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CNN NEWSROOM

President Obama Nominates Kerry for Secretary of State; NRA Pushes for Guns in Schools

Aired December 21, 2012 - 15:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Top of the hour, I'm Brooke Baldwin.

Huge news day. A lot to get to, including the president's big announcement just a short time ago. There they were, Senator John Kerry tapped to replace Hillary Clinton as the next secretary of state. But he will have to go through Congress first. We are going to talk about that momentarily.

But before we do, days and days now of tears, debate, confrontation. The sounds of silence spoke volumes this morning as the nation and the city of Newtown remembered what happened one week ago today. Raindrops, only raindrops were heard during this moment of silence. Firefighters there in Newtown paying tribute to the 20 children, the 6-, the 7-year-olds and the seven adults gunned down, for reasons we may never know.

The reflections began at 9:30 this morning Eastern time, the time that first call came in to 911. At least 29 states held a moment of silence, put their flags at half-staff. Parts of the Internet actually went silent. Video gamers put down their consoles in unity and bells across Connecticut sounded for each killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(BELLS TOLLING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: At the Episcopal church in Newtown, 28 tolls rang for each life lost, including the shooter's, 28 there. When the bells were still, the remembrances began, one inside the Capitol Building in Hartford.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(SINGING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: The first lady also marked this day in a letter to Newtown. Here's what she wrote in "The Hartford Courant," the newspaper there -- quote -- "I want you to know that this is just the beginning. As my husband has said, in the coming weeks, he will use all the powers of his office to engage citizens from across the country to find ways to prevent tragedies like this one. And please know that every minute of every day, we are thinking of you, and praying for you and holding you and your families in our hearts as you begin the slow and wrenching work of healing and moving forward" -- end quote -- from the first lady to those in Newtown.

We should add the NRA also held a moment of silence this morning at 9:30 a.m. for the 20 children and the six adults slaughtered inside Newtown's schoolhouse.

Hours later, the NRA spelled out its plan to prevent similar massacres in the future. One of the solutions from Wayne LaPierre, he says put guns in every school now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WAYNE LAPIERRE, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION: And does anybody really believe that the next Adam Lanza isn't planning his attack on a school he's already identified at this very moment?

How many more copycats are waiting in the wings for their moment of fame?

The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. I call on Congress today to act immediately to appropriate whatever is necessary to put armed police officers in every single school in this nation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: So that is some of what Wayne LaPierre said. It is also making news what he didn't say, didn't touch gun control, didn't talk about the gun show loopholes, didn't talk about those huge ammunition clips. Instead, the NRA deflected the attention to other debates, other issues.

But my next guest here is a longtime gun supporter from Texas. She is Suzanna Gratia Hupp. She believes she could have saved her parents' lives if only she had not left her gun in the car. This is more than 20 years ago when she took her parents to Luby's cafeteria. This is back in Killeen, Texas.

A man rammed his pickup into this cafeteria, opened fire, killing almost two dozen people, including Suzanna's parents. I want to welcome her. She's former Texas State Representative Suzanna Gratia Hupp joining me now from Austin, Texas, wrote a book called...

SUZANNA GRATIA HUPP, FORMER TEXAS STATE REPRESENTATIVE: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Thank you -- "From Luby's to the Legislature: One Woman's Fight Against Gun Control."

So, Suzanna, welcome. I just want to hear more about what happened back in 1991. Take me inside this cafeteria. This gunman starts shooting. Your mother and father are killed. You felt helpless and hopeless, I imagine. HUPP: Well, it was extremely frustrating.

I used to carry a gun. At that time it was illegal in the state of Texas. But I was convinced to carry one by an assistant DA in the Houston area, who told me -- he said, Suzanna, you don't see this stuff every day, but I do.

So I carried one illegally for a number of years. My parents and I were at this local cafeteria in the middle of a beautiful day. This man drove his truck through a window and very methodically began executing people.

But a few months earlier, I had begun leaving my gun in my car because I was worried about losing my license to practice chiropractic. A number of people, a number of victims had left their guns in their car that day. But, of course, now we have changed that law in Texas and we can protect ourselves.

BALDWIN: We brought you on, of course, because of what happened in Killeen, but also because of Newtown. And we heard from the NRA today. Wayne LaPierre says let's put guns in every school.

I read that you have two small children. You say, yes, let's arm the teachers, or perhaps have an armed guard in each of these schools. My question then to you would be, are you not afraid that would lead to more violence?

HUPP: Oh, heavens.

Well, first of all, let me correct you. I don't have two small children. I have got two big boys that are in high school.

BALDWIN: Two big boys.

HUPP: But I just picked them up, yes, and they would be just as vulnerable as the kindergartners.

I have firmly held that our teachers should be allowed to carry. And, quite frankly, it frustrates the heck out of me that everyone here in Texas and in many states can protect themselves if they jump through the hoops and get a concealed carry permit.

Why is it that my teachers are being treated like second-class citizens?

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: But what if the teacher's job is to teach? What if the teacher doesn't want to be armed? What if you have an armed guard?

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: As I was reading, back in Columbine, there was an armed guard. Just logistically speaking, what if that guard isn't at the right place at the right time and isn't there and can't prevent the shooting? HUPP: You're making my argument for me.

BALDWIN: How is that?

HUPP: That's exactly why people who -- that's exactly why people who want to be able to carry should be able to carry.

I didn't say arm every teacher. I said anyone who wants to jump through the hoops and get a concealed carry permit should be able to and use it or carry it on campus.

Let me make something or point something out that is just so painfully obvious to me. Where do all these mass shootings occur? They -- creeps go to places where they know they can shoot people like fish in a barrel.

These mass shootings don't occur at gun shows, the dreaded gun show that I keep hearing so much about. They go to places where they can shoot people like fish in a barrel until the cops, bless their hearts, finally arrive.

BALDWIN: Well, let's talk about then some of the weapons that this is happening, when we look at the theaters, as you point out, the softer targets, we look at schools and we talk about these specific weapons that perhaps may be banned.

We know that the president has assigned his vice president to come up with some proposals in a month, possibly in terms of gun control.

HUPP: Yes.

BALDWIN: And I know there are people, there are people -- there are so very much so two sides of the story -- there are people saying ban the assault weapons, some going so far as saying ban the semiautomatic weapons.

Why do you think this society needs to have weapons that should be just used on the battlefield?

HUPP: Well, let's clarify, because I think -- I think people out there that are listening to this should understand something.

Assault weapons is a made-up term. In fact, I think what it does is it leads people to think of a rapid-fire machine gun type of weapon, and, in fact, I know a number of reporters that have spoken with me believe that very thing.

BALDWIN: Don't they fire multiple bullets rapid fire?

(CROSSTALK)

HUPP: No, no. And that's -- see, even you don't know.

BALDWIN: Dozens of bullets per minute? These are the numbers that I have seen.

(CROSSTALK)

HUPP: The rapid-fire weapons have been banned in this country. They are illegal and have been banned since the 1930s.

So this assault weapons, look it up, the assault weapon...

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: I have, with all due respect. And you look at AR-15s and you hear from people like Christiane Amanpour, who says these are military style weapons. These are weapons that she's seen them in wars and conflicts like Sarajevo.

HUPP: No. Oh, yes. You definitely see them in conflict, but it is not a rapid-fire weapon.

BALDWIN: And you talk to people and they say, why should they be used in Aurora, in Oregon and here in Newtown?

HUPP: It is not -- you are misinformed if you believe this is a rapid-fire weapon.

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: I'm not opining. It is just other people's perspective, and we want to bring you on to explain why these type of weapons, whatever you want to call them, why we need to have them in this society.

HUPP: Why we need to have a semiautomatic or revolver? Because that's put in place so that people can defend themselves from bad guys.

And what you are trying to do -- or let me rephrase this -- what the general media is trying to do is lead people to believe that this made-up term assault weapons refers to things that are on the street or are used in these mass shootings, and they're not.

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: With all due respect, I am part of the media and I'm not trying to lead anyone to believe anything. I'm just trying to get the facts and we wanted to bring you on.

Let me ask you about this, because part of what part of what Wayne LaPierre didn't mention, he didn't mention the gun show loopholes, he didn't mention these massive ammo clips. When you look at the polls, the most recent CNN/Opinion Research poll, if you do the math, basically more than 70 percent of Americans favor some sort of restrictions, right?

So, you have major, you have minor. My question to you would be, do you -- do you support any kind of -- any kind of restriction?

HUPP: Any kind of restriction? Well...

BALDWIN: Sure, ammo, background checks, any of it? (CROSSTALK)

HUPP: I restrict -- I support the restrictions that are currently in place, with the exception of restricting the areas that you can carry a weapon.

And I will say again that the restrictions that are currently in place include rapid-fire weapons. Those have been illegal in this country since the 1930s. That's why I don't like that term assault weapon. It is a made-up term that misleads people.

BALDWIN: Suzanna Gratia Hupp, we just wanted you on to have your perspective. And I'm glad you shared it. Thanks so much.

HUPP: Thank you. Thank you.

BALDWIN: Now this:

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BALDWIN: Today, many video gamers calling a cease-fire to honor Newtown's victims. But I will speak live with two kids who are quitting the games for good.

(voice-over): Plus, since John Kerry's on tap to be the next secretary of state, could this Hollywood power player take his place in Congress? We will tell you about Ben Affleck's chances.

And in this last hour of trading, Wall Street on edge, as Congress plays with fire over the fiscal cliff. The news is now.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: House Speaker John Boehner has suffered a big political blow and so has the effort to avert the fiscal cliff. Boehner couldn't get his own House Republicans to back the so-called plan B, would have canceled most of the tax increases set for the 1st of the year.

Here he is this morning, House Speaker John Boehner questioned by our own senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You said here yesterday and expressed confidence that you were going to pass...

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Sure did.

(LAUGHTER)

BASH: What went wrong?

BOEHNER: We have...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Dana Bash, I hear the laughter there in that room.

What did go wrong for Speaker Boehner last night, and how does it complicate the effort to avoid this fiscal cliff 11 days away now?

BASH: Well, his answer was that too many of his rank-and-file Republicans believed that the vote that they were going to take was to increase taxes, and that was not something that they were willing to do.

We also know that there was a very, very intense push by a lot of the conservative anti-tax outside groups, not Grover Norquist, whose name comes up a lot, but other groups, to stop Republicans from voting for this because they did consider a tax increase.

So, that's why -- and, certainly, as you heard from the speaker, it was a shocker. He did not realize until the day started to really move that he wasn't going to be able to at the last minute pull many of his fellow Republicans on.

And one of the reasons he said is because the Democratic leader in the Senate, Harry Reid, made it very clear that he wasn't going to take it up. So a lot of his rank-and-file Republicans said, why are we -- why am I going to do this? Why am I going to take a vote that I'm going to get probably pummeled for within my own party that is not going to go anywhere?

BALDWIN: You and I just talked yesterday about Speaker Boehner's hold on the speakership, and he was asked about that today. Let's watch that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: Last week, I asked you if you were concerned about losing your speakership, and you said you were not. In light of what happened last night, if you're not concerned, shouldn't you be?

BOEHNER: No, I'm not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Let me ask that same question to you. Should he be concerned? Faces reelection next month and at the moment he does seem weakened, does he not?

BASH: There's no question that what happened last night was not good for Speaker Boehner.

It definitely put him in a less strong position than he was just before that. But if you also saw this picture that you just played, it was very intentional that the speaker brought with him his number two, Eric Cantor, because if anybody is going to try a coup or anyone would try to run against him, it would probably be Eric Cantor.

The fact that he was standing there with the speaker was supposed to be a picture telling 1,000 words. There's no question about that. But I think, at the end of the day, the answer to whether the speaker is in trouble is really going to be -- we won't get that until we really know what happens in the endgame of the fiscal cliff.

And one thing on that note, I will tell you that I have been talking to Senate Democratic sources. Most people think that this is going to be in their lap right now, and the irony is that they think this is probably the best case for getting something done will be to go off the cliff.

Why is that?

BALDWIN: Really?

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: You heard the speaker say that it is very difficult for people to vote to raise taxes.

Well, if you think about it, if we go off the cliff, January 1, Congress comes back and the new Congress is sworn in January 3, everybody's taxes will be higher.

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: So, what road are going to they take? To cut taxes, much more politically palatable.

BALDWIN: Aha, cutting, not raising. Hmm. Dana Bash, it is Congress. Thank you.

(LAUGHTER)

BALDWIN: All right, we know John Kerry has been tapped to be the president's next secretary of state. But here is something interesting to ponder here. Huh. Could Ben Affleck take Senator Kerry's place? Wolf Blitzer has some thoughts. He's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: Senator John Kerry was always on the short list to replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of state.

But after Susan Rice removed herself from the running, Kerry became odds-on favorite. And now -- you see the video here -- happening not too long ago, this is official, the president today nominating Kerry for one of the highest-profile posts really in the world.

And, Wolf Blitzer, let me bring you in. I know you were watching this. You were covering it when it was happening live. Before we chat, let's just look at a poll, because CNN, we asked Americans whether they thought Senator Kerry would be -- quote, unquote -- "good for the country or bad for the country" -- 57 percent say good. So, he has support. Is this pretty much a done deal here?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I think it is. I think it is pretty much a done deal. There might be a few handful of senators that might not like John Kerry, might vote not to confirm his nomination. But I think he will sail through.

He's now the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and it will be his committee that has to approve him first and then there will be a full vote on the floor of the Senate. But I think he's going to get through.

Usually, the senators are pretty collegial as far as fellow senators are concerned. So, I assume he's not going to have much trouble. I know the White House hope is that around the time that the president is inaugurated for a second term, January 20, the hearings will have been concluded in the first three weeks or so of January and he will be confirmed.

BALDWIN: OK. I was wondering about the timeline on that.

And then, of course, like in the same breath as we talk about how he will probably get the gig, we talk about, OK, well, then who steps up and gets the senatorial spot in Massachusetts? A lot of names floated out there. So, do me a favor. Run through a few, including a certain bearded humanitarian/actor/director.

BLITZER: Well, if Ronald Reagan, who was a movie star, could become president of the United States, what about Ben Affleck? What about him? He was testifying before Congress this week.

He's very involved in various issues, including Congo. He was dealing with the atrocities unfolding in Congo this week when he testified up on Capitol Hill. And he's not necessarily completely ruling it out. Frankly, I would be surprised if he throws his hat in the ring.

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: You would be surprised?

BLITZER: I would be sort of surprised. But he's very political. He has got a huge acting career ahead of him. Let's see what he does, how committed he is. Scott Brown, the incumbent Republican senator who just lost to Elizabeth Warren in his bid for reelection, he's almost certainly going to be the Republican nominee.

And that special election will happen in May or June at some point. So, Scott Brown wants to be in the Senate. Maybe he will get himself elected. Let's see if Ben Affleck is serious or not serious. But there are others, including the governor, Deval Patrick, who is the governor of Massachusetts, he might want to be the Democratic nominee.

Congressman Ed Markey, who has been in the House of Representatives for a long time, his name is being floated seriously, Ted Kennedy Jr. Let's see what happens.

There is a lot of potential Democrats out there. We will see how serious Scott Brown is about trying to regain that Senate seat.

BALDWIN: OK. Wolf Blitzer, thank you very much. We will look for you the at top of the hour. And, hey, if I don't talk to you before then, happy holidays and see you next year, my friend.

BLITZER: Thank you. You, too.

BALDWIN: Meantime, the NRA today bashing video games for playing a role in the mass shootings one week ago today.

Well, in Newtown, a 12-year-old boy and his brother are vowing never to play them again. There they are, looks like with some video games there. You're going to hear their reasons and what their dad thinks about it next.

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