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Coverage of President Obama's Press Conference; Unemployment Discussion; Rodman Defiant, Combative in North Korea

Aired January 7, 2014 - 12:00   ET




So when we've got the mom of two of our troops who is working hard out there, but is having to wear a coat inside the houses we've got a problem.

OBAMA: And it's one that can be fixed.

And Kathryn's (ph) not alone. Devlin (ph) Smith who's watching today from her home in California wrote me about her hunt for a new job. Since she was laid off 13 months ago, she sent out hundreds of resumes. She's volunteered. She's done seasonal work. She doesn't want to just be sitting around the house. She's been taking online courses to take new skills.

Without unemployment insurance though she won't be able to pay for her car or her cell phone which makes the job hunt that much harder.

And Devlin (ph) wrote to me and said, "I've wanted nothing more than to find a new full time job and I've dedicated every day to that mission. I'm asking you to advocate for me and the millions like me who need our extended unemployment benefits to make ends meet."

So I -- I just want everybody to understand, this is not an abstraction. These are not statistics. These are your neighbors, your friends, your family members. It could at some point be any of us.

That's why we set up a system of unemployment insurance. The notion was, everybody is making a contribution because you don't know when the business cycle or an economic crisis might make any of us vulnerable. And this insurance helps keep food on the table while dad is sending out resumes. It helps mom pay the rent while she's learning new skills to earn that new job. It provides that extra bit of security so that losing your job doesn't mean that you have to lose your house.

Or everything you worked so hard to build for years.

We make this promise to our fellow Americans who are working hard to get back on their feet, because when times get tough we are not a people who say you're on your own. We're a people who believe that we're all in it together, and we know there but the grace of God go I.


OBAMA: So that's -- that's the values case for this. That's the moral case for this. But, there's an economic case for it as well. Independent economists have shown that extending emergency unemployment insurance actually helps the economy, actually creates new jobs.

When folks like Kathryn (ph) have a little more to spend, to turn up the heat in her house, or buy a few extra groceries that means more spending with businesses in her local community, which in turn may inspire that business to hire one more person, maybe Kathryn (ph).

That's why, in the past, both parties have repeatedly put partisanship and ideology aside to offer some security for job seekers with no strings attached. It's been done regardless of whether Democrats or Republicans were in the White House. It's been done regardless of whether Democrats or Republicans controlled Congress. And, by the way, it's done -- it's been done multiple times when the unemployment rate was significantly lower than it is today.

And what's important to keep in mind also is that the recovery in a big country like the United States is gonna be somewhat uneven. So there are some states that have a 2.5 percent unemployment rate and then there are some places that may have a 7 percent, 8 percent, 9 percent unemployment rate. The people living in those respective states may be working equally hard to find a job, but it's going to be harder in some places than others.

Now, two weeks ago, Congress went home for the holidays and let this lifeline expire for 1.3 million Americans. If this doesn't get fixed, it will hurt about 14 million Americans over the course of this year; 5 million workers along with 9 million of their family members, their spouses, their kids.

Now, I've heard the argument that says extending unemployment insurance will somehow hurt the unemployed because it saps their motivation to get a new job. I really want to -- I want to go at this for a second.


OBAMA: You know, I...


OBAMA: That really sells the American people short.

I meet a lot of people as president of the United States, and as a candidate for president of the United States, and as a U.S. senator and as a state senator. I meet a lot of people. And I can't -- I can't name a time or I met an American who would rather have an unemployment check than the pride of having a job.

(APPLAUSE) The long-term unemployed are not lazy. They're not lacking in motivation. They're coping with the aftermath of the worst economic crisis in generations. In some cases, they may have a skills mismatch, right? They may have been doing a certain job for 20 years, suddenly they lose that job, they may be an older worker, may have to get retrained. It's hard. Sometimes employers will discriminate if you've been out of work for a while. They decide, "Well, we're not sure we want to hire you. We'd rather hire somebody who's still working right now."

So it's hard out there. There are a lot of our friends, a lot of our neighbors who've lost their jobs and they are working their tails off every single day trying to find a new job. Now, as the job market keeps getting better, more and more of these folks will find work.

But in the meantime, the insurance keeps them from falling off a cliff. It makes sure they can pay their car note to go to that interview. It makes sure they can pay their cell phone bill so that, if somebody calls back for an interview, they can answer it.

And Katherine (ph) explained this. Katherine (ph), in the letter that she wrote to me, said, "Do folks really think that cutting this benefit will make someone hire me?" That's not how employers are thinking.

So letting unemployment insurance expire for millions of Americans is wrong. Congress should make things right. I'm very appreciative that they're on their way to doing just that, thanks to the bipartisan work of two senators. You had a Democrat from Rhode Island, Senator Reed, and you had a conservative Republican from Nevada, Senator Heller. And despite their political differences, they worked together on a plan to extend unemployment insurance at least for three months temporarily while we figure out a longer-term solution.

And this morning, a bipartisan majority of senators agreed to allow this commonsense provision to at least move forward in the process. Now, the Senate's a complicated place, so just because they agreed on this vote, all they've agreed to so far is that we're actually going to be able to have a vote on it. They haven't actually passed it. So we've got to get this across the finish line without obstruction or delay, and we need the House of Representatives to be able to vote for it, as well. And it's -- that's -- that's the bottom line.


Voting for unemployment insurance helps people and creates jobs. And voting against it does not. Congress should pass this bipartisan plan right away, and I will sign it right away. And more than 1 million Americans across the country will feel a little hope right away. And hope is contagious. You know, when...


When Katherine (ph) has a bit more confidence about her situation, when she finds a job, she's going to be able to help somebody down the line maybe who's also down on their luck. You know, when Congress passes a bipartisan effort starting here, right at the beginning of the new year, who knows? We might actually get some things done this year.


You know, so after all the hard work and sacrifice of the past five years to recover and rebuild from the crisis, what I think the American people are really looking for in 2014 is just a little bit of stability. Let's just do the commonsense thing. Let's do what's right. We're going to have to -- we're going to have to see action, though, on the part of Congress.

And I'll be willing to work with them every step of the way, action to help our businesses create more of the good jobs that a growing middle class requires. Action to restore economic mobility, reduce inequality, action to open more doors of opportunity for everybody who is willing to work hard and walk through those doors.

YOU know, when I was listening to Katherine, I was -- I was just so struck by her strength and dignity. And I think people, when they bump into some tough times, like Katherine, they're -- they're not looking for pity, they just want a shot.

And they just wanna feel as if --


OBAMA: They just want to feel as if, you know what, as -- as a part of this country, as a part of their communities, that if misfortune strikes, all of the things that they have done in the past, all the hard work they have done raising children, paying taxes and working hard, that -- that counts for something.

That folks aren't suddenly just gonna dismiss their concerns, but they are gonna rally behind them. That's not too much to ask. That's who we are as Americans. That's what built this country.


OBAMA: That's what I want to promote.

So thank you very much, everybody. Let's get to work. Let's get this done. I appreciate it.



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: So there he is, the president, surrounded by folks who have been on unemployment, but are asking for some more unemployment because of the emergency situation, the 7 percent unemployment rate nationwide.

And the president welcoming the move in the Senate today to at least go ahead and start the voting process, but it's by no means a done deal yet. Still has a long hurdle ahead in the Senate, then it goes to the House of Representatives, where there's a Republican majority and there will be more hurdles there.

Gloria Borger, you listened carefully to what the president had to say. He thinks, from a political perspective, and I've spoken to a lot of his aides and other Democrats, they think this is a winning issue for the Democrats.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure. Look, it was a winning issue for them in the 2012 campaign, this issue of the wage gap, populism, that the Democratic Party cares more about the middle class. I mean that worked against Mitt Romney very well. Mitt Romney played into it, I would argue, but it worked against Mitt Romney very well.

I think what we're seeing, though, is sort of questioning this going on in the Republican Party, which is, what can they do to combat this? And you saw what happened in the Senate today. There were Republicans who voted to extend unemployment benefits. But this has started a whole conversation about what Republicans can do to talk about equality of opportunity. Because just saying you're against government intervention isn't enough if you want to win a national election.

So you see some Republicans who want to be national Republicans, like Paul Ryan in the House and Marco Rubio and Rand Paul in the Senate, talking about job training, talking about economic zones, where there could be tax cuts for impoverished areas. They're talking about some ways so that they can have a different conversation inside the Republican Party. Right now, the advantage is clearly with the Democrats on this and I think they know it.

BLITZER: Here's a question a lot of folks have asked me, people who support this employment -- unemployment insurance extension for at least three months. If this is so important to the country, why didn't the Democrats and the president insist that it be included in that budget deal that was worked out at the end of last year to keep the government open for two years?

BORGER: I think - I think that's a good question. And the cynics would say, well, here you are, you have a great political issue to bludgeon Republicans with. I think there are lots of Democrats who raised that same question. I would argue, though, that this will probably be retroactive so that people would get the benefits who are missing them for these couple of weeks.

But I do think that it's a - it's a legitimate question to raise. Why wasn't this done, if it's that important, before Congress went off on recess?

BLITZER: Yes, and that was immediately, as soon as I saw that other budget deal that Patty Murray, the senator, Patty Murray, and Paul Ryan put together, that won significant bipartisan support in the Senate and the House, they could have included something along an extension of the unemployment benefits, found some offsets there as they did for some other issues, and this would not be an issue right now.

BORGER: But they may not have - there may have been more objections raised by certain Republicans on that. I'm sure Patty Murray tried to run that up the flag pole and maybe it didn't - you know, maybe it didn't work out.

But in the long term, Wolf, I think what this may start - and maybe I'm being a little Pollyannaish here, but what it may start is another debate in the country about how you can use government in a limited way, not in a large way, but in a limited way, to help the people at the bottom of the ladder get to at least the middle rungs.

BLITZER: I think what we did hear from the president in these 20 minutes that he just spoke or so, it was a little preview of his State of the Union address, exactly three weeks from today, before a joint session of Congress and the American people.

BORGER: Yeah. I think the president is going to be talking about the income gap, and the wage gap in this country that is way too large.

He's going to try and talk about ways to narrow that gap, whether it's through job training, or whether it's through money for education, and he's going to try and show the disparity between the way the two parties approach this.

And right now, you would have to say public opinion is with the president on that, which is why Republicans are actually looking for different ways to approach this debate, because it's not a debate they can sweep under the rug.

You know, the tea party has been very popular, but they're not talking about income inequality. They're just talking about making government smaller.

But what some Republicans are now talking about is making smaller government effective for the people that it needs to help, and trying to get back into that debate as reformers, reforming the Republican Party, rather than just saying they're against everything the government can do for you.

BLITZER: We're going to have a lot more in our next hour. You'll be back with me at the top of next hour, 1:00 p.m. Eastern, of course, back in "THE SITUATION ROOM," 5:00 p.m. Eastern, as well.

Thanks very much for watching our special coverage this hour.

AROUND THE WORLD starts right after this quick break.



DENNIS RODMAN, FORMER NBA PLAYER: No, I don't give a (expletive deleted). I don't give a rat's ass what the hell you think!

I'm saying to you, look at these guys here! Look at them!

(END VIDEO CLIP) SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: An angry and emotional interview with Dennis Rodman, up next, why he is in North Korea, his startling claim against imprisoned American, Kenneth Bae.

Plus, the deep freeze impacting millions of Americans, in New York alone, the temperature dropped almost 50 degrees in one day.

Welcome to AROUND THE WORLD. I'm Suzanne Malveaux.

This hour, the fiery scene and exclusive interview with Dennis Rodman in its entirety, the eccentric basketball star, angrily defending his trip to North Korea with a team of former NBA players.

They're there to play a basketball exhibition game tomorrow, organized by Rodman to celebrate the birthday of the country's brutal dictator, Kim Jong-un, who recently ordered the execution of his own uncle, keeping an American in prison and carrying on horrific human rights abuses of his father and grandfather, yet Rodman calls him a friend.

Our own Chris Cuomo pressed Rodman in answering those questions from Pyongyang.


RODMAN: Why North Korea? Why? I love my friend. I love my friend. This is my friend.

CHARLES SMITH, FORMER NBA PLAYER: Let me add to this. People have asked why we have come here. We're here because it's about doing great will around the world.

And we're experienced at this. We have been to Taiwan, to the Gao Zhong Dai village and love to impact children families around the world.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR, "NEW DAY": Charles, I'm well aware of the good work that you have done. The man sitting to your right, Cliff Robinson, Vin Baker, but you have to understand the criticism comes because you are not in Taiwan.

You are in North Korea that is ruled by a man who just killed his uncle, holding an American, Kenneth Bae, hostage, for reasons we don't understand, and is known as one of the bad actors on the globe at this time, not someone to get a birthday present of NBA talent.

Do you understand that?

SMITH: I think that in our minds, we came to do what we have been doing worldwide, which has been the same schedule.

We're all Americans. We're here to do goodwill, and, again, we're apologetic. We did not know that it was going to take this type of negative spin on what we were doing, because we're not politicians, we're not ambassadors.

We're here to do what we have been doing most of our lives. CUOMO: Charles, I get it. But it's about where you do it, as well.

And, again, this is coming from somebody who is a fan and a supporter of a lot of the work that you have done.

But Dennis, when you bring him into this place and you call this ruler your friend, when he's executing his uncle and holding an American hostage, he is not a friend to the Bae family, he is not a friend to your country.

And you have to understand that, Dennis. You can't pretend like you don't get why people are upset.

RODMAN: It's amazing that, you know, that you are saying this right now. You're saying 10 guys here, nine guys here. They believe what I'm doing.

Doug Christie, everyone knows Doug Christie. Everyone knows Vin Baker. Everyone knows Charles Smith. Everyone knows everyone here.

And it's amazing how we thrive on negativity. Does anyone this guy is only 31-years-old?

CUOMO: Dennis, he could be 31. He could be 51. He just killed his uncle and is holding an American hostage. The family is desperate for his return. They don't even know why he's being held.

It's been a year, Dennis. This is your friend, the guy you call your friend. Come on, Dennis. Let's just be honest about this, because you put these guys in this situation.

RODMAN: No, no, no. No, no, no. Watch this. I'm going to tell you one thing around the world.


RODMAN: Around the world, you're saying 10 great individuals sitting right in front of your face, around the world, and it's going global.

These guys have said certain things about their families, what they're saying about them while they're here. This is not about me. It's one thing.

If I could open the door a little bit, just a little bit, just a little bit, it ain't about, like, you know, trying to crack -- trying to, you know, change will. It's about one thing.

You know what? No one ever, ever, asked anyone in the world why we have Olympics, and we have struggles around the world with all the countries around the world, but when the Olympics are around, there's no problems. It's all about the game. People love to do one thing. sports.


MALVEAUX: All right. We're going to have much more of this exclusive interview. It is provocative, it is controversial, it is amazing.

We're going to have more with Dennis Rodman. It gets even more bizarre, as well, Rodman accusing the American missionary, Kenneth Bae, being held in North Korea, of wrongdoing. That is straight ahead.

Plus this, as well. Imagine being stuck on a train for hours overnight in the freezing cold. That's what happened to passengers on three Amtrak trains.

One rider said it was like purgatory, up next.


MALVEAUX: Dennis Rodman getting very combative. He is accusing the American missionary being held in North Korea of doing something wrong.

Rodman is now back in Pyongyang. This time, he's taken a team of former NBA players for this basketball exhibition game.

It is to celebrate the birthday of the country's brutal dictator, Kim Jong-un, a man that Rodman calls friend.

We see Rodman losing his temper during this exclusive interview with Chris Cuomo, but first you hear from Charles Smith, also defending the trip. Listen.


SMITH: You say it's more complicated than basketball. Basketball is not complicated to us, and that's what we do.

We're not in here for complications. And, again, we apologize for what has -- kind of the storm that has been created from our presence.

CUOMO: The game has been presented as a birthday present to the ruler. I'm not here to fight with you guys. I respect what you're doing.

I'm just concerned for the family of this man who is held there, and I am concerned, as many Americans are, about giving a birthday present to a man who is seen as a despot who just had his uncle executed.

Dennis, you understand the issue. It's not about hating on American basketball players.

SMITH: Yes, but you can continue to talk about the different activities that take place here. We have activities that take place -- there's activities that take place all over the world.

We are using basketball as a bridge for cultural exchange. And that's all about communication. We're not -- again, we're not here to deal with the politics. The date of the game is the date of the game.

CUOMO: Dennis, let me end on this. You do have a relationship with this man. You've said it many times. We've seen it demonstrated --


CUOMO: -- for whatever reason.

Are you going to take an opportunity, if you get it, to speak up for the family of Kenneth Bae and to say, "Let us know why this man is being held," that this is wrong, that he is sick.