December 6th, 2013
09:16 AM ET

Branson Says Mandela Was One Flight Away From Trying to Stop Iraq War

Sir Richard Branson reflected on Nelson Mandela’s life and legacy, saying that he had “a wonderful sense of humor” and didn’t want any conflict in the world. He said that Mandela was one flight away from trying to get Saddam Hussein to step down in an effort to prevent the invasion in Iraq. However, bombing started as “the plane was due to leave South Africa.”

Branson said, “The one word I think that sums him up the most is forgiveness. And I think that he would want all of us individually, in our own lives, to pick up the phone today. Talk to somebody that you’ve fallen out with. Invite them to lunch. Embrace them. Life is too short to have any enemies. On the bigger picture, he would have welcomed the talks with Iran. It’s so much better to try to become friends again with nations that you’ve once fallen out with, rather than drop bombs on each other. He was incredibly angry about the invasion of Iraq. I spoke with him before the invasion of Iraq. And actually sent a plane to take him to Iraq to see Saddam Hussein to try to persuade Saddam Hussein to step down. Him and Kofi Anon were going on a secret mission. The day the plane was due to leave South Africa, sadly the bombing started and they never had the chance to try to get Saddam Hussein to step down in the interest of his country and the people. He was trying all the time to try to resolve conflicts, rather than encourage the starting of conflicts to resolve problems.”

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December 6th, 2013
09:05 AM ET

Mandela Made Racism Seem "Stupid," "Old-Fashioned"

Former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Tony Blair told CNN that Nelson Mandela’s influence on the peace process in Northern Ireland was “hugely important” and his leadership “made racism seem somehow stupid and old-fashioned and irrelevant” to people in Western countries.

“As a leader, he was just a huge inspiration. I remember when we started our own peace process in Northern Ireland, he was such an example for reconciliation, forgiveness, the ability to put the past behind you,” Prime Minister Blair said. “He was hugely important in all the work we did for Africa and for ushering in a whole new generation of leaders in Africa. But I will also remember him as a man coming and visiting me in Downing Street, and he’d come in the door and after saying hello to myself and my wife, he’d say hello to the people on the door, the people making the tea, the staff members. He had a wonderful way about him. And to be with him, by the way, was enormous fun.”

Blair added, “I think for a lot of people in Western countries, he made racism seem somehow stupid and old-fashioned and irrelevant, as well as, wrong. He had that quality because his greatness as a leader was so obvious, he just stood frankly taller than anyone else.”

“The best advice I got was particularly I remember around the Northern Ireland peace process,” Blair said. “It was very, very difficult because there was so much bitterness and suffering, actually…. And he used to always say look, ‘The suffering is there and it’s real. And you can’t wish it away.’ He said, ‘You don’t pretend it hasn’t happened. And you can’t forget it. But what you can do is embrace the future in a way. That means that you triumph over that adversity and that suffering.’ And that was for me, what he represented…. It was hugely important for us.”

 

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November 22nd, 2013
08:03 AM ET

Nuclear Fallout After Senate Overturns 60-Vote Rule for Nominees

Senate Democrats dropped the filibuster bomb Thursday, and now the question is what kind of fallout will result from the so-called nuclear option.

By a 52-48 vote, the Senate ended the ability of minority Republicans to continue using filibusters to block some of President Barack Obama's judicial and executive nominations, despite the vehement objections of Republicans.

"Instead of 60 votes to break a filibuster, its now  51 votes – a simple majority," CNN's Dana Bash reports.

"Democrats say, they get that this landmark rules change benefits them now but could really hurt them some day when they lose the control of the Senate and end up back in the minority. But they essentially say that they really don’t have any choice, they prefer to take that risk, rather than deal with what they call 'continued obstruction' now."

Republicans warned the controversial move would worsen the already bitter partisan divide in Washington, complaining it took away a time-honored right for any member of the Senate minority party to filibuster.

"This changes everything, this changes everything," veteran GOP Sen. John McCain of Arizona told reporters. He blamed newer Democratic senators who never served as the minority party for pushing the issue, adding: "They succeeded and they will pay a very, very heavy price for it."

CNN Political Analyst and Executive Editor of the Daily Beast John Avlon weighs in on the historic change, saying Democrats pulled the trigger "because things are objectively worse than ever before when it comes to abuse of the filibuster.” (SEE VIDEO BELOW)

“The key stat that the senate majority leader's office is putting out is that half of all nomination filibusters occurred under this president. And that really helps illustrates just how much precedent has been blown up over the last, in particular, decade: Filibusters out of control, nominations aren't going through, promises have been repeatedly broken, trust is at an all-time low inside the institution. So now Harry Reid switches his position and drops the nuclear option. It's an extraordinary moment."

Avlon says the situation is underscores the significant lack of bipartisanship in the Senate.

“They’re feeling they're essentially cutting their losses, and this way they can get at least get some nominations through.”

Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) says that changing the filibuster rules will improve how the Senate works. (SEE VIDEO BELOW)

“There's no reason that changing this to majority rule on appointments will create ill will.  State legislative bodies, Senates do this every day.  They find ways to work together, people of goodwill will find ways to work together here," Kaine says.

“I have worked in a legislative body that operated by majority rule and we worked together fine,” Sen. Kaine says. “This will not make anything worse.  You can work together in a majority rule situation, just like you can with filibusters, holds and clotures. I actually believe that the Senate rules were impeding us working together. And look, the Senate this year has passed historic immigration reform.  We passed a historic Marketplace Fairness Act last week, we passed the historic bill that guarantee LGBT Americans couldn't be discriminated against in the workplace. The Senate is doing things.  We are reaching across the aisle and solving problems.  This will not change that in one respect.”

Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL) agrees with "New Day” Anchor Chris Cuomo that the GOP Obamacare playbook should contain solutions and less criticism. (SEE VIDEO BELOW)

When asked if solutions should be in the playbook, Rep. Yoho responds, “I agree 100%.... Criticism at this point is not going to help anybody. We need solutions. We’ve got two great solutions out there. We talk about it all the time.”

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November 18th, 2013
10:13 AM ET

Rep. Schock (Ill.) on Tornadoes: "Warning Systems Worked"

Live from Washington, Illinois, Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL) revealed what he’s seen when walking around the communities hit hardest by the deadly tornadoes. Rep. Schock also addressed the response system.

“Well, it's amazing. I came over yesterday right after it hit and we're standing in neighborhoods that literally the only thing left is the pavement. Not a single structure. Not a single light post. The homes are completely vacuumed up,” Rep. Schock said. “And standing there talking to people who are just dazed and confused and in shock that, you know, they woke up in the morning and their house is gone now.”

He added, “I think the reason that there was only one loss of life in a community like this was because of the emergency response or the emergency warning system. I live in Peoria, and my phone was alerting, giving me the flood or the tornado warning system on my phone, which I was surprised I was getting it. And as I talked to neighbors and I said, you know, how did you know this was coming, the sirens were going, our cell phones were going off, and one neighbor amazingly came outside, saw his neighbor across the street mowing the lawn with his headset on, and went over luckily and said, hey, there's a tornado coming, get in the basement. So neighbor after neighbor was looking out for each other. The warning systems worked and I think that's why, despite the disaster you see, that there was such minimal loss of life.”

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