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Massive Flooding in South Carolina; Russian Airstrikes in Syria; Gun Control Debate; Interview With Arizona Senator John McCain; Interview With Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. Aired 9-10:00a ET

Aired October 4, 2015 - 09:00   ET




JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Breaking point? As the nation reels from yet another mass shooting, President Obama asks the public to push for new gun laws.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our thoughts and prayers are not enough. It's not enough.

TAPPER: New details from the scene of the campus shooting in Oregon.

Plus: Putin on the attack, as Russia launches airstrikes in Syria.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: You better stay out of the way. That's the message that should be sent to Vladimir Putin.

Is a U.S.-Russia approximately war already under way? Senator John McCain joins us live.

Then, Senator Elizabeth Warren, the sweetheart of progressives will not run for president this time, but that does not mean she isn't watching the race.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Bernie gets up and fights for what he believes in.

TAPPER: Plus, what is her beef with Biden?

And the best political team on television will be here with insights from the campaign trail.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

TAPPER: Hello. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington, D.C., with some breaking news out of South Carolina, where there's a flood of catastrophic proportions under way. One hundred and forty people have already been rescued from

streets overcome with rain and emergency workers are trying to free more people trapped in vehicles at this hour. Officials are asking people to stay indoors as roads and highways are closed across the state.

At this moment, the storm is hitting Columbia, South Carolina, very hard.

Let's get right to the fire chief there, Aubrey Jenkins, who joins us by phone.

Chief Jenkins, thanks for joining us. This looks like a very dangerous situation. What are you seeing in the streets?

AUBREY JENKINS, COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA, FIRE CHIEF: Well, right now we're still seeing -- we're making rescues from people driving through still waters. We actually have some residences that are being flooded.

I'm on the scene right now of a dam that just broke probably about 15 to 20 minutes ago, so it's flooding housing in the -- and so this -- it's pretty hectic out here right now.

TAPPER: Chief Jenkins, are you having trouble reaching those who need help?

JENKINS: Right now, you know, we're asking for more -- we're trying to get more boats. We have got all our boats and in our rescue squad teams going to these areas. But we're just being inundated with calls. And, also, like I said, now this dam done burst, we have got people trapped in their homes that we really want to try to get to.

TAPPER: And what is your message for people? You're telling them to stay inside, stay where they are?

JENKINS: Yes. My message to people is stay inside. If they have any issues, call 911, and we will come and get you.

TAPPER: All right, Chief Jenkins, we wish you the best of luck on this important mission. Thank you so much your time.

JENKINS: Thank you so much.

TAPPER: And we're going to keep you updated on those floods as we learn more.

We're also learning new details this morning about the campus shooting in Oregon this week that left nine people dead and another nine grievously wounded. One survivor telling relatives the shooter designated one man in the classroom as -- quote -- "the lucky one," handed him an envelope and told him to stand in the corner as the shooting continued.

There are also some anecdotal reports that the shooter targeted Christians. Police say his motives, however, remain unclear as of now. But we have learned the names of his victims, Lucero Alcaraz, 19, Treven Taylor Anspach, 20, Rebecka Ann Carnes, 18, Quinn Cooper, 18, Kim Saltmarsh Dietz, 59, Lucas Eibel, 18, Jason Dale Johnson, 33 Lawrence Levine, 67, and Sarena Dawn Moore, 44

President Obama called on the American public to take action.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is a political choice that we make to allow this to happen every few months in America. We collectively are answerable to those families who lose their loved ones because of our inaction.


TAPPER: Joining me now is Mark Kelly of Americans for Responsible Solutions, whose wife, Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, was shot by a gunman in Tucson -- Tucson, Arizona, who killed six other people.

Thank you so much for joining us, Mark.

I want to get to gun laws in a second. But before I do, after Sandy Hook, President Obama talked about addressing this crisis in a holistic way, going after the culture, addressing mental health issues, and also gun laws. But, right now the White House only seems focused on gun laws. Is that the right approach?

MARK KELLY, HUSBAND OF GABRIELLE GIFFORDS: Well, first of all, let my say that Gabby and I are both saddened by the shooting at Umpqua. We grieve for the families. And we have them in our thoughts and prayers.


It's sad that we have this situation where it almost seems now weekly there's a mass shooting. You know, we have gun violence that's 15 to 20 times higher than other developed nations. And it's, you know, for one basic reason, is that we have a lot of loopholes in our gun laws. And our leaders should do something about that.

The president talked about a political solution to this problem. And one of the other sad issues is that this has become a political -- a political issue in our country today, and our leaders need to fix that.

TAPPER: Do you think that there's only one way to approach this, through gun laws, and that the mental health component or the cultural components are not as important?

KELLY: No, I think it's all important, you know, but one thing is really clear. I mean, we sell 40 percent of our guns without a background check.

That means felons, people who are dangerously mentally ill have easy access to guns. You know, mental health is certainly an issue, too. But we have laws that make it easy for domestic abusers and stalkers to get their hands on guns.

And, you know, there's one pretty basic and simple solution, is that members of Congress in states -- and people in -- you know, elected leaders in state legislatures around the country can certainly do something about it. And there's a lot happening in the states.

But, you know, we really need to call on Washington, D.C., members of the House and Senate, to take action on this issue.

TAPPER: The gunman's father, Ian Mercer, he spoke about the tragedy on Saturday. Take a listen.


IAN MERCER, FATHER OF GUNMAN: Every time something like this happens, they talk about it, and nothing is done. I'm not trying to say that that is to blame for what happened, but if Chris had not been able to get ahold of 13 guns, it wouldn't have happened.


TAPPER: This is a really important issue to you, personally, obviously. Your wife was seriously injured in one of these horrific mass shootings.

How much -- as something of a victim like this, how much do you blame the parents for letting a child spiral out of control like this? Do they bear any responsibility?

KELLY: Well, we see time and time again, especially with mass shootings, that there's a component of mental illness, you know, with the shooter.

We have seen that in Tucson, in Sandy Hook, and Aurora, now in Roseburg. And, you know, I think people who are around an individual with mental illness do have some responsibility. And that does include the parents.

You know, they're -- you know, the FBI has a profile on individuals like this. And it steps somebody through. You can see, what are the symptoms of somebody with mental illness? And, you know, folks need to take action and get people, first, you know, evaluated for mental illness, and then if there's a serious problem, get them adjudicated mentally ill.

But more important than that, I mean, we have to close these loopholes that make it very easy for people who are mentally ill, and felons, and domestic abusers to get firearms.

TAPPER: What gun laws can you point that specifically would have prevented the shooting in Roseburg, Oregon, or any of the horrific shooting events we have seen in the last five years or so?

KELLY: You know -- you know, with individual events, I mean, sometimes there isn't a specific law that you can point to that would prevent a tragedy like this from happening. But with the combination of some really commonsense things that

most Americans support, you know, stuff like let's require a background check before anybody gets a gun, and let's try to get people identified as mentally ill if they are dangerously mentally ill, and then let's get that information to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which is managed by the FBI.

So, you know, often in the case of these mass shootings, if there were a couple components, if we did things better, some of these, not all of them, but some of these tragedies could be prevented.

TAPPER: I want to ask you about gun-free zones, because Oregon is a state where people can carry concealed weapons on them, but the school itself, Umpqua Community College, was a gun-free zone.

What is the purpose of putting up a sign that says gun-free zones? It seem, to a lot of people, that that might attract bad guys.

KELLY: Well, I mean, there have been studies that have shown -- you know, first of all, mass shootings, there's been about -- less than 15 percent have happened in a gun-free zone.

And there's no indication from other -- from another study that any shooter intentionally went to a gun-free zone. You often see that as, you know, some folks will say that that's why somebody went to a gun-free zone. Well, there's no -- there's no evidence of that.

And, you know, I think the idea is, where there are more guns, people are less safe. I mean, if you have a gun in any kind of situation where things start to get heated, I mean, there's a higher likelihood that somebody is going to get shot.


And I think what we see in states where the gun laws are the strongest, there are less deaths from gun violence. I mean, that's certainly clear.

TAPPER: All right. Mark Kelly, thank you so much.

And please send our best to Gabby Giffords.

KELLY: You're welcome. I will do that. Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: Thanks so much.

Coming up, what exactly is Vladimir Putin up to in Syria? It's not what you think, says my next guest, Senator John McCain joining me right after this quick break.


TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.

Russia is promising to intensify airstrikes in Syria. That began this week, the Russian Defense Ministry claiming that the targets are ISIS strongholds. U.S. officials are suspicious of Vladimir Putin's motives, given that his earlier airstrikes this week hit forces opposed to his ally Syrian President Assad, but not targets that were ISIS.

The Pentagon learned of the Russian airstrikes just an hour before they were launched.


ASHTON CARTER, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: That approach is tantamount, as I said then, to pouring gasoline on the fire.


TAPPER: Joining me now is Senator John McCain.

Senator, thanks for joining us.

I want to get to Syria in just a moment, but I do want to start with Afghanistan.


We learned yesterday that it seems as though a United States airstrike badly damaged a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders in the Afghan city of Kunduz, killing 19 members of the staff and patients and injuring 37. The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights says it may be criminal.

I know we're still waiting for all the details to come in on this, but you're a former Navy pilot. So, you have some insight into this that many of us don't. How can something like this happen?

MCCAIN: Well, we call it fog of war, unfortunately. And it's a tragedy, and our thoughts and prayers are -- go out to them.

These -- it's a wonderful organization, as you know, the Doctors Without Borders. If we had had a forward air controller, it very -- most likely would not have happened. And this is also a result of our withdrawal. And, by the way, it was surprising, this Taliban attack in Kunduz, because it's in the northern part of the country, where the Taliban have never been as strong as they have in other parts of the country.

So, it was an element of surprise, failure to have forward air controllers there, and fog of war. And it's one of the reasons why we hate wars, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, let's move on to Syria, President Obama saying on Friday that his administration is not going to make Syria into a proxy war with Russia. Take a listen.


OBAMA: We're not going to make Syria into a proxy war between the United States and Russia. That would be bad strategy on our part. This is not some, you know, superpower chessboard contest.


TAPPER: My question to you, Senator, is this conflict in Syria already a proxy war with Russia?

MCCAIN: Of course it is.

And when the president says we're not going have that strategy, we don't have a strategy. Excuse me? We don't have a strategy. Jake, you had to recall the events that took place over the weekend, when the president -- when John Kerry, when we were watching this and -- military buildup, including anti-aircraft missile batteries and fighter aircraft.

ISIS doesn't have fighter aircraft or -- and so that was kind of interesting. But, more importantly, John Kerry called Lavrov three times to find out what was going on. The president met for 90 minutes with Vladimir Putin. Then, 48 hours later, a Russian general shows up at our embassy in Baghdad to give us an hour warning that strikes are commencing.

That is treating the United States with disdain and contempt. And, of course, they are hitting the Free Syrian Army enclaves and places which have had some success. This is the CIA-run operations. And they want to take them out.

With Vladimir Putin and Bashar Assad want to do is provide us with the choice between ISIS and Bashar Assad, that -- but -- and in order to do that, you take out the Free Syrian Army, which in the case the DOD-trained one, group, is now down to four or five, approximately $9 million each.

TAPPER: Hillary Clinton broke with President Obama this week. She called for a no-fly zone over Syria. President Obama was asked about that. And he said there's a difference between running for president and being president.

Who do you side with this on this idea of a no-fly zone, Secretary Clinton or President Obama?

MCCAIN: Well, obviously Secretary Clinton.

But, more importantly, General David Petraeus testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee not too many days ago, where he really laid out a strategy of what we need to do, which many of us have been calling for, for a long time, stop the barrel bombing, establish a no-fly zone, arm the Kurds, get some forward air controllers at work there, build up the Free Syrian Army again.

And it's not too late. We -- this flood of refugees is a direct result of our failed policy. It was a year ago the president said our goal was degrade and destroy ISIS. We have made no progress there, and, of course, we now see Vladimir Putin inserting himself into the Middle East in a way they have -- that Russia has not been since Anwar Sadat threw the Russians out in 1973. He's maintaining his base and he's now dictating the pace of

events in Syria, which is, of course, an abdication of American leadership.

TAPPER: Senator, with the exception of Lindsey Graham, who you have endorsed, and maybe to a degree Rick Santorum, none of the other Republican presidential candidates are calling for such aggressive recommendations as you are.

In fact, listen to what your party's front-runner, Donald Trump, told CNN's Erin Burnett in terms of letting Russia fight ISIS in Syria.

Take a listen.



DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let Syria and ISIS fight. Why are we -- why do we care? Let ISIS and Syria fight.

And let Russia -- they're in Syria already -- let them fight ISIS. Let Russia take care of ISIS. How many -- how many places can we be?


TAPPER: That's your party's front-runner, sir. What do you say?

MCCAIN: Well, I guess the question is, is, do we want to keep slaughtering people in Syria that are fighting for freedom? Do we want to continue the barrel bombing, which is one of the reasons why 240,000 Syrians have been murdered?

Do we want this flood of refugees to continue, which will eventually...


TAPPER: Right.


TAPPER: But what do you -- what do you think of Donald Trump's position?

MCCAIN: Now...

TAPPER: And why do you think your party is...

MCCAIN: I just don't think he -- one, I don't think he understands very well the situation. And he's entitled to his opinion.

As far as other members of my party are concerned, that all I can say is that, I know the realities. I have been there for years. We have said what needed to be done and predicted what was going to happen.

If there isn't a reassertion of American leadership in a variety of ways, such as recommended by General David Petraeus and many other experts, then we will face further consequences of an abject failure of American leadership.

TAPPER: I want to ask you about the tone and tenor of the race on the Republican side.

A couple of weeks ago, Donald Trump was at a town hall when somebody said that the problem in the United States is Muslims. He didn't say anything to correct the individual, who also said President Obama was a Muslim, which is obviously not true.

You took a very different position in 2008. When somebody said something in a town hall, you corrected the woman in question. You called then Senator Obama a decent family man and a citizen that you just happened to disagree with on policy.

What is your impression of what is going on, on the campaign trail when you hear your party either reacting or not reacting when such language is used?

MCCAIN: I think we are hurting ourselves and our chances to win the general election.

If we disparage each other and impugn the character of each other, then, after the primary is over, then obviously there's a trust and support deficit amongst the American people.

I'm not utopian, Jake. You know, I have always believed that a fight not joined is a fight not enjoyed. But I wish that we would think about Ronald Reagan and the way he conducted his campaigns. We can fight like blazes with each other where we disagree, but to impugn each other's characters and integrity is very harmful to each other, ourselves, and our chances of winning a general election.

TAPPER: Do leaders have a responsibility to condemn bigotry when they hear it?

MCCAIN: Oh, yes, I believe so.

TAPPER: Why do you think people in your party are not doing that?

MCCAIN: I'm not sure, but I think there's a lot of people in the party that are not happy about the tenor of some of the remarks and the allegations about each other.

And, again, I sense a great dissatisfaction with Washington here in Arizona. But I also hear a lot of dissatisfaction about, one, the issues that are being discussed, which are not particularly relevant, and, two, the personal attacks that are being made. And I'm afraid we will pay a price for it at the polls. And I hope we will change. TAPPER: Senator John McCain, thank you so much for your time. I

appreciate it so much, sir.

MCCAIN: Thank you.

TAPPER: Coming up: Democratic darling Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts weighing in on the 2016 race and whether she could support Vice President Joe Biden.


QUESTION: You have disagreed very sharply.

WARREN: Oh, we definitely have.


WARREN: You bet. You bet.




TAPPER: Welcome back.

This week, Bernie Sanders showed his anti-big money campaign is bringing in big money. He raised $26 million in the third quarter, just $2 million less than Hillary Clinton, but most of it from small donors.

Strong financial numbers can, of course, lead to big endorsements. The one many Democrats are waiting for these days is Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, the financial reform advocate who has become the leading voice perhaps of the progressive left. But she has not given the nod to anyone yet.

We tried to see where her loyalties lie at "The Atlantic"'s Washington Ideas Forum.


TAPPER: You were one of many female Democratic senators to sign a letter a few years ago urging the Secretary Clinton to run.

WARREN: Mm-hmm.

TAPPER: Should that be seen as an endorsement in itself?

WARREN: Now, look, she's running, along with other people. And they're getting their ideas out there. And I think that's what should happen during this part of the season.

TAPPER: So, you just wanted her to run? WARREN: Well, I -- I want everyone who wants to run for

president to get out there, put their ideas out there, talk about their ideas with the American people. That's how it should be. That's how democracy is supposed to work.

TAPPER: I think that you and Bernie Sanders align fairly closely on all the major issues.

When you decide how -- when you decide who to endorse, is it just going to be about who you agree with the most? Or you will be taking in things -- taking other things into consideration, such as, who has a better chance of being the nominee or winning in November?

WARREN: Look, at this moment, I don't know because I'm not there.

What I do know is that people are out talking about these key ideas. And I think that's exactly the right thing to do. I think we should be talking about Glass-Steagall. I think we should be talking about the role that the major financial institutions play, not just in this economy, but play in a political sphere.

TAPPER: Would you disagree with the idea that you and Bernie Sanders seem to be more closely aligned on issues than you are with other Democrats running for president?

WARREN: Do you want to ask this six different ways? (INAUDIBLE).

TAPPER: That's kind of my job.


WARREN: Yes. Well -- and kind of my job is to get out there and to keep pushing these issues.

You know, I will say this. Bernie gets out and he fights for what he believes in. He fights from the heart on these issues. And I think he's done an enormous service by pushing them forward into the agenda. I think that secretary Clinton has also been pushing forward issues into the agenda that are really important.

TAPPER: What do you make of the fact that two of the leading Republican presidential candidates, Donald Trump and Jeb Bush, are now both endorsing closing the loophole when it comes to hedge fund managers that carry interest loophole?

WARREN: It means that even when your ears are stuffed with money you get a little sound that comes through. And that's what's happening here! It's like, hello!

Yes. Billionaires should not be paying taxes at a lower rate than teachers and firefighters, and that has even seeped through to a few of the rich guys on the other side. Stunner.

(LAUGHTER) TAPPER: Obviously your position in supporting Planned Parenthood

is well established.

The reason that Planned Parenthood purportedly was in front of the congressional hearing was because of these video tapes...


TAPPER: ...of Planned Parenthood officials saying and doing things that even Planned Parenthood questions in terms of the glibness. Is there nothing on the video tapes that you saw that bothers you at all?

WARREN: Look, let's remember what we were debating on the floor of the United States Senate and that was defunding Planned Parenthood. 2.7 million people get their health care from Planned Parenthood every year. One in every five women in America sometime in her life will get her health care from Planned Parenthood.

Planned Parenthood, what does it mostly do? 97 percent of what Planned Parenthood does is about cancer screenings, about screenings for STDs, about birth control. Planned Parenthood is in more than half of all of the Planned Parenthood clinics are in places where there's limited access to health care. So this, for many people, is their -- for many women is their only health care provider, sometimes their principle health care provider. And the Republicans say the first issue that we've got to discuss and the number one thing -- everything else can go forward on the budget or not go forward or we can cut everything else. The first thing we've got to do is defund Planned Parenthood. That means defunding health care for women.

And make no mistake, what this is really about is about women's access to abortion. And even though not one federal dollar goes to pay for abortions through Planned Parenthood, the Republicans want to find one more way to make it harder, to make it impossible for a woman who is facing one of the most difficult decisions of her life. They want to find a way to make it harder on her to get the health care she needs. And all I can say is we've been in that world before.

When I talk about 1955 I'm talking about a world where women die. I'm talking about a world where women committed suicide rather than go forward with a pregnancy they could not handle. And what the Republicans are saying is they want to go back and I want to make it clear we are not going back. Not now. Not ever.


TAPPER: It's too bad they're not doing a straw poll here.



WARREN: I want to tell you something. We are doing the straw poll. It's called the 2016 elections, and the Republicans want to get out there and they want to run on shutting down women's access to cancer screenings and shutting down women's access to birth control, and shutting down women's access to not government-paid for abortions then they're going to have a real fight on their hands. Let them do it.



TAPPER: You've been a long time advocate for financial reform and in the past you have -- there have been words between you and then Senator Joe Biden.

WARREN: Mm-hmm.

TAPPER: You have disagreed very sharply --

WARREN: Yes, we have.


WARREN: You bet. Yes. It was over bankruptcy laws that the credit card companies wanted to just tighten those bankruptcy laws so they could squeeze more profits out of working families. And Senator Biden was on one side in that fight and I was on the other. And you better believe I didn't hold back.

TAPPER: Are you still on opposite sides on these issues?

WARREN: On that issue, yes.

TAPPER: There is a move in Congress right now to replace the director for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau with a five- person bipartisan panel.


TAPPER: Some of the Democrats in the House that expressed support for it say it will be a protection for -- if a Republican is ever in the White House.

WARREN: I'm sorry. Not just some of the Democrats say that. That's what the president of the American Bankers Association came out and said yesterday. He said he is so worried about this consumer agency that has forced the largest financial institutions in this country to return more than $10 billion to families they cheated. He is so worried about keeping that agency up and strong that he wants to make sure there is a five-person commission like there is over the FCC because that's really going to keep the CFPV strong.


TAPPER: You don't buy it.

WARREN: Do I look dumb?



TAPPER: The answer, of course, no.

When we come back, what did Jeb Bush say that had both Donald Trump and President Obama criticizing him? We'll tell you after the break.



TAPPER: The race to replace House Speaker John Boehner is on. And we have a new entrance this morning, Congressman Jason Chaffetz of Utah. He will challenge the leading contender for the job, Congressman Kevin McCarthy, the current House Majority Leader.

Chaffetz spoke to "FOX News" this week and seem to take -- oh, I'm sorry. McCarthy spoke to "FOX News" this week and seemed to take credit bringing down Hillary Clinton's poll numbers through the Benghazi committee. Take a listen.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R), HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: Everybody thought that Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she's untrustable.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When I hear a statement like that which demonstrates unequivocally that this was always meant to be a partisan political exercise, I feel like it does a great disservice and dishonors not just the memory of the four that we lost, but of everybody who has served our country.


TAPPER: Hillary Clinton, of course, pouncing on that unkind (ph) contribution from Kevin McCarthy as you heard there.

We have lots to talk about so let's get into it with our panel. Dan Pfeiffer, former senior adviser to President Obama, Republican Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn, CNN political commentators S.E. Cupp and Bakari Sellers.

Congresswoman, let me start -- congresswoman, let me start with you. I know you're supporting Kevin McCarthy. Jason Chaffetz announcing his intention to run to challenge McCarthy. Could that be a real race you think?

REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN (R), TENNESSEE: I think that Chaffetz will be in there. You might have another one or two that step in the race to get their names in the race. And I wouldn't be surprised by that. I do think McCarthy has the votes for it. And he did speak

unartfully this week. There's no doubt that's something that has hurt him. And I am sure he wishes he could take it back and reposition. And I think he was trying to say what we've heard Haley Barbour say over and over, he focus on good policy it's going to make good politics.


BLACKBURN: But that is not the way it came out and I think...


BLACKBURN: I think that he could go back and reposition that. Because Benghazi has a serious job to do.


BLACKBURN: That panel has --

TAPPER: Dan, I'm a journalist who takes very seriously both the e-mail story and the Benghazi story and I have to say, wow, this really gives ammo to Hillary Clinton's side to push back on everything.

DAN PFEIFFER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: This is the first good news Hillary has had in this story in a very long time.

And there are two kind of gaffes. There's the kind of gaffes where people say something, they misspeak, like I think potentially Jeb Bush did the other day. And then there's a time where you go out and just say the absolutely wrong thing that is true. And what I would say for Kevin McCarthy is the job of a speaker is you're the spokesperson for the party and the political strategies. He indicated he's neither good at speaking nor political strategy here (ph). So, it's a tough day for him.

TAPPER: What do you think?

S.E. CUPP. CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I don't think this is going to be the smoking gun that reignites Hillary's -- I think most average voters aren't following this, you know, political horse race the way we are. But what people focus on when we talk about the speaker and the job of a speaker, people focus on the division in the House between the leadership and the freedom caucus. They forget that there's a lot of other factions in the Republican Party...


CUPP: ...that the speaker has to unite. And Kevin McCarthy, I think, is uniquely positioned to do that. I love Jason Chaffetz, I think he's great and very talented. But I think McCarthy will have the votes. And I think he is better positioned to unite all of those factions within the House.

TAPPER: You are -- you have endorsed Hillary Clinton. Kevin McCarthy gave you a good talking point.

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He did but it wasn't the first time he said it. In fact I also think that he said it to you if I'm not mistaken --

TAPPER: Not as stark but yes, something --

SELLER: I don't think it was unartful. I just think he accidentally told the truth. I mean, we've been saying that for a long period of time that this is nothing but a witch hunt.

But I also think just getting back to Jason Chaffetz, he's actually not coming off a good performance in front of Cecile Richards in Planned Parenthood. In fact I think he got owned and most of America think that he actually got owned during that debate and back and forth during that hearing.


So it's going to be an interesting time period for you guys in your caucus.


SELLERS: We love watching it.

BLACKBURN: Well -- and I'm glad the American people are watching.

The American people know Hillary Clinton can blame no one but herself when it comes to who made the mistakes with the server, who made the mistakes with Benghazi. And they want her to tell the truth.

I represent a major military post. I don't go on that post that I am not hearing from men and women in uniform and from their families. They want to know who gave the stand down order, who gave the stay behind order, who put these lives in danger. So that committee has a serious job to do.

TAPPER: We only have a few more minutes.

I want to turn from this to the Oregon shooting and comments made by Jeb Bush that you were just referring to. Jeb Bush he gave a very long answer, but among the many, many words in his long answer was this --


JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's very sad to see, but I resist the notion -- and I had this challenge as governor, because we had -- look, stuff happens. There's always a crisis. And the impulse is always to do something and it's not necessarily the right thing to do.


TAPPER: Stuff happens.

Now, obviously there a lot more to it than that. But even Donald Trump is jumping on this, S.E.

CUPP: Look, in no way, shape, or reform was Jeb Bush's response to the Oregon shooting stuff happens. That's just not what he said. That's not how he said it. That's not what he meant.

And I think it's real journalistic malfeasance to represent it, you know, the newspapers that represented that single headline is completely unacceptable. Jeb Bush is often unartful. He is often -- he often doesn't say the thing that, you know, he probably should say. But whether he is using the word retarded correctly or, you know, giving a long answer -- I mean, these are the opportunities that the media really shows a bias because he was -- he was not wrong when he said what he said.

Could he have said it a little better? Sure. But to imply that Jeb Bush somehow does not care about what happened in Oregon this week is absolutely unacceptable.

TAPPER: Look, I agree. And that's why I said there was a lot...

CUPP: Yes.

TAPPER: ...that was in there, but then, you know, I mean, welcome to the NFL. This is what happens.

CUPP: Yes.

TAPPER: Often people say stupid things in the context of a 20- minute speech and it's that one sentence.

PFEIFFER: Jeb Bush is very bad at running for president.

SELLERS: (INAUDIBLE) running for president.

PFEIFFER: He says the wrong things all the time.

I do not -- I agree with S.E. I don't think that he was being callous of the victims of the Oregon shooting, right? But there's a little bit of (INAUDIBLE) -- the Republicans had an entire day at their convention in 2012 basically (INAUDIBLE) the president saying you didn't build that, which was also an unartful statement.

And so you kind of with (INAUDIBLE). I do think the (INAUDIBLE) it's not that he said stuff happens. If then he went on and said well, you know, if someone -- if a kid almost drowns we don't put up a new pool fencing law. Except that's exactly what he did as governor. So a governor's response is OK for dealing with pools but not OK with guns. (INAUDIBLE) the pool lobbyists (ph) the gun lobbyists (ph).

TAPPER: All right. Thank you one and all. Great stuff.

Catastrophic flash flooding is hitting South Carolina and rescues are under way there as the water rises. We're going to take you there live after this break.



TAPPER: Welcome back.

Hundreds are being rescued from flooded streets in South Carolina at this hour. At least three people had been killed during the storm that's being called unprecedented. Nearly 30,000 people are without power across the state.

Let's go now to CNN's Nick Valencia. He's in Charleston.

Nick, what's the latest?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jake, the rain has just been relentless.

Just when you think you're getting a little bit of relief the rain picks back up and starts again. We're talking about record breaking rain totals somewhere in the area of 20 inches in some parts of the state. Columbia, South Carolina especially hard hit. And of course here in Charleston and you can tell why just by looking behind me.

The flash flood warning still in effect. Some people are trying to avoid that. They're trying to go drive their cars through it and that's the result of what could happen. The Governor Nick Haley is telling people to shelter in place, stay inside. You mentioned 30,000 people without power. There's also a couple dozen here in Charleston that's had to get rescued by the fire department.

I was talking to EMS services here yesterday, they said they had to evacuate those on the water front area because of those flash floods. And it could be more of the same throughout the day. High tide expected to happen at 2:00 p.m. So this, what we're standing in right now could be the, you know, the issue for more of Charleston in the hours ahead. Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Nick Valencia in South Carolina thanks so much.

After the break, would you move to Mars? The politics of outer space.



TAPPER: It's been a big week for Mars.

Matt Damon's new movie "The Martian" debuted just as NASA announced they found water on the red planet.

And Silicon Valley inventor Elon Musk unveiled a plan to make Mars livable. But is moving to Mars a dream or a realistic goal? It's all part of what I drew this week on our "State of the Cartoonion."


TAPPER (voice-over): Mars is in the air with news from NASA that water was discovered there. And Matt Damon's new film "The Martian" which opens this weekend.

Will we ever get there, get to Mars?

In 2004 President Bush pitched a renewed space exploration program that could bring Americans back to the moon by 2020 and then --

GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: With the experience and knowledge gained on the moon we will then be ready to take next steps of space exploration. Human missions to Mars and to worlds beyond.

TAPPER: But something has happened to the (INAUDIBLE) guys since then when Newt Gingrich running for president in 2012 said he wanted a priority on.

NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Getting to Mars as rapidly as possible.

TAPPER: He was mocked and few in politics talked that way about Mars today.

But what if we looked at Mars the way JFK once looked at the moon?

JOHN F. KENNEDY, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Some say the moon, why choose this as our goal and they may well ask, why climb the highest mountain? Why 35 years ago fly the Atlantic?


TAPPER: Why indeed. What would we find if President Obama renewed call to visit Mars. What would be there?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello, Obama. You want latte?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Liftoff, we have a liftoff.


TAPPER: Thanks for spending your Sunday with us.

"FAREED ZAKARIA GPS" starts right now.