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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Interview with Senator Jim DeMint; Romney's Mexican Heritage
Aired January 12, 2012 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERIN BURNETT, HOST: Thanks, John. Last night, we brought you a shocking picture of what appeared to be U.S. Marines urinating on the bodies of Taliban. Tonight we have the full video and audio. We're going to play them for you and we're also finding out the identities of the Marines believed to have been involved.
And who's responsible for the murder of a top Iranian nuclear scientist? Does the American government know who did it?
And the "Bottom Line", on President Obama's request to Congress to increase the debt ceiling by $1.2 trillion, one of the most conservative members of the Senate and the GOP South Carolina kingmaker, Senator Jim DeMint joins us.
Let's go OUTFRONT.
Well good evening everyone. I'm Erin Burnett and OUTFRONT tonight, this. This is a letter from President Barack Obama. He just sent it to House Speaker John Boehner. It says, quote, "further borrowing is required because the debt is limit to -- is right now close to, well, it's 11 zeros and a one, $100 billion. And that means we need more money.
The president's asking Congress to raise the debt ceiling by $1.2 trillion. Now to be fair we all knew this was coming because this is part of the deal Congress and the president signed back in August. OK. That doesn't mean it's going to happen without a lot of noise, fury -- sound and fury. Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina has led the charge against the nation's debt problem.
His new book is called "Now Or Never: Saving America From Economic Collapse" and he is OUTFRONT tonight -- Senator, good to see you.
SEN. JIM DEMINT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Good to see you and we talk a lot about the debt --
BURNETT: Yes, yes, you do. All right, so, this letter comes -- it's a very short letter -- "Dr. Mr. Speaker, pursuant to section (INAUDIBLE) -- I hereby certify that the debt subject to limit is within $100 billion of the limit and further borrowing was required to meet existing commitments. Sincerely, Barack Obama" -- how does it make you feel?
DEMINT: Like you said, we knew it was coming. It's strange that the so-called deficit reduction bill last August just increased our debt and unfortunately, I didn't -- I couldn't vote for it because we not only didn't need to raise the debt limit to the degree they were talking about, but we made this a passable with only a third of the votes of House members and a third of the Senate members.
Normally, it takes 60 votes to pass this in the Senate, but part of the deal was is we didn't have to vote for it, but it would pass. So I didn't want to be any part of it. We've got to take the debt more seriously than that. We spend all year, Erin, talking about deficit reduction. We just passed a spending bill for this year that spends more than last year.
BURNETT: Let me ask you, though, because you know then Senator Barack Obama also voted against increasing the debt ceiling.
BURNETT: When he became the president --
DEMINT: He called it a failure of leadership.
BURNETT: That's right. Then he became the president he realized something, which is true, which is that when you don't deuce (ph) that, you default on the debt. Most people who own U.S. treasuries are Americans. Most people who have promises made to them by the U.S. government in the past are people who get Social Security and wouldn't get paid. He's got a fair point.
DEMINT: Not if you cut spending. You don't have to default on the debt. But we're increasing our spending every year and we have through Bush, through Obama. We can't keep spending more than we're bringing in. Erin, we have to borrow over $120 billion every month just to keep the lights on --
BURNETT: Are you -- are you inherently against -- talk about the economic cycle for a second, right.
BURNETT: So when things are good --
BURNETT: -- say you didn't spend all your money, then when things are bad, you have a little bit left over. But also when things are bad by definition a government according to many economists, should borrow money. Then when things get better you pay -- are you against borrowing in any case?
DEMINT: No, but the scale of borrowing now -- I mean our debt is bigger than our economy. We're projecting another 10 trillion in additional debt over the next 10 years. There's not that much money in the world to borrow. That's what the whole point of the book is. Wait a minute we've had debt before, but we've never had it on this scale and with the type of projections we have. And we still have a president who says balancing the budget is an extreme idea. So the plan is to keep spending more than we're bringing in until the whole house of cards falls down.
BURNETT: Let me ask you this -- what happened in August when you voted against the debt ceiling. Stock market fell 634 points in one day. Our debt got downgraded by Standard and Poor's, which over time --
DEMINT: This was after it passed.
BURNETT: Historically -- that's right.
BURNETT: Historically it means our interest rates are going to go up. And you know from mortgages, all kinds of things where people borrow money, and the reason that Standard and Poor's gave the downgrade was it "reflects our view that the effectiveness, stability and predictability of American policymaking and political institutions have weakened, which makes us pessimistic about the capacity of Congress and the administration."
DEMINT: What they're saying --
BURNETT: That finger was pointed at you as well as the president.
DEMINT: They don't see the will to stop the spending. They see a spending addiction and they don't see any plan or intent to ever stop spending more than we're bringing in. And that not only sends a signal to the rating agencies, but to our creditors like China and markets all over the world. The only reason we're doing well right now as far as our dollar is concerned is the euro is doing worse and the Federal Reserve has been buying our debt or a large part of it the last two years.
BURNETT: S&P was agnostic though in terms of how we got extra money. Cut spending and increased taxes. Is there any tax increase you'd be OK with?
DEMINT: It doesn't make sense to have to do the wrong thing in order to do the right thing. American businesses and upper income pay a larger portion of the federal taxes of our national taxes than any country in the world. You've got that top three percent the president keeps talking about already pay over half or all our taxes and you've got half of Americans who don't pay any. We need to get rid of all the loopholes, all the corporate subsidies and handouts, have a flat rate that's border adjusted so we can compete with the world, but everyone needs to participate in the whole tax system.
BURNETT: And handouts.
BURNETT: How do you define handouts?
DEMINT: Well I mean --
BURNETT: Is all welfare a handout to you or no?
DEMINT: No, no. I mean I'm not saying throw out the welfare programs, but I did propose to take welfare spending back to 2008 levels. Now this is in the context of we've increased welfare spending 300 percent since we supposedly reformed it in the '90s and we've made poverty worse. We're not curing it. We're not helping to make people self sufficient. We're subsidizing poverty and trapping people in generational poverty --
BURNETT: So I wanted to read you a quote from your book.
BURNETT: And there's a lot of -- you've got a lot of interesting ideas and a lot of solutions, which I think is fair -- give you credit for. You don't just say there's a problem. You go through a lot of solutions, but there's one thing you say on page 104 that I have to be honest I think kind of makes a lot of Americans cringe. You say "Democrats exist to beat Republicans, period". Now, that's the kind of talk that really frustrates people.
DEMINT: I'm sure it does. And you know I introduce that chapter explaining that I did a lot of work in organizations team building, teaching cooperation, compromise. I understand how it works, but what I point out is you've got to have a shared vision and unfortunately the day the constituency for the Democratic Party are made up of people who are dependent on the government and want more power at the federal level like the labor unions.
BURNETT: But they want a better country just like you do.
DEMINT: They do, but they --
BURNETT: And we're getting downgraded because you guys don't compromise.
DEMINT: We're not getting downgraded because we don't compromise. We're getting downgraded because we did compromise. Every compromise since I've been in Congress, Erin, has led to more spending and a bigger government. We can't keep doing that and the Democrats will not compromise with us because they have to keep spending. Now, if we could talk about tax increases. We could talk about cutting spending. But as a Congress and as a country, we have to decide we're going to balance our budget. That needs to be the first thing.
In the House of Representatives had a bill to balance our budget or to send a balanced budget amendment to the states to ratify. It didn't say how we were going to do it. It was completely open-ended. And just about every Democrat voted against ever balancing our budget. We can't live that way. And so I think we need to have an honest debate that we have to stop spending more than we're bringing in. If I lose the debate on taxes, so be it, but people need to know the facts.
BURNETT: And I think it's important you're saying spend more than we're bringing in (ph), although in an economic cycle, you at least left open the door there would be times you would run a deficit. I mean I think that's an important caveat intellectually --
BURNETT: But also -- I mean the president said Medicare cuts are on the table. It seemed frustrating every time --
DEMINT: He said --
DEMINT: Erin, he never put anything in writing that he would cut, never. And there's never been a proposal that we could say, OK, let's take that and work with it. And it's just a lot of talk.
BURNETT: Now, but here's my question and one of the big frustrations people have is nobody on either side of the aisle really wants to cut where the big money is, right? (INAUDIBLE) Paul Ryan has come up with a plan and an idea --
BURNETT: -- debate it, but cutting where the big money is --
BURNETT: -- that's Medicare. That's Medicaid. That's Social Security. That's whether you're going to cut or you're going to change how benefits are adjusted, index to inflation. That's where the cuts have to come. Are you willing to say that to people, that you're not going to get what you were promised?
DEMINT: We don't need to say that to seniors to fix the problem and no one over 55 should have to change their plans for Social Security or Medicare. They've paid for it. It's not a charity --
BURNETT: But somewhere, you've got to draw the line and say hey --
BURNETT: -- you've paid in for 30 years, but you're not going to get it.
DEMINT: I not only agreed to it, I've put proposals on the table. If we could give younger workers 401(k) style plans and -- that were cheaper for the government and save money, but I make the point in the book, Erin --
DEMINT: -- the Democrats will not give younger workers a chance to get out of Social Security with alternative plans. Like Paul Ryan suggested, why can't you keep your personal health insurance when you retire and let Medicare help you pay for it? A lot of Americans would opt for that, but the whole point of the book is that there's attention in Washington that's not Republican-Democrat. It's those who want central power and those who want decentralized power, which is what made America great.
BURNETT: All right. I hear you on your point of view. I know though a lot of Americans are so frustrated about the lack of conversation in Washington, but I want to play a sound bite from you --
DEMINT: But let me make one point.
DEMINT: You don't get $15 trillion in debt without a lot of compromise and bipartisanship. This idea that there's not --
BURNETT: Do you acknowledge that a lot of that came from George W. Bush --
DEMINT: Yes -- yes -- yes.
DEMINT: And a lot of Republicans are there to bring home the bacon. This is a party with both -- I mean a problem with both parties have been involved with.
DEMINT: So and if you ask anyone, they'll tell you that I've been at war with some of my Republican colleagues.
BURNETT: All right. Let me play a sound bite from you just because we're -- back in 2008, January of 2008, here's what you had to say about Mitt Romney.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DEMINT: This is a man who knows how to run things and if there's one place in the world that needs to be run right, it's Washington, D.C. We need a president like Mitt Romney who knows how the free enterprise system really works.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: You still think it?
DEMINT: Yes, he knows how to run things and some of the other candidates do, too.
DEMINT: I think we've got a good field. I think he'd be a good president. I think Santorum would, Newt Gingrich would, Ron Paul. Anyone in our field would do better than what we've got now.
BURNETT: "National Journal" out today, South Carolina's Jim DeMint, Romney's silent surrogate.
DEMINT: Every time I say something nice about one of the candidates, and I've been saying things -- nice about Ron Paul today, I start getting all these tweets and e-mails --
BURNETT: You did say some nice things to the "Daily Caller" about Ron Paul.
DEMINT: Oh, yes --
BURNETT: What's the best thing about Ron Paul?
DEMINT: If we -- if we don't listen to Ron Paul's -- there are several things, Erin. The unaccountable out-of-control Federal Reserve is going to destroy our monetary system. The whole concept of individual liberty and limited government, I mean that needs to be not only the core of the Republican Party, but American people need to realize that that's what makes us great. Not this central government collectivism that we've moved towards now, so if Republicans don't listen to Ron Paul, we're going to have a divided party because the other half of the country that wants more from government is united and they're going to elect people who are going to promise more from government.
BURNETT: You think there's any way you could eventually have a ticket that had Ron Paul on it even if Romney was at the top of it?
DEMINT: We could. I don't know how that's going to end up and I'm not endorsing anyone, so despite what the articles say, I'd feel good about any of them being elected. They all have their good and bad points, but they would all be a lot better than what we've got in the White House right now --
BURNETT: Before we go, did you know Mitt Romney was a Mexican?
DEMINT: (INAUDIBLE) I don't want to get into that --
BURNETT: All right.
DEMINT: Is this a birth certificate question --
BURNETT: (INAUDIBLE) We are going to be talking about it -- it's actually a really neat story. You're going to have to stick around it and hear it.
BURNETT: But thank you very much for coming on. We appreciate it -- DEMINT: Well, Erin, thank you. I enjoyed it a lot.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you, sir. Appreciate it. And Mitt Romney does hope to be the first Mormon president ever, but would he also be the first Mexican president? We will explain.
And the latest in the Iranian murder mystery, a third nuclear scientist assassinated, Iran says America did it.
And outrage at the governor. More than 200 convicts, rapists and murderers granted clemency by Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, why?
BURNETT: So, this morning I went to CNN.com and I thought I was looking at -- I didn't know what I thought I was looking at, but I saw this headline. Could Mitt Romney be America's first Hispanic president? Now, this is not something Romney really ever talked about until very recently and well it's gotten a lot of people talking. So much so that there's even a fake Twitter account now with the handle @MexicanMitt -- OK, that's a little funny. But this all started when Romney revealed some personal information on the campaign trial.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When I think about the blessing of America, I think not only about my own dad -- my dad, by the way, was born in Mexico of American parents living there, and he came back to the United States when he was about 5 or 6 years old with his parents and his dad went broke a couple of times. My dad never got a college degree, but he was able to achieve his dreams and became a successful business person.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Here are the facts. Romney's grandfather fled America for Mexico in 1885 to escape religious prosecution -- persecution. Romney's father was born in Chihuahua, Mexico, in 1907. Now his father left Mexico for America at age 5 or 6 -- it's not exactly clear. But no one in the family ever got Mexican citizenship and that was in part because they were part of the Mormon faith.
Now a lot of people you know sort of dismissed this over time, but should they? Because after all if Romney's family lived in Mexico for almost 30 years and his father was born there and as NBC's Mike Taibbi reported this week, he still has a lot of relatives there and second cousins, isn't he Mexican-American?
Ruben Naverette is a third generation Mexican-American and he wrote the story that I saw on CNN.com this morning. John Avlon is a CNN contributor. Good to have both of you with us. And Reuben, what do you think? I mean a lot of people were quick to dismiss this, but you know you reverse the table. Someone comes to the United States and maybe --
RUBEN NAVERETTE, CONTRIBUTOR TO CNN.COM: Right. BURNETT: -- would seem to be Mexican-American or no?
NAVERETTE: Yes -- no, it's a very serious thing, Erin. I've got to tell you when I was working with my editor at CNN.com, we said what kind of headline could we put on this column to make Erin Burnett just sit up and take notice?
NAVERETTE: I'm glad it worked out. The strategy worked out perfectly. This was a provocative column deliberately so, but it's a very real question because I'll give you one comparison. Bill Richardson, who is the former governor of New Mexico and who ran for president, he was talked about as vying to become the first Hispanic president. Bill Richardson likewise like Mitt Romney, has an American born parent and a Mexican born parent, so how is it that Bill Richardson is thought to be Mexican, but we never make that conclusion -- draw that conclusion about Mitt Romney? They're exactly the same.
BURNETT: I mean it is a pretty interesting point. What do you think, Ruben, as someone who yourself, right, you describe yourself as Mexican-American. What's your point of view coming from that background?
NAVERETTE: Right. Well my own background is I was born in the United States. My -- both my parents were born in the United States and three of my four grandparents were born in the United States and Texas before Texas became part of the United States. My fourth grandparent was in fact from Chihuahua, the same part of the world where Mitt Romney's family comes from. That's what makes this sort of a light column. I said, you know (INAUDIBLE) primo (ph), you know cousin.
You know we may be related. And so I hope you don't take offense, cousin, but I'm going to give you a little spanking here because I don't think you've done a very good job during this campaign in terms of dealing with Hispanics or the immigration issue in a very thoughtful, respectful way. And so the point of the column is really as a Mexican-American that whether or not he's born from Mexico or from Mexican stock or not really doesn't help Mitt Romney with Latino voters because he has done such a terrible job of dealing with the immigration issue. He has soured Latinos on his candidacy. And there's no feasible way that he could do well with them come a general election.
BURNETT: And John Avlon, that's where you come out. I see Mitt Romney has talked about being for E-Verify and things like that. Will this at this point make up for the fact that as Ruben points out he does not poll well with Hispanic Americans?
JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: No. The guy's name is Willard Mitt Romney. You don't get much less Hispanic than that, but the point --
BURNETT: OK, a name is a name though --
AVLON: A name is a name, but I think you know he bears it out (INAUDIBLE) Reuben's great column is making however in part is the inherit complexity of the relationship between our two countries. They go back you know from centuries ago, you know we've got Mexican- Americans who have been living in Texas for longer than certainly my family has been in the United States. So there's an inherent overlap and part of the problem that the Republican Party is facing right now is that some of their policies in the Border States have alienated the Latino community. And the efforts of guys like George W. Bush made to really reach out to the Hispanic community, well those have eroded and now the Republican Party faces a serious deficit and when candidates pander to the outer reaches of their party, it doesn't help building those bridges.
BURNETT: Reuben, is there anything Mitt Romney can do to turn this into something? I mean given that he may have a very legitimate point in terms of a person or an identity or a family is there anything he can do politically at this point?
NAVERETTE: There are several things. One is he can stop confusing his outreach efforts in Florida and Florida's certainly important -- we're coming up after South Carolina, it's an important state. But stop confusing your outreach efforts with Hispanics in Florida with Hispanics in the Southwest. It's a whole different thing. You can't mix apples and oranges and you can't mix Cubans and Mexicans.
And that's what you have with these -- this dynamic and I see oftentimes that Mitt Romney seems to think that they're interchangeable and that somehow his success with Florida Cubans will help him in the Southwest and it won't. Beyond that he has to stop going after these immigrants personally by portraying them as takers and as people who come here for benefits and just be honest about the fact that they come here because people put them to work and offer them jobs.
BURNETT: John Avlon, obviously that touches on Marco Rubio maybe not being the magic quotient for someone like Mitt Romney --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sure.
BURNETT: -- but you have other ideas?
AVLON: Yes. I mean, you know, one alternative to dealing with this deficit is to throw a Hail Mary pass to the VP pick. Now it's not going to solve all your problems. Everyone talks about Marco Rubio, but the bench is actually deeper than that and the last cycle Republicans actually elected two Hispanic Americans to governorships in the Southwest, Brian Sandoval in Nevada and Susana Martinez in New Mexico. So the good news is that the party is evolving, at least in some of the candidates putting forward. That can help heal the rifts and heal that distrust, but the reality it's got a lot of work to do (INAUDIBLE) policies not just personalities.
BURNETT: All right. Well maybe thanks to both of you, maybe Mitt Romney can do a little bit of that if he starts tweeting from (INAUDIBLE). You never know.
BURNETT: All right. Tonight, a huge development in a story that we've been OUTFRONT on which is the mysterious assassinations of Iran's top nuclear scientists. Yesterday, a car bomb killed a supervisor at an Iranian enrichment plant. And we've been talking about who's behind the murders. Just a short time ago today Defense Secretary Leon Panetta went on the record with a denial and something else that has a lot of people wondering.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEON PANETTA, DEFENSE SECRETARY: We were not involved in any way, in any way, with regards to the assassination that took place there. I'm not sure who was involved. We have some ideas as to who might be involved, but we don't know exactly who was involved, but I can tell you one thing. The United States was not involved.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Panetta leaving us guessing a little bit, but as for Iran they put the blame on America and Israel. An Israeli general responded to the claim saying he has no idea who targeted the Iranian scientist, while saying he isn't shedding any tears over his death.
In October, Texas Representative Lamar Smith introduced a bill in the House called the Stop Online Piracy Act. It's called SOPA. It is surprisingly bipartisan. Of the current 32 cosponsors, the breakdown between R's and D's is 50-50 with both Republicans like Peter King and Marcia Blackburn and Dems like Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Brad Sherman getting behind it. You've got Michele Bachmann and Nancy Pelosi on the same side. So what's the problem?
Well the bill is designed to keep Web sites from posting copyrighted material illegally and it would allow the American government to actually shut down Web sites that do this, so if passed, it could affect sites like Amazon, eBay and YouTube that regularly allow their users to post content that they can't really verify where it came from.
And that brings us to tonight's number, 12. That is the number of hours that the Web site Reddit will be offline Wednesday to protest SOPA. It's a hugely popular Web site. It announced it will black out its site for 12 hours on Wednesday starting at 8:00 a.m. During that period the site's content will be replaced with "a simple message about how the SOPA legislation will shut down sites like Reddit, link to resources to learn more and suggest ways to take action."
And Reddit is not alone. Google, Facebook and AOL all are angry. All have gone to Capitol Hill and paraded around and stormed around because they're mad and of course you've got Michele Bachmann on board, Ron Paul, Nancy Pelosi -- Ron Paul and Nancy Pelosi are on the same side of an issue? I hope a super PAC somewhere is watching. Pelosi even tweeted, quote, "need to find a better solution than SOPA. Don't break the Internet." And all of you that just walked over to your computer to Wikipedia SOPA, you better do it quick because Wikipedia cofounder Jimmy Wales says he's behind Reddit's efforts and he's going to black out, too, next week.
All right, on his last day in office, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour granted clemency to more than 200 drug dealers, rapists and murderers. Why? And the return of DSK, you will not believe the shocking defense his lawyer has put up.
BURNETT: We start the second half of our show with stories we care about where we focus on our own reporting, do the work and find the "OutFront 5" and first, the president formerly asked Congress this afternoon to increase the debt ceiling by $1.2 trillion. Now this isn't a surprise. It's part of a debt deal Congress and the president made in August, but of course it makes Republicans angry including Senator Jim DeMint.
He came OUTFRONT and told us he doesn't think we have to default in our debt, but we have to take it more seriously and stop spending. Congress now has 15 days to deny the president's request, but the president then can and will veto that resolution.
Number two, the negative ads are starting in South Carolina. The pro Romney super PAC called Restore Our Future, has just started airing an anti-Gingrich ad calling the former House speaker quote "desperate". Super PACs can bring in major money to the campaigns. We are running the numbers and Restore the Future has raised over $12 million. It has already spent six million this election cycle. That's right. South Carolina would only be the third early contest, six million already spent.
Number three: the majority of Mormons believe the United States is ready for a Mormon president. That's according to a study released today by the Pew Research Center. GOP candidates Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman are, of course, both Mormon. On the other side, though, the study found most Mormons, 62 percent, believe Americans know little or nothing about Mormonism, which is true, as we talked about last night.
We talked about the role religion plays in politics, specifically Mormonism, and how far the second fastest growing religion in America has come since 2008 when Romney last running for president. You can watch our essay on that issue on our blog, CNN.com/OutFront.
Number four: retail sales up a tenth of a percent in December. How sad it is -- it was weaker than expected. The problem was sales of electronics, which may surprise you when you think about, you know, iPads and Kindles and things this Christmas.
But a report from Goldman Sachs says that the weakness could have been caused by the fact that the iPhone 4S came out in October and then Black Friday was, of course, in November. So, all the sales got stolen from Christmas, actually hurting electronic sales over the holiday season.
Well, it's been 160 days since we lost our top credit rating. What are we doing to get it back? It was a disappointing economic news today. Initial jobless claims rose last week to 399,000. That was more than expected. It is a volatile time of year because you get layoffs from the holiday season. But still, it's only 1,000 below that key 400,000 mark. It indicates a growing or shrinking labor market.
But now to a story we have been following, which is that sickening video of marines urinating on what appears to be the bodies of Taliban fighters in Afghanistan. Yesterday, you may recall, we could only show you a still photo. Obviously, the genitalia was blurred out.
Tonight, we have the video and what the troops were actually saying, so here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have a great day, buddy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Got it on video?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Golden like a shower.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: You can hear the tone in their voice. They were joking and they were enjoying it.
Reaction was swift and angry around the world.
And at home, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I want to express my total dismay at the story concerning our marines. Anyone, anyone found to have participated or known about it, having engaged in such conduct must be held fully accountable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Tonight, military officials say they've identified two of the marines in the video, but they have not made their names public. But they do believe the men are from the Third Battalion, Second Marine Regiment, a unit based at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. They were deployed last year and based in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
The big question is why. Why did they do it? How could this happen?
Bestselling author and reporter Sebastian Junger covered the military in Afghanistan extensively, the author of "War," and been embedded and spent a lot of time over there. So, let me just start by asking you, Sebastian, you have spent so much time in Afghanistan, in Helmand Province, with troops, with snipers like these guys were. Does the video surprise you?
SEBASTIAN JUNGER, AUTHOR OF "WAR": Sort of yes and no. You know, war brings up a lot of very powerful emotions. We've all read the "Iliad." Achilles dragged Hector around the walls of Troy, behind a chariot. I mean, that's part of war.
But the U.S. military really has to be held to the highest standards and obviously, that's not it.
BURNETT: Obviously, to the best of our knowledge and this has been confirmed, the men in the footage are snipers. And snipers by all accounts are -- they are a different breed. It's a different kind of training. It's a different kind of mentality.
What kind of mindset do they have and how would that factor from the snipers you spend time with and to how they might have behaved here?
JUNGER: I think, you know, the more intimacy you have with the enemy, the more you understand that they are human. I think snipers have a very hard job because they are killing specific people that they can see from a distance. And I think, psychologically, it's very hard. And, you know, I'm not a psychologist, but I can imagine that part of what was going on was them trying to figure out the relationship that they have with these people that they seemed to have just killed.
In your time in Afghanistan, did you ever experience any kind of similar incident? I mean, you know, just where there was desecration? Obviously not videotaped?
JUNGER: No, I never did. You know, I should say that it's very clear that kind of video will encourage people, young Afghans to join the Taliban and soldiers know that. I mean, guys who saw that video in Afghanistan will be shooting at American soldiers in a couple of months and soldiers know that, and so there are really good tactical reasons other than the moral reasons, the tactical reasons to sort of not behaving that way.
BURNETT: And so, you -- I mean, I know that's what people say, that this will help be a recruiting tool. Taliban obviously seized on it immediately. But you think that is true.
JUNGER: Yes. It is. And so the soldiers I was with, they were really pretty well behaved, because they knew that it would affect them if they weren't. You know, I should also say, though, I mean, just in the sort of a larger context, you know, these guys are 19, 20 years old. And it's a confusing message.
I mean, our government, you know, basically, waterboarding is legal, right? It's legal to waterboard someone. It's not legal to urinate on a live person, right? It's not legal on dead person -- and for a soldier, that's a confusing message to sort out. And I think there's been a lot of messages from senior administration officials in the past 10 years, it's pretty dehumanizing of our enemy.
And, you know, it's like the children are listening and, you know, these young people absorbed that and it comes out in these weird ways. So, I think we all do bear some responsibility.
BURNETT: All right. And they are young, as you point out. It doesn't excuse, that they are young.
JUNGER: These guys were 10 years old in 9/11, so they've been listening to the political conversation for 10 years. You know, what do you make of waterboarding in the context of this? You know, which is worse basically?
BURNETT: Interesting thought. All right. Well, thank you very much, Sebastian. Appreciate you taking the time.
And all of you, let us -- let us know what you think about was Sebastian is saying, what you think is worse and what you think of the video that you saw there.
Let's check in Anderson.
Anderson, what do you have on "A.C. 360"?
ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, "A.C. 360": Erin, keeping them honest tonight on the program. Mitt Romney on the campaign trial defending his days and his record at Bain Capital. But do his job claim numbers add up? We're going to speak with James Carville and Bay Buchanan. A pretty gripping conversation it is tonight on the program.
Also, two years ago today, Haiti suffered the worse disaster in its history, one of the worst natural disasters, the devastating earthquake. I went back this week. Spoke with the new president there, talked to people in the camps. A progress report on Haiti two years after the quake tonight on the program.
I'm also going to interview Sean Penn, who's in Port-au-Prince tonight. About half the rubble is gone. Still, some 500,000 people are still living in tent cities. We'll show you what Haiti is like now.
Those stories and tonight's "Ridiculist" at the top of hour -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Anderson, looking forward to that. I know Haiti's a place of great passion for you.
Well, next, why did Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour pardon murderers and rapists?
And he made headlines last year when he was arrested on rape charges in New York City. DSK is back and you will not believe the defense his lawyer is mounting tonight. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BURNETT: We do this the same time every night, our "Outer Circle" where we reach out to our sources around the world.
And tonight, we start in Japan where Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner convinced the country's leader to cut the amount of oil that they import from Iran. It's a major victory because Japan is the second largest importer of Iran's oil. They are second only to China, which imports 20 percent of Iran's oil. Now, China denied Geithner's request to limit their imports, but they have cut recently.
And we asked Matthew Kroenig from the Council on Foreign Relations whether Japan's move would be enough to really hurt Iran.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEW KROENIGH, STANTON SECURITY FELLOW, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Well, losing the Japanese oil market will certainly hurt the Iran economy, but it's unlikely to have its real intended effect. Iran has been under intense international pressure for years. And nothing we have done so far has convinced it to put serious curbs on its nuclear program.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: It will all come down to China.
And now to Russia where Prime Minister Vladimir Putin says he's too busy for presidential election debates. As president, Putin did not debate his challengers and we asked Matt Rojansky, Russia expert from the Carnegie Endowment, if Putin will be able to pull this off.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATT ROJANSKY, RUSSIA ANALYST, CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT: The irony is that until recently, Vladimir Putin could get away with more or less whatever he wanted. He defined the terms of the debate or whether there was even going to be a debate. What's been happening recently is Russians are pouring out into the streets is that they're rejecting simply being kind of supporting cast members or really actually extras in the Russian political voice. And so, you might actually find that this statement by Vladimir Putin will backfire.
The thing about Putin is he's smart enough to realize that and he could change his mind.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: All right. Tonight, there are four convicted murderers on the loose in Mississippi. Now, we are told they, quote, "hit the ground running" after being pardoned on Tuesday by outgoing Governor Haley Barbour.
Attorney General Jim Hood has vowed to conduct the nationwide manhunt if they can't be found. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIM HOOD, MISSISSIPPI ATTY. GENERAL (D): I'm encouraging those out there, if you're a family member of one of these five that we're looking for, call our office. The attorney general's office in Mississippi and advise them that they need to come turn themselves in.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: The Republican governor granted clemency or full pardons to more than 200 convicted criminals. Now, he says that 90 percent of these pardons were recommended by the parole board. Many of these people were already free.
Now, OUTFRONT spoke to the parole board and they did not get back to us to confirm this. But during Barbour's first seven years in office, we can tell you he granted eight pardons. In the past two weeks, he granted 214, 16 to convicted murderers. The judge granted a temporary injunction stopping the release, but all those people are out the door.
Mary McAbee's brother was killed by one of the released murderers and she is OUTFRONT tonight.
Also joining us is our legal contributor, Paul Callan.
Appreciate you taking the time to be with us, Mary. And I know this has got to be a difficult and shocking time for you. The man convicted of killing your brother, Joseph Ozment, has been pardoned and released. He is out free tonight.
How do you feel about that?
MARY MCABEE, BROTHER KILLED BY RELEASED INMATE: I think it's one of the worst things that can happen. My brother was such a good person. And for this to come back up for the governor to pardon someone and put him back out on the streets with a full pardon, it just relives what we've already been through.
The night that we got the call when he was murdered was much like what I felt on Saturday when I received the call that he had been pardoned and that he would be released the next day. It's one of the worst things that a victim, the family of a victim can go through.
BURNETT: And you didn't get anymore warning than that. You were just called the night before. You weren't told this was being considered or might occur?
MCABEE: No, we were not.
BURNETT: Mary, can you tell us -- I know that Joseph Ozment confessed to killing your brother. He was serving life in prison without parole. How did he kill your brother?
MCABEE: He -- my brother was shot as they were coming -- Joseph Ozment came into the store first, went around to a cooler. Another -- the other person that shot my brother came into the store and he was the first one to shoot my brother. My brother fell to the floor.
And he was still crawling on the floor and Joseph Ozment came around from the cooler with my brother crawling on the floor and pointed a gun to his head and shot him not once, but twice. And when I asked why he shot him, he explained that he did not want him to be able to identify any of them.
BURNETT: If Haley Barbour is listening, what would you say to him tonight, Mary?
MCABEE: Well, at this point, I would say why. The whole nation is wanting to know why. I think that he needs to at least be accountable to the citizens of Mississippi, to the people of Mississippi.
He needs to stand up and take a stand and at least explain his decision to do this, for him to have full control to do this is just really to me unbelievable. That he would abuse, to me, he's abused his authority. As a governor, to pardon all these criminals and let them go back out on the street.
BURNETT: Let me bring Paul Callan in here.
Paul, now that you've heard Mary's story, how could this -- how could this happen?
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: You know, it's a stunning story, astonishing story -- 16 murderers freed. And, by the way, on the list, I found rapists, I found people accused of sexual battery, burglars, drug dealers. I've never seen a collection like this of people.
BURNETT: And they're not only freed by this pardon, but their records are --
CALLAN: Full, unconditional pardons. That's right.
BURNETT: Get jobs, buy guns.
CALLAN: Yes. And some of the murders -- and this is a horrible story we've just heard, were sentenced to life without parole. And suddenly, they're released by Haley Barbour because -- and by the way, a lot of them, the only reason I can see that he did it is because they worked in the governor's mansion.
BURNETT: He knew them personally.
BURNETT: Now, should he be allowed to pardon people he knows personally? And obviously that colors your opinion when you see them in one light, which is obviously more positive one than their past.
CALLAN: Yes, you do. And I will say, the pardon power which goes way back to the beginning of the American Constitution, frequently pardons have been granted to people you know. President Clinton pardoned his brother.
CALLAN: Gerald Ford, of course, pardoned Richard Nixon. So people you know get pardoned. So, I don't think that would be a disqualifier.
CALLAN: But murderers who are not eligible for parole, you know, there's got to be a really good reason to do that and I don't see it here.
BURNETT: Mary, before we go, is there any way you would have supported the pardon or release of Joseph Ozment?
MCABEE: No, never. I feel like the judge, if he was sentenced to life in prison, then he should do the sentence. He should stay in prison -- and that's the way I feel.
BURNETT: Thank you so much for telling us that and coming on tonight. Mary, and, Paul, thanks, too.
CALLAN: Nice to be with you.
MCABEE: Thank you.
BURNETT: All right. We're going to take a brief break.
WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: The idea for clean energy that I think it's fair to say hardly anybody else on the planet had ever thought of.
BURNETT: Every once in a while, you come across something that makes you say genius. Two American women, Julia Silverman and Jessica Matthews, have come up with a way to fight against the lack of electricity in developing countries. How, you ask?
CLINTON: It's extraordinary really. Kick a ball, turn on a light.
BURNETT: That's right. Literally a ball of energy -- Soccket (ph) harvests energy from a soccer game and turned it into energy. An expensive product that packs a life-changing punch. Thirty minutes of play can power an LED lamp for three hours.
And tell me how it works.
JESSICA MATTHEWS, SOCCKET INVENTOR & UNCHARTED PLAY FOUNDER: Sure. So the science behind it?
BURNETT: Yes. MATTHEWS: Essentially, we put a mechanism inside the ball that harnesses the kinetic energy generated during play and then stores it as electric energy. So, imagine any motion, anything that you do, that's pretty much kinetic energy. So, we harness that and store it in a basic battery. And then you can carry around the ball anywhere and plug in a lamp, plug in a cell phone charger and acts as reliable power.
BURNETT: Can you show me?
MATTHEWS: Sure, sure.
BURNETT: You drop --
MATTHEWS: So here's the ball. And so you play with this for about 30 minutes normal play and you can get three hours of LED light with this LED lamp here. Check this out.
JULIA SILVERMAN, SOCCKET INVENTOR & UNCHARTED PLAY FOUNDER: LED might not seem so impressive here, but one out of five people who don't have access to electricity, that can make all the difference.
BURNETT: What started as a college project could change the live of thousands of children and their families.
The conditions where these kids are playing are not great -- dusty, dirty, all kinds of elements. Can a ball withstand that?
MATTHEWS: Yes, that's actually the reason why we created the ball that doesn't need to be inflated and can't be deflated. It's a little bit harder than a normal ball that's because these conditions are a little bit harder than a normal grassy field. So, it can take the rocks and the daggers.
I think we're actually just in Mexico where we saw some of the worst conditions we've seen in a while and the ball did OK.
BURNETT: This year, 3,000 soccer balls will be delivered to Mexico, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Haiti, and South Africa. Sometimes the smallest ideas can truly brighten the world.
BURNETT: Al right. Up next, something that really, oh, got our whole staff in a gender war. The shocking defense from Dominic Strauss-Kahn's attorney about a prostitution ring, next.
BURNETT: So we saw something before the show today that I couldn't help but mention. Do you remember this man? This is Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the one-time chief of the IMF who resigned in May over allegations of sexual assault in a New York City hotel room.
Now, he's defending himself against allegations that he's involved with a Paris prostitution ring. And today, his lawyer mounted his defense that is either one of the more disgusting things in the world or the most genius. In fact, our staff was split on which by gender.
Here's why. "The London Telegraph" reports today that DSK's lawyer says his client had no way of knowing that the women at the parties were prostitutes because they were, quote, "all naked at the time." Says the lawyer to be exact, quote, "I defy you to tell the difference between a naked prostitute and any other naked woman." Yes, there were quotes around that. Appears to be a real defense by a man who in some polls had a real shot at being the next president of France.
All right. Well, tomorrow in OUTFRONT, Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich. We'll see you at 7:00 and 11:00. Looking forward to it.
In the meantime, as always, "ANDERSON COOPER 360" starts right now.