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Obama's Push To Punish Syria; Poll Shows Wide Opposition To Syria; How Can President Convince On Syria?; Carnival Ride Accident; Pounding Rains Punish Utah Towns; Rodman Refuses to Negotiate Bae's Release; New Poll Numbers on Syria

Aired September 9, 2013 - 06:00   ET


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: CUOMO: Good morning, everybody. Welcome to "NEW DAY." It is Monday, September 9th, six o'clock in the east. And this week may be one of the most critical for Barack Obama's presidency. The president is putting all of his political muscle into winning support for a strike on Syria. He will be doing multiple interviews today, all of them mere warm-ups for his sit down with the one and only Wolf Blitzer right here on CNN.

There's also going to be a major moment tomorrow night when the president addresses the nation. He's even going to try out one of his secret weapons. We'll tell you in just a moment and also break down that exclusive new poll we have.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Now very interesting and very telling as to where the American people are right now on this issue. And then also this, most everyone watched, who watched Diana Nyad last week came away inspired. How could you not inspired that she not only did it, but that she never gave up after so many attempts?

But now she and her team are coming under fire, some in the ultra- competitive world of marathon swimming are questioning if she really did it and she is fighting back this morning. We'll have that.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Also the dramatic online confession that had a lot of people talking over the weekend. A young man from Ohio admitting in this online video that he killed a man during a drunk driving accident. Now he is set to be indicted today. The family of that victim is speaking out to us. Did they believe his confession? Do they believe it shouldn't earn him any leniency? We'll take a look.

BOLDUAN: Good questions, but up first this morning, the president's big push to punish Syria. Congress returns today after a month-long recess. Summer break issue number one, whether to give the president the authority to use military force against the Assad regime. It will be one tough sell as you well know and here is another reason why it will.

Brand-new CNN/ORC poll showing 55 percent of Americans oppose military action in Syria even if Congress approves it. We're going to break down more about this poll with our John King in just a moment. You want see that. The White House, though, is trying to make its case this morning with Secretary of State John Kerry stressing U.S. intelligence on Syria's chemical attack moments ago. Listen here.


JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We know by tracing it physically, where the rockets came from. It is no accident that they all came from regime control territory.


BOLDUAN: CNN's coverage of the crisis in Syria begins with the CNN's senior White House correspondent Brianna Keilar. Good morning, Brianna.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Kate. President Obama has a big problem convincing Congress. It's with his own party, his former political arm, "Organizing for America" has been mum on Syria. Now, he's looking to his former secretary of state for some help.


KEILAR (voice-over): President Obama getting some high powered help from none other than Hillary Clinton. A source telling CNN, she'll speak out on Syria when she comes here today for an unrelated event. The president needs the support. A new CNN/ORC poll shows 59 percent of Americans say Congress should not authorize U.S. military action in Syria. Trying to avoid a damaging defeat, he's pulling out all the stops, including interviews today with CNN's Wolf Blitzer and other major news networks, before a speech to the nation Tuesday night.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We cannot turn a blind eye to images like the ones we've seen out of Syria.

KEILAR: Images of children dying from nerve gas, videos the president's team has been showing senators in secret to get their votes, first obtained by CNN, now made available for all Americans to see. Obama's chief of staff also on a media blitz appearing on all five Sunday talk shows.

DENIS MCDONOUGH, CHIEF OF STAFF: I hope that before any member of Congress makes his decision on how to vote, they take a look at that video that you all made available to the world yesterday. Take a look at that and try to turn away from that.

KEILAR: Those videos expected to be shown at closed door briefings starting today for all members of Congress, returning for the dramatic debate and vote. To turn the tide, the president unexpectedly showed up Sunday night at a dinner hosted by Vice President Joe Biden to sell Republican senators on Syria. Today he's sending National Security Adviser Susan Rice to the Congressional Black Caucus, but opposition is growing even among Democrats.

MARK UDALL (D), SENATOR OF COLORADO: My heart is broken when I see that video and you see women and children dying as a result of chemical weapons, but the big question for the Congress right now is what is the most effective way to move forward? JIM MCGOVERN (D), U.S. REPRESENTATIVE FOR MASSACHUSETTS: If I was the president, I would withdraw my request for the authorization at this particular point. I don't believe the support is there in Congress.


KEILAR: Now Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad is also making his case. He said in an interview to Charlie Rose in CBS News, there has been no evidence that I used chemical weapons against my own people. Now the White House responded to that by saying that they're not surprised someone who used chemical weapons against his own people would also lie about it -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right, thank you very much, Brianna. Appreciate the reporting. Let's break down this morning's brand new poll numbers with our poll master, Mr. John King, CNN's chief national correspondent, joining us from Washington. All right, the headline is we don't want to do this. That's what the American people are saying, but John, take us through what we see in the numbers.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, let's look behind those numbers, Chris. You mentioned the headline, that's a pretty steep hill for the president. Nearly six in 10 Americans saying, Mr. President don't do this, we don't support military strikes against Syria. So what would happen if Congress votes yes, if the president can get the votes? That is a huge if on this Monday morning.

If the president can get the votes, look, support goes up a little bit. This is in the end here. Support goes up a bit to 43 percent, 43 percent of Americans would support the president if he gets the votes. But if he doesn't get the votes, let's go back to that graphic there. He had 71 percent of the American people, 71 percent of the American people will get there eventually, I'm sure.

The 71 percent of the American people say don't do it, Mr. President, if Congress votes no. So Chris, that's the steep hill for the president this week. He goes to see Republicans last night, a full court press, including all the interviews and the address this week. The president understands these numbers. To get reluctant members of Congress, he has to swing especially that baseline number, six in 10 Americans say no right now. He has to at least try to get up to majority support.

CUOMO: So on this point, a pretty clear message, we don't want to you do it. If they pass the resolution, we don't want you to do it. If they don't pass the resolution, you better not do it. All right, that's that headline. Second one is a little more optimistic for the administration. On the issue of intelligence, there has been all this criticism that the case hasn't been made, but according to the poll, the American people have somewhat more of a comfort level of what they believe happened there, yes?

KING: Yes, but, and I emphasize but and underlined but. Here's where you see some hangover from Iraq, but first, let's look at this, is it true, did Bashar Al-Assad do this? The 28 percent of the American people say certainly, 54 percent likely so add up the numbers right there. An overwhelming majority essentially nine in 10 Americans say they believe the administration when it says the Syrian regime did this.

That's the argument that they did, but do they want to do something about it? I just want to show you a comparison to Iraq. Right before the Iraq war, we asked this question. This is do they have chemical weapons? Look at this, more than nine in 10 Americans then and one of the factors now, Chris, is that more than nine in 10 Americans back in 2003 thought Saddam Hussein had these weapons, right?

When the Bush administration made the case, of course, they were never found. So the skepticism from this is affecting people's opinions, even though they believe that Bashar Al-Assad did this heinous things, they still don't think the Americans have a good plan just yet. They don't think their president has an effective plan for military strikes. Even though they think a crime was committed. They don't want this president to use the military to deal with it.

CUOMO: Some key distinctions to remember, they were waving the flag of weapons of mass destruction, which an ominous toll line. We kept being told that Saddam Hussein want to kill us, which also motivates your desire to get involved, one would think. Let me ask you something. Can you give me another example where you saw a president pushing an agenda that had this much personal opinion from the American people against it?

KING: Part of it is the times, you can go back in the Reagan administration. They have the support to get rid of Noriega, for Grenada. You go back to the Clinton administration. I remember when they sent in the military to restore the Arab state government in Haiti, it was very unpopular when they did that. Not at these numbers, not the visceral, part of this is the reflection of the polarized politics we live in, right now, Chris.

And part of it also is a reflection of the age we live in, the Twitter verse, the constant videos and the like, so you can go back and find some historical poll numbers, maybe when you saw our president with the steep hill, but not in times like we live. Not in the politics like we live in.

CUOMO: Do think one thing this poll makes very clear is that if the resolution doesn't get passed, there is very little chance the president goes forward on his own?

KING: Well, his aides say that he doesn't want to answer that question directly right now. The president himself said that. But if the resolution does not pass, let's look at some of the president's positions. I mean, the president can do a couple of things. He can launch strikes, anyway, and remember, he says he has that constitutional authority. He's on the record. He's way out there saying we must act. The question is will he change the definition of act if he can't pass this resolution?

He could wait for the United Nations to act, but first we have been through the politics of that. Russia and China showed no, no willingness to budge especially Russia and he could do some other steps, increase humanitarian aid, increase weapons aid and increase covert operations. But look the president has made clear, he believes the United States must do something from a military perspective, that is option one as he begins a huge week of lobbying.

CUOMO: It seems like the big obstacle is still the fundamental question of why. He'll get his chance to talk about that tomorrow night. John, thanks for the analysis. We are going to keep bringing you on to the show so we can go through this poll, digest it, and make sense of it for everybody. We'll be back to you in a little bit.

To press the president on why this is going to happen and answer other fundamental issues, who better to question the president than Wolf Blitzer. Tonight, he goes one on one with President Obama over Syria. That's at 6:00 p.m. Eastern. Following that, "CROSSFIRE" is back. That will be tonight at 6:30 Eastern. Two things to keep on your menu settings for what to do tonight, you got the big interview and then you got the big fight about it right afterwards.

BOLDUAN: Two big programming notes to remind everyone about. We do want also turn to some other big news we're watching this morning including a terrifying carnival ride accident in Connecticut. Officials say a rotating swing ride suddenly lost power sending the riders crashing into one another and also crashing into the ground, a dozen children or so were hospitalized. Now parents are demanding understandably so to know what happened and what caused this.

CNN's Pamela Brown has been looking into it. So what's the status?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, at this point, Kate, the company that owns this ride is saying that it was caused by a mechanical malfunction, but that does little to ease the concerns of parents who watched in horror as their children were hurled from the ride 10 to 15 feet to the ground.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I heard a big bang and the whole apparatus of swings came smashing down at the bottom of the swing.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: I looked to my left and I saw the swing ride, it collapsed. All these people were there. I actually saw someone fall out of the cart.

BROWN (voice-over): This swing ride in Norwalk, Connecticut became a dangerous thriller on Friday when the ride suddenly lost power sending children to the ground.

SHAWN MARSH, WITNESS: There were just injured kids everywhere. The parents ripping out the gate, just trying to get to their kids, I mean, it was horrible.

BROWN: Sitting in chairs suspended by chains, 13 children were injured. At least two seriously when the ride malfunctioned. Other rides at Norwalk's annual oyster festival were shut down as a precaution, but soon reopened following inspections.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Portable rides have a very good safety record. In the state of Connecticut, however, they're only inspected once a year.

BROWN: Steward Amusement owns the ride and posted this statement to their web site saying in part, "The Zoomer swing ride suffered a mechanical malfunction and we are continuing to cooperate with authorities as they investigate into the root cause of the accident." State officials inspected the swing ride on Friday just two days before the incident. This comes on the heels of a deadly accident in July at a Six Flags Amusement Park in Arlington, Texas. A woman fell to her death from the popular ride the Texas Giant known for having one of the steepest drops in the world. There are currently no federal agencies enforcing safety regulations on fix amusement parks like Six Flags. Some experts are calling for a change.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because this particular ride in Connecticut was a traveling ride, there will be federal oversight. An amusement ride is an amusement ride. They need to be the same inspection guidelines for amusement rides all across the country.


BROWN: Again, this ride passed inspections on Friday. This incident occurred just two days later. State police will now conduct a detailed investigation to find out exactly what caused this incident to occur -- Chris.

CUOMO: We'll be passing that along. That's important information for families.

All right, we want to turn now to some weather woes. Rampant rains are turning parts of Utah into a moving wall of mud. That state saw widespread flooding after an enormous thunderstorm hit it this weekend. Now the cleanup is under way, let's get to Indra Petersons is following all of it for us. Good morning, Indra.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, good morning. We had Tropical Storm Lorraine and every time we see those remnants there, we start to see all of those monsoonal thunderstorms in desert southwest and you see that. We know what's expected and that is flash flooding.



VICKY REAY, ALPINE CITY RESIDENT: It was like a black monster lava.

PETERSONS (voice-over): This amazing cell phone video was one of many scenes across Utah after a massive storm Saturday caused flooding, evacuations, power outages, and mudslides. In Alpine City about 100 people were briefly evacuated. The National Weather Service reported three-quarters of an inch of rain fell if just 15 minutes.

REAY: It was 100 feet wide. It just got bigger and bigger and it picked up more and more momentum.

PETERSONS: Police captured these incredible images of a mudslide tearing through Utah County. Residents in some neighborhoods reported more than 3 feet of water in their homes. In Provo, the water was so powerful that it actually collapsed the corner of this hill.

BATTALION CHIEF JOSEPH MCRAE, LOWE PEAK FIRE DISTRICT: When I came up here the water was running down the street about a foot-and-a-half deep. So it's probably the worst I've ever seen.

PETERSONS: At the BYU-Texas football game, pounding rain caused a two-hour delay. Rain, thunder and lightning left fans running for cover. In the mid-west, an intense heat wave is forecast to bring record breaking temperatures over the next two days. In Minnesota and Wisconsin, heat indices could rise into the triple digits.

Chicago has not set a record high in September since 1998, but that streak could end on Tuesday if they see temperatures in the mid to upper 90s. Many schools have already closed their doors to students as a precaution. This elementary school in Denver was one of six that closed early Friday after temperatures soared into the upper 90s.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's too hot for them to be in there and teachers, too, it's very hot.


PETERSONS: This is the story of here we go again in the mid-west. It's huge, temperatures soaring a few weeks ago. Notice, Des Moines, 100 degrees, that is 21 degrees above average. Minneapolis like 97 degrees, they need the relief there. They are going to see in a couple of days. We will see a cold front slide through the area and that should be the relief. But in keep in mind, that also means a dome of high pressure slides to the northeast.

So what does that mean for us? Yeah, look at these temperatures, Boston, from the 70s to the 90s. The average 75. New York City 75. Also soaring to about 92. D.C. Same thing. So if you don't like the fall, a lot of complainers this weekend, warm up.

BOLDUAN: It's just like a head fake. One week from the next. Summer, fall, winter, spring.

Thank you very much.

There is a lot of news developing at this hour, let's go street Michaela for the latest.

PEREIRA: Hey, good morning, guys. Happy Monday.

Good morning to you all at home. Let's pick up where Indra left off. An unrelenting wildfire forcing people from their homes near the San Francisco Bay area. Dozens of homes cleared out after the fire. On the edge of Mount Diablo State Park quickly spread and surged to 800 acres. California Forestry officials say a light breeze with temperatures in the 90s and triple digits helped fuel that fire. More than 250 firefighters are battling the fire. At this point they don't know what caused it.

The 49ers win over the Packers marred by tragedy. A football fan, who witnesses say appeared intoxicated died outside Candlestick Park when he fell from an elevated walkway outside the stadium. Police say the man in his 30s was walking with his brother when it happened. Identification of the victim is being withheld until his family is notified.

Michele Knight all smiles at the Cleveland Browns game. She, of course, one of the three women who survived a decade in Ariel Castro's house of horrors. Knight and her family were special guests of the Browns at their season opener against Miami. The team also honored the first responders who helped rescue the three women. They didn't comment about Castro's suicide.

A 14-year-old Michigan boy and his 13-year-old girlfriend who ran away together have been found safe and sound in Chicago. They were spotted Sunday in an SUV that was parked next to a north side gas station. Apparently it was out of gas. The parents of 14-year-old Braxton Wood and 13-year-old Jayden Thomas have been notified. They're now heading up to Chicago to pick them up. The teens left home August 26th in this Ford explorer that belongs to Woods' parents.

A shakeup at the NAACP. President Benjamin Jealous announcing he is stepping down at the end of the year. He says running the nation's largest civil rights organization has kept him away from his family and his wife for too long. He is expected to announce resignation later this morning, and plans to go into teaching.

If you happen to love a guy with facial hair, who doesn't ladies? Lots of facial hair, you should have been in New Orleans over the weekend. Sorry to get this top you late. I could have given you the hook up beforehand. The city hosted the National Beard and Mustache Championships. Eighteen categories, folks. Not a razer (ph) in sight.

BOLDUAN: A strong beard and a strong mustache.

PEREIRA: A Pennsylvania man won the honors and a thousand bucks. We are told he won by a hair.


PEREIRA: Our guys here in the studio, need to do a little work on those --

BOLDUAN: We're not big on the facial hair in this studio.

PEREIRA: We've got a couple but they keep them trimmed low. There you go. I thought you needed that on a Monday.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Never too much facial hair on a Monday. Thanks so much, Michaela, Chris.

CUOMO: Coming up on NEW DAY, Dennis Rodman back from his second visit to North Korea, and it seems the worm has turned on President Obama, insisting it's not his job to rescue an imprisoned American missionary. That's true. Wait until you hear the word he used to describe the president and Hillary Clinton.

BOLDUAN: And also ahead, Diana Nyad is coming under fire for her historic swim from Cuba to Florida. Why some are experts in marathon swimming are now questioning whether she had help along the way.


CUOMO: Happy Monday, welcome back to NEW DAY. Dennis Rodman back from North Korea, already sparking outrage. The former NBA star has replaced his nose for rebounds with a knack for getting attention. This time by slamming both President Obama and Hillary Clinton in a profanity-laced response to reporters. In just a few hours, he'll be speaking out once again. Goody, goody.

CNN's David Mckenzie is in Beijing with much more on that. All right, David, what do I need to know?

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What you need to know, Chris, is that Dennis Rodman, the former - the hall-of-famer, well he's not your most obvious ambassador, but he really has gotten very close to Kim Jong Un, the dictator of North Korea.

When I pushed him about Kenneth Bae, the imprisoned American, though, his response was not exactly diplomatic. Take a look.


MCKENZIE: Former NBA star Dennis Rodman back from North Korea. Showing off snapshots with his friend, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. Rodman fueled speculation that he would push Kim about imprisoned American Kenneth Bae. Now, a very different tune.

Did you ask about Kenneth Bae? CNN.

DENNIS RODMAN, FORMER NBA PLAYER: (INAUDIBLE) Guess what. That's not my job to ask about Kenneth Bae.

MCKENZIE: Rodman showing off that famous temper.

RODMAN: Ask Obama about that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As if you are going to talk about it.

RODMAN: Ask Hillary Clinton.



MCKENZIE: Bae is serving 15 years of hard labor and desperately ill, his family says.

TERRI CHUNG, KENNETH BAE'S SISTER: Rodman is the only person, the only American to have contact with the North Korean leader. You cannot help but hope their friendship would benefit Kenneth. So we were disappointed.

MCKENZIE: The worm billed his trip as basketball diplomacy, but some aren't buying it. ABRAHAM COOPER, VICE CHAIR OF N. KOREA FREEDOM COALITION: Rodman's behavior, now, on both these trips are just absolutely outrageous. It just aids and abets one of the most dangerous regimes in real time.

MCKENZIE: Kim's regime is running vast labor camps and developing nukes. Rodman calls the young leader a, quote, "awesome kid."

COOPER: I have no idea from his point of view what game he's playing. Although, you can just take a look at the obvious. He's getting phenomenal coverage. For someone who hasn't put the ball into the basket in years is now being talked about in capitals around the world.


MCKENZIE: Well, the publicity will continue. Rodman will give a press conference in New York in just hours. How close has he gotten Kim Jong Un? Well, he told "The Guardian" newspaper, he met with Kim and his family and revealed the name of the young baby girl, which is Ju- Ae. So, that's closer than any American diplomat has managed for more than a decade. Chris, Kate.


CUOMO: All right, David. We appreciate the reporting. It is maddening. All you want to do is write Rodman off. He has no business getting in this kind of conversation. He keeps getting this weird access. All the mystery we have about North Korea this is almost to the top of the list.

BOLDUAN: To think that Kenneth Bae's whole family is sitting there waiting for their loved one to come back and relying basically on Dennis Rodman.


CUOMO: Right on the guy in the shiny silver swim cap.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Swim cap.

All right, coming up next on NEW DAY, She inspired us with a record setting Cuba to Florida swim. You remember this. Now, Diana Nyad coming under fire this morning. Other long-distance swimmers are questioning whether her incredible feat was completely legitimate.

CUOMO: Story about another amazing female athlete, Serena Williams registering her 17th grand slam victory at the U.S. Open. How does she dominating women's tennis at the age of 31? How many answers do you need? The biggest, the strongest, the fastest, the best strokes, the intensity in her practice. Serena in a rare one on one interview with our Rachel Nichols just ahead.


ANNOUNCER: You're watching NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo, Kate Bolduan, and Michael Pereira. CUOMO: Welcome back to NEW DAY. It is Monday, September 9th. Coming up, we have brand-new poll numbers for you on Syria. Fifty-nine percent of Americans oppose Congress authorizing action on Syria. Even if Congress were to pass a resolution, 55 percent of Americans still oppose it. The big question is why? That's what Americans want to know about this attack. The proof, 72 percent don't think action in Syria would accomplish anything. We will take you behind the numbers in just a few minutes.

BOLDUAN: Important numbers they are. Also this, Serena does it again, a fifth U.S. Open title for Serena Williams. She sat down with our Rachel Nichols to talk about the big victory. How does she keep doing it? Well, here.

CUOMO: We have a lot of news for you this Monday morning. Let's get right to Michaela with it. Mick?

PEREIRA: All right. Let's do it. Let look at the headlines. The House and Senate are back in session today after a month-long summer break. Topping the agenda of course, a resolution authorizing the president to use military force against Syria.