tv Piers Morgan Live CNN September 6, 2013 6:00pm-7:01pm PDT
that does it for this edition of "360." thanks for watching. "piers morgan live" starts now. this is "piers morgan live." i'm john berman in for piers. welcome to our viewers here in the united states and all around the world. if this were a summer blockbuster you would know exactly how it would go. the good guy goes after the bad guy. there's a big bloody noisy battle, lots of special effects, and in the end, the good guy always wins. but summer's over. this is no blockbuster.
this is the real world. president obama is going up against a bad guy, a guy who will stop at nothing to stay in power, but it is anybody's guess how it will end. meanwhile, back at the ranch, the president has to win another big battle before he can go after the bad guy. he has to get the american people and congress on his side. the odds right now, not exactly in his favor. here are the numbers. in the senate, 25 yes votes, 19 no votes, 56 undecided. in the house, the math no better. 24 yes votes, 119 no votes, 270 undecided and 20 simply unknown. the president, meanwhile, staking everything on turning those numbers around. >> this is hard, and i was under no illusions when i embarked on this path. but i think it's the right thing
to do. i think it's good for our democracy. we will be more effective if we are unified going forward. >> let's get started with the battle on capitol hill. joining me now, two congressmen who couldn't disagree more about what to do in syria. there's a twist here. florida democrat alan grayson says the house doesn't want to strike on syria and the american people don't want it, either. indiana republican luke messer says action is needed and dictators around the world are watching. congressman messer, let me start with you. you support, you're republican, i should reiterate here, you support the president's proposal to strike on syria. what convinced you? >> listen, i'm no fan of this president. i'm certainly no fan of this president's foreign policy. i think his mismanagement in the region has compounded our problems there. but i believe that we can't stop being america just because we have an ineffective commander in
chief and when you look at the facts and the evidence here, there are several things that are clear. it is clear that assad gassed his own people. it's clear that that gas was used to murder hundreds of innocent women and children. it's clear that our allies in the region like israel are asking us to intervene and it's clear that evil dictators in places like iran and north korea are watching and will be emboldened if we don't act. i think under those situations -- under those circumstances, we must act. and if i had to vote today, i would vote yes. >> congressman grayson, you also have been part of the security briefings, have you not? >> yes. >> and you come away with a much different opinion. you don't believe we have to strike. you don't feel the same moral compunction to act. why not? >> clearly we don't have to strike. i think that's indubitable. we shouldn't strike for several reasons. first, it's not our responsibility to act alone. there are other ways to deal
with this problem. thirdly, it's dangerous to do this. fourth, it won't do any good. fifth, it's expensive. you know, let's play this out a little bit, okay? whatever we do, whatever strike is contemplated here, we're not going to end the civil war in syria that's been going on now for two years, nor the civil war between shiite muslims and sunni muslims which is what the civil war reflects which has been going on now for 1300 years. secondly, we're not going to be able to depose a dictator and third, we're not even going to be able to prevent a new attack and chemical weapons. in fact, we're not going to reduce the stockpile of chemical weapons because if you bomb those chemical weapons, you create mushroom clouds of poison gas. so when you really get down to it, it's an exercise in chest beating for us to attack this other country but if we do, it's an act of war and an act of war means they will counter attack or can counter attack. they can counter attack against us, they can counter attack against turkey, they can counter attack against israel. they can counter attack against our fleet in the mediterranean. they can counter attack against our embassy 15 miles from their border in beirut. there is all sorts of ways this
can go awry and we know how this movie ends. we have seen it before. we have seen it in iraq and afghanistan. it ends in a quagmire. a decade long quagmire that won't end at all. that's why the american people are against this. that's why 70,000 people have come to our don't attack syria.com website in a matter of days and why the letters, members of congress including by the way the gentleman you have on are running 25-1 against 100-1 against. >> congressman messer, congressman grayson brings up the point many americans are against this, we have heard from members who say they are getting hundreds of phone calls against military action, some people saying they are getting no calls in favor of it. what are you hearing from your constituents? >> listen, i think alan's comments point out that there are a lot of questions here. frankly, the president has a lot of work to do to convince the american people that this is the appropriate course of action. i hear from my constituents, too, many of them have a lot of questions about what is to be done in syria. i think virtually everyone
understands that we're dealing with a bad actor here. assad is an evil guy who has done terrible things and frankly been america's enemy for most of the last decade or more. i think people in america don't want to stand by and watch a bully gas and murder his own people. but what hasn't been explained adequately yet by this administration is how is our intervention going to make it better, what is the plan after that. i'm not suggesting that the president post those things on twitter or on facebook, but the case has to be made to the american people and frankly, it hasn't been made yet. >> you think the president, can he make that case tuesday night when he speaks to the nation in what will be a major address? >> well, he's going to have to. listen, again, i'm no fan of this president. i'm no fan of this president's foreign policy. alan and i tend to disagree on lots of other topics, most the time alan's on the president's side on those topics when we disagree. so i'm not this president's great defender. but listen, our country is a lot bigger than the political debate
we're going through right now. i believe this is in our national security interest. i think it is vital we strike. clearly our allies in the region like israel are asking us to, so it's important the president does make the case. >> congressman grayson, you know, one of the things that henry ford liked to say was that if we always listen to the people, we would be riding faster horses right now. we would have never discovered cars. the public's not always right, are they? >> the public has the right to decide when this country goes to war. >> congress, i thought you said, has the right to decide when the country goes to war. >> we're supposed to act as representatives and that's why you're seeing such a -- [ speaking simultaneously ] >> can i finish? okay, good. the house gets elected every two years. your numbers are off. according to the "washington post" there are only 25 members of the house who favor this attack and 224 were against it. that's reflecting public
opinion. the polls show two or three to one against it among americans but they don't show how inflamed, how adamant the opponents are about this. the people who recognize that this is the first step toward being dragged into a third middle east war in the course of one decade. they just don't want it. it's not that people are tired of war. they're sick of war. they're disgusted with war. they want peace and they know that this is the first step toward another war. in that sense, the people are right and congress needs to recognize that. if the president's asking us choose between me and the people, i think we go with the people. >> senator dianne feinstein of california, which is not a conservative state, a fairly liberal state much like you are, sir, says that she is supporting the president on this because -- in going against her constituents in some cases because she says they haven't seen what i have seen. she has been to these security briefings and like congressman messer, been convinced that there is a need for action right now. the death of 1400 people, including 400 children, which the president seemed to be
emphasizing right now in syria, if that's true, that doesn't convince you that the united states should get involved? >> i have seen everything that she's seen and there's nothing else there. the president has declassified everything the president thought could make this case. he hasn't declassified everything that might unmake this case, but he's declassified everything that could make this case. i have no idea what she's referring to. i've seen exactly the same 12-page document that she's seen. i don't find it convincing at all. it doesn't change the fact that it's not our responsibility to act alone here, which is what's being contemplated. it's very dangerous. it's expensive and it's not going to do any good. it's just not going to do any good. >> last question. is there anything that the president can say tuesday night that would change your mind? >> yes. the president can demonstrate that we're under attack from syria, that our allies are under attack from syria, or that there is a so far unknown how shall i
say this, holocost taking place in syria that has escaped the world's attention. my objective is to protect the people of the united states and our allies. that's why we have a department of defense, not a department of war. that's what would change my mind. >> congressmen, thank you both so much for joining us tonight. i have a feeling we will be hearing a lot from you over the coming weeks. americans clearly at odds over syria, including in congress. we will talk to some of the people who will really be affected by this. joining me now, a man who says the assad regime fall -- if the assad regime falls, the country will be overrun by militants. he is a member of the syrian american forum and cousin to the former president of the syrian opposition coalition. let me be clear here, our guest here supports the assad regime. am i correct, sir? >> actually, i would reclassify what you said, piers. good evening. a sad evening.
no, i am not here to support the assad regime. i am here to make certain facts known, if facts matter at all. i'm just a doctor. i'm not a politician. and my family has always been a vocal critic of the tyranny and the corruption and all that. that is not the issue and i'm not alone, actually. many, many, many syrians are like me. >> let's talk about the facts. i should make clear you are speaking here from the united states. the president has laid out his case. he said 1400 people have died, including 400 children, in this attack which he says involved chemical weapons. the united states says they have found signatures of sarin gas as part of that attack. the british now say they have actually tested and found sarin gas itself there. you don't believe that to be the case? >> well, the facts i see is a report from bbc back from a few months ago when the initial
chemical attack occurred, april or march, and her words were very clear. her strongest suspicion was that the use was not by the syrian army, when most likely it was, not definitively, by the rebels. i would like to make some definitions clear here. opposition is opposition. militancy, terrorist militancy, is a different story and our problem now is that the opposition has been hostaged, has been hijacked, by militant terrorism. that is a problem. it is not that we are saying, and this is why i wanted to make sure i beg to differ with your initial characterization of myself, we have been bullied. people like me who are moderate syrians who have kept it to themselves for the longest time, we have been bullied every time we say this is not the way to repair the problem into you're pro this and pro that.
we are pro democracy, pro a pleuralistic syria, a syria that has the rights of syria protected, the freedom of religion projected and the facts, if the facts do matter, the only true report that came out of syria out of this incident was actually published by a journalist who i understand, and i'm not a journalist here, i understand this is a pretty decorated journalist that writes for associated press, npr, among others. and i would encourage the listeners to look into that report. >> doctor, i do thank you very much for joining us right now. again, speaking on behalf or at least in support of the assad regime. i want to bring in right now farah atassi, political activist and member of the syrian national coalition. she is an advisor to rebel general idriss and she supports the idea of strikes in syria.
let me first of all ask you to respond to the doctor we just heard there, who suggested there's a difference between opposition and terrorism. what do you say to that? >> first of all, i am a pro strike against assad regime. we should be clear here that this strike is not towards syria, the country. it's not towards syrian citizens. it's not towards civilians' neighborhood. it's towards the military station and camps that the regime is launching and killing his own people. i hear the doctor loud and clear and i think the argument that freedom fighters decided in august to commit mass suicide by gassing themselves and gassing their children, over 460 children gassed and decided to make that act just to provoke a u.s. intervention, this is a
pathetic argument. the doctor is a doctor, i ask him kindly to go to the refugee camps in the turkish border and the lebanese border and the jordanian border, he will listen to two million eyewitness. two million eyewitness who will tell him that crimes and the violation that the syrian regime committed against the syrian people. >> miss atassi, one of the problems that the opposition and people in support of a strike here are running into in the u.s. are videos like came out in the "new york times" yesterday of one of the rebel groups in 2012 executing people who appear to be members of the syrian military. brutal video to watch. we're not going to show it right now. we are. there's the headline of the "new york times." the picture, at least. you can see that execution from 2012. how do you convince the american people that an air strike isn't helping the individuals behind brutality like that? >> thank you so much for raising
such an important question, and i think the "new york times" owes an apology. that's first of all, there are tons of uncredible videos and youtubes out there on the social media and social network and second, the "new york times" admitted that this video was taken in the spring of 2012. at that time, even the supreme military council headed by general salim idriss was not established, not formed. they have been established in december 2012. so right now, of course, any violation, remember, we are in a war conflict, the regime is waging war against his own people. some violations may happen here and there, but the supreme military council and we help syrian opposition made it clear that these acts are condemned and this is not the conduct of the free syrian army. this is not the morale of the free syrian army. the free syrian army from the beginning, they said they will
abide by geneva conventions. this exactly shows the necessity of u.s. leadership in helping the moderate syrian freedom fighters and the moderate syrian opposition leaders to have all the tools to have control on the ground. >> miss atassi, thank you very much. farah atassi speaking on behalf of the rebels in syria. thank you so much for being with us. appreciate your point of view. coming up, is tuesday's speech to the american people the most important of president obama's career? i want to put that question to historian doug brinkley and fareed zakaria.
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bombed, it was profoundly unpopular both in congress and around the country to help the british. doesn't mean it wasn't the right thing to do. >> that was president obama today and at this moment, president obama on his way back from the summit in st. petersburg, russia, due to land at andrews air force base any minute right now, then head back to the white house. you're looking at live pictures of the white house right now. i'm john berman in for piers morgan tonight. the obama white house is framing the debate on syria in historic terms. you just heard the president there. but so far, many in congress and the country are unconvinced. here with some perspective, fareed zakaria and douglas brinkley. fareed, let me start with you. you heard the president bring up world war ii, the bombings on london that happened before the u.s. entered into the war. you heard secretary of state bring up hitler in much more direct ways, and nazi germany in much more direct ways. are these apt comparisons, do
you think? >> no, they are not apt to begin with. let's just remember our history. adolf hitler controlled the largest army in the world in 1938 when the munich accord was signed, second richest or third richest country in the world and had a plan to conquer all of europe, perhaps all of the world. assad runs one of the poorest countries in the world, miserable conditions, is desperately trying to stay in charge of his own little misbegotten country but more importantly, the mistake here is that there is a vast divergence developing between the rhetoric the president is using, john kerry is using, and what we're proposing. so if indeed this is like world war ii, if this is like munich, if this is all about stopping adolf hitler or something like that, what we're proposing is two days of cruise missile strikes as a symbolic gesture, as a shot across the bow. if the president is right and
this is world war ii, we should be mobilizing the whole army and sending it into syria. you see what i mean? you're trying to wind people up for some monumental dramatic cause and then what you're proposing is a limited precise strike that's really designed to send a symbolic message. this has been the problem with the administration's policy all along. they want to do something very precise, sophisticated and signal but they want to paint it in these dramatic terms. >> let's take on history for a second here, doug, because the president also brought up rwanda today, saying that essentially if we saw the genocide in rwanda today and did nothing, we would regret it. is rwanda a better historical comparison? >> i agree with fareed, with every word he just said, completely. i don't think even rwanda is an analogy of what's going on right now. i know kosovo has been mentioned, too.
it's a little better than world war ii. the whole world war ii/hitler thing is very overwrought. i think the idea that chemical weapons are being used in syria, i mean, this is not a libya strike, you know, going after africa. this is in the heart of the middle east, where american interests are right by our border with turkey, our erstwhile nato ally, sharing a border with israel. it's a serious foreign policy crisis but the point fareed made is you don't want to oversell this as something larger than it is. i think that's where the administration has failed thus far. >> you brought up chemical weapons. are chemical weapons something worse here in general than what we normally see in warfare? chemical weapons seem to represent something different in our society and in our world culture. what if it had been a tactical nuclear weapon that killed 1,000 people? would there be this debate right now about whether the u.s. should act? >> no. i mean, obviously if it's
nuclear weapons, you would have nato involved here. but we're in a situation where nato's just sitting this thing out. you've got the united nations telling the united states not to do anything. you have the pope denouncing us. it's becoming just a series of folly s right here and it's probably because president obama just didn't act. if he would have struck i think immediately and didn't take this to congress, he probably could have done a couple days of that and gotten away with it. but this case right now, it's looking very grim in congress and the president has a herculean salesmanship job ahead of him. i agree with your trailer heading into this, this is a big speech to say the president's going to have to convince a lot of americans that this is the way to go, striking in syria. >> fareed, let me ask you this. would the president be better off asking for forgiveness right now than permission? would he have been better off if he had bombed right away? >> absolutely. doug is absolutely right. the strategy that should have been employed here was the president decided this was a red line, frankly they should have game planned this beforehand.
there should have been a contingency plan since a year ago, the president said this is a red line, they should have talked to themselves what if this red line is crossed and if that red line is crossed, here's what i think should have happened. a couple of hours later, he should have convened his national security council, had key congressional leaders in, said we're going to strike in an hour, begin the strike, then go to the american people and say we have warned assad not to use chemical weapons, this is in contravention, all that stuff, we have decided there had to be a response. we could not let it be unanswered. the united states had put its credibility on the line. he would have had congress with him. he would have had the public with him because there is a natural rally around the flag when the president makes a decision like that. and the world would have been somewhat divided, as it is now, but the point is it would have been done. it would have been -- he would have presented a fait accompli and you wouldn't have this hamlet bizarre, if you watched his press conference in russia,
you know, meandering, searching for analogies, you just have done it and you don't ask for forgiveness, you say i expect you to support me because this was and by the way, you know, 24 hours from now, it will all be over. >> doug, who gets the blame if congress doesn't support the bombing here, the bombing never happens, and say things get worse in syria. will this be the president's fault or will this be congress' fault? >> well, it will probably be the president's fault if that's the way you want to look at it, but i also am not so doomsday that administration. of the obama i remember when the gun debate was going on and president obama gave a big speech and we didn't get a result on gun control. the cycle will move on. if he doesn't get the vote, it will be a very grim couple of weeks, maybe months for the president, but by next spring, i'm not convinced everybody's going to be talking about syria again. there are sometimes 35 civil wars going on in the world and
seldom do we hear about them. this is unusual. assad used chemical weapons and if the president deserves real credit for anything, it's his reminding us that this isn't okay. he is taking a bit of moral leadership in the world that i think is very important and it might have the world community ready to act if chemical weapons are used a second time coming up in syria. >> gentlemen, thank you so much for joining me. really appreciate it. up next, president obama's pitch to the american people. why action in syria is such a tough sell. [ male announcer ] a doctor running late for a medical convention loses his computer, exposing thousands of patient records to identity theft. data breaches can happen that easily. we don't believe you should be a victim of someone else's mistake. we're lifelock. we constantly monitor the web so if any of your personal information is misused, we're on it. ♪ ow. [ male announcer ] call 1-800-lifelock or go to lifelock.com today.
this is what i think of congress. they are a bunch of marshmallows. that's what they are. that's what they've become. >> a bunch of marshmallows. john mccain getting an earful in phoenix last night. i'm john berman, in for piers morgan. joining me, van jones, co-host of "cross fire" which debuts monday, cnn political commentator ben ferguson, host of the ben ferguson show, and lieutenant colonel rick francona, former air attache in damascus, who traveled extensively in syria as an observer of the country's air defense and military operations. quite an introduction there. ben, let me start with you. we heard that town meeting where john mccain was presented with a bag of marshmallows right there. we have been hearing from members of congress all around the country who have been hearing from their constituents who are not at all happy with
the idea of an air strike right now. why do you think the public is where it is? why hasn't the president made more progress yet because we're more than a week into this, almost two full weeks into this. why hasn't he made more progress convincing the american people? >> well, first of all, it's always hard, people forget it's very hard to get a democratic republic to get on board with any war. we tend to be more isolationist. democracies don't like to go to war, number one, but number two, the president has a problem because it's almost like he's trying to start a car in fourth gear. for the past two years, he hasn't talked a lot about syria, just a few mentions here and there, then suddenly in a two-week period we're supposed to be basically on the brink of war. >> you're being charitable. what he has said about syria has been to convince the american people not to get involved. he's been actually talking much the opposite of what he's talking right now. >> so that makes it very, very hard when the groundwork hasn't been laid. ordinarily, a president, you start off in first gear, who is
assad, he's a bad guy, where are chemical weapons. americans don't even know what chemical weapons are so i feel like he's paying the cost now for trying to start a car in fourth gear. he's one of the best communicators on the world scene. maybe he'll figure it out. >> ben, how do you take issue with this? >> i think the problems didn't start in fourth gear. i think the problems start on his 40-minute walk when he decided instead of being a leader and deciding what best to do and take politics out of this decision, he decided i don't want to be the guy that pulls the trigger, i want to be able to blame congress if this isn't popular or doesn't go well. that's where the problems started. and then since then, the p.r. job by his leadership, i mean, john kerry, the secretary of state yesterday is actually trying to tell the american people that this isn't what he would consider to be going to war. dropping bombs on a country and going to congress to get the approval, that is war. and the american people don't like that. >> you're criticizing his
leadership on this issue but i have the feeling that had he not gone to congress, you would have said he was violating the constitution for not seeking congressional approval. >> the same people who criticize him now for going to congress, criticize him for not going to congress. >> that's a question. why did he not go to congress for libya and then now, it's suddenly so important. and with libya, he said looming catastrophe in benghazi, i've got to get in there, humanitarian disaster. this is why we're doing it now. so with this strike, it says, you know, oh, obama's like oh, maybe a month from now, it will accomplish our strategic objectives. it's preposterous. >> to say that none of these targets are time-sensitive i think is incorrect. >> this makes you crazy as a military guy, this delay. >> the whole thing makes you crazy. you're giving your enemy at least ten days' warning. they've got time to move things around, hide things, and alter the entire landscape of where you have to attack.
we have yet to lay out the strategic objective of what we want to do and we don't have the right assets in place to do it. you don't normally tell the pentagon you're allowed to use cruise missiles, here, em going to give you your objective. normally you say i'm going to do this, what do we need to move. >> did general dempsey enable this on the one hand by saying, you know, giving the okay? >> i don't understand -- >> hang on, hang on. let's have the colonel give one quick last word. >> i just don't understand why the general said these targets are not time-sensitive. targets are time-sensitive. they move. >> we will get to that. we will also talk about what the president needs to say in his speech on tuesday night.
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welcome back, everyone. breaking news. you are looking at air force one, president obama back from his trip to st. petersburg, the g-20 summit there, where he faced so many questions about the proposed military action led by the u.s., perhaps only manned by the u.s. in syria. you can see air force one taxiing right there. of course, the president did speak alone for a few minutes with president putin of russia. they disagree on the issue of syria. the president also tried to persuade some other leaders to
come to his side to help, perhaps, the u.s. effort in syria. elyse, i'm joined by elyse jordan, van jones, ben ferguson and colonel rick francona. as the president arrives home from this trip, does he arrive home in a better position than when he left on the issue of syria? >> i think he's in absolutely a worse position because the public has shown in their most recent gallop poll that they are really opposed to any intervention in syria. so now he has to make his case and he is waiting until tuesday night to do that. and it looks like it's going to be too late to get -- constituents have had such an outcry this week. the marshmallow incident with mccain you just showed onscreen. so there are some very passionate anti-war feelings there. >> bad enough to be called the marshmallow incident. van, you're a democrat. you support the president here with a lot of caveats. what do you want to hear from his address on tuesday night? what will convince democrats who are on the fence or maybe even opposed to military action at this point to support him?
>> well, let's be clear. i'm actually a dove on this. i don't want us to go into syria. i don't want us standing back throwing bombs at syria. in fact, i wish there were a dome over syria so we would think about all the other things we could be doing besides launching missiles. but what i am, besides being opposed to war, i'm really opposed to hypocrisy and i am shocked to hear all these conservatives who have never heard of a war they didn't like, a military strike they didn't like, a battle they didn't like, who somehow are now the most dovish people on planet earth. >> what about that, ben? senator sessions in alabama said today that if president george w. bush were in office, bashar al assad would not have used chemical weapons. is there an element of politics here? did you support the iraq war? >> well, i supported the iraq war -- >> yes, he did. >> -- but i also think over the last two years -- let me finish kw -- over the last two years, the mishandling of syria by the lack of leadership by barack obama
and the lack of leadership when we were attacked in benghazi has emboldened people like assad to do this. and the proof is look at how bad the president has handled the situation this week. if it's such a dire situation as he's trying to tell democrats and republicans who are against this, then why did you go play politics by going to congress? why did you wait two years to act? why did you wait for 110,000 people to be killed in syria? he's got a really bad set of principles here to go try to sell it to the american people tuesday night, and i think most people are saying we're not buying into how bad it is because look how long you've waited to do this. >> we just got a little bit of time left. i want to ask a question to elyse and the colonel here because you have both been in a lot of bad places, iraq, afghanistan, all over the middle east. i have, too. when you confront the suffering you see in some of these places at the hands of dictators, you see how people suffer, you're often left with the feeling couldn't we do something to help. could other countries step in
and do something to stop this. is this one of those times when there is an obligation to try to do something, anything, not make the perfect the enemy of the good? >> i don't think that a bombing necessarily accomplishes that. i think that perhaps a targeted strike on assad would. but -- >> take him out. >> yeah, taking him out. i think that would send a message. >> that makes you smile, colonel. >> well, i sort of agree. i think we missed our opportunity about 18 months ago. you know, we didn't start the civil war. the civil war was a home-grown thing and we could have capitalized on it and then come to their assistance. that was the call for action. we need help, help us, and we didn't help. so they turned to the islamists and now we're seeing the price of that. but i think that there is a call to do something, but i think that maybe it's too little, too late. >> all right. very quick last word, van. you have a new show on monday. >> thank you.
i'm excited about the new show on monday starting 6:30. i just think that we need to be very clear, the president was courageous to bring congress in, to bring this to the american people. the american people don't want war. that's a good thing. and we should now work together to find better outcomes there. >> thank you so much, all of you. i really appreciate it. when we come back, a battle on the home front. a white supremacist tries to take over a small town in north dakota. i will speak to the only african-american resident in this small town. woman: everyone in the nicu -- all the nurses wanted to watch him when he was there 118 days. everything that you thought was important to you changes in light of having a child that needs you every moment.
white supremacist paul craig cobb is causing all kinds of trouble in leaf, north dakota. just days ago, the people of leaf, all 24 of them, learned of cobb's secret plot to take over their town. his goal is to turn leaf into a quote, white nationalist intentional community. bobby harper is leaf's only african-american resident. he and his wife sheryl joined me now. thanks so much for being with us. first, tell me what leaf was like, describe this community until a few weeks ago. >> it was nice. it was peaceful. everybody got along. we could basically leave our doors unlocked and there was no fear, nobody wouldn't harm us. >> when you first heard that this man, paul craig cobb, had moved into town, the small town of 24 people, and his goal is to
turn this into a kind of haven for white >> it made me feel afraid. if his goal is to just have only white people here, where do my husband and i go? because i know i would not be welcome. some of the posts that have been about me have made that very clear. they hold me in complete disregard, complete scorn, because i have the audacity to be married to a black man. >> you are putting it very nicely. some of the posts he said were crude. they were awful. they called you a filthy race-mixing white woman. this is in your own town. >> don't forget being peabrained, also. >> you guys have lived here for years. have you ever experienced any
kind of racism in this town? >> never, not me. everybody has been cool. >> and the town is so small, 24 people. that might be a high count. have either of you bumped into this man yet? >> i ran into him last year. he was out walking and i was outside, as well. so we introduced ourselves, and just chatted for a little bit, and he asked if -- as i remembered, he asked if i had property for sale. i said it belonged to my mom, and he said, would she be willing to sell? i said no, i had no idea what his plans were, but i knew that my mom would not be willing to sell any property. >> he was about 50 to 75 yards away from me when i met him, and he asked me did i have any land for sale. he wouldn't quite turn around so i could see his face. and i told him no, but he had a
long, three quarter length coat on. it was kind of warm for that coat. but he didn't want me to see his face, so he kind of looked over his shoulder and asked me the question. >> of course, the reason he wants to buy the land we now know is so that more people, more white supremacists can move into up to, essentially take over the town. if you had a majority in the town council, his thinking goes they could run it the way they wanted to. i know there's a town meeting tonight going on probably right now. what are the plans this community has right now to deal with paul craig cobb? >> i think it's unclear. i think we're up sure as to what to do right now. we'll just have to wait and see what we discuss at the meeting tonight. >> how is the community treated you? has everyone that lives there rallied around you against this guy?
>> yes. everybody has been very, very supportive. very kind. i have roots in this town. i didn't grow up in this town, but my mom did, and there are still relatives that live around this general area. so i have a reason to be here. i have a history of being from this area, around from this area. so it's disconcerting that someone would come in and want to make us change our entire way of life just so that they can be supported by -- surrounded only by white people, like-minded white people. >> to be clear, this is your town now too. you live there, you have some roots there. he's coming into where you live in your community. >> yeah, he has the audacity to ask me for information to buy land and his intentions were to harm my way of life and make my
way of life uncomfortable. that's very, very uncomfortable for me. and i don't like how things are going. i don't like the way he came at me to ask him for information to get this land and something has to be done. if he can't love his fellow man, then he needs to ask god to help him or something, because i'm not very happy and the people in this town aren't very happy. >> bobby and cheryl harper, we wish you peace and happiness for a long, long time in this town, your home in leaf, north dakota. thank you very much for being with us. >> thank you for having us. >> no problem. >> and that is all for us tonight. i will see you monday morning, very early at 5:00 a.m. for "early start." dr. sanjay gupta reports "diana nyad:extreme dream" starts right after this. ♪
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