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Congress Uncertain About Syria Strike; Cuba to Florida Swim; Iconic American Flag Missing; Homeless Man Helps Police Officer

Aired September 2, 2013 - 08:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: You're watching NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo, Kate Bolduan, and Michaela Pereira.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to NEW DAY. It's Monday, September 2nd, Labor Day. A CNN documentary explores an American mystery. We're going to tell you about it. An American flag, you remember this, raised by firefighters at ground zero? Remember how it became a symbol of hope after 9/11? What happened to it? That's what the documentary is about. We'll give you a preview.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Absolutely. Plus, this ahead, a homeless man becomes a hero. Rescuing a police officer from a potentially deadly situation. Details coming up in "The Good Stuff."

CUOMO: That is good, good stuff too, by the way.

A lot of news this morning. Let's get to John Berman, in for Michaela.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Great to see you guys.

Let's start with Syria. Five U.S. Navy ships in the Red Sea right now, ready to fire on Syrian targets if and when Washington gives the green light. President Obama trying to make that happen. He's spending the day this Labor Day selling Congress on a military strike. He'll meet with Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham. He'll also make calls to other lawmakers to try to drum up support.

Now, Congress will not actually vote until all members return from a recess. Hope they're enjoying their recess. That's one week from today. We're going to have our own debate right here in just a few minutes.

Former South African President Nelson Mandela is back home this morning. The is for the first time in 12 weeks. The 95-year-old was released from a hospital on Sunday as he continues to recover from a lung infection. But a government spokesman says that Mandela's condition remains critical and he still does require medical help.

A very lucky escape for a driver in northern Taiwan. His car was hit by a landslide. And then you're going to this. That the bolder comes rolling down. It teeters, almost rolls on top but then backs off. The man walked away with only minor injuries. That region of Taiwan has been hit with heavy rains for days now leading to the flooding in those landslides.

Florida A&M University's famed marching back on the field this weekend to help kick off the football season. This is the first time since a deadly hazing incident nearly two years ago. Drum Major Robert Champion was beaten to death on a bus after a game. The band director and university president both resigned afterwards.

And may the force be with you and your furry friend. Petco partnering with Lucas Films to launch a new line of "Star Wars" pet gear, like collars, clothes and toys for dogs and cats. The gear is now available online. The big question, what took so long? I mean Chewbacca, if there's anything that begs for, you know, pet gear, it's Chewbacca.

CUOMO: I don't get it, so it's "Star Wars" gear for your doggies? That's what it is?

BERMAN: Apparently you can buy all kinds of gear. I think they probably have light sabers for your parakeets if you're interested. I'm just speculating here.

CUOMO: Are you? That is ball (ph) speculating.

BERMAN: Land speeders for your gerbil.

CUOMO: Land speeders for your gerbils.

BERMAN: Just speculating.

CUOMO: In the mind of John Berman, all things possible, ladies and gentlemen.

Over to you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: All right. I'm going to make a very quick transition back to the big story that we've been talking about all morning. Let's talk more about the possible intervention in Syria with CNN political commentator and Republican strategist Ana Navarro, as well as Marc Lamont Hill, host of "Huffpost Live" and a Columbia University professor.

It's great to see you both. We've been debating it all this morning and it's an important one and I want to get you both - your take on this as well.

Ana, first to you. So, lawmakers, after the announcement by the president in the Rose Garden Saturday, many lawmakers said they were really surprised by the president's announcement that he wanted to get the approval of Congress before moving ahead. Was the president's decision to seek approval from Congress first, was it the right one, do you think?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, whether it's the right one or not is, you know, yes, I do think it's the right one. Now, was the timing right and was the process getting to that decision the right one? That, to me, is the bigger question. He's just looked a little bit as a, you know, more of a hesitant vacillation. When you are going to lead others, you know, you want others to follow, you need to lead. And in order to lead, you need to have resolve, you need to have determination, you need to have a clear goal and a clear strategy. And that's been lacking.

This has been going on for two years, Kate. It - you know, we didn't wake up yesterday with Assad doing this stuff. And there just seems to be a lack of coherence in what he's doing. I think it did take some in Congress by surprise. I think it took some of his national security advisors by surprise, too.

BOLDUAN: Now, Marc, I want to get to you, because to Ana's point, we had Congressman Buck McKeon on earlier and he kind of got to that -- a similar point, saying that the president should have put more thought into his red line comments before making it. John McCain had said something similar, saying that he should have been consulting Congress all along the way rather than, kind of in his view, this kind of surprise move of consulting Congress now. Do you think -- do they have a point?

MARC LAMONT HILL, HOST, "HUFFPOST LIVE": There is some legitimacy to that point. I mean John Kerry is in the awkward position now of having essentially defend a president, who he's been challenging for two and a half years, to make a move on Syria. But there are multiple moves that could have been made on Syria. It's not just about boots on the ground, it's not just about military strikes. There are no-fly zones, there are funding proxy wars through moderate groups. There are things the president could have done up until now to get us in a better place in Syria. That's absolutely the case.

But nevertheless, drawing a hard red line in saying, look, chemical weapons is off the table, that's actually a reasonable place to be, a reasonable place to land at, and I don't think it's an incoherent strategy and I don't think it's a strategy that lacks resolve. I think it's a strategy that says we're going to lean on intelligence reports, we're going to wait until chemical weapons are on the table before we risk or jeopardize any type of American life. I think that's a reasonable plan. I'm just not - I just wish the president would have arrived at it sooner and through different - by different means.

BOLDUAN: So let me ask you this. I mean Congress -- members of Congress coming out of these classified briefings, Marc, they were very skeptical. The American people are very skeptical of the U.S. going in with military action. If lawmakers are unable to reach agreement, if they vote no on military action and the president is then faced with the question of, do I go -- do I go against congressional approval, do I go it alone now even though Congress has told me not to? What does he do then?

HILL: You know, he really painted himself into a --

NAVARRO: Look, a loss is not an option here. This is not something he can do. You know, he needs to win this. There is nothing like the bully pulpit of a president. He needs to use it in the coming eight days because he needs to win this vote. It would be devastating for President Obama if he doesn't win it. It would be devastating for the U.S. and how we are perceived international if we can't come to some unity on this.

BOLDUAN: Go ahead, Marc.

HILL: I hope Republicans are listening to that because the bully pulpit of the presidency has been anything but persuasive to Republicans in the House and Senate for the last five years. The president has made the case that we would compromise the Americans - America's fiscal stability if we -- due to the debt ceiling. It didn't matter. We've made arguments about national security before. It didn't matter to the right. There's been a commitment to obstructing the president. I'm not sure if the Syria situation will be different.

But the president put himself in a very problematic position. John Kerry stood up and said, the president doesn't really need congressional support, but he's still going to seek it. So now the president may end up mimicking the George Bush posture of six years ago where he says, look, I have to - I have to protect America's interest even if Congress doesn't and the American people don't agree with me. Obama will look like a war monger if he take - if makes that move but I think it could happen. The - he has the Senate locked down. The House is a very, very, very questionable vote.

BOLDUAN: Ana, how --

NAVARRO: This is not a -

BOLDUAN: Go ahead.

NAVARRO: Right and left issue. He's got to convince just as many Democrats as he's got to convince some of the Republican Party. You know, and -- but - and in order to - and in order to do so, he needs to make the sale. If there's one thing we all know President Obama can do is campaign. He needs to put down the golf clubs and he needs to look at the American people, he needs to make calls to the members of the U.S. Congress and he needs to explain and articulate a clear strategy. He can't be sitting there looking like he's, you know, plucking petals off of daisies say -- one day saying, I think I will, I think I won't, I think I will, I think I won't. He needs to look like a leader.

BOLDUAN: Go ahead, Marc, respond.

HILL: Yes, but that - that's -- well, that's not the issue. First of all, the president hasn't been sitting on his hands on this. The president has been very aggressively making his case. And this isn't a court - everyone who was at the security briefing said, we believe the chemical weapons. We've seen the hair samples. We've seen the chemical samples. We know what's going on there. This is not a question of the president having a strategy or the president making a compelling argument.

This isn't like Iraq with WMDs. This is a question of whether or not members of Congress believe that the best way to stop these abuses, the best way to stop a vicious Assad regime is through targeted and limited targeted strikes. A lot of us don't believe that and I don't think that's going to be a matter of the president making a campaign push.

And lastly, this is a left/right issue. We can pretend that it's not. We can say that we're going to rise above partisan politics. But the bubbling up on the ground already says that the Senate is locked down because Democrats control it, the House is a very questionable vote because there are many people - partly because of their ideology and partly because they want to obstruct the president's success on this. They're simply not going to go the president's way.

BOLDUAN: Well, regardless if it's a left/right issue, it's an issue that matters to every American at this point and will be -

NAVARRO: I can tell you, I have heard just as many Democrats as Republicans saying that there are no votes right now but they're open to it. So I think it's up to the president to make that sale.

BOLDUAN: And I think many people are wondering if the president will be taking his case to the American public again in the coming week.

Ana Navarro, Marc Lamont Hill, always great to have you both. Thank you so much.

Chris.

CUOMO: All right, Kate, coming up on NEW DAY, "The Good Stuff." A homeless man goes above and beyond and may have become a life saver. Wait until you hear this story.

Also, could a symbol of hope and freedom after 9/11 be gone? A new CNN documentary asks what happened to that famous flag raised over Ground Zero. We all remember this picture. We'll tell you the story behind it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: Sometimes it just feels good to say that. You talk amongst yourselves.

BERMAN: She's threatening the equipment (ph) in the, you know, in the (INAUDIBLE).

BOLDUAN: You do it.

CUOMO: She challenges all the - all the (INAUDIBLE).

BOLDUAN: I challenge authority (ph). Part of my game.

(COMO)

CUOMO: Welcome back to NEW DAY.

We're tracking history this morning. Swimmer Diana Nyad is just hours from reaching her goal of swimming between Florida and Cuba. This is her fifth attempt. She stopped - she started back in the '70s. But we're all about today and what's happening right now. And joining us by phone is Bonnie Stoll, head handler of Extreme Dream Swim. She's on the boat that is traveling alongside Nyad right now.

Bonnie, can you hear us?

BONNIE STOLL, (via telephone): I can hear you and we're all big fans of yours, Chris.

CUOMO: Oh, boy. Oh, boy. Well, I'm a really big fan of yours and certainly Diana Nyad's right now. So, tell us, how is she doing?

STOLL: Right. OK. She is -- she is doing amazingly, amazingly, amazingly well. We're in about 102 miles now. We have a - no, I think we're about 106. We're looking at shore. She's got about another six miles to go. Will be on shore in a couple of hours. And her stroke count is exactly the same as it was the day we left. She is just strong.

That being said, right now her mouth is so swollen that she can't take anything down except sucking on ice cubes. So we've got to keep her nutrition up somehow, so we just keep giving her electrolytes. Other than that, she's as strong as she possibly could be and she feels good.

CUOMO: So the reason her throat is swollen is because of the salt water, I take it? What can you do to help with that other than ice chips?

STOLL: The reason her throat is swollen - the reason her throat is swollen is because of the salt water and, on top of that, the mask that she wore the first night, which is a prosthetic mask, to prevent her from getting stung by the box jellyfish, which did prevent her from getting stung by any jellyfish, also cuts up her mouth a little bit because the salt water goes in and it's difficult to get out and getting it on it cuts up her tongue and so on and so forth.

CUOMO: All right, so other than just the physical fatigue, which should be enough -

STOLL: Yes.

CUOMO: Is there any other obstacle for her?

STOLL: Yes.

CUOMO: Is there a current issue? Is there anything that she's going to have to look out for?

STOLL: Zero. Zero. It is a beautiful day. It is a flat, calm and all we are is just be - we're - the whole team is ecstatic and we're watching her go. And she's had her jellyfish on - jellyfish outfit on, which is just a piece of Lycra from top to bottom, that she wears from dusk to dawn because that's when the jellies normally come out. So she's getting ready to take that off. And she's going to feel so free and she's going to feel warm from the sun for the first time in 12 hours. So she is just going to cruise right in.

CUOMO: So, you really think she's going to do it? Do you think this is it?

STOLL: Are you kidding? This is a no-brainer now. And I will be the first to tell you that I think Diana Nyad is the only person that knew she could do it. I thought that if this swim was humanly possible Diana Nyad would have already done it. This is it, this is history and she -- she is the only one that knew she was capable. We are here because we love her and we love working with her. That she is proving us all wrong and it's the greatest wrong we've ever been.

CUOMO: You seeing any change in her demeanor as she gets closer?

STOLL: Yes, she's getting a little cranky right now. She wants to get the suit off. The crankiness is good. She's feeling strong. She is 100 percent coherent she's -- and it's unbelievable the shape she's in. This is the right time to do it and that's what she's proving.

CUOMO: Wow, Bonnie, this is awesome.

(CROSSTALK)

STOLL: -- goes a long way.

CUOMO: This is awesome to hear this from you, this update. I mean this is a real surprise to all of us here. It's great to hear she's looking so strong and hey, big shout out and a big hug to all of you and for her as well. You had to make this trip all along the way with the whole extreme dream swim team.

So thank you for checking in with us.

STOLL: Thank you.

CUOMO: Send our best to Diana.

STOLL: Thank you.

CUOMO: And make sure she calls us first when she gets over there. We'll be waiting.

STOLL: Yes you got it. Thanks so much. Really appreciate it. See you guys. Bye-bye.

CUOMO: All right good luck.

BOLDUAN: You can hear the excitement in her voice.

CUOMO: Wow right.

BOLDUAN: That's really, really cool. All right we'll be watching it all today.

CUOMO: Yes.

BOLDUAN: All right it's very exciting for this Labor Day.

This is very -- and this is an amazing American mystery we're going to tell you about. Take a look at this photo. You know this photo right? It's a photo of an American flag being raised by firefighters at Ground Zero. It became a symbol of hope and patriotism after the September 11th terror attack. But the question is what happened to it?

The new CNN film looks at the journey of the flag and the one in a million picture taken by photo journalist Tom Franklin.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tom's photo comes in and I remember Rich Julio the photo editor brings me over and he said, you've got to see this, you have to see this. And we huddled around the computer and he brings up this photo.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And that popped out because of the flag. And all the pictures, whoever sent them, everything was -- had this grayish blue tint to it and there you saw the red, white and blue and you automatically double click it and it opened up and I sat there and I said, that's an incredible picture and Danielle was standing behind me and she said, that's not a picture, that's an icon.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That is the effort.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Awesome.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Such an iconic photo.

Joining us now to talk more about this is the director of "The Flag", Michael Tucker. It's great to see you. Great to meet you Michael. Thanks for coming in.

MICHAEL TUCKER, DIRECTOR, "THE FLAG": Thanks for having me.

BOLDUAN: So this documentary, this film is based on an upcoming book by "Vanity Fair's" David Friend. What drew you to the project?

TUCKER: I think what drew us to the project was, of course, the mystery of the flag.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely.

TUCKER: But more than anything was trying to also get back to that feeling. And that's what the flag represents. That sense of unity. That sense of how we felt in those days and weeks after 9/11. That's really something that we've also lost.

So the search for the flag was kind of a vehicle to recapture that emotion.

BOLDUAN: How was that -- there is a mystery surrounding where the flag went. Don't give everything away because everyone wants to watch the film, but where did the flag go? TUCKER: Well, what everyone thought is that the flag was raised and a few days before the Prayer for America, which was on September 23rd, 2001 at Yankee stadium the Navy had asked for the flag. So the Mayor's office sent the fire department down to Ground Zero and they retrieved the flag and brought it to the Navy and the Navy put it under lock and key and flew it out to the "USS Roosevelt" and flew throughout the battle group, 189 days and came back and Matt Lauer flew out to the fleet, the Speaker of the House was with him. Huge ceremony, was delivered back to the city. Raised at city hall and everyone always thought that the city had it.

BOLDUAN: That's the flag -- but not.

BERMAN: We thought we saw this flag in the Yankee Stadium and other places, there's been this flag out there, was it some kind of impostor?

TUCKER: Definitely an impostor.

BOLDUAN: It's amazing this entire time.

CUOMO: It's interesting watching you watch your own clip. You say it was about getting back to the emotion of that moment. It certainly brought you there.

What was this like for you to relive the imagery and the significance?

TUCKER: Well I think all of us over the last decade ever as we see ourselves going to potentially war in Syria, this country has been through a lot. And to go back to that, that moment where most of us -- we've never felt so American before, and never felt so together, that was incredible to hear all these stories and really to see kind of the best of America and the worst moments.

BOLDUAN: In the worst moments.

CUOMO: Remember, there was such a matching moment of that famous image now made into a statue of the World War II soldiers pushing up the flag and that it had recaptured some of that because after the guys put the flag up, there was just like a big collapse there of guys, who just realized the gravity of the moment and the hope that they would be able to keep going. Because remember those first responders were there so long.

TUCKER: Right.

CUOMO: This was a random moment that they came upon but it meant so much for so many.

BOLDUAN: And it captured that kind of thought of we are going to rebuild and then you kind of want to get back to that moment. You're absolutely right. Well it seems like a fascinating film. We'll all be watching it. Congratulations it sounds like an amazing project.

TUCKER: Thanks for having me.

BOLDUAN: Thank you so much.

CUOMO: Yes and time well spent. And something that really matters in terms of remembering what it's about and where it is. You're going to want to hear the rest of the story of "The Flag," of course, and its journey. This Wednesday -- that's when you can -- 9:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

BOLDUAN: Coming up next on NEW DAY. An everyday citizen saves a police officer's life. Well now he may be the one who needs some saving. We're going to tell you why, in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: Time for "The Good Stuff".

Today's edition, 35-year-old Ryan Raso was just crossing the street when he saw a female police officer trying to subdue a much larger woman who was vandalizing cars. The police officer was clearly losing the fight. What was worst -- a small crowd of people had built up and nobody doing nothing.

BOLDUAN: Oh no.

CUOMO: But not Ryan Raso. He jumped in to save the officer just as the suspect was going for the cop's gun.

BERMAN: Wow.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RYAN RASO, HOMELESS HERO: Law enforcement officer saying "help me, help me" and there's nobody else around. An officer being beat up -- a human -- so I did what was right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: He did do what was right and what was rare because nobody was helping. Raso wrestled a woman down, held her until other cops could arrive. Later police looked into Raso's background and realized he was down on his luck.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SGT. ELI TURNER, SAN FRANCISCO POLICE DEPARTMENT: He has been homeless. He has had a rough time of it in recent months. We wanted to reach out to him and let him know he has friends.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: That's right. Ryan Raso is a homeless man. He was there all the time but he stepped up here. Cops then stepped up themselves and chipped in to buy him new headphones that were broken in the scuffle. Get did -- Raso's dad was a former New York City detective so his love for police is literally ingrained from birth.

BOLDUAN: Wow. CUOMO: But he's a homeless man stepping up to help a police officer. And we're going to put information on the Web site if you want to help Ryan Raso. That's the good stuff.

BOLDUAN: That's some good, good stuff. We'll be right back after a break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: That's it. Carol, take it away.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: That was short and sweet. Have a great Labor Day. I appreciate it.

BOLDUAN: You, too.