Return to Transcripts main page

AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA

Obama Gives Final Address to U.N.; New Details on Bomb Suspect's Notebook; Bomb Suspect's Wife Left U.S. Days Before Attack. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired September 20, 2016 - 11:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[11:00:00]

OBAMA: ... seek to build, rather than to destroy. And there is a military component to that. It means being united and relentless in destroying networks like ISIL which show no respect for human life.

But it also means that in a place like Syria, where there's no ultimate military victory to be won, we're gonna have to pursue the hard work of diplomacy that aims to stop the violence and deliver aid to those in need and support those who pursue a political settlement and can see those who are not like themselves as worthy of dignity and respect.

Across the region's conflicts, we have to insist that all parties recognize a common humanity and that nations end proxy wars that fuel disorder, because until basic questions are answered about how communities coexist, the embers of extremism will continue to burn, countless human beings will suffer, most of all in that region. But extremism will continue to be exported overseas and the world is too small for us to simply be able to build a wall and prevent it from affecting our own societies.

And what is true in the Middle East is true for all of us. Surely, religious traditions can be honored and upheld while teaching young people science and math rather than intolerance. Surely, we can sustain our unique traditions while giving women their full and rightful role in the politics and economics of a nation. Surely, we can rally our nations to solidarity while recognizing equal treatment for all communities, whether it's a religious minority in Myanmar or an ethnic minority in Burundi or a racial minority right here in the United States.

And surely, Israelis and Palestinians will be better off if Palestinians reject incitement and recognize the legitimacy of Israel, but Israel recognizes that it cannot permanently occupy and settle Palestinian land.

We all have to do better as leaders in tamping down rather than encouraging a notion of identity that leads us to diminish others. And this leads me to the fourth and final thing we need to do, and that is sustain our commitment to international cooperation rooted in the rights and responsibilities of nations.

As president of the United States, I know that for most of human history, power has not been unipolar. And the end of the Cold War may have led too many to forget this truth. I've noticed as president, that at times both America's adversaries and some of our allies believe that all problems were either caused by Washington or could be solved by Washington. And perhaps too many in Washington believe that, as well.

(LAUGHTER)

But I believe America has been a rare superpower in human history, in so far as it has been willing to think beyond narrow self interest. And while we've made our share of mistakes over these last 25 years, I've acknowledged some, we have strived, sometimes at great sacrifice, to align better our actions with our ideas. And as a consequence, I believe we have been a force for good.

We have secured allies. We've acted to protect the vulnerable. We supported human rights and welcomed scrutiny of our own actions. We bound our power to international laws and institutions. When we've made mistakes, we've tried to acknowledge them. We have worked to roll back poverty and hunger and disease beyond our borders, not just within our borders. I'm proud of that.

But I also know that we can't do this alone. And I believe that if we're to meet the challenges of this century, we are all going to have to do more to build up international capacity. We cannot escape the prospect of nuclear war unless we all commit to stopping the spread of nuclear weapons and pursuing a world without them.

When Iran agrees to accept constraints on its nuclear program, that enhances global security and enhances Iran's ability to work with other nations. On the other hand, when North Korea tests a bomb, that endangers all of us. And any country that breaks this basic bargain must face consequences. And those nations with these weapons, like the United States, have a unique responsibility to pursue the path of reducing our stockpiles and reaffirming basic norms like the commitment to never test them again.

We can't combat a disease like Zika that recognizes no borders -- mosquitoes don't respect walls -- unless we make permanent the same urgency that we brought to bear against Ebola, by strengthening our own systems of public health, by investing in cures and rolling back the root causes of disease, and helping poorer countries develop a public health infrastructure.

We can only eliminate extreme poverty if the sustainable development goals that we have set are more than words on paper. Human ingenuity now gives us the capacity to feed the hungry and give all of our children, including our girls, the education that is the foundation for opportunity in our world. But we have to put our money where our mouths are.

And we can only realize the promise of this institution's founding to replace the ravages of war with cooperation, if powerful nations like my own accept constraints. Sometimes I'm criticized in my own country for professing a belief in international norms and multilateral institutions. But I am convinced that in the long run, giving up some freedom of action, not giving up our ability to protect ourselves or pursue our core interests, but binding ourselves to international rules over the long term enhances our security.

And I think that's not just true for us. If Russia continues to interfere in the affairs of its neighbors, it may be popular at home. It may fuel nationalist fervor for a time. But over time, it's also going to diminish its stature and make its borders less secure. In the South China Sea, a peaceful resolution of disputes offered by law will mean far greater stability than the militarization of a few rocks and reefs. We are all stakeholders in this international system. And it calls upon all of us to invest in the success of institutions to which we belong. And the good news is that many nations have shown what kind of progress is possible (inaudible).

Consider what we've accomplished here over the past few years. Together, we mobilized some 50,000 additional troops for U.N. peacekeeping, making them nimble, better equipped, better prepared to deal with emergencies. Together, we established an open government partnership so that increasingly transparency empowers more and more people around the globe. And together, now, we have to open our hearts and do more to help refugees who are desperate for home.

We should all welcome the pledges of increased assistance that have been made at this General Assembly gathering. I'll be discussing that more this afternoon, but we have to follow through even when the politics are hard. Because in the eyes of innocent men and women and children, who through no fault of their own have had to flee everything that they know, everything that they love, we have to have the empathy to see ourselves.

We have to imagine what it would be like for our family, for our children if the unspeakable happened to us. And we should all understand that ultimately our world will be more secure if we are prepared to help those in need and the nations who are carrying the largest burden with respect to accommodating these refugees.

There are a lot of nations right now that are doing the right thing, but many nations, particularly those blessed with wealth and the benefits of geography that can do more to offer a hand, even if they also insist that refugees who come to our countries have to do more to adopt to the customs and conventions of the communities that are now providing them a home.

Let me conclude by saying that I recognize history tells a different story than the one that I've talked about here today. There's a much darker, more cynical view of history that we can adopt. Human beings are too often motivated by greed and by power. Big countries, for most of history, have pushed smaller ones around. Tribes and ethnic groups and nation states have very often found that most convenient to define themselves by what they hate and not just those ideas that bind them together.

Time and again, human beings have believed that they've finally arrived at a period of enlightenment only to repeat then cycles of conflict and suffering. Perhaps that's our fate. We have to remember that the choices of individual human beings led to

repeated world war. But we also have to remember that the choices of individual human beings created a United Nations so that a war like that would never happen again.

Each of us as leaders, each nation can choose to reject those who appeal to our worst impulses and embrace those who appeal to our best. For we have shown that we can choose a better history. Sitting in a prison cell, a young Martin Luther King Jr. wrote that "Human progress never rolls on the wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be coworkers with God."

And during the course of these eight years, as I've traveled to many of your nations, I have seen that spirit in our young people who are more educated and more tolerant and more inclusive and more diverse and more creative than our generation, who are more empathetic and compassionate towards their fellow human beings than previous generations.

And yes, some of that comes with the idealism of youth. But it also comes with young people's access to information about other peoples and places and (ph) understanding unique in human history, that their future is bound with the fates of other human beings on the other side of the world.

I think of the thousands of health care workers from around the world who volunteered to fight Ebola. I remember the young entrepreneurs I met who are now starting new businesses in Cuba, the parliamentarians who used to be just a few years ago prisoners in Myanmar. I think of the girls who have braved taunts or violence just go to go school in Afghanistan and the university students who started programs online to reject the extremism of organizations like ISIL.

I draw strength from the young Americans, entrepreneurs, activists, solders, new citizens who are remaking our nation. Once again, who are unconstrained by old habits and old conventions and unencumbered by what is but are instead ready to seize what ought to be.

My own family is made up of the flesh and blood and traditions and cultures and face from a lot of different parts of the world, just as America has been built by immigrants from every shore.

And in my own life, in this country and as president, I have learned that our identities do not have to be defined by putting someone else down, but can be enhanced by lifting somebody else up. They don't have to be defined in opposition to other, but rather by a belief in liberty and equality and justice, fairness.

And embrace of these principles as universal doesn't weaken my particular pride, my particular love for America. It strengthens it. My belief that these ideals apply everywhere doesn't lessen my commitment to help those who look like me or pray as I do or pledge allegiance to my flag, but my faith in those principles does force me to expand my moral imagination and to recognize that I can best serve my own people -- I can best look after my own daughters by making sure that my actions seek what is right for all people and all children and your daughters and your sons.

This is what I believe, that all of us can be coworkers with God. And our leadership and our governments and this United Nations should reflect this irreducible truth.

Thank you very much.

(APPLAUSE)

[11:17:01] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The president of the United States, his last address before the United Nations General Assembly, with a biting indictment of so many of the crises going on around the world right now. The president making it clear there is hope out there, but he was very sober.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer, reporting from Washington.

We have our analysts standing by to get us some quick reaction to what we just heard from President Obama. Our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger is here in Washington. Our White House correspondent, Michelle Kosinski, is at the United Nations; as is our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto. Our senior international correspondent, Clarissa Ward, is joining us from London right now.

Michelle Kosinski, the president's objective was to paint a picture of the accomplishments going on. He cited the Iran nuclear deal, the openings to Cuba and Myanmar but he minced no words in saying the world is a very troubled place right now.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, it was almost a lesson he wanted to teach here. This is his farewell speech. How do you make an impact at this moment? You look at what you've done, that you're proud of. He did list those accomplishments right off the bat. But then, instead of focusing on the positive, he went right into what are the biggest problems in the world. And it wasn't just trying to push forward his approach and why that would work. It was also calling out those who caused these problems. I mean, he called out inequality and greed. He called out leaders that he called strong men that oppress women and their people, that crack down on the press. It's kind of like in some of these instances where he's calling out the causes of problems. You know exactly who he's talking about. But he didn't have to mention any names.

Along those same lines, you also look -- I guess being an American, you look at how he's relating these problems to the big choice that's going on in America right now. He talked about the dangers of aggressive nationalism. He used the words crude populism. He said a nation that builds a wall around itself is only going to imprison itself. Twice he made reference to building walls. Close to the end of his speech, he said you can't simply build a wall. He said it's a choice of every person to reject those who appeal to our worst influences and our worst impulses. These are phrases we've heard him using for the past two years, and today he put it all together for democracy and making the right choices -- Wolf? BLITZER: Gloria, the president did not mention Donald Trump by name

in this address but clearly there were so many references to what Donald Trump is putting forward in this campaign and his strong disagreements, whether free trade, open borders, and on building this wall.

I'll play this clip, the clip resonating with a lot of folks here in the United States.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[11:20:07] BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today, a nation ringed by walls would only imprison itself. So the answer cannot be a simple rejection of global integration. Instead, we must work together to make sure the benefits of such integration are broadly shared and that the disruptions, economic, political and cultural, that are caused by integration are squarely addressed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: A clear reference to Donald Trump who says he will build a wall between the United States and Mexico and Mexico will pay for that wall.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I think that was part of his whole theme of his speech which he said early on, choose to press forward or retreat into a world sharply divided. I think his point was internally in this country, we cannot do that because we need to set an example and I think it was a clear reference to Donald Trump. And he said also there are some people who want to restore a better age when there was no, quote, "outside contamination," also a clear reference to the issue. He said we cannot ignore those visions, he said, but those visions fail to recognize our common humanity. It's clear he understands this is not only in reference to Donald Trump. This is in reference to the refugee crisis right now in this world and the immigration debate as well in our own country.

BLITZER: Jim Sciutto, he was pretty blunt in condemning what he sees as Russian aggression right now. He says, "The Russians are attempting to achieve, to re-find their lost glory," he said, "through force," right after addressing the crisis with Ukraine. He was very blunt in that area, blunt with the Chinese, certainly with the North Koreans as well.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: No question, multiple swipes at Russia. He talked about countries that imprison journalists. He talked about countries that empower oligarchs over their people, talking about Russia. He talked specifically, as you said, Wolf, using power, power politics, harkening back to the sort of rules of the 19th century that Russia's trying to bring to the fore there. Multiple swipes there. Then this bigger picture argument about -- he even said this -- the one place I cannot be sort of open- minded on is this battle he described between authoritarianism and liberalism and democracy. Again a reference to Russia.

The other thought, Wolf, is think about the delicacy, the balance the president had to strike with this speech. His message is, the world is safer and more prosperous than it's ever been. Meanwhile, you've just had this terror attack in New York. He's trying to calm fears. You know, that push, that drive towards fundamentalism that counts his message. He talks about the efficacy of diplomacy. He mentions Iran, Cuba, Myanmar, while you have this cease-fire in Syria falling apart, and part of that tied in with that declining deteriorating relationship with Russia, where diplomacy has failed, the failed reset. So he wants to give this more optimistic view of the world, and there are some facts to back that up. Meanwhile, there's this message, the threat of terrorism right here in New York City and in New Jersey, and the difficulty in Syria and with Russia. A very difficult balance for him to strike.

BLITZER: Clarissa Ward, you've spent time inside Syria. The president painted a very gloomy situation in the Middle East as a whole and condemned those countries where women are treat the as second half citizens, where gays are persecuted, even killed. He also spoke about Syria. That ceasefire right now seems to have totally gone away.

CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it has. It's a disaster. Yesterday, you saw an aid convoy trying to make its way to Aleppo, bombed, dozens killed in that attack.

I think what was so striking, listening to president's speech, was how professorial his tone is. We've heard this before. This was less a speech to my mind about shaping his legacy and going through and highlighting what has been successful and where some of his weaknesses may have been. It was less about shaping the narrative and more about sort of intellectualizing the world as we live in it now. You heard him talk a lot, not in great specifics about the Middle East or Syria or President Assad or that civil war, but in more general terms about the causes of these wars. He was talking about inequality, bad governance, sectarianism. And you sort of understand there. It gives you a window on to his foreign policy, because he sees things in such almost detached intellectual terms. That is perhaps why there has been a reluctance on the part of his administration to kind of roll up their sleeves and hold your nose and plunge in and call it as you see it. And that is the critique that has always been of President Obama when it comes to his foreign policy, particularly, in the Middle East, in Syria, where he's shown a real reluctance to get involved. It was interesting to hear that tone. This is less about what we've done, what we've achieved. This was more about, well, when whole, and you understand the roots of all these problems, we see there's very little America can do about them, and we have to work together in a multilateral diplomatic capacity. It was almost, on the one hand, a very optimistic sense but, on the other hand, an almost sense of defeatism -- Wolf?

[11:25:55] BLITZER: Very sad state of affairs globally presented by the president of the United States. He did get personal throughout the address before the United Nations. It was about 45 minutes. He also repeatedly lamented the gap between the rich and the poor.

We're going to continue to assess the president's speech.

Gloria, Michelle, Jim, Clarissa, thanks very much.

Thanks to all our viewers. I'm Wolf Blitzer. AT THIS HOUR with Berman and Bolduan starts right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm John Berman.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there, everybody. I'm Kate Bolduan.

We have breaking new details this morning from the notebook of Ahmad Rahami, the man suspected of planting bombs in four different locations in two states. Investigators now say this notebook, which was found on Rahami after his shootout with police, includes references to the American-born terrorist, Anwar al Awlaki, as well as the Boston Marathon bombers.

Also new this morning, new details about Rahami's wife. Officials tell CNN the Pakistani woman whom he married while overseas in 2011 left the United States just days before the attacks.

BERMAN: Rahami was charged with five counts of attempted murder of police officers. We're told he's not cooperating with law enforcement. He is not yet been read his Miranda Rights. We have some exclusive new video that appears to show him in New York City's Chelsea neighborhood on Saturday night, shortly before the first blast on 23rd Street. You see him wheeling the duffel bag down the street.

We also have new sound this morning from the suspect's father about his son's past run-ins with the law.

To CNN's Pamela Brown for the very latest on the investigation.

Pamela, what are you learning?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: This notebook is a crucial piece of evidence because it gives a glimpse into what was inside the suspect's mind. In this notebook that was on him that was recovered after hat shootout yesterday in Linden, New Jersey, he rambles on about terrorism. He talks about Anwar al Awlaki, of course, the al Qaeda cleric. He talks about the Boston Marathon bombings. We know he sort of replicated what we saw in Boston several years ago. So officials are looking at these ramblings and a picture's emerging of someone who may not just be influenced by one terrorist group. In fact, so far, there isn't any indication that the suspect right here was inspired by ISIS but, rather, had a variety of influences.

And so what officials are also looking at is his overseas travels. We know several types in the past few years he traveled to Pakistan, to a Taliban stronghold in Pakistan. He also traveled to Afghanistan. In 2011, I'm told by a U.S. law enforcement official, he married a woman and had been trying to get her back here. Eventually, several years later, he was able to get her to the United States. We're told -- my colleague, Evan Perez is told, she left the United States just a few days before he planted that bomb. So right now, the FBI's trying to reach officials in Pakistan and the UAE, trying to find her, locate her, talk to her about what she may have known about her husband's plans, what he intended to do

BERMAN: All right, Pamela Brown, thanks so much.

Now, we want to bring in former New York Homeland Security adviser and senior fellow for the Homeland Security Policy Institute, Michael Balboni; and former FBI special agent in New York, James Galanio; and CNN justice correspondent, Evan Perez.

Michael, I want to start with you.

The news that Anwar al Awlaki, his name, was in this notebook, Awlaki, who has been dead for a number of years, his presence still very much felt among would-be jihadists all around the world, particularly in the West, particularly here in the United States.

MICHAEL BALBONI, FORMER NEW YORK HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISER & SENIOR FELLOW FOR THE HOMELAND SECURITY POLICY INSTITUTE: It's been amazing he had such a broad footprint among actors in this terrorism realm, whether it was Major Hasan in the Ft. Hood shooting or Mutallab, on Christmas Eve. He has shown up again and again. His message was: Take the battle to the West; you can do this in your own neighborhoods. He really is the point of the entire --