Return to Transcripts main page


Republican War; Syria's Chemical Intentions

Aired September 19, 2013 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, everyone. Welcome to "AC360 Later."

Tonight, we have got the whole wide world talking about new suspicions of Syria's chemical intentions, the war inside the Republican Party, a trip inside the mind of Miley Cyrus, and more.

We begin, though, with the interview people are talking about around the world inside and outside the Catholic faith, Pope Francis saying the church he leads must end its obsession with abortion, contraception and homosexuality or risk falling like a house of cards.

From the moment he stepped into the spotlight, it was clear this might be no ordinary pontiff. Then came Holy Thursday when he washed the feet of prisoners, including female prisoners, even a Muslim woman. Then came a Twitter account, Francis becoming the first leader of the Roman Catholic Church to pose for selfies, the first to say this about gay people, telling reporters -- quote -- "If someone is gay and he searches for the lord and has goodwill, who am I to judge?"

Now, in his first big interview, there is even more. When asked what kind of church he dreams of Pope Francis said -- quote -- "We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible."

He went on to say, "I have not spoken much about these things and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church for that matter is clear and I am a son of the church. But it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time."

It was to many Catholics a very powerful conversation and it continues tonight.

With us tonight, Andrew Sullivan, founder editor of The Dish. His Web site address is International scholar Anne-Marie Slaughter, president of the New American Foundation, and Democratic strategist and CNN political commentator Cornell Belcher. Writer and filmmaker Sebastian Junger will be in our fifth chair shortly.

Andrew, let me start off with you because I read a lot about this on your Web site today.

ANDREW SULLIVAN, ANDREWSULLIVAN.COM: For me, it was a terribly moving day. I think for a lot of us Catholics who feel like we have been in a bit of a wilderness for awhile, not really comprehending why the hierarchy has been so unfeeling and really out of touch with the way real Catholics want their faith to live, suddenly this pope took faith out of the head and put it back in the heart and soul.

COOPER: What does that mean?

SULLIVAN: It means that he's not as interested in nailing down doctrines and insisting the way that the previous two popes have done on absolute orthodoxy in all doctrinal questions. That's his role.

No. His role is to lead the way in showing mercy to the world, in healing the world, in being in his body and his soul a vessel of Jesus' love. And that is the message that our church has to bring. It's the fundamental message. And all the other things fall by the wayside.

What he was saying is that the church has become like the Pharisees. His role is Jesus, to say to the Pharisees, look, I'm not disputing necessarily all the doctrines. I'm just saying your attitude is wrong.

COOPER: This isn't a change in doctrine. This is not suddenly they're going to start having gay marriages in Rome. This is a change in rhetoric, a change in focus?

SULLIVAN: It's a return to the Second Vatican Council. The Second Council really got rid of the papacy's more authoritarian church.

It said the truth of the church is really founded both in the people of the church and in history and Scripture and the hierarchy, all of us together. In this conversation he had, he used the word infallible. And he used it about the people of God seeking God. And he talked about certainty and the danger of certainty.

He said that if you have a priest or a bishop or a pope that tells you absolutely with absolute certainty that he knows who God is, beware. He doesn't. That proves he doesn't know. We have to open ourselves to doubt as well as faith, so that we surrender to God and help God guide us towards what he wants us to be.

ANNE-MARIE SLAUGHTER, PRESIDENT, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: But, Andrew, he also reminded us of the basic teaching on poverty, right? He returned to the messages that all this has to be in the context of lifting people up from poverty and the social teachings of the church.

So it wasn't -- there were teachings there. I heard him really as saying, this is a different tradition. It's the tradition of humility, it's the tradition of inclusion. It reminded me that Catholic with a small C. means inclusive, right?

CORNELL BELCHER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I also think there's a bit of reality here. So if he's also the brand -- sort of the brand steward. One of the things he said that was fascinating to me -- and, again, I'm not a Catholic, but it was just fascinating to me -- if the church fails to find a new balance between its spiritual and political mission, its moral foundation will fail.

And if you look back at polling from earlier last year, 60 percent of Catholics thought the church was missing it. They were not happy with sort of where the church was going. They weren't happy with where the church was. They thought the church was missing it. I think here you have someone who's putting the brand back on the right track, where it's not -- I know you cringe because you're Catholic.



COOPER: I love how you say everything in the focus of a pollster. The pope's brand needs work.


BELCHER: But it is. But it is. It's putting the brand back on the right track, lining the brand back up with where Catholics are, I think.

COOPER: But you don't think he thinks in those terms.

BELCHER: No, of course I don't think he thinks in those terms.

SULLIVAN: And I didn't see that emphasis on the social teaching in this particular conversation.

What I saw was his belief that God is in ordinary people, the sanctity of ordinary people, the sanctity of everyday life that he embraced. And what's interesting is he's no longer in that papal palace. He called it inverted funnel.


COOPER: Right.

SULLIVAN: People only come in in dribs and drabs.

COOPER: For those who don't know, he's not limping in the palace that Benedict and other popes have lived in. He's staying in, what is it, Santa Clara?

SULLIVAN: He's staying in the same hostel he stayed in during the conclave, except then he was in room 207 then, now he's in 201. And why? You ask him why? He says community. I want to be with other people. I want to be like a good Jesuit is, with the people of God at the margins of society.

So, of course, when it comes to the question of homosexuals, for example, he sees us as at the margins of society. That's where Jesus would be.

COOPER: Let me read what he said actually about gay people. He said: "A person once asked me in a provocative man manner if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question. Tell me, when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love or reject and condemn this person? We must always consider the person. Here, we enter into the mystery of the human being."

He talks a lot about mystery and sort of the essential mystery of life and faith.

SULLIVAN: He called himself a mystic.

And I think all true faith must have mysticism in it, because God by definition is beyond our understanding, by definition. So we can know from hints and guesses, from Scripture, from the life of Jesus, from the lives of the saints, what it is to be a follower of Jesus.

But it can't be written down. It's not about these extremely rigid orthodoxies, which he calls ideologies. He's also keen to say, and this is critical, that when the church starts operating in spaces of power, when it starts exercising control over people's lives through politics, it's losing its fundamental mission.

It has to break free. He said get out of the spaces of power. Start the historical processes. It's a journey. His faith is a narrative. It's a story, just as Jesus didn't have a theology.


COOPER: He's more a storyteller.

SULLIVAN: Yes. He's a parable teller, he's a storyteller. He's always thinking that God is about you, and it's about me, the individual.

What Jesus said was that you matter. And to hear him say that about gay people, I mean, it's very powerful. I mean, those of us who have lived in the church and stuck with the church and believed in the church, to see this human being embrace us and treat us as equals, not as these intrinsically disordered, morally objectively, immoral people that the previous pope called us, to actually see us as human beings made in the image of God is a revolution. It doesn't mean the doctrines will change.

But the doctrines, he's trying to tell us, aren't the most important thing. The most important thing is love.

COOPER: I want to bring in Father Thomas Reese, a senior analyst for "The National Catholic Reporter."

Father, thanks for being with us.

What did you make of the pope's comments? Andrew was talking about this pope as a storyteller. That's something I think that resonates with you as well.


I think that this pope, like Jesus, tells stories. He doesn't work out of abstract philosophical categories that are unchanging. He talks in stories. For example, I love the way he talks about the church as a mother. You know, when we go home for Thanksgiving, we want to be hugged by our mother.

We want to be greeted with warmth and love, not a nagging parent. We have had too much in the church where the church has been a nagging parent who tells us everything that's wrong with us. What Pope Francis wants to do is hug us and tell us about God's love for us, tell us how Jesus came to talk about God's love, his mercy, his compassion, and how we should do this to one another.

COOPER: So, Father Reese, does something then change? I mean, once you have the man who's running the church, who's leading the church saying these things, how does that filter down or does it?

REESE: I think the way it filters down is, he is modeling for us what it means to be a good priest, what it means to be a good bishop, even what it means to be a good Christian, you know, that we should be compassionate and loving towards our brothers and sisters. We should be concerned about the poor, about the people who are being killed in Syria, about the people whose food stamps are being cut right now in Congress.

These are the things that a loving Christian is concerned about, because we're all one family. And we have to be take care of one another as we would in one family. You know, we might have disagreements. But all families have arguments. But what we do is we stick together as a family and love one another.

COOPER: It's interesting, Andrew, that he's done all this without criticizing Benedict, the previous pope, who's obviously still alive and I assume listening very carefully to all of this, but it's clearly a huge shift in language and philosophy.

SULLIVAN: Yes. It is a revolution. He's very respectful of him, speaks of Pope Benedict XVI as like a great-grandfather in the house he looks to for advice and support.

He's very tender towards him, as he would be. But what I noticed is the first thing he said, too. He didn't say, I am the pope, I am infallible.

COOPER: He said, I am a sinner.

SULLIVAN: He said, I am a sinner.

SLAUGHTER: Well, there's the humility.

SULLIVAN: He has taken the hierarchy and flattened it.

COOPER: That's what he said. The fact that he describes himself as a sinner, I have never heard a pope really use that kind of language.

SULLIVAN: No, because he's not afraid, you see? You can feel the lack of fear in him, because God banishes fear. There is nothing to fear for a pope letting go of power and living just a life of an example.

And Francis, you see, Francis -- the name Francis tells you a lot. St. Francis was so pathologically opposed to wielding power, he wouldn't even run his own order. He believed that the genius of Jesus was in abandoning power, surrendering himself because he had no fear, because he loved God and God loved him. And that opening of the church -- and, Anderson, I'm a Christian because I really believe the world needs -- needs this badly.

We need to be healed. We need to reach out to one another. And we need to treat each other not as abstractions, but as humans, all of us, in equal dignity.


BELCHER: And he's going to talk about Congress next.



COOPER: Unfortunately.

We do have to take a break.

Father Reese, I appreciate you being on. I know we tried to get you in earlier. I'm sorry the satellite didn't work out, but thank you for joining us.

We have got to take a break.

Up next, from the realm of God to the realm of Caesar, the Republican Party's fight over how far to go to defund Obamacare. Some want to threaten a government shutdown. Others warn it could end up shattering the GOP. Republican insider Rich Galen is here, and in the fifth chair, author, filmmaker, adventurer Sebastian Junger.


COOPER: Welcome back to "AC360 Later."

We're talking now about the vote expected in the House tomorrow on a bill to fund the government, but strip funding for Obamacare, a bill that probably can't pass the Senate, definitely faces a presidential veto if it does.

Hard-line conservatives in the House and Senate are pushing for it. A lot of their colleagues are warning against it. Political observers who once talked about Democrats being the self-destructive party are now saying the same about the GOP.

Back with our panel, also Republican strategist Rich Galen, former press secretary for Newt Gingrich, and in the fifth chair tonight journalist, filmmaker, author Sebastian Junger. His recent work includes the bestseller "War," the Academy Award-nominated documentary "Restrepo." Great to have you here, Sebastian.


COOPER: Rich, let me just start off with you. As a Republican, how do you see what's going on in your party right now?

RICH GALEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, first of all, let me say that when I grow up, I want to speak like Andrew Sullivan.

COOPER: I think we all do, yes.

GALEN: It's like listening to Rex Harrison in "My Fair Lady." It's just fabulous.

COOPER: What's even worse he has no notes. I'm sitting here with a pack of notes. And he's got nothing but like -- I don't know -- allegedly water in his cup.


GALEN: Holy water, apparently.


COOPER: Go ahead.

GALEN: Well, what you said in the intro, you were correct. These things go in cycles.

One day the Democrats are going to collapse and they're going to splinter into 100 different parties, and then the next day they're all together and the Republicans are going to splinter into 100 different parties. Look, to start with, there's a misconception I think on the coasts that somehow Obamacare, the ACA, is this wildly popular piece of legislation that people out in the world or in the countryside really want to move ahead with.

Let's go back in time for a couple of years when Nancy Pelosi got 219 Democrats to literally walk the political plank and vote for the ACA in march of 2010. Everybody said, well, she can control her caucus. She really controls her caucus. She controlled it by marching it right off the plank and she lost 63 votes, lost control of the House. It's not likely that they will get it back before the 2020...


COOPER: Well, Cornell, the pollster for Obama, his head is about to explode.

BELCHER: What I love, Rich...


GALEN: I knew I would get Belcher into this conversation sometime.

BELCHER: But I love Rich. This is why Rich is so good.

You notice how he pivoted from talking about the civil war to, I'm going to attack Obamacare? That is brilliant, Rich. And I bet you're happy that you're actually not working for the speaker now, because, Rich, it is an all-out civil war.

We Democrats have been dysfunctional for a long time. But you got to admit the dysfunction that we're seeing even right now, with "The Wall Street Journal" coming out against you, the Chamber of Commerce coming out -- Chamber of Commerce coming out against Republican leadership, conservative senators like Burr from North Carolina saying this is sort of ridiculous, Karl Rove putting his own polling out there showing how independents don't want to see this happen.

You got to say, I'm a Democrat, and not even -- we have been dysfunctional, but this level of sort of high out-in-the-open dysfunction is amazing. But the problem is this. We're all going to suffer because of the Republican civil war.


BELCHER: Because they control the House.

And as you can see right now, they very well may take us to the brink of collapse. And one of the things that Bernanke talked about the other day was that this uncertainty of what's going to happen politically, that's why he can't sort of pull back. This is a problem for our country.

COOPER: Sebastian, do you think people who are not involved in cable news every single day like yourself are following this as much as we think they are?

JUNGER: The sane people.

COOPER: Yes. People who have lives?

JUNGER: You know, I think it's sort of like listening to your parents fight. And it doesn't mean your parents are equally wrong, you know?

But I think it's sort of this din upstairs in the bedroom. Like, why can't they stop? I mean, I should say I'm a Democrat. I am very puzzled by the Republicans.

GALEN: I'm a Republican. And I'm puzzled by them, too.


JUNGER: Well, I read recently I think in "The New York Times" yesterday that Republican action committees are spending more money attacking Republicans than attacking Democrats. In other words, the Gulf within the Republican Party is wider than it is between the Republicans and the Democrats. That's terrible news for the country, I think.


COOPER: Andrew, do you think there'll be a shutdown?

SULLIVAN: I wouldn't bet against it. I mean, I don't know. I don't think they know, either.

What I find remarkable is that they're prepared not to know, carry on as if it doesn't matter if the federal government keeps running. It doesn't matter if we don't pay our debts on time. These things do matter.

I think people are very happy to have a good solid debate, Rich, about Obamacare and whether it's a good thing or a bad thing. The public I think is pretty evenly divided on this at this point insofar as they understand what on earth it is.

But to use things like shutting the entire federal government down as part of your fight, or actually risking the credit of the United States, which means a really dangerous thing for the economy, people could lose their jobs, the economy could slow down, I think there comes a point at which the American people say, look, can't you just grow up? Can't you just have these debates, accept that you have lost an election and carry on?


COOPER: But it's a fund-raising tool for a lot of politicians out there. They're raising money off this idea of stopping Obamacare, aren't they?

SLAUGHTER: They're raising money, but they're spending it against each other, right? They are spending more on the Republicans who won't sign up to this against them and they're threatening them all with primary fights.

COOPER: I should also say there are Democrats raising money on the idea of defending Obamacare as well.

GALEN: Yes, but that's kind of a broad statement. I don't think the internecine fighting is more than the money that's being spent across parties, maybe now because we're not in the general election cycle yet.

But I think that what Republicans are doing -- remember when -- part of the Constitution, the reason that we have members of the House who are reelected every two years and have to live in the state from which -- in which they serve, unlike the British system, is so that they listen to their constituents. We don't have to like what their constituents are telling them.

But I am telling you, I write this column called "Mullings" three days a week. And I have a number of members of the House that read it. And they were telling me last week that people were on fire against the immigration package, against going to war in Syria, and against Obamacare.

And that's what they're elected to represent. Again, we don't have to like it. And that's why we have a U.S. Senate, because they take a longer view.

SLAUGHTER: But that's not the issue. That's exactly what Boehner and others are saying, is you can be opposed to all this stuff, but shutting down the government as your way of making a stand is crazy.

It's not about what you're standing for. It's the tactics that you use and the damage you then do to the country.

GALEN: Well, one of the things -- I'm sorry. Go ahead and finish.


COOPER: Well, Cornell, do you think Obamacare is as unpopular in polls?

BELCHER: No, it's actually rather divided.

And I will grant you this, Rich. We Democrats did not do a very good job of selling it up front, which gave you all an incredible opening.

But, Rich, you got to admit that the American people -- you're welcome -- that the American people want more than anything else is to sort of find common ground. And you have got to admit that this is ultimately not good for your brand.

And I want to -- actually, you should ask Rich, what is he hearing from the insiders? Do the Republican insiders think that the government is going to be shut down?

GALEN: They don't know either. They don't have any idea.

BELCHER: Now I'm really afraid.

GALEN: But, no, but we're -- look, this is only, what, the 19th or 20th. We got 10 days to go.


GALEN: And in brinksmanship in Washington, we could go to war twice in 10 years -- in 10 days.

SULLIVAN: There are people in this country with preexisting conditions who can't get insurance. I mean, can we get real about this?

GALEN: Yes. You're right, Andrew. (CROSSTALK)

SULLIVAN: This is not an abstraction called Obamacare.

It's actually -- for example, the Republicans have no plan whatsoever to ensure that people with preexisting conditions like me and many other people can buy health insurance that they can afford. They have no way of providing that. Obamacare does. And that's a huge gain for so many people. It's security that we won't be bankrupted by a health condition.


GALEN: Andrew, it's not the concept. I absolutely agree with you. This is the wealthiest country in the history of countries. And there is no reason for any person living in America not to have quality health care available to them.

I can't -- I couldn't agree with you more. The issue is in the implementation of it. And I think that's where we get into trouble when it comes to Obamacare.

SULLIVAN: But the Republicans have no plan to provide that health care or the opportunity to get that health care.


GALEN: Sometimes, no plan is better than a really bad plan.


SULLIVAN: They have nothing.

I would rather have a bad plan that gets me insurance than nothing at all.

GALEN: Yes, because you make a lot of money, so it's not going to bother...


GALEN: I'm with you. I'm another poster child. I have a preexisting condition.

SULLIVAN: It doesn't matter what money I have. If I have HIV and I lose a job, I can't get insurance, period.

GALEN: Yes, I understand. You can. It's just going to be really expensive. But look what's going on, though. It's not just...


COOPER: But for somebody who's HIV positive who can't get insurance if they lose their job, do you really think no plan is better than what you say is a bad plan?

BELCHER: I bet they don't think no plan is better.

GALEN: Well, no. I mean, I have heart disease. And I'm in exactly the same condition. I mean, I have a long-term preexisting condition that will probably kill me at some point.

And without a job, I can't get health insurance. What I'm saying is that that is wrong. We ought to be able to get health insurance. What I'm also saying is that this cobbled-together billion-page bill that's costing everybody -- going to cost everybody more money is not the right approach. I don't know what the right approach is.


SULLIVAN: I'm sorry, but there are people dying and people sick.


BELCHER: And I could argue against whether this is costing a lot of people a lot of money.

A new study just came out that said six out of 10 people who don't have health insurance now will be able to get it for less than $100, Rich. And, by the way, those look like the people who your party needs to sort of gather if they're going have a big tent in the next couple of elections.


SULLIVAN: I would love to see a really imaginative Republican proposal for universal health care. I would love it. I would love it if you got rid of the employer mandate.


COOPER: We're going to leave it there.


COOPER: Rich Galen, thank you very much.

Up next: Syria, U.S. satellites detects its chemical weapons are being moved around, according to U.S. intelligence community. Unclear why. The deadline to reveal information about its weapons stockpile fast approaching Saturday. So, we may soon whether Bashar al-Assad's true motives, what they are. Secretary of State John Kerry today called out both Syria and Russia.

A lot to talk about when we come back.



In two days, the Syrian regime, according to the agreement worked out between the U.S. and Russia, is supposed to provide information on its chemical weapons stockpile and where those weapons are stored. It remains to be seen if Bashar al-Assad will comply.

Meantime, U.S. satellites have detected that some of the stockpiles are being moved, though it's not clear if they're being consolidated for inspection or trying to be concealed.

Syria and Russia still insist the Syrian opposition launched the chemical weapons attack on August 21. Secretary of State John Kerry forcefully said the report from U.N. weapons inspectors clearly points the finger of blame on Assad.

Back to the panel. Also joining us is Vladimir Pozner, well- known Russian journalist and television personality who did a lot of work on American television from the '70s through the '90s.

Appreciate you joining us tonight, Vladimir.

First of all, what is your perspective on where Russia is, vis-a- vis Syria?

VLADIMIR POZNER, RUSSIAN JOURNALIST/TELEVISION PERSONALITY: Well, I think it's pretty clear from what Putin said. Don't use weapons right now. They're not going to help. You could even kill Assad. It's not going to solve the problems we see in other countries of that region.

There seems to be a general acceptance that international control is a possibility, and it should be tried out. And that's where Russia stands. Not only Russia, China which for some reason nobody talks about China for -- I don't know why -- but the fact of the matter is that it stands right by Russia on that issue.

So I think it's a -- I think it's a good move. I know that it angers a lot of people, because Putin kind of stole the limelight and pulled the rug out from some people. But I think it's a pretty good -- pretty good offer, and it should be tried.

COOPER: Andrew, you're happy that Russia stole the limelight.

SULLIVAN: I am, absolutely. I think that getting Russia and China to actually exercise responsibility, rather than be free riders in the global international order, is a good thing.

And I don't think -- I think America doing everything is counterproductive a lot of the time. We're loathed if we do something; we're hated if we don't do something. It's a no-win situation for the United States, especially after Iraq, where our moral credibility and our hard power credibility was destroyed.

COOPER: What happens if Saturday they don't -- they don't meet the timetable? And they are moving weapons around?

SULLIVAN: Well, the pressure is on Putin at that point and the Chinese. Why are you not -- why are you not controlling your client?

SLAUGHTER: But the pressure, I think, we're actually coming up on a watershed moment. Because I think we know where he's got stuff. We know most -- almost all of it. And if he gives us a list that is clearly not serious, as I think is very likely, at that point it's up to -- we'd be crazy to just say, "OK, Russians, you push him around." That way lies months of stalling.

At that point I think there's a real possibility we've still got our ships there. We're still capable of striking. And at that point, I think there's a real chance we say, "You're not serious. You're not going to play. We strike." And I don't think he goes back to Congress, either.

POZNER: What do you do with the weapons all over again?

SLAUGHTER: No. At that point they come back to the table.

POZNER: You strike or you strike out. That's what you do. Strike. Because that strike doesn't do anything except really kill a lot of innocent people who will be hit by that strike. And it's not going to change Assad at all. He's not that -- you know, he's not -- he's not my friend.

SLAUGHTER: That's what brought him to the table in the first place. Only the threat of force did he come to the table.

POZNER: It doesn't work that way.

COOPER: Vladimir, you don't believe that...

POZNER: It didn't work in Iraq.

COOPER: Vladimir, you don't believe...

SLAUGHTER: This has nothing to do with Iraq. But it's only the threat of force that brought him to the table.

POZNER: It's the same -- it's the same kind of thing. It's America being the 800-pound gorilla and, you know, we're going to throw bombs at him. And it's not going to help.

I certainly am no fan of Assad, believe me. I'm just saying, this doesn't lead to anything. And if there's anything that does, it's trying to get a political solution. I say try for that.

SLAUGHTER: We are trying.

JUNGER: My first war was in Bosnia. I went there in 1993. Some years later I was in Kosovo. Both of those wars -- of course Russia had very strong relations with the Serbs, with Milosevic. In both of those wars the Russians objected very, very strongly to using any kind of force.

And finally in 1995, after 7,000 men and boys were massacred in Srebrenica by the Serb forces, NATO conducted a two-week bombing campaign against Russia's objections, and it ended the war. And of course, there were civilian casualties. Of course, a lot of bad things happened. But this was on the heels of 100,000 civilian deaths. So the fact that Russia is against this, if you look into recent history, their vote in Bosnia made no sense. I mean, no one is questioning the decision in Bosnia. It's a stable country now. They're -- you know, it's not filled with love and joy, but it's not in civil war.

COOPER: Well, also Russia had no problem being involved in Chechnya. They had no problem interfering in Akazi (ph). I was in Sekuni (ph) for the fall of Sekuni (ph), and there were -- you know, there were Russians intimately involved.

JUNGER: There's two things here. One is to keep Assad from using these weapons again. So whether he moves them around becomes very, very important.

The other I think is a matter of principle. This is classified as a crime against humanity. It's using nerve gas against civilians. They've killed 1,400 people.

I mean, the problem with mass weapons is that with one push of a button, you can kill 100, you can kill 1,000, you can kill 10,000. That's the problem with them. That's why it's a crime against humanity.

And so this is partly about the weapons in Syria right now. It's also partly to send a message to the world that if you use -- if you conduct a crime against humanity, there is some repercussions.

COOPER: So if, come Saturday, he doesn't live up to this timetable, and there's more reports about them moving around, is Obama right to strike? I mean, Andrew you say no.

SULLIVAN: I think we have to give the process time to work. I mean, I think we should test his seriousness. My basic criterion is these weapons are not used again.

And my worry, Sebastian, with a symbolic act is that it's a symbolic act. It doesn't actually advance anything. It may actually make Assad more likely to use chemical weapons.

SLAUGHTER: No. That's...

SULLIVAN: And I don't think the situation in Syria, which is a very different situation than Bosnia, would somehow come to a peace agreement. Just by bombing.

JUNGER: No, no. No one is suggesting that. What the president is saying is there have to be repercussions for this kind of crime.

And my understanding of the intelligence is that they have -- the U.N. inspectors have calculated pretty precisely where those rockets were fired from. There are military bases on high ground in Damascus. So A, I doubt there'll be any or significant civilian casualties if they hit military bases. But B, it's not symbolic. They're hitting the bases that conducted this crime.

SULLIVAN: How would that advance? What would that lead to, Sebastian? Where do we end up after the -- the day after that?

JUNGER: What's doing nothing lead to?

SULLIVAN: Well, right now we have Russia and China saying we're trying to secure the chemical weapons.

SLAUGHTER: Andrew, listen to this. What it leads to -- Assad's used these weapons multiple times. There was a defector this week who said, "We now think they've been used dozens of times."

He -- only when we threatened force, and he thought literally, we were going to strike -- wait a minute -- that he thought we were going to strike right then did suddenly he admit that he had them and that he reached the deal. What happens if we strike is we make it clear, we are serious. We -- or diplomacy is...

SULLIVAN: Serious with what?

SLAUGHTER: Our diplomacy is backed by the threat of force. And if he does not live up to the deal, he will be punished. He's afraid of that.

SULLIVAN: Don't you think -- don't you think that as soon as we bomb he will say the deal is off?

SLAUGHTER: No, I don't.


SLAUGHTER: No. I don't.

SULLIVAN: I don't think you know Assad very well.

POZNER: It won't happen. It simply won't happen. That's all.

SULLIVAN: I just don't see what this achieves.

SLAUGHTER: You seriously degrade his ability to use these weapons again, and you make clear that, if you use them, you either have to live up to diplomacy or there is actual punishment. But at that point he knows we are serious.

And it depends how we strike. But what we've said is, you said we should give the process a chance. We did. We said, "One week, you tell us where the stuff is. At six weeks later, you let in inspectors. A year later, it's gone."

If we're not even willing to get serious the minute he actually welshes on the deal, then we're looking at months.

SLAUGHTER: I just do not understand what the end game is here. I do not understand what we think we can do. Do we really think...

SLAUGHTER: We can stop him from using these weapons again.


SULLIVAN: I think it increases the likelihood.

SLAUGHTER: How? He won't be able to.

SULLIVAN: It's his strongest weapon. If his back is against the wall, he's going to use his strongest weapon.

POZNER: I would like to jump in here. I mean I'm a bit slow, because it's half past 3 in the morning here in London, so I hope you'll forgive me.

Look, this thing about striking, I understand that the United States is simply losing face when it doesn't do this. There's a hunger, there's a desire to punish Assad. I'm all for punishing Assad. And I'm all against using any kind of chemical weapons. That's clear enough.

What I'm saying and what I think Putin is saying is it's not going to help. It's going to make things worse, not better. To try to do it this way. Of course if he doesn't comply find a way to put pressure on him. Economically, whatever. Don't kill people. Because he's going to go on doing it. I'm saying that this bombing thing is not a way to solve the problem.

And Bosnia is no -- is no parallel. You had the entire NATO that was supporting this and the people. The majority of Americans don't want this. The majority of Syrians don't want this.


SLAUGHTER: The last word, it's the only way we've gotten anything is the credible threat of force. The only way. And if it's not credible nothing happens.

COOPER: Vladimir Pozner, great to have you on the show. Thank you.

Major topic change coming up. I'm not even sure how to make this topic change. I don't even want to tell you what's coming up. It's going to amuse you.


COOPER: All right. It was the twerk heard around the world. That's right: We're talking about Miley Cyrus. The reason we bring it up tonight, frankly, is because her dad was on Piers Morgan earlier tonight, in sort of a surreal interview. Billy Ray Cyrus, he was on "PIERS MORGAN LIVE." Hear what he had to say about his daughter's transformation.


BILLY RAY CYRUS, MILEY'S FATHER/COUNTRY MUSIC STAR: She's just Miley. She's an artist. She's real. I think that what's happened over the years, Miley has been reinventing her sound. She's evolving as an artist herself. I think that it's all of what everyone is calling controversy now. That's still my Miley.

She could have stayed Hannah Montana forever and made a great living doing that, but she's more of an artist than that, and she wanted to evolve. And she had to take her time, let that evolution take place.

And again, she's very, very smart. And she's had all of this thought out in advance.


COOPER: And yes, we're back.

Andrew Sullivan has gone into his special place and is just imagining the Pet Shop Boys are singing in his head, and that's how he's going to weather this entire segment.

We're also joined by Dr. Drew Pinsky from "DR. DREW ON CALL" on HLN.

First of all, I don't understand why people's minds are blown by Miley Cyrus. Isn't this what every singer has done since Elvis Presley? And there was -- you know, the Parents Council back then said what he was doing was shocking and shocking. And now, you know, her album is, what, her song is the No. 1 single?

BELCHER: But look -- I mean, look -- I think, first of all, full transparency. I'm a big fan of twerking.

COOPER: Oh, really?

BELCHER: Big fan. I'm probably going to a strip club when I leave here.

But I think one of the most interesting parts -- there's some...

COOPER: I knew you like polls. So thank you very much.

BELCHER: I've been polling a long time.

COOPER: All right.

BELCHER: Tip your waiters.

There is an element here that some would argue is racial, because actually, African-American artists have been twerking for years. But when you get this sort of pure Hannah Montana all of a sudden putting out a twerk video, it becomes something bigger.

The most interesting part of the story to me is actually Cher. Cher, who attacked Miley, sort of saying, "I have no problem with you doing it, but you're just not very good at it." Sort of attacking her as a poor dancer. COOPER: And then sort of walked that back a little bit, saying, you know, "I shouldn't have said so much about her, and she's doing what she's doing."

SLAUGHTER: I have to say, I'm the mother of teenagers.

COOPER: Does it flip you out? Does it freak you out?

SLAUGHTER: No, it doesn't freak me out. What I mostly look at is, she didn't do what teenagers do as a teenager. She was on the Disney Channel her entire teenage hood. So it doesn't particularly surprise me she's breaking loose.

COOPER: Also, Dr. Drew, it's not like she's completely flipping out and doing what -- I don't know -- Justin Bieber seems to be doing, you know, doing odd things in places. She's -- you know, she's making a business decision. It seems a pretty smart one. Everybody -- people are talking about her.

DR. DREW PINSKY, HOST, HLN'S "DR. DREW ON CALL": That's exactly right. What people's minds are blown by is the segue from the Syrian civil war to Hannah Montana. Blowing everybody's minds. That...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm still trying to recover from that.

COOPER: Thanks for drawing attention to that. I appreciate it.

Andrew is crossing his arms. In Andrew Sullivan body language school, which I've now become familiar with, that's a bad sign.

PINSKY: Deeply honored to be a part of this. Thanks for bringing me into this part of the conversation.

Be that as it may...

COOPER: You should have Sullivan (ph) on your show talking about this.

PINSKY: Well, we actually have not brought it up tonight.

And by the way, I've known Billy Ray and his wife for a very -- particularly for a while, and they are really lovely people. They are not concerned about their daughter.

And they -- he was very clear on Piers tonight that it was an artistic discretion. It was her decision to do this. And, yes, he's not super comfortable with it. It's her artistry. But she's an adult woman.

What's freaking a lot of people out is she was Hannah Montana. She's rebelling hard against that.

But what bothers me is people are all the time making the accusation this is some sort of mental illness. This is so vastly different from what happened to Britney Spears or Amanda Bynes. I find it so disturbing that people can't make that assessment, that here's somebody making an artistic choice you may not like. It may bother you; you may not like it as a parent or kids who watch Hannah Montana. But to say this is illness, people, you need to have -- we need to help people understand what illness really is.

COOPER: I just -- I just don't understand. It seems like so obviously designed to make people talk about it and get people upset, that why fall into that trap? Why not just accept it for what it is? And yet, we're talking about it.


COOPER: All right.

BELCHER: And somewhere in America, Miley Cyrus is still twerking.

COOPER: Anybody else or can we move on? All right.

We're going to take a break. Dr. Drew, thank you. We'll be right back. More topics ahead.


COOPER: I'm back with Andrew Sullivan, Sebastian Junger, Anne- Marie Slaughter, Cornell Belcher.

By the way, as soon as we went to break, Andrew Sullivan was talking nonstop about Miley Cyrus. So he's sitting here on TV, and he doesn't care, but he has very strong opinions about Miley Cyrus.

BELCHER: And of strip clubs.

COOPER: And of strip clubs. He just doesn't want to share them.

Anyway. So at the end of the show we like to sort of pick stories that haven't gotten a lot of coverage in the day. What's your -- what's your story?

SLAUGHTER: So I actually was interested in the story that we were talking about earlier, this crazy story about this -- the football -- this party at this football players' club? The football player's house, right?

COOPER: NFL football player, Holloway, was in Florida. He has a house in upstate New York. And his son suddenly started tweeting him and showing him that 2 to 300 kids had broken into his house, were having a party in his house and tweeting about it and showing pictures about it.

He called the police. They trashed his house, did like $20,000 worth of damage. And he's actually offered them to come back to his house and help them clean up. Only one kid showed up out of the 300.

BELCHER: Know why they're dumb?

COOPER: Why? BELCHER: Because they tweeted it.

SLAUGHTER: That's what interested me about it was that -- you know, in terms of how you use social media. Like they're living in real time. They're tweeting what they're doing. They're tweeting stuff they really don't want people to no, right? They're tweeting like we're -- "here are the drugs and here's the whatever." I mean, that's just -- the idea that you're sort of doing it and tweeting it at the same time.

BELCHER: But on a good note, I do have something to throw in the potluck, is Trayvon Martin Foundation. I mean, it was a big case a while ago. A lot of back and forth. People thought it was going to die and go away.

You know, Trayvon's mother and father started this foundation. We're doing a luncheon for it tomorrow in D.C. So, you know, if you can sort of give money, go to They're trying to help families who have been victimized by this sort of thing, and they're trying to push back some of these -- some of these -- these gun laws.

COOPER: Are they still hoping that there will be a civil rights case brewing?

BELCHER: I think they still are. But I think that -- and I'm going to talk to them tomorrow in D.C. So come to the luncheon and give money. I think they're hoping that, but they're also moving on to sort of how can they organize and sort of push back some of these laws and also help some of these families that have been impacted by violence.

COOPER: Briefly, sir?

SULLIVAN: I'm going to be a wonk here and notice the Census Bureau came out with the median income for American household. It's now lower than it was in 1989. That tells you a lot about what's going on in America.

COOPER: It does.


JUNGER: Just today in "The Times" I was reading a story about an African-American woman who was a slave in the 1850s.

COOPER: Fascinating story.

JUNGER: Amazing story, right? And she lived on a plantation.

COOPER: She wrote a book.

JUNGER: She wrote a novel.

COOPER: Right. JUNGER: But she absorbed the literary atmosphere of the home that she lived in, worked in, and she wrote a novel, and she escaped with their help in the 1850s.

COOPER: And it took them a long time to actually figure out who it was who wrote this novel. They've actually figured it out.

We've got to end the show. Sebastian, thanks for being with us. For the rest of the panel, as well. Thank you, everyone.

Thanks for watching this edition of AC 360 LATER.