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Alyssa Milano Parody Sex Tape; Feinstein Says She's Smarter; NFL Season Kickoff; Jordan Awash in Refugees; Bourdain Defends Detroit

Aired September 5, 2013 - 15:30   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: OK, question, which would you rather watch, a sex tape with actress Alyssa Milano or news about Syria?

Don't answer that. It's a rhetorical question, but it's precisely the point Alyssa Milano is trying to make in the video she made for website, Funny Or Die.

In about 20 seconds from now you'll know what I mean. Roll it.



I'm going to show you something.


Oh, who cares?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our nation is on the brink of yet another conflict in the Middle East. This time in Syria.


BALDWIN: Oh, yeah, the old bait-and-switch.

The actress says Syria is an important issue that people need to pay attention to, even if it takes a sex tape to lure them in. So be it, I suppose.

For those of you who are paying attention, we got this in just a short time ago, the head of the Senate intelligence committee, saying her constituents do not want the U.S. to take military action.


SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D-CA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRWOMAN: No question, what's coming in is overwhelmingly negative. There's no question about that.

But, you see, then they don't know what I know. They haven't heard what I heard. And I like to believe now after 20 years, that I'm -- I have somewhat -- some skill in separating the wheat from the chaff in this thing.


BALDWIN: So Senator Feinstein says she knows more than her constituents do, and quite clearly, she does. As we said, she chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee.

The question is, though, does the president need the nation's backing to launch strikes against the Syrian government? That's what I want to talk about.

Ben Ferguson is a CNN political commentator. He is a conservative, and joins me from Dallas.

And Chris Kofinis is a Democratic strategist joining me live from Washington.

Gentlemen, hello, welcome.

Ben Ferguson, to you first, do you have a problem with folks like Senator Feinstein saying they're willing to buck the will, the opinions of their own constituents, on a matter of war and peace?

BEN FERGUSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't have a problem with it except for the fact that I think her issue is, she's having a really hard time selling it, and it shouldn't be so hard to sell this.

And just saying to your constituents, well, I know more than you know, to me seems a little out of touch.

If your constituents are this concerned, and they're calling you, you'd better do a better job explaining your viewpoint than saying, I'm smarter than you are.

And I think that's going to get a lot of people in trouble if that's their game plan on both sides of the aisle, whether you're Republican or Democrat.

She should know better since she says with all her experience. That answer apparently is not good enough for the American people right now.

BALDWIN: Chris, what do you think?

CHRIS KOFINIS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think there's a lot of truth to that.

I could tell you about one office, my old office, you know, Senator Manchin. Just the other day he got about a thousand-plus phone calls. Out of those phone calls, 15 were in favor of action.

There's -- I think there's -- you know, as we've talked about before, there's a lot of concern and issues the American people have, a lot of questions.

And I think the onus and responsibility befalls upon senators like Senator Feinstein, the administration, Republicans and Democrats, that are in favor of action to lay out clearly what the stakes are here so the American people understand it.

I'm not sure, you know, faux sex tapes are going to work.

BALDWIN: I was about to say.

KOFINIS: This is a much more serious issue than that. And I think the American people actually are sincerely perplexed about what the right decision is here.

FERGUSON: And, Brooke --

BALDWIN: Go ahead, Ben.

FERGUSON: I think part of this is, this is a -- this has become a big p.r. nightmare for the Obama administration, and Dianne Feinstein should have used some of her years of expertise to let Obama know that, if we know things that the American people don't know, then you should go and lead on this issue, and you should get involved without going to Congress.

Because when you punt to Congress, the way that Barack Obama has on this one, then you better be willing to lay out the case to the American people and not just pull the I'm smarter than you are, or we're the smartest people in the room, so trust us.

BALDWIN: But this was the stance Barack Obama as a U.S. senator had taken, pro-congressional involvement when it came to, i.e., Iraq and President Bush.

FERGUSON: Right. But that's the weakness in this idea. If you're president of the United States of America and your job is to be commander-in-chief and lead and you know you're going to lead on this issue, then why punt on the issue and let Congress pull the trigger instead of you pulling the trigger on this?

And I think that's where the politics of Barack Obama are actually hurting him right now, is if you don't have the guts to do it on your own leadership, then don't act like you're going to sell it on your leadership when he's really saying to Congress, I want you to be in charge of this.

I'm not willing to do it, but I'm going to sell it on your behalf. It's a bad selling point.

BALDWIN: Interesting you bring up politics, and here's my next question, because even the politics of 2016, I was just talking to our State Department correspondent, when you think of the Hillary Clintons of the world and possibly the Marco Rubios and how they're voting or not speaking up.

We're going to go there, the politics of some of these politicians and Syria, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BALDWIN: Let's bring them back. Ben Ferguson, CNN political commentator, conservative, joining us from Dallas. Chris Kofinis, Democratic strategist joining us from Washington.

So back to the issue here. I could just rattle off a bunch of names. We saw the no vote from Marco Rubio yesterday in the Senate foreign relations committee. We saw the yes from Hillary Clinton that she is supportive of possible limited engagement in Syria. And even throw Mitch McConnell in there, he's skeptical.

Guys, Chris, to you, politics at play here? You laugh.

KOFINIS: Well, I mean, either politics at play -- I mean, you want to say no, but that's not the reality. For some, there's always going to be politics at play.

Did Marco Rubio all the sudden change his position about whether he was going to support military action to not supporting it because he had a revelation or because he realized he was going to have a much more difficult time in that Republican primary?

And I just have to say one more thing. Before we entered the break, Ben and other Republicans like to criticize the president for taking this to Congress, and I find that such a disingenuous --

BALDWIN: The word "punt," I believe, was used.

KOFINIS: This notion of punting it to Congress. You know what? They're the ones that sit there and were screaming, there are a lot of them saying the president had a responsibility to bring it to Congress.

When he brings it to Congress, they all run and, you know, not knowing what to do or what to say. The reality is --

FERGUSON: Here's the thing.

KOFINIS: Let me finish. I let you finish. I let you finish. Right?

It's a smart thing, and the right thing for the president to bring it to Congress.

Now, does the president have a responsibility to go out there and sell this and to explain to the American people? Of course he does.

But to criticize him for bringing it to Congress just is the weakest of arguments.

BALDWIN: OK. Ben, we've heard you -- hang on. Hang on.

Ben, we've heard you on that. Here's my next question. Let me push it forward and just say, what if Congress says no? What if they don't authorize it and the president pulls the trigger?

FERGUSON: Well, I think that shows yet again lack of leadership from Barack Obama to put this out there and make it even weaker than it was before. He said it yesterday in his own words. I have the authority to do this without going to Congress.

Well, that's exactly what he should have done if he believed in it instead of allowing the politics of all the people that you just mentioned getting involved in an issue that he says is of national security.

And there are certain issues where I believe the president should lead on without going to congress because of the politics that you just laid out and described.

I mean, so many of the people right now that are looking at this and how they're going to vote on it are going to probably vote on it based on what they think is best for their re-election.

If it is an issue of national security, which obviously the president believes it is, then why risk that by going to Congress? I think at the core of this is this.

Barack Obama does not want this to be his decision and his legacy. That's why he punted to Congress. That's exactly why you're seeing all of these names be involved now which he could have avoided and he chose not to.

BALDWIN: Chris, you get the last word.

KOFINIS: I mean, it's just nonsensical. I mean, this argument that you're going to criticize the president for kicking to congress. Then if he acts in spite of congress he's wrong there again. I'm not going to sit there and criticize every Republican and Democrat --

FERGUSON: I never asked him to go to Congress.

KOFINIS: Again, I'm not going to --

FERGUSON: I never asked him to go to Congress.

KOFINIS: Brother, let me finish. I'm not going to sit there and criticize every Republican and Democrat who I think sincerely has an issue about why we should or should not do this.

But the reality here is, this is a very difficult issue, and the president is going to go out there, especially when he comes back from the G-20 meeting and make a very passionate case.

Let's hold off from the farfetched rhetoric about why he did this and why he didn't.

BALDWIN: Chris Kofinis, Ben Ferguson, gentlemen, thank you both.

Back after this.


BALDWIN: Oh, yeah. I can just about taste the wings and the beer. I don't need to tell you football fans what happens in just a couple hours. You already know.

You're anticipating the season opener tonight, the world champion Baltimore Ravens against the Denver Broncos.

Rachel Nichols is in Denver for the big game tonight. This won't be an easy win for either team, right?

RACHEL NICHOLS, CNN SPORTS: Yeah. Absolutely not.

You know, I got to tell you, it's expected to be more than 90 degrees at kickoff. Anyone out there who jogs probably has an idea what 90 degrees-plus temperatures would do to 300-plus pound guys running around.

It's also about an 80 degree swing from when these two teams met back in January in the playoffs, sub-freezing temperatures.

We're going to see a very different game, but Peyton Manning, looking for a little revenge for his Broncos after the Ravens broke their heart. Manning and the Broncos were on their way to the Super Bowl when the Ravens came from behind, won that game and, of course, as we know, won the Super Bowl.

It's interesting to see this game, Brooke, play against the larger issues. We've got so many people around the country so excited to see football back, just to see these guys hitting each other again.

But it's seeing these guys hitting each other again that's created so much of the off-season controversy, the violence in the game, the concussions, the $765 million settlement payout the NFL had to make.

It's going to be interesting to see as we go through tonight how it's all affected, how fans feel as they're watching tonight. I think a lot of fans just want to let go and watch some football.

BALDWIN: They do. But speaking of controversies, tell me about this billboard near the stadium calling on the NFL to stop punishing players for using marijuana?

NICHOLS: Yes. It's right outside. It's right in front of the stadium, Brooke.

As you probably know, Colorado recently legalized recreational marijuana louse. Von Miller is suspended for six games, won't be out here in part because of his marijuana use, a couple other drug testing issues.

It is a hot button topic. There's a group lobbying the NFL to say, hey, if it's legal for use in Colorado it should be legal for the players playing in that state to use it.

They're making the case on the billboard that you have players involved in drunk driving and other kinds of alcohol related incidents, so their attitude is, hey, why not just let them smoke pot, man?

BALDWIN: Rachel Nichols for us in Denver, Colorado, where, as you point out, recreational smoking, legal.

Coming up, back to the crisis in Syria and this number, did you hear this, 2 million? More than 2 million Syrian refugees have left their homes behind as the killing continues.

But it is putting tremendous pressure on the countries, the neighboring countries of Syria. We're going to take you to one camp here, live, next.


BALDWIN: Many adults, children, travel through the dark of night, the fighting in Syria forcing these people out of their own home country and into, really, uncertainty.

Here are the numbers. On average, every 15 seconds a Syrian becomes a refugee. More than 2 million people have fled Syria since the civil war began just about three years ago.

You're looking at a refugee camp. This is Jordan, a country now buckling under the weight of this refugee crisis.

And our senior international correspondent Nic Robertson joins me from Amman, Jordan.

And we know -- we're hearing, Nic, from all these U.S. lawmakers. They say there are so many refugees where you are that the word I'm hearing is destabilize, destabilize this neighboring country.

How bad is it?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's bad. The country's population here has swelled by 11 percent. The fourth largest city of Jordan is now a refugee camp with more than 140,000 people in it.

There are more than half a million refugees here. They, according to the Jordanians, they're taking jobs away from them, driving up food prices, driving up fuel prices.

This is the second wave of refugees this country has had to endure during a decade. There were many hundreds of thousands that came from Iraq during that crisis.

So this country is unstable because of the simple number of refugees that are here. Many people, many Jordanians, are afraid that more refugees could come.

The government here has built a whole other camp in the middle of the desert capable of holding about 150,000 more refugees.

They're worried, too, if there are missile strikes in Syria, there could be a wave of a hundred thousand refugees coming.

That's what people mean when they say that this weight of refugees is buckling the country. It's hurting the economy. It's politically destabilizing this country, at the best of times. Not that stable right now, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Nic Robertson on the reality of these refugees in these countries, Nic, thank you.

So many of you are watching our coverage, how can you help? You can. Go to We have included this entire list of organizations working in the region. There are ways you can help.

Here at home, a war of words over the city of Detroit. In fact, the mayor of Boston says it should be blown up.

I talked to Anthony Bourdain about that. He went to Detroit for this next season. What he said in response to Mayor Menino, you need to hear it for yourself.


BALDWIN: A poor choice of words, that's how Boston Mayor Tom Menino describes his controversial remarks saying he would blow up the city of Detroit.

His original comment was that he would love to live in Detroit but he would, quote, "blow the place up and start over."

That got a lot of flak from the Motor City. Detroit Mayor David Bing said in response, "I would think the mayor of a city that recently experienced a deadly bombing attack would be more sensitive and not use the phrase 'blow up.'"

I brought this point to Anthony Bourdain about this whole comment controversy. The reason I asked him is because Bourdain spent a lot of time in Detroit for this next season of "PARTS UNKNOWN."

Here's what he told me.


ANTHONY BOURDAIN, HOST, CNN'S "PARTS UNKNOWN": Wow. That's, first of all, a shameful, shameful thing to say about a city where just about everything great about America comes from, rock 'n' roll, the car.

It's a city with intractable problems, but it's a city with a lot of heart, great sense of humor and people in spite of all evidence and sometimes good sense insist on sticking it out, fighting it through, improvising and adapting.


BALDWIN: Can't wait to watch the next season of "PARTS UNKNOWN." Anthony Bourdain premieres September 15th, right here on CNN.

I'm Brooke Baldwin here at the world headquarters of CNN in Atlanta. Thank you so much for being with me. Back here same time tomorrow.

In the meantime, let's go to John Berman, in for Jake Tapper. "THE LEAD" starts right now.