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Interview with Dan Rather; Assassination of President Kennedy; Oregon School Shooting; Iraq asks U.S. for Help

Aired June 12, 2014 - 08:30   ET



MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Here we go for the five things you need to know for your new day.

At number one, the crisis in Iraq escalating today as militants threaten to seize Baghdad after taking over several nearby cities. Pentagon Spokesman John Kirby telling NEW DAY the U.S. continues to monitor the situation.

New details emerging about the mindset of Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl. In personal writings published by "The Washington Post," Bergdahl describes struggling with his mental state and makes vague plans to walk away from his base in Afghanistan.

Phoenix police are searching for suspects after an overnight assault that left a priest dead and another critically injured. Officers responding to a burglary call at a catholic church found the two victims badly hurt. One died later at the hospital.

The biggest sporting event in the world kicks off in just a few hours. Soccer's World Cup in Brazil will pit nation against nation for international bragging rights.

And at number five, just breaking, former President George H.W. Bush is planning to take a skydive to mark his 90th birthday, which he is celebrating today. You'll remember he skydived to celebrate his 80th and 85th birthdays, as well.

And a special sixth thing for you to know. Be sure to tune in this Father's Day as 41 American notables paint a portrait of former President George H.W. Bush, "41 on 41," that's Sunday night at 9:00 on CNN.

We always update those five things to know, so be sure to go to for the very latest.


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Michaela, thank you so much.

New detail this morning on that school shooting in Oregon that left two students, including the gunman, dead. Police say 15-year-old Jared Padgett was armed with an AR-15 rifle, a handgun and several hundred rounds of ammunition when he murdered a 14-year-old freshman, wounded a teacher and then turned the gun on himself. CNN's Sara Sidner has more.


SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The 15-year-old Reynolds High School shooter seemed to be prepared for war against his school.

SCOTT ANDERSON, TROUTDALE POLICE CHIEF: The shooter used an AR-15-type rifle in the attack. Investigators have also recovered nine loaded magazines with the capability of holding several hundred rounds.

SIDNER: Police say freshman Jared Padgett took the school bus carrying a guitar case and duffel bag Tuesday morning. He walked into the gymnasium locker room, put on a helmet and vest, and then he let loose.

ANDERSON: The shooter obtained the weapons from his family home. The weapons had been secured, but he defeated the security measures.

SIDNER: The shooter wounded a teacher and killed 14-year-old Emilio Hoffman, a fellow freshman, who is being remembered as a great kid by hundreds of people in the community.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's just so amazing and great and it really hurts to, like, know that I'm going to wake up tomorrow and he's not going to be here.

SIDNER: Despite his actions, we are also hearing kind but cautious words about the shooter. His former teacher telling CNN, quote, "he was a hard worker and wanted to please everyone. Sometimes he would interrupt and he just wanted attention. He was a good kid. I had him in class and he was a good athlete. Last year when I had him in school, I noticed a little bit of a change."

What changed we may never know. Investigators say the shooter killed himself after a brief gun battle with police.

In the midst of the chaos, police and students say teacher Todd Rispler saved lives. After being grazed by a bullet, he made his way into the school office to call for help and help arrived.

Sara Sidner, CNN, Troutdale, Oregon.


BALDWIN: Sara, thank you.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Got to stay on it, if only to stay on the issues about how to prevent this from moving forward.

BALDWIN: So sick of covering them.

CUOMO: I know.

BALDWIN: Sick of it.

CUOMO: Wish we didn't have to.

Coming up on NEW DAY, militants gain control of major cities across Iraq and the government is now asking for help. What if the U.S. helps? If so, how much? What happens if it does not? There he is -

BALDWIN: There he is.

CUOMO: Veteran news man Dan Rather about the situation. Remember, few have covered Iraq more than he. Even interviewing Saddam Hussein. So don't miss the discussion coming up, please.

Good to see you, Mr. Rather.



CUOMO: Welcome back to NEW DAY.

This morning, Iraq is on edge. Militants are swallowing up major cities and they're moving closer to Baghdad. The army there is unstable. The government there is asking the U.S. to get back involved, including possible air strikes. Joining us now to talk about the situation is a man who's no stranger to covering major world events, specifically Iraq, Mr. Dan Rather, anchor and managing editor of Dan Rather Reports on AXS TV.

BALDWIN: Good morning.


CUOMO: So, the situation seems fairly obvious from the outside. It's happening again, essentially. What is your take on the strength of this particular band of militants, known as ISIS, what they're capable of and what the U.S. disposition should be?

RATHER: Well, number one, their strength is growing. It's already stronger and growing. They are a real and present danger to take over Baghdad. I'm not saying they will, but they're a real and present danger to do that.

Number two, it's important to understand that this isn't just Iraq. The Sunni/Shiite split in Islam is ancient. It knows no borders and we can see that now. This, what's happening in Iraq, is closely tied to what's happening in Syria, what's happening in Lebanon, when's happening throughout the region. So you need to see the region as a whole, not just Iraq.

Number two, at the time the United States went into Iraq, there were those who said this is a strategic mistake of historic proportions. And we're now seeing that play out in support of that contention. What the U.S. should do, that's beyond my pay scale. I will say, it's awfully easy for people to say we should do this or that, but it gets down to whose son or daughter, whose grandson or granddaughter is going to go and do the nasty work in Iraq, for those who are saying we should do something.

BALDWIN: There's one thing and a lot of people are not necessarily saying boots on the ground, but, you know, when you hear, especially "The New York Times" reporting as far as a month back, Prime Minister Nuri al-Malaki asking the White House for help, specifically unmanned or manned air strikes and might that - might that be the compromise, U.S. involvement, because of all the time and the lives lost many years ago, would that be worth it?

RATHER: Well, that, again, we'd have to decide that as a people, as a society. I will say this though. It's awfully easy to say air strikes but you - air strikes. We have a plane downed, we go get the pilot. It's easy to say we can do it from the air. That's not our experience. That's not the way these things work. There's no such thing as getting in just a little bit, in my opinion. We either commit -

BALDWIN: All or nothing.

RATHER: And commit - it's all the way or say, you know what, we tried that. I'm not saying the United States should not be involved militarily at all. But once you make that move, it's very difficult to pull it back, as we have learned.

PEREIRA: (INAUDIBLE) about two years post U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. The troop draw down. And we're also looking down the barrel of the draw down in Afghanistan. And it makes you sort of look at that with a little more of a sobering eye, no?

RATHER: Well, absolutely. And I'm glad you mentioned Afghanistan because what happens after the United States eventually either leaves Afghanistan or scales way down? There are those who think that Afghanistan would break into another vicious civil war and the country might split in one or two parts. Same thing with Iraq. It's long been feared in Iraq what could happen, the country could split apart. The Kurds in the north, the Sunnis take the areas where they are majority, the Shiites the others.

Again, I'm not saying that will happen, but that's what's at stake here.


RATHER: We have to understand, this is a very dangerous situation and it is dangerous for us because the extreme militancy of those who are marching toward Baghdad and hope to take it, now after taking Mosul, bear us no goodwill. And it's an incubator for violent Islamic strikes elsewhere, including our own country. And we have to understand that.

CUOMO: Let's transition to why this is happening right now. You have the agitation on the ground there, which is foreign, but the politics behind the situation are, of course, rooted here at home. The reason Iraq is destabilizing is because we didn't occupy it, we didn't build up the infrastructure there, we don't own it. Afghanistan has to be the same thing, maybe even worse, as you well know, because it's more unstable even than Iraq in so many ways that matter.


CUOMO: And it all happens here. Syria, too. So what you see with the shift that's going on, I'll spare you the earthquake metaphors I've been badgering the audience with. Cantor is out. Seems he didn't manage his campaign well. But it's sending this tone shift that may make politics even more polarized here in the U.S. If that happens, what does it mean here at home and in terms of how we handle these situations abroad?

RATHER: Well, a very good question. And I do think the earthquake metaphor is overworked. However, this will have - this will echo throughout the rest of this year and I think into the 2016 presidential race, what happened in Virginia with this. This happens within parties. And, by the way, the Democratic Party has a version of this, if you will, in my humble opinion, built somewhat on the same foundation that is low voter turnout. In the New York City mayor's race, for example, a candidate more to the left than the party would like to have itself perceived, won the New York mayor's race. And that pulls the party a bit in that direction, a little further left than the middle.

Now, what's happening on the Republican side is definitely pulling the party to the right. It does not mean the Republicans are going to lose control of the House. It doesn't mean that they still don't have a chance to win the Senate. What it does mean is the party is being pulled further to the right. This strikes fear in the heart of every Republican congressman.

Now, in terms of what this does to us as we go forward, in terms of foreign policy, generally speaking, the quote Tea Party, which I put it in quotes because it's more than its members of the party, it's people of a certain - they -- Ted Cruz of the Republican Party, the Rand Pauls of the Republican Party gained by what happened - what has happened in Virginia and each of those, they're a little more reluctant to move in foreign policy, to move into Syria, to move into Iraq, to stay in Afghanistan. Not stating their policies. I'm saying that what they represent is a national movement, if you will, still a minority movement, that saying we're trying to do too much internationally. We need to focus more domestically.

BALDWIN: It's fascinating to hear your take just given all of your experience, of course, in this part of the world and also in politics. But will you please stick around?


BALDWIN: We'd like to - we'd like to keep you right here, Mr. Dan Rather, because coming up next here on NEW DAY, Dan Rather will offer his take on not just the news of the day but perhaps the biggest story of the 20th century. Keep in mind, this man sitting to my right is one of the first journalists, we remember in black and white, well maybe not perfectly remembering in 1963, but the report on the Kennedy assassination. He joins us after the break for a quick look back.


PEREIRA: Good to have you back with us here on NEW DAY

A pivotal, pivotal moment in American history -- the assassination of President Kennedy 50 years ago, that's the subject of tonight's edition of CNN's new original series "THE SIXTIES".

We kept Dan Rather around to talk to us about this.

RATHER: Thanks.

PEREIRA: One of the first journalists to report on this national tragedy as it unfolded in Dallas. I was thinking, all of us remember the story when we were a cub reporter at a local station starting out our careers. That first big story, that made you feel like a journalist. You were working at a Texas station and you were there.

RATHER: Well, I was at CBS News. I had worked at a Texas station in Houston but I had been at CBS News a little over a year when this happened. But nothing in your experience prepares you for a story such as this. Other journalists can argue well, I've spent a lifetime preparing myself for this moment. But even if you think that, when the moment arrives, it's as if you were a cub reporter all over again.


CUOMO: What do you think about the fact that we still don't have the answer to the question that you raised all those years ago about who did this?

RATHER: Well, I do think we have the answers to who actually fired the shots. Yes, it is controversial. Mine is one opinion among many. I have respect for people who have their point of view but I think that it was one shooter. I think that shooter was Lee Harvey Oswald.

Now, as to whether anybody put him up to it or there was a conspiracy involved, my own opinion is I don't think there was. And I don't think the evidence indicates that there was.

There's plenty of other people, particularly in this area who have a different point of view. I will point out, gently, if you will, that it's been 50 years. Conspiracies are extremely hard to keep. Someone usually whispers to a priest, talks to their girlfriend, says something. And particularly a kind of widespread conspiracy that most people who believe in the conspiracy theory connect with Oswald to keep that 50 years, possible? Yes. Likely, not.

But no mistake, here's where I come out. I think it was Oswald was the shooter. He was the lone shooter. I'm open-minded about whether there was a conspiracy involved but I do increasingly as years go by say to myself the evidence is simply not there.

BALDWIN: What about just -- conspiracies aside and the facts remain, you know, in 1963, the president of the United States was assassinated. And I'm just curious from before that moment around Dealey Plaza to the days and years following, how did that moment in our nation's history change everything?

RATHER: Well, I do agree that it changed a lot, if it didn't change everything. When we talk about the 60s and I watch with some great interest the CNN series on the 60s, the 60s became one of those decades that it changed us as a society, as a country, as a people. And the Kennedy assassination was a very important takeoff point for that, if you will, because keep in mind, President Kennedy was the first president born in the 20th century. Every other president had been born in the previous century.

He represented youth, vigor, forward look. When the shots felled him after only a thousand days in office, you know, I think many people today have a misconception he was president for a long time. He was only president for a thousand days. That touched off a lot of inner thinking in the country, particularly among young people. Who are we? Where are we headed? What are we really about?

Once the hammer to the heart that was the day of the Kennedy assassination sort of passed, in the days, weeks and months and even years that flowed from the Kennedy assassination, you know, we're better than this because before President Kennedy was assassinated much of the country, I would say most of the country thought, you know, assassinations of leaders don't happen in our country.

Yes, McKinley was assassinated and Lincoln was assassinated but that's all behind us. Assassination of leaders, presidents, premiers, monarchs, that happens in Europe or in Asia. It doesn't happen here. When President Kennedy was killed, it was such a shock to the psyche, to the inner being of the United States that it touched off much of what we now call the tumult and turbulence of the 60s.

PEREIRA: And you can learn so much more about it. We really want to urge you, we've been enjoying these special looks that we've been having here in the morning. We really -- we could listen to you all day. It would be fantastic.

Dan Rather -- thank you so much for all of this.

RATHER: Thank you.

PEREIRA: Don't forget to watch this special of "THE SIXTIES: The assassination of President Kennedy" tonight at 9:00 p.m. right here on CNN, Eastern and Pacific. One to be viewed-- such a pivotal time our nation's history, for sure.

Dan, thank you so much.


RATHER: Thank you for having me. Thank you very much.

CUOMO: Thank you for being the example of how to be calm in the storm, both political and actually the real storm is another thing Dan Rather gave birth to is how we cover weather in modern times today.

So Dan, always a pleasure to have your perspective, thanks for coming back NEW DAY.

RATHER: Thanks everybody.

CUOMO: We need you.

RATHER: Thank you.

Coming up on the show, imagine putting 100,000 homeless people back into homes and actually wind up saving tax dollars.

PEREIRA: I like it.

CUOMO: Impossible, right? There's no such thing. Wrong. And that's why it's "The Good Stuff" coming up.


CUOMO: And now, "The Good Stuff" and we can always use more of that. Today's edition, an organization that promised to house 100,000 homeless Americans in four years -- that was the promise. Too ambitious they said. Guess what -- they just got it done and ahead of schedule. The group is called 100,000 Homes -- right?

100,000 Homes -- works with communities in virtually every big American city to find their homeless permanent, supportive -- key word -- housing. The deadline was next month. But as of today, more than 101,000 people are off the streets -- ready for this part -- more than 30,000 veterans included in that number.



CUOMO: Take a listen.


ALVIN HILL, 100,000 HOMES: I would tell most of my veteran friends when I see them don't give up. There's help out here. One door closes, another one always opens.


CUOMO: You know what the problem with helping the homeless, costs too much money. That's what they say. It's too expensive. Let them help themselves -- that's the heartless part of it -- right. Guess what. This actually saves money because it costs a lot less to provide a home than to keep paying for the effects of homelessness. The group estimates that $1.3 billion taxpayer dollars have been saved by doing it the right way.

BALDWIN: 100,000 homes.

PEREIRA: Fantastic organization. Love that.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Education is key on this. PEREIRA: Absolutely.

CUOMO: A hand-up is often all people need. Just a chance and they're proving it that it's cheaper, too. If that's the way you --

PETERSONS: And they need a new name -- 200k, right?

CUOMO: Right -- 200k. Well done, Science.

PETERSONS: Next one -- change it.

CUOMO: So a lot of news this morning. We're going to take you right to the news desk, Ms. Carol Costello, who has it all.

BALDWIN: Good morning Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: I do -- thanks. Have a great day. "NEWSROOM" starts now.