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Senate Battle over Hagel Begins; Gunman Holds 5-Year-Old Hostage in Bunker; White House Jobs Council Expires; Rihanna: "I'd Rather Just Live My Truth"

Aired January 31, 2013 - 10:30   ET


FMR. SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R), NEBRASKA: -- just as I did when I co- authored the post-9/11 G.I. Bill with Senators Jim Webb, Frank Lautenberg and John Warner.

This includes focusing on the mental health of our fighting force, because no one who volunteers to fight and die for this country should ever feel like that they have nowhere to turn. That's unacceptable for this country.

In my 12 years in the Senate, my one guiding principle on every security decision I made and every vote I cast was always this, simply this: Is our policy worthy of our troops and their families and the sacrifices that we ask them to make?

That same question will guide me if I am confirmed as secretary of defense. Our men and women in uniform and their families must never doubt that their leaders' first priority is them.

I believe my record of leadership on veterans' issues over the years, going back to my service in the Veterans Administration under President Reagan demonstrates my rock-solid commitment to our veterans and their families.

We must always take care of our people. That's why I will work to ensure that everyone who volunteers to fight for this country has the same rights and same opportunities.

As I've discussed with many of you in our meetings, I am fully committed to implementing the repeal of Don't Ask/Don't Tell and doing everything possible under current law to provide equal benefits to the families of all -- all our servicemembers and their families.

I will work with the service chiefs as we officially open combat positions to women, a decision I strongly support.

And I will continue the important work that Leon Panetta has done to combat sexual assault -- sexual assault in the military.

Maintaining the health and well-being of those who serve is critical to maintaining a strong and capable military, because in institutions people must always come first.

As we look ahead to the coming years, we have an extraordinary opportunity, and opportunity now, at this moment, to define what's next for America's military and our country. It is incumbent upon all of us to make decisions that will ensure our nation is prepared to confront any threat we may face in the future, protect our citizens and remain -- remain the greatest force for good in the world.

If confirmed as secretary of defense, it will be my great honor working with the president, this committee, the Congress and our military to ensure our policies are worthy of the service and sacrifice of America's men and women.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I look forward to your questions.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDNET: The opening remarks of former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel during the confirmation hearings for him. President Obama has nominated the controversial former Republican Senator and former infantry sergeant during the Vietnam War to be his Secretary of Defense.

Let's get a quick reaction from our team, Dana Bash, our chief congressional correspondent in the room. How is he being received in that hearing room during the Armed Services Committee hearing?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, the whole entire panel looked stoic. Generally when -- as you and I discussed, when you have a member of the club, somebody that you're so familiar with as a senator -- sitting senator and former senator as we have here, there is kind of a familiarity and warmth that you sort of feel in the room.

Not now. Not at all. In fact, even when Senator Hagel started his opening remarks, may have made a joke about the fact that somebody is there who he owes money to, there were a few chuckles, but not from the people he would expect them from. For example, John McCain, who you know, he likes to break the ice with -- with humor as much as anybody. Not on this -- not on this moment. Not on this subject. Not with this dynamics.

So that, to me, was what really struck me and I think it sets the tone for what we're going to see in the next couple of hours with some pretty tough Q and A.

TAPPER: That is pretty chilling and as we know, there is a fairly low bar when it comes to humor during congressional hearings. I'm going to go now to our chief White House correspondent Jessica Yellin.

Jessica, what struck me during his opening remarks former Senator Chuck Hagel is that he talked not just about his world view, but also about domestic politics in a way talking about "don't ask, don't tell", talking about women in combat, talking about combating sexual assault in combat. This is really not just about foreign policy, right?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. This is about addressing, first of all, his past comments which were perceived as anti-gay by some. As he said that was long in the past and so he's trying to put those to bed.

But it's also to trying to win the support of key constituencies in the Democratic base and in the President's base. And also drawing on his experience as an enlisted man to say nobody can better serve as the head of the armed forces than a man who's been there and served himself.

I can read you from -- Jake, he got the endorsement of seven veterans' organizations last night. One of whom said "As a former enlisted soldier, Senator Hagel understand the challenges of our troops on a deeply personal level."

And that's part of the political strategy here is to remind -- expect him and his comments throughout the day, to constantly remind these senators that he has been on the front lines, serving and understands and is sensitive to the needs of each of these groups of people who have been in the field and as they come home and then again to each of these constituent groups that have complained about his past statements.

One other point I make, Jake is that you mentioned humor. And one of the reasons we're told that the President has liked Hagel and came to be close to him is because he's perceived him as a guy who does not have a big ego. And is sort of casual to be around. I mean, partly, you know it's been but partly you could see it there, he assumes not the normal demeanor while he's sitting there and not very uptight and official.

And so I think he'll try to roll out some of his casual chatty jokey self throughout the day, Jake.

TAPPER: Of course, we didn't hear President Obama talk about Senator John McCain and his war experience in 2008 in the same light that because he had served in combat, has been a prisoner of war, that he would be best to be commander-in-chief. I guess that argument gets made according to the needs of the time.

Let's go to the Pentagon right now for CNN's Chris Lawrence. Chris, what is the reaction inside the Pentagon among other officers or enlisted men or civilian personnel with whom you spoken about the hearing so far, the tenor and the former Senator Chuck Hagel's opening remarks?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well Jake, I talked to one officer who said if you want to know what Hagel thinks just ask the President. And he was referring to the fact that almost word for word, the positions that Hagel is taking right now are almost exactly what you hear coming from the White House.

There is a feeling among some of the officials here that you're never going to see a defense secretary with as much power as Bob Gates had a couple years ago. The President at the time didn't have much experience dealing with the Pentagon. Bob Gates was a Republican hold over who gave the President some credibility and cover on some national security issues. They say here at the Pentagon, the game has changed. That foreign policy is firmly in control of the White House. But they feel where the defense secretary has sort of a -- a bully pulpit is in funding. You've heard Leon Panetta coming out publicly time and time again, wailing against these defense cuts, saying they'll hollow out the military, how devastating it will be.

There is concern and maybe a little apprehension about how forceful, Chuck Hagel, if he is confirmed will make that case and try to protect the Pentagon from what they don't want which is more cuts to the budget.

TAPPER: Of course Chris Lawrence at the Pentagon, thanks. And of course my friend Gloria Borger here. What struck you the most in what Senator Hagel had to say?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, I agree with Chris. I mean, what he was doing was defending the President's world vision here. I mean, he was making it very clear. He knows that they're going to go back and take a look at his votes on Iran sanctions for example and he said no one individual vote, quote, "Or statement, defines me or my belief".

But then he went on to talk about how America must engage and not retreat. He knows he and the President are going to get criticized on that. The third thing, of course, going back to the enlisted men he said --


TAPPER: Sergeant Hagel.

BORGER: -- Sergeant Hagel. He said "During my 12 years in the senate, my one guiding principle has been is our policy worthy of our troops."

And that is effectively what the President said when he nominated him. This is a man who understands the troops who can stand up to the generals. As you go through this remaking of the Pentagon, not -- let's put aside the Pentagon cuts that could be coming but just the reshaping of the Pentagon, the President if he's confirmed, would have A, a Republican in charge of reshaping the Pentagon.

TAPPER: Right.

BORGER: And B, an enlisted man who has no qualms about standing up to the generals and saying, you know what, I disagree with you here. This is what the troops need. I'm going to give the troops everything they need. But we need to rethink our general overall vision about where we need to engage and how we need to engage with our allies and not unilaterally because we can't afford it.

TAPPER: And then of course as critics will say, look, this is a man who opposed the surge in Iraq --


TAPPER: -- which is widely perceived as having been -- as something of a success, so perhaps these guiding principles aren't always steering him in the right direction. But that's for the senators to debate.

BORGER: But he -- but he also opposed the President's surge right in Afghanistan.

TAPPER: In Afghanistan.

BORGER: Now, he's working for the President.

TAPPER: I'm not sure how the President Obama feels about his own surge in Afghanistan in retrospect.

BORGER: Good enough, right?

TAPPER: We're going to take a break with CNN NEWSROOM with Carol Costello will be back in a moment. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington.


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, good morning to you. I'm Carol Costello. We're keeping our eye on a hostage standoff in Alabama that's entering its third day now. Police trying to negotiate with a man who has holed up in an underground bunker with a 5-year-old hostage.

CNN's George Howell is in Midland City, Alabama. Bring us up to date.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Carol at this point, the latest update we got from investigators is that they don't believe that this young boy has been harmed in anyway. And that is the best news that we know so far. And you know we're learning a lot more about Jimmy Dykes. We know first of all, when we talk to people here about who he is they describe him as a very reclusive person, a paranoid person who worried a great deal, even about alien abductions.

We also learned that he's had a criminal history before. We know that once he was charged with improper exhibition of a firearm. Though that case was administratively dismissed and he was also arrested once for possession of marijuana, under 20 grams.

And just most recently, Carol, here in this city, we know that he was supposed to be in court yesterday for allegedly firing a pistol at one of his neighbors. So when you talk to people here about Jimmy Dykes, they describe him as a really mean person. Take a listen.


CASPER MCNICH, NEIGHBOR OF JIMMY LEE DYKES: Just a little over a month ago he shot at a friend of mine with his wife, baby and mother in the truck. And the Dale County Sheriff came out and the man told him he didn't have a gun. And the Sheriffs didn't even look for the gun.

So if they would have looked for the gun and probably found it, this incident now wouldn't have taken place.


HOWELL: You know, so at this point, though, investigators say that the negotiations are ongoing. They were able to get this young 5- year-old boy the medications that he needs, daily medications and also able to get him crayons and a coloring book. These are things that the young boy requested.

You know so that is a bit of good news as they continue to talk with Jimmy Dykes.

COSTELLO: Tell us about Jimmy Dykes' alleged victim, this bus driver, who is now being called a hero.

HOWELL: Yes, you know Charles Poland. That's the other thing here in town. Because this town was hit hard by that. This is a bus driver who you know by many accounts, by what people say this is a person who did everything he could to protect his kids.

And in this situation, we understand that you know he even tried to put the bus back in reverse to knock Mr. Dykes off his balance. But again, he lost his life in the process of trying to protect those kids.

And you find in this community, Carol, you know, just a few hours ago, just overnight, there was a prayer service here. People are thinking about him, because again, even the local paper did a story on him, describing him as a person who didn't really want a lot of fame or notoriety, didn't want to be considered a hero. Just a person who did his job well and took care of the kids, Carol.

COSTELLO: George Howell reporting live from Midland City, Alabama, thanks so much.

And we are following breaking news out of Texas now. This is outside of Dallas in Coffman County. A county employee shot outside the courthouse in a parking lot by two unknown suspects. It happened just minutes ago. The victim being taken to the hospital now. The gunman still on the loose. The courthouse under lockdown.

When we get more information, of course, we'll pass it along.

Time to check our other top stories this morning, the nation's largest retailer is putting a temporary cap on ammunition sales. Wal-Mart says customers can only buy three boxes of ammo a day. Ammunition has been in short supply in recent weeks, and it's not known how long Wal- Mart will limit the sale of ammo.

Traffic resuming on the Mississippi River near Vicksburg after a weekend accident involving two barges led to an oil spill. The Coast Guard allowing southbound ships to pass through the area. Crews still cleaning up from -- cleaning up oil, I should say, from that leaking barge.

In money news, the "New York Times" says it was the target of computer attacks by Chinese hackers. The newspaper says the cyber attacks have been going on for the past four months, started during a "Times" investigations into relatives of the Chinese Premier. Every "New York Times" employee had their passwords stolen.

Fast-rising floods, stranded drivers, rescue workers are out in force around Washington, D.C. this morning. Heavy rains and strong winds pounded the area overnight before pushing through the northeast. That's from Gaithersburg, Maryland.

This is the same weather system that left two people dead, one in Tennessee and one in Georgia as it ripped across the south. The line of storms stretched nearly 1,600 miles with wind gusts topping 80 miles per hour -- tore apart homes, flipped train cars and cut power to thousands of people. At least 23 tornados reported, including one that ripped through the town of Adairsville, Georgia. Strong winds also shredded mobile homes in Nashville.


QUINN DICKERSON, SURVIVOR: It was just crackling. It was just -- it was just the worst sound I've ever heard in my life.

That trailer, you know. That's nothing compared to the life of this child here or that one. Nothing can compare to that.


COSTELLO: Besides piles and piles of debris, the storm system has left frigid temperatures in its way.

So let's head over to the weather department and Indra Peterson, please tell us it will end soon.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, the only good news I have is that severe thunderstorms have moved off the coast but as you know, I don't have good news as far as this cold air.

I mean just take a look at Chicago. This is a story so many of us are feeling this week. Tuesday, they set a high, a record of 63 degrees. Today down to 17 with a chance for snow flurries in the forecast.

And of course, all that cold air is still diving way down to the southeast. Look at it, stretching all the way from Montana straight down through Florida. This is where it was yesterday, we had some of those warm temperatures now watch it push off to the south. And look at these changes. Atlanta, 30 degrees colder than yesterday.

So definitely some tough temperatures. We know where it's cold as we're talking about Bismarck. We mentioned -- negative 37 degrees with that wind chill. So definitely a tough day for them. They obviously are not alone in this. This morning, New York, you're about 55; currently you've already dropped down to the 30s. So a lot of changes. COSTELLO: All right. Indra Peterson, thanks so much.

"Crazy in love", that's how "Rolling Stone" is characterizing Rihanna as the singer talks about reuniting with Chris Brown.


COSTELLO: Also this news coming in to CNN. We have confirmed the White House will end its jobs council today. In a statement, the Obama Administration says in part, quote, "the jobs council was always intended to have a two-year charter. Its charter expires today." Now that group formed back in January 2011 was chaired by GE CEO Jeff Immelt and it was comprised of business leaders and economists.

The news comes just one day before the latest jobs report comes out tomorrow. We'll see if it was a mistake or not.

Talking about mistakes, even if -- "even if it's a mistake, it's my mistake. I'd just rather live my truth and take the backlash." Those are the words of superstar singer Rihanna who in an interview with "Rolling Stone" confirms what many people have long suspected that she is indeed back with her former boyfriend Chris Brown. The two appeared publicly together last month at a Lakers game.

Joining me now is L.Y. Marlow, founder of Saving Promise, a national domestic violence awareness organization, the author of "Color Me Butterfly" a book inspired by domestic violence victims and her family. Welcome.

L.Y. MARLOW, FOUNDER, SAVING PROMISE: Thank you for having me, Carol.

COSTELLO: Well, we're glad you're here because you've seen this with your daughter. What encourages young women to return to or stay with abusers?

MARLOW: Well, most young women stay because --

COSTELLO: Why do they stay?

MARLOW: Most young women stay because they think that they could change the person and that they're in love, you know. It's the same story of my own daughter who was in love with someone that she thought she could change. And she went back several times.

COSTELLO: You know, Rihanna says of Chris Brown, quote, "he doesn't have a luxury of screwing up. But things are different now." But as you know, Brown continues to have these very public violent outbursts on social media. He gets in physical fights with other artists. In fact, his hand is injured right now. He just had a fight with another artist.

So, when you hear Rihanna say these words, what goes through your mind?

MARLOW: What goes through my mind is something that is very common with women in abusive relationships when they don't acknowledge how serious the situation is. And what I would say to Rihanna is that love will not heal hurt. A black eye and a busted lip is not love. If he did it once, he will do it again, and you deserve better.

COSTELLO: Lena Dunham, the star of HBO's "Girls" -- you know, very popular among young women right now -- said it breaks her heart when she sees Rihanna back with Chris Brown because it sends a terrible message to young girls. Do you agree?

MARLOW: I think that it sends a message that it's OK sometimes to be and stay in these horrible relationships. Rihanna's personal experience is her personal experience. But she also has to recognize that she is an icon to the world. And young girls look up to her and they like to mimic her.

And it perhaps will demonstrate that it's OK that I could be with someone that can treat me like this and that I don't have to leave. So I do believe that there is some challenges with Rihanna's latest admittance of wanting to be in this relationship and looking at how the public is looking at this viewing it and what this means to our young girls.

COSTELLO: As an expert in domestic violence, do you believe Rihanna when she says she'll leave Chris Brown if he hits her again?

MARLOW: Here's what I believe. I know that the most common thing we want to say to someone is to leave and get out. But research shows that on average, a person, a victim will return seven to nine times before they finally leave. But what's more alarming is that the abuser will repeat the act up to 50 percent times, if they don't get the help that that they deserve.

COSTELLO: L.Y. Marlow, founder of domestic violence awareness organization Saving Promise. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with us this morning.

MARLOW: Thank you for having me.

COSTELLO: On Wall Street, the Dow hovers near a pivotal level -- 14,000. But will we cross that line?


COSTELLO: The stock market hovering just below that 14,000 level. Take a look at where we are now -- 14,000. That's a number we haven't seen since before the recession. Let's head to the New York Stock Exchange and check in with Alison Kosik. Yesterday, we had bad news about the GDP. And today, we may hit 14,000, what's going on?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, not to throw cold water on this whole Dow 14,000, but I'll go ahead and do that because I talked with one trader, Carol, who says that he's not optimistic that we're really going to hit that 14,000 mark anytime soon.

He actually thinks stocks are going to pull back even more. But remember, that's just one opinion. Now tomorrow could be the real deciding factor. That's when we're getting the monthly jobs report for January. If the gain is what's expected or more, you could see us catapult to that 14,000 or above -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Alison Kosik thank you.

The next hour of CNN NEWSROOM starts right now with Ashleigh Banfield.