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New War Begins over Health Care; Secret Call from Air Force One; Winning Ohio

Aired July 2, 2012 - 19:00   ET


JOHN AVLON, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT next, the Republicans are rolling out their attacks against Obamacare. They say they have a plan to repeal and then replace. But does it add up?

A vicious and gruesome attack. A Texas grad student mauled and bitten by chimps at the Jane Goodall Institute. What went wrong?

And one man trying who's busy rewriting the Constitution.

Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening. I'm John Avlon in for Erin Burnett tonight.

OUTFRONT tonight, Republicans in a corner over health care. The Supreme Court battle may be over. But has the political and policy war just begun? The House of Representatives has already scheduled a vote to repeal health care reform next week. And Senate Republicans have pledged to repeal it if they take back the Senate this fall.

Now the conservative base is firmly aligned against the health care law. Mitt Romney is campaigning on a pledge to repeal and replace. Just look at the sign on his podium.

Over the weekend, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was dismissive when he was asked, what happens after repeal, what would his party do about the 30 million uninsured Americans.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), KENTUCKY, MINORITY LEADER: That is not the issue. The question is, how can you go step by step to improve the American health care system? It is already the finest health care system in the world.

CHRIS WALLACE, ANCHOR, FOX NEWS SUNDAY: But you don't think that 30 million --

MCCONNELL: What our friends on the --


WALLACE: But you don't think the 30 million of people who are uninsured is an issue? MCCONNELL: Let me tell you what we're not going to do. We're not going to turn the American health care system into a western European system.


AVLON: We get it. We know what you're not going to do. We know what Republicans are against. But what are you for? After repeal, what are we going to try to replace it with? When pressed for specifics, even Mitt Romney's own campaign has struggled to stay on message while Republicans went out of their way to attack the individual mandate as a tax.

Here's Romney campaign manager Eric Fehrnstrom this morning.


ERIC FEHRNSTROM, ROMNEY SENIOR ADVISER: The governor believes that what we put in place in Massachusetts was a penalty and he disagrees with the court's ruling that the mandate was a tax.


AVLON: I'm still not really sure what that means, having listened to it a few times, but here to help us make sense of it is Republican Congresswoman Nan Hayworth of New York.

It's good to see you, Congresswoman.

REP. NAN HAYWORTH (R), NEW YORK: Great to see you, John. Thanks.

AVLON: Now you represent a hotly contested swing district.


AVLON: And I want to read some new poll numbers to you from CNN. When asked who would better handle health care, 51 percent of registered voters say Obama, 44 percent Romney. But more importantly, 55 percent of Americans aged 18 and 34 say they favor most provisions in the health care law and even more starkly, 65 percent of non-white voters would like to keep all the provisions in place.

Do these numbers concern you as a representative from a swing district?

HAYWORTH: Well, they don't, John, in the sense that I espouse the goals of the 2012 law. They're the right goals. Every American should have good, affordable health care. And affordable health care insurance. So that's not in question. But that law is a bad law. Bluntly it imposes $2 trillion worth of bureaucracy that takes resources directly away from care. So there are smarter and better ways to achieve those goals. And that's what I'm for.

AVLON: So let's talk about that because you're a doctor. So you have a unique insight, you know, through your medical practice into the way medicine really works.


AVLON: And Mitt Romney and his advisers have said they do support certain popular provisions, keeping kids on their parents' insurance until the age of 26, making it not possible for companies to discriminate people with pre-existing conditions. So the question is, if those elements of the law are kept, how do Republicans propose to pay for it?

HAYWORTH: Well, again, we want to make sure that everybody gets care. But we want to put you, the citizen, patients and doctors, at the center of care and not the government. So how can we do that? We're going to be listening to the American people. We are going to espouse commonsense, step-by-step solutions. But here's what I would do if you ask me personally.

And I've said this many times, I was speaking for myself here. But what I would do is make health savings accounts the way in which Americans pay for their health care and their insurance, tax- protected, health savings accounts. I would make insurance broadly available across state lines so that people have the competition that drives down the cost of insurance.

I would make sure that we have real liability reform because in the United States that's a unique problem. So when we try to model a care system like the Affordable Care Act after, say, the National Health Service in Britain, they do not have the defense of medicine problems that we do. And that's one major obstacle to its success.

And the other thing, the final point, is that we do need to provide for those who would not be able to get insurance. If they didn't have help. High-risk pools making sure that everybody gets the coverage they need.

AVLON: I appreciate you being specific. And I'm going to read one specific plan to you and get your take on it by -- offered by a very prominent Republican. He said, "We established incentives for those who are uninsured to buy insurance. Using tax penalties, as we did, or tax credits, as others have proposed, only encourages free riders to take responsibility for themselves rather than pass their medical costs on to others. This plan," he said, "doesn't cost the government a single dollar."

As you may have guessed, that's Mitt Romney.

HAYWORTH: Governor Romney. Yes.

AVLON: Back in 2009 in the "USA Today."

HAYWORTH: Right. Sure.

AVLON: So what changed?


AVLON: Sounds like a -- sounds like President Obama took some of his advice.

HAYWORTH: You know, the state of Massachusetts liked that plan and, to my knowledge, they still like that plan. But I would not want to see it imposed federally. I don't think that it's a good plan for the entire United States. Governor Romney seems -- and I would not presume to speak for him -- but he seems to have come to that conclusion as well.

Massachusetts has had a lot of challenges with rising costs. They have a very expensive system that is rapidly heading toward real access problems. But I'll tell you where health savings accounts have worked really, really well, in the state of Indiana. Republican governor, Democrats and Republicans in the legislature, not partisan, they have health savings accounts for their Medicaid recipients and they have them for state employees as well, healthy Indiana, great program. It's worked brilliantly.

AVLON: Great. Well, listen, I want to bring the race up to date for a second. You were in a hotly contested district in 2010, one, and there's a robocall playing in your district right now that CNN got a tape of. I want to listen to it and get your reaction.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Congresswoman Nan Hayworth has gone Washington. After taking nearly $130,000 from insurance companies, Congresswoman Hayworth wants to put insurance companies back in charge of our health care and let them deny coverage to people with pre- existing conditions like asthma, heart disease and cancer, cut back your health benefits, throw some kids off their parents' insurance and roll back prescription coverage for seniors.


AVLON: Now, politics ain't beanbag but that sounds like fear- mongering to me. Tell me where they're wrong.

HAYWORTH: Yes. Well, that's partisanship. That is fear- mongering. It's irresponsible, John. I support every goal of the 2010 law. I don't want to see anybody kicked off health insurance. I want to see everybody get the care they need. And let's not ignore the fact that everybody who voted for and everybody who supports the 2010 law is supporting taking a half-trillion dollars of funding out of Medicare.

Medicare is going broke. We need to protect our seniors. And the best way to protect our seniors right now is to make sure that that funding goes back into Medicare. Great goals, wrong law, too costly. We can't afford it. We can't afford to have the federal government try to run your health care from Washington. We can do it much better if we allow our patients and doctors and consumers to make smart choices.

AVLON: Thank you, Congresswoman Hayworth. Appreciate it.

HAYWORTH: Thank you. AVLON: Still OUTFRONT tonight, a secret phone call from Air Force One. Who's the president calling and what's he saying?

And a tale of two cities. While Chicago is dealing with one of the deadliest summers ever, another city is on its way to a record-low in murders. Does it add up?

And have scientists found God? We'll explain.


AVLON: Our second story OUTFRONT tonight, it's the phone call the Obama campaign didn't want you to hear. Lloyd Grove of "The Daily Beast" reports the president called campaign donors on Friday from Air Force One. Bottom line, the president sounds a little worried.

He said, "I'm asking you to exceed what you did in 2008. The truth is that early money is always more valuable than late money."

So just where does all this game of moneyball stand right now? Let's take a look. There are reports out that Mitt Romney raised close to a record $100 million in June. That has yet to be confirmed. But Obama has an advantage among small individual donors, that's people giving as little as $2 and up to $250 to date. The Obama campaign has received 43 percent of its donations from small individual contributions compared to 43 percent -- sorry, 13 percent for Mitt Romney.

So just how worried does Obama really need to be?

OUTFRONT tonight, Ben Smith, editor in chief of BuzzFeed, Margaret Hoover, CNN contributor, and Lisa Borders, president of Grady Health Foundation and a fellow co-founder of No Labels.

Well, Ben, let's take a look at the total fundraising numbers first. Obama has raised more than $255 million while Romney has raised more than $121 million. Now this doesn't include June. So if the Romney campaign $100 million is right, should Obama be worried?

BEN SMITH, EDITOR IN CHIEF, BUZZFEED: I think he should. Mitt Romney turns out to be great at raising money. That's something he did not have to deal with last cycle, John, but it's basically almost Mitt Romney's profession. You know when he was running Bain Capital, that was about getting rich people to give him money to invest.

So I think he's done an extraordinary job this cycle. I mean that's basically what he is doing this summer. You may see him on TV once in a while. What he is doing is raising money, he's raising a lot of money. And he has friends and outside groups who are going to give more.

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: But let's not forget. This is something that President Obama has not been bad at in the path either. I mean fundraising is what President Obama did well in breakthrough ways.

AVLON: Right.

HOOVER: I mean so much so that he didn't even take matching funds from the government when he ran in 2008. An unprecedented move at the time. So I think the real issue, what we'll see in the June number once that's confirmed is, is there actually an enthusiasm gap as represented by the lack of donations into President Obama's campaign?

AVLON: But one question about unprecedented, Lisa, is the use of Air Force One. Is that really a sign that the Obama camp is worried? Are you hearing anxiety among Democratic donors that maybe what they thought was going to be an easy race sure isn't, and especially in the moneyball game?

LISA BORDERS, PRESIDENT, BRADY HEALTH FOUNDATION: Well, John, no race is an easy race. As a former elected official, I can tell you that early money is the best money. That's how groups like EMILY's List actually started. It stands for Early Money is Like Yeast. And so I think the president is actually being very strategic and making sure that he has all his resources in the arsenal and ready to launch them whenever he needs to, whether it's to buy air time, whether it's to put collateral together or otherwise get his message out to all of the voters.

Remember, the money is an enabler. It doesn't necessarily say who's going to win the race, as we evidenced here in Georgia when one of our former governors had more money, 4-1, to the candidate that actually won.

AVLON: That's true. Money does not always equal strength. But, Margaret, one of the ironic results of the Supreme Court decision was a huge moneyball on behalf of Mitt Romney. $4.6 million apparently raised in the first 24 hours. So --

HOOVER: From 43,000 donors at least. And it looks like about 30,000 of them were new donors to the Republican cause, the Republican Party. So this is -- this is also unprecedented, although what you've seen in the past is that this issue galvanizes the conservative base but look, it turns out it may not just be the conservative base. It's independents and new people who have not donated to the Republican campaign before. That is trouble for President Obama.

AVLON: It could be a secret weapon.

Ben, let me go back to this balling-for-dollar from Air Force One. I don't know if it's unprecedented but if it wasn't something they were trying to hide, how come they didn't tell people about it?

SMITH: Well, then I don't think they want to talk about the enormous amount of time Obama's spending trying to raise money. And I think, you know, if there's a little sense of panic in that call, I mean, it's not -- they don't think the donors -- I mean they want donors to panic. They're trying to get Democrats scared about this election. I mean that was sort of the core of his message.

AVLON: Lisa, you work in the medical field. Are you starting to hear a little bit of anxiousness about the problems that could arise when the Affordable Care Act begins to be implemented, that somehow Democrats will own whatever inefficiencies occur in the health care system and that could be a political negative?

BORDERS: Listen, we all own the inefficiencies that we are seeing in the health care system today. It's broken and the money that's being spent that everybody is concerned about will be spent in the future. We've got variable costs coming through the E.R. every day. So what I am hearing on the ground, frankly, John, from Republicans and Democrats alike is they are very excited about the Affordable Care Act.

We understand that folks are concerned about how to finance it. But at the end of the day, Democrats and Republicans alike are in this boat together.

AVLON: That's right.

BORDERS: The people in America are really interested about having their care delivered, not being seen when they have a crisis, a stroke or a heart attack, when it could have been prevented and being spent one-tenth of the price that it normally would cost.

AVLON: Well, before we go, Ben, I want to -- let's have a little bit of fun with politics. You at BuzzFeed put up a gallery of political figures' high school yearbook photos. It is a must-see. So we pulled together little parlor game. See which of these photos we could connect the dots to. Let's show folks at home. One of these folks is Ohio Senator Rob Portman, other Rick Santorum, David Axelrod and Homeland Security chief, Janet Napolitano.

There should be some game show music here. I just --

HOOVER: Can I guess?


HOOVER: Top left, Rob Portman.


HOOVER: Bottom right, Napolitano. Bottom left, Axelrod. Top right, Santorum.

AVLON: Wow. Margaret Hoover aces the quiz.

SMITH: Santorum was the easy one.


HOOVER: Really? I had a --

AVLON: I want to say that there were no answers given out ahead of time. I have to say just to tease the gallery, that also features Rand Paul dissecting a cat.

SMITH: Yes, that was not, I think, acceptable for CNN.


AVLON: No, no. It was -- Paul Ryan looking fully out of the "Breakfast Club" and Eric Cantor's yearbook photo with a, with a slogan, "I want what I want when I want it".

SMITH: I don't know if John Boehner knows about that.


AVLON: Somehow I think he's gotten that idea.

Guys, it was a great panel. Great time. Check out the BuzzFeed gallery.

Ahead. A Texas grad student fighting for his life after being dragged and mauled by chimpanzees. His roommate and longtime friends comes OUTFRONT.

And could the auto bailout cause President Obama a key battleground state? We'll find out.


AVLON: Our third story OUTFRONT. a new CNN poll out today giving Mitt Romney an eight-point lead over President Obama in key battleground states. And perhaps no swing state is more important than Ohio. Not since Kennedy as a candidate won the White House without first winning Ohio.

On the surface, the numbers there tell a good story for President Obama, 7.3 percent unemployment, well below the national average. It's also a state where you'll hear the Obama campaign tout the auto bailout. But does it add up to a win for him in the Buckeye State?

Not necessarily. Poppy Harlow is OUTFRONT tonight in Warren, Ohio.


POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What I'm learning in these factory towns is that there are many different stories, many different perspectives.

(On camera): How's the economy doing here in Warren, Ohio?

BRUCE GUMP, RETIRED SENIOR ENGINEER AT DELPHI PACKARD ELECTRIC: I'm trying to think of different ways to say horrible.

MARK HAEFFNER, UAW GENERAL MOTORS WORKER: The economy is doing fine here in God's country.

HARLOW: You voted for President Obama in 2008. What about this year?

GUMP: Not a chance.

HARLOW (voice-over): Warren, Ohio, and Lordstown, Ohio, two towns 15 minutes apart with two very different stories.

(On camera): Does this town really revolve around the GM plant?


HARLOW: No question?

GAUNT: No question.

HARLOW (voice-over): We met Sherry Gaunt in Lordstown, longtime GM worker and vice president of the local United Auto Workers.

GAUNT: Look where GM is at now. If the government didn't step in, I may not be working, might not have a job.

HARLOW (on camera): Here at GM's Lordstown, Ohio, plant they are cranking out the Chevy Cruze. The plant has gone from one shift of 2200 workers in 2009 to three shifts, with 4500 workers today.

(Voice-over): But like most auto workers these days, Sherry's felt the pain of layoffs.

(On camera): How much does the auto bailout play into politics for you today in this election?

GAUNT: It means everything.

HARLOW: Everything?

GAUNT: Everything. Because the future -- we're doing real well right now.

HARLOW (voice-over): Her co-workers told us a similar story.

(On camera): Who are you supporting for president?



HAEFFNER: Because he's for the working class. And he helped with the bailout.

MITCHELL HALL, UAW GENERAL MOTORS WORKER: It speaks a lot about his character. It speaks about his concern for us.

HARLOW (voice-over): But in Warren, Ohio, some former auto workers are angry.

GUMP: I was one of the innovators.

HARLOW: Bruce Gump worked at auto parts supplier Delphi for 34 years, a senior engineer. Non-union. (On camera): What did the auto bailout mean to you?

GUMP: The auto bailout, the effect on me and my family is a loss of all of my health care insurance, a loss of all of my life insurance, a reduction of my pension by 30 percent for the rest of my life.

HARLOW (voice-over): He and his fellow Delphi retirees think they've been thrown under the bus by the Obama administration.

GUMP: He certainly didn't protect my pension. I was just road kill, and to be kicked to the curb and out of the way.

HARLOW: Bruce Gump says he and thousands of salaried Delphi retirees saw their pensions slashed and lost their health and insurance benefits as part of the deal so Delphi could emerge from bankruptcy in 2009. General Motors needed its biggest supplier, Delphi, to be healthy.

(On camera): What are you fighting for right now? What do you want to see?

GUMP: The full restoration of our pensions.

HARLOW (voice-over): He's fighting here and in Washington.

GUMP: Simply put, our decades of effort for the company were considered to be valueless to this administration.

HARLOW: The retirees have sued to get their pensions back. But the case is moving slowly.

(On camera): I'm Poppy. I'm from CNN.

(Voice-over): When they heard we were coming to town, a group of retirees and their families showed up.

(On camera): Raise your hand if you supported President Obama in the last election. Raise your hand if you're supporting President Obama this year.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He didn't bail us out. He left us behind.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I've lost 40 percent of my pension. All of my health care and all my life pension. For the first time in my life, my husband and I this past spring asked for the Republican Party ticket.

HARLOW (voice-over): President Obama will be a hard sell for these folks in Ohio, a state he's visited more times than any other, a state he's fighting hard to win again.


AVLON: You can see more of Poppy's Rust Belt road trip series tomorrow on "CNN NEWSROOM".

Still OUTFRONT in our second half, more people have died in Chicago this year than U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan. This while another major U.S. city is on pace for a record low in murders. Does it add up?

And an incredible milestone today for Aimee Copeland, the young woman battling flesh-eating bacteria.


AVLON: Welcome back to the second half of OUTFRONT.

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

In a very public showing, Iran began test-firing missiles today as part of a three-day exercise. According to the semiofficial Marin News Agency, Iran says it is testing the precision and efficiency of long, medium and short-range missiles by firing at 100 targets.

We asked an Iranian nuclear expert about the timing of the war games, which come just as Iran is hit with new tougher sanctions. He told us nothing Iran does is by coincidence, saying Iran is using the exercises to send a message that it's tough and will not back down from Western pressure.

The United States said today it strongly condemns the destruction of historic sites in the country of Mali. "Reuters" reports Islamic militants linked to al Qaeda have destroyed tombs and religious sites over the last three days, including a 15th century mosque in Timbuktu, a town in West African nation.

The rebels say they're trying to erase traces of what they believe is un-Islamic idolatry, as we saw with the Taliban in Afghanistan before.

Now, as we've reported, the U.S. has been closely monitoring the rise of al Qaeda ever since a military coup earlier this month.

OUTFRONT has also learned the Senate is close to voting on legislation aimed at protecting the nation from cyber attacks. The bipartisan Cyber Security Act would require minimum security standards for certain infrastructures, such as power plants, the water supply systems.

A new report from the Department of the Homeland Security found the number of cyber attacks on critical infrastructure has increased by more than 2,000 percent between 2009 and last year. The Senate plans a vote on the bill in the next few weeks.

An incredible milestone for Aimee Copeland, the young woman attacked by flesh-eating bacteria. The 24-year-old left a Georgia hospital today and entered a rehab facility. When Copeland was admitted to doctors' hospital nearly two months ago, doctors gave her a 1 percent chance of surviving. The battle with the bacteria claimed Aimee's hands, one of her legs and her remaining foot. But her father Andy told us Aimee is excited and ready to begin her rehab. Andy and her sister will come OUTFRONT tomorrow night.

It has been 333 days since the U.S. lost its top credit rating. What are we doing to get it back?

Well, we got a much weaker-than-expected report on U.S. manufacturing today. Data shows the sector is contracting, after 34 months in a row of expansion.

Economists tell us the negative report, along with others, such as last month's jobs numbers are just a sign of slowdown, nothing worse. Let's hope so.

Our fourth story OUTFRONT: the deadly summer in Chicago has a new face: 7-year-old Heaven Sutton. She was standing in front of her home selling lemonade and candy on a hot afternoon when she became the youngest of the 253 people murdered this year in the Windy City. That's more than the number of U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan this year. And the spike in violence occurs at a time when crime is decreasing nationwide.

For example, in the first six months of this year, New York City has recorded 193 murders, the lowest in the city's history, compared to 253 in Chicago. New York City is three times as large, so what is going on in Chicago? And what is being done to stop the violence?

CNN's Roland Martin has been calling for action from the beginning.

Roland, welcome OUTFRONT.

You were an early voice, Roland, in drawing attention to this epidemic. Police say it's gang violence. But gangs exist across America's cities. What's making things explode in Chicago?

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it's interesting the police are saying it's gangs. I talked to a pastor who recently convened a meeting of about 20 well-known gang leaders. What they said is that even they are trying to figure out what's going on, that part of the problem is that the gangs in Chicago have become so fractured that you have pretty much folks just doing whatever they want.

I know it might sound crazy. It used to be -- organized crime was called organized for a reason. But you pretty much had these lone wolfs where folks are doing pretty much whenever they want. And even the gang members are saying, man, we really can't put a handle on what the in the world is causing the outbreak of violence in Chicago. That was amazing to me.

AVLON: That is amazing. And, Roland, as you know, this spike coincides with former Obama chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, taking over as mayor of Chicago. Now, you've been saying the president should be doing more to help solve this problem. What do you mean exactly?

MARTIN: Well, first of all, as I said last week, I personally -- I believe the president should use what's taking place in Chicago to speak to the moral outrage, if you will, of youth gun violence nationwide, using Chicago as a backdrop. Last week, the DOJ did give out $111 million to local municipalities to help with the hiring of police. Chicago got about $3 million.

But really what is needed I think in Chicago is that you really have an intensive neighborhood watch program. You know, I've been talking to pastors. I've been talking to elected officials there, regular, ordinary residents. And no one seems to be able to put a finger on the short-term issue.

They can talk about education. They can talk about what's happening economically -- the lack of jobs, things along those lines -- also just the poverty being entrenched in those areas. Those really are long-term, systemic issues.

But you have to have the short term -- I'm telling you right now, short term, Rahm Emanuel, the mayor of Chicago, is going to have to have -- to really flood the zone of police officers in those areas because residents are simply saying, we are afraid to even walk outside.

There was a guy with a paraplegic who was killed on his steps because somebody started firing a gun. He was shot and killed on his steps in a wheelchair.

AVLON: You know, Roland, and we've seen random high levels of violence like this before. America was suffering epidemic levels of murder and street crime in the early 1990s. New York City reached a high of 2,245 murders in 1990. And in that time, a few years later, President Clinton specifically tried to use the bully pulpit, giving one of the most powerful speeches of his presidency at a church in Memphis, you might remember, invoking Martin Luther King. Here's a clip to remind folks.


BILL CLINTON, THEN-U.S. PRESIDENT: If were to reappear by my side today and give us a report card on the last 25 years, what would he say? You did a good job, he would say. But he would say, I did not live and die to see the American family destroyed.


CLINTON: I did not live and die to see 13-year-old boys get automatic weapons and gun down 9-year-olds just for the kick of it.


AVLON: Roland, is it time for President Obama to go to Chicago, his adopted hometown, and give a similar speech?

MARTIN: Well, it's interesting. He gave a speech similar to that when he was a senator when there was an outbreak of violence that took place back in 2006. But, obviously, as president, it's a whole different deal.

The violence necessarily is not blamed on him or on policies. But I do think, again, though, by using the bully pulpit, to use Chicago as an example of what is happening nationwide, this is simply not limited to Chicago, John. We're seeing this happen in other cities across the country in terms of youth and gun violence.

The president did create a town hall forum, if you will, where Chicago was the first city. They've gone to four or five other cities, looking to add four more cities.

But I think that needs to be, again, explained, expanded and again using that pulpit to say, America as communities, we have to get out of our houses and not just, saying this is happening. And really I think as a community organizer he used to be, call on that aspect of his background to engage the nation and say, you've got to shake out of your just sort of -- just ignoring things and say, you've got to do something where you live because the people who are shooting, those are somebody's kids.

And so, that has to be, I think, spoken to and not just him, obviously the governor, the mayor and others. But I do think he can make the issue a national concern, going beyond the borders of Chicago. That, to me, I think is important. A president can do that using that bully pulpit.

AVLON: Yes. Thank you, Roland Martin. Certainly all eyes are on Chicago and our hearts are with the family of 7-year-old Heaven Sutton.

A Texas graduate student working in South Africa is out of surgery but in critical condition after being bitten, mauled and dragged for nearly half a mile by two chimpanzees.

Twenty-six-year-old Andrew Oberle's body was nearly torn apart in the attack. He was leading a tour group at the Jane Goodall Institute Chimpanzee Eden, about 200 miles from Johannesburg at the time of the attack. Institute officials say Oberle had crossed behind one of the two security fences and the chimps may have felt threaten.

Nkepile Mabuse is in South Africa, outside Oberle's hospital.

Did anyone else corroborate the institute's version of the attack?

NKEPILE MABUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Look, John, Chimp Eden have been the ones that have given us the most detailed information. The hospital behind me where Andrew Oberle is literally fighting for his life is being very conservative what they share with the media, telling us that he's still in the intensive care unit, that he is critical but stable. Not giving us details of the severity of his injuries. And, of course, his parents are here by his side. They flew into South Africa today. And we're hoping that we'll hear from them as well, as things unfold here in South Africa. But from what we've been able to gather, you know, this was one horrific incident. We've been told that Andrew Oberle was attacked by those two male chimps for about a good 15 minutes and that anybody who tried to intervene was also attacked by the chimps. We're told by the manager of the sanctuary that he actually had to shoot one of the chimpanzees in the abdomen to stop them from continuing to attack Andrew.

We're told that he has lacerations all over his body, that he has tear marks and bite marks on his head and on his hands and on his legs and thighs -- and really some people saying that he was very lucky to be alive, John.

AVLON: Some horrific details.

I want to bring in Andrew Oberle's close friend and roommate, Tony Reimherr.

Now, you've known each other for nearly a decade, Tony. What went through your mind when you first heard about this attack?

ANTHOY REIMHERR, CLOSE FRIEND OF CHIMP ATTACK VICTIM: Well, I was very saddened hearing about it. All I wanted was to make sure that he got home and got back safe. And that's been my main concern the whole time. After we heard about it, just the devastation, all the emotions that -- it was a lot to deal with.

AVLON: We know his family arrived in South Africa today. But when you talked to them, what sense did you get about how they're dealing with all this?

REIMHERR: Well, I mean, of course, we're all devastated about it. Our main concern is just that he can get better and that he can get back. We just spread the word about what had happened and asked for people's prayers and just that everybody pray for him and hope that he gets better.

AVLON: Sure. As you heard, though, the institute says Andrew may have unintentionally provoked the attack. Does that sound right to you?

REIMHERR: No. I mean, I don't really know the full story about what happened, in that aspect. But Andy had been working with chimps and studying them for a very long time. He knew what he was doing out there.

So, without knowing all the details, it's really hard to say.

AVLON: Given his love of these animals, did he ever talk to you about why he was drawn to the Goodall sanctuary in South Africa? Obviously, she's such a beloved and legendary figure. What drew him there in particular and to protecting chimps in general?

REIMHERR: Well, I think Jane Goodall is a well-known figure and being the fact that he was studying physical anthropology and loved animals and watched Animal Planet all the time, he knew about the Goodall Institute. I think he just wants to help animals. He's worked in zoos his whole life. And I'm not exactly sure what drew him there, but just the fact that he loves chimps and found a place where he could help. And that's where he went to.

AVLON: Since the attack, I know you've helped set up a fund for Andrew. What kind of support have you gotten so far?

REIMHERR: Yes, sir. We have set up a "We Pay" donation site. On there we've just sent it out to all our friends and family and just to anybody to help. We've raised around $14,000 right now to help out Andy, to help out his family with the travel and medical expenses that we know are going to come up.

We also set up a Facebook site at And it has all the links to the "We Pay" site. We're just trying to collect as much as we can to help Andy out and we told the family what we were doing. And we're just trying to help out any way we can at this point in time.

AVLON: Well, thank you for coming OUTFRONT and thank you for your commitment to your friend.

Still OUTFRONT tonight, have scientists found God? That's a question that's plagued mankind. And it could finally be answered.

And the man behind some of the funniest President Obama jokes has written a new book and he's OUTFRONT next.


AVLON: Have scientists found God? Bear with me here.

The standard model is a collection of physics theories that explain what the world is and what holds it together. You know, the small stuff.

Developed throughout the 20th century, the current model was finalized in the 1970s with the confirmation of the existence of quarks and neutrons (ph) -- that stuff that you barely paid attention to in school. In fact, the only fundamental particle predicted by the standard model that has yet to be observed is something called Higgs boson, aka, the God particle. But it hasn't been for lack of trying.

For years, researchers have used a $10 billion super collider to create high energy collisions just like the Big Bang only to spot this elusive particle. So far, there have been hints of a Higgs detection but no actual confirmation.

And that brings us to tonight's number: 99.9994 percent. That's considered the gold standard of certainty in physics. Only when results hit that standard can a discovery be officially announced.

Why is that important? Well, this Wednesday, July 4th, the scientists heading the search for the God particle will be holding a press conference. Now, there's no official word on what they found yet, but according to Britain's "Daily Mail," Peter Higgs, the particles namesake, has been invited to attend. And we think it would be lousy for them to ask him to travel all that way just to tell him he's been wrong.

Now, tonight's "Outer Circle," where we reach out to our sources around the world. First, we head to Mexico City where the party that ruled the country for more than 70 years is poised for a return to power. Returns show Enrique Pena Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party in the lead with 38 percent of the vote.

Miguel Marquez is in Mexico City and earlier, I asked him what we know about the projected winner.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, when this 45-year-old presumptive Mexican president takes over, he will be like something we've never seen in Mexican leadership. He is promising huge change across Mexico, starting with security and the economy here, promising to build a national police force in order to take on the drug cartels, promising to reform the energy sector and all the monopolies across the Mexican landscape.

He's also promising to take on poverty and create more opportunities for the middle class here by creating lots of educational opportunities for them so that more and more Mexicans can move into the middle class and have better lives -- John.


AVLON: Now, let's check in with Ashleigh Banfield in for Anderson Cooper with a look at what's ahead on "A.C. 360" -- Ashleigh.


We're keeping them honest ahead on "360." The biggest tax increase in the world? That's what some politicians are calling President Obama's health care reform after the Supreme Court upheld the law. Republicans have really zeroed in on the tax language. Democrats, well, they're pretty adamant that it's a penalty despite what the opinion of the chief justice of the Supreme Court actually wrote in that opinion.

So we've got the spin and we've got the facts all together and we're keeping them honest. I'll be joined by political contributor Ari Fleischer, political strategist Bill Burton and also CNN legal strategist, Jeffrey Toobin. They'll have some answers for you.

And also tonight, the tiger has been caged but that door is still wide open. That's open. That's how one official in the battle to contain the Waldo Canyon Fire in Colorado is describing it. We've got an exclusive look on the men and women who risk their lives to predict where these fires are going and then how to shut them down when they find where they're going.

Those stories and the staff picking the best "Ridiculist" of the year. So, even though Anderson is off, "Ridiculist" is on. It's all coming at the top of the hour, John.

AVLON: Thanks, Ashleigh. We're looking forward to it. We'll be watching.

Now, our fifth story OUTFRONT tonight. There's a new movie out portraying Abraham Lincoln as a vampire hunter. Yes, Abraham Lincoln slaying vampires. Let's take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Presume you know what I can do with this?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know what you can do against one vampire. But against 20 --


AVLON: It's part of what appears to be a trend of a reverent but heartfelt takes on American history. Now, "Daily Show" senior writer Kevin Bleyer has taken it upon himself to rewrite the Constitution. In his new book, "Me the People: One Man's Selfless Quest to Rewrite the Constitution of the United States." A comedy writer rewriting the Constitution, what could possibly go wrong?

Kevin Bleyer, welcome to OUTFRONT. So --

KEVIN BLEYER, "DAILY SHOW" SENIOR WRITER: Happy to be here. And I could not see that clip from way out here in Seattle. But just from sound alone, I'm in. I want to see it. Count me in. Benjamin Walker as Abraham Lincoln, count me.

AVLON: There you go.

BLEYER: Yes, if Abraham can be a vampire hunter, then you're right, I can be a self-appointed expert on the Constitution.

AVLOIN: Well, that's what I was going to ask, Kevin, because, you know, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, Kevin Bleyer, which one of these is not like the others?

What qualified? What inspired you to rewrite the Constitution?

BLEYER: Your point is well taken. A little comic irreverence is quite different from being, you know, disrespectful. But I'll tell you what inspired to rewrite the Constitution -- the Founders themselves.

Let's not forget, they were a bit irreverent themselves. They were sent to Philadelphia only to do a few nicks and tucks to the Constitution -- excuse me, to the Articles of Confederation, and they decided we'll do a page one rewrite.

Add to that, no less than Thomas Jefferson told me I had to rewrite this Constitution. Why did he say that, well, he said that every Constitution naturally expires after 19 years. By his math, not mine, our Constitution has been in his words expired, dead, kaput, for over 200 years. I feel bad I'm just getting to it now. It should have been rewritten 11 times by now.

I've been slacking for far too long.

AVLON: You have. And we were going to mention that critically. But it is extraordinary. Thomas Jefferson saw this as a living document, saying, you know, every 19 years it should be rewritten.

But if Congress can't agree on how to reduce the deficit and the debt, really, a new Constitution? How is that going to go?

BLEYER: You're right, a unilateral page one rewrite by an anonymous citizen might not be ratified anytime soon. But again, I think that the framers would have been surprised that it hasn't been rewritten or I should say even amended more often. James Madison himself was surprised near the end of his life it hasn't been amended more often.

George Washington famously said during the Constitution, or near the end, "I wish it would have been made more perfect."

Benjamin Franklin said that he could stomach it only with his faults. And in fact, famously, at the end of the constitutional convention, the last day, he stood up and begged fellow delegates to sign the instrument by doubting a little bit of their infallibility he said, and he said, I consent -- I consent to the Constitution, check this out, because I expect no better and because I am not sure that it is not the best -- which to some ears sound like Republican endorsing Mitt Romney. Damning with faint praise, I suppose.

I tried to phrase with faint damnation. And I certainly think that the framers will get that. Abraham Lincoln vampire would get that. Heck, even Justice Scalia got that.

AVLON: Well, speak of, and very quickly, we got around a minute left, you were threatened with a fork by Justice Scalia. What did you do to offend him and how did this give you insight into his dissent on health care?

BLEYER: Yes. I had a temerity to suggest that the Constitution doesn't actually literally say that Supreme Court justices get lifetime tenure. It merely says they shall serve only, quote, "good behavior." When I pointed that out, he said, don't you dare -- don't you dare change lifetime tenure for Supreme Court justices. And if you do, at least grandfather me in because I like my job. He's a man with a sense of humor. That's for certain.

AVLON: Well, it's an audacious effort. It's a good reading before the Fourth of July.

BLEYER: I agree. Thank you.

AVLON: OUTFRONT next, has independence become a bad word in America? That OUTFRONT.


AVLON: The Fourth of July, Independence Day, just two days away. That's my favorite holiday -- a time for fireworks, baseball, a beer and the beach.

But, of course, there is a deeper meaning because Independence Day is also a time to honor the courage of our Founding Fathers. It's a time to celebrate our traditional American resistance to quietly falling in line and taking orders without question.

We are, after all a country of successful rebels. Principled independence is one of this country's bedrock principles. And yet, we see it less and less these days especially in our politics.

Increasingly, our political officials same eager to surrender their conscious and common sense to walk in lockstep with our polarized political parties. And in their respective echo chambers, they are congratulated for being courageous enough to vote with the party line 100 percent of the time.

Well, that's not courage. That's conformity. It's cowardice and it's got to stop.

We've got real problems to solve in this nation, a struggling economy, a growing gap between the super rich and middle class, as well as the generational theft of deficits and debt. We can't afford to divide ourselves into us against them, my team versus their team. Our politics have become small at a time we need to be big.

We're only going to be able to solve these problems when we demand real independence from our elected leaders, the courage to roll up their sleeves and reach across the aisle, defining the common ground that exist on any given issue and then building on it. There's been far too much power given to special interest pledges like the ones put forward by Grover Norquist. Instead, we know in our gut and in our heart that the only pledge that should ever really matter is the pledge of allegiance. That's the Declaration of Independence we need to see from our elected officials in a way of honoring our Founding Fathers on this Fourth of July.

"ANDERSON COOPER 360" starts right now.