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RNC Moving 2016 Convention to June; Magazine Cover Generates Buzz on Hillary Run; Extra Security for U.S. Olympians

Aired January 24, 2014 - 13:30   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN: Reza, I saw the video of that bombed-out police headquarters in Cairo where you are. It almost looked like the Murrah federal office building in Oklahoma City. Are we on the verge of some sort of civil war in Egypt right now?

REZA SAYAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's what many people fear in Egypt. Perhaps not a civil war, but an insurgency that's shifting from a low- level insurgency to something a little bit more serious. Many people have that fear because what people saw in Cairo today, the heart of Cairo, is unprecedented. Egyptians haven't seen four bomb explosions in this city in one day, and they certainly haven't seen a bomb explosion as powerful as the one that targeted police headquarters early this morning at 6:30 a.m. Authorities say that explosion caused by a car bomb. The bomb powerful enough to shear off the facade of the building, caused significant damage inside, also causing significant damage inside. Also causing significant damage to surrounding buildings, including the historic Islamic Museum of Art.

Four people killed in that explosion, scores injured. But that was only the beginning. Several hours later, you had a second, a third, and a fourth explosions. Those blasts smaller, homemade bombs, according to authorities. And then the past couple of hours, we're getting reports of a fifth explosion. The scene at these blasts remarkable. Many angry, unnerved, stunned Egyptians immediately pointing the finger, blaming the Muslim Brotherhood.

We should point out, Wolf, that the Muslim Brotherhood has condemned this attack as they have done in previous attacks. But for many angry Egyptians that we saw, it didn't matter. Well, they're blaming the Brotherhood. All of this, of course, taking place one day before the big anniversary celebration of the 2011 revolution.

But certainly the events today driving home the fact that these are tumultuous, uncertain times in Egypt, and many here certainly don't know what tomorrow and the weeks ahead are going to bring -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, who would have thought three years after that Arab spring at Tahrir Square erupted in Cairo, the situation would be as it is right now.

Thanks very much. Reza Sayah, be careful over there in Cairo.

Protecting American athletes. Threats against the Olympic Games have pushed some teams to bring extra security.

Up next, I'll talk to the CEO of one company hired to protect the ski and snowboard team.


BLITZER: You're planning on going to the 2016 Republican Presidential Convention. As we've been reporting it's going to be a little bit earlier than usual. The Republican National Committee voted today to move the convention up to June, and it's all part of the GOP's efforts to regroup after losing the 2012 presidential election.

Joining us now to talk about this decision, the GOP women, a whole lot more. Two guests, Republican Alice Stewart, former national press secretary for Mike Huckabee's presidential campaign, and CNN political commentator, Maria Cardona, former senior adviser to Hillary Clinton.

Guys, thanks very much for joining us.

Alice, I assume you like this idea that Reince Priebus had to move up the convention to June, accelerate the process, and not let all these Republican potential candidates beat up on each other.

ALICE STEWART, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I think the good thing -- thanks for having me, Wolf. The good thing is, we have a good, deep bench with the Republican Party and we do expect to have a very heated primary. But the key with this is that we provide enough time to fully vet the candidates, with the large number, the need to be fully vetted. But it is a good idea to move up the convention, so that we can all rally behind the party's nominee and move forward to a very strong, vigorous general election.

So I think this is a good move for the RNC to do that, and I think a good, contested primary is a good thing. But the sooner we can rally behind one candidate, start raising money and building esteem and momentum behind the party's nominee going into the general, I think is a good thing.

BLITZER: You normally, Marie, as you know, the presidential conventions are at the end of August, early September. Will this force the Democrats to follow suit and move their convention to June?

MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think that Democrats are going to see who their nominee is. We still don't know that yet, even though some hope that it will be Hillary, including myself. And so I think we'll see who it is. And depending on who it is, they will try to look at the calendar to see what best suits that nominee.

But what really hit me about this, Wolf, in terms of how politics have changed, I remember sitting in Terry McAuliffe's office in early 2002, and trying to figure out how late we could have the convention, because, as you know, back then the presumptive nominee would use the general election funds, which normally weren't available until the conventions and then we didn't want to use them up too quickly before the general elections.

So it really just shows how much politics have changed now that nominees are not really focused on using those general election funds. So I do think this will be helpful to the -- to the nominee, especially the Republicans. But I think they need to really look at how they're speaking to their demographics, if they really want to think about how to win.

BLITZER: Alice, I know you're close to Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor, he was once a Republican presidential candidate. He had some sharp words yesterday.

I'm going to play the clip for you because I want to discuss with you what he was -- unfortunately, we don't have the sound bite. But he was talking about -- and I'll read it to you, because I want to -- give you the full context of what he said.

"If the Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing them a prescription each month for birth control, because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of government, then so be it."

All right. This has caused quite a stir out there. His tone, if you will. What do you make of what he was trying to say?

STEWART: Well, I think it's important to take it into context with the full speech. It was about a 15, 20-minute speech, and we're -- we're looking at one small part of it, when the real message here is that Democrats have reduced women to helpless victims when it comes to many issues, specifically with their health care and with contraceptives.

Women are much more than a free pack of birth control pills at the beginning of every month. They deserve much of more than that. They want much more than that. And the Republican Party will provide them with that. They realize that women have a lot to bring to the table. Women want jobs, they want economic opportunity, they want to put gas in the tank and food on the table.

And they realize now that the war on women is coming from the Democrats. The Republican Party is a war for women, and they have certainly -- they give them a lot more credit than the Democrats did with the last presidential election, the life of Julia, who is a woman who stands with her hand out from cradle to grave, wanting government handouts.

So women want much more than that and deserve that, and the Republican Party can provide it.

BLITZER: All right. Go ahead, Maria, in response.

CARDONA: So clearly, Alice knows how to articulate this much better than Huckabee did, so he should listen to her.

But I think, in essence, what's wrong is not just the words, Wolf. It's the actual message. Because what Republicans are telling women is that they actually want to be able to make the decisions about their health care, about their bodies, about their reproductive systems, and they don't trust women to make those decisions themselves. They don't trust women and their doctors, which is where those decisions should be.

That message came out loud and clear. Every single time a Republican opened their mouth to try to talk about women's issues.

My advice to Republicans is to just shut up about women's issues, about women's physiology, about women's reproductive systems. Just don't talk about women. And if you're going to talk about women, go take some remedial classes on the sensitivity training that the GOP was trying to do earlier because they really need it.

BLITZER: Ladies, stand by. I want to continue this conversation. We have a lot more to discuss.

Normally I would have loved to have invited Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor, to join us here on CNN. Unfortunately, he works for FOX News so he can't -- he goes to show on FOX News but at some point down the road, if he runs, Alison, we'll discuss it for the Republican nomination as a lot of people think he might. Maybe he'll end that contract with FOX and be a guest on CNN as he used to be in the olden days.

Guys, stand by for a moment.

A new provocative "New York Times" magazine cover on Hillary Clinton is generating a bit of a controversy out there. I'm going to show you what's on the cover and what's in the article.


BLITZER: There's certainly no denying Hillary Clinton wields a tremendous amount of power within the Democratic Party. Now the "New York Times" Sunday magazine is focusing on that political pull with a provocative cover that's got a lot of people talking.

It shows the former secretary of state's face on a planet against a celestial background surrounded by circles of friends with the headline "Planet Hillary."

Joining us once again, Republican Alice Stewart, former national press secretary for Mike Huckabee's presidential campaign, and CNN political commentator Maria Cardona, the former senior adviser to Hillary Clinton.

Maria, what's your reaction, first of all, to the cover?

CARDONA: I thought it was goofy, Wolf, to tell you the truth. First of all, I don't think it does her any justice physically. But also, even in what they were trying to depict metaphorically. They should have put her face on a sun, frankly, because we all know that the sun has what -- a lot oh of planets revolve around a sun.

You know, planets have moons, they have, you know, satellites revolving around them. But I think what they were really trying to depict is the tremendous amount of friends, allies and loyal followers that Hillary Clinton has been able to amass throughout the years. And so I think they should have depicted her as a sun, frankly. BLITZER: What about you, Alice?

STEWART: I think -- I agree with Maria. In my view, I don't think it did her any justice. And I don't understand the artistic value of it. And to be honest, I think it's disrespectful, if you ask me. And they have done many stories on the artistic value and why they decided to do it this way. There's plenty of other things to show Hillary Clinton in a different light than that. But at the end of the day, if you're looking at it -- I view everything through a political lens.

And if you want to put her anywhere in the planet, I guess they'd want to get her -- the Democrats would like to get her as far away from Benghazi as they can and put her out in the solar system is probably about appropriate.


BLITZER: Let me just read a line from the article. It's a long article by Amy Chosic, a reporter for the "New York Times."

"The center of the orbit has become even more crowded now that Chelsea is in the game. The role of Chelsea, to the annoyance of some long- time Clinton aides, who refused to her as 'the child' has become significantly more pronounced. While some loyalists still think of her as a teenager hanging around the Oval Office, she has become a formidable presence at the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation."

She is a smart -- well, she's a grown woman now, as you know, Maria. She's, what, 33 years old. And she plays a pretty significant role in that family in almost all aspects.

CARDONA: There is no question about that, Wolf. And she is formidable in her own right. And, you know, a lot of people have frankly talked about, you know, perhaps what is her political future going to be.

But in terms of this article, Wolf, I really do think that it underscores the hunger that so many people have to hear about a Hillary run, to talk about a Hillary run. But I think the reality is, Wolf, that Hillary is thinking about what is best for her, what could be best for the country. She is taking her time. She is not listening to all of this noise that is surrounding her about this.

And, you know, the cover and the substance of the article does not do justice, I think, to her and to the people around her in terms of the seriousness with which they are taking this upcoming decision. And I think she should take as much time as she can, because she can afford to.

BLITZER: And, Alice, you're -- you're from Arkansas. You're down in Little Rock right now. As you know the Clintons, they've got a long history in Arkansas. He was the former governor, she was a partner at a big law firm in Little Rock, going way, way back.

In this Quinnipiac University poll, among Democrats, look at this -- Democrats' choice. Right now it's very early. Hillary Clinton, 65 percent, Biden 8 percent. Everybody else, nowhere, basically, if you take a look at those numbers. Elizabeth Warren, 7 percent.

But, you know, this is -- is it a slam dunk, first of all, Alice, to you, that she will be -- assuming she is healthy, no problems, she'll be the Republican nominee?

STEWART: I would say --


BLITZER: Excuse me, the Democratic nominee. Sorry.


STEWART: I was going to say it's a slum dunk that she won't be the Republican nominee.


BLITZER: Is it a slum dunk she will the -- yes, she's not going to be the Republican nominee.


BLITZER: Is it a slam dunk she'll be the Democratic nominee?

STEWART: Well, clearly, if the vote were held today, without a doubt. There are a lot of folks that share Marie's sentiment, they support her. And the money is pouring in like crazy for her. We're seeing super PACs pouring money in. And as the article points out, Chelsea Clinton is a great addition and will be very welcome on the campaign trail, as well as former President Bill Clinton.

They're two very popular Clintons and they will do very well. But at the end of the day, she'd be the one on the ticket. And she can -- she cannot hide from Benghazi. And I keep bringing that point up. But she hasn't answered those questions. She is ultimately responsible for that. And when she hits the trail, all this money in the world, and all the support in the world is not going to take away the fact that four dead Americans lost their lives under her watch.

And folks are going to play that ad that she used against Barack Obama of the 3:00 a.m. phone call and they're going to show that she didn't answer it with regard to the situation in Benghazi.

CARDONA: If Republicans have --

BLITZER: Hold on, hold on, hold on a second.


BLITZER: When you say she hasn't answered questions about -- didn't she spend hours and hours before that congressional committee answering questions about Benghazi, Alice? STEWART: She spent a lot of time answering -- avoiding questions and the ultimately when it got down -- when it really counted, when they were really getting to the substance of it, what did she say? She said what difference at this point does it make? And she was the one responsible, and no one has been held accountable. And that's the key.

There has been a lot of time talking around the subject. We still don't have answers as to exactly why more assets were not put in place. Why we didn't have more protection at the very beginning. And at the end of the day, no one has been held accountable for that. And these four families deserve that, and so do the American people, quite frankly.

BLITZER: Go ahead, Maria.

CARDONA: She answered -- she answered hours and hours of questions on end about this. She took personal responsibility for this. There is no question about that. She knows that there were issues. She took the recommendations of the group that was put together to figure out what happened.

And so if Republicans -- if this is the only thing that Republicans have going up against Hillary Clinton, if she does run for president, Wolf, then I'll say right now, if she runs, she'll win.

BLITZER: Maria Cardona, Alice Stewart, this is just the first of many conversations, I suspect the three of us are going to have about her and a whole bunch of other issues.

Guys, thanks very much for joining us.

CARDONA: Looking forward to it, Wolf, thanks.

STEWART: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you.

CARDONA: Have a good day.

BLITZER: All right. Please be sure to watch "THE SITUATION ROOM" later today. Amy Chosic, the writer of that article about Hillary Clinton for the "New York Times" Sunday magazine will be among my guests.

Protecting American athletes. Threats against the Olympic Games have pushed some teams to bring extra security. Up next, I'll speak to the CEO of one company hired to protect the American ski and snowboard team.


BLITZER: The United States has dispatched more than two dozen FBI agents to Russia to supplement security for the upcoming Olympic Games. We've heard many threats against the games and now the State Department and the U.S. Olympic Committee have issued a warning for Team USA, telling athletes not to wear their colors outside what's called the secure zone.

Joining us now is Dan Richards, he's the CEO of the private security firm Global Rescue. His company has been contracted by a couple of the U.S. teams to provide extra security for the athletes.

Dan, are we talking armed guards for the American athletes? Give us a little sense of what you guys are planning on doing.

DAN RICHARDS, CEO, GLOBAL RESCUE: So Global Rescue provides really for U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association and for our clients and other individuals who might purchase our memberships in the region. Medical support and evacuation, logistics and evacuation and transport related to crises as they might occur in Sochi.

BLITZER: How worried should the athletes be based on everything you've heard, Dan? How worried should the spectators, the fans, the others who are going to see the Winter Olympic Games?

RICHARDS: Well, there is a concern that everybody has. And I think it's a reasonable concern. This unlike other Olympic Games does not possess a zero likelihood of there being an event that occurs. Based on the events of the last 60 days, you know, there are potential problems that could occur. And an attack could occur and it's not out of the question, although I would believe that the likelihood is quite low.

BLITZER: You said the likelihood of an actual attack occurring is quite low? Is that what you just said?

RICHARDS: Yes, I believe that the likelihood of an attack is low, certainly of a larger systemic type attack is quite low.

BLITZER: But you have to be prepared for that so-called worst-case scenario and given all of the animosity in that part of the world and the caucuses over there, the hatred, the Islamist radicals who hate the Russian government of President Putin and the fighting that's been going on for, let's say, decades, we shouldn't be surprised if something horrible happens.

RICHARDS: No. And we've been planning -- we've all been for months for events that might occur. And, you know, for sure -- you know, the Russians have allocated an unbelievable amount of resources and they're doing everything that one would expect the host nation to do to try and prevent a significant event from occurring.

What was -- is much more likely that we would see is a localized event and, you know, the likelihood of that is certainly much higher than of a very large systemic event. But the likelihood of that is also not zero.

BLITZER: It's really sad that the U.S. State Department and others have to tell American athletes, don't wear jackets or whatever, caps, with the American flag because then you become a target. That's pretty sad, isn't it?

RICHARDS: It's awfully sad. You know, the focus of the Olympic Games should be on the athletes and their families and the spectators. And, you know, world coming together to compete athletically. And the fact that there's a warning that's gone out that says that Americans should not wear their team colors is awfully sad.

BLITZER: Very sad.

Dan Richards is the CEO of Global Rescue.

Good luck, Dan. Let's hope that nothing happens except for a lot of --

RICHARDS: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: -- actual athletes participating in these Winter Olympic Games.

Coming up, the White House spokesman, the press secretary. Guess what? He has a brand-new look.


BLITZER: A turnaround for the White House press secretary when it comes to facial hair, that is. There is Jay Carney yesterday. Watch him. He's sporting his relatively new beard. Started growing it on vacation. But today the White House briefing not a chin hair to be seen.

Watch this.


JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I heard that Ann Compton had bet that I would shave before State of the Union. And I didn't -- I didn't want her to lose money. And also if you have seen Cody Keenan's beard, you know that I have a daily reminder of the insufficiency of my effort. And --


Decided the time had come to shave. So.


BLITZER: Very good decision by Jay Carney. I thought -- I recommended he lose his beard the other day as well.