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Interview with Pamela Zembiec; Team USA to Play First World Cup Game Tomorrow; '41 on 41' Preview

Aired June 15, 2014 - 06:30   ET


PAUL: Happy Father's Day to you. I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. Let's start with five things you need to know for your new day.

Up first, the USS George H.W. Bush, the aircraft carrier, is in the Persian Gulf. The Pentagon says the aircraft carrier will help protect American lives and interests as violence erupts in Iraq. Radical Islamist militants appear to have slowed the (inaudible) advance to Baghdad, but they are still holding on to key towns and cities north of the Iraqi capital.

PAUL: No. 2. A two-star Army general is due to launch an investigation this week into the disappearance of Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl. The soldier was freed two weeks ago after nearly five years of captivity by the Taliban. A senior defense official declined to name the general before a formal announcement. Since his release, soldiers have accused Bergdahl of being a deserter.

BLACKWELL: No. 3. Israeli soldiers have detained about 80 Palestinian suspects in the search for three missing teenagers. They are believed to have been kidnapped from Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Hamas is responsible for the kidnapping and he is also asking Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to quote, "do everything to help bring them back in peace."

PAUL: No. 4. President Obama intervened in a Philadelphia rail strike signing an executive order that puts about 450 union workers back on the job while they continue negotiating. That strike was affecting 13 lines that serve some 60,000 people, including commuters to Philadelphia International Airport. Full service is expected to be restored today.

BLACKWELL: Five now. A bus carrying 32 boy scouts and three adults burst into flames about 40 miles northwest of Atlanta. Thankfully, there were no serious injuries. Two scouts suffered slight smoke inhalation problems. We don't know yet what sparked that fire, which created major delays on Interstate 75.

Well, there's a chance you don't know his name, but his face became a symbol of heroism during the Iraq war. This is Marine Major Doug Zembiec. Those who fought with him called him the Lion of Fallujah. Zembiec was killed in 2007 while fighting insurgents in Baghdad.

PAUL: This morning as the violence escalates in that region, his wife, Pam, like so many military relatives, is reminded of the pain of losing somebody that they loved there. She is also the author of a new book, it's called "Selfless Beyond Service," and it's about her own grieving process. Pam joins us now from Washington. Thank you so much for being with us.

I have no doubt that your book is going to help an awful lot of people. I want to, before we get to the current violence in Iraq, though, we want to know your husband. So help explain why Marines called him the Lion of Fallujah.

PAMELA ZEMBIEC, WIDOW OF MAJOR DOUG ZEMBIEC: Well, when he was fighting in Iraq in 2004, alongside his Marines of Echo 2-1, he often referred to his -- the bravery of his men as my men fought like lions. He often told this to the media. He wrote letters to me describing his men's bravery. Yes, they fought like lions, and so obviously since he was the leader of the Marines of Echo 2-1, they coined him the Lion of Fallujah when he fought in Iraq in 2004.

BLACKWELL: When we talk about the fighting in Iraq from 2004 through 2011 especially, there are a lot of people who were there who lost some of their comrades who are asking, now that they look at it, what was it all for? I want to read something from Army veteran troop commander Nick Cook, he told USA Today, let put it up on the screen here. "For me, it is very upsetting. I watch what's happening there. My first six months, it was very intense fighting in Baghdad, but then there was prosperity and good news, and to see that now on the verge of collapse and knowing I lost five soldiers, it's very hard. These kids may have died in vain." What is your reaction to what you're hearing there and also what you're seeing that's happening today in Iraq?

ZEMBIEC: Well, I have to say, you know, initially my, I'm angry, and frustrated as well. I feel very similarly to the statement that you just showed me, you know, because you, like as being a military spouse and being a military widow, you have to believe that Doug was over there fighting for a cause to help establish the framework of democracy in Iraq.

You know, I personally feel that we pulled out of Iraq too soon, so that's why I was initially angered. But now looking at it and trying to be positive, because that's the type of person I am, I'm a survivor, I know that his loss was not in vain, because he did. He was over there fighting alongside his Marines helping to establish the framework for democracy in Iraq. So I try to stay positive and I try not to be angered, but I do understand what he is saying. I do.

PAUL: Pam, what did Doug tell you about what was going on in that region when he was there? Did he feel like they were making progress?

ZEMBIEC: Oh, definitely, of course, and actually the last time right before he left to go, the last time I spoke to him on the phone, he had this urgency to say wait a minute, honey, I have to tell you something before I hang up the phone. I have to tell you this. You should see, I wish you could see all the wonderful things that we are doing for the Iraqi citizens over here in Iraq. This place is getting so much better. And that was probably the last thing besides "I love you" that he said to me on the phone the last time I spoke to him.

BLACKWELL: We know that the president this weekend will be making a decision or thinking about military options. You are a military widow.


BLACKWELL: What would you tell the president about potentially getting back involved, even if it's with air strikes in Iraq, after knowing what your husband went through, what he told you about his dedication to the mission there and what you're seeing today?

ZEMBIEC: I would be in support 100 percent of him going back into Iraq and trying to regain what Doug fought so highly for, the framework of democracy. That is what he went over there to fight for, and I would be in 100 percent support of him doing that. I would tell him that.

BLACKWELL: Even if it involved troops on the ground?

ZEMBIEC: Yes, I would, and I can tell you this right now, Doug would feel strongly as well. Yes.

PAUL: That's what I was wondering, what he would think as well. Pam Zembiec, again, her book is called "Selfless Beyond Service," and I have no doubt you're going to be helping a lot of people with that. Thank you for opening up and sharing. I know it's not easy.

ZEMBIEC: Thank you very much for having me. Have a good day.

BLACKWELL: You, too.


PAUL: So as we move on here from the group of death, which is (inaudible) a tough talking coach. Team USA, talk about having its work cut out for it at the World Cup this week. We are going to show you what's happening.

BLACKWELL: A little action for you there from the World Cup.

Also, the hidden cash craze that has now hit the Big Apple. Dozens of lucky New Yorkers are finding envelopes filled with cash.


BLACKWELL: That will get your energy going this morning. You know, for the next month, you're going to hear a lot about the world's most popular sport. Tomorrow is a big day for American soccer fans, that's when the USA team kicks off the World Cup campaign against Ghana. CNN's Lara Baldesarra is in Brazil there with the latest this morning. Good morning. LARA BALDESARRA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christi, good

morning, Victor. As you can see, I am here in a very, very wet and rainy Natal. This is where the U.S. team is right now, this is where they're going to play their first World Cup game on Monday, that against Ghana. Now, as we saw them arrive, they were taken to their hotel, again, very, very heavy security that we're seeing with this team. Military presence there. Don't be alarmed. It's not just the U.S. team that has this heavy security presence that you're seeing. All of the teams do. It is pretty standard, we're seeing that right across Brazil with all of the teams. Ever since the USA arrived here two days ago, it's been these exact conditions. They haven't seen the sun at all, and neither have we out here.

This rain could actually factor into the match as well and actually give the USA a helping hand. The USA, they're not the favorites for this match against Ghana, but when there's rain in a soccer game, it means that it's pretty much an equalizer a lot of the time. Anything can happen.

Now, this is also a match on Monday that's a bit of a grudge match for the USA. In the past two World Cups, the USA has lost to Ghana. In fact in 2010, the USA was knocked out of the World Cup by Ghana, so there's a lot of revenge here that the Americans are after. And while the players aren't exactly saying that, believe me, all of the fans know this is the game you want to win and get that revenge for what's happened in the past.

Now, this is also the game that a lot of people say that if the Americans can't win this first game in the group stage, well, they're probably not going to be able to progress any further than that, because they'd have to then beat Portugal and Germany. Let's not get too far ahead of ourselves yet, Christi and Victor, because first things first, Monday we'll see the first World Cup match by the USA.

BLACKWELL: It's a big start. Stay dry out there, Lara Baldesarra, thank you.


PAUL: One of our executives, Bill Galvin, is down there. He said he feels waterlogged and one of the cities that has the one of the stadiums here is Natal and it's called City of Sun, and he's hoping that's what finally happens, that they take on their nickname there.

Lara was talking about team USA's tough line-up that starts tomorrow. The group of death as it's called will not be its only challenge. They also have to get by their own coach. CNN editorial producer Nadia Bilchik is here. We were talking about this yesterday. He said something like, well, it's unrealistic that we're going to get that far. And we thought, come on, give them a little bit of something.

NADIA BILCHIK, CNN EDITORIAL PRODUCER: He's a tough talking German. We have Jurgen Klinsmann, otherwise known as Klinsy, he's German. Now, bear in mind, he won a World Cup himself in 1990 when he played for what was then West Germany, so he just is managing expectations. Some people say he's using reverse psychology, so let's hear from the man himself that's causing all this controversy.


JURGEN KLINSMANN, COACH, TEAM USA: For us now talking about winning a World Cup, it's just not realistic. First we got to make it through the group. So let's keep our feet on the ground and say let's get that group first done, and then the sky is the limit.


BILCHIK: And he does say the sky is the limit. He's building a foundation, but of course that's not the only controversy. He also got rid of prolific gold scorer Landon Donovan, and he's hired a young Julian Green, this is a 19-year-old kid who was born in America but was raised in Germany. So we're going to be hopefully seeing and hearing a lot about Julian Green. So gets rid of the 32-year-old veteran and hires a 19-year-old, but he's trying to make his mark, and certainly trying to create the foundation of a very strong U.S. team.

But, Christi, anything can happen in this World Cup.

PAUL: Right.

BILCHIK: We saw the Netherlands beat favorite Spain 5-1, literally destroyed them.

PAUL: Trounced them, yes.

BILCHIK: Exactly, so the unexpected can happen.

PAUL: I thought this little tidbit we're going to talk about now is so interesting, and it's not about Victor, but some of soccer's biggest fans are in China, and with that time difference, they're watching in a unique way, right?

BILCHIK: Yes, it's not called World Cup fever for nothing. Many of them called in sick, so many thousands of Chinese, because of the time difference, so the first game, the opening game on Thursday was 4:00 a.m., so what better to do than call in sick, but you need a note. They got very inventive. They went online to certain websites in China where you can get a fake doctor's note that looks very legit, even with a hospital stamp, so the websites were crashed, but many people managed to get their sick notes. And that is the reality of watching the World Cup and making it so important in your life that you're even prepared to go online and get a fake doctor's note.

PAUL: I'd like to know how many of those notes were accepted.

BILCHIK: Exactly. But we won't need a sick note tomorrow, because the U.S. game versus Ghana is at 6:00 p.m. Eastern time, so you'll be happy to know. Of course we say to team USA [ speaking in foreign language ] in Portuguese and to USA, obligado

PAUL: Good luck with all of that. We are pulling for you. Nadia Bilchik, thank you so much.


BLACKWELL: Thank you, Christi. Thank you, Nadia. Former President George H.W. Bush lending his name to the GOP effort to hang on to a Senate seat in Georgia, specifically he's asking for money. We'll tell you why Bush 41 is playing in this race particularly.


BLACKWELL: Former President George H.W. Bush has now sent out a fund-raising letter to GOP donors. He's asking them to support whomever becomes the Republican nominee for the open U.S. Senate seat in Georgia. That candidate will face Democrat Michelle Nunn.

PAUL: Here is the thing. Nunn was CEO of the Points of Light Foundation, a charity funned by President Bush, and she is using at least one photograph of them together in her campaign. Georgia's Senate race is being watched very closely here, since Democrats have a decent chance picking up the seat being vacated by Republican Saxby Chambliss.

BLACKWELL: To mark the former president's 90th birthday this month, CNN will air the film "41 on 41" tonight.

PAUL: It's based on, I love this, interviews with 41 people who know him best. Here's a preview.


JEB BUSH, FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: A lot of people don't remember when my dad was elected president, the Democrats controlled the Congress, and so working in a bipartisan way was essential to get things done. And from the inauguration all the way through his four years as president, in spite of an increasing harshness of the political debate, he did what he could to build consensus.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think George Bush understood and still understands that the way we judge our presidents is on the basis of what elements of their program they get passed through the Congress, and implemented into law.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: The American people await action. They didn't send us here to bicker. They asked us to rise above the merely partisan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It really is amazing, in retrospect now, to see how successful George Bush was in getting major legislation passed.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: And let's work together to do the will of the people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you go back and look at the four years that George Bush was president, you will see more substantive comprehensive, bipartisan pieces of legislation passed than perhaps any four years in a long time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He got a Clean Air Act, the civil right bill of 1990. He worked hard to get the Americans With Disabilities Act passed. People do remember the budget agreement, and that budget agreement was much more significant than people realized. It forced the Congress that worked with his successor, Bill Clinton, to come up with balanced budgets, which really made a huge difference in the economy.


BLACKWELL: Now to watch the full documentary, "41 on 41," you want to watch CNN tonight at 9:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific.

Governor Chris Christie may not be known for his dancing skills.

PAUL: And might not be after this either.

BLACKWELL: And let's not say -- he may not be -- he is not known for his dancing skills. However, he had no shame strutting his stuff with comedian Jimmy Fallon for Father's Day.

PAUL: Wait until you see the moves these guys showed off. In case you missed it, we've got it.


PAUL: That's what we're talking about. Look at that, a live look at the shoreline in Atlantic City right now.

BLACKWELL: I'll take it.

PAUL: Wouldn't you like to wake up to that view?


PAUL: Maybe you are taking your dad to the beach for Father's Day. Mostly sunny and 78 degrees there today. That is perfect!

BLACKWELL: Speaking of Father's Day and speaking of Jersey.

PAUL: Yes?

BLACKWELL: I think some of us can relate to that time that dad really embarrassed us dancing in public. Dad moves we should call them. No one else does it. Once you become a dad, you get this really corny dancing style. I don't know what it is.

PAUL: You had it before, but I think they are just able to dub you with it at that point, and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, I think he's one of the dads.


PAUL: Can you imagine for his kids when he proved it on the Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon. Look at this. (VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: I hope we can -- they had one that was the bridge is closed. They did.

PAUL: I missed that one.

BLACKWELL: That was really funny.

PAUL: How did they do the dance?

BLACKWELL: It was Jimmy Fallon kind of doing that and the governor stops and says what, really? Really? You're going to do that? What's interesting about that, is they even included the detail of the pleated khakis. You had to get the pleated khakis in there.

PAUL: Had to be done.


PAUL: Some New Yorkers are having a very nice weekend thanks to that popular hidden cash game.

BLACKWELL: It might have all started in California, but the scavenger hunt/pay it forward social experiment made a visit to Central Park. Look here. Dozens of New Yorkers found envelopes filled with cash and a silver dollar.

PAUL: Some are even promising to use the money to buy something nice for dad.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm so excited. I've been following @hiddencash for about three weeks when they were on the West Coast. And when I found out they were in New York, I was ecstatic. Found out it was Central Park, I'm like, we're going. Since it's Father's Day, I'm going to give this to my dad. And he can use it as he wishes. Happy Father's Day. Pay it forward.