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President Obama Paid a Surprise Visit to Afghanistan; New Tactic for Terrorists to Get Explosives on a Plane; Florida's "Stand Your Ground" Law to be Reviewed

Aired May 1, 2012 - 23:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

Breaking news tonight, President Obama on a surprise and whirlwind trip to Afghanistan. He announced an agreement with Hamid Karzai end up control of the country's security. And he also announced a specific road map for U.S. troops to come home from the more than decade long war.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Last year, we removed 10,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Another 23,000 will leave by the end of summer. After that, reductions will continue at a steady pace with more and more of our troops coming home. And as our coalition agreed, by the end of 2014, the Afghans will be fully responsible for the security of their country.


BURNETT: The trip fell on the one-year anniversary of the day that the president ordered Navy S.E.A.L.s to take out Osama bin Laden.


OBAMA: Over the last three years, the tide has turned. We broke the Taliban's momentum. We built strong Afghan security forces. We devastated al Qaeda's leadership, taking out over 20 of the top 30 leaders. One year ago, from the base here in Afghanistan, our troops launched the operation that killed Osama bin Laden. The goal that I set to defeat al Qaeda and deny it a chance to rebuild is now within our reach.


BURNETT: So does all of this add up? Does the president's optimism about the future square with what's happening on the ground?

Sean Parnell has served in Afghanistan. He is the author of "Outlaw Platoon" who is Pittsburg tonight. Colonel Cedric Leighton is a former member of the joint staff and he is in Washington tonight.

All right, good to see both of you. And let me -- let me just ask you this question, Colonel Leighton first to find out if this ad up. We just heard the president there saying by the end of 2014 Afghans will be fully responsible for their own security. Is that possible?

COLONEL CEDRIC LEIGHTON, RETIRED U.S. AIR FORCE: Well, not really, Erin, and here's why. The Afghans have obviously tried at least some of them have tried to be part and parcel of the training effort that the U.S. and NATO has put out, you know, during the last few years.

And it's been a major effort, it has worked to some degree. But the problem is that in spite of the successes that it has had, it's not a complete success and you're not going to find a system that we can put into Afghanistan that will allow us to seamlessly transition over from U.S. control or NATO control to Afghan control.

And so, I'm afraid that with those time lines we might not be able to meet those and I'm afraid that we're going to run into some difficulties.

BURNETT: Sean, let me get your point of view. You spent a lot of time in Afghanistan and you served there. When the president refers as we heard him refer to, quote, "we have built strong Afghan security forces," a lot of people will say well, God, we have been supposed to have trained these security forces them back since 2002.

Are they strong? Are they ready or is that wishful thinking?

SEAN PARNELL, AUTHOR, OUTLAW PLATOON: Well, look, yes, I mean, everybody is talking about a 352,000 robust Afghan military force. But really that's not -- that's not the talking point here. I mean, the questions that we need to be asking is, is there an infrastructure in Afghanistan to feed those soldiers, to transport those soldiers, to pay those soldiers? And the answer to that question is no.

And if you don't have those things, all you have is a bunch of soldiers with guns and whether or not they're courageous isn't the issue. They will collapse within a week if we don't have that infrastructure and command and supply infrastructure with which to pay them so they can operate effectively. And right now, we can't expect them to do that right now.

BURNETT: And Sean, what about the follow, as the president is trying to define, you know. As he said, look, if we try to define the mission more broadly than simply trying beating al Qaeda then we will lose a lot of more American lives and spend a lot more money. So, I'm redefining it that way and that's within reach.

Would you agree? And given the concern that both you and Colonel Leighton have raised about the security force, once the U.S. pulls out does something possibly then rise whether that's al Qaeda or something else?

PARNELL: Yes. I mean, that's a great question to ask. And I thing you know, I agree with the president with regards to the fact that we had decimated high-level leaders in al Qaeda. And they are not going to be able to operate as effectively as they did in a pre-9/11 world. And this much is true.

But the bottom line is, is that we have 150,000 soldiers in Afghanistan right now and we have our work cut out for us on the border as it is. And to expect an Afghan force to do it when we leave I think is wishful thinking.

BURNETT: Colonel Leighton, I wanted to play something else that the president talked about. Sort of referring to what many Americans are aware of which is a hugely corrupt and dysfunctional government in Afghanistan. Here's what he said about how that will change.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It supports Afghan efforts to advance developments and dignity for the people and includes Afghan commitments to transparency and accountability and to protect the hour man rights of all Afghans. Men and women, boys and girls.


BURNETT: Colonel Leighton, he's referring to the strategic partnership which was worked on by Democratic and Republicans that the president just signed with Hamid Karzai. But Afghan commitments to transparency a kind of ability and protect the rights of all Afghans. Everyone hopes that is true. But is that more rhetoric?

LEIGHTON: Unfortunately it is. I think the president sincerely believes this is a laudable and achievable goal. But anyone who like Sean has had experience in Afghanistan knows that there is a real problem dealing with this culture of corruption that exists there. And it is not just something that you see on the surface and then it goes away because you find somebody else who's honest. It doesn't work that way.

These -- the whole society is based on a totally different structure of what works economically than what we're used to. And the other part of it is that this area is one in which each and every effort to get human rights in there, to protect the rights of women, to protect the rights of girls to go to school, it's laudable goal but I'm afraid if there is a back sliding that the Taliban for example gets into power again, that would be a real problem and I don't think we'd see the -- a solution to that at all.

BURNETT: And Sean, a final question to you. As you fought on the ground in Afghanistan, you know, lately we have heard awful things. The Quran burnings although accidental. The Sergeant Bales alleged shooting of Afghan civilians, Afghan security forces killing their U.S. colleagues. I mean, the headlines have been a drum beat of terrible things.

What does this president -- presidential visit do for troop morale over there?

PARNELL: I've got to tell you that I watched this speech and I think that the president is a great orator. And to be perfectly honest, you know, that's what I'm a boots on the ground infantry guy. I was inspired by the speech. I mean, Erin. For one third of my life, we have been at war in this nation. I have been intricately involved in training and fighting on the ground there. And it almost brought tears to my eyes, you know, dreaming about the fact that the Afghan war might be coming to a close, you know.

But, I think the president's speech was good. And I'm glad he gave it and I think it was good for the morale of the soldiers over there too.

BURNETT: All right. Well, we will end on that - on that point of yours.

Thanks very much to both of you.

Senior White House officials say it was a coincidence that the president's trip came on the anniversary of bin Laden's death, but more politics at play.

John Avlon joins us, Reihan Salam, joins us.

And - OK. Good to have both of you. I thought that this was very interesting how obviously, maybe some of the things that the president said didn't add up to the military experts, but it's a poignant speech and Sean said for a third of his life we were at war. That was beautifully put.

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It was beautifully put. That was an extraordinary point. I mean, World War II lasted just for four years. And we have been at war for ten.

And tonight, the president eloquently laid out a timetable what he called sort of, you know, a responsible end of the war, but all focus on re-focusing this debate, the terms of the debate of the war and terror on al Qaeda where it began in Afghanistan, where it began. And that is a powerful argument that's going to resonate with the American people and it's an achievable goal as well. Because it's more modest essentially than some of the goals that have been set out years previous.

BURNETT: I mean, Reihan, I thought he was trying to be very specific. That it's about al Qaeda. Nothing else.


BURNETT: And in fact, went so far -- I was a little surprised in a national speech to say, I'm not trying to completely eradicate the Taliban. If some of you want to work with us, that's OK. Obviously that's a pragmatic thing, but it's something that president would always say.

SALAM: Yes. I see a strong historical parallel here. When you think of the United States, and its involvement in Vietnam. By 1975, you had a situation with South Vietnam who was arguably stronger than had been. They have defused some military victories but the country was ready to wash its hands of South Vietnam. The country was exhausted. And just as we saw in the previous panel, look, a lot of this is a pie in the sky. Can this Afghanistan survive? Will it keep having democratic election, can it actually defeat the bitter enders and the Taliban? There's a good reason to believe no.

But the country or at least a majority of the country is ready to wash its hands. I think there are a lot of folks on the right who are going to say, look, this is a serious mistake. We should maintain an investment. We should stick at it. But the problem is that that's not a very politically viable position even if you believe that to be true.

BURNETT: Nor perhaps as a pragmatic one of these days. Maybe what he's saying is pie in the sky but the broader goals are even more out there.

SALAM: Right. And very expensive (INAUDIBLE).


And Tim Punke joins us now, Democratic strategist. Tim, I want to play something else that the president said that it's interesting that want to do this again tonight. He's gotten criticism from the likes of Mitt Romney, for wanting laying out a time line. As people say, you lay out of time line, then your enemies know when you are leaving. Your friends don't cross you to stay. But the president brought that up and addressed it specifically. Here he is.


OBAMA: As we move forward some people will ask why we need a firm time line. The answer is clear. Our goal is not to build a country in America's image or to eradicate every vestige of the Taliban. These objectives would require many more years and more dollars and most importantly, many more American lives.

Our goal is to destroy al Qaeda and we are on a path to do exactly that. Afghans want to assert their sovereignty and build a lasting peace. That requires a clear time line to wind down the war.


BURNETT: Tim, certainly he tries to put it in terms of what Afghans want, but I'm sure he's well aware of polls like CNN's most recent one, 72 percent of Americans oppose this war. Americans want a time line.

TIM PUNKE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: That's right. I think Americans want a time line. And look. I mean, the president is talking about critics, frankly, on both sides of the issue there. Some people who have talked about the time line. There are other critics who want American troops to get out of the country tomorrow.

But at the end of the day I think it's important to note that this trip was not a political trip. This was not about the campaign, even though we're in a campaign year. This is a trip about supporting the troops. This is a trip about making an important announcement about U.S. and Afghanistan. And mostly, it was an important time to talk about the one-year anniversary of killing bin Laden. And as the president mentioned several times, the continuing fight against al Qaeda.

So, I - you know, I don't think most Americans will view this as a political or poll-driven visit. This was a policy visit.

BURNETT: On that note, political, there wasn't a lot of that in there. I mean, but Reihan, there was one thing, one thing that somebody might hone in on and maybe it wouldn't be fair. But I wanted to play it and get your reaction.

Here is the president talking about the economic crisis.


OBAMA: As we emerge from the decade of conflict abroad and economic crisis at home, it's time to renew America. An America where our children live free from fear and can claim their dreams. A united America, of grit and resilience, where sunlight glistens off soaring new towers in downtown Manhattan, and we build our future as one people. As one nation.


BURNETT: All right. He talked about emerging from a decade of conflict abroad. An economic crisis at home, Reihan. It's time to renew America. Campaign slogan?

SALAM: It's a very important message, but the question is, is he the right man to renew the country?

AVLON: It was a message looking forward the argument. This is a time for American nation building at home. But this speech overall was him embracing the bully pulpit. Owning the status of commander in chief, honoring the troops. And the thing is, when you do that, it makes the petty partisan politics of the presidential campaigns look small.

BURNETT: He did. He looked very big, right, Reihan?

SALAM: I think that's true.

BURNETT: All right. Well, thanks so very much to all three of you. Reihan Salam, John Avlon, Tim Punke joining us there from Washington.

OUTFRONT, story two, is next.


BURNETT: Still OUTFRONT, evolution of terror.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This would have been the biggest terrorist attack on U.S. soil since 9/11.

BURNETT: Global distress signal. All this OUTFRONT, when we come back.


BURNETT: Ahead OUTFRONT, a global day of rage over the economy. This boring more money and is spending, spending, spending the answer?

Plus, news on the Florida "Stand Your Ground" law breaking late tonight.

But first, the OUTFRONT story number two.

A new tactic for terrorists to get explosives on the plane, hiding a bomb inside their bodies. Now, according to our report out today, al Qaeda may have come with the way to get around airport detectors. And the way apparently it would work, is that a terrorist would have a bomb surgically implanted inside him or her.

A mastermind behind the new plot is believed to be Ibrahim al-Asiri, the same man behind the Christmas 2009 attempted bombing on a flight to Detroit, the so-called underwear bombing.

Rick Nelson is a former member of the National Security Council and National Counterterrorism Center. He's OUTFRONT tonight.

Good to see you, sir. Can you explain exactly what the heck this thing is? I mean, how it would work and how it would avoid detection?


Well, basically what it would be is a regular device, a bomb that we would use at any other sort of airplane type incident. Just inserted into the human body either through surgically or such other means and then that individual would be able to support security in theory and detonate the bomb once on board the plane.

BURNETT: I mean, it's just like those things were you hear about, you know, humans transporting drugs across borders where you basically ingest something whether it's in a balloon or condom or something like that?

NELSON: That's correct. Some way like that. All series and very seasoned bomb maker. He's very capable and he can go ahead and come up with the ways that devise a device that can be put inside the human body potentially and detonate it.

BURNETT: It's interesting. We were just hearing a former CIA director Hayden talking about or he was speaking earlier tonight about the risk of al Qaeda and saying that al Qaeda had been decimated as the president said. But we could see more numerous attacks.

And curious as to whether this is something that you think would a long wolf type of - type of thing, how much support, how much help you would need actually execute this sort of attack on an airplane? NELSON: Well, it is a very good question. Something like a body bomb would be a complicated type of evolution. It would take someone like his skill like Asiri as we have seen with the other home groan plots would like to side. They have been rudimentary and ultimately, they have failed. So, building a bomb is actually quite a technical feat and getting it inserted into the human body to detonate when you want it to detonate is technically challenged.

BURNETT: So, even though there's report says that Al Qaeda wants to do it, do we think that people can do it?

NELSON: I think they can in theory something we know about for long period of time, but actually conducting it and getting that bomb to detonate when you want it to detonate, how you want it to detonate is quite challenging and I'm not sure it's within the capability of the enemy at this time.

BURNETT: What are the biggest risks you think right now for the flying public from terrorists?

NELSON: Well, the biggest risk right now is they're assuming that any security apparatus that the United States puts into place is going to keep us safe from all threats. That's simply not the case. We will always -- we are facing a very creative, very adaptive enemy. They are going to continue to find ways to outthink and outsmart the security system. So, we have to be prepared at all times and expect them to continue outthink they security system.

BURNETT: So given the victory may be too strong of a word, but certainly there has victory against al Qaeda and a sense that a lot of its main operatives have been killed, not all but many. And in Yemen, in Afghanistan, in Pakistan. But the resulting dispersion, I guess that's the way of saying it, people who have been inspired by, motivated by and now live all over the world is the risk from terror more -- higher or lower than it was? A couple of years ago.

NELSON: A very good question. I think it's changed. You know, bin laden always wanted a movement that would be larger than his personality. A self-sustaining movement. And so, it is going to take us a couple of years for us to determine whether he was actually successful in achieving that, where individuals or affiliated groups adopt his ideology and then conduct attacks on their accord.

BURNETT: And one final question. You talk about the body bombs. And one of the things that they are looking at - I mean, yesterday, Nic Robertson was reporting that in some of the papers they found from al Qaeda in the Abadabad compound were plans to attack American cruise ships. I mean, it's got to be hard to creatively come up with the things that somebody who is out to do harm would come up with.

NELSON: Well, absolutely, it's impossible. And that's why, you know, we have to evolve past this mindset that the United States government can be able to protect Americans from all things at all times that's not feasible from the technological perspective or from a cost perspective. And we just have to continue to appreciate that the enemies creative are adaptive and we have to evolve with them. BURNETT: Thanks Asi.

Well, a federal jury today found a Bosnian born U.S. citizen guilty on planning a suicide bomb attacks on New York city subway in 2009. 28- year-old, Adis Medunjanin, faces a maximum sentence of life in prison following his conviction on nine charges, all the charges which include conspiring to carry out a suicide attack on American soil and receiving military training from al Qaeda.

Medunjanin and his alleged co-conspirator, Najibullah Zazi, were arrested in September 2009, just days before the bombings were going to happen. And now, we're getting startling new details about just how close this country came to suffering the most serious terror attack on U.S. soil since 9/11.

Our Susan Candiotti went OUTFRONT to get the story.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE), how would you like to be called?



ZAZI: Yes.


ZAZI: Last name, Zazi.


SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He is well- known now as New York submitted would be subway bomber. But in 2009, a smiling Najibullah Zazi was virtually a mystery man to the FBI. The FBI had no idea Zazi's plans with two friends was to strap on explosives and plow up the subway.

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: This would have been the biggest attack since 9/11 and that could have devastated New York city.

CANDIOTTI: During the trial of Zazi's co-plotter, new details about how close they came.

September 6, 2009. Days before that 9/11 anniversary, alarms go of when U.S. intelligence picks up this e-mail from a known al Qaeda operative in Pakistan to a complete unknown in the U.S.,, more alarms sound with an e-mail from Zazi that reads, the marriage is ready. A common terror code for an attack.

The FBI is tracking Zazi in Colorado but they have no idea how far along he really is. That for months he's been buying ingredients including hydrogen peroxide from a beauty supply warehouse, building detonators in this motel room in a Denver suburb. And even at one point, shooting hoops at this New York city basketball court with his friends from queens. (Inaudible) say, an Adis Medunjanin forming up their terror plans.

September 8, 2009. Zazi leaves Denver in a rental car. The FBI gets a Colorado highway patrolman to pull over Zazi for speeding. He gets a warning ticket and reveals an important details, he's headed to New York.

CRUICKSHANK: This was a perfect storm. You had a suspected al Qaeda terrorist driving to New York city the week that the 9/11 anniversary was on.

CANDIOTTI: September 10, 2009. With the feds on his tail, Zazi approaches the George Washington bridge into New York city. He's pulled over for a phony routine inspection. But they don't find bomb detonators hidden in his trunk.

Zazi is getting nervous, the FBI already is. They still don't know his plan.

In queens, Zazi realizes he's being followed. He gets the other one to flush the detonator down the toilet at his apartment. At this mosque, Zazi finds Medunjanin types out a text message for him that reads, the police are after me. We are done.

Zazi pulls the plug on September 10. Neither New Yorkers nor the FBI knows how close they came. Days later, back home in Denver, Zazi voluntarily meets with the FBI. In this rare, if not unprecedented recorded interview, Zazi tries to give an innocent explanation for an electronic scale he left behind.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you own or possess a scale of any kind?

ZAZI: I own -- I own -- any scale. But I think one -- one of the scale -- it's -- my family had it to use to make cakes and things.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I was to give you a scale, the only use that you know for a scale is to make cakes, is that accurate?

ZAZI: I have no idea about this.


BURNETT: When he confessed months after that FBI interview you saw there, Zazi admitted to the entire plot, a plot they managed to keep under the radar for so long.

Well, OUTFRONT story four is next.


BURNETT: Still OUTFRONT -- the last stand?

The task force on citizen's safety will review Florida statute 776. Shocking blow.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rupert Murdoch is not fit to run an international company.

BURNETT: All this OUTFRONT in our second half.


BURNETT: Welcome back to the second half of OUTFRONT.

We start the second half of our show with stories we care about, where we focus on the own reporting from the front line.

Well tonight, President Obama made a surprise visit to Afghanistan to sign an agreement with President Hamid Karzai. To end a war that's lasted more than a decade. The trip comes on the first anniversary of the United States raid which killed Osama bin Laden. The agreement pledges a decade of U.S. support after American soldiers scheduled to leave by the end of 2014. Now, the president approached the podium at Bagram air base and talked about the future of U.S. troops in Afghanistan.


OBAMA: I will not keep Americans in harm's way a single day longer than is absolutely required for our national security. But we must finish the job we started in Afghanistan and end this war responsibly.


BURNETT: Well, today the defense cross-examined the wife of a former aide to John Edwards. Defense lawyer accused Sherry Young and her husband, Andrew, of making money of the scandal through the tell-all book called "the politician."

Young says her husband wrote the book because Edwards would not admit to fathering a child with his mistress, Rielle Hunter. Edwards is on trial for allegedly using campaign funds to cover up the affair. Young is expected to finish cross-examination tomorrow.

Facebook has announced a new feature that will allow users to volunteer as organ donors. The social media site believes 118 million American users will follow the movement a big difference to the more than 114,000 people waiting for organ donations.

If you want to do it though, pay attention to our Elizabeth Cohen. She says, it's switching your status, organ donor doesn't make it official. That brings you to a Web site, donatelifeAmerica, that's where you have to formally add your name to the registry.

By the way, facebook apparently going to be launching its IPO according to "the Wall Street Journal" as soon as May 18.

Well, we told you last night about Aubrey McClendon, the CEO of natural gas - natural gas company Chesapeake. He is the CEO with an unusual pay package which let him take persona stakes the wealthiest company drilled.

Today, Chesapeake announced McClendon will relinquish chairman title. The company also reported, they felt short on first quarter profit. They're looking for 28 cents on the bottom line, the company had 18 per share. Revenue also was short of expectations and it remains if the move to get rid of the chairman title will be enough to quiet investigators? Not to mention the IRS and FCC which have launched investigation into McClendon's firm.

Well, it's been 271 days since the U.S. lost the top credit rating. When we are going to get it back? Well today, two strike team members told me that rising stock prices are helping, so even though the market lost steam at the end of the day today, let's celebrate the fact it is still closed up at the four-year high.

Well, our fourth OUTFRONT story tonight.

Global rage on mayday. For you, May 1st, it's always marked by protest, by workers and unions. And here in the U.S. from Los Angeles to New York, the occupy movement marked mayday with their own theme. Quote, "a day with 99 percent." No work, no shopping, no school or banking.

Well, times are still tough, in the U.S. and across a lot of Europe. But can we do more to ease the pain? Here's a look at how much America has spent so far.

The total is $3.5 trillion in stimulus spending. As you can see, that includes the amount of T.A.R.P. that is still owed, the payroll tax, unemployment benefit extensions, the original stimulus plan, as well as Ben Bernanke's quantitative easing programs designed to lower interest rates.

$3.5 trillion is a huge number. But we may need more. Now, we went and asked the OUTFRONT strike team, made up of the country's top CEO, entrepreneurs and innovators. And we asked our team whether if they thought we could spend right more and it was overwhelmingly, no.

From Ken Lowe, CEO of Scripps Network in Iraq Interactive, he said quote, "I think we have reached the point where further economic stimulus could do more harm than good."

And Brian Rogers, chairman of T. Rowe Price said quote, "it's time to gradually take off the training wheels and see if we can ride the bike."

Well, OUTFRONT tonight, Stephen Moore of the "Wall Street Journal" editorial board and the former labor secretary, Robert Reich whose author of the "beyond outrage."

All right. Great to have both of you with us.

Mr. Reich, let me go ahead and argue here, obviously it was pretty overwhelming. We did of a couple of people who thought that more stimulus would be appropriate. David Stern of the NBA said Krugman style would be the way he goes, but he was a full out liar.

ROBERT REICH, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, BERKELEY: Hi Erin. Even if you don't think that more stimulus is appropriate or necessary or even possible right now. At the very least, you don't want to do more government cutting.

One reason the economy slowed down in the first quarter of this year to an annualized rate of just 2.2 percent is because of all the government cutting in spending. Europe's austerity policies there have proven that that kind of a government cutting, when you have so much unemployment and so much reluctance on the part of consumers and businesses to spend is a recipe for disaster. It slows the economy even more.

BURNETT: That's an interesting point you make. Stephen Moore, I mean, does the cut backs in the government payrolls are really hurting, does it justify more spending?

STEPHEN MOORE, EDITORIAL BOARD, WALL STREET JOURNAL: Well, you know, to borrow a phrase from President Obama, Erin and Bob, we tried it your way and it didn't work. We have had as you just showed, Erin, the biggest stimulus experiment, the biggest Keynesian borrowing experiment in the history of the country with this - by my calculation is a little higher than your Erin, by four to five trillion over the last --

BURNETT: A little? I mean, hey, only when you're talking about numbers like $3.5 trillion is 3.5 versus five, like a marginal difference. OK, go ahead.

MOORE: Very big numbers, whether your numbers are right or mine. And the point is, that we haven't seen any kind of recovery like most Americans want. What I'd like to see -- look, when this issue about growth versus austerity, I guess I'm with Bob Reich. I do want more economic growth. I think that's the key to getting the debt down and I think it's the getting to get Americans back in the jobs.

But I think that's the combination, Erin, of cutting back on government spending which we have seen so much over the last three years and cutting taxes and regulations on businesses so they can expand the operations. That's the kind of growth I want to see.

BURNETT: I want to ask you a question, Bob Reich -- go ahead.

REICH: You know, Erin. I was going to say Steve Moore may not that far apart here. I would say, before we do more government cutting on the spending side, what we ought to do is set a target for unemployment. Maybe we want -- you know, maybe we don't cut anymore spending until unemployment gets down to six percent. Then, when unemployment hits that level and then we get two quarters of growth at about three percent a quarter, then, we hit the austerity button and we have major cuts. But before that, the danger is that we create too much kind of--

MOORE: Wait a minute. Hold on, Bob. There's a big problem with what you just described. A six percent unemployment rate under the pace we're at, in terms of job creation, we are going to have a six percent unemployment rate for four or five more years.

I mean, when are we going to get the enormous debt down, Erin? I guess the point that a lot of conservatives are making, we can't continue to prosper as a nation if we're borrowing a trillion dollars a year after year as Bob Reich is suggesting.

BURNETT: Well, Bob. I want to ask you when --

REICH: No, wait a minute. I'm not suggesting that.

BURNETT: Respond to that. Go ahead.

REICH: Everybody understands that if consumers are holding back, if businesses are holding back, if exports are declining because we've got a recession brewing in Europe and China is slowing, what we do have to do is maintain enough demand to maintain at least a modicum of growth. Remember, the goal is not just deficit reduction. It's the reduction of the debt as a proportion of the total economy. So if the economy starts shrinking or the growth stops we're in greater and greater trouble.

MOORE: It is possible, Bob Reich, that things are better than they seem? Stewart Miller, CEO of Lennar e-mailed me today, housing is the last part of the economy to recover, and that is happening. People may dispute me, but I see it. The data point suggests real recovery.

CEO of the manufacture (INAUDIBLE) Dave Roberts said this is the strongest market he's experienced since 2007.

Is it possible that after this long and terrible recovery which one could argue has been over a decade, where we haven't had a wager growth -- that we could really be coming up and we just start seeing it yet?

REICH: It's possible. We'll know more about the April job numbers come this Friday. But the March quarterly report in terms of the commerce department report and also as you remember the March unemployment report both were very disappointing. Let's keep our fingers crossed.

MOORE: Yes. Look, Erin. If you want to know what real growth is like, a real recovery, look at what we had in the first quarter of 1984 under the Reagan expansion. Seven, eight percent growth in the GDP. We are only growing at two to two and a half percent, that's way too meager to get the economy back, to get the jobs back that we need.

I think - I do think if we can avoid the big tax increase, which is I think is just as wet blanket over the head of the economy right now with June as you know, that's going to happen on January 1, 2013. If we can take that risk away, I'm with you Erin. And I'm with the CEOs. I think this economy is ready prep for the big expansion except for that big taxes wet blanket of big tax increases next year.

BURNETT: All right. Well, thanks very much to both of you. We appreciate it. See you again soon.

And please go on twitter, tell us what you think. Spend or not right now.

Well, a Florida task force held the first hearing today on the controversial "Stand Your Ground" law. You may remember it, brought into the spotlight after the shooting of Trayvon Martin. The question is will the law stand?

Answers tonight, a member of the task force OUTFRONT next.


BURNETT: Florida "Stand Your Ground" law is under scrutiny tonight as government Rick Scott's task force began debating if it should be repealed, modified or just left completely alone.

Now, the law as you're aware became a lightning rod after 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by volunteer neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman in February.

Now, Zimmerman has been charged with second-degree murder. He says it was self-defense. Justifiable homicides have tripled in Florida since the law passed in 2005. It's become a national issue because of this case, but there are 24 other states with similar laws to Florida's.

State representative Dennis Baxley co-authored the "Stand Your Ground" law in Florida. He's on the governor's task force, Natalie Jackson is an attorney for Trayvon Martin's family.

And I appreciate both of you coming OUTFRONT together. This is a good conversation to have with both you.

Representative Baxley, let me start with you. Obviously, you're task force now, first day. You were the person who -- you know, co- authored this bill. Got this law to go forward.

Have you learned anything now that's made you say, you know what, we should modify it, we should change it?

REP. DENNIS BAXLEY, FLORIDA STATE HOUSE: Well, I'm learning something every day as this unfolds and I think we're learning a lot about the application of this statute as it's not new. It's been here for seven years. We're not an outlier. Over half the country has something like this, and we simply want people to be safe and to -- when they do experience violent attack to be able to defend themselves from harm.

So I feel vindicated because in the beginning I was told that my statute, the one that I had sponsored with U.S. the reason that -- was the reason that Mr. Zimmerman couldn't be charged. And I said I didn't see how that applied because there's nothing in our statute that provides for you to pursue, confront or provoke anyone. And of course there are other self-defense arguments and I'm sure Mr. Zimmerman's attorney is going to try to do that.

But I think the healthy review, to help people understand this statute and how it applies and how it keeps people safe. There will always be some close calls and of course our heart goes out when tragedy occurs.

I have been a funeral director for over 40 years. I have stood with family and friends through very tragic circumstances. And it's the most painful thing in the world for a child to die and I extend my condolences to the family. I'm grateful that we do have things in motion in Florida and I think the task force will help clarify what we need to do with our statute. But I'm not operating on the presumption that it's flawed.

BURNETT: Natalie, how does that make you feel? That Mr. Baxley is saying he does not believe that it's flawed.

NATALIE JACKSON, MARTIN FAMILY LAWYER: Well, I agree with the representative on a point and that's the point that we don't think this statute applies to the Trayvon Martin case either.

We don't believe that -- like he said, it allows for someone to pursue and confront someone. The problem may be with the statute it's overly abroad and it allows for misinterpretation of the law and that's what happens here. So many people can interpret it so many different ways. It doesn't mean they're interpreting it right which is what happened here. But, you know, it does definitely need to -- at least we need to look at the tailoring of it.

BURNETT: Well, that brings me to another question. State senator Chris Smith, as you know, has a task force and among the changes that they have come forward with "Stand Your Ground" was that a defendant shouldn't have immunity from arrest as one example. And better recordkeeping too to track how often this law is used. I mean, as we talk about the surge in so-called justifiable homicide since there was a "Stand Your Ground" law in Florida.

Would you agree with some of those modification, there that should be some changes to clarify since it seems so often that these cases come down to, well, he said and the other people's dead.

BAXLEY: Well, out of respect to Senator Chris Smith and he's a good friend. We served in the Florida house together and debated many issues. But out of respect to him and to Governor Jennifer Carroll, our lieutenant governor who's chairing this task force, I'm going to withhold response to his proposals until he has an opportunity at our next meeting to actually present those proposals.

But I am going to be very cautious about anything that would diminish our law-abiding citizens' ability to protect themselves from harm. Everyone is going to need that protection at some point. This statute protects everyone because perpetrators know that we will stand be the victim and they have seconds to make a decision when they know they'll be in the situation and they need to know we won't re-victimize them with the system and drag them in front of the grand jury if they're actually the victim of a violent attack. They're a law-abiding citizen doing nothing wrong.

BURNETT: Natalie, do you think -- what do you think is a bigger concern here? In the case of Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman? The fact that Zimmerman just happened to have a gun and maybe he shouldn't have had one, this could have been prevented, or the fact that he would have been aware of whether he would have used the words stand your ground, but that's sort of a concept in Florida.

JACKSON: Well, it's the fact that he's one of the people that we worry about misinterpreting the law. That's why there needs to be tighter definitions on the law especially with not being able to arrest. The police - the Stanford police department said they could not arrest George Zimmerman because he claimed self-defense. That' that's preposterous. You should not - you can't go and kill someone and then says, it's self-defense. And they also hurt.

But, that's the interpretation that some people have of this law. So, that's why those things need to be at least more definitively defined.

BURNETT: All right. Well, thanks very much to both of you. We appreciate it as always. We know you have a lot of thoughts about this issue, so please, take to twitter and to our facebook page and let us know what you think.

Next, Rupert Murdoch, not fit to run News Corp.? That's what the findings British report where British members of parliament investigating the phone hacking scandal and said Rupert Murdoch just can't do his job. Could this force him out of his company? We ask him.


BURNETT: And we're back with tonight's "outer circle" where we reach out to the sources around the world.

And tonight, we begin in London. A British government committee stated in a report today that Rupert Murdoch is not a fit person to run a major international company. As part of its investigation into the phone hacking scandal by a News Corp. owned paper, the committee accused its CEO of quote "willful blindness" to the hacking by the news of the world.

Dan Rivers is following the story and I asked him what this really means for News Corp.


DAN RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Erin, this is potentially very bad news for Rupert Murdoch's U.K. business interests because at the moment the British TV regulator which is called Ofcom is already deliberating about whether Rupert Murdoch is a fit and proper person to have a TV broadcast license.

The fact that this committee has come up with a very similar conclusion concluding that he's not a fit person to have the stewardship of a major international company, some might say is another nail in his coffin and may increase pressure on him to stand aside. That shareholders and the board of News Corp. may feel that he and he alone is going to cost them possibly their broadcast license in the U.K. and BSkyB is a major cash cow for News Corp. - Erin.


BURNETT: All right. Thanks very much to Dan.

And now to Paris with five days left before the presidential election runoff. Now, incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy is facing off against Francois Hollande. It's been a fight to the end. And both men today held rallies in deciding votes though may not come from the voters but from supporters of the Marine Le Pen, the far right candidate who is actually eliminated in the first round. She also had a rally today and I asked Jim Bitterman what her supporters or who her supporters are going to vote for.


JIM BITTERMAN, CNN SENIOR EUROPEAN CORRESPONDENT: Erin, of course, Marine Le Pen is not in this presidential election anymore. She got eliminated in the first round, but she did manage to capture almost 18 percent of the vote. And those votes, the two leading candidates are now going into the runoff, Mr. Hollande and Mr. Sarkozy would love to have them.

But Marine Le Pen sort of frustrated those two candidates today because she told her followers that she personally was going to cast a blank ballot. She's going to the polling place and slip a white piece of paper into the envelope and vote for neither one of them. And doing her civic duty, but making a kind of a protest.

And we talked to the people at the rally today that follow her and they said they would do the same thing. So even though she told them to vote their conscience, vote whichever way they want, the fact is that probably a lot will follow her example - Erin.


BURNETT: Everyone is going to be watching this weekend. The e-block is next.


BURNETT: The scream. A painting by Edvard Munch could become the most expensive ever sold. It is up for auction at Sotheby's right here in New York city. It's tomorrow, and art experts expect it to sell for anywhere between 80 and $150 million. It's a heck of a lot of money. It would smash the record of $106 million paid for a Picasso in 2010.

But did you know this, the painting is actually one of four screams created by Munch during his lifetime. This one is owned by Peter Olson whose father was a friend and neighbor of Munch.

Now, Olson plans to use the money to open a museum. When I was Norway, I went to see one of the screams in Oslo, one that had been stolen and returned and stolen and returned. That a whole other part of the saga. But, my Norwegian friends are very proud, in fact that Munch was from there.

Now, there are basically, you know, two incredibly famous Norwegian guys, Munch and the writer, Henrik Ibsen. Now, the actually knew each other and took inspirations from each other's work.

Ibsen was the established writer in his '60s. Munch would be up and coming Mentis, the artist in his 303. But they did know each other, more than a century ago.

So, the next move for Ibsen could be a contemporary writer. One writer in particular is Jo Nesbo. Some call him Yo or (INAUDIBLE), something like that. And he goes by Jo, he says now. But he is fantastic. He is a former stock broker, rock musician. He's been called the Stieg Larsson of Norway. You know, he is famous and he should be to the rest of the world.

The new movie, Head Hunters though is based on one of his books. And my favorite books by him are the ones featuring a detective named, Harry Hall. One day, Harry Hall will be just as big and important as (INAUDIBLE).