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Interview With Jon Huntsman; Calls for Sebelius to Step Down; Obamacare Website Woes; Hero Emerges From Tragedy

Aired October 23, 2013 - 08:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo, Kate Bolduan and Michaela Pereira.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. And welcome back to NEW DAY, everyone. It's 8:00 in the East.

Coming up this hour: amid all the talk of trouble with the Obamacare Web site, there have been some successes. Some states like Utah have been running their own health insurance exchange Web sites for years. What can D.C. learn from them? Former Governor John Huntsman will be joining us to talk about that.

CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Plus, listen for this if you have a pet. Hundreds of dogs dead or hurt, certain treats may be the cause. We have the names and latest information on how to keep your pet safe.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: And Warren Buffett his son and grandson are declaring their own war on hunger. Could their big money make a difference? We think we know the answer to that. We'll hear from them, coming up.

CUOMO: All right. We're going to begin with what could be called the "aflawedable care act" roll-out and now, the fallout.

President Obama bringing out the big guns, tapping former budget chief Jeff Zients to oversee desperately needed fixes. So, what about the healthcare honcho, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius? Well, now, she is finally addressing calls for her resignation, only on CNN.

She sat down for an exclusive interview with our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: There's no question the pressure has been building for some time a lot of frustration what happened at healthcare.gov, this Web site. When I talked to the secretary, she really says, look, this is primarily a traffic, a volume issue, but that volume issue has unmasked a host of other problems, some of them very significant within the website and they're working to try and correct those things.

But I also wanted to get a look at what was happening behind the scenes in the days, the weeks, the months leading up to this roll-out on October 1st, who knew what when and what could they have done about it. Take a listen.

GUPTA: You know, according to congressional investigators, just weeks before the launch about two-thirds of insurers had some concerns, specific concerns that the web site would not be ready. Just days before the lunch, a test was conducted, and the website crashed with just a few hundred users at that time.

How was a decision made to still go forward?

KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, U.S. HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: Well, Sanjay, there are people in this country who avoided decades for affordable health coverage for themselves and their family. I see them all over the country. You probably saw them on your recent bus tour, people who are so eager for this to happen and what's clear is we have a product. The product really works.

We have created a market where there wasn't a market. People have competitive, private plans at affordable prices. They have the advantage if they don't have employer paying a share of their coverage, they'll have tax help paying a share of the coverage.

GUPTA: The president did say he was angry about this. I mean, do you know when he first knew there was a problem?

SEBELIUS: Well, I think it became clear fairly early on, the first couple of days.

GUPTA: So not before that, though, not before October 1st, there was no concern at that point with the White House or at HHS?

SEBELIUS: I think that we talked about having testing going forward and if we had an ideal situation and could have built a product in a five-year period of time we probably would have taken five years.

GUPTA: How many people have signed up?

SEBELIUS: We'll be doing what we've done with every other program, Medicare Part "D," we've done it with CHIP. We will give monthly enrollment figures. We've said that since the beginning.

What we can tell you, we have 500,000 plus accounts right now with people who have established that or are in the process of shopping for affordable coverage.

GUPTA: It seems like an important thing to know, I imagine especially given all the problems with the site, how well is it working? Can you say right now how well health healthcare.gov is working? We know there are problems, but what can we say about it?

SEBELIUS: Well, I think what we can tell you, is that thousands of people have signed up. We know people are getting through every day. It is not where we need it to be. It isn't as smooth as we want it to be for the volume of people who want this product. GUPTA: There's a lot of frustration obviously in the country. And no one probably knows this better than you and the president. Did you ever talk about resigning to the president?

SEBELIUS: What I talked about is doing the job that I came here to do. This is the most important work I've ever done in my life, delivering on an historic act, making sure that we have health security for the millions of Americans. This law was passed 3-1/2 years ago. I've been working day in and day out to implement this law.

GUPTA: But there is a lot of frustration as you know, Madam Secretary. I mean, if this persists or even at this point now, would you consider resigning over this?

SEBELIUS: I think my job is to get this fully implemented and to get the website working right. And that's really what I'm focused on.

I work at the pleasure of the president. He is singularly focused on making sure we deliver on this promise. That's what I'm committed to doing.

GUPTA: It doesn't sound like Secretary Sebelius is considering resigning at this point but there say lot of pressure overall. She talked a lot during the interview about the mission and the fact that millions of people may get insurance that did not previously have it. And while these past three weeks have been tough and a few more tough weeks to come n the end the roll-out is six months long this enrollment period, so there could be a lot more people who sign up either on the website or by phone or using these navigators.

So, she seemed to minimize the problems a little bit while not at all ducking them. She talked about the fact there has been some significant failures and they're now bringing the A-Team to try to address that.

Chris, Kate, back to you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BOLDUAN: All right. Sanjay, thanks so much. Great interview.

So, as Sanjay said, the administration is trying to turn things around, put a positive spin on the fallout, on everything that's going on with Obamacare but Republicans already reacting to that interview that Sanjay did there.

Let's go to Jim Acosta live at the White House.

Jim, what are you hearing?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, as we already know, Kate, we reported this earlier this morning, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, Paul Ryan, who was the Republican vice presidential candidate last fall, he has already called for Kathleen Sebelius to step down. He did so on a conference call for Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli yesterday evening, but also have some fresh reaction for you from congressional Republican leaders up on Capitol Hill.

This is a quote from house speaker John Boehner's spokesman Brendan Buck. I'll read it to you if we can put it on screen. It says, quote, "At this point she has a lot of questions to answer," talking about Sebelius, "and we look forward to her testimony in the house next week", of course, referring to her testimony at a congressional hearing that is scheduled for next week.

This is from a Republican leadership aide over on the Senate side. Quote, "Everyone was surprised by her statement that the president was unaware of the Web site's failures until a few days into it. They had been claiming that the Obamacare roll-out was his top priority," this aide goes on to say, "and that he was receiving regular updates but that appears to have been inaccurate." That according to that Republican leadership aide.

Now, we should point out that the Health and Human Services Department is putting on a briefing for House Democrats later on today. House Republicans have cried foul over this, saying wait a minute, where is our briefing? But a Democratic source tells CNN they were offered this briefing before the healthcare Web site was up and running October 1st even with its problems. But spokesman for John Boehner says that briefing was not offered and they still want one, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Jim, in fact, they're finding about who is going to brief, if they're going to get a briefing, the fact that someone e-mailed or not to offer a briefing shows just how dysfunctional things are on Capitol Hill at the moment.

Thanks so much, Jim. We'll follow up.

ACOSTA: You bet.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

CUOMO: All right. Let's get to Mick with the headlines -- Mick.

PEREIRA: Yes, we're watching a recall. Listeria contamination fears are leading to the recall of more than 11 tons of products. Reser's Fine Foods recalling chicken salads, ham salads, potato salads and barbecued beans that contained beef. These products were sent to retailers and distributors in 27 states, including Texas, Florida, and New York.

A bit of a scare for an American Airlines flight from Trinidad and Tobago to Miami. It was forced to make an emergency landing in Turks and Caicos. The pilot reporting a fire in the cockpit and a smoking engine. American Airlines for their part disputing reports of a fire insisting a mechanical issue and low oil caused the pilot to request the emergency landing; 168 passengers were later put on another flight arriving in Miami last night.

Bizarre story out of Utah. Police say a man drove his truck up several flights of steps at the Capitol Hill building and tried to break down the doors of the state Supreme Court chambers. He was tackled, arrested and taken to hospital. Authorities say he was not armed. They think he might have been under the influence of drugs at the time.

Blame on the shutdown. The IRS shortening tax season and will not start processing your tax returns until late January or early February. That's so the agency can complete testing on its systems. If you are getting a refund that means a delay in getting that refund check, but don't worry, that April 15th tax deadline does not change.

And this is going to melt your heart. These are patients and staff members at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire, roaring an inspiring rendition of Katy Perry's popular song "Roar." I want you to listen.

(MUSIC)

PEREIRA: The hospital made the video for its annual hero half marathon and 5k. Videos include lots of lip-synching, dancing, of course, roaring. We've got to give a shout out to the tremendous staff that take care of these little angels at all the children's hospitals and the units around the nation, because you do tremendous work, we know how important and hard it is.

All right. Those are our headlines at the this hour. Over to you, Chris.

CUOMO: Great way to bring attention to people who deserve it. We want to keep doing that right now.

Let's talk about the hero who emerged from the shooting at a Nevada middle school, Michael Landsberry, beloved math teacher, marine, husband. He lost his life trying to do what only a hero would, talked down a shooter, defused the situation. It cost him his life but as we're learning, he may well have saved countless others.

Chief Master Sergeant James Ross supervised Landsberry in the National Guard and is a close personal friend of the family.

He joins us now from Sparks, Nevada.

Thank you for joining us, sir. Appreciate it.

CHIEF MASTER SERGEANT JAMES ROSS, MICHALE LANDSBERRY'S SUPERVISOR: Thank you.

CUOMO: What can you tell us about Michael? We want to understand him as more than just this moment. We'll get to the moment but what can you tell us about the man?

ROSS: Well, Master Sergeant Landsberry was my subordinate. Mike Landsberry was my friend. He was always here to volunteer. He wanted to mentor, coach and teach. His goal was to be the first sergeant, which is a very much people person in the Air Force.

CUOMO: How is his family doing? ROSS: His family is grieving as you would well expect, but they're coping. They're moving forward.

My wife once told me it would take an exceptional person to be married to Mike, and his wife has borne that out in her actions so far.

CUOMO: Nothing will make OK for them, but maybe there is a measure of solace in the decisions that Michael made that wound up costing him his life. What do you understand about what would give him the strength, the poise and determination to go up to even a 12-year-old or not, he knew the gun had been used already, he knew the intention was to use it more, he knew this kid was disturbed by all accounts, what does it say about him that he took this challenge on?

ROSS: Michael left us the same way that he lived his life amongst us, with honor and discipline and integrity. And the discipline instilled in him from Marine Corps boot camp and throughout his service in the United States Marine Corps and the Air Force, through the International Guard, allowed him to stand in face of that danger and to -- he was trying to help that child give up the weapon.

CUOMO: Now --

ROSS: So that he could protect others.

CUOMO: A lot of people get the training, sir, and few would put it to practice this way. What can you tell us as insight about this man that this makes sense to you on some level, even though he saw this level of danger and urgency, he moved toward it, tried to engage this kid, he tried to make it better?

ROSS: The discipline that you learn throughout your military service holds well in that respect and standing in front of someone who has a loaded weapon. But the protective instincts of a teacher and those were his kids, it didn't matter if they were in his class or not, they went to the school and they were his kids and he felt it was his duty to try to protect them from any danger that was there.

CUOMO: And that's what we're hearing, that he had that level of dedication. Had you heard him speak about that before in terms of the bond he felt and what the purpose or the mission if you will was in taking care of these kids?

ROSS: Absolutely. He loved kids that he had taught. Like I said, he was a coach, a mentor, a very people person, and he always talked about his kids and his family. Those are the most important things to him.

CUOMO: What do you think we should do with this going forward? How should he be remembered? What do you think we take from this?

ROSS: I think we honor him as he honored himself, and we'll move forward with the memorial obviously. And give him the respect that he deserves for stepping up and giving his life to protect the other children. CUOMO: In these situations, we always struggle to find significance other than the obvious. You know, we try to find out what made this kid snap, what was his problem, how could we learn going forward.

But when someone emerges the way your friend did, who does something most would not we have to remember that as well and we understand you're having trouble with the memorial because it's hard to find a place that's big enough to fit everyone who wants to come forward and celebrate the life of this man. Is that true?

ROSS: There was no real trouble finding it. There was a decision trying to find a space large enough to hold what will be -- you know, the students and the faculty and his brothers in arms in Nevada and Army and International guard, and I believe that a decision has been made and that will be announced later on.

CUOMO: We look forward to it, because whenever we see these horrible situations, we often do see not of this caliber, who we often do see people being at their best in times when people are at their worst. So, master sergeant -- Chief Master Sergeant James Ross, thank you very much for the perspective on your friend this morning. Thank you for joining us on NEW DAY and I'm sorry for your loss.

ROSS: Thank you, sir. Have a good day.

CUOMO: Kate, to you.

BOLDUAN: All right. Chris, thanks so much. Let's get over to Karen Maginnis now who's in for Indra Petersons with the look at the forecast. So, what are you watching, Karen?

KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: We are watching the much cooler weather conditions across the northeast dramatically cooler with temperatures running five and as much as 15 degrees below where it should be for this time of year. A huge temperature change taking place in the northeast where yesterday, New York City soared to 67 degrees.

Well, it looks like as we go through the morning, those temperatures staying into the 40s. We'll gradually see some 50s, but the temperature struggles to get to that temperature. Well, if you're watching the ball game tonight, the first one, it looks like we will expect mostly cloudy skies. Can't rule out the possibility of a stray shower or two.

That's all thanks to this area of low pressure, still pushing some of that moisture onshore. As it does, it reduces the visibility. I think for this morning for those airports along I-5 corridor, the I-95 corridor, you might expect some minor delays, but temperatures not just cold today. They'll be cold again tomorrow, even colder in the northeast. Kate, back to you.

BOLDUAN: All right, Karen, thank you so much for that.

CUOMO: All right. Coming up here on the show, lessons learned from the Affordable Care Act fiasco. Former Utah governor, Jon Huntsman, is here. He's going to be live with us for his take on the way forward.

BOLDUAN: And also ahead, we love to reward them, of course, but the treats that we're giving our dogs, they could be dangerous, even more so, deadly. A report pet owners cannot afford to miss, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: Welcome back to NEW DAY. It is Wednesday, October 23rd. Hope your morning's off to a good start.

So as the White House ramps up its Obamacare damage control, are there any lessons to be learned from the few states that have been running their own healthcare health insurance websites? The state of Utah first launched a health insurance exchange marketplace website back in 2009. And joining us now to talk more about this and a lot more about the politics today, former Utah governor and former 2012 presidential candidate, Jon Huntsman. Governor, it's great to see you.

JON HUNTSMAN, FORMER UTAH GOVERNOR: Thanks, Kate. It's a real pleasure to be with you.

BOLDUAN: Of course. You've said that the president's health care law is a very important experiment this year for this country. What do you think of the experiment, so far?

HUNTSMAN: Well, it's a bungled start, there's no doubt about that, but we must press forward. And I'll tell you why. When I was born over 50 years ago, health care as a percentage of our GDP was about two percent. Today, it's about 18 percent. You're looking at a $3 trillion industry which is roughly the size of the GDP of France that's growing at double digit rates.

We have no choice other than to attack the costs and the only way that you attack the costs, I learned as governor at the state level, is by getting more people insured. And the only way you do that successfully is by providing a multiplicity of options, insurance options that take care of a lot of different contingencies in life.

And that's why, you know, as you look back at this thing, Kate, you know, we really should have let the states lead out, the experiment more with their own exchanges to expand the marketplace, to expand the options, to see about getting people connected and how best to do that before launching at the national level.

So, a lot of Republicans and even others were saying, well, let's give this basically a year and work out some of the details because it will be a complicated thing to do. We may find at the end of the day that delay after delay which some members of Congress are already calling for really does produce whether you like it or not a one-year experimental period before this thing really is up and running effectively.

BOLDUAN: Well, so, they're trying to fix it as we speak, I guess, we can say. But, aside from President Obama, Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of Health and Human Services, has really been the face and has faced growing criticism especially from the Republican Party. Do you think that she deserves the blame? Do you think that she should consider resigning?

HUNTSMAN: Well, this is a much bigger issue than Kathleen Sebelius who I know and is a dedicated public servant. This is about technology. It's about the health care marketplace. It's about connecting with individual states. It's about a White House that I think was impervious to good common sense reasoning at the beginning when there were a lot of voices that said give it time.

Make sure we roll it out piece by piece, and identify the soft spots, and we can address some of the vulnerabilities, and then, we're going to be better off over the longer term. So, you know, you can point fingers of blame, but I think the issue really is beyond that. This is such a big percentage of our GDP. If we get it wrong, we suffer.

If we get it right by expanding the marketplace ultimately, it makes us a more competitive nation and it gets a lot of very vulnerable people covered who today are out there between, between federal programs and not able to get jobs in the job market. So, the implications are profound and they really do go well beyond just politics, Kate.

BOLDUAN: I want to ask you, though, unfortunately, about politics and the people in that building behind you. The Republicans in the budget battle that we just came out of and the government shutdown, Republicans really came out on the losing end of this. What is your message to your party going forward?

HUNTSMAN: Well, partisanship doesn't pay. Bipartisanship, problem solving, and identifying solutions is exactly what the American people want, and the Republican Party has always been well served, the party of Lincoln and Roosevelt and Eisenhower and Reagan as a big picture, optimistic, inclusive, bold thinking party. We've always had a vision associated with what we've done. You bring an end to the cold war you.

You rev up economic performance. You build the opportunity ladder and partisanship, which is what we've been involved with this last round makes for a lot of pretty dramatic television and a lot of sound bites for the partisan journals, but it doesn't move the ball forward for the American people.

And so, we find today that we're no better off than before this discussion took place, and I'm so encouraged, Kate, by the work of no labels, which I co-chair. We now have almost 90 members of Congress in that building right behind me, Republicans and Democrats alike.

BOLDUAN: Which you wouldn't know if you were actually looking at the debate on the Senate and House floor that you have so many people signed up.

HUNTSMAN: No.

BOLDUAN: Let me ask you then, because you talk about how do you get the ball rolling going forward? How do you progress? Some in your party are pointing the finger and I know you do not like to place blame, but I must ask you, some in your party are pointing the finger at the Texas senator, Ted Cruz, saying this has now become the party of Ted Cruz and standing right alongside him throughout this fight has been the senator from Utah, Mike Lee.

Ted Cruz went home to a hero's welcome in Texas I've seen reports. Mike Lee not so much in Utah. What do you make of this?

HUNTSMAN: Well, Mike Lee went back to 40 percent approval ratings in the state of Utah, which is the lowest recorded approval for any sitting U.S. senator in polling history in the state of Utah which pretty much likes its senators traditionally.

But listen, names aside, we're only going to win and the Republican Party is only going to win when we get around to problem solving and solutions. We've got to change the center of gravity in American politics away from the extreme partisanship.

BOLDUAN: Are they listening to you, do you think?

HUNTSMAN: Listen, they're going to listen to the voices of the American people and I have no doubt that the voices of the American people are going to demand that we seek solutions and problem solving and get beyond just pure partisanship. We've had pure partisanship now for probably two or three election cycles. People are sick and tired of it.

We've blown up the system. They want fixes and solutions. They want jobs created. They want schools that will educate the next generation. They want this nation to compete. And the Republican Party should be right at the forefront of all of that, and I think our no labels caucus, Republicans and Democrats alike, almost 90 of them are changing the center of gravity. People are actually working together where nobody thought they'd be able to do that.

And 17 bills have been introduced. So, we're proving the concept that this whole no labels approach actually can be a very important contribution to American politics and good legislation and good government.

BOLDUAN: And we will see if people are listening. Real quick, though, when you lay out kind of the huge challenges ahead and how dysfunctional Washington is, would you ever consider running again for the White House?

HUNTSMAN: Listen, I love my country. I've given some of the best years of my life to public service. I will always be a public servant and step in whenever I can help my country. I'm not a politician in the sense that I'm just looking for something to do politically. I like helping my country like a lot of other good citizens in America. They want to step up when they can do something and I'll always be ready to do that.

BOLDUAN: Call it a diplomatic answer or I'll take it as a dodge for now, but I'm going to let you off on this one. Governor, it's great to see you.

HUNTSMAN: Thanks, Kate. Pleasure to be with you. BOLDUAN: We will talk to you very soon.

HUNTSMAN: Bye-bye.

BOLDUAN: He didn't say no, Chris.

CUOMO: It's hard to say yes, though, when you want to see compromise in such toxic environment. Tough to get a guy like Huntsman in the race. Great interview, though.

We're going to take a break now on NEW DAY. When we come back, remember the officer called to the scene of a shoplifting, she decided to buy groceries for a mother in need, what she did is changing lives, teaching lessons. We're going to talk to her live on the show.

And, do you think anyone could actually end world hunger? What about three people all named Buffett? Warren Buffett, his son and grandson, they got the dough, and we'll tell you how they plan to use it.

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