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Iraq Buying Used Russian Fighter Jets; "Today's" Matt Lauer Under Fire; Children Immigrating Across the Border Controversial; Pope Says Treat Gays with Respect

Aired June 27, 2014 - 11:30   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: It's complicated. Who is going to fly the Russian planes? What happens to those personnel that do fly them?

LT. COL. RICK FRANCONA (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: The Russians will be happy to fly them in. This gives Russia another in in the Middle East. They are in Syria and they are making deals with Iran. They are making deals now with Iraq because they want to be players. They want to be powers in the region again.

BERMAN: But you have the Syrians, you have the Iranians, you have the Sunnis, Kurds and Shias in Iraq. It doesn't seem there needs to be any further players.

FRANCONA: The more players in it, the more dangerous it's going to be. Armed people from different countries with different agendas in the same very confined space. This is a recipe for disaster.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: On who is providing who with what, we've learned the Obama administration is seeking to go provide $500 million from Congress -- wait for it -- not for Iraq, but to arm Syrian forces. Again, it's like follow the bouncing ball here.

FRANCONA: This is to be provided to vetted Syrian rebels, in other words not jihadis, not ISIS.


FRANCONA: So we're going to be funneling things through our allies to get things in. The Free Syrian Army will be a primary group. The problem is they are supposed to be fighting and overthrowing the Syrian regime, but a lot of times they have to defend themselves from ISIS and the victory Front. So these weapons may not be used as intended.

BERMAN: In looking for the future here, for those thinking there could be a political solution in Iraq, we learned a short time ago, the president of the autonomous Kurdish says they are keeping it.

FRANCONA: I have worked with the Kurds over two decades. There is no way they are giving Kirkuk back. They have wanted it forever. They have always been denied it. When they had the opportunity to take it, they did. They are there for keeps.

PEREIRA: Sitting here, we've learned so much from you visiting us @THISHOUR. You've spent so much time here. You go beyond the headlines to help us understand what's going on, on the ground. Is this going in the direction that you think it needs to go? Are you getting more concerned as days go by?

FRANCONA: I'm getting concerned that we seem to be taking too long, somebody, whether it be the Iraqis or us, to do something against ISIS. ISIS is rolling up all this territory. They are consolidating their gains. We see the Iraqi army making some stands. It's going back and forth. I don't trust the Iraqi's are telling us. I would feel better if we had American eyes out there, telling us what's going on. But until somebody takes a stand against ISIS, this looks like it's collapsing. It's getting worse day by day.

PEREIRA: Lieutenant Colonel --

FRANCONA: Sorry for the bad news.

PEREIRA: No, no. We want to know. Like I said, you've been there. We appreciate it. Have a good weekend.

FRANCONA: Thank you.

PEREIRA: Ahead @THISHOUR, Matt Lauer under fire for asking the CEO of G.M. if she can be both a good mom and a good executive. The question some are asking is, would he have asked a man the same kind of question?


PEREIRA: She is the first woman ever to hold the reins at G.M. It has been widely suggested that Mary Barra was hired to give the automaker a softer image. Now "Today Show" host, Matt Lauer, getting blasted for taking the issue a step too far.


MATT LAUER, HOST, TODAY SHOW: You are a mom to two kids. You said in an interview that your kids are going to hold you accountable for one job and that is being a mom.


LAUER: Given the pressures of this job at General Motors, can you do both well?

BERRA: You know, I think I can. I have a great team. We're on the right path. We're doing the right things. We're taking accountability. I have a wonderful family and supportive husband. And I'm pretty proud of my kids in the way they're supporting me in this.


BERMAN: On his Facebook page, Matt Lauer writes he pegged his question on an article in which Barra lamented missing her son's junior prom for work. Matt Lauer said, "If a man had publicly said something similar after accepting a high-level job, I would have asked him exactly the same thing. Work life balance is one of our focuses. It's an important topic, one that I'm familiar with personally."

PEREIRA: But that defense not really satisfying critics.

Let's bring in our political commentators, Donna Brazil and Kevin Madden.

Good morning to you both.

Donna, I got to ask you, I have to ask you, my lady, I heard this, I had my own thoughts, but I want to know what you thought. Is it sexist what he asked?

DONNA BRAZIL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Of all the things to ask a first female to run a major car company, you can imagine the things I would have asked her being a car thus enthusiast. He went to the work-life balance issue. 70 percent of the mothers are in the workforce. This is not an issue. This is not the 1950s mi more when you ask women can you run and chew gum. Absolutely, we can run, chew gum, shoot hoops. Give us more CEO jobs. Only 50 women today hold CEO positions in the top 1,000 fortune companies. So I'm surprised he asked that question. He's a great reporter, but you know what, I would have gotten -- dug a little deeper into some of the car issues that most Americans are worried about, and not whether or not she's going to be a good mom and do a good job as CEO.

BERMAN: Kevin, I want to bring you in here. I'm the father of two kids. You are the father of many, many children. Beautiful kids, I might add.

KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I've lost count at this point, right.


BERMAN: No one has ever asked me in my life if I could be a good father and a good journalist at the same time. I mean, maybe they have asked me are you away from home a lot, but no one has ever asked me if I could do both jobs well and I'm wondering if you've ever had that question posed to you?

MADDEN: Absolutely not. And that was one -- there were two things that I really took away from that interview. The first was just how poised she was in handling that question. I think had I had been asked, a male had been asked, they lashed out or taken offensive and the interview could have gone differently. But she was extremely professional in how she handled it. I think it's a credit to the fact that she's the CEO.

The second thing I thought was exactly what you said, John, which is I couldn't imagine a male CEO being asked that question.

Now, look in defense of journalism and Matt Lauer, he is, like Donna said, a very good, smart journalist, but there is a different bar I think when a male is asking a female that type of question in that setting. I don't think it's a fair one. This type of conversation about women's role in the workplace and how it's changing, you know, it's one that many people have, but it's a reality.

PEREIRA: It really is a reality.

BRAZIL: Talking about children, I'm a professional aunt, no kids.

PEREIRA: Me, too.

BRAZIL: Which means I have so many kids. In fact, I'm paying three tuitions that I don't know how that came about.

But men are playing a much larger role in providing childcare, being home with their kids, and it's time we talk about paid family leave. There are so many policy issues if you want to talk about being at home, working in -- being a working mom or working dad, there are so many other issues we could talk about. I think it's Friday and maybe Matt didn't have his super protein juice. I don't know.


PEREIRA: I want to play a little bit of sound. Wendy Davis, who we know made headlines after the marathon filibuster in the Texas Senate over abortion-related measure, now running for governor of Texas. She sat down with our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger. She asked Davis about her decision to leave her daughters to commute to Harvard Law School. Listen to this.


WENDY DAVIS, (D), TEXAS GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: It was very difficult, as I was commuting back and forth from school. There were some pretty tough nights, leaving my girls, but I was doing what I felt was best for them and for me.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Is there some under current here about a woman's appropriate role particularly as a mother?

DAVIS: I think, were I a man, this would not even be a topic of conversation.


PEREIRA: So the fact is there is this -- we all talk about it. John you talk about, you know, your kids with me and the challenges that you have to face, that sometime you have to miss a work thing that we're doing for fun to get home to the kids. We all -- and even professional aunties like you and I, Donna, we have to make choices and sacrifices. The conversation maybe have been, at least with Mary Barra, about that whole work-life balance altogether, men and women. There's more demands on all of us nowadays.

BRAZIL: Well, I don't know who -- let me just say and I have so many friends who as you well know, you know, they struggle. This is a tough issue. Their kids get sick they need to be at home, they need to be someplace else, who is going to watch the kids. I get it from both ends. I get it from my male friends and female friends. 20 years ago, being in politics and being a woman who really enjoyed libations sometimes with the guys -- and Kevin understands -- that on the campaign trail, many of the guys would sit around and continue to do their libations but the women had to leave to go home. Now, you know what, this week, the guys are doing it. I saw it this week. They are doing it. We are changing as a nation. We're changing as a society. And I welcome the fact that men are taking more responsibilities at home just like women are doing more at work.

MADDEN: Real quick. We could learn a thing or two. The campaign manager was a woman of the Romney campaign. I learned how to make sure you got home and you balanced your work life with your home life just by watching that campaign manager, and in many ways I admired that character trait she showed. That's one of lessons to take away, too.

BERMAN: It's a really interesting discussion.


BRAZIL: You know what I mean, Kevin?


MADDEN: Yea. I was much more productive, too.

BRAZIL: I bet you we paid you well, too.

BERMAN: Doing it every day.

Donna Brazil, Kevin Madden, great to have you there.

PEREIRA: You are better for it my dear.

BRAZIL: Have a great weekend, John, Michaela. You all be good.


BERMAN: I'm going to try to be a good father and a good journalist at the same time.

PEREIRA: You are both, my dear.

BERMAN: All right. Let us know what you think about this. Comment on our Facebook page, tell us what you really think. Use whatever language you like. The Facebook page is @THISHOUR.

PEREIRA: Because you're doing it and living it.

Still ahead, more than 9,000 pending immigration cases involving children in Texas alone. Ahead, we'll take a look at the immigration issue along the border and across the nation.


BERMAN: @THISHOUR, lawmakers in south Texas getting a firsthand look of the children crossing the border from Mexico.

PEREIRA: Thousands of children from Central America, many without parents, are overwhelming border facilities. President Obama says this tide of unaccompanied children has to stop.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Oh, our message absolutely is don't send your children unaccompanied on trains or through a bunch of smugglers. That is our direct message to the families in Central America. Do not send your children to the borders. If they do make it, they will get sent back. More importantly, they may not make it.


PEREIRA: Our Rosa Flores has been covering this story from both from both the U.S. and Honduras.

Rosa, you grew up in the Rio valley. Tell us what it's like. You grew up there. The president sounding ominous in his warning to these parents.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think it's really turned into the epicenter of this issue, of this crisis. And from growing up there, I can tell you there's a free flow of ideas. The Mexican culture is there. The Tex-Mex culture is there. You are there but you almost feel like you are in Mexico all the time because of the food, the flavor, the culture. Going there is important. It gives you a sense of what the community is like.

BERMAN: The problem is with the Central American nations. The president with that very stern message. I think he wanted to deliver it in clear words: Don't come, you will get sent back. The numbers are staggering.

FLORES: The numbers are. It gives us an idea of how saturated the U.S. is in looking at these states. One of the things I noticed is Arizona is not at the top of these immigration cases so it really gives you an idea. We also have juvenile numbers. Which, of course, Texas jumps to the top of these numbers. Of course, we've been talking about the Rio Grande Valley, in south Texas, so it kind of gives us an idea where these numbers are.

PEREIRA: You've been covering the story in Honduras recently. Did you get a sense of what the circumstances are like on the ground driving so many people to send their children or themselves north?

FLORES: They're heartbreaking stories. The poverty you hear about. People living and eating maybe a tortilla a day because that's the thing they have to eat. The violence. A lot of the violence is related to the ms-13 as we know is there. They've got like conflicting territories. So everybody knows going to these neighborhoods, don't go into these neighborhoods, here's where they dump the bodies. There's such violence you kind of get a sense why these people are fleeing. BERMAN: Rosa, I want to ask you a question because you said you did

grow up on the border. You have a unique story yourself.

FLORES: Yeah, I like to say my story is quite the opposite of everybody's story, because when I was born, my parents were legal residents of the United States. So they had come in from Mexico legally. They were legally living in the U.S. And they drove to Mexico when my mother started getting pangs so that I could be born. It was just not that controversial. They did it for economic reasons because my parents couldn't afford going to a hospital in the United States, but they could afford a hospital in Mexico. And so I've grown up in the states, being born in Mexico, but never really living there.

PEREIRA: Isn't that interesting?

BERMAN: It is. Everyone should go to to check out her story.

FLORES: Thank you.

BERMAN: It is really interesting and not one you think first when you think about all the issues involved here.

Rosa Flores, thank you.

FLORES: Thank you.

PEREIRA: Don't forget the film "Documented," airs Sunday night at 9:00 p.m. eastern.

BERMAN: Coming up for us, first the pope said, who am I to judge, and now the Vatican saying that gays must be treated with respect and their children should be baptized. It's another sign of the changing Catholic Church? That's just ahead.

PEREIRA: But first, meet this week's CNN hero.


UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: I blossom with each pen mark.

UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: I found myself in the words.

UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: Every girl has a story to tell.

KEREN TAYLOR, CNN HERO: Some of our girls are facing some of the greatest challenges teenager could ever face, pregnancy, incarceration, violence. Those girls need a mentor.

They need to be inspired about their own voice.

UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: Life in the light can be so bright. Nothing can be so pure.

TAYLOR: Writing and self-expression can give them a tool for moving forward.

Say something that nobody else has said before because you have your own way of saying things.

We match underserved girls with professional women writers for mentoring and group workshops.

I want to match you with Christy.


TAYLOR: The moment you ask a young person, tell me about something you're passionate about, their writing and the idea is just flow.

UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: I was kind of scared. I'm really quiet and I keep to myself. But I met Emily and she's so excited and enthusiastic about writing and I absolutely love her.

UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: Writing gave me that position in life, like, I'm a girl and I have a story to tell.

UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: Their senses are deluded by the sparkly things that cross their eye. Thank you.


TAYLOR: We need to help girls see that their voice matters.

You've got a lot of good stuff here. What I'd like to hear more is about you.

To give a girl tools to be able to be positive and thrive and rise above whatever challenges she's facing. What's better than that?





PEREIRA: It's been about a year since Pope Francis was questioned about sexuality and he answered, who am I to judge. Now a new Vatican document is officially setting a softer tone on the issue.

BERMAN: Among the highlights, it says that gays must be treated with respect, that their children may be baptized, and admits that priests often aren't sure to how deal with same-sex couples.

PEREIRA: Want to bring in our religious commentator, the Reverend Edward Beck, host of "The Sunday Mass."

Such a delight.


PEREIRA: How does this change the church's position we have to wonder. BECK: It doesn't really, Michaela, but it's interesting that the tone

is very different. It's a 75-page document that's a summary of -- survey that was made of Roman Catholic, throughout the world. So what's big news is this is a consultive document. Everybody in the parishes were asked to send their opinions, pastor send them to the bishops, collated the answers, and this is what the faithful are thinking. This is going to be taken into account at the big meeting. So the hierarchy is listening to what the faithful think about these issues, that's the big news here.

BERMAN: The big news all along with Pope Francis has been the tone, Father Beck, because the positions of the church itself, on same-sex marriage, haven't changed. But a change in tone is significant, I would imagine.

BECK: It is significant. And there's hope for some, John, that some of the teachings might evolve. This document says that the church needs to listen to social science more with regard to homosexuality. It says that, yes, same-sex couples should have their children baptized. Now, some bishops say you can't really baptize the children if they're not living the Catholic faith. This is area of contention. This document seems to be opening the door, this work document, to saying can the church look at some of these teachings from a postural perspective and, in practice, deal with people differently.

PEREIRA: Father Beck, thanks so much for giving us some perspective on us. We appreciate you making time to join us @THISHOUR.

Father Beck is host of "The Sunday Mass."

You can read more about this topic and more comments the pope is anticipated to make on the belief blog on

BERMAN: And the meeting on the bishops next fall will be very big.

PEREIRA: I feel like we'll be watching that.

BERMAN: Just a question, what do you do to get ready for the big game?

PEREIRA: Thanks for asking. A lot of things. I think I'll have some Brazilian food. I might have a carpini over the weekend. And I might wear a Brazilian jersey.

BERMAN: That's all good. I'm sure the American team would like some support also.

PEREIRA: I'll do that on Monday.

BERMAN: You can do both.

PEREIRA: I am a woman of the world.


BERMAN: Thank you for watching us today. Have a great weekend. "LEGAL VIEW" with Ashleigh Banfield starts --

PEREIRA: Right now.