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President Obama Defends Obamacare; World's Most Powerful People

Aired October 30, 2013 - 15:00   ET


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Hour two. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

And we hope you saw it right here on CNN today. Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says she's sorry. She's sorry for the president's bug-riddled health care Web site which she herself concedes -- and I'm quoting her today -- is a miserably frustrating experience for those who have tried to use it, her fault, she said today, as her long- awaited appearance before Congress on this bumpy Obamacare rollout. And some Republicans want to know, does the blame go higher?


REP. GREGG HARPER (R) MISSISSIPPI: So is the president not ultimately responsible, like a company CEO would be?

KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, U.S. HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: Sir, he's the president of the United States. I have given him regular reports, and those -- I am responsible for the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. That's what he asked me to do, and that's what I will continue to do.

HARPER: So you're saying the president is not responsible for HHS?

SEBELIUS: Sir, I didn't say that.

HARPER: OK, so the president ultimately is responsible. While I think it's great that you're a team player and taking responsibility, it is the president's ultimate responsibility, correct?

SEBELIUS: You clearly -- whatever. Yes, he is the president. He is responsible for government programs.

HARPER: My time has expired.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gentleman's time has expired.


BALDWIN: All right, so that is Kathleen Sebelius. And in just a short time, you will hear from the president himself. Take a look for yourself. You will see the president has flown to Boston. Here he is hopping off Air Force One not too long ago, landed now in the state of Massachusetts.

He's there to point out that Romneycare, Romneycare, we remember Romneycare -- he's going to recommend how Romneycare, now pretty popular in the state of Massachusetts, had a bumpy rollout as well.

John King is there in Boston.

And, John King, since we are on the subject of Romneycare, its author is speaking out in advance of the president's speech. Mitt Romney, he has released a statement today. Let me just read this for everyone.

"Had President Obama actually learned the lessons of Massachusetts health care, millions of Americans would not lose the insurance they were promised they could keep. Millions more would not see their premiums skyrocket and the installation of the program would not have been a frustrating embarrassment."

So did Romneycare, did it have such a bumpy rollout as well, John?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think it had a bumpy rollout. It had hitches and glitches, you might say.

I would not say -- and I think both Democrats and Republicans here in Massachusetts would agree with this statement -- that it was not on the size and the scale and the scope of the problems we have seen with the president's. In part, perhaps that's because it's a national program, which is part of the point Governor Romney was trying to make, do this state by state, don't do it nationally.

Here's a number, Brooke. Only 123 people signed up for Obamacare in the first month -- Romneycare, excuse me. So when the president now says we can't give you the rollout numbers, sure, there were some problems early on. That's part of the president's hope today, is to get people to lift their heads, look past the Web site problems, look past the idea of did he mislead or was he just too naive to know that many people would lose the plans that they had and to think six months, a year, or two down the road, the president is hoping when he stands in Faneuil Hall, which is where Mitt Romney signed the Massachusetts law, he can convince people, it might be bumpy right now, in the long run, this is going to be good for you.

But that's a huge challenge for the president, especially after what we saw happen on Capitol Hill today, when his health and human services secretary was, as you noted there, a bit of a pinata.

BALDWIN: A bit of a pinata, outwardly saying, yes, this has been a debacle.

But it's interesting. When you look at this Gallup poll, let me just show folks at home some of these numbers here, showing public support is actually up just a smidge. It shows 44 percent of Americans approve of the health care law, up from 41 percent in August. Given everything, not just the pinata that we witnessed this morning, John King, but just what we have seen since the 1st of October, when the Web site launched with all these problems, what do you make of that, because they're still trying to fix it, clearly?

KING: They are still trying to fix it.

Now, smart pollsters in both parties it's ticked up a little bit because the Republicans shut down the government over an effort to defund Obamacare. And even people who have questions about the health care law didn't think that was the right approach.

They want them dealt with separately. They don't want the entire government shut down to deal with issues with the issues about the president's health care law. That helped it a little bit. But if you look, Brooke, you're right about the consistency. If you go back and look at the polling on the health care law, it's pretty locked in, it's pretty locked in along a partisan breakdown. Republicans don't like it, most Democrats do, and there's a slice of Democrats who think it's not liberal enough.

That's a big piece of the opposition. When Republicans say a majority of Americans oppose the law, in some polls they're right, but you have to remember part of that slice are people who think the law didn't go far enough, not people who didn't like the law just being there in the first place.

BALDWIN: OK. I'm going to talk a little bit more with Dr. Gupta seated next to me, but, John King, my friend from Dorchester, Massachusetts, here, I got to ask, because let's talk about the Red Sox since I have you. If they clinch tonight, if they clinch in game six, this will be the first time they win at home since 1918. Something tells me you're not just in town to cover the president, maybe.

KING: I was planning this trip before we knew the president was coming to Boston, full disclosure, full transparency, the most transparent chief congressional correspondent in history.

How about that? No, I'm here. Hopefully, the Red Sox get this one done tonight so I can come back to work in D.C. tomorrow. No, no, I'm here for baseball first and policy and politics second on this day, my friend.

BALDWIN: Appreciate the candor. John King, thank you very much in Boston.

Back to the secretary this morning on Capitol Hill, because there really was an interesting moment during Kathleen Sebelius' testimony. A Republican from Colorado, Congressman Cory Gardner, was hammering Sebelius about her health plan, and he wanted to know this, why she wasn't losing her federal employee coverage and buying insurance on the Obamacare exchanges.

So this back and forth, it got pretty heated. I'm going to play a brief part of the argument. Listen closely to what secretary Sebelius says.


SEBELIUS: If I have affordable coverage in my workplace, I'm not eligible to go into the marketplace. That's part to law.

REP. CORY GARDNER (R), COLORADO: With all due respect, Madam Secretary, I would encourage you to be just like the American people and enter the exchange and agree to find a way to do that.


SEBELIUS: It's illegal.


BALDWIN: Illegal.

Chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is here.

Illegal, is that right?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's interesting. It's not illegal in the way she described it, meaning she said, look, she's getting her health care through the federal government. You can choose to forego your health care that you get with your employer, in this case the federal government, and join the marketplace.

It would be silly because for any employer they're paying a large part of your premium. That's how it works. You would be basically picking up the whole tab yourself and go buying it on the marketplace. Why somebody who has a job and is getting their insurance through their employer would do that, it just doesn't make sense. It's not illegal, but just sort of a silly question.

But let me add one more thing. She actually turned 65 in may, which means she's now a Medicare recipient. You cannot deny yourself Medicare. She's going to get that regardless. If she was talking about Medicare, which she didn't say, it would be illegal. You can't leave Medicare.

BALDWIN: OK, the Web site was actually down at the time she was testifying today in Congress. And so now the administration got plenty of warnings about the Web site even before that launch date. Do we know when the president knew that?

GUPTA: It's interesting. You're hearing different things about when warnings were going out and did they go to the White House, directly to the president? I asked her specifically about this just last week.


Do you know when he first knew that there was a problem?

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

GUPTA: So, not before that, though? Not before October 1? There was no concern at that point either in 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, you know, in a five-year period of time, we probably would have taken five years, but we didn't have five years, and certainly Americans who rely on health coverage didn't have five years for us to wait.


BALDWIN: So what's the answer?

GUPTA: You heard a lot of that again today.

What it sounds like is that she knew there were problems. But she went to the contractors and said, October 1, good or not? And what she says is that she heard good to go October 1, which is why she told the president October 1 was a go.

It's tough. It's hard to know exactly what happened, what communication there was, if it went to the White House, did it go all the way to the president? I don't know if we will ever have a great answer to that question, but you heard her answer there, which is she said he did not know prior to October 1 that there was a problem.

BALDWIN: OK. Sanjay, thank you.

GUPTA: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Coming up, a man calls 911. When police arrive at the home, they make a horrifying discovery. We're "On the Case."

Plus, the list from "Forbes," it is out. It reveals the world's most powerful people, including the pope, who -- we love this video -- got a little pint-sized unexpected visitor on the stage who doesn't want to go away. You will see more of the video and hear the surprising power list.

Also, this:


ALEXIS KOHLMAN, MOTHER: Never seen anything like it. I'm real thankful. But it's not -- it's for Devin.


BALDWIN: Grab the tissues. A town comes together for a teenager who has weeks to live. This is CNN.


BALDWIN: A gruesome scene in a South Carolina home. Six people, including two children and the suspected shooter, found shot to death.

Last night, a man called police saying he felt edgy, might turn himself in. A SWAT team rushed to this home, but it was too late. The sheriff says 27-year-old Bryan Sweatt killed his girlfriend, her parents, and two of her nephews before killing himself.


TONY DAVIS, GREENWOOD COUNTY, SOUTH CAROLINA, SHERIFF: What's -- once you see, a horrific scene like this, it never leaves you. It's with you day in and day out for the entire...


BALDWIN: Apparently, the suspect did release four other children before the shooting began. The sheriff says he was upset over a custody battle concerning his 7-month-old daughter.

A moment captured on tape between a little boy and Pope Francis. The pope, he was taking questions, you know, as most popes do, when the little boy wandered up on stage, refused to leave, even when enticed by candy. See that? He says, yes, no thanks, I would rather the pope, please. The pope didn't seem to mind. And then this happened.

Pope Francis may be new to the job, but his influence has not gone unnoticed. "Forbes" has just named him one of the world's most powerful people, Pope Francis on the list at number four. Take a look, behind Vladimir Putin, shocking a lot of folks with the top position, President Obama at number two, number three, China's Xi Jinping, number four, the pope, and five, the woman who has been in the headlines a lot this week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Joining me is Michael Noer, executive editor of "Forbes" magazine.

Michael, nice to see you. Let's talk about Putin just a minute. But just do me a favor. Lift the veil. How do you all at "Forbes" arrive at this list?

MICHAEL NOER, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "FORBES": That's a really good question. It's kind of a complicated process, and I will give you the really short version.


NOER: It's the collective votes of eight editors on four different categories. We compile a short list of about 150 candidates. And then there's one person on the list for every 100 million people in the world.

The categories are essentially financial resources relative to your peers, how many people do you have power over, whether that's adherents if you're a religious leader or population if you're a world leader. Are you powerful in multiple spheres? Somebody like Mayor Bloomberg, he is a politician, he's a billionaire, he's a major, major philanthropist, so he's popular in different ways. And then how actively do you yield your power? And I think that goes to your question about who is in the number one spot?

BALDWIN: Let's get to that, because so many people thought it wasn't President Obama, it's Vladimir Putin? Why?

NOER: Well, again, I can only sort of speculate, because people don't say why.

But I know when we did this vote. We did this vote during the middle of the federal government shutdown. So, certainly, Obama looked weak if he wasn't able to keep the United States government open. Also, I think, on the other side of that, Putin has asserted himself quite strongly over Syria, you know, in sort of a Mexican standoff, you know, over the chemical weapons. Obama is the one that backed down.

BALDWIN: What about -- we looked up and down this list and we saw, it was Angela Merkel. She was just the one woman in the top 10. How does that, just curious, compare to women of years past on your list?

NOER: Yes, Angela Merkel has always been the most powerful woman in the world, according to us, since we started doing this list five years ago.

There are nine women on the list this year. That's up from six last year, and three our inaugural year. And I realize that that does seem low, given there are 72 people on the list, but this is a global list. Unfortunately, in many parts of the world, women are still somewhat disenfranchised.

BALDWIN: And then finally, Apple CEO Tim Cook, he's at number 19. And I'm wondering, I would imagine Steve Jobs when he was still with us ranked much higher than that, no?

NOER: Yes, I don't think he was that much higher. He never broke into the top 10. There's only one active businessman among the top 10, and that was Michael Duke.

Tim Cook jumped a lot. He's now been running the place by himself for a while, and Apple is the most valuable company in the world, and it influences so much in terms of technology and music and culture and design.

BALDWIN: Michael Noer, "Forbes " magazine, thank you very much, with a list of the world's most powerful people. Appreciate it.

NOER: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Coming up, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on the Hill today getting grilled over the launch of the Obama Web site. At one point, she showed her frustration by saying "whatever" in a response to a member of Congress. We will have some other key moments of her testimony and put it all in context for you.

But, coming up next, a story you have to see, this Ohio town coming together, making a terminally ill teenager's wish come true because Christmas in this town is coming a little early this year. That's next.


BALDWIN: The holidays are coming a little early for an Ohio teenager. This 13-year-old boy is battling an aggressive form of brain cancer. So the entire town is creating a Christmas/Halloween extravaganza all in his honor.

Crystal Clark of our affiliate WTOL shows us how preparations are now well under way.


CRYSTAL CLARK, WTOL REPORTER (voice-over): Christmas came rolling into town two months early. The ornaments are out of storage, locals were decking the halls. Christmas lights will shine bright in Port Clinton, and it's all to see a twinkle in one child's eyes.

ALEXIS KOHLMAN, MOTHER: Never seen anything like it. I'm real thankful. But it's not -- it's for Devin. You know, it's not for us.

CLARK: Devin Kohlman, a 13-year-old Port Clinton Middle School student, has been battling an aggressive form of brain cancer for more than a year.

KOHLMAN: He woke up one day, like the second week of May last year, 2012, and he had a stomach ache. Like, he was throwing up by the next week, couldn't hold anything down, dizzy.

CLARK: His symptoms have gotten worse and fast. Devin's family learned this weekend chemotherapy has not been working. Doctors have given him just a few weeks to live, his family and community, realizing time waits for no one, decided this year Devin will see the holidays.

KOHLMAN: We want Devin have to have the best Christmas that he's ever had, and we want to make sure that he has Christmas.

CLARK: In just one day's notice, residents came together to throw a welcome-home parade for Devin Sunday night and decorated the town for Christmas. Even the local Wal-Mart has agreed to fund all the family's Christmas gifts this year.

JULIE WHITESIDE, RESIDENT OF PORT CLINTON: I would hope that if this was happen to my kids, the community would pull together for them as well and support my family.

CLARK: Locals say they want Devin to see the decorations right from his window and know each night he peeks out, his neighbors are standing behind him.

VINCENT LEONE, MAYOR OF PORT CLINTON, OHIO: Trying to give some kind of lift to the parents to let them know that they're not in it alone. We're here to support them. You know, me personally, I believe in God and I pray that he's watching out for him, I know he is, and he will be in a better place.


BALDWIN: Crystal Clark from our affiliate WTOL.

A merry Christmas in October to you, Devin.

Coming up in minutes, the president will be speaking live on his administration's disastrous Obamacare rollout. These are live pictures. You will see the president in a matter of minutes there from Boston. We are going to talk about the testimony today from Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and you will hear from the guy who led the charge from the president's side to get that law passed.

Rahm Emanuel reacts exclusively to CNN next.


BALDWIN: Did the NSA hack into the servers of Google and Yahoo!? No way. This is according to the NSA chief, General Keith Alexander. He's slamming a "Washington Post" report alleging exactly that.

General Alexander says that never happened. He says it is factually incorrect. He says companies like Yahoo! and Google are compelled to work with the NSA through court orders and those orders come with specific requirements that are almost always linked to terrorism cases.

Not a good day to be Kathleen Sebelius, the health and human services secretary grilled over Obamacare and the bumbled launch of the Web site. And Sebelius, fighting for her political life, tells a House committee today that she's sorry.


SEBELIUS: I am as frustrated and angry as anyone with the flawed launch of, so let me say directly to these Americans, you deserve better. I apologize.


BALDWIN: The Obamacare Web site only part of the three-and-a-half- hour grilling Secretary Sebelius got from the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

The rest of it ranged from cost and President Obama's pledge if you like your insurance, you can keep it, to red herrings, red Solo cups, and "The Wizard of Oz." And throughout this entire hearing today, the Web site, it was down again.


REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN (R), TENNESSEE: The president kept saying, if you like your health care plan, you can keep it, so is he keeping his promise?

SEBELIUS: Yes, he is.

BLACKBURN: What do you say to Mark (ph) and Lucinda (ph) in my district who had a plan, they liked it, it was affordable, but it is being terminated and now they do not have health insurance?

SEBELIUS: Insurance companies cancel individual policies year in and year out. They're a one-year contract with individuals. They are not lifetime plans. They're not an employer plan.


BLACKBURN: It's what they wanted, and I will remind you, some people like to drive a Ford, not a Ferrari. And some people like to drink out of a red Solo cup, not a crystal stem. You're taking away their choice.

Let's put the screen shot up. I want to go to the cost of the Web site and talk about the Web site. This is what is happening right now with this Web site. We have had somebody in the back trying to sign on. It is down. It is not working.