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THE SITUATION ROOM
Delays, Traffic and Snow; More Problems for Obamacare
Aired November 27, 2013 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, travel trouble. A major storm hits on one of the busiest travel days of the year, grounded airports, full flights, dangerous driving conditions. How going to all of it impact your travel plans?
CNN's great race, three of our correspondents compete to get from New York to THE SITUATION ROOM here in Washington by train, plane, and car. Just how long will it take?
And radical change, Pope Francis outlines a bold new vision and a massive shakeup of his church. What is he asking Roman Catholics around the world to do?
Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Jim Sciutto. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Well, the travel rush is on this Thanksgiving Eve. Millions of Americans are taking to the roads, the rails and the skies, only to find their plans complicated by a strong storm bringing wind, rain and snow to much of the US.
This is Western Michigan near Grand Rapids -- heavy snow, poor visibility and dangerous driving conditions. And salt trucks are trying to keep ahead of the game in Western Pennsylvania, where winter storm warnings are up in some areas.
And here's Flight Tracker, showing planes flying over the U.S. right now. The bright spot here, only a few cancellations so far today. Delays of one to two hours are the bigger problem for many fliers.
Our CNN correspondents are covering all of the angles of the story.
We're going to begin with meteorologist Chad Myers in the CNN Severe Weather Center -- Chad, things could get much worse tonight?
CHAD MYERS, ATS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. You know, what we're starting to see these delays build. They're not going away. They're starting to get to that -- remember Tom Foreman's piece yesterday -- that tumble effect. All of a sudden, one delay builds on the next and all -- if the -- if the plane coming into your gate is 60 minutes late, you're guaranteed to be 60 minutes late. 6,300 planes still in the sky right now.
And on the East Coast, very, very few are on time. I would say less than half, at best. Look at here. Now, this is Philadelphia. And I'm going to show you the flight board of Philadelphia. Start here with a flight to Norfolk and then here to Wilkes-Barre, to Allentown, canceled, canceled, canceled. That's at least 20 planes there canceled.
And now we get to the delays. There's at least 80 delays here -- Dallas, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Washington. And we go through them, we can pick them one by one. It's an hour, two hours, three hour delays and planes coming in late. That's the issue. They can't go out on time if they don't get to the gate on time. And it's going to be one very slow commute even to get to the airport tonight in New York City.
All of these red roads here on Google Traffic, less than 10 miles per hour -- Jim, that's because it's changing over from rain to snow. It's not going to be a big snow event, but the roads are wet from the rain.
Temperature now in New York City down to 33, especially the western suburbs. And when the snow comes down, that rain will not evaporate and there will be an awful lot of slick spots, especially bridges, as the sun sets now at 5:00, a little after that on the East Coast time. I'd say in one hour, the bridges are going to be a mess.
SCIUTTO: Oh, too bad, Chad. I was hoping for better news. It looks like a lot of people are going to be late for Thanksgiving dinner.
SCIUTTO: We're going to turn now to one of those trouble zones.
CNN's Shannon Travis in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania -- Shannon, we were talking earlier. You said the roads were getting cleared up by those plows.
Are they still working there?
SHANNON TRAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are, Jim. I talked to a transportation official earlier. And he said to me, exactly, we dodged a bullet, meaning in the sense that the wicked weather, the down sall -- the downfall, the icing rain, the ice on the roads, they didn't quite get that here in Pittsburgh as they expected. But they didn't dodge a bullet in terms of cold. Jim, it's cold right now here. The last I checked, about 26 degrees.
Also, they do have some ice in some areas, I'm being told. So trouble spots that some crews have been out salting and making sure that any little accumulation that they have gotten on the roads, that they've gotten those cleared out. And, also, they didn't dodge a bullet in other counties, those other counties that you and Chad have been talking about throughout Western Pennsylvania. There are some other counties like Beaver and Lawrence, where they did get a significant accumulation of snow, up to 12 inches in some of those spots. This transportation official tells me that there, they've got crews on site. Last I checked, about 24 trucks out clearing and salting and what have you. One other thing. The last I checked, just a few moments ago, with the airport, the airport official that I spoke with told me that everything is pretty much normal in terms of operations, except the traffic, the amount of passengers. She told me that today alone, they've seen about 30,000 passengers, up about 15 percent to 20 percent from the normal traffic -- Jim.
SCIUTTO: Well, those salters and plows are going to have to be working through the night.
Thanks very much, Shannon.
SCIUTTO: Shannon Travis in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
There is some sense of relief in Buffalo, New York, a city notorious for massive snowfall. But this time, they seem to have dodged a bullet, as well.
CNN's George Howell is there right in the middle of it -- George, tell us what you're seeing tonight.
GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And, Jim, yes, another bright spot here, when you consider what was setting up here, when you consider that we're talking about one of the busiest, if not the busiest, travel day of the year. And this storm system coming in with, you know, anywhere from four to six inches of snow expected here.
This city certainly did also dodge a bullet in that regard. It is still very cold here. No rain showers. And that's good news, because it's still below freezing.
I want to take you to another camera that we have set up down the street here. And you can see, this is what travelers are dealing with right now. Good news here on the streets of Buffalo.
There is snow here, three to four inches of snow. They're used to that sort of thing. No big deal for them. But, again, you know, everybody is just watching. As long as the temperature is low, the concern about black ice, anything like that, you know, that's what drivers are expected to watch out for.
SCIUTTO: Right. Buffalo, New York not as bad as it could be.
George Howell down there.
Coming up next, CNN's great race from New York right here to THE SITUATION ROOM. Two down, one still to go.
Our Brian Todd is in the car, still trying to get here.
Our Tom Foreman is over at the Magic Wall tracking his progress.
Our Lisa Desjardins took the train and just arrived.
And then there's our Nic Robertson. He flew to Washington and has been here relaxing for hours. Not fair.
SCIUTTO: It's the great race home. We set out to find the fastest way to get from New York here to Washington on this Thanksgiving Eve. So CNN put three of its correspondents on a mission to make the trip by plane, train and car, to see who could complete the journey first.
CNN's Tom Foreman shows us how it all went -- Tom, I had my money on the plane.
Who made out?
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A lot of people did. But this is the bet that everybody in the country is making right now.
What's the best -- the quickest way to get there in difficult times?
Look, this is how this whole thing worked out. If you looked at the overall map of where they were going, Brian Todd, Nic Robertson and Lisa Desjardins all started up in New York at the same time, right around noon.
Nic caught an early flight, came down here, nice and quick and clean.
Lisa had a good run on the train. A little delay at the beginning, but then caught up.
And then Brian Todd -- we're going to get to Brian in just a minute.
Let's take a look at the clock right now. There was Nic's time, three hours, just about, for him to finish; Lisa, 4:31. Both of you all, big finishes here.
Did you think you'd finish this fast?
LISA DESJARDINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I thought I would finish a little faster, to be honest.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And I thought I would miss my plane. I mean I came so close to missing it, I mean so close. I really -- it was 12 minutes when I went through security.
DESJARDINS: (INAUDIBLE) you were diving as the doors closed.
ROBERTSON: And then it pulled away from the gate like a minute-and-a- half early. And I thought, ooh, barring a hitch.
SCIUTTO: But you both made it here.
SCIUTTO: And Brian has been slogging along in the car, getting closer and closer and closer, although I'm not sure where now.
(CROSSTALK) SCIUTTO: Brian, have you made it any closer?
Have you broken through the traffic from Baltimore or what?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Tom, I have made it.
I am at the DC bureau, getting out.
SCIUTTO: Oh, yes!
DESJARDINS: Come on, Brian. Come on.
SCIUTTO: So you're coming in now?
DESJARDINS: The clock is running, my friend.
SCIUTTO: This is one of...
SCIUTTO: Look, there's the clock. You're running out of time, Brian. It is 5:13.
SCIUTTO: Brian, did you think it was going to take this long?
DESJARDINS: I think he might -- I think he -- I think he took that equipment off in the name of escape.
SCIUTTO: Oh, he -- he ran for it.
DESJARDINS: Yes, exactly.
SCIUTTO: He's running for it in the spirit of competition of the season.
DESJARDINS: Exactly. The same exact thing, yes.
SCIUTTO: Did you guys think that Brian would be that far behind in the car or did you think it would be worse?
ROBERTSON: I thought it would be a little quicker than this.
ROBERTSON: I thought it would be a little faster.
SCIUTTO: Look, there he goes...
ROBERTSON: -- closer to the train.
SCIUTTO: Look, there he is. He's running...
DESJARDINS: There he is.
SCIUTTO: This looks like Rocky here. It's unbelievable.
DESJARDINS: Oh, he's a much better runner than I am.
ROBERTSON: Oh, look at that.
Look at him go.
DESJARDINS: Yes, there he is.
SCIUTTO: Yes, he's going.
DESJARDINS: Come on, Brian.
SCIUTTO: And he's got the elevator ride up here so...
DESJARDINS: He's making up time on me right now just with this run.
SCIUTTO: Yes, he certainly is.
DESJARDINS: I have to admit, I really thought -- I've done this drive a lot. I've done the drive from DC to New York many, many times. And in my head, for some reason, it's a four hour drive, which is never realistic. It never takes four hours. But I did think it would take less than 5:14. And I certainly thought the the train would take less than four and a half.
SCIUTTO: Well, and all of you around the country who have traveled and are trying to travel this weekend, especially when you have weather conditions...
SCIUTTO: -- security conditions.
SCIUTTO: It can change.
ROBERTSON: The plane I was on, they couldn't serve any food, any beverages. Everyone had to stay strapped in their seats, because it was so bumpy. Even the stewardesses on the flight strapped in their seats. I shot some video. It was bumping around.
So it's not plain sailing, by any stretch of the way imagination.
SCIUTTO: You know, we came close to disqualifying you. ROBERTSON: I think...
SCIUTTO: -- because there were rumors that Nic had the plane held up with his -- his power as an international correspondent.
ROBERTSON: If only I had such powers, I would use them more often.
DESJARDINS: I'm willing to look into it. But I -- I still tip my hat to Nic, because it was an amazing run.
ROBERTSON: Yes. We pushed off the gate a minute and a half early. We landed 17 minutes early. So we must have had some wind in the right direction from somewhere. So definitely no helping hand from anyone. That was all fair play. That was the TSA doing a great job.
I came running up to security. There was no one in the line.
ROBERTSON: Went through quickly.
DESJARDINS: When does that happen?
That never happens.
DESJARDINS: It's amazing.
SCIUTTO: When does it happen?
ROBERTSON: When you need it to happen, that's when it happens.
DESJARDINS: The one thing we agree on is Brian probably drew the short straw.
SCIUTTO: And speaking of Brian...
SCIUTTO: -- I think we're watching the elevator right now to see if we've got Brian coming in through the door. And as the weary traveler -- that's the weary traveler.
DESJARDINS: There he is.
SCIUTTO: It's so nice you made it.
We were so...
TODD: How are you?
TODD: My good friends, my traveling companions.
SCIUTTO: Touch your name here and you'll stop the clock.
DESJARDINS: Yes, boom.
SCIUTTO: And that's the total count there.
TODD: That is what you call a butt kicking.
SCIUTTO: Did you feel -- overall, traffic, how was it for you?
TODD: Not nearly as bad as we thought it would be. We had probably four backups, four major ones. None of them lasted very long. Two were on the New Jersey Turnpike. One was, I think, in Delaware. And the other one was between Baltimore and Washington. But the Baltimore Tunnel, which is usually very bad, not bad at all.
TODD: We cruised through there.
And it was a -- it was pretty smooth. The weather not really an issue, I have to say. I know that there was a scare about that. There wasn't a whole lot of volume on the road when it opened up, so, you know, I think people might have been kind of scared by the reports of the weather.
SCIUTTO: Short, quick and clean.
What's your advice to everybody who's trying to travel tonight to get somewhere by car?
TODD: I would say be patient.
Leave -- maybe travel at an odd hour. That might help you. You know, maybe -- if you want to -- if you can drive overnight, maybe you want to do that.
SCIUTTO: Let me bring you over here next to your other fellow winners here.
TODD: All right.
SCIUTTO: Lisa, what about you?
What's your advice to anybody trying to go somewhere by train or not by plane or car? Some alternative --
LISA DESJARDINS, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Right. I mean, I think it really depends. If you want to go the quickest way, we clearly know today that was at the airport. But I think if you care about having a good experience, no offense to my friend, Nic, I do think the train was probably the best experience any of us had.
SCIUTTO: Enjoy the getting there experience.
DESJARDINS: Yes. Definitely.
SCIUTTO: And Nic, what your advice? Be lucky, because you were very lucky today.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Just be lucky, never give up hope, and that's it in a nutshell. Be lucky. I had the gentleman in front of me sitting back in his chair so he was right up on my knees. Yes
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Well, yes, I flew in from Europe last night to a rainy Dulles, but there were no delays either. I mean, that's the big surprise, right?
FOREMAN: So big-time traveler. Everybody here is a traveler, right? That's what we do for a living. What's your advice? All your travel -- everybody who's out there who's trying to fight the weather, everything else, what's your advice?
SCIUTTO: I'm just going to claim the victory of having put my money on Nic, because I thought the planes will do better today. But, I will say normally on this trip, I would take the train over the plane if the weather is not good. That would be my thinking. I would never drive, frankly. I would never drive.
ROBERTSON: Leave yourself a little more time to get to the airport. Whenever these rules were drafted up, yes, more time.
TODD: Yes. When Nic tweeted and e-mailed that he made his flight, I said, this race is over.
TODD: I'm around Newark. You know, so forget it.
FOREMAN: Yes. He didn't feel so bad when he was having lunch and you guys were still traveling. Felt pretty good then.
SCIUTTO: How about cost? Which was cheaper? Which was more cost effective?
TODD: I might have won that race.
DESJARDINS: And how much was the tank of gas? TODD: OK. Tank of gas, 70 bucks. We had a pretty big SUV with a lot of equipment. Seventy bucks. Tolls, about $75.
SCIUTTO: So, the flight had to be much more than that.
ROBERTSON: We'll leave that to the accountants. Suffice to say, I wasn't the cheapest.
DESJARDINS: We got $260 for the train.
DESJARDINS: 260 one way.
ROBERTSON: And $450 plus $50 for the taxi, so mine was easily the most expensive.
TODD: I have to correct one thing. I said 75. Tolls were about $25. So, it's about $100, one tank of gas and tolls. So, not bad.
SCIUTTO: And you have to think, you have a couple kids in the back seat -- that adds up very quickly.
ROBERTSON: And I think I got through a few more heartbeats today than one is supposed to get through. I don't know about you guys, but I was like --
DESJARDINS: No. When I was in the train station and I see the board that said, late, I was just, no! You know, everyone else around me was weary, but I know somehow I will make this work, and I couldn't. Amtrak was destined to be late.
FOREMAN: So, Jim, those are the totals. That's the end of it, three, three hours or Nic. 4:31 for the train, and about 5:15 for the car, which frankly, Brian --
TODD: That's not bad for that drive.
SCIUTTO: Our travel traffickers,Nic, Lisa, and Brian, thanks very much. Thanks to Tom as well.
Coming up, CNN uncovers a new problem for Obamacare. It turns out signing up online isn't the only hassle some people are facing.
Plus, a historic agreement with Iran. Does secretary of state, John Kerry's, success diminished Hillary Clinton's tenure? More coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
SCIUTTO: Let's get some travel news you can use now. We have Travelocity's senior editor, Courtney Scott. So, Courtney, thanks for coming on. Let's say you missed it all today. You've saved your travel until tomorrow, the actual holiday. What can you expect?
COURTNEY SCOTT, SENIOR EDITOR, TRAVELOCITY: You can expect some great news tomorrow. Great weather as we're seeing across the country. Much better than today. And, it's an insider's secret to travel on the holiday itself. The first flight out on the holiday tends to be the least crowded, great prices. So, you can expect smooth sailing tomorrow and use that tip looking ahead to Christmas. Book on the holiday itself.
SCIUTTO: Now, one question I have when you get to the airport, is it better to change the flight at the airport in person? Does that help sometimes?
SCOTT: You know, it's better to really plan ahead as much as possible. So, I like to -- if you have to deal with changes, you know, do everything from the comfort of your own home. Make all those decisions before you get to the airport.
SCIUTTO: Now, you mentioned Christmas looking ahead. Is it too late to book for Christmas, because sometimes, when I book travel, you find some good specials in those last two, three weeks before the holidays.
SCOTT: You know, I wouldn't recommend waiting that long, but cyber Monday, Black Friday is just upon us, and it's a great time not only to, you know, invest in electronics and clothing but travel. And so, you know, you can look at Black Friday, especially on Travelocity. We're doing a fantastic sale. Look for coupon codes for even more discounts on travel. It's a big-ticket item, so it's great to really use these flash sales coming up to make your Christmas travel a reality.
SCIUTTO: All right. So, still a chance to get some good deals for Christmas time. Thanks very much to Courtney Scott, the senior editor of Travelocity with some last-minute advice.
Looking back here in Washington now, another setback for Obamacare. The administration is delaying a key component for one year, an insurance marketplace designed for small businesses. CNN senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, has more. Jim, how big a deal is this? This is for small employers, less than 50 employees, right?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, and the administration revealed this mishap, Jim, just as the president was about to pardon the Thanksgiving Day turkey, so Republicans pounced on that, accused the White House of trying to dump bad news right before the holiday.
Now, just to walk you through some of this, officials over at Health and Human Services earlier today, what they basically said was that these small companies are not going to be able to use the online enrollment feature for healthcare.gov for a year. That is because they're still building that portion of the site. What that means is that these companies are going to have to buy that coverage for their employees offline through the insurers directly or the insurance agents.
Officials at HHS had hoped to get this portion of healthcare.gov working this month. That is now not going to happen. But officials caution, Jim, that small businesses with fewer than 50 employees, as you just mentioned, aren't required to purchase insurance under the law. The law just makes enrollment available, and we should point out, House speaker, John Boehner, he seized on this as did other Republicans and said the president should use this opportunity to delay implementation of Obamacare until all of the bugs are worked down,
And of course, all of this comes just three days before the White House target date of November 30th to have the website working for what they call the vast majority of users on healthcare.gov. They say they're going to hit that target date, that the website will be greatly improved this weekend. But as much of the country is focused on the traffic on the highways and you had that on during the show, Jim, the Obama administration is worried about the flow of people on to that site.
So, earlier this week, a senior White House official confirmed to me the administration met with allied groups to urge the not to drive traffic to the site for a week. They want to see what the demand is going to be like and they're urging consumers to get this, avoid the site's peak times. That's right. The site has a peak time. They say it's around two o'clock in the afternoon.
Instead, they're saying use healthcare.gov in the mornings and the evenings and on weekends. It sounds a lot like the travel advisories that are going out to people crisscrossing the country today to get to grandma's house in time for Thanksgiving, Jim.
SCIUTTO: Well, thanks. Not exactly a vote of confidence, right, if you're trying to encourage people not to visit the site as the deadline arrives. Thanks very much, Jim Acosta, at the White House.
That delay isn't the only issue the sign-up process is having now. We're going to bring on CNNs investigations unit correspondent, Chris Frates, with that. Now, Chris, you've been reporting about this, how this is a problem at the back end, right? There were problems on the front end, signing up on the website. Now, on the back end, how does this work? Whether people actually get their coverage after signing up.
CHRIS FRATES, CNN INVESTIGATIONS UNIT CORRESPONDENT: Well, right, Jim. What the insurers are worried about is that once people can actually sign up and use the website and the website starts to work much more efficiently, that people won't be able to get their personal information to the insurers. They're finding that once they sign up and send their information, insurers aren't getting that information on the back end. They're not getting personal date of birth information, beneficiary information. And so, this is very concerning to insurers who want to make sure they can actually enroll people and need that information to do it.
SCIUTTO: You were explaining it -- kind of like you order a book on Amazon, but the book doesn't get dispatched to you. That sounds like a major problem for consumers.
FRATES: It's a huge problem, and insurers are worried that once they're unable to go through this process, that the worst-case scenario here is something where you have somebody who signed up, clicked sign up, the information hasn't transmitted over to the insurers, so they think they have health insurance coverage.
When they go to the doctor and the doctor says, I'm sorry, we called the insurance company, they don't know who you are. And so, that's a big problem for insurers and one that the administration tells us they are working on and that should not be a problem.
SCIUTTO: So, the administration acknowledges it and they say they're going to try to fix this one as well.
SCIUTTO: All right. Thanks very much to CNNs Chris Frates.
Coming up next, she earned high marks. Will this be higher -- will his be higher? John Kerry versus Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. We're taking a closer look.
Plus, Pope Francis denounces trickle-down economics and calls for a radical change in his church. Details of what he wants Catholics around the world to do.
SCIUTTO: The spotlight is now very much on America's top diplomat in the aftermath of this week's historic nuclear deal with Iran. But this isn't John Kerry's first accomplishment in the short time he's been secretary of state, and it has some wondering whether his term may already be more successful than that of his predecessor, Hillary Clinton.
Let's bring in CNN foreign affairs correspondent, Jill Daugherty, with the details.
So what can you tell us?
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, you know, Secretary Kerry is off on another marathon trip next week, Europe, eastern Europe, and the Middle East, nipping at the heels of Hillary Clinton's record travel. But how does he stack up to Clinton when it comes to foreign policy successes?
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) DOUGHERTY (voice-over): He took her job as secretary of state, but he still praises her.
JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: One of the country's remarkable secretaries of state.
I, John F. Kerry.
DOUGHERTY: John Kerry has been America's top diplomat for only 10 months, but already, he's racked up some significant achievements.
KERRY: I spent a long day, long night, and I'm delighted to be here to share some thoughts with you about this negotiation.
DOUGHERTY: A breakthrough interim deal with Iran to halt its nuclear program. A plan with Russia to force Syria to give up its chemical weapons. Peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians that seemed to be on track.
In her four years as secretary of state, Hillary Clinton covered nearly a million miles in the air. Her key issue, women's rights.
HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: An Afghanistan that is stable and secure and peaceful is in everyone's interest, particularly women and children. But it can't come at the cost of women and women's lives.
DOUGHERTY: She scored some foreign policy successes, repairing America's image around the world, preventing a wider war in the Middle East by brokering a cease fire in Gaza. An historic opening with Burma. Building an international coalition to remove Libya's dictator, Moammar Gadhafi, although her critics claimed that victory was overshadowed by the killing of the American ambassador to Libya and three other Americans.
So whose scorecard looks better? Former undersecretary of state Nicholas Burns says they're both successful in different ways.
NICHOLAS BURNS, FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: He is a deal maker in the best sense of that term. He has thrown himself into the toughest negotiations that the United States can face.
She took a longer-range view of the job and she did emphasis development. And the ties between development and diplomacy, and the role of women, which was a very important issue that had not received the attention it deserves.
DOUGHERTY: Diplomats say that history deals each secretary their own hand of cards. And for example, this Iran deal probably wouldn't have taken place if Iranians hadn't elected their own new president. And there's another factor at play. Secretary Kerry has no plans to run for president again. Hillary Clinton could be a candidate in 2016 -- Jim.
SCIUTTO: So two very high-profile secretaries of state, no question.
Joining us to talk more about all this, "TIME" chief foreign affairs correspondent Michael Crowley. His column on Iran is in the magazine's latest issue now on the stands. And also joining us, BuzzFeed.com's Washington correspondent John Stanton. Michael and I were also in Geneva covering this Iran deal.
Comparing Kerry to Clinton, does Kerry -- do Kerry's recent successes at all diminish what Clinton succeeded at?
MICHAEL CROWLEY, TIME CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think people can judge that on their own. I think it's -- there's no question that Kerry is kind of more of an acrobat. He's more out on a limb. He's taking chances. This is the end of the line for him. As Jill said at the end of her segment, Hillary, I think, played a little more cautiously knowing she might run for president again, and this is probably the last thing Kerry does in public life.
I would say, also the differences between them are somewhat on the margins because Secretary of State in this administration really has been kind of an envoy job above all. This -- they're not really setting policy, the foreign policy. The White House is extremely controlling of foreign policy.
And on most of the issues that were just discussed in that segment, I think the big decisions were made, the National Security Council, President Obama himself very active in setting foreign policy. A core group of aides, as you know, who make the big decisions. So the differences are somewhat on the margins of how they kind of carry out diplomacy they're tasked with.
SCIUTTO: John, this story has gotten a life of its own because Hillary may be running for president, that that has affected her risk- taking. Do you think that's a fair criticism?
JOHN STANTON, BUZZFEED.COM DC BUREAU CHIEF: I think to a certain degree perhaps, but, you know, she's not -- she's not the type that's going to say, I'm going to make bad policy because of my political future. I think that she's just -- like a lot of people that run for president, a lot of politicians, believes that she knows what's right and then she has a lot of confidence in herself.
You know, and I think depending on what happens with Secretary Kerry's positions that he's taken on Iran, on the Middle East peace process, if those things don't work out, she's going to look much better. And those are very big questions that are still out there where some of the things that she's worked on with repairing the country's sort of image in the international sphere after the Bush administration, working with women, those are pretty solidified and those aren't going to go away for her.
SCIUTTO: Your article, well-named, "Obama's Iran Gamble," diplomacy is risky. Right? Particularly when you're dealing with some of your toughest adversaries in that part of the world. How much is at stake for President Obama here and for Kerry? CROWLEY: Well, quite a lot. I think that, you know, you can trace what happened in Geneva. It's fascinating to me, all the way back to a debate in 2007 in Charleston, South Carolina, where Obama said we should be talking to the leaders of enemy nations. He was called naive by Hillary Clinton, irresponsible, I believe, by John McCain. All kinds of other people piled on, and people thought this idea that we can change our tone, change our approach, and just by extending an olive branch, have diplomatic breakthroughs was ridiculous.
Right now it's looking like there might be something to it. But if the deal falls apart, if Iran essentially betrays us, if they cheat, he is going to look like he got duped.
By the way, very quick last point to expound on what you said, the big question for Kerry, Middle East peace talks, the White House, that's the one thing they have said to him, you can go and get that done if you want. We're going to hang back. If he can get a breakthrough on Middle East peace, that's legacy making. And I do think that trumps anything Hillary did.
SCIUTTO: That would be -- well, listen, the -- the battles aren't just over there. They're here -- right here in Washington, Capitol Hill. You have Republican lawmakers and Democratic lawmakers in his own party pushing for more sanctions, administrations says that could get in the way of making the deal successful. How big of a battle does -- do Kerry and Obama still face here.
STANTON: I think it depends on what happens with the Iranians and particularly in the short term. If they look like they're sort of sticking to the deal, I think Democrats will back off enough to allow the administration some wiggle room. But if it looks like they're playing games at all or if the pressure really hits a build-up, I mean, you already have Senator Schumer and a number of members of the House on the Democratic side saying they don't care about this. They want to see more sanctions already.
And that is going to be a big, big problem for a White House that has sort of put a lot of these members into the position of feeling that they've been betrayed on Obamacare and other issues. And this is just sort of one more thing that is sort of grinding them on a little bit.
SCIUTTO: The question, President Kerry -- sorry, Secretary Kerry is putting out a big push on Capitol Hill now to head off those sanctions. I think he put out a video today that the congressmen are going to be looking at.
Thanks very much, John Stanton, Michael Crowley. Look forward to seeing you at the next talks in Geneva.
Just ahead, Pope Francis lays out a plan to end business-as-usual for the Roman Catholic Church. Details of his stunning message and why many conservatives don't like it. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
SCIUTTO: Shocking words for many Roman Catholics in the first major official document from Pope Francis. In it, he calls for radical changes in the church saying it's time to rethink tradition, stop obsessing about rules, and to focus instead on the poor.
The Pope goes on to denounce the current state of economics saying free market capitalism has not benefitted the poor.
Let's get more with Father Dave Dwyer, a Catholic Priest and a host of the "Busted Halo Show on Sirius XM Satellite Radio.
Thanks very much for joining us, Father Dwyer.
REV. DAVE DWYER, HOST, "THE BUSTED HALO SHOW": Well, good evening, happy Hanukkah and happy Thanksgiving from New York.
SCIUTTO: Absolutely. Listen, you look at this, a very different kind of document than we saw from his predecessors.
SCIUTTO: He denounces unfettered capitalism as a new tyranny. He says that the attacks the structural causes of inequality around the world. What do we make of this?
DWYER: Well, first of all, to put it into context, this document is about 288 paragraphs long. The majority of it talks about joy. The title of it is "The Joy of the Gospel." And the jargon for the type of document that this is, is an apostolic exhortation, which essentially means it's different than pronouncing some sort of dogma or doctrine, let's say, about the Blessed Virgin Mary that all Catholics now have to believe.
Essentially this is much more like a coach in the locker room at half time. He's not changing the plays. He is giving us a pep talk and he wants Christians, all Christians to be sharing their faith with joy. And so that's the context within which we see some of these more controversial statements.
SCIUTTO: It's got a totally different tone from the previous encyclicals letters from previous popes. It seems much more stilted and it seems to fit with his personality here. He's a guy who guys a Renault, right?
SCIUTTO: He doesn't have a big fancy car. He lives in an apartment. How much does this come from his personality, his upbringing, the mission that he had in Argentina, his background?
DWYER: Well, quite a bit, as a matter of fact, and distinct from the encyclical lumen fidei which was released soon after he was elected Pope that he even admitted and so do many Vatican insiders admit that Pope Benedict XVI really had written much of that. This document that was released just this week is clearly in his own hand. Almost all of it. In fact, the recommendations from a meeting of bishops that happened a year ago is typically what the Popes will use to create a document like this, but he put it all aside and you can hear his voice in almost all of this document.
SCIUTTO: It's in his -- it's in his tone and it's also in the kinds of things he's talking about.
SCIUTTO: It seems to be more policy, more real-world stuff, less ideology. I mean, you know the role the church has played in the culture wars. Do you think this is the kind of Pope who can help end those culture wars? Have a broader effect even outside the church?
DWYER: Well, it's interesting that a lot of the discussion a year ago when the bishops gathered to talk about this topic of sharing our faith, a lot of the discussion was on secularism, and one of the most absent terms or concepts in this document is that. The Pope chose in this particular piece of writing not to take on all that's wrong with the world and the culture but rather to say, we as church need to go out there and embrace the culture, engage the culture.
Not necessarily condone everything in the culture, but particularly, he was actually more critical of us within the church, priests and bishops and the kind of culture that breeds it's just the select few that get to be a part of this. He says, no, no, no. No one must be excluded from the gospel.
SCIUTTO: Well, it's incredible. It's exciting. A lot of the world's more than one billion Catholics, it seems like people beyond that as well.
Thanks very much to Father Dave Dwyer.
DWYER: Yes. Sure.
SCIUTTO: Talking about Pope Francis.
We're going to turn now back to the severe weather. It is threatening to impact one of the country's most loved holiday traditions, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York.
And CNN's national correspondent Jason Carroll is there right now.
JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Up, up, and away. Maybe.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On the I-95 quarter --
CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Very powerful winds. This is the wind that could affect those balloons. CARROLL: Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade's giant balloons. Will they fly or won't they? Jose Ramirez and his family are hoping to see them soar.
JOSE RAMIREZ, PARADE TOURIST: We came all the way from Puerto Rico to see the parade so it will be a disappointment if -- you know, if we can't see the balloons.
CARROLL: Same sentiments from the Macendano family.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They have to fly. Somebody's got to make them fly.
CARROLL: Parade organizers aren't concerned about rain or snow. It's wind. Giant balloons like the all new Toothless from "How to Train Your Dragon," measuring 72 feet long and 36 feet wide, could be grounded. That is if some forecast are true and sustained winds reach at least 23 miles per hour Thursday or wind gusts top 34 miles per hour.
Macy's saying, "Regarding the giant balloons, a determination is made on their inclusion based on real-time weather data parade morning, and not forecasts. So it's not helpful to discuss it now."
It was a topic of discussion and concern for New York City Police.
RAY KELLEY, NEW YORK CITY POLICE COMMISSIONER: So we've had several meetings. We have a meeting today on it. We have instruments that give us the crosswind measurements. We've done a lot of training on this.
CARROLL: Both city and parade officials have learned from past wind- related balloon accidents. In 1997, a woman spent more than three weeks in a coma after the Cat in the Hat balloon struck a light pole which hit her. In 2005 two more were hurt in a similar accident involving the M&M's balloon.
Now improved weather monitoring devices are along the parade route and a police sergeant assigned to each balloon. Protocols are in place. New balloons like Snoopy and Woodstock and an updated SpongeBob are ready to fly. But even if they don't, the Findley family will not be disappointed.
MICHELLIAN FINDLEY, PARADE TOURIST: The balloon aren't about Thanksgiving. It's about fellowship and family and just being thankful.
CARROLL: So, Jim, we've got the balloon out here now. The balloons are all up here. Sonic the Hedgehog. You've got Hello Kitty down there. The crowds are here as well. Everyone here waiting for these balloon. You see people (INAUDIBLE). We spoke to the man in charge, the man who will be making that decision.
And, Jim, he says he feels confident Sonic and the rest of them will be flying tomorrow morning, fingers crossed.
SCIUTTO: All those balloons fly. Jason Carroll in New York.
Coming up, redemption.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARTIN WALSH (D), BOSTON MAYOR-ELECT: A lot of, you know, upsetting people and, when I say, hurting people, just emotionally in a lot of cases, you know, drinking a lot, you know, drinking different -- you know, almost every night of the week, but going to work. I was a functioning. I was a functioning alcoholic.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: Just ahead, find out how Boston's mayor-elect transformed himself.
SCIUTTO: We've heard several recent stories about politicians getting into trouble with drugs and alcohol. From the crack-smoking Toronto Mayor Rob Ford to Florida Congressman Tray Radel, who's now in treatment after being convicted for cocaine use.
Boston's mayor-elect Martin Walsh had his own struggles with alcohol, but managed to overcome them.
Here's CNN's Poppy Harlow.
WALSH: Give me Boston a place of comebacks and second chances.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Martin Walsh wasn't shaping up to be mayor of Boston.
(On camera): You drove drunk.
HARLOW: Blacked out.
HARLOW: Got kicked out of a Bruins game.
WALSH: A couple of times. I didn't have a shutoff valve.
WALSH: You know, when the party was over, I didn't want to go home.
HARLOW (voice-over): He dropped out of college to work construction.
WALSH: Drinking a lot, you know, drinking different -- you know, almost every night of the weeks, but going to work. I was functioning. I was functioning alcoholic.
HARLOW: He says at 22 he was arrested after a night of drinking for what he calls being a punk. He hit bottom in 1995.
WALSH: A three-day bender that wasn't good. And then the following Monday that I went to work, my boss suggested that I make a phone call I didn't want to make and they recommended that I go inpatient and to detox and I had no intention of doing that.
HARLOW (on camera): You were just making the call to make him happy.
WALSH: Just to make him happy. Get the heat off.
Good morning. How are you?
HARLOW (voice-over): Now he's 18 years sober.
WALSH: Everything I have is because of being recovered.
HARLOW: He was a state representative for 16 years then went back to night school to get his college degree at age 42. It was a narrow victory for Walsh, with significant ties to labor, critics question whether he can fairly negotiate with unions. So did votes from the recovery community tip the balance in his favor?
WALSH: Part of getting elected is your story. And people say, he's, you know, come on the stuff. I don't.
JAMES TAYLOR, RECOVERING ADDICT AND WALSH SUPPORTER: There was a rally the day before the election. Wow. And most of these people were in recovery.
HARLOW: Recover addict James Taylor vividly remembers the day he met Walsh nine years ago.
TAYLOR: It was a Sunday and it was 13 degrees below zero. He said, get your bags, you're going with me.
HARLOW (on camera): Where did he take you?
TAYLOR: To the hello house.
HARLOW: A halfway house?
HARLOW: What did he do for you?
TAYLOR: He saved my life. I believe God put him there that day to help me specifically.
HARLOW: And that's when you started getting sober?
HARLOW (voice-over): Another Walsh supporter, Carroll (INAUDIBLE), is now 13 years clean after beating her addiction to crack cocaine.
CAROLETTA SHAW-BOYD, FORMER ADDICT AND WALSH SUPPORTER: I think that him being in recovery will broaden the horizon of people who he understands. Will it make him a better mayor, will it make him a better person? I couldn't stay that, but in order for you to understand where I'm at and where I've been, you have to have gone through what I've gone through.
HARLOW (on camera): Do addicts still call you for help?
WALSH: Yes, I got a call yesterday about trying to help somebody get into a halfway house.
HARLOW (voice-over): He says he'll keeping taking those calls as mayor and keep going to AA meetings. He's had his second chance.
WALSH: If you told me in detox that I was going to be sitting down 18 and a half years later having an interview on CNN as the mayor-elect of Boston, I don't know what I would say. I would probably say, yes, OK.
HARLOW: Now he has to prove himself to the people of Boston.
WALSH: Anything is possible if you get sober.
HARLOW: And, Jim, I asked him does he worry about relapsing, he said, no, he takes it a day at a time. And I also, of course, asked him, does he have a higher political aspirations, he said now the focus is being mayor of Boston, but you never know possibly in the future.
One important note, he did admit to me, look, if I had to deal with this while I was in political office and come out and admit that I was an alcoholic, that would be a lot harder to do than before I was in public office. So some perspective there in the context of all of this. What does he plan to do when he gets into public office, he is going to use some taxpayer money to open an office of recovery services to try to help more addicts in Boston -- Jim.
SCIUTTO: Ready to get all around. Thanks to Poppy Harlow in New York.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN.
SCIUTTO: Happening now, travel turmoil. The late Thanksgiving rush is on, and in some places, the weather is getting worse. We're learning about a major new delay here on the East Coast.
Plus, our great race. CNN correspondents share their experiences dodging holiday traffic on a plane, a train, and in an automobile.
And high stakes diplomacy. New U.S. Ambassador Caroline Kennedy is front and center in a very tense confrontation with China.
Wolf Blitzer is off today, I'm Jim Sciutto, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.