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No Deal, No Troops; Report Says U.S. Had Plan for Syria Counter-Attack; Bill Clinton In Demand On Campaign Trail; Biden For President In 2016?; Riot Police Fall To Their Knees In Apology; First Lady Marks Four Years of Fitness Campaign; Drawing the Lines in Venezuelan Protests

Aired February 25, 2014 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: All right, Jake, thank you.

Happening now, no bluff -- President Obama warns Afghanistan's president that without a signed security deal, all U.S. troops may soon leave his country.

Hillary Clinton doesn't matter, at least when it comes to Joe Biden's own decision on 2016. Wait until you hear what the vice president is saying about a possible run for the number one job.


BLITZER: And will Marco Rubio launch a White House run of his own?

I'll ask the Republican senator from Florida in a special one-on-one interview.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


No deal, no troops -- that was the blunt message from President Obama to Afghanistan's president, Hamid Karzai, today. In a phone call, President Obama made it clear to Karzai that without a signed security agreement between the two countries, there's a good chance no U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan after this year's withdrawal. And the commander-in-chief ordered his generals to start planning accordingly for that so-called zero option.

Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, is standing by.

But let's begin with our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, who's here with the significance of this pretty blunt statement from the White House.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: No question. The blunt message is, in effect, enough is enough. And to underline it, it comes directly, for the first time, from the president of the United States.

The administration saying that time is running out to adequately plan to keep U.S. forces in Afghanistan after 2014. And so, for the first time, the president has told the Pentagon to begin planning for a complete withdrawal.

Now, the administration made clear a deal is still possible with a new Afghan leader. Remember, elections to succeed Karzai come in April, even if Karzai refuses to sign before then.

However, the administration making clear that some damage is already done.

Here's Jay Carney today.


JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: But the longer we go without a BSA, and we've been making this clear, the more challenging it will be to plan and to execute any U.S. mission. Furthermore, the longer we go without a signed BSA, the more likely it will be that any post- 2014 U.S. mission will be smaller in scale and ambition.


BLITZER: And it's interesting, because that has already prompted some quick reaction.

SCIUTTO: No question.

When you look at this, no one has more to lose than -- except the -- than the Pakistanis, except the Afghans themselves.

I spoke to a senior Pakistani government official today. And he put it in extremely devastating terms, saying that if U.S. forces leave entirely, it would be, in his words, quote, "a Holocaust inside Afghanistan."

He went on to say, quote, "The zero option" -- as in zero U.S. troops -- "should not be an option. The zero option means civil war in Afghanistan...It will be a tragedy not only for the U.S., but for the world at large.

And one key reason, in it this official's view, is that Afghan forces are simply not ready to act on their own, without U.S. leadership. He predicts that 30 percent of Afghan forces will dessert after a U.S. withdrawal due to tribal divisions.

And remember, Wolf, Afghanistan -- Pakistan in the midst of its own brutal wave of violence by the Pakistani Taliban. They know what chaos, what a crisis looks like on the ground.

So this is a devastating prediction from an official and very close ally of the US.

BLITZER: Yes, that's a really disturbing development, potentially.

Let's go to Barbara Starr at the Pentagon.

The president making it clear the longer they wait, the Afghanis, the smaller the U.S. presence next year will be.

So what size are we talking about?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the general thinking around the Pentagon is something like 10,000 U.S. forces, plus some NATO forces. If they wait -- if the Afghans wait too long, those NATO forces likely to disappear into the mist and U.S. forces smaller.

If they leave a smaller force than 10,000, what they will not not be able to do is everything they want to do -- train, advise, assist the Afghan forces and conduct their own counterterrorism operations. Those U.S. troops still trying to keep an eye on the Taliban and al Qaeda, and also be a base of operations from which to launch drones into Pakistan, possibly to go after al Qaeda and Taliban on that side of the border.

All of that could go away. If they come down really dramatically below that 10,000, what sources are telling us, you could see just a couple of hundred U.S. troops stay at the U.S. Embassy in some kind of garrison fashion, much as they do at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad in Iraq. Nobody thinks that's going to be very valuable.

But, look, if this agreement isn't signed and it isn't signed in time, there may be no choice -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And, Jim, there's no guarantee that whoever is elected in those new elections in Afghanistan will, in fact, go ahead and sign that bilateral security agreement.

SCIUTTO: Well, no guarantee. But one of the leaders, Abdullah Abdullah, former defense minister of Afghanistan, has told Christiane Amanpour that he would be willing to sign an agreement.

Of course, you know, there are political forces on the ground in Afghanistan, so if there's one thing we've learned in the last couple of years, there is no guarantee. But he's at least giving some positive indications.

BLITZER: And the outrageous thing is that after, what, 13 years of the U.S. developing and helping and training, together with NATO, those Afghan troops, they apparently aren't ready to do the job by themselves.

SCIUTTO: No question. And this idea of a mass desertion, that's a -- that would be a real problem on the ground there.

BLITZER: Yes. I suspect that that probably will happen whenever the U.S. eventually winds up leaving. But that's another matter.

All right, Jim Sciutto, Barbara So there are, guys, thanks very much.

As Syria's savage civil war grinds on, there's now new word that the Obama administration may have had a devastating way to even the odds out there on the battlefield without firing a shot.

Brian Todd has been looking too this story for us.

What are you finding out?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a new report says the Obama team had plans drawn up for a cyber attack on the Syrian military. This came in the early stages of this war and could have possibly saved civilian lives in Syria.


TODD (voice-over): Bashar Al-Assad continues to launch barrel bomb attacks against his own people, decimating whole neighborhoods, killing scores of civilians, as the U.S. has stayed on the sidelines.

But there's been a battle plan to disrupt those attacks without a single American casualty.

"The New York Times" reports in the spring of 2011, shortly after the Syrian civil war escalated, the Pentagon and NSA drew up a plan for a sophisticated cyber attack on Syria's military.

The potential targets?

DAVID SANGER, "NEW YORK TIMES": Assad's own command and control system and certainly the military's ability to loft airplanes.

TODD: Navigational systems for Syrian helicopters and planes could have been hit in a cyber strike. It may have dealt Syrian forces only a temporary setback, but short-term, one official said, it would, quote, "turn the lights out for Assad."

But according to "The Times," it hasn't happened. After seeing various cyber strike plans, President Obama has turned them all down. Too many potential risks, "The Times" reports, not enough strategic value.

The biggest risk -- retaliation by Syria or its cyber savvy allies.

MARTIN LIBICKI, RAND CORPORATION: The Syrians could retaliate against the United States, the Iranians could retaliate against the United States, and the Russians may actually do something that we wouldn't want them to do.

TODD: The Syrian Electronic Army, a hacking group allied with Bashar Assad's regime, has launched nuisance attacks on American-based Web sites before, disrupting CNN's social media accounts and causing an outage at "The New York Times."

But experts say Iran and Russia can and have targeted American government and corporate sites with more serious hacks. The argument for launching a cyber strike on Syria?

JASON HEALEY, THE ATLANTIC COUNCIL: You no longer have to drop physical bombs and kill people, that it can be targeted, non-lethal micro force. TODD: But cyber expert Jason Healey says fallout from the reported 2010 computer attack by the U.S. and Israel on Iran's nuclear program may have played a role in the decision not to attack Syria.

HEALEY: I'm betting President Obama is feeling pretty burned over the Stuxnet attack, which I'm sure he was promised would stay secret by his cyber warriors. And unfortunately, it did not stay secret.


TODD: The Pentagon and NSA would not comment on "The New York Times" report. At the White House, a spokeswoman told us she would not get into details of the interagency deliberations, but she said cyber tools are at their disposal to protect national security -- Wolf.

BLITZER: The Syrians have been on the receiving end of some of these kinds of attacks over the years.

TODD: That's right. In September, 2011, the Israelis struck a nuclear reactor being built in the Syrian desert. Now, "The Times" reports that that hit was accompanied by a brilliant cyber attack that blinded Syria's air defenses. So when the Syrian military discovered that something was amiss, that reactor was, in "The Times'" words, quote, "a burning hole in the ground."

So this has been launched before against Syria and with some success. It could happen.

BLITZER: Well, we'll see what happens next. Obviously, a sensitive story.

Brian, thanks very much.

TODD: Sure.

BLITZER: Up next, the attorney general, Eric Holder, takes on same- sex marriage bans across the country and encourages his counterparts in the states to do the same thing.

And you may have seen some of the paintings by the former president turned artist, George W. Bush. But he's about to take the wraps off more than two dozen others. We have details.


BLITZER: The attorney general, Eric Holder, is taking on same-sex marriage bans again, this time telling "The New York Times" state attorneys general are not obligated to defend laws they believe are discriminatory.

He's also advising his colleagues to hold legislation based on sexuality to a higher level of scrutiny.


ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I believe that we must be suspicious of legal classifications based solely on sexual orientation.


BLITZER: This is just the latest in what's been a string of bold moves from Holder on a number of critical issues.

Let's discuss what's going on with our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin.

He's the author of the took, "The Oath: The Obama White House and The Supreme Court" -- how unusual, Jeffrey, is it for an attorney general of the United States to tell these state attorneys generals what they need to do?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it's not unprecedented, but it is certainly unusual and it's in keeping with the way Holder has been acting over the past six months or so. You know, President Obama said he wants his administration to take action with or without Congress and what you see Holder doing in area after area is just that. Now, in some of these areas he can't force these attorneys general to defend same-sex marriage, but, he can urge them and that's what he's doing.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: How does all this playing to Holder's legacy as attorney general of United States?

TOOBIN: Well, he's quite -- he's been quite clear that he thinks that gay rights are the civil rights struggle of today. And, you know, he comes out of the civil rights movement. You know, I just wrote a "New Yorker" article about him. And you know, all over his office are totems from the civil rights movement, Robert F. Kennedy's portrait in the 1960s. And he clearly thinks that gay rights is the cause of today.

And also, traditional civil rights, he is going to -- he has sued North Carolina and Texas to try to undue their changes that make voting harder there. So, you know, he is pushing the envelope much more than he did in President Obama's first term to leave a legacy on civil rights and gay rights, but, you know, it's not all up to him. The courts and other politicians have to agree with him, so it's a big qualification.

BLITZER: It certainly is. So, where do you see all of this going? Will these states attorney general go ahead and, in effect, disregard the law of their respective states if they feel it's discriminatory?

TOOBIN: Well, the attorney general of Virginia just did it, which was a pretty significant move and we know that the court -- the federal district court in Virginia then struck down the ban on same-sex marriage. My guess is the Democratic attorney generals will take this as a green light, as a permission to do what the attorney general in Virginia did.

I can't see Eric Holder persuading one Republican attorney general to make that change, but, you know, it's a political act and Eric Holder is a political appointee and he's using the powers of persuasion and some will be persuaded and some won't.

BLITZER: Some won't indeed. All right. Jeffrey, thank you.

Some other top stories we're following right now.

The U.S. government is fining Asiana Airlines a half million dollars for its inadequate response to last summer's crash at the San Francisco International Airport. The transportation department saying that Asiana fail to publicize a toll-free number for the family of the passengers and failed to notify relatives in a timely manner, both required by law.

A mysterious polio-like illness is afflicting children out in California. This girl is one of about 20 who have suffered a sudden onset of paralysis in an arm or leg even though she was vaccinated against polio. Health officials say it doesn't seem to be a major epidemic but only a very rare phenomenon. They're monitoring it.

And it's the auto industry's top honor. Consumer Reports says the top rated car of the year for 2014 is the all-electric Tesla Model-S. The magazine signals it out for what it calls blistering, blistering acceleration, razor-sharp handling and a compliant ride, but it comes with a hefty price tag. The Tesla Model-S goes for about $90,000.

A horrible scene caught on camera. A family posing for a group photo when the deck suddenly standing on collapse -- standing -- they're all standing on the deck that suddenly collapsed. It sent all 24 people plunging to the concrete below. This was at a Christmas party in New Albany, Indiana. Now, the family involve is suing the deck builder and the homeowner's association that runs the clubhouse.

Former president George W. Bush is preparing for an exhibit of his paintings. We've seen some of the works before, including a portrait of his dog and one of Jay Leno that he presented to the former tonight show host last November. The upcoming exhibit at his presidential library in Dallas will feature more than two dozen works never before made public.

Coming up, Bill Clinton makes his debut on the 2014 campaign trail. Can he help an old friend unseat the Senate minority leader?

Plus, Joe Biden speaking out about his own plans for 2016 and whether Hillary Clinton will impact his decision as he weighs a White House run.


BLITZER: Happening now --


BLITZER (voice-over): Clinton campaign, Bill Clinton, that is, in his element out there on the campaign trail. Can he boost the Democrat trying to unseat Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell?

Media offensive. The vice president, Joe Biden, takes to the airwaves. A speculation swirls about a possible White House run. What impact would a Hillary Clinton did have on his decision?

A candid interview. Sen. Marco Rubio speaking bluntly to me about a controversial set of issues. I'll ask him flat out among other things if he wants to be president of the United States.


BLITZER (on-camera): I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: The former president, Bill Clinton, is back out there on the campaign trail with questions swirling about Hillary Clinton and a potential presidential run in 2016. But today, the spotlight is on 2014 and winning a key Senate seat for Democrats in a state where President Obama is not very popular. Let's go straight to CNNs Erin McPike. She's in Louisville with details -- Erin.

ERIN MCPIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is the marquee Senate race of the cycle. Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, is running for a six-term. But after three decades in the Senate, he is pretty unpopular here in Kentucky, and he's running against a popular Democratic woman in Alison Lundergan Grimes who is half his age and giving a real run for his money.


MCPIKE (voice-over): Bill Clinton's favorite season is starting, campaign time.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Look, I love Kentucky. You've been good to me. You voted for me twice. You've been great to Hillary.


CLINTON: I love Kentucky.

MCPIKE: The former president is making his 2014 trail debut here in Louisville to help, who else, an old friend, Alison Lundergan Grimes, daughter of donor and former Kentucky Democratic chair, Jerry Lundergan.

CLINTON: It makes a big difference who wins this election, and Alison Lundergan Grimes should win it and will with your help.

MCPIKE: She's the secretary of state who's practiced law and done plenty of politicking with her father.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Clintons didn't forget Kentucky.

MCPIKE: Jerry Lundegran did two tours as the bluegrass states Democratic chair and oversaw Hillary Clinton's 2008 Kentucky landslide over Barack Obama. The family business, Lundys, catered Clinton inaugural events and Chelsea's wedding in 2010.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And help me welcome a friend --

MCPIKE: Now, Clinton is returning favors to the next in line. Grimes is just 35 and playing up that she'd be the state's first woman in the U.S. Senate.

ALISON LUNDERGAN GRIMES, (D) KENTUCKY SENATE CANDIDATE: You will hear over the course of this campaign, especially on behalf of the women of this state, 53 percent of the electorate, a little Katy Perry "Roar" will be bringing home our Kentucky girl, Miley Cyrus with a little "Wrecking Ball" straight to the guardian of gridlock.

GOV. STEVE BESHEAR, (D) KENTUCKY: As Kentuckians continue our fight to ditch Mitch.

MCPIKE: McConnell has spent three decades in the Senate and as minority leader is the GOPs last line of defense against President Obama. Grimes is hitting McConnell hard for Washington gridlock, charging that as a Republican leader, he's responsible for Washington's dysfunction.

CLINTON: Alison's opponent has been little short of billionaire. Get all of this money from all of these guys that don't really want anything to change and haven't noticed that adjusted for inflation, median family income in Kentucky and in America is lower today than it was the day I left office.

MCPIKE: Beating him would be a coup for Democrats.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R) SENATE MINORITY LEADER: In 2008, both Bill and Hillary Clinton came to town, including the day before the election, and I won by 100,000 votes. So, I welcome President Clinton back to kentucky. Every time he's comes, it's been really good for me.

MCPIKE: The 42nd president is much more in demand this year than the 44th who's seen by some as political kryptonite.


MCPIKE (on-camera): Now, I spoke to Mitch McConnell's top adviser earlier today and he said that in response to Grimes' charges of gridlock, they're going to make the case that Kentuckians appreciated on so much issues like cap and trade, but that Mitch McConnell has brokered some major fiscal deals. So, he can expect to hear a lot more about that this summer -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Erin McPike in Louisville for us. Thank you very much.

So, if Hillary Clinton does decide to run for president, she could be going head-to-head with another prominent Democrat, that would be the vice president, Joe Biden. He's hitting the media circuit and he isn't shying away from questions about 2016.

Let's bring in our senior political correspondent, Brianna Keilar, with this part of the story. What's going on? BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, it's pretty fascinating looking at Vice President Biden because he's in this unique position of being a sitting vice president, second-term sitting vice president who is far off of the lead in the polls as a 2016 contender. But today, Vice President Biden insisted that Hillary Clinton's political or presidential aspirations, I should say, won't determine whether he runs.


KEILAR (voice-over): Vice President Joe Biden keeping himself in the mix with the teasing reference to 2016 on late night.

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I was planning on making a major announcement tonight and -- but, I decided tonight is your night.


BIDEN: So, I hope you'll invite me back.

KEILAR: And telling the ladies of "The View," he has absolutely not said no to a run for president.

BIDEN: It's just likely I run as I don't run. I just truly haven't made up my mind.

KEILAR: He says Hillary Clinton's design on the presidency won't affect hss.

BIDEN: Whether she runs or not will not affect my decision.

KEILAR: Even so, sources close to Biden tells CNN he would weigh his chances of success, and right now, Clinton leads every poll of likely Democratic presidential candidates, putting Democratic hopefuls like Biden in a tricky spot.

AMY WALTER, NATIONAL EDITOR, COOK POLITICAL REPORT: If you're an ambitious Democrat, you want to run. You want Hillary Clinton to make her mind up as soon as possible.

KEILAR: Clinton has said she will do that by the end of the year. Those sources tell CNN that's not hard and fast. Biden says he will announce his decisions several months later in the summer of 2015. Biden has another challenge, his record is tied to the president.

WALTER: You are attached to the president, whether you want to be or not. So, all of his policies, his approval ratings come right with you.

KEILAR: Which is why Biden touted Obamacare during his appearances as Democrats try to hold on to control of the Senate in a pivotal midterm year.

BIDEN: The truth is that no matter how old we get, we still listen to our moms. So, moms have great influence. Call your sons and daughters. Tell them, sign up. It's for them and it's for your mom's peace of mind.


KEILAR (on-camera): And for Vice President Biden's political aspirations, it is so important for President Obama to succeed. You saw that today. And he also said, Wolf, to the women on "The View," he said, everything that he can do to be a viable candidate is the same exact thing that he should be doing to be the best vice president that he can possibly be.

BLITZER: After eight years, it will be eight years as Vice President. I'm sure he would like to be president. We'll see if he decides to run. Brianna, thanks very much.

Let's go a little bit more right now with our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, and our CNN chief Congressional correspondent, Dana Bash. Gloria, what do you make of these moves by Biden, someone you've watched closely -- he's on "The View." He's on with Seth Meyers --

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I think he's looking for a little buzz. You know, obviously, fair to talk about Obamacare to appeal to younger people. But I think he's looking for a little Biden buzz. We talk about Hillary Clinton non-stop. We've been talking about other Democrats who might be interested, like Elizabeth Warren.

And you know, I think Joe Biden's feeling a little left out of it. So, he wanted to leave the door very much ajar, saying it doesn't matter what Hillary Clinton does. Personally, I think it does matter what Hillary Clinton does, but I think --


BORGER: Right?

BASH: When I heard him say that, it doesn't necessarily matter if Hillary Clinton runs or not, I e-mailed somebody who knows him and I said, "really?" And the response was, "what did you expect him to say?" He had to say something. So --

BORGER: If she runs, I'm not going to run. He would never say that.

BLITZER: The Republicans would keep saying she's vulnerable so we'll see what he decides. We'll see what she decides, too.

BASH: Exactly. That's the key.

BORGER: I still don't think he would take on Hillary Clinton. I think he understands the power of the fact that she would be the first woman president if she won, and I don't think he would necessarily stand in the way.

BASH: It is interesting to see what you call Biden buzz out there, bBecause remember, a couple of years ago, he was the man. He was the man in Congress, up on Capitol Hill, negotiating secret deal, getting things done, then he went completely silent. Not -- maybe it was nit his choice. He was sort of put in a box saying, you know, quiet for a little while.

BORGER: Harry Reid.

BASH: And Harry Reid and others, and now, he's back. And now, he's back and he seems to be having fun and I think he enjoys being out there and being on late-night shows, not being the butt of late-night jokes.


BORGER: Exactly.

BLITZER: What do you make of Bill Clinton going to campaign for the Democratic senatorial candidate in Kentucky who's challenging Mitch McConnell? But I suspect we're not going to see Barack Obama campaigning for her in Kentucky.


BLITZER: Bill Clinton did with 1992 and 1996.

BORGER: And Dana has done more reporting on this than anybody by asking people, oh, you're going to have, you know, the president out there campaigning for you when in red state, let's face, it's a liability for many of them. Who can step into the breach but Bill Clinton? Very popular in the south. Over 60 percent nationally. So, he is going to be the chief surrogate, the most in demand for any Democratic candidate, I would argue, probably --

BLITZER: But you don't think Alison Grimes is going to invite President Obama to come Kentucky?

BASH: No. Unless something absolutely dramatic happens and turns the political rolled upside down, I don't see that happening. But what I do think is interesting. I learned a fascinating nugget today just to back (ph) on what you were saying about Bill Clinton being 60 percent nationally. Democratic strategists have tested this specifically in battleground states, not just Kentucky but other battleground states to see just how popular all potential surrogates are.

And Bill Clinton, by far, is off the charts over 60 percent. Even more than some of the most popular governors and local heroes, formers and current, and that really does speak to why they had him down there. He helps not just with the base but, you know, more broadly and, of course, he helps her raise money which apparently they've said that --


BORGER: It doesn't hurt Hillary Clinton to have her husband out there collecting all of these --


BLITZER: There's a Democratic governor. She was elected statewide.

BORGER: Democrats could win. It's interesting, because Obamacare has had some success in the state of Kentucky, which she can talk about.

BLITZER: What about this -- you caught up with Jan Brewer, the governor of Arizona. She got to make a major decision. We suspect she's going to veto that legislation that was passed in Arizona that would discriminate and affect against gays in Arizona. A lot of people including both senators from Arizona, Jeff Flake and John McCain, they want her to veto that legislation. You expect her to veto it, I assume?

BASH: All signs are pointing to the fact that she is going to veto the bill. She was very cautious understandably when I talked to her yesterday because she was here in Washington. She hadn't officially seen the bill. She needs to, you know, at least, go through the motions, if nothing else, of deliberating back in the state of actually reading the bill, but absolutely. And so much of this fight is, of course, about social issues, about discrimination and whether it is discrimination or not.

But it's pretty clear her bottom line is money and money in Arizona and the fact that she feels that she's for years built up the economy in Arizona. She is very reluctant to do anything that could cause boycotts, not just for businesses now but potentially for the Super Bowl which is in Arizona at the beginning of next year.

So, I think it is going to be the bottom line, not necessarily how she feels when it comes to social justice that will push her decision.

BORGER: You know, Mitt Romney just tweeted that she ought to veto this legislation. And there have been -- you know, John McCain has weighed in. Senator Flake has weighed in. Both of Arizona have weighed in saying that she should veto this legislation. There are other states that are looking at it. Some have backed off of this and some are waiting to see what happens in the state of Arizona.

But what it does is it exposes the tension in the Republican Party because social conservatives versus those who are not as socially conservative and want to broaden the tense of the Republican Party and I think this is be one of those issues --

BLITZER: There should be a rift developing in the GOP.

BASH: Oh, there's a huge rift. Look, I mean, I interviewed Ted Cruz last week, and he said to me, something that he said many times before, and I think this controversy really speaks to it, which is, people in Washington don't get that the real difference isn't always between Democrats and Republicans, it's the grassroots versus the establishment.

And, you know, this is a different kind of grassroots and like, say, the Tea Party, but it is a grassroots movement within the Republican Party that many of the establishment Republicans are freaked out about which is why they're trying to push Jan Brewer to veto it.

BORGER: Tea Party might be more --

BASH: Exactly. BORGER: And these are more social --

BLITZER: There are a lot of libertarian Republicans as well.

BORGER: Exactly.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Gloria, Dana. Good work.

Up next, fresh controversy around the first lady Michelle Obama's campaign against childhood obesity. We have details of the uproar over some proposed new rules.

Plus, my special one-on-one interview with Republican senator, Marco Rubio, of Florida. I'll ask him the question a lot of politicians and political pundits want answers


BLITZER: Riot police fell to their knees today to apologize for taking part of the crackdown on the protesters in Ukraine. That blood bath in the streets in which protesters placed police snipers led to the ouster of the country's president and a political upheaval.

CNN has obtained new video of the clashes showing the disproportionate fire power of the security services. Our senior international correspondent, Nick Paton Walsh, reports from Kiev.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Welcome to the police side of the lines in the brutality of Thursday in Kiev. Gunshots but none that we could hear on this edited footage coming at the police and it seemed that worried. One even taking a selfie. The Ukrainian TV crew who filmed these pictures and gave them to us edited asked, "what are they shooting at you with?" "They're shooting," he says, "and other odds (ph) with real bullets." The world to seeing what it was like on the protesters' side when nearly 100 died.

(on-camera) There was once a violent scene, there's now a memorial to those who died. And now, ousted president, Viktor Yanukovych, is facing criminal charges. The exact details of how they came to be killed are more important than ever.

(voice-over) The new government has accused Viktor Yanukovych of mass murder, of giving the orders to these well-trained men. They didn't lack protection or sniper rifles or shotguns at the front line. Even heavy ammunition at hand. This is what they did with it. Pointing out targets. "I see him at the window, too," the voice shouts in Russian. He's more (ph) in the counry's east.

The men in camouflage carry sniper rifles and one moves in. Medical professionals told CNN many protesters died from professional gunshot wounds. They take no shortage of precautions, even though the threats seem slight and their equipment massively superior. Unaware, their actions would unseat a president just days later. Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, Kiev.


BLITZER: Just ahead, the first lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, teams up with comedians, including Will Ferrell to promote healthy eating, but a possible new rule about healthy advertising has critics all fired up.

Plus, my full interview with Republican senator, Marco Rubio. We talk politics, immigration, foreign relations, and a burning political question, will he run for president?


BLITZER: A big day for the first lady of the United States, Michelle Obama marking the fourth anniversary of her signature "Let's Move" campaign. The first lady has been teaming up with celebrities to help promote her cause, including the actress Amy Poehler. She just met with her a little while ago. Here's some video we just got.


AMY POEHLER, ACTRESS: This is so fun. Mrs. Obama is standing next to me like she's my audience and I'm just telling her jokes. This is like a dream. Except for the -- except for the box, which is a little embarrassing, isn't it? And I have to stand on that.


POEHLER: I'm a grown woman standing on a box.


BLITZER: There's the box. And the sneakers.

Let's bring in our senior Washington correspondent Joe Johns. He's very tall. He doesn't have to stand on any boxes.

Tell us what's going on.


Well, Wolf, the good news today is that the latest study says obesity in children between the ages of 2 and 5 decreased dramatically over a 10-year period but so far no real change in the overall population. And this report comes at a time when the first lady has programmed to improve the fitness levels and eating habits is celebrating its fourth anniversary.


JOHNS (voice-over): Americans' eating habits have apparently changed a lot.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Keep up with the first lady. JOHNS: Since the first lady launched her "Let's Move" campaign four years ago to get people to eat better and exercise more.

OBAMA: Water just surpassed soda as the most commonly consumed beverage in America. Yay for water. Drink up.

JOHNS: And for the most part, she's kept the campaign fun and lighthearted, even with the help of big Hollywood stars, like this focus group video with comedian Will Ferrell.

OBAMA: Can you tell us some of your favorite fruits and vegetables?


OBAMA: Strawberries.

WILL FERRELL, ACTOR: Let me guess. Cabbage?


FERRELL: Also, is diet cola, is that a vegetable?



FERRELL: What's so funny?

JOHNS: Let's Move is on a roll or so it seems. There's even some evidence childhood obesity is dropping, though Centers for Disease Control aren't ready to say it is because of Mrs. Obama's program.

DR. THOMAS FRIEDEN, DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL: We're not certain what has driven the increase in child obesity. And we're far from out of the woods. We do know that there have been a number of things going in the right direction. There is increased attention to improving childhood nutrition, increasing breast feeding rates. Child care are doing physical activity.

JOHNS: All good perhaps but Let's Move still has its critics like today when the administration announced proposed rules to stop marketing products in schools that the government says are not good for you.

OBAMA: We will be eliminating advertisements for unhealthy food and beverages in our school.

JOHNS: Which could mean a change to the iconic soft drinks sponsored school sports score boards that pop up almost everywhere. Where full calorie drinks aren't allowed administration says they should not be advertised to kids at school either.

TOM VILSACK, AGRICULTURE SECRETARY: If you can't sell it you really ought not to be able to market it.

JOHNS: Which only renews the complaints of nanny state politics critics who say government needs to back off when it comes to what we eat and drink.

DARIN BAKST, THE HERITAGE FOUNDATION: I think it's just so much arrogance involved. It's no longer father knows best or mother knows best, it's what government knows best. And that's really the problem here.


JOHNS: In answer to the nanny state question the administration says it distinguishes between adults and children and that the Let's Move program defers to local controls of local officials but the government does have an obligation to try to ensure that the foods and drinks served in schools are healthy.

BLITZER: Healthy is important.

All right, thanks very much, Joe, for that.

Coming up the battle lines are drawn in Venezuela. It's a very dangerous conflict. We're going to take you right to the barricades.

And a SITUATION ROOM special report as we begin to hear from the possible 2016 presidential contenders. I'll go one-on-one with Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. That's coming up right at the top of the hour.


BLITZER: In just a few minutes you'll see and hear my special interview with Republican senator and possible presidential candidate Marco Rubio. He's passionate about the bloody crisis in Venezuela.

Here's the latest there. The United States today ordered the expulsion of three Venezuelan diplomats from Washington in a tit-for- tat, a response to the move by Venezuela. It's the latest ripple effect as anti-government protesters take to the barricades against the country's socialist government.

CNN's Karl Penhaul is reporting for us from Caracas -- Karl.

KARL PENHAUL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: These protests have been going on for three weeks now, Wolf, and all the time the opposition is trying to shift tactics to force its challenge to the socialist president, Nicolas Maduro. And we have seen this week the start of a new tactic, that is, throwing up barricades. Even the wealthy and middle classes are joining this street fight.


PENHAUL (voice-over): More wreckage to fortify opposition lines. Caracas' wealthier east side is blockaded Monday. Antigovernment activists responding to the Twitter hash tag, day of the barricades.

"I don't want to wait in food lines. I don't want to be kidnapped, I'm a hostage in my own home," she says. Scores of picket lines sprang up. The opposition seems to be beefing up its bid to topple Venezuela's socialist government. Outrage, soaring crimes, and a tanking economy triggered the protests.

"Things are falling apart and we have to save the country. We have to get out on the street because it's the only way," she says.

But it is not only the middle class who's up in arms.

(On camera): This is a working class neighbor and should be a natural support base for the socialist government. But the people here say that they are fed up, they're turning against President Maduro and joining the opposition.

(Voice-over): "We'll be here until President Maduro leaves power," she says. But across on the city's poorer west side there are few signs government loyalists are deserting en masse. Pro-regime motorcycle clubs just the latest core group to show public support for President Nicolas Maduro.

The president insists the opposition is trying to stage a U.S.-funded coup attempt. The right wing extremists are being marginalized in Venezuela. And it does the revolutionaries who are getting support from other countries, the president said.

Not all opposition protesters agree on the changing tactics especially since the barricades are in the opposition's own neighborhoods.

(On camera): This is one of the most controversial tactics and nylon washing lines, they strung it across the road and they'll pull it tight. They aim to bring down what they say are government thugs riding motorcycles aiming to terrorize their neighborhood.

(Voice-over): Homemade tire shredders, too.

"The pro-government loyalists are armed and we aren't, so we are shielding behind barricades and wait for them to arrive," he says.

As the day wore on, there was no word of serious clashes, but the battle lines have been drawn.