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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Interview with Senator Mike Lee; Joe Biden on Attack; John Edwards Trial; RFK Jr.'s Estranged Wife Found Dead
Aired May 16, 2012 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERIN BURNETT, HOST: OUTFRONT next a bold threat by Speaker Boehner, but it doesn't add up. And a sudden and unexpected death in the Kennedy family late today and imagine quitting your job and disappearing into isolation on a private island -- I'm sure we've all had this conversation with coworkers, right, (INAUDIBLE) opening a bike sand (ph) on Tahiti. Well that sort of what one man is doing for the next year. He isn't in Tahiti, but before goes off the grid he comes OUTFRONT.
OUTFRONT tonight, give me a break. The Senate today voted 99-0 to shut down a budget bill. It was not an honest effort, both sides pointing fingers about what was really in the budget. So they wasted time writing something and then voting on something that absolutely nobody ever wanted. So what are we the people supposed to say? Hey, at least they agree on something like not having a functioning government? No, no, this was a fail. And it's fails like this that send the American lemmings hurtling closer to the cliff of physical extinction.
But at our core we believe on this show that this country can get it together and do a deal not die like those incredibly over fed lemmings. So we cling to hope about a very special lunch that happened today where something may have gotten done to help our country avoid the lemming cliff. Except, well we'll see, the president bought hoagies for himself and the other men needed to get a deal done, House Speaker John Boehner. The president brought the hoagies home to the White House as a take out lunch, I guess they cut it in half?
And they went -- brought it back to the White House and the two met in private to talk debt. The debt crisis is worse every single day in this country, and the battle over raising the debt ceiling is in full swing. It's going to happen again this year. Remember the last time. We lost our credit rating, frankly an obsession on this show. The first shot was fired by House Speaker John Boehner to me yesterday when he said he would insist that every single dollar of a debt ceiling increase be matched by a dollar in, quote unquote, "cuts or reforms". Now, see, in that word "reforms" I hear something that could be the mantra of this show -- Bill.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These numbers don't add up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Maybe Bill Clinton watches OUTFRONT but to me the speaker's words didn't add up. Listen for yourself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: When you said reforms or cuts, I get what cuts are. We can all debate what they're going to be, but we all know what the word means. Reform could mean anything --
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE SPEAKER: Budget reforms is what I was talking about, reforms to all kinds of different programs.
BURNETT: So it could be Medicare. It could be Social Security. It could also be theoretically closing loopholes so that some people in this country end up paying more in taxes than they're paying. And I just want to make it clear that when people talk about this whole tax increase, you may not like the word, but in your world some people will pay more in taxes, post your reform, than before it, right?
BOEHNER: Well, but the idea here is we're going to bring the rates down for all Americans and clean out the loopholes where some get off scott-free.
BURNETT: Right, so that math is where I could pay more, you could pay more --
BOEHNER: Every American -- every American's rates will come down.
BURNETT: That's the political point, I get it, but the --
BOEHNER: No, no, that's a policy point.
BURNETT: -- overall payments I could pay more, right?
BOEHNER: We're going to bring everybody's rates down. And when you bring everybody's rates down, you clean out the underbrush. Now some Americans may pay more, some may pay less.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Some may pay more. It took a while to get him there, but he did. Now, John Boehner has spent 22 years in Congress. And some of you out there watching may loathe the man. Some of you may love the man. But this is the truth. He wants to have a big legacy of making a difference. But to do it, to be the man who delivers a grand bargain that goes down as one delivered by a Republican speaker, he has to get the Tea Party in line. That's why he uses words like reforms and wants to talk about lowering tax rates as a biblical statement when he really is going to end up with some paying more.
That means Mike Lee, Republican Tea Party senator of Utah needs to be on board and he is with us tonight and good to see you, sir. Really appreciate your taking the time. You heard the speaker there. Let's talk about this word cuts and reforms. First of all, do you think -- I'm sure you're on board with cuts and it depends on what cuts just like I said to the speaker. But in terms of reforms, are you also open to a system where by eliminating loopholes, which I know in your own budget you say you're for, some people in this country would end up paying more in taxes after the reform than they do before?
SEN. MIKE LEE (R), UTAH: Yes. And what we need is a flatter, simpler, fairer tax system, one that the American people can adopt, one that the American people can look forward to and plan ahead. That's exactly why in my budget, in the saving the American Dream Budget, I move toward exactly that kind of system, to replace our 70,000 page monstrosity of a tax system with something that every American can follow.
BURNETT: So why do you think it is that there seems to be at this point still a disconnect between the speaker and some Republican members of the Tea Party who don't seem open right now to some people paying more taxes? Is that battle won right now, the Republican Party would vote for some people to pay more in taxes?
LEE: Well, look, I make it a point never to speak for my colleagues or my counterparts in the House, but I'm not aware of anyone who would say that if one American might end up paying a little bit more that would necessarily count them out. We have to understand that our tax system, regardless of where you put the top marginal rate and regardless of how many rates you have is capable of yielding only about 18.5 percent of GDP each year, so the trick is to get to a point where we can produce a more steady, stable revenue stream. It can fund the programs that say we need. Our current path is unsustainable and our current income tax system can't adequately fund what we need year after year.
BURNETT: So where is the -- I have to say I think that not just rhetorically but we've come a far, long way in this conversation, Senator. I mean it used to be that absolutely no increase in taxes, even closing loopholes. That was the Grover Norquist point of view and now really there seems to be room to compromise, so what's holding it back? What's holding it back if you're willing to let some people pay more in taxes and the Democrats are willing to make cuts to things like Medicare? Why don't we have a deal?
LEE: Well, one of the reasons we don't have a deal is that while we've had four budgets that were voted on in the Senate today, presented by Republicans, all of which received votes, we have yet to have a single budget proposed in the Senate by any Democrat that has received even one vote. The only budget that we've gotten from any Democrat is from the president. That got zero votes last year in the Senate, zero votes this year in the Senate, zero last year in the House, zero votes this year in the House, so Republicans right now are the only ones putting anything forward. We need a budget from the Democrats so that we can figure out where we can find common ground.
BURNETT: OK. But let me just -- on this, the president -- the budget today that the Senate voted on 99-0. What I'm confused about in this is this is a Republican version of what they say the president's budget is and Democrats say it's not really his and Republicans don't like it so nobody votes for it. But what I see is I mean I understand that meatloaf and sausage is always made in Washington and no one likes to watch, but I mean this is a pretty ugly waste of time.
LEE: Well, it's not a waste of time. This is absolutely imperative. The status quo is unsustainable. It's threatening and impairing our ability to fund everything from defense to entitlements --
BURNETT: But how is putting a budget out --
LEE: This is absolutely essential to the process.
BURNETT: We all agree a budget is essential to the process, right, but putting something out that you know no one is going to vote for is a waste of your staffers' time. It's a waste of your vote. It's a waste of all of it, right? I mean Americans want a real budget, not just a rhetorical I put one out and they didn't.
LEE: I couldn't disagree with you more. You're never going to get a budget if you don't propose one. In order to be able to get us to the point of compromise, we need participation by both sides and of course --
BURNETT: OK, but how is putting out a budget, a Republican budget that they say is the president's budget that Democrats say isn't the president's budget and no one votes for it a real budget?
LEE: Well, that's a question for a different day. But what I'm saying is not one Democratic senator has put forward a budget. And we need them to do so.
BURNETT: But that was voted on today.
LEE: Yes, it was. The budget that was presented by the president was voted on today --
BURNETT: No, it wasn't the president's budget though, really.
LEE: OK, look --
BURNETT: It's what Republicans said was his budget but it wasn't really his budget.
LEE: Fine, then. If I stipulate for purposes of this conversation that that wasn't the president's budget, the fact still remains we still have yet to receive a single budget proposed by any Democrat that has received even a single vote in this entire Congress this year and last year. We need in order to be able to get to compromise some offering, some proposal somewhere from a Democrat and we don't have that.
BURNETT: Well, you have a budget and you've put it out and you've got all these bullet points here. And like I said it includes getting rid of loopholes, reducing spending to 17.8 percent of GDP by 2022, I'm sorry. There are a lot of things in here. Have you sat down with Democrats across the aisle to talk about it? We had Senator Coburn and Senator Warner on last night and they seem to think that they could really get a deal done. That's both sides of the aisle in the Senate. I mean do you have some Democrats who you have talked to you know heart to heart about your budget?
LEE: I talk to Democrats every single day and I'm confident that at some point we're going to get there. The question is how long it takes us. If we do it now, we can get the balance in a number of years that can be reckoned (ph) in the single digit. My budget balances within five years but we need Democrats to come to the table. That's what we're pushing forward because that's what the American people deserve and that's what they're demanding.
BURNETT: So when you sit down with them and you put this budget out, what do they say in here is a nonstarter or makes them the most angry, the Democrats? When you put -- I'm holding up your budget summary right now. What do they say?
LEE: So far what they're saying is that they're not going to support any budget. I'm not sure why, but that has been the strategy that they've taken --
BURNETT: I find that hard to believe. I mean I think everybody -- both sides want a budget. I mean I think that's fair to say. It's a matter of what's in it.
LEE: In this Congress we have yet to have a single Democrat who has either offered a budget or expressed any willingness to vote for any budget proposed by anyone else.
BURNETT: All right.
LEE: And so I'm open to and I'm welcome to, I'm inviting Democratic co-sponsors or Democrats to come to the table and find a compromise. But I have yet to find that.
BURNETT: All right well --
LEE: If you're aware of anyone, let me know who they are.
BURNETT: Well I will and you know what, I hope you'll come on with them. Will you do that? We can put you on side by side and talk about it?
LEE: I can do it. You bet.
BURNETT: All right. Well let's do that then and thank you very much. And Senator Lee (INAUDIBLE) does have a planned budget so you can go check it out online and see what you think about the different parts of it.
Well next OUTFRONT Vice President Biden goes on the attack trying to draw a clear difference between Obama and Romney and the focus is Bain Capital.
And the defense rests in the trial of John Edwards. A case with some of the most insane testimony we have ever heard. The top five are still OUTFRONT and late today a really terrible story. A surprising death in the Kennedy family, we're going to tell you exactly what happened. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BURNETT: Our second story OUTFRONT, the vice president goes on the attack in the battleground state of Ohio calling Mitt Romney out of touch with the middle class.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSEPH BIDEN, (D-DE) VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I resent when they talk about families like mine and what I grew up in. I resent the fact that they think we're talking about we're envy. It's job envy, it's wealth envy. That we don't dream. My mother believed and my father believed that if I wanted to be president of the United States, I could be. I could be vice president. My mother and father believed that if my brother or sister wanted to be a millionaire, they could be a millionaire. My mother and father dreamed as much as any rich guy dreams.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: John Avlon is here, so is Reihan Salam who as of tonight is a CNN contributor and we love it, Reihan.
REIHAN SALAM, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Thank you very much, Erin.
BURNETT: Reihan, we have (INAUDIBLE) blinking. Thank you very much, Erin. I've never seen you so reserved, Reihan.
SALAM: Well, you know I'm very grateful to you guys and I love being on the show and I look forward to jousting with you and my colleagues, you know, for many days to come, days and months to come.
BURNETT: Well we love it. We love having you. Michael Waldman is here too, former head speechwriter for President Clinton. Michael, I have to just ask you because you know Joe Biden and you have worked obviously with many Democrats here. He is a man of passion, but that was true passion.
MICHAEL WALDMAN, BRENNAN CENTER FOR JUSTICE, NYU: That was true passion. I think he really feels it. I think he really is offended in a way by the vision of how the economy works that Governor Romney has put out both with his record but also with his economic plan. And you know when you see that kind of passion it's a political question of does it come off as very hot. But I think he really meant it and I think you're going to hear the Democrats pound this theme, pound it, pound it over and over and over again.
WALDMAN: Two different visions of how the economy should work.
BURNETT: Now Reihan, I'm sure Mitt Romney would say I think everybody has the right in this country to wake up and want to be a millionaire and dream about it and become a millionaire, so what's the difference. But will this stick? SALAM: You know, I think that this certainly is a very effective line of attack. The problem is the president is very vulnerable with non- college educated working class white men and that's why his big attacks on Bain Capital have really focused on white men. The ads are full of these working class, tough guy, white guys and he knows that's a big vulnerability for him, particularly in a state like Ohio that is absolutely must win. It's essential in a state like Pennsylvania where the president actually looks somewhat more vulnerable than he might have expected to be.
And so I think that that's what this is really about. It certainly -- here's the problem. President Obama has a lot of bundlers, a lot of support who are coming from that same private equity world. Everyone knows it and so that's a real irony and a real tension here, including Joe Biden. Joe Biden's son works in this industry, as does his brother. And so the idea that he comes from this entirely different universe and really connects with these guys and their struggles --
SALAM: -- while Mitt Romney does not is I think a little bit problematic and we'll see if it sticks.
BURNETT: John Avlon, you know this Youngstown area very well --
BURNETT: -- where Biden was today.
JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Absolutely. My mother is from there. My grandmother still lives there. They're bringing Biden there because in that northeastern corner of Ohio is a real weakness. It's a swing part of the state in a swing (INAUDIBLE) swing state. And Biden has got that credibility you know to really speak to blue collar workers saying I understand, with the America we grew up in, I understand your vision of the American dream. It was the vision of the American dream I grew up in, but this is where the battleground is. This is where this fight is going to be fought. And it's smart to offer that contrasting image of an American economy rooted in manufacturing, a vision for the rust belt that looks forward as well as back.
WALDMAN: We're really in uncharted territory here. It's not just that Romney is one of the wealthiest people, depending on how you measure it, that whoever potentially been president --
WALDMAN: But we never had somebody who made their wealth in finance in a long time. The last time was 1940 that somebody who was principally a business executive was a major party nominee for president. We've never seen it in the modern political era --
BURNETT: Quickly before we go, I just want to play this. Chris Christie and Cory Booker (ph), two different parties, but this is fun. Watch it. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) baby.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor, stand back! I got this. I got this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Booker!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor Romney, Governor Romney, yes, yes, that was me running into the fire. Yes, I do shovel snow as well. Yes, you're very persuasive. But I'm not a number two guy. I'm not a background singer. Mitt, sir, with all due respect, I know you need a big --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Excuse me, Mayor. I got this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Christie!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: That was so -- it's not a real video, Legislative Correspondents' Dinner. That's bipartisanship, I love it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love it.
BURNETT: Those guys like each other.
AVLON: They do you know and they're opposite sides of the aisle in same state New Jersey, potential future rivals, but they have been able to work together and as you saw laugh together across the aisle. And that's one of the reasons why they're two of the real rising stars in their respective party.
BURNETT: Love it.
BURNETT: Way to go, New Jersey.
BURNETT: All right thanks to all of you.
All right ahead, the John Edwards defense team rested and the jury is about to get the case. It could send Edwards to prison for 30 years. This was a bizarre trial and well we've strung it altogether for you.
And he's giving up his job, moving to an island and cutting himself off from the world for the rest of the year. We can all only dream. Get rid of those BlackBerrys (ph) and carpal tunnel. But before it happens, he comes OUTFRONT.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BURNETT: Now our third story OUTFRONT, John Edwards' defense team rested its case today after calling just seven witnesses in three days. The former presidential candidate did not take the stand, nor did his ex-mistress, Rielle Hunter, or his daughter, Cate, who has been there supporting her father through the trial. Edwards is accused of using almost a million dollars of campaign contributions to hide his affair with Rielle Hunter and her pregnancy when he ran for president in 2008.
The defense says he used the money to support her and it was OK because it was considered a gift from wealthy backers. It was not considered political donations. Well if it's political donations and not gifts, that could mean 30 years in jail. Closing arguments begin tomorrow and he could go to jail. Paul Callan is a criminal defense attorney and is OUTFRONT tonight. And Paul, what we've put together is some of the highlights -- actually you know what, I'm going to call them the low lights of this trial.
So the state put out 24 witnesses as we just said, the defense put out seven. Andrew Young, of course the friend of John Edwards, campaign adviser who helped move the money, cover for his boss, said this at the trial when he confronted John Edwards about whether Rielle Hunter was pregnant and this is what John Edwards said to him. Quote "He said she was a crazy slut and there was a one-in-three chance it was his child."
PAUL CALLAN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: This is classic for the way this trial has been. This has been one of the craziest trials with some of the most bizarre testimony you can possibly imagine all aimed at John Edwards' character to show this jury he's an utterly reprehensible human being.
BURNETT: And when Andrew Young said Rielle called John Edwards to tell him she was pregnant and this is how Andy Young said the conversation went. John Edwards answered the phone saying quote "It's so important, somebody has either got to be pregnant or dead." And she said "Nobody's dead." OK, but this is embarrassing and humiliating, but that's not what's at stake here right. What's at stake is that he used political donations as opposed to gift money.
CALLAN: Exactly and this -- most lawyers who have looked at these laws and are experts in this field say that this is an unprecedented prosecution because normally if somebody gives you campaign funds with the intent that you use them for personal purposes, it's not considered a violation of law. But this case is considered to be the classic case of where prosecution has to be brought.
BURNETT: In a word 30 years in jail or no, yes or no?
CALLAN: No. He'll never do 30 years in jail and it's a really tough case for the prosecution to win.
BURNETT: We'll see, closing statements tomorrow.
Well in our second half, the Greek economy heading down the toilet and it could bring the U.S. down with it. This is an important story and you may want to save Greece. We've got a way for you to do it. Plus a death in the Kennedy family late today, that's next.
BURNETT: Welcome back to the second half of OUTFRONT. We start the second half with stories we care about, where we focus on our own reporting from the front lines.
And tonight, another day closer to the fiscal cliff. Today, the Senate rejected a series of budget proposals. Republican Senator Mike Lee came OUTFRONT, and told us he'd be OK with closing tax loopholes, even if it means people would have to pay more.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MIKE LEE (R), UTAH: I'm not aware of anyone who would say that if one American might end up paying a little bit more, that would necessarily count them out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: An important step there. And, of course, Senator Lee is a major Tea Party player.
Well, Iran is continuing to ship arms in direct violation of U.N. Security Council rules. "Reuters" citing a confidential draft report by a U.N. panel of experts reports that Syria is the top destination of Iranian arms shipments. According to the report, there were three seizures of large shipments of Iranian weapons in the past year. The report also noted Iran's attempts to circumvent sanctions on its nuclear program but that those particular sanctions seem to be working.
"Reuters" is also reporting tonight that Senate Leader Harry Reid will propose tomorrow new sanctions targeting Iran's oil and economy.
Well, Skechers is paying $40 million to settle charges that it deceived consumers. The FTC says the company made unfounded claims that its shape-up shoes would help people lose weight, and strengthen and tone their buttocks, legs and abdominal muscles.
I'm quoting, "Under the settlement, Skechers can't use any ads that make these claims until it's backed up by scientific evidence."
According to the FTC, toning shoes have become a big business. I mean, you can't open up a magazine without seeing it. And I have to say, I'll eat my words if scientific studies showed it, but that always seemed like a hoax.
Earlier today, President Obama awarded the Medal of Honor to Army Specialist Leslie Sabo, Jr. Specialist Sabo was killed in Cambodia during the Vietnam War, after throwing a grenade into an enemy bunker, saving several soldiers' lives.
His widow accepted the honor. It's an amazing tale. They had only been married a month when Specialist Sabo was shipped out. This medal was actually almost never even awarded. A veteran doing research at the National Archives back in 199 found the original Medal of Honor paperwork and set the wheels in motion for this day.
Well, it has been 286 days since the United States lost its top credit rating. What are we doing to get it back?
Well, unfortunately the Fed released the minutes of its last meeting and one of the big concerns they discussed was the fiscal cliff that hits at the end of the year. They say it's a risk to the economic outlook.
Our fourth story OUTFRONT: the estranged wife of Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. was found dead this afternoon in her suburban New York home. Police in Bedford say Mary Richardson Kennedy was found in an outbuilding on the family's property. They're not commenting on the cause of death, but they do say that she was alone. She was 52 years old. The couple separated two years ago and they have four children.
Laurence Leamer is a Kennedy biographer. His book "Sons of Camelot" focused on RFK Jr.'s generation and he joins us from Palm Beach, Florida, tonight.
And thank you very much, sir, for taking the time to be with us.
It was a -- it was certainly a surprise when we saw that headline late today. There's been speculation about the cause of death. Obviously, she had been previously taken in for a DUI.
What can you tell us that you think might have happened?
LAURENCE LEAMER, AUTHOR, "SONS OF CAMELOT": I don't know, but I've spent 15 years of my life writing a trilogy on the Kennedys. When the phone rings, I still get that feeling in the pit of my stomach, could it be some more bad news. There's been so much of it.
And we don't know specifically what it is, but we know from a history of this family that it's very hard being a Kennedy. Either being a blood Kennedy or being married to one -- the overwhelming celebrity, the attention, the obligations, the expectations that you're supposed to do something with your life. It's very, very hard.
BURNETT: And I know that she had had two -- I mentioned a DUI arrest. Two DUI arrests in 2010, right after her husband RFK Jr. had filed for divorce, one for alcohol, one for prescription drugs. Do you know if she was struggling for addiction? And I suppose it does seem and maybe just because it's so public, but I think to the American public, it just seems that this family has been so plagued with sorts of these tragedies of addiction.
LEAMER: Well, her husband or soon-to-be ex-husband was a heroin addict. He quit and he came out of that and became one of America's great environmental leaders.
BURNETT: Yes. LEAMER: But I remember Kathleen Kennedy Townsend saying to me that she enjoys going to Hyannis Port for Thanksgiving better now. She said, it used to be a bunch of drunks. Now, it's an AA meeting. I believe the family recognizes that's a real problem in the family, it really is.
I remember Bobby Kennedy, Jr. telling me that he thinks it's in the genes. It's something that you just kind of have. Again, she's not a blood Kennedy, but almost by osmosis, you're around and it's just there.
BURNETT: And what can you tell us about her? We were looking and the last thing we could find, this obviously happened late today, so news the last thing we could find, the "New Yorker" had quoted Mary Kennedy talking about family dinner being sacrosanct in the family and how all the kids would gather together when she was obviously still with Robert Kennedy, Jr., saying they would play games, name the categories, name 10 presidents. That sounds like a very Kennedy thing to do.
But is there anything that you can tell us about her, about them together?
LEAMER: Well, they reinvented the Kennedys in a way, that feeling of Hyannis Port in the summer, which is the time the family spent together. Just -- this wondrous time of all the people being together, the games, the sports. In their family for their children, they tried to do the same thing.
Increasingly rare in American families, but they tried to do it.
BURNETT: Her family put out a statement. I just wanted to quote from it. I believe her sister said, "We deeply regret the death of our beloved sister, Mary, whose radiant and creative spirit will be sorely missed by those who loved her. Our heart goes out to her children, whom she loved without reservation."
Obviously, she was married to RFK, Jr. for 16 years. Do you have any sense of -- they were estranged but not fully divorced at this time -- what their relationship was like now post -- I mean they're not divorced yet, but in this moment?
LEAMER: Well, when you have four kids, you have to have some kind of relationship, and they wanted to -- you know, they both cared profoundly about their children, you know? And that's why this makes it an even deeper tragedy because she really tried to be a good mother.
BURNETT: And has there been a change, Laurence, from when you spent so much time covering this family. But has this curse of addiction been broken or is this something that is continuing you think now even into the younger generations?
LEAMER: Well, it's like going to an AA meeting. It's one day at a time. If you have this past, you know that you have this problem, you have to constantly be aware. BURNETT: All right. Well, Laurence Leamer, thank you very much. We appreciate you taking the time tonight.
Well, now, the Great Depression in Greece. Today, there was a bank rush. I'm using that word on purpose. It wasn't quite a run.
Greeks lined up to withdraw euros, afraid that their country will soon lose that currency and there's no government either. Today, a caretaker prime minister took over. New elections are scheduled for June 17th.
And then there was this. A report that a Dutch man who had retired to Greece was beaten by two young Greek men. How bad will it get?
Richard Quest is OUTFRONT tonight.
RICHARD QUEST, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: The situation is serious, but what is more worrying is it could get a great deal worse because a crisis that has seen high debts, insolvency, bankruptcies, cut backs, austerity, is now threatening to become a run on banks and a panic in the banking system. As you know only too well, the moment confidence is lost in the banking system, you really are on a very fast downward spiral.
We're not there yet. Let's make that clear. But certainly that's the way everybody in Europe is looking at it next.
BURNETT: Certainly frightening when you think about some of those images even before World War II, when there were runs on banks then. I know some have made that connection, and obviously may not be fair in this case. But, Richard, are there people in Greece that can pay for some of this? I mean, I'm reminded of that story that "The New York Times" did a couple of years saying Greeks don't pay taxes and they had to pay a tax on swimming pools and nobody said they had a pool and they looked, and 96 percent of the houses had pools or something.
QUEST: Oh, yes, and the doctors who declared they earned about two euros a month having got paid in cash or the pharmacists that never declared any income and the dentists that only had two patients. I mean, the tax evasion is legendary. And that's the problem.
What I hear -- and I'll come to your question in a second -- what I hear is that those who have gone into Greece to try to monitor the economy are quite astounded and literally having to almost rebuild the economy from the ground up.
Now to your point, are there people who could help? Of course there are. But they're not the billionaires or the shipping magnates. They are not the bankers or those who have made fortunes in insurance, although they could probably pay more taxes, it is the vast number of ordinary people who need to pay ordinary taxes. And it is if you increase the tax base, that is where you get real money.
You know as well as I do you do not make serious money on taxes by taxing the rich. You make it by taxing the middle classes.
BURNETT: All right. Richard Quest, thank you very much. All of us remember we should be rooting for Greece, everybody, because as Greece goes, could go everyone. Thanks to you, Richard.
QUEST: That, that is the point. Because anybody sitting comfortably in the U.S. and thinks that this is a long, long, long way away ought to bear in mind that the Atlantic Ocean is really no wider than a bathtub.
BURNETT: Thanks, Richard.
BURNETT: OK. So the world can help Greece prevent a bailout or help them get out of this by, say, going on vacation to the Parthenon or Santorini. Wouldn't you want to go on vacation there?
The top listed hotel on that island, Carpe Diem Santorini, is offering its suite with a plunge pool, along with a 50-minute massage, breakfast and a bottle of wine for 50 percent off. When I went to "Travel and Leisure" first hotel there, and I went and clicked on it, big thing, 50 percent off. Or you can buy Greek olive oil.
I've been doing that. I buy by oil by, you know, helping out countries and look at this. Grocery store. Two kinds of Greek olive oil available right now. By the way, they're not cheap. You could buy a lot in Greece.
Still OUTFRONT, victims of a man accused of genocide and crimes against humanity faced the court today.
And to hell with it. Let's go of the grid, move to a deserted island for an entire year. I mean, let's really go, OUTFRONT.
BURNETT: So we all know smartphone use is on the rise, but we have now crossed a threshold, or a tipping point, Mr. Gladwell (ph) would say. Half of all Americans with a mobile phone now have a smartphone. Last year, it was only 38 percent.
According to Nielsen, users have an average 41 apps on their device. I mean, are you kidding me, 41 apps? I think I have two apps, but I'm not really sure what an app is.
Most users spend more times on the apps than they do using the web on their phone. Now, this being said, even though people have more apps, they're not spending more time on their apps. It's the same as last year, which means ADD continues to surge in America.
Now, there's another unfortunate thing. BlackBerry, maker of this, the beloved, is not even included in the report. There's a good reason why. The number of iOS and Android users in the U.S. has more than doubled over the past year, which brings me to our number tonight, 84 million. That's how many android and iPhone users there are in the United States. In 2011, that number was only 38 million. Wow.
Well, now, to tonight's 'Outer Circle". We reach out to our sources around the world and go to the Netherlands tonight where the war crimes trial of Ratko Mladic started today in The Hague.
The former Bosnian Serb commander is facing 11 counts of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity for his actions during Yugoslavia's civil war.
Nic Robertson is there and I asked him what it was like in the courtroom today when Mladic was facing some of his victims.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Erin, there were moments of pure theater where Mladic came into the courtroom. He smiled at some of his victims. One of those men told me afterwards that he thought Mladic had mistaken him for somebody else. He said Mladic even gave him a thumbs up.
But there were moments of high drama as well where Mladic drew his finger across his throat, staring intently at some of those victims, some of the women from Srebrenica, the town where he's alleged to have massacred 7,000 Muslim men and boys. It was clearly a gesture intended to intimidate the women. There was anger there, there was frustration.
He was told by the judge not to do it again, but it may not be the last time, Erin.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: All right. Now to Beijing. Cheng Guangcheng, the Chinese human rights activist who escaped house arrest last month, applied for passports for his family today, bringing him a step closer to leaving China and coming to the U.S. But as he waits for his travel documents, he says his relatives are being punished for his escape.
Stan Grant has been covering the store, as you know, fearlessly from the beginning and I asked him about the pressure Chen says authorities are using on his family.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STAN GRANT, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Erin, days turning into weeks now. Chen Guangcheng is still here at this hospital, behind tight security.
Now, he says his family is being victimized. He says extended family members have been beaten and brutalized by security. He says his nephew is now on an attempted murder charge after he tried to defend himself. CNN has been in contact with Chen's brother and he also confirms that story.
Now, in the meantime, Chen is still waiting for his Chinese passport to be processed. He says he wants to leave this country. He fears for his life if he stays here.
As far as the U.S. is concerned, the State Department says all of their procedures have been completed. They are ready to move whenever Chen is ready to move. That still depends on China -- Erin.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Stan Grant, thank you.
Well, now, let's check in with Anderson, he's got a look of what's coming up on "A.C. 360."
ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, "A.C. 360": Hey, Erin. Yes, about 12 minutes from now, we're keeping them honest. It's a follow-up on the $56 million raised by a charity that allegedly helps disabled veterans. The problem, not one single penny of that $56 million has actually gone directly to help one single disabled vet.
We've stayed on this story. Tonight, we finally got someone from the group to go on camera and answer questions about the fund-raising and more importantly the fund spending. Where's the money gone? That's what we want to know. We'll find out.
And a second keeping them honest report: sex, lies and backpage.com. The Web site has come under increased pressure to shut down its very profitable adult services section. Last week, we spoke to an attorney from the company that owns Backpage and she told me the site helps finds criminals and pointed out a number of people in law enforcement we should talk to, to back up her claim.
We talked to those people. What they said is not quite what she thought they would say. We'll have that report.
Those stories and tonight's "Ridiculist" at the top of the hour -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Thanks very much to you, Anderson.
Well, our fifth story OUTFRONT now: imagine cutting yourself off from the rest of the world. No television, no neighbors, no civilization. That's exactly what 40-year-old Chuck Baird plans to do. Go completely off the grid for a full year.
He quit his job as an oil worker in Anchorage, Alaska, this week. By the end of the month, he's going to start a new life on Latouche Island. Tonight, he's taking a break from packing to come OUTFRONT and talk about embarking on an adventure he's been dreaming about for 20 years. So many are looking at you, sir, living vicariously and saying it takes so much courage.
You know, we all have this dream of a -- like I said, bike stand on Tahiti or island in Alaska, whatever it might, everyone's got it. But you're actually doing it. So just tell me now of you're packing, what are you taking? CHARLES BAIRD, ADVENTURER: Yes, I'm basically bringing some basic supplies. I'm going to build a small cabin when I get there. Right now there's nothing on the land. I'm bringing a dog and a small goat as well, along with some basic foods, grains, rice, that sort of thing. Enough to get by in the hard times. Mostly we'll be relying on trapping, fishing and hunting.
So it will be a very busy week or busy few months here getting ready for the wintertime.
BURNETT: And so, what made you decide to do this? I mean, it's one thing to think about it, as we all know. It's a completely different thing to do it. So what got you over that hump?
BAIRD: Yes, I've always been intrigued by the explorers and pioneers in the old days. We put together the Alaskan pioneer show basically to kind of reenact some of that. I put together a production company two years ago for my movie "Coldwood," and we finished that and said we might as well film this project as well.
We wanted to kind of share something that is a little unusual. It's not contrived situations. It's not a game show. It's real.
I'm going to be dropped of on an island and, you know, live, very similar to the way they did many years ago. Some of the differences are, obviously, I'll have a satellite uplink where I'll be able to broadcast to my Facebook fan page at Alaskan Pioneer, but I won't be able to receive any information.
So from my point of view I will be cut off completely. I won't know if people are born or die. I won't know who the president is even for many months until after I return.
BURNETT: So you can only put things onto Facebook, you can't see what other people post to you, right?
BAIRD: That's correct, yes. I'll be gone, completely cut off otherwise.
BURNETT: All right. Have you ever done anything like this before? I mean, do you have any conception of potentially how lonely you might be? I mean, who are you leaving behind?
BAIRD: Yes. I'm not married and I don't have kids, so that simplifies a lot of things.
BAIRD: I've been through some training. I went through basic survival school at the Air Force Academy. I've done a lot of camping. I've done a few civilian survival schools as well. I've also consulted with some psychologists at Harvard University and the University of Chicago just talking about that.
As you said, the isolation really is going to be the toughest thing. I've done survival, I've built cabins. All that's not terribly complicated, you just kind of do it day by day. But the isolation will be probably the biggest challenge.
So I think it will be some interesting viewing. It will be something a little different from what you normally see.
BURNETT: I can't wait to follow your Facebook. So what did they tell you is the thing to be most worried about in terms of who knows what it was, worried you could become crazy, suicidal, what?
BAIRD: No. They talk about cabin fever, which we joke about. But it can become serious up here. The darkness can affect your thinking. I haven't had real problems with the darkness. More the opposite, the light in the summertime keeps me awake all the time and I'm just kind of hyper and working hard all the time.
But I think when you're alone that much you can get off track in your thinking and your planning. So, you know, if I have any big decisions, I'll just take it slow and think things through carefully and stick to the plan, not do anything too out of the normal.
BURNETT: All right.
BAIRD: But, you know, people have done this for centuries, so I'm going to give it my shot and share it with you.
BURNETT: All right. Well, I look forward to that and can't wait to hear more from Chuck. Chuck Baird, doing something amazing.
All right. Well, it is hump day and you know what that means on some Wednesdays. Camels and wine are next.
BURNETT: So it wouldn't be hump day without the camel report. When we were in Israel a couple of weeks ago, we stopped at the Carmel winery, just one letter shy of a lovely name. In the shop, I noticed that many of the bottles had animal logos. There were owls, there were deer, there were ostriches, and then I saw it. Ah, yes, there is a camel wine.
Camels, wine, I was intrigued. I mean, well, I decided to meet with the winery's director Adam Montefiore to find out why a camel.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: I heard a rumor that in some of your vineyards you have a bit of a camel problem.
ADAM S. MONTEFIORE, WINE DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR: Yes. You know, we have two wineries, which is based in (INAUDIBLE). The big pests are camels.
MONTEFIORE: Well, they come and eat the vines, eat it like a salad right down to the roots. So that's the problem that you get with a winery in the desert. BURNETT: Oh, I have to admit I love camels, but that does sound pretty bad.
MONTEFIORE: We have one on one of our labels, so we're not so anti- camel as you think.
BURNETT: How do you get rid of them when they're pests?
MONTEFIORE: Basically, the camels they come in herds owned by the Bedouin, and you have to rely on the Bedouin them to herd them and make sure they don't enter the vineyards too often.
BURNETT: So you don't kill them?
MONTEFIORE: No, no way. Of course not. Of course.
How many quality wine regions have camels walking through the vineyards?
BURNETT: I think one. I think one.
All right, let's taste the camel.
MONTEFIORE: So, this is the Appalachian merlot. The camel line.
BURNETT: Camel line.
BURNETT: You say gamal in Hebrew?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: I think I looked like a camel there at the end. It's great that they were able to turn their camel problem into a successful brand. Yes, you'll see more about Israeli wine in the coming weeks and we're OUTFRONT tomorrow, as always.
"ANDERSON COOPER 360," though, starts right now.