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Interview with David Axelrod; Violence against Women Act

Aired March 15, 2012 - 19:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, HOST: The Obama campaign coming out swinging tonight. We have the man behind the president, David Axelrod our guest tonight, and the president dips his toe into a new controversy dubbed "poolmageddon". We'll explain.

And "Under Surveillance" tonight, yes, it's you. How your neighbors actually may be sending photos of you to the police. Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening, everyone. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, who let the attack dogs out?


JOSEPH BIDEN, (D-DE) VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, these guys have a fundamentally different economic philosophy than we do. Governor Romney was more direct. Let Detroit go bankrupt. You know it's kind of amazing. Gingrich and Romney and Santorum, they don't let the facts get in their way.


BURNETT: That was the first time he mentioned them by name and as you can see, he did so with joy. Vice president came out swinging in a trip to the all important swing state of Ohio speaking to his party's base, the United Autoworkers Union. The industry's bailout is clearly a point of pride for the administration. It is a talking point you will hear a lot on the campaign trail for the rest of the year. Just take a look at this clip from a 17-minute video the re- election campaign is debuting tonight.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE, POLITICAL AD: His advisers would ask where to begin, which urgent need would he put first.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE, POLITICAL AD: Which is one, which is two, which is three, which is four, which is five? Where do you start?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE, POLITICAL AD: If the auto industry goes down, what happens to America's manufacturing base? What happens to jobs in America? What happens to the whole Midwest?

(END VIDEO CLIP) BURNETT: Did you hear the narrator there? It was Tom Hanks. And the flashy film is directed by Academy Award winner Davis Guggenheim, and yes, it is 17 minutes long, which just in case you were curious is three minutes longer than the extended version of Michael Jackson's "Thriller".


BURNETT: Those 17 minutes probably will cost a pretty penny to the Obama campaign. I wonder if it will add up to "Thriller", but here's a stunning number. According to the Federal Election Commission, the campaign reported two payments totaling about 345,000 for a quote "Guggenheim" short film. That's about $20,300 a minute or $338 a second. Wow, "Thriller".

All right, we spoke a short time ago to David Axelrod, senior strategist for the president's re-election campaign and I started by asking him if this long form campaign ad was needed because the Obama camp has lost some control of the narrative.


DAVID AXELROD, OBAMA CAMPAIGN SENIOR STRATEGIST: Well, there's no question that I've often said that when we arrived at the White House, we were an economic triage unit and you remember this. You were reporting on it every day. How really sick the economy was at that time and every single day we were having to make really consequential -- take really consequential actions. The president was having to make really consequential decisions and so much of that kind of clouded the fundamental accomplishments that were going on and yes, I think that it's hard to get control of the message in that sort of an environment.

BURNETT: There are lots of controversial things happened over the past few years, one of them, the auto bailout and you talked quite a bit about that in the video. Here's a very quick peak.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE, POLITICAL AD: There was a screen set up for slides, but we might as well have been showing a horror movie because what was described in that meeting was an economic crisis beyond anything anybody had imagined.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE, POLITICAL AD: You had people telling you that the auto industry was literally days from collapse. The financial sector kind of the heart that pumps blood into the economy was frozen up in cardiac arrest.

BURNETT: David, a lot of people agree. If we didn't do something for the auto industry, it would have been economic chaos in this country. But I guess the question I have for you tonight is if General Motors never goes in the green to taxpayers and we are far from that right now, do you still think that the way that bailout was structured is something that's a point of pride for this president?

AXELROD: Well first of all, I think we will recover that money. Over time, we've recovered a great deal of it. They've repaid their loans. We've got half the stake in General Motors than we did at the beginning and we simply are going to work our way through that, but the larger question that you ask, the answer to that is yes. I mean we were looking at a situation where if the president hadn't intervened we'd lost a million jobs, not just in the auto industry, but in related industries and the spin-offs from the auto industry. That would have been a tremendous catastrophe for this country. We also would have lost an iconic American industry, the one that we invented and that would have been a tremendous blow.

BURNETT: And just though to make sure that I do completely understand what you're saying, obviously when GM IPO, and a lot of the debt that it had turned into equity, $33 a share, we're at 26 now, those shares would need to trade potentially as high as $60 apiece for taxpayers to be in the green. If we never get there, was it still worth it?

AXELROD: Well again I think that we will recover the money that the Obama administration invested in the auto industry and I think it was well worth it. I think it was well worth it.

BURNETT: One important issue for the election and I know you're a prolific tweeter. I love looking at your tweets. You tweeted about Mitt Romney, so I wanted to -- I wanted to reference him in this question, but first, just to show you a poll about the president's handling of gas prices. It sort of has been stunning to me how this really has people really have an opinion on the president related to gas prices.

Sixty-five percent of them disapprove of how he's handling gas prices. Twenty-six percent of them approve. And I know that the president's point of view has been well look, there's not that much a president can do about gas prices, but I wanted to play you something that Mitt Romney said on Tuesday in Missouri about that issue.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What could it be? What could it be? Now, I have some suggestions for him. Maybe it's related to the fact that you stopped drilling in the Gulf. Maybe it's related to the fact, Mr. President that you're not drilling in ANWR. Maybe it's related to the fact that you said we couldn't get a pipeline in from Canada known as Keystone. Those things affect gasoline prices long-term.

BURNETT: What do you say to Mitt Romney?

AXELROD: I would say he's got his facts wrong. We're drilling 20 percent more than when -- we're producing more oil domestically, 20 percent more than when the president arrived, the most since 2005. We vastly expanded the areas in which drilling is -- can happen. We've accelerated permits since the Gulf disaster, but doing it in a way that ensures safety of those operations, but you know we are all for domestic production of oil and of gas. The question is, is it enough and certainly is it enough to make a difference right now.

And you know there's a fundamental dishonesty to what Governor Romney and some of the other Republicans are suggesting and I don't think the American people buy the notion that they have some sort of secret formula that would lower gas prices tomorrow, the next day or anytime soon. But this just comes into the category of let me say whatever I can to try and get elected. I think the American people are more discerning than that.

BURNETT: Let me ask you one more question and this is important especially in light of the Rush Limbaugh controversy about Sandra Fluke, when he called her a slut on his radio show. Bill Maher of course has used a "c" word to refer to Sarah Palin. He has used some other very unflattering words like bimbo to also refer to Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann. He also gave a million dollars of course to the Super PAC, which is set up to re-elect Barack Obama. To be consistent, should that Super PAC give the money back to Bill Maher?

AXELROD: Well first of all, let me say I don't think -- there's been a coarsening (ph) of our political culture. I don't think that language is appropriate no matter who uses it and I think whoever you are in politics, you ought to willing to say so. I was disappointed that Governor Romney didn't stand up more forcefully when Rush Limbaugh said what he said, but understand these words that Maher has used in his stand-up act are a little bit different than not excusable in any way, but different than a guy with 23 million radio listeners using his broadcast platform to malign a young woman for speaking her mind in the most inappropriate, grotesque ways and nor does Bill Maher play the role in the Democratic Party that Rush Limbaugh plays in the Republican Party where he's really the de facto boss of the party --

BURNETT: I mean (INAUDIBLE) I see your point that Sandra Fluke is not a public figure and Sarah Palin is, but you know as a woman who is a public figure I certainly if someone called me a "c" word --

AXELROD: I'm not -- listen Erin, I do not excuse those kinds of characterizations of women. I don't think those kind of gratuitous, nasty words about anyone is appropriate in the public sphere. I'm not excusing anyone, but I think what Limbaugh did was particularly egregious and it wasn't just once. It was -- he built on it and built on it to the point where he built into sort of a perverse soliloquy at the end about you know whether she should post her --

BURNETT: Yes, I was --

AXELROD: -- relationships online. And so I mean that was -- there's no excuse for that.

BURNETT: The bottom line though is that the Priorities Action USA should and will keep the Bill Maher million dollars?

AXELROD: Well I don't speak for Priorities USA and if I did, I'd be violating the law. I have not talked to anybody over there or who works for that organization for probably a year or more. Obviously I worked with Bill Burton in the past, but I haven't talked to any of those guys. They're going to have to make their own decision and I'm not going to comment on that. But you know as a general rule, I don't think those words belong in the public space. I do think what Limbaugh did was particularly egregious.

BURNETT: All right, well thank you very much. David Axelrod, good to talk to you, sir. Appreciate it.



BURNETT: All right, well according to the most recent federal filings, Bill Maher has donated a million dollars to the Super PAC supporting President Obama, Priorities USA Action and that's real money, because according to the filings and "Politico" it is 50 percent of the money raised by that Super PAC in February 2012 and 15 percent of all the money raised by that Super PAC since its inception of January 2011. Bill Maher is the second biggest contributor to the President Obama Super PAC behind Hollywood mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg.

John Avlon is here with me now and obviously it looked like David Axelrod sort of took the out there by saying well it's not my --


BURNETT: It's not my decision. It's someone else's decision as to whether to accept that money or not.

AVLON: Right and that of course is the way the law works, but of course, it's also a dodge. I mean what that question in that exchange did it really illustrated one of the problems in our politics. People are quick to excuse comments made my someone on their own side that they are quick to condemn by someone on the opposing team.

You saw quickly he pointed to bring the conversation back to Rush Limbaugh. Democrats want Rush Limbaugh to be the face of the Republican Party. But just as folks on the right don't want to deal with Limbaugh's comments, they want to say there's hypocrisy. Look what Bill Maher said on the left in the past, so everyone is pointing fingers and we can't get on the same page and apply equal standards.

BURNETT: Yes it does seem to be a problem and a lot of these dodges of well, this person's a spokesman for the party and this person's isn't or this woman is a public figure and this woman isn't. I mean to me none of that matters, if a public figure says something awful about any kind of woman on either political side, it's wrong.

AVLON: Yes, it should be wrong whether a Democrat or a Republican said it. We need to start applying equal standards and that's been a huge part of the problem in our politics. It's part of the world that talk radio has created.

BURNETT: Right. Thank you very much to John Avlon and John is going to be back with us. Please let us know what you think about that issue -- about what we were talking about with David Axelrod with Bill Maher and Rush Limbaugh. Is the GOP about to lose a war for women? Are the Democrats getting this right on their side? And then a new app that will let your neighbors send photos of you to the police. Are you doing anything bad John Avlon? That's "Under Surveillance" tonight. And super sharks. They're hot and bothered.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BURNETT: Just before the break we were talking to Obama campaign senior adviser David Axelrod about everything from gas prices to GM to Rush Limbaugh and Bill Maher, but before I let him go, I had to ask him his thoughts about the Republican primary.


AXELROD: I actually thought it would be over by now. I thought they would have this revolved and each time you think they're going to have it revolved, there's another turn of the wheel. And it's obvious they can't agree on their candidate and this is going to go on for quite a while. And I think that this continued kind of lurch to the right that we've seen is going to continue for Governor Romney trying to compete with the others.


BURNETT: All right, John Avlon is with us. (INAUDIBLE) Elise Jordan is a former speechwriter for Condoleezza Rice also joins us and Dana Loesch, CNN contributor -- all right, great to see all of you with us. Let me start with you Dana.

It is something everyone thought would be over by now. I mean and it was interesting, he was actually talking about Newt Gingrich (INAUDIBLE) I wouldn't want to presume to tell Newt Gingrich what to do, but I thought it would be over by now. And you know sort of it seemed like he was saying that maybe Newt should get out although he didn't directly say it.

DANA LOESCH, EDITOR, BIGJOURNALISM.COM: Well there are a lot of individuals, Erin that are wondering whether or not Newt Gingrich should get out of the race. But at the same time, I was having a conversation with a friend a little bit earlier and we were discussing how the primary is a really good racket because the longer you stay in the longer you can really push to get higher speaking fees and maybe book deals and so on and so forth, but at this time, the delegate math. I just don't know if Newt Gingrich can make it happen, where it concerns delegate math. The fat lady is definitely warming up and everybody's been talking about this proverbial fat lady for a long time now. But it is -- you know it is different because the Super Tuesday this primary cycle, we had like 10 contests, but the Super Tuesday back in 2008, there were like 20, 21 contests --


LOESCH: -- so it is scheduled a little differently and it feels a lot longer.

BURNETT: Well I think Elise we've all learned a lot of lessons, whatever your political party may be about how to not schedule a primary season. What about this video though that the Obama campaign is putting out? Seventeen minutes, Tom Hanks narrated, Academy Award winning producer, a real image of a documentary, even though of course it is a campaign ad.

(CROSSTALK) ELISE JORDAN, FORMER SPEECHWRITER FOR CONDOLEEZZA RICE: Well I think it's pretty striking that the message seems like it's going to be disaster averted. Nothing really bad is happening in contrast in '08, where it was change you can believe in. And this video, he paid you know 300,000 for it. I think back in '08, someone in Hollywood would have done it for free. And I think that he's just very different phase in terms of how his supporters are getting behind him.

BURNETT: Kony's video has 100 million plus views, John Avlon. Will President Obama's video get that many views?

AVLON: The bar has been set. I'm going to say no in terms of that. I mean look this is a highly produced campaign video. Elise (ph) makes an interesting point though is that this is actually saying that wow, storm clouds were coming, we averted a disaster. It's not a narrative of triumph. It's a narrative of what could have been much worse.

BURNETT: All right. Let's talk about this issue about women. I mean this is becoming a bigger and bigger conversation and now of course you've got the act -- the violence against women act that Senate Democrats want to put forth legislation from 1994. They say it's finally time. Elise they, at the time, it was broadly bipartisan. Now, there are some Republican opposition to parts of it including would-be immigrants allowing you to say well if you're being used, you could get a visa. Republicans don't like that.


JORDAN: You can take it one of two ways, anti-women or anti- immigrant, whichever way you want to see it because their opposition is towards 5,000 u-visas (ph) that are given to the worst victims of domestic violence and those -- that's you know how many visas were given last year, they're up to 10,000 that can be given a year. It's a very small percentage of the nearly 5,000 visas we give a year.


JORDAN: So they can say yes, it's about immigration, but really I think it's just this backlash against women that we're hearing a rhetoric that just really isn't very helpful.

BURNETT: Yes, Dana, I mean how can justify voting against this bill?

LOESCH: Well --

BURNETT: I'm not saying you would. I'm asking you hypothetically.


BURNETT: I'm sorry if it came out that way.

(CROSSTALK) LOESCH: No, well I mean this is -- this is -- I think it's very brilliant maneuvering on the part of Senators Leahy and Schumer because they realize this is where they need to take the conversation in order to appeal to their base, but the problem is as Senator Grassley had pointed out is that you know in the past this had been unanimously approved, the reauthorization of this. I think it was back in like 2006 I think was the last reauthorization. But because of all of the provisions tacked onto it and Grassley, Senator Grassley's concern, his chief concern is that there are no safeguards listed this time with this.

I mean you know definitely people don't like to see violence against women and I know Phyllis Schlafly has a really good op-ed about this, about the act itself over at But Grassley's concern was that there is no safeguards and this -- it is very easy to commit fraud in this system. There are no safeguards with this, the definition is very loose, it's very broadly defined and so the amendment that Grassley had put forward was to kind of -- was to remedy this.

BURNETT: John Avlon, I mean does it make sense to keep the immigration part in? I mean regardless of what you think about the issue, I think it's outrageous that someone was offended by it or not. We should be able to pass the violence against women act without having it turn into a conversation about contraception or immigration or whatever it is that may be your sticking point.

AVLON: That's right and let's be clear. I mean this is a political maneuver by Democrats, but it's a very smart one.


AVLON: There's a bill that had broad bipartisan support in the past to some proposals that are now controversial. And the fact that it now includes same-sex couples is one of the things that some conservatives find very, very troubling and offensive. But you know the question is whether Republicans are going to let that agenda drive them into this trap in effect and let this narrative deepen because it's been -- it's a part of a pattern and that's the point I think Democrats are trying to surf off of. From Planned Parenthood fights on down, this narrative exists because it reflects a fissure, a fault line within the Republican Party.

BURNETT: It seems to show, Elise, too that the Republican Party -- we talk about why the Obama administration has put out a 17-minute video, because they think they have lost control over their narrative. The Republican Party certainly seems to have lost control over the women's narrative.

JORDAN: Definitely and I think what Rush did, his comments were so harmful to the entire health care debate to Republicans philosophical opposition to Obamacare and what -- by using that kind of vitriolic language, it just -- it totally destroyed -- it made the whole argument against for having Obamacare more attractive.

BURNETT: All right, well thanks very much to all three of you. We appreciate it. Well you have heard the slogan, if you see something, say something. Well now a few police departments across the country like in Grapevine, Texas are taking the campaign to a whole new level. Take a look at this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello. I'm Eddie Solomon (ph), chief of police for Grapevine, Texas and I'd like to tell you about iWatch Grapevine.


BURNETT: That was kind of a scary little smile there, too (INAUDIBLE). iWatch is a new mobile app that lets ordinary citizens report criminal or suspicious activity from their Smart phone, so any photos and information that you submit are then shared with local police and depending on the situation, the Department of Homeland Security. So, is this big brother at work or actually a useful law enforcement tool that allows for vigilante justice I feel like is a tainted term, but basically something similar. Miguel Marquez has been tracking the story and is OUTFRONT tonight. First of all, how widespread is this technology? Is this something that really is going to become widely used?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is quite possible you're going to see it rolling out into your city very, very soon. There are currently six cities that have it, one form of it. It's going to roll out one company, iThinkWare (ph) out of Dallas, 68 cities in the next six months will have it. Two states, West Virginia and Kentucky have it right now. There are a lot of different programs out there, but we did go out, we did a little field trip today and we went downstairs, across the street to Central Park to show you exactly how this technology works.


MARQUEZ: So, here I am in Central Park and if you happen to see something that you think is a crime, I want to show you how these applications work. You whip out your iPhone or your Android phone and say I saw something under that bridge over there. You just take a photo. It uploads it right into the application and then you can use that photo to add details about the suspected crime that you're seeing, the location, what happened. You can report anything from a drug deal going down to a terrorist if you suspect it. Then you can use all of this and report it anonymously.


BURNETT: Oh, anonymously makes me concerned. OK, although I can see how that makes sense obviously in certain cases. How effective is this?

MARQUEZ: It's not entirely clear yet. Most of these have rolled out in the last year or so. In Kentucky for instance, it's been there about since April of last year and they've had 227 -- the whole state -- 227 tips come in. Grapevine police in Grapevine, Texas, they've had it for about 10 months. They've had one bust, a narcotics bust related directly to this technology.

BURNETT: So that -- I mean obviously -- things like that happen, I could see how it could be very effective. Is the focus for crimes like that, narcotics? Is the focus for terrorism? I know we mentioned DHS.

MARQUEZ: It's a little bit of everything. Certainly the terrorist thing is out there. Department of Homeland Security does fund some of these. There is some money out there for that.


MARQUEZ: But increasingly talking interestingly enough this company iThinkWare (ph) out of Dallas, they're focusing on schools and trying to prevent kids who are far more text savvy than a lot of us out there --


MARQUEZ: -- who see it on Facebook, who see things on Twitter, to be aware that this technology exists and that they can you know either snitch or at least let authorities know that something is happening with an individual in their school.

BURNETT: I can see the positive of it. You use technology so that overburden law enforcement agencies get some help.


BURNETT: All right, well thanks very much Miguel Marquez and let us know what you think -- unfair big brother or helping law enforcement and keeping America safe?

Well speaking of Apple things, we're just hours away from the release of the new iPad in the United States. But we're going live to Japan because guess what, there's a date line and you know what the means. They got it first and a new controversy for President Obama not involving Bill Maher and Rush Limbaugh, involving swimming pools.


BURNETT: All right we start the second half of our show with stories we care about, where we focus on our reporting, do the work and find the "OutFront 5".

Up first, the Obama re-election campaign in full force tonight. The vice president slammed the Republican candidates calling them out by name for criticizing the auto bailout. This comes on the same day the campaign is releasing a 17-minute video touting the president's accomplishments. President Obama's senior campaign strategist David Axelrod came OUTFRONT tonight to talk about the video. He also addressed Mitt Romney's attacks on the president for high gas prices and his energy policy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) AXELROD: I would say he's got his facts wrong. We're drilling 20 percent more than -- we're producing more oil domestically, 20 percent more than when the president arrived the most since 2005.


BURNETT: Number two, the burning of the Korans and mass killing in Afghanistan have led to new concerns of a home grown terrorist attack.

A FBI and DHS bulletin obtained by CNN says there is no specific threat, however it is says the recent events, quote, "will likely be incorporated into violent extremist propaganda and could contribute to an individual's radicalization to violence."

Also, today, the Taliban suspended peace talks with the U.S. and Afghan President Hamid Karzai told Leon Panetta the U.S. troops should pull out of outposts in Afghan villages.

A U.S. soldier who is accused of leaving his outpost and killing 16 Afghan civilians last weekend.

Number three, a Georgia man has been convicted of a murder outside a day care and sentenced to life in prison. Hemy Neuman was found guilty, but mentally ill -- meaning he'll undergo a mental evaluation in prison. Neuman shot and killed Rusty Schneiderman in a parking lot of Dunwoody Prep. Neuman works with Schneiderman's wife Andrea and the two were allegedly having an affair, an accusation she denies.

Number four: initial jobless claims fell by 14,000 to 351,000 last week. Now, that's important. It's a good number. The drop in benefit claims match the four-year low struck in February. It's good economic news.

And stocks though -- as you can see closed higher than -- higher today. S&P tops 1,400 mark for the first time in four years. There's been some important milestones there.

Still though, this milestone, we must cross it, 224 days since the United States lost its top credit rating. What are we doing to get it back? Like I said, when we get it back, which we can do, because Canada did it -- it will be a big milestone.

Well, a mandate from the Obama administration that all public pools must have lifts for the disabled has been put on hold. In public school swimming poll in the country were supposed to have a lift like the one you are seeing on your screen installed by today. They've been given a little bit of a reprieve, a 60-day extension. So, they still have to do it, but they have a little bit more time.

Now, part of the reason for that is because it does cost money.

The move comes after an outcry from pool owners and after critics accused the Obama administration of creating the law to help one of its biggest donor groups, trial lawyers. So, to weigh in attorney Justin Leto and editor-in-chief of, Nick Gillespie.

All right. Great to see both of you.

And, Justin, let me start with you. No secret trial lawyers or big donors to the Obama administration. I mean, that is a fact. Center for Responsive Politics -- this number: $45 million to his 2008 election campaign.

Is it -- is it possible this whole public pool compliance thing does have a political element?

JUSTIN LETO, TRIAL LAWYER: Absolutely not. The idea that somehow the trial lawyers are so powerful that they can get President Obama to enact legislation that would then result in lawsuits is ridiculous.

This legislation is for one simple reason, is to provide equal protection and liberty to people who are disabled. The fact that you're going to use the trial lawyer's argument to try to take the argument away from the fact that these people deserve the same freedom and the same qualities as everybody else. I can't understand how people could possibly make the argument that legislation that's going to help disabled people is somehow a kick back to trial lawyers. It just makes no sense.


NICK GILLESPIE, EDITOR IN CHIEF, REASON.COM: You know, I can think of about 45 million reasons why people would make a connection between the two. You know, there's no question that people want to help and they want to include the handicapped or disabled in all sorts of situations, but the question of timing and also, the question of advocacy. Not just of this particular ruling or regulation, but also the Americans with Disabilities Act all together is questionable. Most people have looked at this have found that it hasn't actually helped increase participation of the disabled in the workplace.

But more importantly, the way this does help trial lawyers or lawyers launch lawsuits is that these rulings are very unclear. Exactly, what would constitute a good lift, you know, a workable lift that would comply is very vague. That's one of the reasons why there is a 60-day extension. Because the rules just aren't clear.

And whenever you have vague rulings, you invite lawsuits.

BURNETT: But, Justin, there seems to be some point there, but also the fact that the lifts could cost several thousand dollars per lift. And a lot of times, you're talking about public pools and municipalities, the timing of extra costs seems to be a fair question, too.

LETO: Well, first of all, as far as the cost is concerned, if you look at the truth behind this legislation is that small businesses get a tax credit for putting this into effect. They get a $5,000 tax credit. And if you have to move things or do architect work, you get a $10,000 credit. That's per year for everything that you have to do to come in compliance with this law.

So it's absolutely not going to be a big cost burden on the people that have to do it.

Secondly, the argument that there's 45 million reasons why trial lawyers would want this legislation enacted -- again, every single time that there's some legislation that will benefit consumers and may possibly harm big business, the Republicans come out with some argument it's done by the trial lawyers to benefit the trial lawyers and they forget about the fact that it's there to help consumers, and it's there for the consumer's protection. We have to focus on the fact that is to protect people with disabilities and to make their lives easier and it's really easy to argue against it unless you have a disability. Then you realize the importance of this type of legislation.

GILLESPIE: I am not a Republican by any stretch. I'm a libertarian with small L with no party affiliation and I wrote a book called "The Declaration of Independence".

What we are talking about here is not big business. We're talking about a lot of small businesses. For instance, "USA Today" talked about this in relation to hotels, most of which are franchised. They're individually owned and operated.

And this is a huge compliance cost because not only do you not know what it is and also, a tax doesn't credit doesn't help you if you have to shell out anywhere from 3 grand to 10 grand or more in order to put in a lift, which may or may not comply with the rules, which means you're inviting a lawsuit.

And a lot of hotels and this is where you know, whatever else you want to say about this -- these laws have unintended consequences and what the hotel people were saying is, you know what? If we're not sure we can comply, or we can't afford to comply, we'll just shut the pool down and then everybody loses. And that doesn't seem to be what the letter of the law or spirit of this law's about. But that's the type of thing that happens all the time.

BURNETT: Nick, let me ask you. You know, we're looking at how many people in America are disabled, 36 million Americans have some sort of a disability, about 10 percent of the population. Obviously, the Americans with Disabilities Act overall is intended to level the playing field and make sure those people have a fair shake.

As a libertarian, do you believe that there is a role for that sort of legislation?

GILLESPIE: Well, I think most important thing is to look at how the law has actually played out and one of its primary roles was actually to get disabled people back into the workforce. Virtually every economic study that looked at this has found that the labor force participation rates by people who are disabled actually declined after implementation of the ADA for a wide variety of reasons, including redefining more people as disabled who are not going to be participating in the workplace.

So, it actually -- again, w always look at laws bayed on intentions. We need to look at their consequences, because often, those two things are very much at odds.

BURNETT: Justin, Nick, thanks to both of you. We appreciate it.

And, viewers, please let us know what you think about pool- megaddon, as some were calling it.

Well, a soldier lost part of his leg in combat, and then went back into combat in Iraq. He comes on to share his story and the doctor who made it possible has another huge breakthrough for people who have lost their legs. That is OUTFRONT next.

And in the U.S., we're still hours away from the release of the new iPad. But, you know, in Japan, they got it first. So we will present it to you. We'll be back.


BURNETT: The number of U.S. troops who have lost their limbs fighting for this country reached an all time high last year. But remarkable advances in prosthetics are allowing soldiers who have experienced devastating and debilitating wounds to go back to active duty.

Tonight's "IDEA" guests, Dr. Hugh Herr and Major David Rozelle know this entirely too well.

Dr. Herr lost both of his legs in a climbing accident when he was 17 years old. Major Rozelle lost part of his right leg while serving in Iraq when a land mine exploded under his Humvee.

Both men were inspired to turn what were thought to be limitations in the way they would live their lives into big ideas.

Dr. Herr directs a bio mechatronics group with the MIT media lab and is a founder of iWalk.

Major Rozelle was awarded the Bronze Star for Valor for his actions in combat and has served three tours in Iraq, including after he lost his foot.

They came OUTFRONT to share their story.


DR. HUGH HERR, FOUNDER, IWALK: Yes, I was in a mountain climbing accident, due to frostbite, both of my legs had to be amputated. After they amputated, I wanted the return to the mountain again, so I started designing my own limbs. And through that process, I could actually climb at more advance level with artificial limbs than I had achieved with normal biological limbs before the accident.

BURNETT: All right. So, how is it different now than it was 10 years ago, 15 years ago, the last time the United States fought a war where a lot of young men were losing limbs, the survival rate was not nearly as high.

HERR: When I received legs, artificial legs in the '80s, they were dumb. They were passive. They were not energetic. No computational intelligence.

Today, what we're wearing today, the Biom, has three computers and 12 sensors. It's smart and adapts.

BURNETT: They're going to show your feet now, so if you can show me a little bit about how it works. OK.

HERR: Here's the battery. It's powered. It actually thrusts me forward as I walk with each stop. It reduces impacts, which is better for my back and my joints. So, it actually reduced (INAUDIBLE) throughout the lifetime of the patient.

BURNETT: Major, is that -- tell me about your story and how you lost your leg.

MAJOR DAVID ROZELLE, ARMOR OFFICER, MILITARY ADVANCED TRAINING CENTER AT WALTER REED: Well, back in June of 2003, I ran over a land mine just after the invasion of Iraq. Came back, recovered, went back again. I'd be the first amputee to return to the same battlefield in modern history, which is pretty amazing.

But then I came back from that and had more of my leg cut off so I could take advantage of engineering like this, honestly.

BURNETT: So, our camera again -- we'll show your leg. How does it work and how did -- how did it feel differently? I mean, it's pretty incredible you could have an injury like that and go back to war.

ROZELLE: Well, for me, I was actually just had to find balance between the two legs and adjust my body so that I could just be able again. I didn't want to be a combat (INAUDIBLE) by constantly being evacuated to the battle field, so I had to prove myself and to my soldiers that I could go back.

Things like this allow me to get back to normal activity and Biom specifically allows me to walk with a normal gait, where it's tuned to how I'm walking on the my left side so that I can move just like -- and you wouldn't know it, honestly, you wouldn't know it just by watching me walk down the street.

BURNETT: And I know, Dr. Herr, that you are now about to do something that would be even revolutionary stuff, which is people who are having their legs amputated above the knee. Sort of been the final frontier in terms of the technology until now, right?

HERR: Yes, we're just now offering this technology for people that are amputated about the knee. So, we're just -- from the ground up, we're rebuilding people. BURNETT: Major Rozelle, what would you say to other soldiers who -- coming home and have this daunting prospect, feeling like a totally different human being? With these injuries than they did before?

ROZELLE: And I'm a visitor, and I talk to guys all the time. I spent the last week skiing with a bunch of newly injured guys. They see this kind of technology and they see the commitment of America and the United States Army and the government to take care of these young people and get them back fully to what they deserve.


BURNETT: That was pretty stunning to see.

Right now, let's check in with Anderson Cooper with a look at what's coming up on "A.C. 360".

Hey, Anderson.

ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, "A.C. 360": Hey, Erin.

Tonight on the program, we obtained for our sources in the Middle East nearly 3,000 e-mails sent between Syrian President Bashar al- Assad, his wife Asma, and a tight group of their friends and inner circle advisers. What is most striking about the emails is the tone of the conversation, particularly between the president and his wife. Now, as their country is engulfed in a blood bath, as President Assad continues to lie to the world about what's happening and his own troops and thugs slaughter civilians at around 8,000 of his citizens have been killed, he and his wife have other things on their mind.

Take a look at this e-mail from November 20th last year when Asma al-Assad is talking to one of her friends who's apparently in other countries. She says, quote, "Are you coming around 2nd or 3rd? If so, please can you bring the 'Harry Potter Deathly Hallows Part 2' released on 2nd of December."

"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallow" sounds like not a care in the world and maybe there wasn't for her.

But there was more. There was a lot more for the 100,000 people in the city of Idlib. On the very day she sent that e-mail, the Syrian government was shelling Idlib, killing civilians and her husband was lying to the world about what was happening.

As I said, we got our hands in nearly 3,000 of these emails. This conflict has been going on for nearly a year. Not much more we can call shocking anymore about this, but that's what these e-mails are. They're shocking. We'll have more ahead on "360" tonight.

BURNETT: All right, Anderson. I'm really looking forward to hearing this. It's been pretty stunning to hear about them.

All right. Well, now for tonight's "Outer Circle", we go to Japan where just moments ago, the new iPad went on sale. You got to wait until tomorrow if you're in New York right now. But let us go to Tokyo. Hundreds waited in line to get their hands on the new tablet. Some camping out all night, braving freezing temperatures.

The new iPad goes on sale tomorrow morning here in the U.S. and more than 25 other countries next week. Apple shares perhaps in recognition of this -- it's $600 for the first time today, a new high for the stock market's most valuable company.

Kyung Lah is outside an Apple store in Ginza, Japan.

Kyung, good to see you. I see the line there. I like that guy with his hat. Forty-five minutes ago, the iPad went on sale. What do people think so far?

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, remember, these are the devotees if you couldn't tell. And what they're saying so far -- he thinks it is absolutely beautiful. And so far, it is worth it.

There are still people here in line waiting for the new iPad and what they will tell you is that it is worth freezing out here. But again, these are the real devotees. About 400 people waiting in line, trying to get ahold of this. They are among the first in the world to get ahold of the new iPad.

What is driving them to stand in line here is the high resolution, even though critics say that this is enough to move forward, but everyone here in line is saying it is worth it -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Kyung Lah, I love that. I love those pictures, they all dress up. Something about it -- it's like a fun event.

All right. Thanks so much to Kyung Lah, reporting live from Ginza, Japan.

And you will get that iPad in the U.S. tomorrow. Everybody else, next week some time.

All right. Remember the Chinese government suggests the death penalty as a deterrent to government corruption? In fact, they have set a dollar amount where if you take this much in bribes, you will be killed. And we're going to tell you what the number is.

And then super sharks. They're not coming. This is no a horror movie. Super sharks are bleeding at this moment.


BURNETT: In a shocking press conference today, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao fired Bo Xilai, a political star in the communist party who was looked at as a potential future president of China. This was a major deal, and it is sending shockwaves throughout China, mostly because of the secrecy surrounding the sudden announcement.

Bo made a name for himself, leading a crackdown on crime and promoting an economic model that emphasized a more equitable distribution of wealth. He also called on his citizens to sing Mao era revolutionary songs. But then a month ago, one of his chief lieutenants, allegedly sent a letter to overseas Web sites accusing Bo of covering up corruption. Was he really corrupt or did China's ruling elite just think that he was getting too famous, rising too quickly? That's the big question in China tonight.

It brings us to tonight's number: 120 billion. That's the dollar amount Chinese officials and enterprise managers have reportedly fled China with over the past 20 years in ill-gotten bribes. That's enough to buy Intel, PepsiCo or Disney.

But the corruption doesn't end there. Between 1999 and 2005, the Chinese government uncovered more than a million cases of illegal acquisition of land, and half of the provincial transportation chiefs in China, half of them, have been executed for corruption. The Chinese government is not taking this corruption lying down.

This week, a Chinese government official proposed a new system which would call for the execution of any official who steals more than $80,000. As Rod Blagojevich, who is heading to jail tonight after being convicted of trying to sell Barack Obama's Senate seat in exchange for, quote-unquote, "millions of dollars", well, he's lucky he lived in Chicago.

Cherry blossoms, shrinkage and super sharks. What do these three things have in common, other than more S's than I'm capable of saying?

That's OUTFRONT, next.


BURNETT: All right. Climate change, global warming appears to be in full effect. This past week, people here in New York and across the country have been enjoying all kinds of spring and frankly summer activities which, of course, has its benefits for people itching to get outside. But it, of course, has had a strange effect on nature.

It was announced today that the cherry blossom festival dates have been moved up in Washington, D.C. by a month because warm weather has caused them to blossom that much earlier.

It's not just cherry blossoms. Global warming is affecting the animal world, too. For weeks, one of our producers, Bob Hand, has been talking about global warming is causing horse and human shrinkage, as in warm periods of history, horse were the size of cats and people were four feet tall.

But the impact of climate change on sharks is in the here and now. According to reps for the Atlantis in Dubai, the warm weather -- and that's saying something in Dubai, believe me -- has led to sharks aggressively procreating at an alarming rate, describing the matings as a fiery union, the Atlantis director of marine life says sharks spring break is expected to produce 10 new baby sharks this year and more next year. By the way, there's only 60 sharks there right now.

So, it doesn't end there. The shark orgy is a much bigger and more widespread problem as seas around the world warm. According to researches at the University of Queensland, 57 hybrid sharks have been found off the east coast of Australia. The experts speculate that the interbreeding is the result of sharks trying to survive climate change and warn that, quote, "other closely related shark and ray species around the world may be doing the same thing."

So the next time you're outside enjoying the warm weather, remember this: those cherry blossoms might be really nice but, yes, they are bringing super sharks with them. That was a truly disturbing story we stumbled upon.

Thanks so much, as always, for watching. Sweet dreams.

"ANDERSON COOPER 360" starts now.