Return to Transcripts main page
NEW DAY SATURDAY
Zimmerman's Wife Files for Divorce; G-20 Leaders Split over U.N. Mandate; Whooping Cough Breaks Out in Texas; Most of the Black Caucus is Undecided; Interview with Rep. Yvette Clarke; Interview with Rep. Alan Grayson; House Takes Up Syria Monday; Anti-War Protests Planned Today; Will President Have The Votes?; NASA Launches Moon Probe; Autopsy: Teen's Death Not An Accident; Mayoral Candidate Explodes At Heckler
Aired September 7, 2013 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I knew this was going to be a heavy lift.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): After the G-20 Summit, it may have gotten heavier, as a congressional vote looms on whether to strike Syria. The White House goes into full court press to win support at home and abroad.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So just to be clear, you're calling this a homicide.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: His death was ruled an accident. A new report calls his murder. Now one teen's family is calling it a cover- up and demanding answers.
MALVEAUX: An outbreak of whooping cough has sickened thousands and claimed two lives, but it's entirely preventable so why a massive epidemic? Good morning, everyone. I am Suzanne Malveaux.
BLACKWELL: I am Victor Blackwell. It's 8:00 here on the east coast. This is NEW DAY SATURDAY.
MALVEAUX: Welcome. First hard sell on Syria, the House returns from summer vacation on Monday and will plunge head first into a possible U.S. military strike on Syria. The Republican leaders say to expect a robust debate over the next couple of weeks.
BLACKWELL: And Tuesday, President Obama takes his case for a strike directly to the American people in a primetime address. CNN's Brian Todd reports it has been a dizzying week as the president scrambles for support.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: The United States should take military action against Syrian regime targets.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): But not right away. The president would first ask Congress. The next day, Sunday, the administration begins to make its case, that Syria's regime launched a poison gas attack killing 1,400 victims and that it's in America's interest to respond. On Monday, the president makes his pitch to Senator McCain, the he fought for the White House in 2008. McCain sounds supportive.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: We have to bring Bashar Al-Assad down.
TODD: Then on Tuesday at a White House meeting, the president presses top lawmakers to endorse a strike. House leaders say yes.
REPRESENTATIVE JOHN BOEHNER (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: We're not going to tolerate this type of behavior.
REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI (D) HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: He crossed the line with using chemical weapons.
TODD: But when administration officials face a Senate panel, there is a mixture of support and skepticism.
SENATOR RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: I don't know we can say that by attacking him he is not going to launch another chemical attack.
TODD: By Wednesday, the first test vote in a Senate panel, 10 senators support a strike on Syria, and seven oppose it. In the House the president's team faces another day of questioning by lawmakers.
JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: People shouldn't be allowed to gas their citizens with impunity.
REPRESENTATIVE ELIOT ENGEL (D), RANKING MEMBER, FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: There should be no American boots on the ground in Syria.
TODD: The president heads overseas taking his case abroad.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: I didn't set a red line. The world set a red line.
TODD: Thursday, the president arrives in Russia to press foreign leaders at the G-20 Summit, but the U.K., China and Russia oppose military intervention. Back home, polls are now showing initial public opinion leaning against a military strike and some lawmakers are getting an earful.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why are you not listening to the people and staying out of Syria. It's not our fight.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have to stop Bashar Al-Assad at any price.
TODD: On Friday after the summer, the president says he is ready to strike Syria with or without an international consensus. PRESIDENT OBAMA: The 1,400 people were gassed and if we are not acting, what does that say?
TODD: But he declines to say what he will do if Congress voted no.
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think the week started off very well for the president with support from the congressional leadership and the House leadership in both parties, John McCain, Lindsey Graham, but as it has gone on, it's really underscored the challenge that he faces.
MALVEAUX: Brian Todd is joining us live. Brian, CNN tally shows that the president still has an awful lot of work to do to get Congress on board, it's different from the House and the Senate, but essentially how is he going to do that? What is he facing this weekend and the days ahead?
TODD: Suzanne, Victor, he has a tough lobbying campaign ahead. It's going to take every ounce of the president's political talent and that of his top security team to convince Congress to vote for this measure, and even then it may not get it done. Let's look at the numbers. Right now in the Senate, it appears that the president is at least slightly ahead, he's got 25 yes votes authorizing the use of force against Syria, but there are 19 no votes and maybe more importantly, 56 undecided votes in the Senate.
In the House, it's much tougher for the president, 24 yes votes at the moment, and 119 no votes, 270 undecided, and 20 unknown, presumably members who have made up their minds, but just not revealing how they are going to vote and it's not clear at all, Victor and Suzanne, that the Democratic leaders in the House, Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer are going to be able to convince the majority of their members to vote in favor of the authorization. So the president has a very tough grind in the House spending all weekend along with the security team making phone calls.
BLACKWELL: All right, Brian Todd in Washington for us, thank you. We'll talk again soon.
MALVEAUX: President Obama has a difficult job convincing even U.S. allies on his quest for a strike on Syria so right now France is the only country that is onboard. There are some in the possible category, like Japan, Australia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Israel and the United Arab Emirates, and five that totally opposed the idea, Russia, China, Germany, the European Union and NATO.
BLACKWELL: There are people across the country calling for an end to the president's plan. It has really proven to be a tough sell for many Americans with nearly six out of 10 people opposed to an attack against Syria.
MALVEAUX: CNN Rosa Flores is in New York where Syrian-Americans are expected to march later today and CNN's Emily Schmidt is in Washington where they will see more protests as well. Rosa, let's just start with you here. I had a chance to speak with Syrian-Americans this week and they seem to be split. What are they telling you?
ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, they are pretty split, but they are firm on one thing, and their common message is hands off Syria. What they are doing is they are using Skype to organize, the name of the organization is the "Syrian-American Forum," and they have about 2,000 members across the country and they are planning to be here today in New York to march, but their biggest event yet is a march on Washington, and that's planned for Monday
And they tell me that they plan to bus families from as far as Florida and Michigan to Washington, D.C. to deliver the message to ask Congress not to take action in Syria, and they told me that what some of their biggest fears is the loss of life and they also worry a lot about the destruction of infrastructure.
I was able to Skype with one person, a doctor in Damascus, and they are telling us that they are afraid of destruction of infrastructure, and so there is a lot of fear. Of course, the Syrian-Americans who are here and constantly in contact with Syrian-Americans, they are afraid the next time they call their family member will not be able to pick up.
BLACKWELL: All right, Rosa Flores for us in New York, thank you.
Let's go to Washington now where protesters are planning their own demonstrations. CNN's Emily Schmidt joins us from the bureau. Emily, they are planning to put pressure on the president and Congress. Tell us how they are doing this.
EMILY SCHMIDT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Victor, good morning to you. All a question of timing here because you think about this, President Obama just back in Washington after that trip abroad to the G-20 Summit, now the full-court press is certainly on in the home front. The "Answer Coalition" today is trying to put some pressure, show him resistance to his efforts, right outside the front door.
"Answer Coalition" is a group that opposes war. They are planning a rally outside the White House. Started the schedule in about four hours they will gather there and then marching to the U.S. capitol, that's a path that is symbolic when it comes to this particular issue. As we know, President Obama has gone to Congress to try to get approval there for any military strikes.
The House is going to return from summer vacation on Monday. Even on break though many lawmakers have already heard from the White House, a senior administration official told CNN top officials have reached out to more than 125 members over the past two weeks. Members of Congress have also heard from their constituents at town hall meetings and events back in the districts. A vote in the House could still be a week or two away, and that is giving these opposition groups more time to organize and try to get their voices heard.
Last weekend, we saw a protest from the same group that is going to be protesting today and as we heard from Rosa, they are also promoting that next march on Washington scheduled for Monday by the Syrian- American Forum, set to coincide with House members returning to their offices on Capitol Hill -- Suzanne and Victor.
BLACKWELL: Emily, we heard from members of Congress, and we have been hearing from them all week, although there are some who potentially want to support the president, this is very unpopular with a lot of their constituents. Have you spoken with members about which way they are leaning and which leads here, the element that they are representing their constituents, or that they have to use their own conscience and their own judgment?
SCHMIDT: It's a good question, until they push that button to vote, we won't know which the clear leader on this is, but it is something that's tearing people even party loyalists. Yesterday, I spent some time with Congressman Gerry Connolly. He is a Democrat from Northern Virginia. He said the main thing he is hearing from his constituents is they don't want to get involved in Syria. So I said, with that in mind, Congress is going to say no to the president? Here is what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPRESENTATIVE GERRY CONNOLLY (D), VIRGINIA: If the vote were held today, we would. There is a lot that is going to happen within Congress and in public opinion and in the international community between now and when we take that vote, so I still think that it's a work in progress and it's too early to predict one way or the other.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHMIDT: He says he hopes that some language can be found that builds consensus working towards a yes vote, fearing what happens if the U.S. does nothing at all, but as he said so much up in the air.
MALVEAUX: All right, CNN's Emily Schmidt in Washington, thank you. You know, Victor, I mean, it's interesting because the president cancelled his trip in California so they could lobby, go ahead and lobby these lawmakers. He is under a lot of pressure. He is going to be advertising and talking to the nation on Tuesday.
BLACKWELL: He's got a lot of work to do. Let's talk about a different international story now, America's unlikely diplomat, Dennis Rodman. This morning the worm left North Korea after spending five days in the communist state and it's not clear what he was up on his second basketball diplomacy tour. He didn't do anything to help free an American doing 15 years hard labor, but he reportedly meet again with his, quote, "friend," the dictator, Kim Jong-Un.
MALVEAUX: And a magnificent cite in the sky after NASA launches an unmanned rocket to the moon, watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we have liftoff.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: The launch was a historic one. The 90-foot rocket took off from Virginia on Friday night. It was the first time NASA launched a rocket to the moon from Virginia in its 54 years of lunar missions. NASA says the probe is designed to study the lunar atmosphere and environment. The probe will travel more than 223,000 miles before it reaches its destination on October 6. If you live along the eastern seaboard, there is a chance that you actually got to see that launch.
BLACKWELL: Clear skies in some states including Maine, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and some people saw it.
MALVEAUX: Let's bring in CNN's Alexandra Steele. So how's the weather play in all of this?
ALEXANDRA STEELE, AMS METEOROLOGIST: You know, the weather played a really interesting role and will play. Now before Ladee, what we had was communications done from space to earth through radio waves, and with Ladee, it actually does. Communication here will be done with the laser. So think a very narrow laser beam, you know, how small that is and the focus that it is.
So the problem with that is it can't be sent through rain and clouds are even difficult, so you need sunshine. So what they have done is placed three detectors here on earth in some very sunny places, New Mexico, California and Spain to insure a clear connection because the weather will be clear and thus the connection sending the pictures or images and sounds as well.
In terms of the weather, we have heat. That's the story. Denver for the last three days has had record heat all the way from Arizona to Denver to Louisiana, some intense heat. Today beautiful weather in Florida today, 86 degrees, so very warm, actually warmer in Minnesota than in Miami today and also Athens, the game of course.
South Carolina and Georgia, temperatures there with sunshine mid and upper 80s so incredible warmth around a lot of the country, Victor and Suzanne. Northwest, that's where the rain and flooding is.
MALVEAUX: All right, thanks, Alexandra. Appreciate it.
BLACKWELL: Still ahead on NEW DAY, was it an accident or murder. We'll have my exclusive interview with the parents of a Georgia teen found dead in a rolled gym mat.
MALVEAUX: A classic New York smackdown, a mouthful of pastry, mayoral candidate, Anthony Weiner goes off in a Brooklyn bakery.
MALVEAUX: Scary moment at a high school football game. This was last night in Ohio. Students cheered on their football team and the bleachers collapsing under their feet. You can see it there, slamming dozes of young fans to the ground. Five students were hurt in the fall, but thankfully none of the injuries were serious.
BLACKWELL: It was ruled an accident, a Georgia teenager found dead rolled in a gym mat, but now a new independent autopsy shows what Kendrick Johnson's parents have believed all along that their son was murdered.
Earlier this week, I got a chance to sit down with Kendrick's parents to find out what they've learned and how far they will go to get some answers.
BLACKWELL (voice-over): Kenneth and Jacquelyn Johnson now say science supports what they thought all along, that their 17-year-old son Kendrick was murdered at his high school in Valdosta, Georgia.
KENNETH JOHNSON, KENDRICK JOHNSON'S FATHER: An accident we just didn't believe.
BLACKWELL: Soon after Kendrick's body was discovered upside down in the center of this gym mat, investigators determined there was no foul play and Kendrick accidently got stuck while reaching for this shoe. The official finding of the state's autopsy, positional asphyxia, that Kendrick was suffocated by his own body weight.
KENNETH JOHNSON: When I went and viewed his body that Sunday, you can see something happened.
BLACKWELL: So could the first responders. In the report written the day Kendrick's body was discovered, paramedics considered the gym a crime scene and after a closer look at Kendrick, there was bruising noted to right side jaw. At the Johnson's expense, Kendrick's body was exhumed. Forensic Pathologist Dr. Bill Anderson performed a second autopsy and checked the right side jaw. He found something surprising.
DR. BILL ANDERSON, FORENSIC PATHOLOGIST: That area where the trauma had occurred had not been defected. It was still intact. So it had never been opened at the time of the first autopsy.
BLACKWELL: And there is no mention of those bruises in the state's official autopsy or the local crime lab's report.
ANDERSON: There was hemorrhage indicating trauma to the area and that trauma basically causes blood to come out of the blood vessels into the soft tissues. By looking at that we are able to diagnose the fact that there was indeed blunt force trauma to that area.
BLACKWELL (on camera): So he took blows to the neck?
ANDERSON: He took at least one blow to the neck.
BLACKWELL: So just to be clear, you're calling this a homicide?
BLACKWELL (voice-over): A spokeswoman for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation tells CNN we have complete confidence in our medical examiners and stand by our autopsy report.
ANDERSON: I've never had a case that I can recall where the prosecution actually was told that this may well be a homicide, and the prosecution, the state, police and so forth and then didn't bother prosecuting. It's just -- it's mystifying.
BLACKWELL (on camera): This is the first time you've called a case a homicide and everyone backed away?
ANDERSON: Pretty much so. The only other times were a couple cases where there was a deliberate cover up of the case by people involved in the investigation or associated with people who just didn't want the facts to come out.
BLACKWELL (voice-over): The U.S. Justice Department is considering whether to get involved.
KENNETH JOHNSON: If they don't come in, they are only sending a message to the world you can kill as long as you can get away with it.
BLACKWELL (on camera): Do you still talk to Kendrick?
JACQUELYN JOHNSON, KENDRICK JOHNSON'S MOTHER: Yes.
BLACKWELL: What do you say?
JACQUELYN JOHNSON: Sometimes I ask him what happened. I want -- sometimes I blame myself for not being there.
BLACKWELL: How long are you willing to fight?
KENNETH JOHNSON: Until I die. If it takes me until I die, I will fight until I die.
BLACKWELL: Now the Justice Department is still reviewing this case. The U.S. attorney in Georgia, Michael Moore, says that he would like to speak with the family's pathologist about that autopsy, but they say, the Justice Department, that they will not investigate this as a civil rights violation.
MALVEAUX: Yelling and finger jabbing, it's a recipe for a bakery smackdown. Anthony Weiner blowing up when a voter talks trash about his wife.
BLACKWELL: It's 23 minutes -- 24 minutes after the hour now. Politicians, they sometimes say the darnedest things.
MALVEAUX: Time for the regular weekend look at "Politicians Say What?" Well, New York voters who are going to cast their ballots Tuesday in the city's Democratic mayoral primary. There is no secret Anthony Weiner's campaign has lost some tracks because of the sexting scandals, but he is still confronted by the public from time to time.
BLACKWELL: Yes, Weiner blew up in a Brooklyn bakery when a heckler called him a derogatory name, and then said to him, you are married to an Arab.
ANTHONY WEINER (D), NYC MAYORAL CANDIDATE: What if I told that you're my judge.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fine -- work out problems, just stay out of the public life.
WEINER: I'm not -- that's not for you to judge, my friend.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
WENER: I don't judge you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're a bad example for the people. No, it's obvious --
WEINER: That's why we have elections. You are perfect, and you are going to judge me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm telling -- I am not out there in the public.
WEINER: You know who judges me? Go visit with your rabbi. Shows how much you know.
BLACKWELL: Here is Weiner after he calmed down. Did he give this outburst a second thought?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WEINER: You are allowed to stay stuff to me, but if you are going to say vile things about me and my family, you should expect that I am going to go back at you. Hecklers don't get a chance to get the last word if they cross the line.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: Weiner's outburst is all over the internet. He posted it on his campaign web site. He is defending his wife.
BLACKWELL: Responses are split. You know, if you were to listen to it without it coming out of Weiner's mouth, would you disagree with him? I think that sometimes that because Weiner is saying it, some people are split on it. But you can go on and read the comments yourself online on the video.
The debate over a Syria strike, the view from Congress, we will talk with a Florida congressman that says America should stay far away from Syria and its civil war.
MALVEAUX: But first, John Berman has a preview of your money coming up an hour from now. Good morning, John. JOHN BERMAN, ANCHOR, CNN'S "EARLY START": Hi, Suzanne and Victor, a vote on military action in Syria looms. The president reaching out to a Congress that has blocked him at nearly every turn. Christiane Amanpour will join me at 9:30 a.m. Eastern with a look at how U.S. political dysfunction is threatening America's standing in the world. That's all coming up on a brand-new "YOUR MONEY" at 9:30.
MALVEAUX: Top of the hour now, welcome back, everybody. I am Suzanne Malveaux.
BLACKWELL: I am Victor Blackwell.
Here are five things you need to know for your NEW DAY.
Number one Secretary of State John Kerry is pressing European leaders to back a U.S. strike on Syria. He's talking today with more than a dozen EU foreign ministers in Lithuania and then he'll fly to Paris. Now France is the only country that's pledged to take part in U.S. military action against Syria.
MALVEAUX: Number two we're just hours away from finding out which city will host the 2020 summer Olympics. The final contenders are Istanbul, Madrid and Tokyo. Representatives have been making their final pitches to the International Olympic Committee this week in Buenos Aires you can watch the announcement live around 4:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.
Number three, America's unlikely diplomat, Dennis Rodman. He's in Beijing after a trip to North Korea, still not clear what the former NBA star was up to on his second basketball diplomacy tour. He did not help free an American man doing 15 years hard labor. Mr. Rodman reportedly met again with his quote, "friend", the reclusive dictator, Kim Jong-Un.
BLACKWELL: Four now, NASA is headed to the moon, this 90-foot rocket took off last night from Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. NASA says the unmanned probe nicknamed Ladee will study the lunar atmosphere and environment. Now it'll have more -- to travel more, rather, than 223 miles to get to the moon, and it's expected to arrive October 6th.
MALVEAUX: Number five, Shellie Zimmerman stood by her man during his high profile murder trial in June. Well now she is calling it quits. George Zimmerman's wife has filed for divorce. She told ABC News her husband has changed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHELLIE ZIMMERMAN, GEORGE ZIMMERMAN'S WIFE: In my opinion, he feels more invincible. I just think he is making some reckless decisions. I have a selfish husband and I think George is all about George.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: Shellie Zimmerman pleaded guilty last month to lying about the couple's finances.
BLACKWELL: A CNN count shows President Obama is facing an uphill battle to get Congress to go along with his plan to attack Syria.
MALVEAUX: So our tally shows 25 confirmed yes votes in the Senate and 19 no votes, we count 24 yes votes in the House and 119 nos.
BLACKWELL: Now the President is working hard to get Congress onboard. At the G-20 summit in Russia this week he also tried to convince world leaders with little success. The President says the group split overall whether a retaliatory strike should get a U.N. mandate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Given Security Council paralysis on this issue, if we are serious about upholding a ban on chemical weapons use, then an international response is required and that will not come through Security Council action. And that's where I think the division comes from.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACKWELL: Florida Democratic Congressman Alan Grayson joins us this morning from Orlando he is on the record as a firm no vote. Congressman, good to have you.
MALVEAUX: You and I had chance to --
REP. ALAN GRAYSON (D), FLORIDA: Thanks.
MALVEAUX: -- speak earlier in the week and I wanted to ask you, first of all, is there any circumstance that you would change your mind here, that you would agree that the use of military force would be an acceptable alternative? Anything that you want to hear from the President or his advisers?
GRAYSON: Well first let me correct the record. If you go to the "Washington Post" Web site and many other Web sites, like Fire.leg, the Hill and so on you'll see that the count currently is 25 in favor in the House and 224 against; 217 is the majority of the House right now. A majority of the members of the House have already indicated their opposition to this and the ratio is now 9 to 1 against in the House which is actually pretty close to the public's ratio at this point as well.
But to answer your question, what I need to see is that America is threatened directly. Our allies are threatened directly or that there is genocide. We have a Department of Defense. The Department of Defense is not the Department of Offense. It exists in order to protect Americans and protect our allies. And the President hasn't shown any direct threat to any Americans or allies at this point. Nor do I expect him to be able to do so.
BLACKWELL: Congressman, I want to read part of the op-ed from the "New York Times" that you wrote this week. I'm going to put it up on the screen too. And it says "We have reached the point where the classified information system prevents even trusted members of Congress who have security clearances from learning essential facts, and then inhibits them from discussing and debating what they do know and this extends to matters of war and peace, blood and money. the security state is drowning in its own phlegm."
To the people who have a breakfast this morning excuse us for that last a little bit. But are you saying here that the administration throughout this entire op-ed is intentionally hiding information about Syria and what they know and they are trying to mislead both Congress and the American people?
GRAYSON: I stand by what I said. The administration is asking us to go to war on the basis of a four-page document and a 12-page document and none of the underlying evidence. Members of Congress all of whom have classified clearance have not been shown any -- any of the underlying intelligence reports, not any of them. And the result of that is that every bit of information that the administration releases is meant to encourage war, encourage this attack, and we're not hearing both sides of the story.
In fact the administration has actually said that it's trying to flood the zone with information to get us into this war and completely foreclose information that the public and the Congress needs to hear to avoid this war. There are two sides to every story, and let's hear the other side.
MALVEAUX: And Congressman, just -- are there any other options that you would be on board? And I know there are a lot of things that people are talking about -- a 45-day waiting period to have Assad sign some sort of treaty banning chemical weapons used getting rid of his chemical weapons. And there is also the idea of further sanctions to the U.N. Is there anything that you're actually offering or you're putting on the table?
GRAYSON: Yes, certainly. You know, the President said three months ago that he thought that we should be arming the rebels and he was going to do so. Here it is three months later, as far as I can tell the rebels haven't received a single weapon. That would certainly have an effect on the balance of power in Syria.
In addition to that we have two million refugees who desperately need humanitarian relief. I think that we should do our best to help the living. Our bombing by the way would cause further outflow of at least a million people, at least a million people further would have to leave their homes and I think that we should deal with this problem on a practical basis.
The fundamental problem on the President's strategy is not a question of some kind of moral element lacking. The fundamental problem is that it's not going to do any good and in fact it could do a great deal of harm, including dragging us into a third war in the Middle East. And people understand that. At our Web site Dontattacksyria.com, 70,000 people have come to that Web site in a very short period of time and signed our petition because they don't want any more war.
BLACKWELL: Congressman I've got to ask you about one of the alternatives you proposed, arming the rebels. The question is which group of rebels? Secretary of State Kerry said that he knows of at least 11 groups who are the really bad rebels. He admits that they are aligned with al Qaeda. Are we -- the U.S. rather is the country confident that they know which guys there are the good guys, so to speak?
GRAYSON: Well that's one of the fundamental problems in our trying to stick our finger in this quagmire. Up to this point it's been a civil war, it has nothing to do with what's happened in other territories. We might change that because Syria and Iran have a mutual defense pact so if we attack Syria, then under its mutual defense pact, Iran might attack our interests.
But leaving that aside what we have now in a situation that is an ugly situation, hard to understand and it's evolving into a grudge match between crazy Sunni fundamentalists and crazy Shiite fundamentalist, a war that's been going on now for 1,300 years and we have no chance of ending. I don't understand why we have a dog in that fight.
MALVEAUX: Florida Congressman Alan Grayson in Orlando -- thank you very much. Appreciate it.
The conversation is continuing in just a few minutes with Congresswoman Yvette Clarke she is a New York Democrat who is still undecided at this point and as you can hear the congressman, it's still very much a heated debate.
BLACKWELL: And most congressmen -- although the Congressman quoted uphold that says that more than 200 said that there are no votes, most of the congressmen are still undecided more than 200 from our tally.
Texas has not had a whooping cough outbreak like this in 50 years. So what's behind the spike in the number of cases and what authorities are doing to stop it?
BLACKWELL: Seventeen minutes until the top of the hour.
Health officials in Colorado say synthetic marijuana may be tied to three deaths in their state and they are urging people to just stop using it. Since late last month 75 people who said they smoke the drug have shown up at hospitals. Now synthetic pot is a blend of plant and herbal materials sprayed with chemicals and officials consider it extra toxic.
MALVEAUX: And now a happy ending after a year of searching. A South Carolina man may have found a kidney donor for his wife. Larry Swilling (ph) wore signs, he slapped messages on his vehicle all for his wife Jeannie Sue (ph) who was born with a failing kidney. Well now a donor reportedly has come forward and if the two are a match Jeannie Sue could have surgery as soon as next week.
BLACKWELL: That's amazing. He did all he could. He said I will stand outside with a sign if I have to.
Hey the Food and Drug and Administration is trying to calm fears over how much is the toxin arsenic is in rice, the FDA says that while arsenic can be found in rice, there is not enough to be dangerous. An earlier study by Consumer Reports has sparked concern over the safety of rice. Now arsenic is commonly found in soil which can make its way into food.
And whooping cough is making a comeback now.
BLACKWELL: In Texas and in other states health officials are scrambling to contain it before it gets any worse. CNN's senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is following the story. Good morning.
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, Victor it's a perfect storm for whooping cough. Back to school time means that kids are back together again in close quarters and a vaccine that wanes over time.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COHEN (voice-over): The awful sound of whooping cough -- a brutal cough that can last for months, a potentially fatal illness, especially for babies in young children who haven't had a chance to get all their shots yet.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They actually have spells of apnea where they stop breathing, so one to two out of 100 infants actually can die from this.
COHEN: Sixteen states in Washington, D.C. are seeing an increase in cases compared to this time last year. More than 2,000 cases so far in Texas alone claiming the lives of two babies. The state is on course to have its worst whooping cough outbreak in over 50 years. Officials this week issuing a health alert warning Texans that vaccinations are vital.
But the effectiveness of the whooping cough vaccines fades quickly. By age 11 only seven out 10 kids are still fully protected. that's why the Centers for Disease Control recommends a booster shot for preteens to protect themselves and any babies they could unwittingly infect.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COHEN: Adults should also get a booster shot if they didn't get one when they were a teen or a preteen. It's especially important if you have a baby so that you don't give your baby whooping cough -- Victor, Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: All right. Elizabeth Cohen thank you very much. Appreciate it.
BLACKWELL: Still to come, they're some of the President's most reliable supporters, but a lot of the members of the Congressional Black Caucus are hesitant to back military action in Syria. We'll talk with the leader of the group -- next.
But first --
MALVEAUX: An open court sports preview, tennis star Rafael Nadal hopes to overcome knee problems as he tries to advance to the U.S. Open final later today.
CNN's Don Riddell caught up with him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DON RIDDELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A rare sight on the island of Cozumel, a relaxed Rafael Nadal enjoying the sand and surf in Mexico. After months out with a knee injury, he is back.
(on camera): Did you ever think you might have to retire? Did it ever get that bad?
RAFAEL NADAL, PRO TENNIS PLAYER: No. No, I am very positive. No, no. That's part of our careers. We are professional athletes. We bring our body to the limit.
RIDDELL: When you feel the pain in your knee when you are playing, does it affect you mentally?
NADAL: Sure. Yes. When you break a leg, you break an arm, you know, you know that you have for example six months. And this kind of injury is little bit harder because you really don't know what is happening sometimes.
RIDDELL (voice over): While some fear the sun was setting on Rafael Nadal's career, now many have hope that a new chapter is just beginning.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: President Obama's call for military action in Syria proving to be a tough sell, even among some of his strongest supporters.
BLACKWELL: That includes the 43 members of the Congressional Black Caucus, all Democrats. National security advisor, Susan Rice, has been dispatched to drum up their support but they come from heavily Democratic districts that are skeptical of military action.
MALVEAUX: By CNN's latest count, of the 43 members of the Black Caucus, four have indicated they will vote "yes" for military action, five have indicate that they will vote "no".
BLACKWELL: So joining us now is Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, a Democrat from New York who is undecided so far. It's good to have you with us. You are third in leadership for the caucus. You say that you are right now on pause. Why?
REP. YVETTE CLARKE (D), NEW YORK: Well, I think it's important to give the President a hearing. I have yet to be briefed with the classified information that has led the President and the administration to make this decision. I think it's important that we hear all of the evidence that has been provided to members prior to jumping to judgment.
MALVEAUX: And Congresswoman, you're going to be hearing from national security advisor Susan Rice in the coming days here. What specifically would you like to hear from her that might sway you in terms of supporting the President for a military strike?
CLARKE: Well, it's going to be important that we get his rationale, that we understand the limitations of the strike, what it will mean if there is retaliation, what is the United States prepared to do, what the cost will be financially for this nation to involve itself in this way. There are a whole host of questions that still need to be answered for the American people, and certainly for my constituents.
BLACKWELL: Congresswoman, there is something you said to a "USA Today" reporter that kind of jumped off the page for me and I want to put it up and ask you about it. You talk about a humanitarian crisis on the home front. And here is what you said. "When I look at the children in Syria being gassed by their own leader and I see a one- year-old child shot in the head in my own district and the national government not doing anything to end the gun trafficking that led to that tragedy, I feel the same level of pain."
So here's the question, is one government as guilty as the other in so far that is the Obama administration as responsible for the death of that one-year-old shot in the head in your district as Bashar al Assad is to the children who were gassed in Syria.
CLARKE: It's certainly a stretch to attribute that to the Obama administration --
BLACKWELL: But those are your words, "This national government is not doing anything to end the gun trafficking."
CLARKE: Certainly -- when I say the national government, I think Congress also has a role. You stretched it to the administration. The Congress is not acting on gun control measures. So I think that we all have a responsibility here to focus our attentions on domestic agendas and this action that's being taken in Syria, to me is a diversion away from a whole host of things that the Congress itself has not acted on in the best interest of the American people.
MALVEAUX: Congresswoman, when you say it's a diversion, it sounds like you are leaning towards not supporting a military strike in Syria.
CLARKE: I am not leaning as of yet. I am waiting to be briefed and as soon as I am briefed I will have a better sense of whether this makes sense. Whether it makes sense for our nation and whether it makes sense for my constituents.
MALVEAUX: Are there any other alternative plans that you would get onboard with that is shy of a military strike? I know they are talking about further sanctions with the U.N. Security Council or potentially giving Assad a 45-day waiting period to sign off on some sort of chemical weapons treaty. Is there anything that you have heard that you could support at this time?
CLARKE: I think there should be an all of the above approach to this. I mean I think that military strikes, you know, we are using force. This could be a declaration of war in the eyes of some in the region. And so we need to be able to make sure we exhaust every measure at our disposal as we look at this option of the military strike.
Now, I know that we are waiting the U.N. weapons inspectors' report, and it would seem to me that we would give that report a fair hearing and that we would use our diplomatic might as well in the U.N. at the General Assembly; doesn't necessarily have to be the Security Council in order to get a whole host of nations on board here.
MALVEAUX: Ok. Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, thank you so much for your time this morning. Appreciate it.
CLARKE: Thank you for having me.
MALVEAUX: The conversation, of course, will continue next hour Representative Mike Hoffman, he's a Republican from Colorado.
BLACKWELL: This is a huge turn. Some say that twerking promotes promiscuity. But did you know it could cause fires, too? One of the craziest (inaudible) you'll see next on NEW DAY.
MALVEAUX: Apparently Miley Cyrus's controversial twerking performance at the MTV Video Music Awards should come with a warning, for some at least, right?
BLACKWELL: Yes. In a video that's gone viral, a young woman trying to twerk manages to fall down, smash a table and just sets herself on fire. I am not making this up, look.
MALVEAUX: All right. We certainly hope that she is ok.
MALVEAUX: We haven't really been able to authenticate whether or not this is -- but it's pretty crazy video.
BLACKWELL: Yes, sometimes these things are hoaxes but we hope she's all right.
Thanks for starting your morning with us.
MALVEAUX: We have much more ahead. NEW DAY SATURDAY continues right now.