tv CNN Newsroom CNN December 20, 2013 10:00am-11:01am PST
as i said, i'm sure they love that. to bow live kra, thousands gathering around an ecofriendly christmas tree. the tree stands 45 feet high. made up of 50,000 plastic bottles. >> pretty cool. people have to pedal on a bike to produce enough energy to actually light up the tree. >> oh. >> really cool. >> all right. that will do it for "around the world" today. we'll go off and make a list. >> yes, thanks for watching. "cnn newsroom" starts right now. have a great weekend. >> right now, president obama is getting ready to face some tough questions after a tough year. we'll preview the president's news conference set to he boo gin in one hour and have brand new job approval numbers out this hour. how is the president doing? right now, wall street investors are reacting in a big way to new economic numbers that show the economy growing at a much faster pace than initially thought. the surprising figure and what it means for your finances just ahead.
and right now, snow, ice and driving rain. a nightmare scenario during one of the busiest travel weekends of the year. what you need to know before what you need to know before heading home for the holidays. -- captions by vitac -- www.vitac.com hello, i'm wolf blitzer in washington. president obama goes before the many cap raz and the reporters about an hour from now as he winds down a rather -- meanwhile, new poll numbers are out right now on his job approval rating. his end of the year news conference set for 2:00 p.m. eastern. we'll have live coverage here on cnn. president facing tough questions on a long list of issues. we'll preview what to expect. first, let's get to the brand-new poll numbers. chief washington correspondent jake tapper the anchor of cnn's "the lead" is here. the numbers no not exactly booming for the president right now. >> not how you want to end the year. about a month ago the president
tied for the lowest point in his presidency. we have the same basic number today, 41% approval. 56% disapprove of the job president obama is doing as president. here's something we don't go into a lot when we talk about these numbers, wolf. let's take a look at how people why they disapprove. you have the 41% approve. 40% disapprove because they think he's too liberal. 12% disapprove because they think he's not liberal enough. one in five who disapprove think that president obama is too conservative. >> it's interesting these numbers. you take a look at how the president's doing now, how is approval of the president's job as president now 41% as you point out, in november 41%. but in may, you know, he was at 53%. he's really gone down over the course of this year. when you pair him to other presidents, two-term presidents at i an similar moment in their presidency, how is he doing? >> he's exactly where george w.
bush was at this point in his presidency. bush in december 2005 was at 41%, which is also where obama is right now. president clinton in december '97 was at 56% approval. reagan in december of 1985, 63% as a lot of political analysts will tell you, wolf, once you go below 50%, it is very difficult to get back up there. george w. bush went down and then he never got back above 50% approval. president obama's aides hoping he can turn this around and will be able to get up from 41% to above 50. >> because he was going down even before the rollout of obamacare. but that has certainly hurt him politically, the failed website, if you will, other problems related to obamacare. and he's about to have a news conference and it's a little awkward right now, if you go to that website healthcare.gov and go to one of the states, they're telling you hold on, you've got to queue up, we're going to wait a little bit. they're fixing it. we got a statement from the
department of health and human services that says right now healthcare.gov is queueing consumers. the tech team, would on fixing an error that happened during routinen maintenance last night. we anticipate this could take two to three hours. but the site will be un and running again soon. it's not very encouraging at this late stage when they want people to enroll in these final days to make sure they have health insurance by january 1st. >> and that comes along with the news that the administration has decided to reverse course on another part of the affordable care act which is they are now going to be allowing some catastrophic health care plans that originally people in the administration were calling junk plans. some will be an you loed at least for the short term. >> the millions of people dumped by their health insurance companies can now go to what the administration used to call these junk catastrophic plans, if will you. that's a major change on the part of the administration. >> i suspect had the administration known that the
website was going to be having a problem today, they probably would not have held a press conference today. that's going to be one of the first questions. >> as a former white house correspondent, before he leaves on vacation, he usually does have an end of year news conference. >> awkward timing >> although that 4% gdp number is pretty good. >> good timing >> don't go too far away. the president's popularity could go up if the economy strengthens, and in the third quarter it clearly did. final numbers are now in. much more encouraging than previous thought. gross domestic product grew at an annual rate of 4.1%, a big difference from the initial estimate of 2.8%, the fastest quarter for economic growth in two years. joining you now from chicago, the chief economist from mesereau financial die and swan. that's behind this revived third quarter jump in the gdp? >> well, the good news is some of the upward revision was because frankly consumers were spending more. once you strip away an overhang
of inventories which we're seeing many retailers have to discount at the most aggressive pace since 2008 route right now, the underlying number was better about you not as good as it could could be. you still have the economy improving over the second quarter. the summer we spent a little more. we didn't spend enough to clear out inventories and they're right there in many traditional retailers in this holiday season. >> in terms of big picture, does it suggest the economic recovery has taken a significant turn? >> not as big as the headline numbers, but clearly there is some momentum into the end of the year and we move into 2014. more importantly, we know longer have that headwind of all the dysfunction in washington. we don't have tax hikes coming in. we don't have big spending cuts for a change and state and local governments are hiring teachers back. those are big shifts for the incoming year. you throw on top of that the fed is still with us in many soloway and you now have monetary policy be working as a tail wind instead of charging windmills
like don quixote and fighting the headwinds of the rest of washington as we move into 2014. >> nor positive gains on the dow jones right now. let's show viewers. up almost 93 points. the dow jones now at 16,271. so this is pretty encouraging for wall street investors and those who have money invested in 401(k)s. >> it is. and it's also important because housing prices are still appreciating. that affects the bulk of households. we're seeing those two things move together. the issue too with the pickup in job gains, not enough to bring the long-term unemployed out. if you just lost a job or a new college grad, i think in 2014, you'll have an easier time getting a job. it is a morning transitional year from what we've seen so far in the recovery. >> you have some economic thoughts about 2014. some advice for some viewers out there? >> well, you know, it's going to be a little bit better year.
the operative word is little bit and better is important. i think we're going to see it easier to get a job if you just lost a job. it's still go to be tough for the long-herm term unemployed. the problem is we all tend to live with people that are like us now. we don't see the spectrum of the u.s. economy. there are two economies. you're going to see the top tier of the economy and even into some middle income households do better next year. the bottom tier will still suffer. >> i suspect we're going to hear that from the president at the to 7 top of the hour, maybe even in his opening statement. rich people, upper middle class people are doing fine. but the gap between rich and poor in the united states is the subject that's very close to him and it seems to be growing. right? >> it is growing. and it has the great recession just exacerbated it. frankly, really since 2000 started we papered over that gap with false sense of wealth with growing home prices that people were buying homes they couldn't
afford. once home prices collapsed, especially for those most at risk, they lost their homes. they got foreclosed upon and don't have a chance of regaining it. those who received the recession holding on to their homes are back in the black again. that's a main street phenomena that hits a lot more americans. >> stock market invests may have done well over the past few years. there are more people now desperately in need of food stamps than ever before. those numbers have gone up dramatically in recent years. diane, thanks very much. >> thank you. diane swonking from mesereau financial. holiday travel plans for almost 100 million americans could be affected by a rather nasty storm barreling across the united states. you're going to hear who's going to get hit with snow, ice, rain and get this. maybe even tornadoes. that's next. 1ñp [ woman ] ring. ring. progresso.
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threatening the travel plans of 94 million americans. >> do you want to go on the airplane? >> no. >> no. >> from the south to the midwest, the risk of severe thunderstorms include damaging winds and even isolated tornadoes. up north, freezing rain will be the problem for chicagoing to wichita. holiday commuters have to watch for icing on bridges and overpasses. snows already caused issues for air travelers had this holiday season. in wisconsin this week, a plain slid off the snow slicked runways. >> we didn't know it was lapping and they said the airport was sthut down. >> further east up to 10 inches of it rain could dampen holiday travel plans. once millions finally arrive to their destination, who have a white christmas in. right now it's looking like colorado and parts of the great laking. >> we're learning why a u.s. general in charge of nuclear weapons was relieved of duty. apparently a trip to moscow was the last straw. the u.s. air force investigative report says major general michael carey was boozing,
bragging about hot women he met and late to meetings and rude to hosts. officials say his behavior did not affect be nuclear weapons operations. he's now with the u.s. air force space operation. a u.s. congressman is under fire for saying students to get a free school lunch should work for it. republican congress mann jack kingston of georgia suggested children maybe should start sweeping floors for the meals they receive as part of the federal school lunch program. he defended the comment on cnn's earlier today saying he never singled out low income students in his initial remarks on the matter. >> the greater discussion was about the american work ethic. and how do we pass that onto the next generation? and you know, given to my critics in terms of well, i did not specify clearly this was not an indictment on anybody in a particular socioeconomic group, this would be good for all children. >> kingston initially made the comments at a local republican
party meeting this past weekend. a recording of those comments later surfaces on "huffington post." dennis rodman's mission in north korea, he's there to put together an all-star basketball team he says. but is there more he could or should be doing? that's next. [ female announcer ] thanks for financing my first car. thanks for giving me your smile. thanks for inspiring me. thanks for showing me my potential. for teaching me not to take life so seriously. thanks for loving me and being my best friend. don't forget to thank those who helped you take charge of your future and got you where you are today. the boss of your life. the chief life officer. ♪
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auditorium at the time. dozens were hurt, seven seriously. three were trapped under debris and had to be rescued. one firefighter said it could have been a whole lot worse. today was theers full day of dennis rodman's basketball camp in north korea. the former nba star is there to pick and coach 12 north korean players who will take on former nebraska players in a game to mark the leader kim jong-un's birthday after the first part of the tryouts. rodman talked about his mission saying and i'm quoting now, i understand what's going on with the political stuff and i say i don't go into that venture. i'm just doing one thing for these kids here and for this country. and for my country and for the world, pretty much. that's the quote from dennis rodman. joining us now the georgetown university professor victor cha, a have advisor during the bush administration. he's also the chair, has a korea chair at the center for strategic and international studies. thanks very much. the book "the impossible state
north korea past and future." what do you think of this dennis rodman training north korean basketball players for some sort of exhibition bush administration match against former nba players? >> it is a spectacle for sure. i think in a sense that's what rodman wants but also what the north korean regime wants. they want to portray a sense of business as usual even though there's a lot of internal turmoil. >> this helps kim jong-un domestically and maybe some places internationally. >> i think so. i mean, he doesn't get any more western media coverage than when dennis rodman goes to north korea. if he just gave a speech, he wouldn't get the same level of media coverage in the west as he has with this dennis rodman. >> it would be amazing if dennis rodman were to leave with kenneth bae the american missionary who was arrested serving hard labor right now. he's been there for a year. is that even with within the realm of possibility?
>> i think anything is within the realm of possibility with this leader because of what we've seen so far, and sure, it's entirely possible that he could do something like that. dennis comes back, bae gets releases and he could carry out a provation against south korea. this combination of things almost messing with the western world with all these tactical moves is something he seems to revel in doing. >> some optimists have suggested maybe this is like the battle days when the u.s. and china weren't talking in in the '50s and '60s. then there was a little ping-pong diplomacy that occurred eventually winding up in nixon's historic visit to china. is that something realistic, instead of ping-pong diplomacy, nba basketball diplomacy? >> it is an optimistic assessment. the case of ping-pong diplomacy in china was different. there were different undercurrents on the political side i think. but having said that, with rodman going there, we do learn things. before he went, we didn't have
any many pictures of kim jong-un. because of his trip, we did. we now know his ainge. he's going to turn three 1 next january. we didn't know he had a child till rod man said i held their child. so even though he goes there for his own reasons, we do learn something from these visits. >> propaganda benefits for the north koreans but might be important benefits for u.s. intelligence, for analyst who's study north korea? is that what you're saying? >> yeah, i this i publicly the government says we're not really interested in the visit, it's a private visit. i'm sure they're interested in watching every element of it and i imagine they would talk to rodman when he came back. >> how good and you worked in the u.s. government is intelligence on what is going on? if the president were to say why did kim jong-un have his uncle assassinates, would u.s. analysts be able to tell the president why? >> they could offer theories. >> but couldn't tell him directly why. >> no. >> they won't have that kind of
slept intelligence? >> it is the hardest one of the hardest intelligence targets in the world. it's impenetrable. >> why is that. >> that's the whole regime the regime has survived as long as it has when other stalinist regimes have collapsed. sealing information out from inside the country. that's been the core of the regime's hold on power. so for that reason, and because we don't have a lot of intelligence capabilities around north korea, it's very difficult to see what's going on inside that country. >> i wonder if the president and his news conference at the top of the hour is asked about north korea and dennis rodman, what he might say. do you have a rediction? i think he'll say it's a private visit. again, i think from within the u.s. government, they're quite interested because of the bae case and because we're not sure what kim jong-un is going to do next. >> victor cha, an expert on the korean peninsula. president obama is taking action to protect americans in south sudan, sending a contingent of
45 service members to boost security at the u.s. embassy there. a reported coup attempt last weekend triggered an outbreak of violence that's been spreading all week. yesterday, a u.n. base came under attack. two indian army peacekeepers were killed along with two civilians. president obama released a statement saying, and i'm quoting now, in 2011, millions of south sudan knees voted to forge a news nation founded on the promise of a more peaceful and prosperous for all of south sudan's people. today that future is at risk. south sudan stantsds at the precipice. recent fighting tends to plunge south sudan back into the dark days of its past. most americans say the war in afghanistan has not been worth fighting. a new "washington post"/abc news poll shows record discop tent for the 13-year-old war. the longest in u.s. history. 66% now say it has not been worth it. the u.s. is rapidly trying to drawn down its forces in the country in 2014.
the u.s. military role beyond the end of 2014 is in limbo because the after gan president hamid karzai has refused to sign an agreement that would keep 8,000 to 10,000 u.s. troops there after 2014. maybe even until 2024. here's an update to a story we brought you earlier in the week. six american soldiers were killed when their helicopter crashed in afghanistan on tuesday. one soldier survived. the cause is under investigation and the pentagon has now released the names of the dead. let me read them to you. 34-year-old randy billings of heavener, oklahoma. 29-year-old peter bowler of willow spring, north carolina. 28-year-old omar ford ef-of marietta, georgia. 22-year-old terry gordon of massachusetts, 35-year-old joshua officerman of scottsdale, arizona and 30 years request jesse williams of elkhart, indiana. we end our deepest condolences
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at the white house before he leaves for the christmas new years holiday. the president is also hoping to leave some of the problems of the past year behind him. including the botched rollout of healthcare.gov, the fallout from the nsa surveillance controversy and a major drop in his job approval numbers, credibility ratings just to name a few. here's the question, can he get his presidency back on track? save his second term? what does he need to do to turn things around in 2014? as we await the president, let's bring in correspondents to talk about his efforts to move beyond the troubles of 2013. our senior white house correspondent brianna keilar, chief congressional correspondent dana bash and chief washington correspondent jake tapper. brianna, what about this white house strategy for getting back on track? you've been doing some significant reporting on this over the past several weeks. what are you picking up over there? >> we, wolf, i think when you hear president obama come out here to the briefing room and what he's going to say is really going to show you what that.
your is. he's outlined had his agenda, one of the three pillars is the economy. you've heard him talking a lot recently with a populist message talking about nick inequali- -- inequality. we're going to hear him talk about that today. we expect him to give brief remarks, maybe five or seven minutes before he takes questions from reporters. the other thing that he needs to do really to get things back on track and certainly the administration is well aware of this, he needs to do the clean-up when it comes to the affordable care act to obamacare. needs to get that federal website up and running which you know, in a recent check was actually having problems today just in the last hour. so he needs to make sure that he can clean that up and ultimately rebrand it, as well. he needs some success in that is because that has been draining so much of the energy that his
administration has towards putting forth the agenda that he wants to accomplish in his second term. >> and whatever he's trying to accomplish almost all of it if not all of it, a lot of it, dana, is going to require congressional legislation, passage in the senate and the house legislation he will then sign into law. certainly he can do things through executive action but how much cooperation can he expect in 2014 a midterm election year? >> well, on some issues, maybe more than you would think. on other issues not so much. let's start with what brianna was talking about. obamacare, that is the signature legacy issue, and it is the issue that republicans who run the house still and are heading into an election year are going to continue to hit extremely hard. they have the ability to have oversight hearings, over and over again. and you can bet they're going to do that because they're intending, intent on running on that issue because they think that is the best for them, meaning republicans. but then on issues like immigration reform, that might
be something where although it got stopped up after the senate passed it this year, there might be a way to add that to a legacy for president obama because the house speaker, john boehner, is pretty clear eager to move something. the president has put some olive branches out there about the way that they go about doing it, meaning you don't have to do one big bill, maybe baby steps would be something he would be willing to consider. that might be something they might be able to go forward on, but when it comes to other issues, they're still stopped up in the senate, for example, the nuclear option. this is maybe something that has come under the radar. but the nuclear option that senate democratic leader put in place to take away minority rights could make it more difficult for the president. it already has, to get his nominations through to get his key players in place. that possibly could continue into the next year. >> and when you say minority rights, you mean republicans, the minority in the u.s. senate.
the president -- >> exactly. >> that nuclear option dealing away with the opportunity to filibuster requiring 60 votes to the pass legislation supposed to a simple majority of 51. jake tapper is with us as we await the president. what does he do? you covered president obama during the first term. how is he preparing right now? what about the reporters? they're going to be gearing up. they know this is an opportunity for them to ask the president of the united states a significant question. take us a little bit, jake, behind the scenes. >> so reporters right now the are making lists of questions to ask. knowing that probably a.p. will be called on first and probably the a.p. will ask about the fact that healthcare.gov is down right now. although they might ask about the nsa recommendations for the spying agency. but you're making a list of your questions, talking to people on your team, talking to people on your staff trying to come up -- i assume there are a number of reporters debating within themselves if they get called on civilianth or eighth, am i going
to be the one that asks the "duck dynasty" question. that's probably a conflict people are having right now. behind the scenes in the white house, they are preparing for any question that can be thrown at them. they're preparing for questions about the website, healthcare.gov being down right now, about the nsa spying recommendations, about reports from abroad about things going on, about the sochi olympics. i am assuming they're preparing for cultural questions such as what color is santa, what race is santa. what do you make of phil robert sop's comments about gays and the bible? so they're preparing, deciding which ones the president will answer, how they'll answer. testing them out. probably debating whether or not the president should even answer some of these questions about some of those dicey pop culture social issues. >> i'm sure the president is also looking ahead saying i can't wait to head off to hawaii with my family. stand by, dana, brianna, stand by, as well. we're waiting for the
president's ends of the year news conference scheduled to begin right at the top of the hour. but the new year could also bring a new fight with congress over raising the nation's debt ceiling. supposed to be done by february. we'll preview that potential battle, other battles. we're counting down to the president's news conference. that's coming up. i don't just make things for a living i take pride in them. so when my moderate to severe chronic plaque psoriasis was also on display, i'd had it. i finally had a serious talk with my dermatologist.
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tdd#: 1-888-852-2134 so you can take charge tdd#: 1-888-852-2134 of your trading. pruf in 20 minutes, the president goes before the cameras, the reporters, that begins the news conference at the white house right at the top of the hour. we'll have live coverage for you, of course. the president will certainly face tough questions from white house correspondents and also
face the potential fight with congress over the raising of the nation's debt limit. >> we as a caucus along with our senate counterparts are going to meet and discuss what dollars we want to get out of the debt limit. we don't want nothing out of this debt limit. we're going to decide what it is we can accomplish out of this debt limit fight. >> the republican congressman paul ryan. the chairman of the house budget committee. let's bring back our correspondents to talk about this and more, brianna keilar, dana bash, jake tapper is here, as well. let's go to congress first, dana, how big of a fight do we anticipate over the raising of the debt limit? supposed to be done according to the treasury department by february, maybe march they can delay it. >> it's really unclear. i think the reason is because republicans haven't decided how much of a fight they're going to put up. certainly you heard paul ryan saying they're going to demand something extract something from democrats in order to agree to raise the debt ceiling. you've heard stlar comments from
mitch mcconnell, the senate republican leader who not an unimportant dynamic is facing re-election but first a primary challenge from the right. he's under pressure to try to demand something but then other republican sources in the house say they've learned their lesson, they had this big fight over the government shutdown and the president made it very, very clear that he wanted to in his words break the fever not just about the that, but more importantly, about the debt ceiling. so i think that republicans are going to spend the next months or two trying to figure out amongst themselves just how much they want to fight, and there certainly does seem to be disagreement internally. >> let's go to brianna over the white house. i suspect some reporters over there will probably ask the president, mr. president, are you staking by your position that you will not negotiate over raising the debt limit? congress must do it. these are debts the u.s. has already gotten over the years. no concessions, no negotiations, just do it. i assume someone will ask the
president if that is still his position. >> i think that's one of the first questions that is going to be asked, wolf. the president said in the last debt ceiling negotiation, he wasn't going to negotiate. it is sort of interesting to point out though when you look at the last two times the debt ceiling was increased, the president did allow for provisions that ultimately put in place the budget deal that he now has lauded and we're expecting will sign soon. the question though is with that budget deal having dispensed with that issue, maybe what kind of thing would he agree to. ? what he's made clear and he made very clear in october, he's not going to negotiate on obamacare. that is just something he will not touch. he will not entertain. so i think the question is, where might there be some common ground. i will tell you when you ta you can to white house officials about some of the language we heard paul ryan use, the word fight for instance, they just sort of kind of want to roll their eyes a little bit because the president and white house officials here feel that what was done in that case was done
very much to the detriment of republicans. and they don't understand why they would want to do it again. you heard dana using the term "break the fever." i think the expectation here is they believe in a way a lot of republicans learned a lesson and they're hoping ultimately that it's not going to get to a brangsmanship situation like we saw in october and at least a government shutdown is off the table. >> jake, very quickly, there are a bunch of republicans who say if you get into a fight over the debt ceiling, that detracts from what they see as their winning argument about obamacare. why allow that to be derailed by having a separate fight over the debt ceiling? into it is an important part of the republican message that he spends too much money and republicans want to rein him in. that's their political argument. and the debt ceiling argument is about whether or not if the united states continues to spend money, you know, spend $3 for every $2 the united states government takes in, whether
that's sustainable. i do think you will see some fight. paul ryan said as has been mentioned, paul ryan said that the negotiations basically have started already. they want something in return. i don't think that people like paul ryan want the same kind of standoff with the same threat to the bond ratings for the united states government and the like. i think they want to get the process going now, but you never know what's going to happen. >> that's the beauty of washington. we don't know what's going to happen. >> it hurts both sides. at the end of the day, people remember there was a mess. and they hold everyone in washington accountable. >> they lose confidence in d.c. stand by. we're setting the stage for the president's news conference coming up at the top of the hour. up next, maria cardona and ben ferguson are both joining me to discuss more issues that the president has during his second term. the prospects of potentially getting back on message. [ male announcer ] this is jim,
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away from president obama's news conference. you're looking at like pictures from the briefing room. as soon as it starts, you'll see the whole thing live on cnn. let's talk a little more about the president's agenda during this second term, his prospects of getting some things done. joining us are maria cardona and benferri ferguson. the new cnn poll has the president's job approval number at 41%. pretty low. in january, almost a year ago, at 55%. why do you believe it's collapsed like that? >> well, certainly, it's been a very tough year for the president, wolf, and i think he'll be the first to admit that with the nsa issue and the obamacare rollout, which he also admits there was a huge downfall, but i think the president has a terrific opportunity in front of him. we now see even the website,
even though they're saying it was down today, i was on it, it's now up again. it's signing up people by the tens of thousands. i think by the time you get into next year, the focus on obamacare is going to be how this president is going to add to americans' not just health security but economic security knowing if they get sick or a family member gets sick, their economic security is not going to be in jeopardy. he also has a big opportunity to focus on immigration, on income inequality, all those issues where he's best in terms of focusing on middle class and the benefits a good and thriving middle class bring to the country. >> ben, a lot of people blame the republicans for the 16-day government shutdown exactly when the obama care rollout came. looking back, was it a blunder for republicans to shut the government down because there was no connection to obamacare? >> i don't know if it was a
blunder, but i don't think i would do it again in 2014, and i don't believe anyone would allow it to happen on the republican side this year. the reason why you see the president's numbers down, it goes back to the core of trust. the american people, a lot of them voting for him not once but twice on an issue of trust. they said i believe him when he tells me things. when we find out the white house knowingly and willingly put a lie out to the american people you could keep your plan if you liked it, keep your doctor if you liked it, all the doctors would be included, all the top hospitals would be included and we find out the top hospitals are not in the exchange, not a possibility for people fighting cancer, for example, that's the real reason why i think the president has had such a terrible year, on top of a website he sold as the best or easiest thing since sliced bread, and people as of today can't use the website. he's got to overcome the trust issue, and then the other issues.
foreign policy was a big issue. people are still being killed in syria, and who is leading on that? russia. his biggest accomplishment in foreign policy is having gay and lesbian delegates in the olympics, yet we punted to russia. i think that's a problem. >> let me let maria respond. go ahead. >> thanks, wolf. there's no question this year has been difficult, and again, the president would be the first to say so, but on issues of foreign policy, i think he also has a terrific opportunity. he's been leading on syria, on icon, on al qaeda. i think people remember first and foremost, he got bin laden, and we're safer today from al qaeda than we ever have been. on issues of foreign policy as well, he has put the american people front and center. and america is looked at in a much better light than they were under george w. bush. so again, yes, tremendous
challenges are ahead, but i think it's a terrific opportunity and as long as this president focuses on a thriving middle class, on equality for everyone, i think he's going to do a very good job because in comparison to the gop, when all they're looking at is dividing america on these issues and we're seeing it now with this kerfuffle about "duck dynasty," then they are not in a good place. especially going into a presidential election. >> very quickly, ben, i'm just curious. your thoughts on this division, this split that has emerged among republicans. especially on nsa surveillance, foreign policy, shall we say the rand paul wing of the republican party versus the peter king wing of the republican party. this two guys have gone after each other. >> well, i think we have graciously been losing to barack obama for five years. and there's many conservatives who said we're tired of losing and shaking hands at the end of the day, so you do have a battle. i think it's a positive thing because otherwise, the democrats
are winning every major argument because we weren't fighting hard enough, so there are people who aren't happy with speaker boehner and they're not getting along, and that's a good thing because they're a lot of concerns, what's the point of acting like we get along and nice if we're consistently losing against this white house and this president on issues that we disagree with and we were sent to washington to fix and change so that's why it's there. and i'm okay with it. >> ben ferguson and maria cardona. getting ready for the president's news conference. thank you. >> the president's end of the year news conference only a few minutes away. you'll see the whole thing live on cnn. that will begin when we come back. stick with innovation.
i'm wolf blitzer in washington. we want to welcome our viewers in the united states and around the world. within the next few minutes, the president of the united states wi will walk into the briefing room, open with a statement, and answer reporters' questions, and then he's heading off to hawaii for some vacation time. brianna keilar is at the white house. set the scene for us. do we know what the president will say in the opening remarks? >> wolf, talking to white house officials, i expect that he will be talking about the economy, certainly, which as you know is part of his agenda for the coming year. and he recently has talked a lot about a populous message. income inequality and trying to
reduce the disparity between the rich and poor. i think we may hear something on that. we may also hear him acknowledge this is really a big week and a half ahead of his administration when it comes to the affordable care act. obamacare. some key deadlines, people who need to sign up for coverage in order to have it by january 1st. and certainly there may be some considerations that are being made for some people who may not be able to do that at this point. but it's something he's going to have to acknowledge as well as really just the progress when it comes to the website and the rollout of his key legislative achievement of his first agenda, wolf. >> jake tapper is here as we get ready. a little awkward today on this day, the president wrapping up the year with a news conference. the website was down for a few hours. >> bad, and this gets into one of the challenges the president is facing and what his aides are talking to him about right now, which is staying on message, some of the messages brianna was talking about, talking about how
good the economy is, better than expected economic numbers coming out this morning. talking about how the affordable care act, there are problems with the website, but ultimately, it's going to be a plus. and talking about how he's going to take the reforms recommended about the national security agency security programs very seriously. the challenge for him is not to be knocked off message. not to engage. you might remember during his first year when he engaged in that very last question in a press conference about his friends, henry lewis gates arrested in cambridge and he said the police acted stupidly. threw his administration off message for at least three our nor days. that's the thing the president is going to try to avoid doing so he can focus like a laser on his message. >> he's got his work cut out for him in the next minute or so, we expect he'll be walking out. the new cnn folnumbers show his job approval number down at 41%. 56% disapproval. how sensitive are they at the white house to this collaps