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Santorum Blasted Over Disability Treaty; No Sign of Fiscal Cliff Compromise; Sen. Jim DeMint Leaving the Senate; The Issues, Questions of Race Identity; Aimee Copeland on Road to Recovery.

Aired December 6, 2012 - 11:30   ET



ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Senator John Kerry is firing back at Senator Rick Santorum. It's all about this, opposition to a U.N. treaty, one that a lot of people thought was a no-brainer. It was about the rights of the disabled all over the world.

We brought you this story yesterday. Senate Republicans rejecting this treaty on Tuesday despite the fact that one of their own, Bob Dole, Bob Dole, a former majority leader, came to the floor in a wheelchair trying to draw support for this treaty. He was being pushed by his wife, and made an impassioned plea.

But Senator Santorum explained opposition to this treaty in a piece published in "The Daily Beast." And in part, he says this: "Our nation has been the worldwide leader when it comes to protecting the disabled. We should be telling the U.N., and not the other way around, how to ensure dignity and respect for the disabled."

Effectively saying nobody tells the United States what to do. It sets a very dangerous precedent perhaps for other things.

OK. That sounded legitimate until it came out that that's not what the treaty suggests. Senator Kerry was mincing absolutely no words in saying that Rick Santorum doesn't know what he's talking about. Here he is on "The Situation Room" yesterday.


SEN. JOHN KERRY, (D) MASSACHUSETTS: I have great respect for both Rick and his wife, Karen, and their daughter, and he's a strong family man. He either hasn't read the treaty or doesn't understand it or he was just not factual in what he said because the United Nations has absolutely zero, zero, I mean zero ability to order or to tell or to -- they can suggest. They have no legal capacity to tell the United States to do anything under this treaty. Nothing.


BANFIELD: And yet the treaty was struck down. Senator Kerry was referring there as well to Rick Santorum's daughter, Bella. Senator Santorum's daughter has a genetic disorder. And Senator Kerry says that Senator Santorum and other Republicans that voted against the treaty did so because they hate the United Nations. More meetings, more talking, sad to report no real solution today, and that pretty much sums up the fiscal cliff negotiations. I feel like a broken record. Here we go again on the countdown, day 26. Got another 24 hours closer to the edge of the fiscal cliff, which is why we have our eyes on the White House press briefing. Again, that is scheduled to begin at any moment. They're just filling up the room. Got a live picture ready for you so we don't miss anything. Get it to you just as soon as it starts.

For what it's worth, President Obama and House Speaker Boehner are talking. They apparently had a nice telephone conversation. That's terrific. The first time in a week. But apparently, that's the headline. That's the editorial body. Not much came out of it that we know of. Sources say no real breakthrough. No formal negotiations. Sessions are not scheduled. No back-channel discussions taking place that anybody knows about at this time.

And as we wait for the White House briefing to begin, let's bring in Wolf Blitzer on this topic.

There are a couple of CNN/ORC polls, Wolf, that are very telling about how Americans feel about Congress and the President are behaving when it comes to the fiscal cliff. Let me read some of these numbers for you. Should Obama compromise to get things done, 72 percent say yes, 22 percent say no. Should the GOP compromise to get things done, and take a look, 72 percent say yes.

My question for you, Wolf -- I'm not sure you'll have the answer but perhaps you'll have guidance. For those Democrats who say the President has a mandate because voters voted him into office while he campaigned to tax the wealthiest 2 percent, I wonder how those same people who responded in this poll would respond if they had to choose between what they voted for or the compromise they would want to see. Do you have any feeling there?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": The bottom line from the poll is that overwhelming majority of the American people want both sides to compromise. They don't want to go over the fiscal cliff. They don't necessarily think the difference is separating these two sides are unbridgeable or unrealistic, that they can work out a deal. They have to be adults and be serious and make concessions to the other side.

And you won't get 100 percent of what you want. That's the art of compromise. In order to avoid a disaster, the mandatory spending cuts and domestic spending and defense spending, the mandatory increases across the board taxes from everyone if we go over that fiscal cliff, you've got to compromise. There's nothing wrong with compromise.

To some liberals on the far left, conservatives on the far right, compromise is a dirty word. You should never compromise with the other side. They hate that. They rather go over the fiscal cliff. But the overwhelming majority of Americans totally disagrees with those hard-line positions on the extreme left and the extreme right. They want to compromise and they want a deal, and they want the President and John Boehner, the Republican leadership and Democratic leadership to come up with something that avoids going over the fiscal cliff. I think that's what that poll shows.

BANFIELD: Let me change topics for a bit. News broke just before the program that Republican Senator Jim DeMint is leaving. He decided to take over the Heritage Foundation.

I have a question for you in that, was this expected? He's a staunch conservative and an opponent to craving in to Democrats and it means perhaps a Republican seat. How do all those things factor into a way ahead for Republicans in the Senate?

BLITZER: I was surprised to hear that Jim DeMint was giving up his Senate seat to become head of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington. It surprised me. I suppose if it surprised me, it surprised a lot of Washingtonians as well. I didn't have any indication he was ready to give up that seat from South Carolina.

Look, running the Heritage Foundation is an important position in Washington. A lot of influence among conservatives, among Republicans. I'm sure he's going to have his work cut out for him there.

But you're right, it does give up that seat from South Carolina. South Carolina is a pretty red state, and once there are elections in South Carolina, assume another Republican will be elected from South Carolina. It's unlikely that in a formal election they're going to elect a Democrat from South Carolina to come to Washington. Hasn't happened in a while. So my sense is that Republicans will hold that seat eventually and whatever happens with Jim DeMint. I was surprised that he decided to make that decision.

We've invited him to come on our show today and explain what's going on.

I'm sure he's frustrated like a lot of conservatives are that President Obama was re-elected for another four years. And he worked hard to try to help Romney get elected, help Republicans, and it's a source of frustration. So this will be a different challenge for him, running a major think tank in Washington and let's see how he does.

BANFIELD: And for the time being, it doesn't change the balance of power as the Republicans aren't in control of the Senate.

Wolf Blitzer, thank you very much.

BLITZER: And there's a Republican governor in South Carolina, Nikki Haley.

BANFIELD: There you go.

BLITZER: And so she'll name someone in the short-term. I assume that's how it will work. Once there's another election, I assume a Republican will fill that seat.

BANFIELD: And I know you'll have much more on the fiscal cliff and any developments that hopefully we'll get. We're hoping for something any day. Shreds. Any shreds that we can get. Live, starting at 4:00 p.m. Eastern. Good to see you, Wolf. Thanks.

BLITZER: Thanks, Ashleigh.



ANNECLAIRE STAPLETON, CNN MONEY CORRESPONDENT: As a mother of young child, I'm always looking for something fun to do.

In the heart of Atlanta is the museum of natural history's children and family friendly exhibit Nature Quest. Opened in March 2011 with more than 7,000 square feet of interactive educational things to do and see, the exhibit has the feel of a playground and education tools of a classroom. Every nook and cranny offers children a new adventure. Unlike traditional museums, at Nature Quest children are challenged through self-discovery to explore and be curious in hands- on environment just like real scientists. With over 100 interactive encounters to choose from, a few of my son's favorites include the clubhouse built in the trees, hidden tunnels filled with fossils and the river that simulates swimming when little feet step on it.

CHRISTINA BEAN, VICE PRESIDENT OF EDUCATION, FERNBANK MUSEUM: Nature Quest is this amazingly fun world that you can explore from the ocean to top of the mountains. Everywhere you look, there's something to find, something is alive.

STAPLETON: What does a 2-year-old care about science? Not much but my son has so much fun exploring that he doesn't realize his brain is learning too.

AnneClaire Stapleton, CNN, Atlanta.



BANFIELD: Have you ever been asked to check off one of those boxes that describes your ethnicity, you probably noticed there's a box called "other". Other. Sort of an unusual thing to say about yourself.

I'm an other. In fact, there's a young poet, named Nayo, who is so disturbed by that, she decided to write a poem about it because, for her part, she said she was too light skinned for black kids that she grew up around to avoid teasing and the taunts and it still haunts her today.

Soledad O'Brien has more.



SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR, "STARTING POINT": It's a poem about her life. But Nayo Jones is struggling to recite it.

NAYO JONES, POET, PHILADELPHIA YOUTH POETRY MOVEMENT: They always called me "white girl." I was never ashamed of myself until she taught me to be ashamed.

O'BRIEN: She calls her poem "Other, or the Biracial Poem." It's about being bullied by black kids for being light skinned.

JONES: I remember their taunts. Well into the night, their taunts of "weirdo" and "vanilla" took years to fade so I became ashamed.

O'BRIEN: Now the tough part, she has to perform it at the first spoken word poetry competition of the season. But it's painful and she is hardly get through it.

JONES: I pretended I didn't know they were wondering if I was adopted. No black mother to explain how this tall angular white man ended up this short, chestnut-skinned girl. They doubted he was ever my father.

O'BRIEN: Only seven hours until show time and Nayo can't remember her poem.

DIVIRGILIO: Find it. You got it. I can tell you why you're not learning the line. You're not connecting to the speech yet. I wrote it. I'm done. That's the beginning. Part two is owning it. Spitting it out there into the world. Proclaiming this is what it was.

JONES: They always called me "white girl." I was never ashamed of myself until they taught me to be ashamed. I refuse to be defined by it either.

DIVIRGILIO: Don't. Don't.

JONES: They don't want to deal with it. It's gross.

DIVIRGILIO: It's not gross.

JONES: I'm so frustrated. I don't know.

DIVIRGILIO: It's OK. I promise you, it gets easier.

Come here. Come here. You got this. It's all right, sweetie.


BANFIELD: Oh, man. That's awesome. CNN's Soledad O'Brien, a little bit more on that. She's going to examine the questions about skin color, discrimination, race, Nayo' story. How did they end up doing in that competition? The documentary is called "WHO IS BLACK IN AMERICA?" It's awesome, and it premiers this Sunday at 8:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. Eastern only on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BANFIELD: The bodies of two missing cousins since the summer now have been found by hunters in a wooded area in Iowa, it appears. 10-year- old Lyric Cook and her 8-year-old cousin Elizabeth Collins vanished in July. Police found their bicycles, and they found a purse near a neighborhood lake. That was it.

Now that lake was the scene of an emotional vigil last night. The families of the two girls have been notified, and while they're awaiting official confirmation by police, Elizabeth's mother in an emotional message on her Facebook page confirmed that those bodies are those of Elizabeth and Lyric. Police say they have month suspects at this time in this case.

Turns out that John McAfee maybe shouldn't have flaunted his escape to Belize to the neighboring Central American country of Guatemala. As you may have heard, the anti-virus software pioneer is wanted in Belize in questioning in the murder of his neighbor, but he took off, went on the lam instead, and then turned up here in Guatemala City on Tuesday where he expressed his affection for the Guatemalan people. They are very nice. And also, his affection for the Guatemalan laws, and then his attorney asked for asylum. Problem is McAfee apparently entered Guatemala illegally, so Guatemala arrested him. And now he is facing deportation, most likely to Belize.

The Duchess of Cambridge has been discharged from a London hospital. Catherine is in the early stages of pregnancy and was treated for acute morning sickness. But she looks pretty good this morning, smiling, leaving King Edward XII's Hospital with her husband, Prince William, by her side. Love the yellow flowers. She is headed to Kensington Palace now for a short period of rest.


BANFIELD: It was just a fall off of a zipline and a cut on her right leg but, days later, a flesh-eating bacteria was ravaging this woman's body. It took Aimee Copeland's hands, her feet, it took her right leg. The doctor said she had a 1 percent chance of living, but that was seven months ago, and her recovery has been remarkable.

She spoke with Erin Burnett last night and, as you are about to see, her resilience is breathtaking.


AIMEE COPELAND, HAS FLESH-EATING BACTERIA: There's not a whole lot I can't do. At this point, I think the hardest thing to do is handling objects and keeping them in my hands. I'm not dropping them because if things are in my reach I can pretty much do everything, but when I drop something on the ground, there's not a whole lot I can do about it.

Luckily, that might change soon because I'm hopefully getting a service dog very soon, and that dog will help me by picking things up off the ground and opening and closing doors for me. That's another difficult thing is closing a door on yourself with a wheelchair in the way. Still getting used to it. You know, every day, when I wake up in the morning, I'm not in that place that I wake up, and it's, like, oh, this is just how things normally are. It's still definitely taking some getting used to.


BANFIELD: Wow. Unbelievable. You know, she plans to graduate with her Masters in August. And that's not enough. Nope. Not for Aimee. She's going to start work on her second Masters degree in social work. That's next year. And her goal is to help develop programs in a residential center for people living with disabilities. Go, Aimee, go. You are my hero.

Thanks, everyone for watching. NEWSROOM INTERNATIONAL with Suzanne Malveaux starts now.