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President Obama And Putin Together In Russia; Syria Spurs Political "Identity Crisis"; Should College Athletes Get Paid?; The People's Princess Remembered

Aired September 5, 2013 - 16:30   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Continuing our world lead right now, President Obama spent much of today in St. Petersburg, Russia, for the G-20 Summit, his host, Vladimir Putin. Yes, we finally got to see them meet face to face in the aftermath of the crisis in Syria and the Edward Snowden debacle.

Let's go to the tape.

Sure their meet and great was friendly enough. Look at this, smiles, waves, words. It did look like both men were glad they were leaders were almost two dozen countries to talk to later on although even later than that, the walk to dinner, President Obama strolled alone raising some eyebrows. But he assured us that he was behind the rest of the group because he was talking to another G-20 leader, who wasn't Vladimir Putin. The question is what the state of relations between Russia and the United States?


BERMAN: Joining me now from St. Petersburg is Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for President Obama.

And Ben, we saw the greeting earlier today between the president and Russian leader Vladimir Putin. It was maybe slightly more cordial than some people expected. Can you tell us if they've spoken since that initial greeting and, if so, what they've talked about?

BEN RHODES, DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Well, they haven't had a formal bilateral meeting. They've been in sessions together, so they've been in multilateral settings discussing the global economy. And then they're entering a dinner here where Syria will be a topic of discussion, as President Putin announced earlier today.

But the fact of the matter is, we have a difference with Russia when it comes to Syria. For the last two years, we've seen them veto U.N. Security Council resolutions that would hold the Assad regime accountable for its actions. And on the issue of chemical weapons - again, what we have said is the evidence is clear. The evidence shows there was a chemical weapons attack that killed more than a thousand people, hundreds of children gassed to death in clear violation of a longstanding international norm. So the United States has said, look, we'll work through the U.N. Security Council if it was willing to take action. But we haven't seen anything from Russia that leads us to believe that this time will be any different from the last two years, which is why President Obama is willing to go forward and take military action. And he's taken that to Congress, and we'd like to see a vote from Congress in support of this effort. And then we'll have other allies and partners, I think, who will stand with us so that we do have multilateral support for what we're doing.

And that's what he's doing here at the G-20. He's talking on the margins here with a range of other leaders including some of our close allies about those types of expressions of support I think that would be important in reinforcing that this is an international norm. This is not just something that the United States of America cares about. It's something that the world cares about because the use of chemical weapons without consequences would pose a threat to the entire world.

BERMAN: You talk about speaking on the margins with other leaders. At this point, can you point to any concrete results? Has he brought on any more support in these meetings so far?

RHODES: Well, before the G-20 began, we had a discussion with Prime Minister Abe of Japan. Again, they expressed strong support for the notion that chemical weapons are unacceptable, that there needs to be a strong international response.

After that, though, the session that they focused on today was on the global economy and how do we have global growth and job creation. Again, tonight, they're currently in discussions where I anticipate Syria will be a topic. But tomorrow, he'll be talking to French President Hollande, who's made clear that not only do they support the notion that action must be taken, but they've suggested they may want to take part in that action.

There are other leaders here, like Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey, who's been very outspoken about the need for accountability for the Syrian regime. And then some of our other European allies are here as well. And they too have been very strong. You saw Germany just the other day put out their own intelligence assessment that determined that the Assad regime again was responsible and accountable for this action.

BERMAN: Ben, so much has been made between of relationship between President Obama and President Putin. There was even speculation that the seating chart was changed so they wouldn't be near each other. President Obama has described Mr. Putin as having a kind of slouch at these meetings, looking like a bored kid at the back of the classroom. In this first session, is that how the Russian leader appeared today?

RHODES: Well, I don't know. Every time that there's a meeting with President Putin, I think I always get asked about his body language. I think suffice to say he's got one poker face, and that tends to be what he brings to meetings.

Again, what we said it look, we can work with Russia where our interests overlap. We continue to cooperate with them on counterterrorism, on supplying our troops in Afghanistan. But at the same time, we're going to be very clear when we have differences, and we have a difference here on Syria.

BERMAN: All right. Ben Rhodes in St. Petersburg, thanks so much for being with us. Get some sleep.

RHODES: Thank you.


BERMAN: Coming up next, what do hard core libertarians and far left liberals have in common? A lot when it comes to firing off cruise missiles. How the crisis in Syria is creating an identity crisis in Washington.

Still ahead, she called him Mr. Wonderful. Now a new film is detailing Princess Diana's most intimate and private affair.


BERMAN: In politics, Republicans and Democrats, liberals and libertarians, Boehner and Pelosi, the crisis in Syria is bringing together some pretty strange political bed fellows in Washington, though it's also fracturing both sides of the aisle over how the United States should respond to this massacre.

Joining me now, three CNN political contributors, former Clinton adviser, Paul Begala, Republican strategist, Ana Navarro, and Washington correspondent for the "New Yorker" magazine, Ryan Lizza. Paul, I want to start with you right now. You have both parties split here, but the question is, who has the bigger identity crisis? Is it Democrats who are losing anti-war liberals or is it Republicans who seemed to be losing isolationist libertarians?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, you make a good point, actually both parties I think have equal and opposite problems. The difference is because the Democrats have the White House, the president will define his party's position and his party's position is America will punish the use of chemical weapons period.

Now there will be some Democrats he loses, but I don't think he'll lose the majority of them though, but I think that's the one thing the Democrats politically are going from this. The president will define what his party stands for. The Republicans are in the midst of this massive debate in their party about whether they will still be the internationalist party of John McCain and both presidents Bush or will they be a party of these newer neo-isolationists like Rand Paul and others. That's a huge debate in their party and I think in that sense politically they've more at risk.

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: You see that's why I don't think this is an identity crisis for the Republicans. Just add this to the list of issues that we are debating internally as a party. What it is though is an identity crisis for President Obama, who is used to a very united Democratic Party behind him. It's not happening now and it's a big, big risk he's taking.

BERMAN: I just spoke to very liberal Charlie Rangel from Harlem a little while ago, he opposes military action and we just learned that Senator Joe Manchin, pretty conservative, from West Virginia. He just put out a release saying he is a no vote as well.

NAVARRO: I have to tell you, John, you know, Joe Manchin I think was really struggling with this. Joe Manchin is not on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the other day when I was at the hearing, he was sitting next to me. John Kerry said to him, my friend, Joe, what are you doing here? He said I'm here to listen. You know, he really took it seriously.

BERMAN: So let's talk about the persuasion battle. Ryan, you know, you wrote the famous article with the famous quote about the president's foreign policy. The quote was "leading from behind." So Ryan, how would you assess his persuasion style right now on Syria?

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I think he's in danger right now of losing the most consequential vote of his presidency. Frankly, the president is not out there persuading and campaigning, at least not publicly, the American people and the most important constituency, Congress. He has a very difficult job in the House of Representatives.

Barack Obama has no leverage with House Republicans. They don't trust him. They look for excuses to oppose him at every turn. So going out and trying to make the House -- the case to House Republicans might not be a winning strategy. But right now, especially the news that you just reported about Manchin being against this and Rangel's very negative comments on the show previously, this is a turning for Barack Obama's presidency here.

If he loses this vote, and look as important as the international issues are, I don't want to belittle them. But for Barack Obama going forward for his domestic agenda, for his presidency, for his credibility, he can't lose this vote.

NAVARRO: But Ryan, this isn't about House Republicans. It's a nonpartisan issue. I just saw the votes and how they are piling up in Florida. You have two of the most loyal Democrats, Alan Grayson and Cathy Castro, who have announced they are no votes. He's got to go out and sell it to the American public. Everybody I've spoken to in congress tells me their offices are getting swamped by calls and more than 90 percent of them are against --

LIZZA: Because there's no passion on the pro side.

NAVARRO: Forget it, John Berman. You're not getting a word in edgewise here.

BERMAN: On the subject of passion, one group that has supported the president quite passionately is the political arm of what used to be the Obama campaign, organizing for action. This is the grassroots movement that President Obama launched. This grassroots movement is doing nothing on Syria, has announced it will not get involved. So Paul Begala, you heard your friends at the table say the president needs to stir up position. What does it say if his own political army won't get involved to stir up that passion?

BEGALA: It says that we are a deeply war weary country and that's why this is going across partisan length. It's not just OFA, the president's political arm. It's the whole country. We're war weary. I'm telling you, John, it's going to be 50 years before we get over the hangover of the debacle in Iraq. That's why we have this problem. I worked for President Clinton. We waged an air war in Kosovo for largely moral reasons that were to stop genocide in Europe and the country supported us.

We had when it was going on, 65 percent, 70 percent of the country supporting us. I don't think the president will ever get to that because of Iraq. This is the sales job he's got to do to the country is that this is about something much more discrete and simple. Will America allow the use of chemical weapons against civilians? His answer is no, hell no. A lot of people are going to have to hear that message.

NAVARRO: He's got to stop leading from behind John Kerry. He's got to go and make the sale himself.

LIZZA: He has to make a case. He hasn't made it yet.

BERMAN: All right, guys, Ryan Lizza, Paul Begala, Ana Navarro, thanks for letting me talk at least a little bit. It was great having you guys on, great discussion. Appreciate it.

Coming up, should it be for love of the game or for a paycheck? The growing calls to pay college athletes that bring in such big bucks for their schools.


BERMAN: Welcome back now. The Sports Lead, break out the beer and get your favorite pizza joint on the line. NFL football officially back, the season kicks off tonight in Denver with a rematch of a playoff thriller, the Broncos versus the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens. Millions of people are expected to tune in, further solidifying football really as America's new favorite pastime.

Football is an industry that makes billions of dollars every year at both the pro and collegiate levels. While professional players can count on fat paychecks to soothe the pain of tired muscles, season ending injuries and soul crushing loses, college athletes can't make a dime off their blood, sweat and tears.

Yes, they do often get free rides at the universities, but really that's chump change compared to what the schools and NCAA rake in thanks to their football programs. The debate over paying college athletes is the cover story of the latest issue of "Time" magazine.

Joining us now is Sean Gregory, the sports editor of "Time" meaning author of the article. Sean, you know, I've been arguing paying college athletes about it for years, but the argument now seems white hot. Why is that? Is it all about Johnny Manziel?

SEAN GREGORY, SPORTS EDITOR, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Well, he's a big part of it. Everyone's passion about Johnny Manziel before he may or may not have signed autographs for money and once it came out that he may or may not have done that, it just raises to another level. I think why it's also hot now is just the revenue numbers that you see. You see the pattern over the last pick, TV numbers doubling, tripling.

Over the next decade it's going to get higher and higher. There's huge demand for college sports. There is a college football playoff now that's going to drive demand. So the revenues keep going up, the cost for the players are staying steady above the scholarship, something's got to give.

BERMAN: How much money are we talking about here? What are the interesting figures in your article? Would you actually put a dollar figure on how much a college athlete is worth?

GREGORY: Yes. Now there have been studies on that. It's just the basic math to throw out there. If you took the share of revenues that say the NFL get from their teams and you just split that amongst the college players, if you had a totally professionalized environment, which is aggressive and on the extreme end. You know, at a place like Texas A&M, if you paid all the 85 players equally, it's about $225,000.

BERMAN: That's a lot of money.

GREGORY: Yes, that's a lot of money and hire of new programs, you know, it's more.

BERMAN: There are people who do point out that college students who do play football do get some support in terms of free rides, full scholarships, which is, you know, as a parent who is going to have to pay for college. That's a lot of money. They do make a lot of money. Why isn't that enough?

GREGORY: Well, it's the option to offer more. I mean, we're not saying every school has to pay their players. We're saying why is there this restraint? Why can't a player who might be worth more than the scholarship, because of all these millions of dollars, why can't he have the option to get more?

BERMAN: Go out and sign autographs, and sell shirts and the like. Tell me how a pay structure would work because it gets very complicated, very fat. If they were going to pay the male college athletes by law and theory, you would think they have to pay female college athletes also. Do you pay every member of the football team the same amount?

GREGORY: We propose giving the schools the option. Title Nine, it's tricky. It's a challenge. There's an argument that if you don't pay them, it's a discrimination against women. But you can also make the argument if you just pay the men of football and men's basketball, they bring in the money. Some women might get a salary. You know, the schools can figure it out themselves. BERMAN: What about the equality on the team? What about the offensive lineman? He is not going to make as much as Johnny Manziel. Is that going to create friction?

GREGORY: You know, I don't totally buy that. I mean, you know, in every workplace environment, some people get paid more than others. In the Olympics, for example, where athletes can get sponsorships, Michael Phelp's sponsorship level is a lot different than other swimmers. Team USA seems to do all right. So it's a little -- I don't totally buy the -- it's just going to ruin the locker room environment. There's all kinds of work environments where pay is unequal.

BERMAN: The kids will still go to school. Sean Gregory, great to see you, sports editor at "Time" magazine. It's a fantastic article.

Coming up next for us, she was stalked by the paparazzi. So how did see keep one of her most intimate relationships a secret? We'll take a look at the private side of Diana next.


BERMAN: Welcome back to THE LEAD, everyone. The Pop Culture Lead, for much of her life she was one of the most beloved and adored people on the planet. Wherever Princess Diana went, you could couldn't on a gaggle of cameras to be close behind. Now more than 15 years after her death, Diana is still the subject of public fascination. A highly anticipated film about the last two years of her life premieres in London tonight, feeding the appetite for the people's princess, whose iconic presence continues to live on.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The new royal heir --

BERMAN (voice-over): Just as soon as he saw sunlight, he saw camera flashes and the newest prince will soon learn the world's curiosity for the crown knows no end. But no one sells more magazines than George's grandmother. Yes, the former Princess of Wales continues to fill headlines as "Diana," the movie, debuts today in London. Naomi Watts stars as the people's princess, offering a controversial glimpse into the life of one of the world's most beloved 16 years after her death.

KATE WILLIAMS, CNN ROYAL HISTORIAN: I've been talking to a lot of people in the U.K. today and a lot of the people are saying we don't want to see this, why can't the princess rest in peace?

BERMAN: But peace for a princess seems all about impossible, as any hint of highness gathers a crowd and sometimes conspiracy theories. Just last month investigators say they were examining new information about Diana's untimely death, under suspicion that her Paris car crash was a cover up for murder by a member of the British military. Showing that even in death royals may not escape the spotlight.

WILLIAMS: Since the beginning of the royal family we've been obsessed by them. What it is, is because their power, their glamour and most of all their mystery.

BERMAN: As Prince William recently told CNN, it's to be expected.

PRINCE WILLIAM: It's not somewhere I enjoy being, but I know in position I'm in that's what is required of me to do.

BERMAN: Unrequired and unexpected, however, is the exposure of more personal details.

NAOMI WATTS, ACTRESS: But it was also built around facts.

BERMAN: In today's film debut, William's mother is portrayed not as herself public self, but as a private woman allegedly enamored with heart surgeon Haznot Kahn, lovesick and intimate. The pair met in 1995 at the hospital where Kahn worked and were said to have split just months before her death in 1997. Diana's relationship with the doctor was one of the few periods of her life still relatively unknown.

OLIVER HIRSCHBIEGEL, DIRECTOR, "DIANA": I dare say this is a very authentic interpretation of what it was like. At the end of the day, this is about a very deep love.

BERMAN: He said the attempt at their stare is inaccurate and based on gossip. The royal family has remained characteristically mum.

WILLIAMS: They are simply going to remain silent about the film because they wish, of course, that this was left in the past. It was all over that we focused on the young royals like Harry and William, like Kate Middleton.

BERMAN: But no matter the glamour and intrigue of the current heirs or even the next, it is the obsession with Diana that continues to reverberate.


BERMAN: "Diana" the movie opens in theatres nationwide on September 20th. Other entertainment news, Eddie Murphy has long been considered one of the greatest comedians at all times. It true we weren't always launching with him. Remember when he launched his singing career with the song "Party All The Time."

That actually happened. The single did pretty well on the charts, though it has since appeared on a few worst songs ever lists, unfairly. According to his first tweet on his brand new Twitter account, he's joined up with Snoop Lion, formerly known as Snoop Dog, for a song called "Red Light." It will be on his upcoming album. Let's hope it lives up to the high bar of some of Eddie Murphy's previous singles like "Boogie In Your Butt." That actually happened, too.

That's it for THE LEAD. I'm John Berman. Jake Tapper will be back tomorrow. I now turn you over to Jessica Yellin who is filling in for Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM."