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Obama Wants $500M to Aid Syrian Rebels; Conservatives Slam Cochran on Black Vote; Golden Gate Bridge Suicide Nets; Why Do Women Apologize So Much?

Aired June 27, 2014 - 10:30   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: With a much bigger role in the Syrian civil war. The White House now looks to Congress for half a billion dollars to aid moderate rebels. Mr. Obama wants the money to train and equip properly vetted fighters who are trying to topple the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad. But the United States needs to tread carefully here as the -- as the plan could risk supporting terror groups like ISIS.

Athena Jones has more for you.


ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: President Obama is asking Congress for half a billion dollars to help train and arm rebel forces in Syria. It's part of an effort to squash insurgent violence that has spilled over into neighboring Iraq. And the hope is that the funding will help defend the Syrian people, stabilize areas under opposition control, facilitate the provision of essential services, counterterrorist threats and promote conditions for negotiated settlement.

So where exactly would the money go? The administration says it would appropriately vet members of the opposition to train and equip but we still don't know much about that vetting process or who would be trained or where the training would happen. The funding is a big step for President Obama who only agreed last June to provide some military aid to the rebels after evidence of chemical weapons emerged.

But in May, the president previewed the latest decision talking about Syria at the West Point graduation.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will work with Congress to ramp up support for those in Syrian opposition who offer the best alternative to terrorists and brutal dictators.

JONES: The question looming large, what if the vetted rebels lose the fight? Some worry that this equipment could end up in the hands of the wrong people, like the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, also known as ISIS. That militant group, which is so brutal it's been disowned by al Qaeda is currently taking over a wide swath of Iraq and threatening Baghdad.

(END VIDEOTAPE) COSTELLO: Athena Jones joins us now from the White House, along with CNN military analyst and retired army, Major General James "Spider "Marks.

Good morning to both of you.


COSTELLO: Good morning.

JONES: Good morning.

COSTELLO: Athena, I want to start with you. Does the White House expect a lot of resistance on its request?

JONES: Hi, Carol. Well, that's the key question here. Some members of Congress have been pushing the administration to do more to help the Syrian opposition for a long time. Folks like Senator John McCain, Senator Lindsey Graham. They called for arming the opposition two years ago.

We've already heard from Senator Marco Rubio who put out a statement in favor of this. So has Senator Carl Levin who is the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. And in fact, when I asked the White House about what kind of pushback they expect, an official told me that the language in this request is meant to build on a provision that Senator Levin introduced himself during the mark-up of the National Defense Authorization Act in May.

And so the White House says they're looking forward to working with Congress on this but that gives you some sense of the kind of pushback they expect. Of course, there are going to be other members of Congress who are wondering what happens if these arms fall into the wrong hands. So there are certainly going to be some debate -- Carol.

COSTELLO: I knew there's so many question surrounding this.

General Marks, is this a good idea?

MARKS: Well, Carol, I think it's -- I think it's a good idea. The challenge we have is, as described by Athena, is that I think we can take off the table if these weapons fall into enemy hands. They will. A percentage of these weapons will end up in the wrong hands. I mean, there's a track record for that. That just is a routine migration that will occur.

So the big deal is this huge ungoverned space that exists from Syria and the border with Syria and Iraq does not exist, so you have this swath of land, totally ungoverned, ISIS is in the midst of it. So in the mission statements that were described in the piece that Athena did was very, very clear but one of those was not an effort to topple Assad.

What has to take place as mission one is you've got to try to stabilize as described and you've got to be able to try to build up forces so you can take on ISIS to the east and you can continue to try to work on Assad back in the homeland in Syria.

COSTELLO: OK. So how do you vet Syrian opposition members successfully and how do you train them to fight effectively? Because as we've seen in Iraq, perhaps we don't do that all that well.

MARKS: Carol, that's a great question. DOD has -- you could argue -- a spotty track record on how it has trained some militaries in the past. I'm not here to argue that. However, that's what a large element of DOD can do, does do. Your question about vetting is we've had agencies, CIA folks on the ground for quite some time, so the vetting process is already in training. It's taking place right now. So we can bring forward I think a core of the correct folks that need to get the training, and then you have to be able to make sure the training is sustained. That's the key piece about military training. It's got to be sustained.

COSTELLO: OK. We'll see what happens.

Athena Jones, Spider Marks, thanks so much.

MARKS: Thank you, Carol.

COSTELLO: Still to come in the NEWSROOM, a hard fought victory for Republican senator, Thad Cochran, is sparking outrage among some conservatives after black Democrats helped Cochran win but will those votes pay off in better policies for the black community?

We'll talk about that next.


COSTELLO: Political pawns or savvy voters. That's the debate surrounding African-American voters like these people who helped Mississippi Republican Senator Thad Cochran stave off a furious challenge from Tea Party Chris McDaniel this week. They are Democrats and they crossed party lines because according to one local bishop, they were motivated by a dislike of the Tea Party and the desire to, quote, "take a stand."

Mississippi's open primary law allows voters to cross party lines in primaries but that's not stopping some conservatives -- Rush Limbaugh among them -- from crying foul. There's what they have to say.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, CONSERVATIVE RADIO TALK HOST: I wonder what the campaign slogan was in Mississippi the past couple of days, Uncle Toms for Thad? Insider Republicans in the Senate bought 9 percentage points, 8 or 9 percentage points from the black Uncle Tom voters in Mississippi.

LAURA INGRAHAM, CONSERVATIVE RADIO TALK HOST: When you have to win as a Republican by playing the race-baiting game that the left routinely plays, I would say that the taste of victory today should be quite bitter. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: John Fund published this flyer at "National

Review Online" this morning, saying that it's one of many that were apparently distributed in black precincts throughout Mississippi. How they politic is more important than that they did at the moment unfortunately and Cochran doing the political equivalent of shaking a clan hood out in the street to scare up votes is really unbecoming of anybody fit to hold elected office in this country.


COSTELLO: All righty then. Let's talk about that.

Crystal Wright is editor and blogger for and Marc Lamont Hill is a CNN political commentator and host for HuffPost Live.

Welcome to both of you.



COSTELLO: OK. Here we go. Crystal, Mr. McDaniel has not conceded. In fact, he just said yesterday Cochran's team used race-baiting tactics to win. In your opinion, did they?

WRIGHT: No, I mean, I'm pretty offended by those clips that you just ran from Laura Ingraham and Rush Limbaugh. I mean, that's the problem with our party. We don't go out and earn the black vote and that -- and we saw that that was to -- you know, while I don't approve of the strategy, I don't think black Democrats in Mississippi really knew who they were voting for, I think they bought in to this race narrative, the Tea Party is racist and I really think that they were used.

However, it was a great political strategy and what it does show is don't take the black vote for granted even in an open primary but, you know, so black voters do have influence. We can will power, but I mean I scratch my head because a lot of these black voters in Mississippi probably are not going to vote for Senator Cochran in the general election.

COSTELLO: Well, do you think the Democrat will win in Mississippi?

WRIGHT: No, look --


COSTELLO: Well, don't you have to show --

HILL: Not going to happen.

WRIGHT: I don't think the Democrat will win which begs the question, Carol, why did all these black Democrats step in and vote for Cochran in the first place?

HILL: Because we're smart. WRIGHT: Cochran has ignored -- well, no. Cochran has ignored --

Marc, when did -- when was the last time you've seen Senator Cochran go after the black vote. It was an act of desperation. And I actually don't think blacks were used in Mississippi, period.


COSTELLO: Marc, go ahead.

HILL: Let me respond a couple of those interesting points. The first thing is yes, I don't think blacks are generally going to vote in the Republican -- vote for Republicans in the general election, but what they saw was an opportunity to intervene in an election where otherwise they would have no political muscle. Democrats not going to win that seat. So they said we have the opportunity to step in and choose a more moderate Republican over a Tea Party Republican because they had a very clear understanding based on the campaigning that the Tea Party alternative was not good a one.

No, Cochran is not great but Cochran at least can offer to consider being the first Republican to step up on the Voter Rights Reauthorization bill. Do I think he's going to do it? Probably not. Do I think that blacks were exploited by the Republican Party in Mississippi? Absolutely. But I do think that there are some logic in general terms to black people intervening in these types of open primaries to affect who is going to be representing them in the Senate.

And there's a bigger conversation here that I think we need to have which is do the Republican -- does the Republican Party respect the black vote? The answer is absolutely not.

WRIGHT: Right. Oh no, and I agree with you.

HILL: But it's also important to say that the -- that the Democratic Party has not respected the black vote.

WRIGHT: Right.

HILL: They also have taken it for granted and not earned it.

WRIGHT: No, I think -- Marc is exactly right. I mean, we agree on that. And I -- Marc knows that I talk about this all the time. The Republican Party is not serious about earning the black vote and what this shows to Marc's point is we as black Americans can exert political influence in races, not just open primaries, I think this is hopefully will begin a critical discussion among black Americans to say hey, we don't just need to throw our vote, to Marc's point, on Democrats because they haven't served blacks the last 50 years of policies for Democrats haven't uplifted blacks economically.

HILL: I agree with that.

WRIGHT: But this is a prime example away about how, to Marc's point, the only time the Republican Party is serious about going after the black vote is, you know, it's like the vote of last resort. Blacks have become the vote of last resort and we need to say no more.

COSTELLO: Well, let me -- let me ask you this, Marc. The Tea Party, you know there are allegations all the time against the Tea Party that it's racist but when McDaniel refuses to concede and then says race- baiting helped him lose, doesn't that feed in -- doesn't that make it worse?

HILL: Yes. Look, I know a lot of Tea Party people. None of them that I know are racist. Do I think that the Tea Party (INAUDIBLE) racist narratives, absolutely. Do I think that there are racists within the Tea Party, absolutely. There are racists in a whole lot of parties. But I think what you see in this example is a bitter candidate who doesn't want to concede a loss. And he accuses Cochran of playing dirty. And the evidence for playing dirty is using black votes. Black votes are the things that's dirty to him. That is a racial and racist subtext that makes people deeply wary of supporting Tea Party and supporting Republicans. Does he represent all Republicans? No. But I do think there's a problem with that kind of discussion and that kind of narrative.

COSTELLO: Marc Lamont Hill, Crystal Wright, I've got to leave it there. Thank you so much. I could talk about this all day. It's been fascinating.


COSTELLO: Thank so much.

HILL: My pleasure.

COSTELLO: We're back in a minute.



COSTELLO: The Golden Gate Bridge, one of the nation's most spectacular suspensions, but it also bears a tragic distinction as the site of more suicides than anywhere else in the United States. For more than 50 years, the group in charge of the bridge has refused calls to install suicide barrier nets but an historic vote today could change that.

Dan Simon is following the story for us.

Hi, Dan.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, good morning, Carol. Well, this has been a major source of controversy in San Francisco for decades. Everybody understands that this is an enormous problem by some estimates. This is the most popular place in the world for people to commit suicide. So the question is, what do you do about it? Well, for years some people have said that you should place suicide nets on the bridge. But there are others who have said that this would damage or tarnish the aesthetics of the bridge. There's also been the issue of funding. We're talking about $76 million. Well, today the board that oversees the bridge is expected to take up

this issue of funding. The majority of it, Carol, would come from the federal government. A smaller portion from state and local sources, and one board official is saying that there's no reason that this should not go forward. Take a look.


DEMS MULLIGAN, GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE GENERAL MANAGER: Where nets have been installed as suicidal deterrents, they've proven to be 100 percent effective. For whatever reasons, suicidal people don't want to hurt themselves. They want to die so they stop jumping.


SIMON: Well, the state would be on the hook for approximately $20 million. And back to this issue of aesthetics, Carol. Critics say well, you know, you should really get your priorities straight that at the end of the day, what's important for getting suicides or the aesthetics of the bridge. And they also say that for most vantage points when you look at the bridge that you won't even see the nets. So we'll see what the board decides to do.

COSTELLO: All right.

SIMON: This afternoon -- Carol.

COSTELLO: We'll check back.

Dan Simon, many thanks.

Still to come in the NEWSROOM, a commercial for shampoo asking an interesting question, why do women apologize so much or do they? We'll talk about that next.


COSTELLO: Matt Lauer, dude, really? As put it so succinctly, GM's Mary Barra is a woman. Get over it. Perhaps you heard about Lauer's sit-down with Mary Barra. The embattled CEO of General Motors. She's dealing with a lot. Her company has recalled 20 million cars.

Come on, Matt, let her have it.


MATT LAUER, CO-ANCHOR, TODAY SHOW: You're a mom, I mentioned. Two kids. You said in an interview not long ago that your mom -- that your kids said they're 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? (END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: I mean, seriously? Look at Barra's face. I might be reading too much into this but Barra did not look happy.

I can actually relate to that a little bit. Last October while debating Obamacare with a certain congressman, this transpired.


TODD ROKITA (R), INDIANA: You're part of the problem. The media is part of the problem as well.

COSTELLO: Oh, come on. That's so easy.

ROKITA: Oh, come on.

COSTELLO: That's so easy.

ROKITA: No. Carol, you're beautiful but you have to be honest as well.

COSTELLO: OK. I think we should leave it here.


COSTELLO: You see, you just don't know what to say. As for Lauer he's taking it on the chin. The Internet is full of articles and angry blog posts detailing just how stupid that mom question was. Lauer did respond as part of the interview, he said, "I referenced a Forbes article where Barra talked about the challenge of balancing work life and home life. She said my kids told me the one job they are going to hold me accountable for is mom." Lauer ended this by saying it's an important conversation.

Well, yes, Matt, it is, for another time.

And while we're talking about issues forced on women, apparently, we also apologize too much. In a new Pantene commercial -- Pantene commercial tackles that issue head-on. Watch.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sorry, can I ask a stupid question?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sorry, do you have a minute?




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mind if I squeeze in here?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sorry.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sorry. You go first.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was going to say --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have a question. Why don't we go back to the original thing that we did?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good morning. Got a minute?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sorry, not sorry.



COSTELLO: OK. So why do we women apologize so much or do they?

Let's talk about that. I'm joined by "Daily Beast" columnist Dean Obeidallah and Avital Nathman, author of the "Good Mother Myth."

Welcome to you both.



COSTELLO: I can't wait to have this discussion.

So, Avital, I will admit I have found myself apologizing for no apparent reason. Have you?

NATHMAN: You know what, I have, and after watching this commercial, I've kind of looked back and realize how often I do it and it's more than I anticipated.

COSTELLO: Do we really mean it, though? Because when I say it, I really don't mean to mean it. I don't know why I say it. Maybe it's because I don't want it to become a confrontation? What is it?

NATHMAN: You know, I think that it's kind of just been ingrained to us, whether overtly or subconsciously that women especially when we're in the workforce, we're up against a lot of challenges already, and we want to come off as likable, we want to come up as agreeable and the alternative is that we can be perceived as, you know, being a bitch. And just far from that, we tend to have these non-starter apologies. They are not apologizes for things that are transgression but there are apologies for taking up space, for having our voices heard. And we need to kind of break that habit.

COSTELLO: That makes me very sad.

So, Dean, and I thank you very much for being brave enough to be here, to comment on this.


So when you hear women in your day apologizing for no apparent reason, how do you take that?

OBEIDALLAH: First of all, I don't hear it that often. Usually I'm the one apologizing to women I'm in relationships with, I'll be honest with you, because no matter what, I'm not kidding. But I think it's absolutely true. In the workplace, I think women are very, very conscious of the fact that if they are too aggressive they are viewed as pushy and bossy. While men exhibiting the same exact behavior move up the ladder.

And, you know, sometimes people pooh-pooh these words. It means something. And just briefly, two statistics, at the Fortune 500 companies, of all 500 companies, only 24 women are CEOs. It's less than 5 percent. In boardrooms around the country, only 17 percent of the seats are held by women.

That's not happenstance. That's because men and women are judged differently for the same behavior in the same workplace.

COSTELLO: I like your style, Dean Obeidallah.

OBEIDALLAH: Thank you, Carol.

COSTELLO: Our digital correspondent, by the way, Kelly Wallace, asked people what they thought of someone who apologizes a lot. So let's watch that.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If someone says sorry too much, yes, I think that makes them a little weak.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would think that that person lacks confidence.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It kind of shows maybe a low self-esteem or overly sensitive.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would see her as maybe kind of a pushover than I would someone who doesn't say it all the time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think it's a sign of weakness. I think of someone with good morals and good values.


COSTELLO: So, Avital, I'll ask -- I mean, you know, Pantene is bringing this up and they were like putting out this commercial. Do those sorts of things help?

NATHMAN: You know, if gets people talking and it gets people wondering, and looking at their own habits, am I apologizing too much for instances that don't warrant it, of course being polite is -- you know, you want to be polite, you want to be respectful, but this goes beyond that. This is about apologizing just for existing, right? Just for putting our two cents in. And it's -- you know, it helps us take a look at those habits and breaks them, maybe we get a chance of adding more than 24 women to that CEO list.

COSTELLO: Maybe so.

OK, so, Dean, when you hear -- let's see, what can I ask you, Dean, when you hear a woman, like, say sorry at work for no apparent reason, what will you tell her now?

OBEIDALLAH: I will tell her don't apologize, just, you know, be confident, be -- and it's not me, frankly. It's people in power. Other men who might be threatened by women who are aggressive or are ambitious, but for a man, they would call him a go-getter. So I think it's great to bring it up. It's odd through a shampoo commercial that the conversation started. But anyway it's brought up, it's important.

I think if you make men aware of, men -- they'll come to the challenge. Come on, guys, let's open up our eyes to this and answer the challenge.

COSTELLO: Yes, at least dads out there with daughters, we need your help.


COSTELLO: Thanks to both of you, Avital Nathman, Dean Obeidallah.

For more on this topic, you can head to Kelly Wallace wrote a great op-ed on this.

Thank you for joining me today. I'm Carol Costello. "@THIS HOUR" with Berman and Michaela starts now.