. He speaks his mind on guns, immigration, and the letter he gave the president some two years ago, maybe three years ago, still hasn't received a response from the White House.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Happening now, President Obama makes a rare apology for comments that have ignited a fierce national debate about successful, working women, and their looks. But, was an apology the right move?

Former Republican presidential candidate, Rick Perry, says he personally handed President Obama a letter two or three years ago. He's still waiting for a formal response. My interview on that and a whole lot more with the Texas governor just ahead.

And U.S. tensions with North Korea right now only getting worse. Stay tuned for our special report right at the top of the hour on the growing crisis.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. you're in the SITUATION ROOM.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Let's get back to that rare apology from the president of the United States today and the uproar over his comments -- comments he made about the California attorney general's good looks. Joining us now to talk a little bit more about that and other subjects in our "Strategy Session," two CNN contributors. the democratic strategist, Donna Brazile, and the Republican strategist, Ana Navarro. What do you make of all this, Ana?

ANA NAVARRO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think he did the right thing by apologizing. Whether he offended Kamala Harris or not, he did offend some women. This is a sensitive issue for women. A lot of times, women are put through a double standard when it comes to their looks -- professional women -- that men are not. So as we fight for equality, it is an important issue. Also, Wolf, he's the president of the United States. And like it or not, the president of the United States gets a higher level of scrutiny than just about anybody else. And I also think there's some sort of double standard when it comes to President Obama. I can tell you that I had a conversation this morning with the attorney general of Florida, Pam Bondi. Forty-four years old, long, blonde hair.

And I said to Pam Bondi who was a very strong supporter of Mitt Romney, what would have happened if Mitt Romney, during the campaign, had told you just how attractive you were. And she said, you know what? All hell would have broken loose. I completely agree with her. So, I think he acted correctly by apologizing. It was the right thing to do.

BLITZER: What about you, Donna? What do you think?

DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I hope this put the issue to rest. President Obama has known Kamala Harris for many, many years. They are long-time friends. But there is an issue here and that is for years, for decades, women were judged by their appearance, their hair style, not their professional qualifications.

What President Obama did do correctly, and hopefully, every man and woman take note that he praised her work. He called her brilliant. He said that she's dedicated and she's tough and that's what you want in a top ranking law enforcement official.

She is an amazing, extraordinary public servant and I just hope that this president who's a champion of women's equality, and that's why you rarely hear this president, you know, have to apologize, because this is a president that's opening doors for women.

Not only elevating two women to the United States Supreme Court, women in his cabinet, but his policy issues for women in combat to signing a Violence Against Women Act this past month. This is a president who knows how to sit at the table with women in charge as well.

BLITZER: Donna, should the president have apologized?

BRAZILE: He did. So, I don't have to comment on it.

BLITZER: I know he did, but did he do the right thing by apologizing?

BRAZILE: You know, if you offend somebody in this society today and if you can apologize and ask for forgiveness, I think that's the right thing to do and put it behind you because this is a distraction. There is so much more that I wish I could talk about in terms of the budget that's going to come out next week that's going to cause a lot of us liberals a little bit of heartburn.

BLITZER: I know you're not happy with some of the president's proposed cuts in Social Security and Medicare. We'll get to that.

Candy Crowley interviewed Kamala Harris not that long ago. She spoke about her admiration for the president. They obviously have a good relationship. Listen to this little clip. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CANDY CROWLEY, ANCHOR, CNN'S "STATE OF THE UNION": You have sometimes been referred to as the, quote, "female Barack Obama." What is your take on that?

KAMALA HARRIS, CALIFORNIA ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, first of all, I am a huge fan of our president, and I think he has done an extraordinary job as president of the United States on many levels, so I'm humbled by that comparison and I think that, you know, there's a lot of work to be done and there are a lot of us out here who hold elected offices who I think have similar experiences to the president in terms of our background.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Ana, are we blowing this whole issue out of proportion? I just want to point out that it's not often you hear a president, any president formally apologize.

ANA NAVARRO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: No, it's not. Look, are we blowing it out of proportion? I don't know, Wolf. Maybe if Congress were in session and there were more things happening in the -- in the world and in Congress it wouldn't be such a big deal as it is today. But nonetheless, it is a big issue for women. Let's just put that on the table. It's something that we've been wrestling with for decades since women have been in the work force.

We want to be recognized not for our hair cuts, not for our lip color, not for what we're wearing. We want to be recognized for our accomplishments and our qualifications. We saw for example Hillary Clinton who just about said, you know, a year ago I am not going to conform to these social pressures and started wearing a ponytail and very little makeup after having gone through 20 hairstyles in her life.

So it's something that I think most women understand that we are judged differently and it's an important issue to talk about, to discuss, and air out.

BLITZER: And that's what your doing --

BRAZILE: Context matters. Context matter, Wolf. I mean, again, he praised her work as a chief law enforcement officer in the state of California and then he made a blunt compliment about, you know, Mrs. Harris being one of the best looking attorney generals. So of course he apologized. Distraction. Let's move forward.

BLITZER: And that's --

NAVARRO: Context matters when it's President Obama but I'm telling you, when it's Mitt Romney talking about binders of women or when it's Mitt Romney talking about just about anything else it's a war on women.

BRAZILE: There is a -- (CROSSTALK)

NAVARRO: So we just have to be -- I think we have to be very level on with both.

BRAZILE: There's a war on women. Ana, there is a war on women. And right now as we speak in North Dakota and Arkansas, and other places across this country the Republican Party is once again trying to restrict the woman's right to choose. So there is a war on women. We can put it in context. And we could talk about whether or not this president has done enough for women to promote women's equality and women and girls in the work force and trying to raise the standard of pay for women, giving women roles in combat.

We can do that. But this president has been a champion for true equality for women in the work place.

NAVARRO: Listen, I agree with you he's done some things but also, Donna, we've seen things for example like the front page picture in the "New York Times" where there was nothing but men and half of Valerie Jarrett's leg in the Oval Office in a big-time meeting. We've also heard him call a reporter sweetie at one point. So has he done a lot? Yes.

BRAZILE: Yes.

NAVARRO: Has he been to the level that a president needs to be in this day and age? No. And he did the right thing by apologizing. He had to apologize.

BRAZILE: Absolutely. And I can tell you one thing.

NAVARRO: He had to apologize because he has offended some women.

BRAZILE: The one thing you will know about the Democratic women including the vice chair of the party and I'm here, the chair of the party, Debby Wassermann Schultz, where none of us is shrinking violets. We push and press and lobby every day for this president to be the very best president of all the people of the United States including half the population, which happens to be female.

BLITZER: All right, guys

NAVARRO: Which is why we should agree. He had to apologize.

BRAZILE: Well, amen. It's over.

BLITZER: Don't go away. We got more to discuss with both of you.

Despite the growing number of Senate Democrats getting behind same-sex marriage, one in particular isn't budging right now. You're going to find out why. That's coming up.

And Hillary Clinton is back in the spotlight and it sounds like she plans on staying there. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The ranks of Senate Democrats getting behind same-sex marriage is growing with two more jumping into the mix today. That leaves four who have not. Tim Johnson of South Dakota, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana.

Our national political correspondent Jim Acosta spoke with Senator Landrieu earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MARY LANDRIEU (D), LOUISIANA: No. I have very personal views about same-sex marriage. I believe people should love who they love and marry who they want to marry. But a lot, you know, like other people said, my views have evolved on this but my state has a very strong constitutional amendment against gay marriage and I think I have to honor that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Let's get back to our strategy session. Our CNN contributors still with us, the Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, Republican strategist Ana Navarro.

What do you make of her explanation, Donna, that she's not going to support same-sex marriage because her state, Louisiana, has that constitutional amendment banning in effect same-sex marriage?

BRAZILE: Well, I respect her. She's a senior senator from my home state. She's a personal friend. I have to tell you I interned for Mary when I was 17. She is a dynamic woman and a great lawmaker and I hope she wins re-election. That said, we have four Democrats who have not spoken on the record and supported gay marriage. Again, I hope they all evolve.

A year ago, when President Obama jumped onboard, I was proud of the president. I'm proud of all of the Democratic senators and I just hope that one day they will see clear that there is no second class citizens in our society and there is no -- there should be no form of discrimination will allow in our society and hopefully one day the people, the great people of Louisiana will see that as well.

BLITZER: It sounds, Donna, like she doesn't want to do it, endorse same-sex marriage, because she's up for re-election next year and it could hurt her.

BRAZILE: Well, as you well know there are many Democrats who are up for re-election next year and many of them have come onboard. Kay Hagan just this past week, Mr. Begich of Alaska, Mr. Baucus of Montana. So clearly, when we started this conversation earlier this week, when we talked about Mr. Nelson of Florida we kept saying well maybe these are Democrats who are vulnerable in their red states.

No, it's a matter of their conscience and their -- and hopefully again they will understand that there is no place in our society for any form of discrimination. Including discrimination against gays and lesbians marrying. So I applaud those who have come out and support and we will continue to push the others along.

BLITZER: I know, Ana, you're one of those Republicans who've endorsed same-sex marriage but only two Republican senators out of 45, only two have endorsed the same-sex marriage, Governor Portman -- excuse me, Senator Portman of Ohio and Senator Kirk of Illinois.

Where is the rest of your party?

NAVARRO: I think they're in the process of evolving. Some will not evolve. Some are evolving. I know I've talked to a number of Republican elected officials who are telling me that they are thinking about this and they are evolving on this.

Wolf, the fact that this is in front of the Supreme Court has forced the entire country to think about this question and I think it's why you've seen this uptick and increase in support of marriage equality in the last few months and weeks. Because we have been talking about it, because it's been an education for the entire country frankly and it's been the most rapidly changing social evolution I can remember in my lifetime.

Just a year ago, the president of the United States was against it. Bill Clinton was against it. Hillary Clinton was against it. And all of a sudden it all changed. So it can change quickly. I am very happy that my senior senator Bill Nelson came out and endorsed gay marriage yesterday.

It has changed so much, Wolf, that I remember when coming out used to refer to a gay person coming out of the closet. Nowadays coming out refers to a politician or a public figure coming out and endorsing and support of gay marriage. If you notice, what we haven't seen in the last few weeks and months is anybody speaking that ugly tone and the hostile rhetoric against homosexuality. I mean, in an elected office.

BLITZER: All right.

BRAZILE: It takes leadership.

BLITZER: Ana --

NAVARRO: And I think that in itself is great progress. We haven't heard senators or Congress people speaking harshly against gay marriage. If they're -- if they're not for it, they're mostly silent.

BLITZER: A lot of evolution going on right now on this issue.

BRAZILE: Absolutely.

BLITZER: All right, guys. Thanks very much.

Coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM Hillary Clinton gets treated like a rock star or like a presidential candidate. Is she back in the spotlight to stay?

And then Texas Governor Rick Perry talks to me about guns, immigration, and a whole lot more.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I look forward to being your partner in all of the days and years ahead. Let's keep fighting for opportunity and dignity. Let's keep fighting for freedom and equality. Let's keep fighting for full participation and let's keep telling the world over and over again that, yes, women's rights are human rights and human rights are women's rights once and for all. Thank you all so much.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Hillary Clinton got a wild reception at a women's event in New York City today. Very enthusiastic.

Let's talk about it with our chief political correspondent Candy Crowley, the host of CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION."

Candy, what signs will you be looking for in the weeks, months ahead that she is in fact going to run for that Democratic presidential nomination?

CROWLEY: Maybe even a year and a half or so. I think what you begin to look at is where does she light? Is she going to, for instance, start her own foundation? Is it going to be centered around women and females around the world and their empowerment which certainly we believe it will. That's one thing. And that's a policy thing around which she could certainly sit and do things on the way to a presidential campaign.

But as we know from the Mitt Romney campaign who you associate with, what boards you are on, who you speak to, all things that are kind of staples of retirement for politicians, you go and join the boards of companies and you give a lot of speeches, Wolf. Who do you give them to and what boards you're on say a lot about whether you're going to run. Because the minute they become controversial, this is a woman who is probably free of the decision and has decided not to run.

Again, I don't think it'll come for another maybe 18 months or so. But those are the kinds of things I think you have to look at.

BLITZER: Does she -- until she decides does she effectively freeze this -- freeze this contest for other Democrats?

CROWLEY: I don't think so. I actually don't. I know that that's how everyone is waiting to see what, you know, Hillary Clinton is going to do and then clear the way. Maybe Joe Biden wouldn't run but, you know, go talk to Governor O'Malley in Maryland. Go talk to Andrew Cuomo in New York. I think that neither one of them would be, quote, "scared out of the race," awaiting Hillary Clinton's decision.

I think what everybody is doing at this point, anybody you could name that we look at as a possible 2016 candidate, are keeping their options open as she is. The difference is she can keep her options open for a lot longer because she's the best known.

BLITZER: She certainly is. Candy, you see on "STATE OF THE UNION" Sunday 9:00 a.m. Eastern.

Up next the Texas Governor Rick Perry, he has a message for the White House.

Also coming up at the top of the hour, North Korea. Is it actually ready to launch a missile? Our special report right at the top of the hour.

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BLITZER: Texas is on edge after the killings of a district attorney and his wife and the earlier murder of another prosecutor. Governor Rick Perry says they are, quote, "direct attacks on the core of our civil society."

And the governor of Texas, Rick Perry, is joining us now.

Governor, thanks very much for coming.

GOV. RICK PERRY (R), TEXAS: Good to be with you, Wolf. Thank you.

BLITZER: There are, first of all, a lot of theories out there about these killings in Texas. Mark Hasse, Mike McLelland. As far as you know, right now, are they connected?

PERRY: We don't know. And I think that's the appropriate position to take is that, as this investigation goes forward, a lot of different theories, as you've said. And we've been doing battle with various and sundry groups, whether it's drug cartels, Aryan Brotherhood, you name it, we seem to be at ground zero for a lot of activity dealing with a porous border with drugs, with prostitution, with all the other criminal activities that go along with that type of porous border.

BLITZER: Let's talk about guns right now. According to all of the recent polls, including a Quinnipiac University poll that just came out, 91 percent support what's called universal background checks for all gun buyers. Very similar to a CBS News poll that just came out, only 8 percent opposed the universal background checks for all gun buyers.

What about you?

PERRY: Oh, I think what's going on here is that the usual knee-jerk reaction to, we've got to do something to the gun violence that's occurring. I wish people were as focused on the mental health side of this. We're looking at some expansion of mental health, particularly for our veterans in the state of Texas. We're seeing these huge numbers of suicides in our young men and women who are coming home from being engaged in 10 years of combat.

So rather than a quick fix that frankly I don't think is going to make a difference from the standpoint of gun violence, we need to be looking at who are the individuals who in fact are involved with these violent crimes, who are the people that are pulling the triggers, rather than a band-aid that, frankly, is not going to make one citizen safer.

BLITZER: So I just want to be precise, you're with that tiny minority, the 8 percent or the 9 percent who oppose universal background checks? You don't think that really is necessary?

PERRY: No, I think it is not going to address the issue. Again, these individuals who want to pass laws as a knee-jerk reaction, and then go home and think that they have addressed, I have to deal with the reality as the governor of the state of Texas. And universal background checks is not going to save one life. I will suggest to you. And that is a panacea.

BLITZER: All right. Let's talk about immigration. There's a big push, there's this so-called gang of eight, four Democratic senators, four Republican senators. They seem to be moving toward a compromise that would eventually allow so many, most in fact of those 11 or 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States, to become legal residents of the United States, and if they do a whole bunch of things and that the border is secure, they will have a pathway to citizenship after many years. Are you with them on that?

PERRY: Well, I hope that this country will come together, and that the extremists on both sides of this issue will not be listened to, frankly, and that men and women who really are looking for a solution to how to deal with the issue of immigration can come together, and as a country, we can solve not only this problem, but many problems that face this country. We do that rather well, in my home state. Democrats and Republicans working together.

But trying to reduce the influence of those that are on the extremes, on either side, I will suggest to you is very important. With that said, you cannot have an immigration policy until you address the issue of border security.

BLITZER: This so-called gang of eight, they say the first priority, as you say, is to secure the border. But they say once it's secure, then you could have a policy that eventually leads to a pathway to citizenship. Not just legal status in the United States. And I'll repeat the question, are you with them when it comes to that pathway to citizenship?

PERRY: Well, we have a pathway to citizenship today. You get in line, just like people have always done. The idea that we're going to give amnesty to 12 million people, again, I think that's on the extreme outside of this debate. And just as shipping 12 million people back to their homes is on the extreme side of this debate. I don't think either one of those are reasonable positions.

And if Americans will come together on this, and I think there are some reasonable, thoughtful people, both in Congress, and governors who have to deal with this, who need to be brought in, and I will suggest to you, Wolf, that that's one of the things that's missing. I'm -- the president hasn't called up the governor of one of the largest states who has the longest border with Mexico, and said, Governor, what do you think we need to do about the issue of immigration? I would be open to that conversation any day.

BLITZER: Well, you might be getting a phone call from him after this interview, if his aides are watching or if he's watching. So if he calls you, are you ready to go to the White House and sit down with the president and try to come up with some sensible solutions to comprehensive immigration reform?

PERRY: Absolutely. As a matter of fact, I handed him a letter some two or three years ago on the tarmac at the Austin airport about that issue, about border security, and yet to get a response.

BLITZER: 2016, how seriously are you thinking about that Republican presidential nomination once again?

PERRY: I've got 55 days left of the men and women who are working in this building behind me, the Texas capital. Our legislature will be leaving in approximately 55 days. And hopefully with a great budget put together, and continuing to make Texas the epicenter for economic growth in this country. And at that particular point in time, I'll sit down with friends and family and make a decision about 2016.

BLITZER: So you're obviously open to that notion?

PERRY: Indeed.

BLITZER: Have you given any thought at all to a possible Rick Perry versus Hillary Clinton race in 2016? Has that even entered your mind?

PERRY: I haven't. I've given a lot more thought to how I work with the very disparate groups over in the capital as we put a budget together and deal with water and transportation, infrastructure, and electrical power, and keep this state on track to lead the nation in job creation.

BLITZER: So you haven't -- what do you think about her in general, though?

PERRY: I think the first lady is a very capable, thoughtful and public servant. And I appreciate her service.

BLITZER: She was the first lady. She was also the former secretary of state, former senator. She got a lot of credentials out there. So that would be a formidable race, right?

PERRY: I would suggest that whoever the Democrats put forward will be a credible candidate in 2016.

BLITZER: Hey, Governor, thanks very much for joining us.

PERRY: Wolf, it's always good to be with you. Come to Texas one of these days.

BLITZER: Thank you.

PERRY: Yes, sir. So long.