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Obamacare Fix; Relief Efforts Continue in Philippines

Aired November 14, 2013 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: The president reveals...


BLITZER: Happening now: The president reveals a new fix for Obamacare and takes the blame over for the fiasco over and over again.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That's on me. I mean, we fumbled the rollout on this health care law.


BLITZER: Plus, children begging for food as more aid trickles into the typhoon disaster area. We will have a live report on the relief and recovery efforts under way right now.

And we're also going to show you never-before-seen photos of President John F. Kennedy only moments before his assassination. We're also going to hear from the superstar Tom Hanks. He's behind a brand-new CNN documentary about JFK.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

The president faced reporters to announce an Obamacare fix, but he spent a good part of an hour talking about the fumble. He said he's not a perfect man or a perfect president. And he acknowledged upsetting many Americans and causing serious problems for his own Democratic Party.

Even before he left the podium, critics started to slam his new idea to extend many canceled insurance policies for one more year.

Our chief congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, is standing by up on Capitol Hill.

Let's go to our senior White House correspondent, Brianna Keilar, for the latest -- Brianna.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, these were just remarkable admissions by President Obama as he unveiled this plan to help Americans who have been kicked off of their insurance remain on their policies for another year. He took blame. He admitted that he overpromised and he admitted that he was underinformed.


OBAMA: That's on me. I mean, we fumbled the rollout on this health care law.

I'm accused of a lot of things, but I don't think I'm stupid enough to go around saying, this is going to be like shopping on Amazon or Travelocity, a week before the Web site opens, if I thought that it wasn't going to work.

I am not a perfect man and I will not be a perfect president.

My pledge to the American people is, is that we're going to solve the problems that are there, we're going to get it right, and the Affordable Care Act is going to work for the American people.


KEILAR: And a caveat, Wolf, President Obama saying that his proposed fix will not solve every problem for every person.

What is furthermore is this really is up to the states, Wolf, and we're already seeing some of them reject it. For instance, Washington State, the insurance commissioner there saying they're not going to go along with this. You have almost 300,000 people there who have seen canceled policies. In California, for instance, the insurance commissioner says they will encourage insurers to take this fix, but they can't force them to do it.

BLITZER: A lot of vulnerable Senate Democrats, those who are up for reelection next year, they have taken the president and his top aides to task recently, as you know, Brianna. The president today had a message for them, didn't he?

KEILAR: They have been very upset with the White House and with President Obama. And really today this was a signal to them from President Obama that he understands their concerns. He was trying to deflect some of the criticism from them for standing by his program.

He said he felt deeply responsible, and it really just highlights, Wolf, that probably the toughest criticism President Obama has received has come from within his own party.

BLITZER: Brianna Keilar, thanks very, very much for that report.

Let's get some reaction now from Congress to the president's Obamacare fix. Even some Democrats, as I said, are not satisfied.

Let's go to our chief congressional correspondent, Dana Bash.

Dana, what is the reaction up there?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: For the most part, Democrats are relieved that the president is trying to fix his broken promise, but the issue is, many Democrats here made that broken promise too, so they don't want to just sit on the sidelines.


OBAMA: We're going to get this done.

BASH: The president was barely done explaining his Obamacare fix when his chief of staff arrived on Capitol Hill to sell it to worried Democrats, especially those on the ballot next year.

DENIS MCDONOUGH, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: This isn't about elections. This is about people making sure people have affordable health care.

BASH: Denis McDonough knows full well it's about both. A big reason the president is now asking insurance companies to reinstate consumers' canceled health plans is to calm congressional Democrats worried about voter backlash.

(on camera): How do you describe the atmosphere in the meeting that you just had with White House officials?

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: Strongly focused, constructive, but clearly dissatisfied with the current state of the program.

BASH (voice-over): Republicans were eager to highlight the president's falling poll numbers, especially on the issue of trust.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Promise after promise from this administration has turned out to be not true. When it comes to this health care law, the White House doesn't have much credibility.

BASH: And some Democrats in the toughest reelection battles worry about that, too, especially since the president's plan only asks insurance companies to restore canceled health policy, and doesn't require it, like legislation would.

SEN. MARK BEGICH (D), ALASKA: We want to make sure it's clear to the American people and to Alaskans, the 4,000 Alaskans that have had cancellation notices, that they can keep the plan.

BASH: Still, at the behest of the White House, Senate Democratic leaders are now holding off on legislative action to give the president's plan a chance. Six Democratic senators have now signed on to Mary Landrieu's legislation, which would require insurance companies to keep offering existing plans permanently, not just a year, as the president wants.

(on camera): Is he going far enough? Are you going to continue to push for a legislative fix?

SEN. MARY LANDRIEU (D), LOUISIANA: The president's guidance was welcomed and well-received. We still may have to fashion some legislation.


BASH: In the house tomorrow, house Democrats tomorrow will offer a legislative fix, but only because the House Republicans are going to have a bill on the floor the Democrats say effectively dismantles Obamacare, so they want Democrats to have an alternative to vote for.

And the political pressure on the White House really drove the timing of this, the political pressure of this vote tomorrow in the House. That really is why there was an intense and heated discussion yesterday between House Democrats and the White House, which you reported on, but, Wolf, I'm told today's meeting was quite different.

BLITZER: That's why they wanted to hear, the Democrats, from the president on this fix today. Dana, thank you.

Still ahead, the day John F. Kennedy was killed, we have photos now from Dallas that have never been seen until now.

Plus, the actor and producer Tom Hanks shares his memory of the assassination 50 years ago.

And frantic searches in the typhoon ruins, we're following a mother's long and difficult journey to find her 8-year-old son.


BLITZER: More relief is getting into the Philippines right now, but hundreds of thousands of people still are going hungry. Some children and adults are reduced to literally begging in the streets nearly a week after the monster typhoon hit.

Our senior international correspondent, Ivan Watson, reports.


IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After a grueling journey by boat, Adel Siguan has finally reached her hometown. And she has only one thing on her mind.

ADEL SIGUAN, MOTHER: I bring water for my son.

WATSON: Adel wants to see her 8-year-old boy, who she hasn't even been able to talk to since the storm cut off ties to this remote fishing town nearly a week ago.

(on camera): Now knowing about your son, how has it felt for you?

SIGUAN: Of course I can't sleep, I can't read, I can't eat, I can't -- really, I don't know what to do, because I'm eager to know what's happening with him.

WATSON (voice-over): Adel can't believe how the typhoon devastated her ton. The storm crippled the local government.

(on camera): Any phones? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No communication whatever, whatsoever outside.

WATSON (voice-over): But local officials are improvising. They have set up a service to fly handwritten messages to the outside world.

(on camera): Incredible. There's a note for Cesar Montanses (ph), and it's one sentence, like a telegram. "Pedro Valdez (ph) and Hermenio Badeo (ph) are OK and alive, from Johnny Badoco (ph)."

(voice-over): The typhoon brought down the roof and facade of this church the Spanish built here more than 400 years ago. But this Catholic priest calls it a blessing in disguise because no one was inside when the roof came tumbling down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The irony of this is people's faith gets stronger every time, calamities like this happen.

WATSON: Certainly, Filipinos here have not lost their sense of humor.


WATSON: They joke with a stranger, even though their homes are damaged and their stomachs are empty.

(on camera): Well, you guys -- you guys are still laughing. You can still laugh.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Laughter is the best medicine.

WATSON: It is the best medicine, yes?


WATSON (voice-over): Across town, Adel Siguan has almost completed her exhausting journey. After a week of frightening uncertainty, the mother and her 8-year-old son are finally reunited.

(on camera): How do you feel right now?

SIGUAN: I'm so happy that my son was OK. Yes.

WATSON (voice-over): They are both alive and OK.


BLITZER: All right.

Ivan, Ivan Watson, obviously, we have got some technical problems.

WATSON: Wolf, I'm having some trouble hearing you.

BLITZER: Go ahead. WATSON: That's right.

So, Wolf, while we were on the ground there, help is on the way to this isolated community. We saw a Naval officer from the U.S. aircraft carrier that's just arrived in the region. He said that there will be an effort to really bring the logistical might, the sheer lift power of that enormous vessel and all its aircraft to this very isolated region of Guiuan, as you can see, people still desperate to get messages to the outside world to explain, you know, that they have been hit hard, very, very hard.

They have a long road ahead, but they haven't suffered nearly the cataclysmic death toll of another city we have heard a lot about, Tacloban. That community has suffered about 87 casualties, 87 dead, about 22 people wounded. And perhaps because it hasn't been so deadly for the people on the ground there, they have been able to maintain much more of a sense of law and order.

And the local officials, the town officials, though their crisis command center that was destroyed by the typhoon, they're improvising, and just trying to get to work as well as they can in an analog way. They clearly still need more help from the outside world -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ivan Watson in the Philippines.

Anderson Cooper, by the way, is still there. He will have a special coming up on "A.C. 360" 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

Just ahead, we're going to hear from the superstar Tom Hanks. He's sharing his memories of JFK's assassination 50 years ago.

We also have never-before-seen photos taken only moments before President Kennedy's death.



TOM HANKS, ACTOR: I remembered thinking that this doesn't happen in the real world. A president doesn't get shot in front of everybody, the way John F. Kennedy was. Now, at 7 years old, I'm barely even a socially conscious being, but the overpowering sadness of every adult I came across was rattling.


BLITZER: That was Tom Hanks remembering the assassination of President John F. Kennedy 50 years old next week.

He's the co-producer of a new CNN documentary on JFK's death and its impact on the nation. It airs tonight 9:00 p.m. Eastern, only here on CNN.

The new edition of "TIME" magazine also focuses on Kennedy and his legacy. It includes never-before-seen photos only moments before his assassination. We're also joined by "TIME" magazine's managing editor right now, Nancy Gibbs, also with us, Larry Sabato. He's a political analyst and scholar. He's the author of brand-new book on the Kennedy presidency, the book entitled "The Kennedy Half-Century: The Presidency, Assassination, and the Lasting Legacy of John F. Kennedy."

Thanks to both of you coming in.

And, Larry, I was intrigued, because your conclusion, you can't completely rule out this notion of a conspiracy, can you?


I have to be honest, Wolf. When I started this project five years ago, having lived through the Kennedy assassination -- I was 11 -- I was a little inclined towards conspiracy, and the more I researched it, the more I realized that Lee Harvey Oswald who indeed the person in the sixth floor of the School Book Depository who killed President Kennedy and shot Governor Connally.

However, we can never know for sure whether he was encouraged by anybody else or if there was a co-conspirator in Dealey Plaza. Why? Because he was killed 48 hours after the assassination of President Kennedy. We didn't have time to find out the fully story.

And as one of the prosecutors in Dallas who is still living in his 90s told me, if he had had one more week with Lee Harvey Oswald, given the methods they employed back in 1963 in Dallas, he would have had the full story.

BLITZER: Interesting stuff.

Nancy, share with our viewers some of these never-before-seen photos that you guys have uncovered just before the assassination. I'm going to put them up on the screen, but tell us a little bit about them.

NANCY GIBBS, "TIME" MAGAZINE: These are extraordinary pictures from that moment that had not been seen until now, because they were taken by a Dallas jeweler named Warner King.

And he took them home with him, and never showed them to anyone other than his immediate family. His daughter found them among his possessions after he died, and shared them with us, thinking that the interest in this event is so enduring.

And I think what's so powerful about them is, there's something about the intimacy of these pictures. They really capture the energy and the emotion and the electricity of that moment, not just the president and his wife, but, in the crowd, you see how close people were able to get to that motorcade. In a way, it reminds you of just how vulnerable the president was in those days.

BLITZER: Talk a little bit, Larry, about the legacy of John F. Kennedy, because over these 50 years, he's had an enormous impact on so much.

SABATO: He has indeed.

If I could just comment very briefly on what Nancy just said, we have put together a video accompanying "The Kennedy Half-Century" of many Kennedy motorcades abroad and at home during his short administration. And what Nancy has said is absolutely true.

I make an argument in the book that his assassination was inevitable, because the thin blue line of protection was never thinner than John F. Kennedy. He wanted to mix and mingle with the people. And that made him very vulnerable. There were only 12 Secret Service agents in a 12-mine motorcade in Dallas that day, passing 200,000 people that crowded into the roads and hundreds of open windows in buildings.

This was almost inevitable. As far as the legacy, Wolf, I was really amazed at the extent to which John F. Kennedy has influenced all nine of his successors. They have all used his words and deeds repeatedly to help them accomplish their own agenda.

And the reason I think is -- is revealed in our poll, a large poll of Americans plus focus groups, that shows John F. Kennedy is the most popular post-World War II president, bar none. He's the only president who has a large majority of support from Democrats, Republicans, and independents. All the other ones are partisan.

BLITZER: Larry Sabato, thanks so much for joining us. Thanks for writing this book.

Nancy, great cover story 50 years after the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

Let's get some more JFK memories right now. Like so many Americans, CNN's Jeanne Moos took the president's death very personally.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Pick your most iconic moment of the aftermath of JFK's assassination. Was it John- John's salute to his father's casket? Was it Jackie Kennedy refusing to take off the blood-stained pink suit, a favorite focus of Kennedy moves?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: We can get someone to bring you a change of clothes from the plane.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: No, I want them to see what they have done to Jack.

MOOS: But my most persistent memory was something else. For me, the early '60s were a time of transition. I went from long hair to short hair, said goodbye to my pigtails.

(on camera): These pigtails. My mom actually saved them. (voice-over): And in my baby book for 1963, there was this notation. "Took Kennedy death seriously."

What caught the eye of this 9-year-old girl was a horse, of course, a riderless horse with empty boots reversed in the stirrups, as if the rider were looking back over his past. The horse's was named Black Jack. And the 19-year-old holding him was Army Private 1st Class Andy Carlson.

ANDY CARLSON, FORMER BLACK JACK HANDLER: My skinny arm was trying to control all of that horse.

MOOS: Black Jack had a reputation as a hot horse. He got this job because he was too wild to ride. And after leading him about 14 miles, two days in a row, following JFK's casket on the caisson:

CARLSON: I felt beat near to death and worn out.

MOOS (on camera): I was so taken with Black Jack that after the funeral, I wrote a poem about the riderless horse.

(voice-over): Don't worry. It disappeared over the years, so you won't be subjected to the poetic ramblings of a kid.

CARLSON: At one point, he was pawing the paving. And he struck the toe of my right shoe. I wanted to fall down and roll around on the ground and cry, but couldn't do that.

MOOS: The riderless horse made an impression on Mrs. Kennedy. She later asked for his saddle, bridle, boots and saber.

Black Jack died in 1976 and was buried with military honors. He's been immortalized as a statue, by a book. He's even on Facebook, famous for champing at the bit while playing more than a bit part.

CARLSON: In the middle of all this solemnity, that there is one fool horse having the time of his life.

MOOS: It seems like JFK would have liked that.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: Nice piece, Jeanne. Thanks very much. Thank you for sharing that with all of our viewers.

That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.