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Who is Huma Abedin?; Political Wives and Political Scandals; Skepticism Over Mideast Peace Talks; Obama Speaks on Economy

Aired July 24, 2013 - 12:30   ET



SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: "I love him. I've forgiven him. I believe in him." Those were the words, that's right, of wife of former Congressman Anthony Weiner when she stepped into the spotlight to defend him.

Now Weiner has admitted now to more explosive exchanges, sexting, if you will, with women online after he resigned from Congress back in 2011.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Yeah, after he admitted the other stuff, the new revelations threatened his campaign, of course, for New York mayor.

Just this morning, Weiner was asked about the calls for him to drop out of the race.


ANTHONY WEINER, NEW YORK MAYORAL CANDIDATE: Everyone has to decide. Look, I know there are people who may well never conceive of voting for me because of the things that are in my past. I get that. And even for those people, I want them to hear about my ideas.


MALVEAUX: That was an exclusive with Dana Bash there. Weiner's wife, Huma Abedin, she is standing by him. She's urging New Yorkers to do the same.

Erin Burnett, she profiles the woman who is standing beside her man.


ERIN BURNETT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: She's the right hand woman of Hillary Clinton, known by just one name in Washington, Huma. But her personal life has been just that. "The Washington Post" called her "notoriously private." For years she shied away from the spotlight while sitting directly in its glow.

Before marrying Anthony Weiner, Huma Abedin began her career in Washington as an intern in the East Wing of the White House in 1996. She was assigned to then first lady Hillary Clinton. She was by Clinton's side during her years in the Senate, on the presidential campaign trial and at the State Department.

Her rise was fast. Her fluency in Arabic helped her become one of Clinton's most trusted advisors on the Middle East. Her background is unusual. She was born in Michigan to an Indian father and Pakistani mother. They moved the family to Saudi Arabia when Huma was two- years-old. She grew up in Saudi Arabia, returning to the U.S. to attend George Washington University.

At a pre-wedding celebration for Abedin and Weiner, Clinton said, "I have one daughter, but if I had a second daughter, it would be Huma." Now, Huma may be taking a page from her mentor's playbook.

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I respect him. And I honor what he's been through and what we've been through together. And, you know, if that's not enough for people, then, heck, don't vote for him.


HOLMES: All right, our next guest says Weiner's wife may not be as much of a victim as some people may think. That's coming up. Stay with us.


MALVEAUX: Well, of course, the decision to stand by your spouse through a public scandal, a difficult choice, especially when there are kids involved. But Huma Abedin talked about her decision to forgive her husband, Anthony Weiner.


HUMA ABEDIN, WIFE OF ANTHONY WEINER: It was not an easy choice in any way, but I made the decision that it was worth staying in this marriage. That was the decision I made for me, for our son and for our family.


HOLMES: Yeah, well, for some women, of course, the betrayal ultimately is too much to overcome. Elizabeth Edwards, for example, eventually separated from John Edwards after he admitted fathering a child with his mistress.

MALVEAUX: Then there was Jenny Sanford, divorced then Governor John Sanford over his affair, and Maria Shriver, you'll recall, filed for divorce from Arnold Schwarzenegger after he confessed to having a child with the housekeeper.

HOLMES: Want to bring in now clinical psychologist Jeff Gardere. Jeff, you say that Abedin is not a victim. How do you think she's able to still support him after such public embarrassment, and not once, but multiple times?

JEFF GARDERE, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: She's very much invested in that marriage and she takes her wedding vow very serious, this whole idea of "in health or illness," and this is a man who does have some real illness.

As a psychologist, I'm not going to make a value judgment about his morality. You have to look at this very clinically. And so she's standing by a man who is very ill right now. They've been in therapy. They are trying to work through the issues.

And no one is holding a gun to her head, Mark. This is a woman who is very, very smart, and as we have seen with "The Good Wife," even though that's fictional, we learn that these women are much stronger than their men and I believe Huma is stronger than Anthony. And so the decision she's made I respect it, as I think many people do.

MALVEAUX: All right, I have a couple of questions, but I want you to first listen to what some New Yorkers are saying about her decision to stick with him.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel sorry for her because I think she must be in a very difficult position, and I think once you get to a certain age and you've been with your husband you feel obligated to stand by him. I think she probably still loves him in some ways, but she probably just doesn't like him at all or like his actions.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I wouldn't have stood by him. No way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's her choice. I think it's foolish, but she must have her reasons.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think she's a very supportive wife and a strong woman.


MALVEAUX: A couple of questions, you talked about morality and then you talk about an illness.

I do want you to address whether or not you think it is really an illness he has, or he's just a real narcissistic guy. And then also Abedin's decision to stand by him, what's behind something like that?

GARDERE: Well, first of all, he may have some narcissistic quality. Let's hope he's not a narcissistic personality because those people are incorrigible. That's the way that they live and you can't change them. Those are lifelong habits.

I prefer to think and I hope that this is about a real addiction, impulse control issues around sexuality and that's why he's doing something that's so darned dangerous and that's why he continues to do it.

I think she is standing by him because she has invested in this relationship. She's invested in his political career and she has a lot to gain by it.

She's not just protecting him. She's not just protecting herself, but she's protecting the legacy of that family and that this child that they have and children they may have in the future do not have to live under the umbrella of some sort of shame because of what the father has done.

HOLMES: Jeff Gardere, we'll leave it there. Appreciate that. Thanks so much.

What a complex little web he weaved.

MALVEAUX: And to listen to that press conference, it was painful.

HOLMES: It was.

MALVEAUX: It was like TMI. You felt like you were in their relationship. But, you know, they felt like they had to explain this.

HOLMES: Yeah, yeah. And, of course, the politics of it all, everybody he's up against is saying, out now.

It's hard when a guy says, I've done this, I regret it, I'm moving on, I'm better, and does it again.

MALVEAUX: Yeah, that's a little hard to understand.


MALVEAUX: Restarting the Middle East peace talks, no easy task, of course. Over the years we've seen countless handshakes, photo ops, around this attempt. Well, it's now John Kerry's turn.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The peace process has collapsed. It's been revived, collapsed, been revived and so on.

Meanwhile, the walls that separate the Palestinians and the Israelis only grow higher.



MALVEAUX: It could happen as early as this week. Israeli and Palestinian leaders could sit down and talk face-to-face in Washington.

HOLMES: A lot of fingers being crossed, though.

The U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, he's spent months shuttling back and forth to the region, what, six, seven visits to try to get this on the table. But despite this breakthrough to maybe start talks, Ben Wedeman tells us why there are many skeptics out there.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) WEDEMAN: Bringing about peace between Israelis and Palestinians is a task that's occupied one U.S. administration after another. The process has seen countless handshakes and photo ops, and many have pledged to do what it take to make it happen.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We've come quite a long way. We've got quite a long way to go. But we're not going to tire until I've given it my last ounce of energy and my last moment in office.

WEDEMAN: And now it's U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's turn.

JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: On behalf of President Obama. I announce that we have reached an agreement that establishes a basis for presuming direct final status negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis.

WEDEMAN: The same thorny issues need to be confronted, the status of Jerusalem, permanent borders, settlements, security and the fate of millions of Palestinian refugees.

Twenty years ago this September, the Israelis and the Palestinians signed the Oslo peace accords in the Rose Garden of the White House. Since then, the peace process has collapsed, been revived, collapsed, been revived and so on.

Meanwhile, the walls that separate the Palestinians and the Israelis only grow higher.

Over the last 20 years, the settler population in the West Bank and East Jerusalem has grown from around 100,000 to more than half a million. Israel has built what it calls a security barrier, the apartheid wall to Palestinians, that snakes around and through Palestinian towns and cities.

A long and bloody uprising and two wars in Gaza have left a bitter legacy of hatred and resentment.

Palestinian analyst Mahdi Abdel Hadi is skeptical about the prospects of a breakthrough, but sees no other options to talks.

MAHDI ABDEL HADI, PALESTINIAN ANALYST: I don't have hopes or disappointment. I've come to realize what is the gain and what is at stake, survival or stay in the prison culture for the coming 10 years, left alone in the dark and living behind the walls in slums.

WEDEMAN: A timetable has yet to be set for resumption of negotiations.

URI SAVIR, FORMER ISRAELI NEGOTIATOR: When you make peace, you have to make every day about 10 unpopular decisions. You need a lot of guts.

WEDEMAN: Veteran Israeli negotiator Uri Savir helped draft the Oslo accords. He knows better than most the nature of the challenges ahead and the cost of failure. SAVIR: The alternative of peace is war and bloodshed, and we will have war in the Middle East if we will not have peace.

KERRY: Mr. Prime Minister, thank you.

WEDEMAN: A stark reminder for would-be peacemakers.

Ben Wedeman, CNN, Jerusalem.


HOLMES: Yes, Ben Wedeman, a man whose covered that region for decades.

MALVEAUX: Oh, my goodness. An awesome reporter.

HOLMES: Yes, exactly.

Well, President Obama hits the road, trying to win support for his economic plan.

MALVEAUX: But does he have a new agenda for creating jobs? We're going to bring that to you live this hour.


HOLMES: Welcome back.

President Obama tries to shift the national conversation back to the economy today. After months of focusing on the IRS uproar, government surveillance and plenty of other issues, he's hoping to redirect the focus.

MALVEAUX: We're going to hear from the president shortly. This is from the campus of Knox College. This is in Galesburg, Illinois. It is the first of a series of speeches on the economy.

HOLMES: Our team standing by to talk about what we can expect and what is at stake. You see them all there, Wolf Blitzer, Gloria Borger in our D.C. studio, Jessica Yellin at the White House, Christine Romans in New York.

MALVEAUX: Yes, we got the best of the best here.

Wolf, want to start off with you here. It's going to be a familiar story line. Obviously we've heard it many times before, the president says he inherits an economy that's on the verge of collapse, he rescues the banking and auto industry, he passes a stimulus package to avert the economy from going deeper into a recession. So what do we expect is going to be different coming from the president today?

WOLF BLITZER, ANCHOR, CNN'S "THE SITUATION ROOM": The president is going to lay out the first of several speeches that he wants to, as you point out, refocus the American public on the economy. And he's going to point to some successes over the past four and a half years since he's taken office. He'll refer to Obamacare. He'll say that's a success. He'll talk about the jobs that have been created, the economic growth, if you will, recovering from the great recession, as a lot of people call it.

But there - he's also going to point out, there's a long way to go. And especially the middle class needs a lot of work. The poor Americans, those who aren't even in the middle class, they need even more help right now.

We just did some checking. I don't know if the president's going to get into this in his speech. But as far as food stamps are concerned, people in the United States who will survive only if the government proves these food stamps for them, including a lot of children, back in 2009 when he took office, 32 million Americans were dependent on food stamps. Right now it's up to 47 million Americans.

And the price tag is pretty significant for American taxpayers. It was about $35 billion back in fiscal year 2008. The last fiscal year it's over $80 billion. So, poor people are needing more and more help right now in the United States. It's hard to believe that so many people would be hungry if it weren't for these food stamps.

HOLMES: Yes, indeed.

Gloria, let's bring you in. And, you know, political realities here. There's no real major legislative proposal, whether its job training or spending on infrastructure that's going to get past the Republican controlled House. So, short of, you know, resisting any additional spending cuts, what can the president do?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: This is going to be a speech about vision. It's -- he's going to stay, look at where we were five years ago and look at the progress we have made.

You know, in reality, you're right, he's talking to a country right now in which, according to the most recent "Wall Street Journal" poll, only 29 percent of the people in this country believe we're headed on the right track. So that's a real problem for him. so he's got to convince the country, yes, we are headed on the right track and he's got to gird himself for the battle that are going to be coming up this fall.

In particular, raising that nasty old debt ceiling again, which Republicans say they won't do unless they get more spending cuts. This has been his terra firma. His big victory after the election was, of course, getting rid of the tax cuts for the rich. When he talks about the middle class in this country, it resonates. And I think he's trying to get back to that.

MALVEAUX: And, Jessica, you're learned, as Gloria's already mentioned here, it is really more of a vision speech, not a policy speech. Some people call it a reset or a pivot, whatever you want to call it here, no new policy initiatives. Tell us why the effort now. Why - the timing of all this to change the focus and the conversation for the American people?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, there are two goals today. The first is to win a fight with Republicans. The second is to win control of his second term. So on the first, the president is, s Gloria says, looking ahead to the spending fights that comes at the end of the September, beginning of October, when Congress looks to lay out the spending for next year and fight over the debt ceiling. The president learned from the last fight and he wants to define his terms now rather than wait till then. What he's going to try to do is the run-up, in the coming weeks, is take it to the American people and say, What are the priorities? Do you care about spending for infrastructure, laying out projects that can lead to high paying jobs, or do you just want this battle to be about debt and spending, big government versus small government? And he's going to make Obamacare a big piece of that because the Republicans will try to repeal Obamacare as part of this.

The other is redefining his second term because his approval numbers have been falling. The president has not gotten anything significant done with Congress in the six months he's been in office. When that happens, they think, get him out of town, take him to the people, remind them he's a likable guy and that's what they're trying to do today.

HOLMES: Ah, yes, the politics.

Christine, let's talk about the economy. We're in a recovery. Wall Street's back in record numbers every day it seems. Housing prices are rebounding. But despite all of that, there's still a lot of Americans who are not feeling this recovery at all. Low paying jobs, still looking for work. How does the president reach out to them, make them feel good about themselves?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS ANCHOR: (INAUDIBLE) don't own stocks. And when you're talking about that venue, Knox College, Galesburg, Illinois, right there in Galesburg, 2004, a Maytag plant shut. Hundreds of jobs left for China and South Korea - for Mexico and South Korea. Those jobs have now gone to China. Those people - those people who lost those jobs, now they're earning maybe $10,000 less. They have less job satisfaction. It was a globalization story right there where the president is speaking today.

Eight years ago when he was there, it was a globalization story. Today, it's a hangover of the crisis story. So it's both of those things. There you can see him from Knox College in 2005. He looks an awful lot younger, doesn't he? Those kids there were worried about globalization. They weren't worried about a financial crisis.

I want to show you then and now. Then, when the president was speaking, the jobless rate was 5 percent. GDP, 3.1 percent. Today, the jobless rate is higher, GDP is much lower. Now, these are statistics Republicans have been pointing to over and over again.

Let me tell you what the Democrats are sharing. They're sharing this cartoon all over the place saying that you can't blame the president for not creating jobs. That's like Lucy blaming Charlie Brown for not kicking the football. Already this venue and this speech is very, very political. Can the president get past the politics and really relate to the American people and say, things are going to get better?

MALVEAUX: Yes. All right, Christine, thank you so much. We appreciate it.

Obviously we're keeping a close eye on those pictures there out of Galesburg, Illinois. And it goes back to the argument that the Obama administration makes, eight years ago they inherited an economic crisis. They've moved the ball forward. The Republicans saying, look, time to take responsibility for the economy yourself.

HOLMES: Yes. You've had - you've had this amount of time. Yes, all right.

Yes, we're going to take a short break, though. Be right back. Don't go away.


HOLMES: Welcome back.

Hundreds of police are on a manhunt for a possible serial killer. This in a remote Japanese village.

MALVEAUX: The 63-year-old man is accused of burning down houses and murdering five people. It's even a bigger deal because the village only has 10 homes. And, get this, the killer left behind a note written in the form of a haiku poem.

HOLMES: Police say the poem translates to roughly, "setting on fire, smoke gives delight to country fellows." A real mystery for the police there.

MALVEAUX: And we're also taking a look at what is trending right now around the world.

In Yemen, passionate pleas from an 11-year-old girl speaking out against child marriage.

HOLMES: Yes, her name is Nada al-Ahdal and she says she would have no future and, quote, "be better off dead" than to be married to a much older man. She says he parents threatened to kill her if she ran away.


NADA AL-AHDAL (through translator): What kind of people threaten their children like that? Would it make you happy to marry me off against my will? Go ahead and marry me off. I'll kill myself, just like that. I won't go back to live with them. I won't.


MALVEAUX: Right now she is living safely with her uncle. Now, the child's story has close to three million views on YouTube. People paying very close attention to her plight.

HOLMES: She looks so young.

MALVEAUX: Very young. HOLMES: And also we have some dramatic video to show you out of The Netherlands. Check this out. An unhappy ending to a balloon ride a few miles outside of Amsterdam.

MALVEAUX: You can see the balloon. It's going down the lake. And then definitely not the plan here. And then across the street. Even 11 people in the basket at the time. Two went to the hospital with minor injuries. It's not known what actually caused that balloon to come down into the water like that.

HOLMES: Imagine if you're driving on the road and a balloon just sort of drapes itself right across your -

MALVEAUX: It's like, what happened?

HOLMES: That's a good excuse for being late to work. Thankfully, nobody too seriously hurt.

That will do it for me, but not you. Thanks for watching AROUND THE WORLD.

MALVEAUX: CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.