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THE SITUATION ROOM
Kiev, Ukraine In Flames As Protests Rage; Will U.S. Swap Terror Suspects For Soldier?; Ted Nugent's Vicious Slur Against Obama
Aired February 18, 2014 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Jake, thanks very much.
Happening now, capital in flames -- deadly protests raging in a city under siege, as Americans are warned to stay out of sight.
Trading with the Taliban -- how far will the United States go to get back an American soldier who was taken captive in Afghanistan?
And Ted Nugent's vile slur against President Obama doesn't stop a GOP candidate from appearing with the right-wing rocker.
Is it time for Republicans to keep their distance?
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: But we begin with breaking news. Bright orange flames lighting up the night sky, as bloody protests ripped through Ukraine's capital. Lots at stake right now, for the United States and the European Union.
At least 14 people are dead. Americans are being warned to stay indoors.
CNN's Phil Black is joining us from Kiev right now.
Phil is on the phone.
What is the latest -- because these pictures, Phil, have been so dramatic all day, it reminds me of Tahrir Square in Cairo.
PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it did. It certainly has very much a revolutionary feel to it (INAUDIBLE).
I'm standing not far from those bonfires you can probably see in that live feed. And (INAUDIBLE) I'm surrounded by thousands of people who are (INAUDIBLE) out of their way (INAUDIBLE) prepared to fire (INAUDIBLE) forces tried to force their way through here earlier this evening, broke through some of their lines and barricades but then (INAUDIBLE). And now -- they are now rebuilding those barricades. They have lit those bonfires to create, really, a bed of fire and burning embers across the road. It's all part of a -- a defensive attempt to (INAUDIBLE) back the security forces from mounting any sort of offensive operation to clear the square.
(INAUDIBLE) certainly the language coming from the Ukrainian government today clearly blames the opposition crowd (INAUDIBLE) to the violence that has taken place on the streets of Kiev. The people surrounding me certainly refute that. But they believe that the government is going to use that violence today as an excuse to counter here and do something that they've no doubt been keen to do for a couple of months now. And that is clear out this square that has been occupied since November and reassert the government's authority here -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And I know that our connection is not that great, understandably so, Phil.
But what the government there in Kiev, they -- they're with Putin and Moscow. Those in the opposition who are resisting, they're -- they want to have a better relationship with the European Union and with the United States.
Is that what -- is that the big issue right now or are there other domestic issues that we need to know about?
BLACK: No, that's the -- well, that was really the issue that triggered all of this. So people first took to the streets because they want Ukraine to be closer to Europe. The government said no, we're going to go closer to Russia. What they've been fighting for since is a change to the constitution that will lessen the powers of the president. And then they want new elections, to elect a new government and a new president, because they believe that (INAUDIBLE) the country is with them and wants to go closer to Europe.
It's hard to know how accurate that is. Certainly, the country is divided somewhere close to 50/50, pro-Europe, pro-Russia. But the people around me here on the streets certainly want the president and the government to go.
BLITZER: And it looks, Phil, like there's no -- no easing of this opposition of what's going on right now. It looks as intense as it was a few hours ago.
BLITZER: I think we've lost our connection with Phil Black. We'll try to reconnect with him. He's in Kiev.
But I want to go to our own Nick Paton Walsh, our other international correspondent.
He's joining us from Sochi, Russia right now.
And, Nick, you know Kiev. You know Ukraine well. You've reported there quite frequently.
What's at stake here, specifically, what's at stake for the West, especially the United States?
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is the long decade, at least drawn out, almost battle, if you were, about which direction the country goes. It is split, in many ways, itself between an east that faces toward Russia, that's close, industrially, to Russia's economy, and a west that sees Poland's economic development right next door and wants in on that.
The language of those two parts of the country are different, too. But they share one government. And that government has been torn between those two ideas over the past 10 years.
What's at stake in the immediate short-term is the safety and the lives of those people inside that square, because many are concerned at this point, and the president, in fact, Victor Yanukovych, very much has his back against the wall. Those protesters, too, are boxed into that square, many witnesses say. But he, politically, has tried negotiation. It didn't get him where he wanted. He wouldn't have got too much to really calm the protests. They were all about removing him from power, really, now.
And in terms of his sponsors, well, Moscow and many hardliners, they would like to see him take a firmer line, perhaps, against the protesters. That's what we're seeing on the streets maybe now.
The question, Wolf, and the thing I think that people are worried about is that nobody really anticipated this to happen in the middle of the Sochi Games behind me, that Vladimir Putin would want this to play out at all, slammed in the middle of his $51 billion spectacle.
The question is, it seems like the police are reacting to events on the ground rather than dictating them. That's very dangerous -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And from the U.S. perspective, Nick, tell our viewers how the United States fits into this battle that is now on the streets of the Ukrainian capital.
PATON WALSH: Well, I have to say, I mean the U.S. position on this hasn't been particularly forthright. I mean they've had a nominal support for all the Western -- uh, pro-Western opposition there. They wanted to discourage violence. And I think, in many ways, they would like to have seen Victor Yanukovych swing in a Westerly direction, too.
But 10 years ago, it was quite different. Colin Powell, George Bush, that administration really laid it on thick, trying to get the West, to pull Ukraine toward it. It worked temporarily. Viktor Yanukovych won the 2004 Orange Revolution. But he failed, in many ways, the president, to deliver on what he promised.
Now the country has swung back toward Russia, toward Victor Yanukovych, who was Yushchenko's opponent way back then. The question for the U.S. is this massive country that sits between Russia and Eastern Europe, as well, vital, in many ways, a huge part of that part of the world's identity and a huge part of Russia's political orbit.
Does it stay with Moscow or does it move toward the West?
The U.S., of course, wants the latter to happen. Many Ukrainians want that, too. And the wider geopolitical issue at stake here is that U.S.-Russia tug for influence over different parts of the European continent.
So that's what's playing out here. The U.S. have, it's fair to say, taken their eyes off the ball a little bit in the last few months. They've been lacking in the same financial will to support the Ukraine economy, along with the EU, that the Russians have shown. That's why Yanukovych was able to keep going in the Russian's direction, because they offered billions of cash to bail the economy out and keep people in jobs, frankly.
So I think that's what we're seeing play out here. We haven't heard the same strident statements that we heard back in 2004 from the White House yet. But if this violence continues, we may well do -- Wolf.
BLITZER: We see -- those pictures are so dramatic. I assume we'll be hearing a lot more from the U.S. administration.
Nick Paton Walsh joining us, as well.
Elise Labott is here.
She's our foreign affairs reporter.
From the U.S. perspective, we haven't heard a lot of condemnation, a lot of major statements coming in from the president or the secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense. They're talking about it, but I'm not hearing, you know, a lot of outrage yet.
ELISE LABOTT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's because they're concerned about two things, Wolf.
A, they're concerned about the government cracking down on the square and trying to clear out all the protesters and they don't want to see the government make a dramatic move.
But when you see these pictures, the streets on fire, the opposition has a lot of responsibility here, too. So they are reaching out to the opposition to say, look, you have to dial this back. We've been in support of your protests and your right to speak your mind, but they certainly don't want to see what they're seeing right now.
The State Department is sending out a warning to U.S. citizens on the ground, stay inside. Do not get outside. Not only do they not want to get caught -- U.S. citizens to get caught up in the violence, but they also understand that the government is getting ready to make a pretty major crackdown on that square and they don't want U.S. citizens to get caught up in that.
BLITZER: And that could be really, really ugly if -- I mean it's already ugly right now.
And this is Kiev. This is a -- in the middle of the Winter Olympic Games, not very far away in Sochi, Russia.
So from the U.S. perspective, what do we anticipate happening?
Will the U.S. become more assertive, shall we say, or are they going to let the Ukrainians basically handle this by themselves?
There's a limit to what U.S. influence and power in that part of the world is, after all.
LABOTT: Well, you saw last week -- I think that the reason this has taken everybody by surprise is because over the past few weeks, there was some progress, in terms of getting the government and the opposition to sit down and possibly work on a national unity government.
We had that little blip, if you remember, with Victoria Nuland and that leaked phone conversation with the U.S. ambassador saying some disparaging things about the European Union involvement.
But that's because the U.S. wanted the Europeans to get a lot more involved and be a lot tougher and use the power of the purse, not just in terms of helping the economy, but threatening sanctions.
I'm told by U.S. officials there are sanctions ready to go on the government if there's a crack down on the square, if the government does not take moves to put together a national unity government.
But I think Nick is very correct in saying, this is, you know, a lot, in some ways, about a proxy between the U.S. and Russia. You know, you've heard Secretary Kerry say that...
BLITZER: Elise, hold on a second. Hold on -- you're listening -- you're hearing those explosions now rocking the streets of Kiev right now. Every few seconds another explosion -- I mean I can only hope that more people aren't being hurt or killed.
There was another one just there, as well. standing by for a moment.
Barbara Starr is monitoring what's going on from her vantage point over at the Pentagon -- Barbara, what are they saying over there about the explosions, these firebombs, all this violence that's now unfolding in Kiev?
BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: -- just like we are. I've spoken to some U.S. military officials in the last few minutes. So far, no requests from the U.S. ambassador there, we are told, for any U.S. military reinforcement of the embassy or specific assistance to get American citizens out of there. That could change in the coming hours if this grows worse. They are very aware here of the advisory for Americans to stay away, to stay indoors, to not get caught up in this.
But, you know, the U.S. military has a very strong relationship with some of the nations in this region. And, in fact, the Marines and the Navy are planning a deployment to the Black Sea shortly and will go into this region.
We'll see if they make any port calls in Ukraine, if this violence continues. That may be one of the first things to go, because, typically, you will not find them U.S. military docking in countries that engage in this kind of activity. That's a very strong military and diplomatic signal that can be sent.
But, you know, I'm like -- I'm with you and Elise and Phil and Nick, as I watch this. This seems to be outright military action, by all accounts, against these civilians -- Wolf.
BLITZER: These pictures so dramatic.
We're going to stay on top of the breaking news out of Kiev. Look at what's going on right now, after midnight, on the streets of Kiev, the capital of Ukraine.
We'll continue the breaking news, as new explosions rock the capital, right after this.
BLITZER: We're continuing to monitor the breaking news out of Kiev in Ukraine. All of this happening right in the middle of the winter Olympic Games. Explosions rocking Kiev right now. These are live pictures that are unfolding in Kiev. Reporters are watching it together with all of us. Jim Sciutto is here, Elise Labott, Barbara Starr.
Jim, you see these dramatic pictures. I pointed out, it reminds me maybe even more dramatic than what we saw at Tahrir Square at the start of what was then called the Arab spring, but this looks like a real revolution on the streets of Ukraine.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: No question. You know, we like popular revolutions, right? These are happy stories. When the Arab spring was starting, we thought that all these stories were going to begin and end happily. Of course, they didn't. I think to some degree, we imagine that Europe what might be insulated from that kind of violence, that kind of descent (ph) into violence like this and clearly not.
The other thought that occurs to me, you know, in the weeks leading up to this Olympics, we were talking about a certain kind of violence, terrorist violence that might spoil (ph) all these games. But look what we're seeing now.
BLITZER: These are explosions. You're hearing live explosions. God only knows what's going on on the streets. I have no idea what those explosions are coming from, Elise, but these are powerful images that are unfolding. What a huge embarrassment for the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, coming in the middle of the winter Olympic Games.
ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS REPORTER: That's right. And he sends a message to President Yanukovych. Listen, that's why this had calmed down for the last few weeks. If you remember, these protests were really violent a few weeks ago. The U.S. got involved in mediating and we thought maybe we would see an end to this because the Russians were really cracking down on the president.
Listen, we don't want any trouble during these Olympics. Everything needs to be pressed on Russia being an example here, and obviously, that would shine a positive light on its relationship with the Ukraine.
Eli Lake is with us as well from "The Daily Beast." He's a national security expert. Eli, look, you're seeing these pictures. You're hearing the explosions going on right now. I assume officials at the state department, the Pentagon, the intelligence community, all here in Washington, they're monitoring this very closely?
ELI LAKE, DAILY BEAST: I think they're not only monitoring it very closely. They're asking themselves wither way can this government survive and is this -- are we now seeing what is the great fear which is Russia's expansion into its near or abroad. We're used to comprise (ph) the Soviet Union.
BLITZER: Could you envisage the Russians, the regime, the government of President Putin allowing the opposition to take over in Kiev and move away from Russia's influence towards the EU?
LAKE: I could not envision that at this point, no.
BLITZER: So, what do you think the Russians would do to prevent that from happening other than they've been sending money, a lot of money into this government in Ukraine, but would they start sending troops?
LAKE: I don't want to get ahead of my skis right now, but I think that, at this point, the Russians are watching this very closely and they want to do everything they can to make sure that their people, the influence are in power.
BLITZER: Barbara Starr is at the Pentagon. I know the officials there are watching it very carefully, the military, the defense, the civilians there. What are you hearing, Barbara?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I think we should probably add in right away, the intelligence community also watching this very closely. What they're going to have to calculate here is what is the news after this horrific situation? What is the new security and intelligence relationship not just with Ukraine but with this region of Eastern Europe and, indeed, with the Russians if they are sanction in this.
This looks by all accounts to be outright military strength type of activity against the civilians on the street whether it's carried out by military forces, police forces, interior ministry forces, this is a level of fire power far beyond what is acceptable to the United States. I mean, we are at the point the U.S. embassy told all Americans not to leave their homes tonight in Kiev. They knew something was coming and this is what it has shaped up to be.
This now means the U.S. has to calculate what kind of relationship it wants. Will it still interact with this government in Ukraine? How can it interact with them? And what message it sends to the other nations in the region? The U.S., historically, has a very strong military security and economic relationship with the nations bordering the black sea and in this area with many of them at least in recent years. This could throw all of that into disarray -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And we're just getting word right now, it's fascinating as we watch these fast-moving developments, Barbara, because Phil Black is joining us on the phone from Kiev. He's there on the streets reporting for us. Phil, we're just getting word that the Ukrainian opposition leader, Vitaly Klitschko, has arrived at President Viktor Yanukovych's office for talks, this according to the spokesman for Vitaly Klitschko, the opposition leader.
So, explain what potentially this could mean because that violence, the explosions we're hearing, they seem to be escalating even though it's approaching -- it's after midnight now in Kiev.
VOICE OF PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Just a few moments ago, Wolf, we saw what is described as an escalation, but Russian security forces drive through some of the opposition lines here (INAUDIBLE) they're surrounded by security forces with shields and protective gear trying to drive their way through. The crowd and that triggered enormous panic here.
Some of the thousands of people here are fleeing in one direction and then others running in the opposite direction trying to build up their line with the barricade and defenses. Again, this is (INAUDIBLE) Independent Square. It went on for a few minutes. Happened grenades were thrown to further scare the crowds, but then the security services withdrew and they have now withdrawn behind the like of smoke and fire.
It certainly reinforces the feeling here (INAUDIBLE) to drive to keep the crowd out tonight. That's what the people feel fear that it's going to happen, Wolf.
BLITZER: Hold on for a second, Phil, because Jim Sciutto, our national security correspondent is here. The fire flames that we're seeing there, the streams going on, the explosions, this looks potentially very deadly.
SCIUTTO: They look like fireworks. It's important to talk about why this is happening. You know, we talk a lot about the pull between the east and west in Asia or in the Middle East. Right now, we're seeing it happen in Europe. This is home territory. You know, we imagine this battle ended in 1989 with the fall of the wall, but here you have -- you know, this is Ukraine, a country split by this very question. Which sphere are they in? Are they in the Russian sphere? Are they in the European sphere? And you're seeing that break literally into gunfire here.
LABOTT: And they're not just -- the country, itself, is very divided. It's not just that all Ukrainians want to move towards the west. This is a country in turmoil because there are Ukrainians that speak Russian that have very strong ties to Russia and that's why not only was President Yanukovych under a lot of pressure from the U.S. and the west to move towards Europe.
But he was also under pressure from Russia and a lot of Ukrainians, themselves, to move closer to Russia. This is by no means President Yanukovych going against all the Ukrainian people.
BLITZER: So, there's an ethnic split like you're suggesting --
LABOTT: Very much so.
BLITZER: -- between Ukrainian nationals, let's say, who they want to be closer to the European Union and the United States as opposed to the ethnic Russians who live in Ukraine and want to be closer to Moscow.
LABOTT: Exactly. And that's why the U.S. and the Europeans have really pulled out all of the stops to say your future lies with the west. Now, they could have used the power of the purse, I think, a little bit more effectively to say there's aid that can come with that. It's not just this partnership with Europe you can have a better relationship. They made it about, we don't want to see you under Russia's iron fist.
But the U.S. has really put all the stops to say move towards the U.S. And you've heard Secretary Kerry say this is not a bidding war with Russia. It's very much a bidding war with Russia for the heart of Ukraine and this country is by no means settled on that question.
BLITZER: The death toll seems to be increasing even as we speak, Eli. You cover the state department. You cover the national security consul. I assume they're meeting over there. They're watching all of these images coming in. The U.S. has a very significant embassy in Kiev right now, but there's deep concern for the safety not only of American diplomats but of American citizens who may be there.
LAKE: Well, I think that's a major factor and also just seeing these images on television will make it much harder for President Obama to compartmentalize those areas with Russia where the United States will be able to continue to cooperate whether that's Iran or the open Syria.
I think this will make it politically very difficult particularly in Congress to have the kind of reset that President Obama had hoped for in his first term. I think if there was a death of the reset, we're watching it on our screens right now.
BLITZER: The death toll continues to mount even as we speak. Joe Johns is over at the White House for us today. Joe, what are you hearing over there?
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I have to preface this by saying this happened earlier today at the White House press briefing with Jay Carney. He said among other things that the administration was appalled by the violence, condemns the violence, and also said that excessive force on either side will not resolve the crisis and he said the President Yanukovych should de-escalate immediately the situation and end the confrontation.
Also said the administration urges him to restart a dialogue with opposition leaders to develop a consensus and said the vice president has been having conversations with the president of the Ukraine, but he didn't have an update on any of that. So, that happened earlier today and certainly not as we see these pictures unfold on television, but we'll be checking back with the administration for an update. It's very clear they are monitoring the situation very closely, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. I'm sure they are, even as the president is getting ready for his big visit to Mexico tomorrow. Jim Sciutto just got this in. The Ukrainian interior ministry announcing that seven police officers were killed in today's violence in Kiev. Earlier, the interior ministry, they said the police had confirmed seven protesters, one other person also killed. They say the overall death toll for this day now 15. Almost 300 people have been injured.
So, if seven police officers have been killed, let's say, in these demonstrations, you know the pressure is going to be on the regime, the government in Kiev to respond with brutal force.
JOHNS: Absolutely. And you also have reports that protesters lit government buildings on fire. The violence is going in both directions here. And as you say, it's hard for the government not to respond in those circumstances and I believe the White House earlier in the day made that point saying -- encouraging both sides to refrain from violence here.
And this shows, you know, a situation spiraling out of control. And I have to say, looking at these pictures here, it harkens back to Tiananmen Square, the central square on fire, a government crackdown. I think we're really watching history unfold here. And it's a sad moment to watch.
BLITZER: Whether Tiananmen or Tahrir, now Kiev, we're watching all of this dramatic violence unfold. We're going to continue to monitor the breaking news out of Kiev, the capital of Ukraine. We're going to check in on all the days other important stories. Stay with us. Much more coming up right here in the SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: We'll continue to follow the breaking news. The live pictures, very dramatic pictures coming out of the Ukrainian capital of Kiev where there are now new explosions, more riots. Stay on top of this story. There are dramatic developments. These are live pictures coming in from Kiev right now. But there's another breaking news story we're following as well. New information that the Obama administration may be ready to potentially set a new precedent by freeing terrorist suspects to gain the release of U.S. army sergeant, Beau Bergdahl, who's been listed as missing, captured by the Taliban since 2009 in Afghanistan.
Let's get the very latest once again from our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr. What are you learning, Barbara?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, nothing is more sensitive for the U.S. military than one of their own missing and captured, even beau Bergdahl's family today reacting to this latest news.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Release me, please, I'm begging you.
STARR (voice-over): The U.S. has begun new talks to get Sergeant Beau Bergdahl back home after more than four years in captivity.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bring me home, please.
STARR: Working through intermediaries, most likely the Persian Gulf Nation of Qatar, the U.S. is trying to see what it would take to get Bergdahl free. He's been held since July 2009 when he apparently walked away from his base in Eastern Afghanistan. It's believed the Taliban aligned Haqqani network inside Pakistan has him. The Taliban, in the past, has demanded the release of five prisoners from Guantanamo Bay.
MAJ. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS (RET), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: We do have a long history of talking and dealing with all manner of bad guys. So, if United States can make progress on returning this soldier back to the United States, we need to do it.
STARR: "The Washington Post" is reporting the U.S. has now agreed to release all five Taliban prisoners simultaneously to the Qataris to guarantee Bergdahl's release. Administration officials will say little other than they have never given up trying to get Bergdahl back.
JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We are not involved in active negotiations with the Taliban. Clearly, if negotiations do resume at some point, then we'll want to talk with the Taliban about the safe return of Sergeant Bergdahl?
STARR: The Bergdahl Family issued a statement saying, "We are cautiously optimistic. These discussions will lead to the safe return of our son." There is growing urgency as U.S. troops could be gone from Afghanistan by the end of the year.
MARKS: We're running out of time. I think this administration has decided that we will not have a long-term presence in Afghanistan.
STARR: And Bergdahl appeared frail in a still unreleased classified video made in December. The existence of the video was first reported on CNN. Officials say Bergdahl's declining health only adds to the determination to bring him home.
STARR (on-camera): And this is now entering a very, very sensitive stage because, of course, no one can say whether the Taliban will react and how they'll react to the latest U.S. overtures -- Wolf.
BLITZER: I just want to ask the question because over these many, many years, successive U.S. presidents, success of U.S. administrations have always said the U.S. does not negotiate with terrorists, period. How did they finesse this?
STARR: That will be very interesting to see. You know, "The Washington Post" reporting they may turn him over to the custody of the Qataris, this Taliban. It's going to be very delicate going. The U.S. doesn't negotiate with terrorists, but the U.S. always talks or frequently talks, I should say, to bad guys, to people that's in opposition. This is not unprecedented. How they finesse it will, in fact, you're exactly right, be the question.
BLITZER: All right. Barbara is at the Pentagon. Barbara Starr, thank you.
Just ahead, another potentially very dramatic story we're watching. The "Crossfire" of co-host, Newt Gingrich. There you see him. He's getting ready to weigh in on Ted Nugent's latest very shocking slurs against the president of the United States.
Also, I'll talk to Newt about his call for the secretary of state, John Kerry, to resign.
BLITZER: Rock star, Ted Nugent, recently leveled a vicious and vial slur against the president of the United States with language reminiscent of the Nazis, but that wasn't enough to keep the Republican candidate for a Texas governor from appearing with a right wing rocker today. CNNs Tom Foreman has been looking into this story for us. Tom, what are you seeing?
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Wolf, in the right circles in Texas right now, this is quite an uproar. People are very upset about what happened here. On the other hand, Ted Nugent can be loud and shocking, no doubt about that. But like his music, with the proper audience, you can also be enormously popular and that carries a political punch.
FOREMAN (voice-over): The Motor City madman is making plenty of people furious with this latest rant against voters who allowed -- TED NUGENT, MUSICIAN/ARTIST: A Chicago communist raised, communist educated, communist nurtured subhuman mongrel like the Acorn community organizer gangster, Barack Hussein Obama, to weasel his way into the top office -- United States of America.
FOREMAN: After using the word "mongrel," a term once favored by Nazis, describing Jews in that same interview with guns.com (ph), Nugent evoked a particularly virulent racial slur using the word "chimpanzee," also an apparent reference to the president.
NUGENT: I think America will be America again when Barack Obama, Eric Holder, Hillary Clinton, Dick Durbin, Michael Bloomberg, and all of the liberal Democrats are in jail.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My friend, Greg Abbott.
FOREMAN: Yet, none of that stopped Texas Republican gubernatorial candidate, Greg Abbott, from welcoming Nugent to the campaign trail. A move his Democratic opponent, Wendy Davis, quickly called an insult to every Texan and repulsive.
WAYNE SLATER, DALLAS MORNING NEWS: It's offensive. Deeply offensive to some voters and not just Democratic voters. But, his support of the Second Amendment, at least for some Republican base voters, is so strong it trumps all of that.
NUGENT: Anybody that wants to disarm me can drop dead.
Fire in the hole!
FOREMAN: Nugent's following is so strong that current Texas governor, Rick Perry, and former presidential contender, Mitt Romney, both welcomed his support despite his explosive language.
NUGENT: If you don't know that our government is wiping its (EXPLETIVE DELETED) with the constitution, you're living under a rock someplace.
FOREMAN: And through it all, the Nugent anti-government rock show has rolled on.
NUGENT: If Barack Obama becomes the president in November again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year.
FOREMAN (on-camera): Obviously, he said that during the last election. And, you know, Republicans are certainly aware that Nugent's wild talk could cost them. For example, they would like to draw more women to their party and yet Nugent has called feminist fat pigs. That could post a problem, of course, with many different women. But, for now, some of them are saying the reward is worth the risk and they're trying to thread the needle. Abbott, for example, Wolf, issued a statement earlier today basically saying, hey, Ted Nugent is endorsing us. We're not endorsing him. But it is a thin line to walk -- Wolf.
BLITZER: It certainly is. Tom Foreman, thanks for that background. After the series of (INAUDIBLE) against the president, other Democratic leaders, is it time for Republicans to distance themselves from Ted Nugent? Let's bring in our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger. Gloria, it's pretty shocking what he has to say about the president of United States.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: It's vial, disgusting, racist language and he was welcomed on to the stage with the Republican gubernatorial candidate in the state of Texas. In the state of Texas, there are many conservatives who are worried about -- look at what happened in Ted Cruz's Race, Wolf. He ran to the right of the Republican candidate in the primary and he won by running to the right.
So, in Texas, some people believe you can't run far enough to the right. There are also Republicans in Texas I spoke with today, one who said, look, there are divisions within the Republican Party about whether this is so far. Now, you know, you saw the Abbott campaign didn't endorse what he was saying but they didn't distance themselves from Nugent either. So I think this has yet to play itself out.
Don't forget, Texas is a state that hasn't had a Democratic governor in almost two decades. Barack Obama lost there by 16 points.
BLITZER: I well remember that.
BLITZER: Gloria, thanks very, very much.
We're going to have much more on Ted Nugent's jaw-dropping slurs against President Obama. I'll talk about that with the "CROSSFIRE" host Newt Gingrich. There he is. He's standing by live. We'll talk to him about that. And I'll also ask him why he thinks the Secretary of State John Kerry should resign.
And Iran, suspected of a stunning and costly cyber attack on the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Marine Corps. Is it a sign of a coming cyberwar? Stay with us.
BLITZER: Jaw-dropping slurs against President Obama by the rock star Ted Nugent. Let's talk about that and more with CNN's "CROSSFIRE" host, the former speaker of the House, former Republican presidential candidate, Newt Gingrich.
Newt, thanks very much for joining us. You hear me okay, right?
NEWT GINGRICH, CNN HOST, CROSSFIRE: I hear you fine. BLITZER: OK, all right. Good. Let's talk about Ted Nugent. The outrage isn't so much from my perspective. Ted Nugent says a lot of crazy, vial slurs over the years. The outrage really is that the Republican candidate for governor of Texas, Greg Abbot, is willing to embrace him, invite him to go out on the campaign trail after he calls the president of the United States, a "subhuman mongrel."
Would you do that if you were running for office?
GINGRICH: No. But, you know, I've always loved selective media outrage. As the party of Hollywood, the Democrats have lots of donors and supporters who say truly stupid things, too. Outrageous things. But let's go right to the heart of the Democratic Party.
The Saturday before the 2000 election, Al Gore went to a black church and charged that George W. Bush would appoint judges to return blacks to be counted as three-fifths of a person. In 2012, Vice President Biden went to a black audience and said if the Republicans win within 100 days, they will put you back in chains.
Now why isn't there some accountability for tremendously outrageous, vicious and racist statements by Democratic elected officials, not just entertainers? And I just think there is a double standard here. What Ted Nugent said was stupid, I don't support it. He is a big supporter of the Second Amendment, which I am. But in this case, it's not a smart thing to do.
But I do think the level of selective outrage, particularly on the entertainment left, where they often day after day say much more vicious things about Republicans --
BLITZER: Well, this --
GINGRICH: -- is just kind of funny to watch.
BLITZER: The phrase "subhuman mongrel," you're familiar with this because you're a student of World War II and the genocide that occurred during -- when the Nazis referred to Jews --
GINGRICH: Well --
BLITZER: Mr. Speaker, as subhuman mongrels. There is a history to that phrase.
GINGRICH: You can't have -- you cannot have it both ways. You can't say on the one hand --
BLITZER: I'm not -- I'm not saying you should have it both ways, Mr. Speaker. What I am saying is that the Republican candidate for governor of Texas should not be appearing with someone who refers to the president of the United States as "a subhuman mongrel."
That's the question. I'm not talking about --
BLITZER: Democrats are stupid, too. They make similarly ridiculous comments. And if they go out on the stage with someone who has viciously attacked a Republican, I would call them out. But in this particular case --
GINGRICH: Well, how about -- how about the vice --
BLITZER: In this particular case --
GINGRICH: How about the vice president of the United States?
BLITZER: Hold on a second, Newt. In this particular case, the man who wants to be the next governor of Texas is willing to go out there and embrace someone who refers to our president as a subhuman mongrel.
GINGRICH: Look, I think it's a bad thing to have said. I wish he hadn't have said it. I also think the selective outrage the media -- let me go back to Joe Biden. Are you going to -- are you going to refuse to appear Joe Biden until he apologizes for suggesting that Republicans will put, quote, "you all in chains," speaking to a black audience?
BLITZER: If I heard Joe --
GINGRICH: The selective --
BLITZER: I'm just saying that there's --
GINGRICH: I'll get you the video.
BLITZER: There is a lot of -- there's a lot of stupid stuff that's said out there. And if a Republican says something stupid, you should condemn it. If a Democrat says something stupid, you should condemn that.
BLITZER: But politicians who are leaders -- who are leaders should not embrace people who make these kinds of vile, outrageous --
GINGRICH: Well --
BLITZER: -- racist statements like Ted Nugent did.
GINGRICH: I would love -- I would love to have the media condemn a major Democrat for some of the vicious things they have said. I have never seen it done. I don't expect to see it done in my lifetime. I think this is entirely selective outrage.
Again, I'm not defending Ted Nugent. I think what he said was wrong, and he shouldn't have said it. But I also think the outrage is remarkably selective.
BLITZER: All right. Let's talk about the outrage that some people are having against you right now for what you said about John Kerry, the secretary of state.
All right. Listen to -- listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: Climate change can now be considered another weapon of -- mass destruction, perhaps even the world's most fearsome weapon of mass destruction.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, to which you tweeted this. You said, "Every American who cares about national security must demand Kerry's resignation. A delusional secretary of state is dangerous to our safety."
You misspelled Kerry, but that's all right, you fixed it later. So tell us why you think he is delusional and dangerous.
GINGRICH: Well, you showed it for 30 minutes on CNN. Look at the violence in Kiev. Look at the violence in Syria. Look at the violence in Iraq. Look at the Iranians trying to get a nuclear weapon. Look at the 100-plus nuclear weapons in -- that we have in Pakistan. Look at the Chinese nuclear arsenal, the Russian nuclear arsenal.
And -- I mean, this is not some U.S. senator just setting a wild speech to please the left. This is the secretary of state of the United States of America at an international forum saying that the greatest threat is global climate change during a year, by the way, in which his facts were just plain wrong. He had a whole series of statements that were factually false.
And I think it's, again, fine for U.S. senators because there are 100 of them, and any one of them on any given day can be wrong. But the secretary of state ought to be held to a standard of seriousness that this speech totally falls short of.
BLITZER: We went back and check your record. All of us remember that Nancy Pelosi video that you were -- the two of you were sitting on the stage.
BLITZER: But back in 2007, you appeared with then-Senator John Kerry, and you spoke about global climate change. And the two of you had this exchange.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: We don't always see eye to eye, do we, Newt? GINGRICH: No. But we do agree our country must take action to address climate change.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. That was the first video, that was you and Nancy Pelosi, to which you later said that was a blunder on your part. You shouldn't have appeared on that sofa with her. But here's --
GINGRICH: With Nancy, with Nancy Pelosi.
BLITZER: Yes. With Nancy Pelosi. Here is the exchange you had with Kerry.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KERRY: I'm excited to hear you talk about the urgency, I really am. And given that, albeit you still have a different approach, what would you say to Senator Inhofe and to others in the Senate who are resisting even the science? What is your message to them here today?
GINGRICH: My message, I think, is that the evidence is sufficient that we should move towards the most effective possible steps to reduce carbon loading of the atmosphere.
KERRY: And do it urgently. Now.
GINGRICH: And do it urgently. Yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: And do it urgently now. So you still agree with Kerry on that point?
GINGRICH: Look, I think it's perfectly rational to say that as a matter of prudence, we should limit carbon loading of the atmosphere. To then go from that statement, declare that it is a weapon of mass destruction and that we should adopt trillions and trillions of dollars of changes, centralizing power and bureaucracies over something which may or may not occur over the next 100 years, particularly since 2007, the evidence has not been very good.
The fact is, we have been in a 15 or 16 year pause, which the climate fanatics are desperately trying to explain. The fact is, the Arctic ice last year has grown dramatically from the year before. The Antarctic ice has grown dramatically. And I think that there is a lot of evidence to have a rational conversation.
Read Kerry's speech. He rejects any opportunity for a rational conversation. He says everybody who disagrees should be kicked out of the room and then he declares that this is something -- this is more dangerous than a nuclear war? I think -- I think that's a delusional statement. I think it's very troubling to have a secretary of state who believes that climate change is a greater danger than a nuclear war. I am quite prepared to defend the argument that nuclear war is a far bigger threat to our society than is climate change. And I can't believe that we can have a secretary of state who presumably is instructing the State Department to follow his speech, which I think would be a disaster for the United States.
BLITZER: And so just to be precise on this point because we're out of time, you still want him to resign because of those comments?
GINGRICH: Absolutely. If he believes them, and I assume he does, I think it's dangerous to have a person who believes that as secretary of state. Fine as a senator, terrible as secretary of state.
BLITZER: Newt Gingrich, as usual, a good discussion. A good debate that we had a little bit on whether or not the Republican candidate for governor should be distancing himself from someone who calls the president of the United States a vile, racist term as Newt -- as Newt Gingrich, as Ted Nugent, as Ted Nugent did.
We'll continue -- we'll continue this conversation about Ted Nugent and a lot more. We'll continue to watch what's going on.
One more question. Just to be precise, I want to give you every reasonable chance. You're not clearly as outraged as Greg Abbott, the Republican candidate, for embracing Ted Nugent, inviting him to campaign with him, as clearly I am?
GINGRICH: No. Not at all. First of all, I think to suggest that Ted Nugent knowingly used a term with a World War II reference I think is a total --
NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: No, not at all.
First of all, I think to suggest that Ted Nugent knowingly used a term with a World War II reference, I think, is a total misunderstanding of who Ted Nugent is.
I think he was just talking and he talked stupidly. And there are lots of Hollywood left-wing stars who talk stupidly, doesn't stop them from getting to the White House, doesn't stop from getting invited on stages.
So, I think we ought to be fair about entertainers. Some left-wing entertainers are stupid sometimes. Some right-wing entertainers are stupid sometimes. But no Republican elected official I know of has ever been as viciously racist as Gore was the Saturday before the election or as Biden was in 2012. Neither was called out by the news media.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Newt Gingrich, as usual, thanks for joining us.
GINGRICH: Glad to do it.