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CNN Crossfire Premiers Tonight; Miracle Girl Speaks Out; Majority of Americans Opposed to Syria Strike; Assad: "Expect Everything"

Aired September 9, 2013 - 08:30   ET


S.E. CUPP, CNN CROSSFIRE HOST: The videos that Van and I got to watch over the weekend, and, unfortunately, are now - are now public of the sarin gas results, I think could be a game changer as well. This guy is a terrible guy and -


CUPP: No one wants to have another Rwanda on our hands. We all look back at that with regret. So the time to go in was earlier, but it certainly is also now.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: But, Van, you think he's going to play to the American public as a terrible guy? Does he set up like a Hussein when you see him on TV? And when he says, hey, expect everything, expect all - you know, code word for terrorism, preying on Americans' fears, what do you think the reaction is?

JONES: Well, I mean, I think that he - that he's a disgusting thug. I think he's one of the worst people on earth. I think that - we - it's hard to start a car in fourth gear. That's what the president's doing now. He hasn't talked about this guy and now he's trying to talk about him. The president's trying to talk about him.

I think he came across other than what he is. He's a horrible, despicable thug. He gassed children. I think the evidence on that is going to become clearer and clearer. But we have to - we are - we are the United States. We are the superpower. We have to go through step by step by step building our case, isolating him and we should not -- he shouldn't set the time line.

Obama said there's a red line. He didn't say when action would be taken. We have - we have all the time that we need to do this the right way. And there are -- we should be doing everything we can peacefully, cyber-attacks. We should be doing arms embargo. We should be doing a peace summit. There's a lot of things we can do that don't involve just throwing bombs over there.

CUOMO: A final word from you, S.E. Cupp?

CUPP: Well, Van and I fundamentally disagree on that, and many other things, and that's why I think "Crossfire" is coming out at just the right time because these are really important - really important issues and the American people deserve an opportunity to hear both sides, all sides, nuanced sides, and then make up their own minds. JONES: (INAUDIBLE).

CUOMO: A very good pitch. S.E. Cupp, Van Jones, thank you for the fact-filled friction.

Be sure to tune in to the premiere of "Crossfire" tonight at 6:30 Eastern. We wish them all the best of luck.


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: That was good stuff. Thank you so much, Chris.

Coming up next on NEW DAY, the White House gearing up for another push, maybe the final push on Syria. Has the administration sharpened its pitch? We'll talk with the president's deputy national security adviser about that.

Also, a little girl who got sick after a swim, just a simple swim, fighting off a brain-eating amoeba. She comes full circle. Kali Harding bravely goes swimming again and she's talking to us.


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

CUOMO: Welcome back to NEW DAY. Monday, September 9th. Let's get to Michaela for the five things you need to know for your new day.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: All right, here we go.

They are back. The House and Senate returning this afternoon after a one-month summer break. They'll be considering a resolution to allow the president to use military force against Syria. A new CNN/ORC poll shows 59 percent of Americans oppose action in Syria.

President Obama stepping up his push for military action in Syria. He'll make his case during a media blitz today. Speaking of, that includes an interview with our Wolf Blitzer tonight, 6:00 p.m. Eastern.

A malfunction on board a carnival ride in Connecticut sent people slamming into one another. At least a dozen children were hurt after the swing ride lost power at the Norwalk Oyster Festival.

Dennis Rodman back from another controversial trip to see his dictator friend in North Korea. The former NBA star has scheduled a news conference later this morning, earlier insulted President Obama and Hillary Clinton.

And at number five, Serena Williams is on top. She's the 2013 U.S. Open women's champ. Williams beat Victoria Azarenka Sunday to claim her fifth U.S. Open title. Tonight, Novak Djokovic takes on Rafael Nadal for the men's championship. Said to be a great match.

BOLDUAN: That will be.

PEREIRA: Always updating those five things to know. So be sure to go to for the very latest.


CUOMO: Thank you, Michaela.

BOLDUAN: Thanks. Thank you so much.

PEREIRA: You're welcome.

BOLDUAN: Another milestone we want to tell you about in a truly remarkable recovery. The 12-year-old Arkansas girl who survived a deadly brain-eating amoeba is not only walking and swimming again, and she is now speaking out. Senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is at the CNN Center in Atlanta with more.

Elizabeth, truly amazing that she survived, let alone has had such a recovery.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Kate, it's so wonderful to share this news that she is doing water therapy, she's up and around, after nearly two months in the hospital with an infection that few survive.


COHEN (voice-over): Two months ago, doctors feared Kali Harding might not live. Now, for the first time, we're hearing from the young girl who defied all odds with a miraculous recovery.

KALI HARDING: I've been in the hospital a long time. A long time.

COHEN: In July, the 12-year-old went swimming in this lake at a water park in Arkansas and contracted parasitic meningitis, a rare, usually fatal infection caused by a brain-eating amoeba. Kali is only the third person known to have survived this condition in the past 50 years.

TRACI HARDING, KALI'S MOTHER: I feel blessed. I feel just overwhelmed. She's doing wonderful.

COHEN: Kali is recovering so well, the doctors allowed her to leave the hospital to have dinner out with her family. She still needs a little help walking.

T. HARDING: As soon as Doctor Thomsons (ph) come in the room, she asked - asked her, she goes, "can I have a pass to go to Texas Roadhouse?" And she said, sure. And Kali was just so excited.

K. HARDING: It makes me feel loved.

COHEN: Now Kali can talk and take a few steps on her own and she's undergoing rehab. Doctors don't know if she has any permanent brain damage or if she'll ever be able to do all the things she used to do. For now, her progress is day-to-day. This is what she's excited about doing next.

COHEN: Walking by myself.

COHEN: She's grateful for the support she's received from all around the country.

K. HARDING: Thank you for all you've done for me and y'all prayed for me.


COHEN: Now, one big reason that Kali survived when so few have survived is that her mother caught the infection early. And when she took her daughter to the emergency room, she convinced the emergency room doctors this was not just some usual run of the mill virus. She said, "my daughter is semiseriously ill."

Kate. Chris.

BOLDUAN: Mother knows best.

COHEN: That's right.

BOLDUAN: That's absolutely true. I mean really uncharted territory that she and the doctors were in because no one really survives this. It's just amazing she's doing so well.

Elizabeth, thank you.

CUOMO: To the family, they're not curious anymore.


CUOMO: They're just happy that she's OK.

BOLDUAN: No, that is exactly right.

CUOMO: Yes. Leave the medicine to the medical community. Boy, oh boy.

Coming up on NEW DAY, President Obama renewing his call for action against the Syrian government. As he gets set to make his case again, we're going to talk to Ben Rhodes, his deputy national security advisor, to put that plan to the test.

BOLDUAN: And he took a vow, in sickness and in health. Seventy-eight- year-old Larry Swilling went to extraordinary lengths to find a kidney match for his ailing wife. He didn't realize the payoff would be so, so sweet. "The Good Stuff," we need some today, is just ahead.


CUOMO: All right, we got "The Good Stuff" for you. And, in fact, today is a double stuff. Why? All right, today's edition is 78-year-old Larry Swilling. When Swilling's wife of nearly 60 years, Jimmie Sue, needed a kidney, and he wasn't a match, in fact nobody was, Larry did the only thing he knew how, he made his own sandwich board and took to the streets. He was just literally asking somebody to help. After marching around Anderson, South Carolina, for more than a year -- remember he's nearly 80 years old -- a match was found.


JIMMIE SUE SWILLING: I knew it was going to happen because I know him. He wouldn't have stopped until he got me one.

LARRY SWILLING: It hadn't been hard on me. I don't pay it no attention. Every person that has called, I appreciate it. And more than I can ever tell them.


CUOMO: He's a hard man, but the love of his wife is going to soften him up, that's for sure. Now, listen, the good stuff was, Jimmie Sue gets her kidney, right? It was great. New lease on life. That happened in early September. But if it weren't enough, here's the double stuff. So many people answered Larry's call, more than 2,000 of them -


CUOMO: They weren't a match for Jimmie Sue, but they were a match for about 125 other people.

PEREIRA: That's amazing!

CUOMO: And that's why it's the good stuff doubled stuffed.

BOLDUAN: One hundred and twenty-five lives changed. Wow.

CUOMO: Not only did he get it for his wife, which is amazing, especially the way he did it.

PEREIRA: Yes. Yes.

CUOMO: But 125 other people helped because of the efforts of this one man.

PEREIRA: A new lease on life.

BOLDUAN: It's the little things we do.

CUOMO: What's better than that? Come on.

BOLDUAN: That's right. There's not much else. That's fabulous. Congratulations.

CUOMO: That's the good stuff. We get the stories from you. Let us keep telling you the good news. Send it our way by tweeting or posting on FaceBook with #newday.

BOLDUAN: Love that stuff. Thank you so much.

Next up on NEW DAY, President Obama pushing for action against the Syrian government. Can he get the votes he needs? That's the question everybody's wondering. Well, we're going to talk to his deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes and ask him many of those questions, coming up.


CUOMO: All right. Welcome back to NEW DAY.

President Obama is launching a full scale effort this week to make his case for a military strike on Syria. But a new CNN poll shows the majority of Americans do not support a strike at this point.

Joining us now to discuss the President's case is White House deputy national security adviser Mr. Ben Rhodes. Mr. Rhodes, thank you for joining us.


CUOMO: You know about the poll already, the big numbers that jump out are 59 percent say don't do it; 55 percent say don't do it even if Congress authorizes it; 71 percent say we don't see how doing this helps us here in America stay safer. What is the case to go against those numbers?

RHODES: Well Chris first of all we're going to continue to make the case that we cannot allow a dictator to gas to death hundreds of children and let him get away with it. That would have huge implications for American national security because if you send a message to Bashar al-Assad that he can gas to death hundreds of children over 1,000 people it risks unraveling the ban on chemical weapons and that emboldens his allies, Hezbollah and Iran and it also sends a message in future to any terrorist group, any dictator that there are no consequences if you use the world's worst weapons and that is a direct threat to the United States of America and to the security of the world.

CUOMO: Assad says I didn't use chemical weapons so can you guarantee the American people, Mr. Rhodes, that chemical weapons were used and the Assad regime used them?

RHODES: Well, first of all, I think Bashar al-Assad has no credibility. You're talking about a dictator who has already killed tens of thousands of people. He's already used chemical weapons and I think people see in the videos at CNN aired other day the tragic, horrific consequences of what he's done.

And frankly it's not surprising that someone who would use those weapons would then lie about it. What we have in terms of our intelligence in addition to all of the thousands of open source materials, the videos, the social media, is intelligence that shows Syrian chemical weapons personnel preparing to use these weapons in the days leading up to the attack including distributing gas masks to their troops on the ground, then firing rockets from a regime-held neighborhood into opposition-held neighborhoods, 11 different sites, then an explosion of social media confirming that an attack took place, thousands of people coming to hospitals with symptoms of chemical weapons attacks, and then afterwards we have intercepted communications of senior figures in the Assad killing machines discussing the results of the attack.

Then we saw them bombard those neighbors for days after trying to destroy evidence. So we feel like this is a very clear case that shows that Bashar al-Assad and his regime used these chemical weapons?

CUOMO: No doubt?

RHODES: No doubt in our mind -- Chris.


RHODES: And I've got to say Assad is the one accountable for the use of chemical weapons by his regime.

CUOMO: Now something else he says in the interview is that if this happens there will be retaliation, maybe not from Syria, but from outside factors. Now that plays on one of Americans' darkest fears, that there will be more terrorist activity. How can you keep a mission limited in that circumstance if there is that type of retaliation? Then how does it stay limited?

RHODES: Well Chris what we're going to do again is show Bashar al- Assad that there are consequences for the use of these weapons. And the goal of any military operation would be to deter him from using these chemical weapons again and degrade his ability to use chemical weapons. And that would I think send a message that he has not received for two years. Because frankly every other tool that the international community has tried to use to deter him, diplomacy --

CUOMO: Right.

RHODES: -- sanctions has not worked.

CUOMO: Does your plan include what you do if he attacks us as a result or Hezbollah or some other terrorist faction comes at the United States in vengeance?

RHODES: Well Chris, we're prepared for any contingency, of course, and the United States military is far stronger than any of Assad or his allies. So I think what we're going to send is a clear message to him, that he has no interest in escalating this conflict frankly. He has no interest in inviting strikes from the United States military. So we'll be prepared for any contingency to defend the American personnel in the region, to defend our ally Israel.

But again it's just not in Assad's interest to escalate this conflict with us. So we believe we can do a limited strike. No boots on the ground that imposes consequences on Assad, deters his future use of these weapons but again makes it clear to him that it's just not in his interest to escalate a conflict with the United States of America.

CUOMO: What does it mean to the President and the White House that Tulsi Gabbard, the Democrat from Hawaii the freshman, one of the President's favored Congress members, is against going to war? RHODES: Well look, we understand it's a tough vote for members of Congress but we frankly think it's important for everybody to come forward and to be counted through that vote because these are tough decisions that we have to make as a country. We're not going to win every vote but we believe that at the end of the day we have the strongest case to make that frankly inaction sends a message that look at those videos, Chris, look at those videos you ran on CNN. I think members of Congress have to look at that and think do we want to let somebody get away with this, do we want to let somebody get away with gassing to death hundreds of children? And we think at the end of the day the votes will be there in the Senate and the House.

CUOMO: Last question, why not take Assad out? I'm sorry to be crass about it but we're talking about violence here. Why do it limited? Why not do it what would -- many would call the right way, if you're going to start a fight, finish it?

RHODES: Well Chris, I think this gets to a lot of the lessons that we've learned in the last ten years that frankly it's not the role of the United States military to go in and inflict regime change through military force because frankly when we do that we're responsible for everything that comes after. The Syrian people are the ones that are going to have to change this regime and put up a new government.

What we're going to do is protect our national security interests and that involves making it clear that nobody in the world should be able to use chemical weapons on the scale that we've seen in Syria and not face consequences.

CUOMO: Quick last thing for you Mr. Rhodes, what do you think the percentage chance is that somebody tries to do something to the United States after there is an attack on Syria by the United States?

RHODES: Well Chris, I don't think so because frankly I don't think it's in anybody's interests to test the resolve of the United States.


CUOMO: So you don't think anybody will do anything? You think you're going to be able to hit Syria and nothing gets done?

RHODES: Well again, what I'm -- what I would say is it's simply not in anybody's interests to invite further strikes from the United States by doing anything. We're going to make it very clear we're prepared for any contingency. Our military can handle whatever comes at us. But the fact of the matter is, we don't think it's in the interests of Assad or any of his allies in the region to again test the resolve of the United States by doing something after we take this strike.

CUOMO: All right Mr. Rhodes thank you very much, we appreciate the opportunity on NEW DAY this morning.

RHODES: Thanks, Chris.

CUOMO: So we just heard from one of the deputy national security advisors. Then later on you're going to get to tune in to Wolf Blitzer's interview with the President himself, President Obama Dealing with all the Tough Questions on Syria; that will air tonight at 6:00 p.m. Eastern.

We're going to take a break. I'll see you right after it.


BOLDUAN: And that is it for us on NEW DAY right now.

"CNN NEWSROOM" with Carol Costello begins right away. Hi Carol.

PEREIRA: Hi Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Hey guys thank you have a great day.

Good morning, everyone. I'm Carol Costello.

It is one of the most important week for President Obama. He and his top aides put on a full court press as they push to ponder Syria. The President's biggest challenge: convincing Congress, the American public and the world with nothing more than circumstantial evidence.

But if there is an attack Syrian President Assad says you can expect retaliation and he's not ruling out using chemical weapons.

Listen to what he told CBS's Charlie Rose.



CHARLIE ROSE, CBS NEWS HOST: Including chemical warfare.