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No NRA Concessions; President Obama's Challenge to Republicans; Interview With Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal

Aired December 21, 2012 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: The National Rifle Association refuses to budge, despite protests and growing public anger after the Connecticut school massacre.

President Obama just challenged Congress to make a deal on avoiding tax hikes on the middle class, as the fiscal cliff deadline looms.

And the president might not be where he is today without his new nominee for secretary of state, Senator John Kerry.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

This was a day of mourning one week after the Connecticut school massacre. And this was the day the National Rifle Association finally spoke out about the shooting that horrified the nation and so much of the world. No questions were taken, no concessions were made. But there was a new call for armed guards in America's schools, all of them, and a good deal of head-scratching when it was all over.

CNN's Tom Foreman is joining us with more. You were there at that speech.

Tom, you were at that speech by the NRA. Tell our viewers what happened.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the speech really was -- it was a great coming-out of statements from an organization that's been very quiet since the shooting in Connecticut.

And there is a lot of head-scratching here in Washington, D.C., about where they're heading with all of us, but that may not be the same across the country in various congressional districts, where there are many voters who very much align with the NRA. Listen to what they had to say.


FOREMAN (voice-over): Despite protesters, the president and public opinion increasingly pushing against the gun lobby, the National Rifle Association sent a sharp message through its leader, Wayne LaPierre: No retreat.

WAYNE LAPIERRE, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION: 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.

FOREMAN: In a wide-ranging statement, LaPierre condemned the violence in Connecticut, Colorado, and other places, but steered the blame decisively away from guns or gun law.

Indeed, he lambasted legislators who have put laws into place restricting guns around schools.

LAPIERRE: And in doing so, they tell every insane killer in America that schools are the safest place to inflict maximum mayhem with minimum risk.

FOREMAN: Despite twice being interrupted by protesters, LaPierre went on to attack the media for making killers famous in the news and glorifying them in movies and video games.

LAPIERRE: A child growing up in America today witnesses 16,000 murders and 200,000 acts of violence by the time he or she reaches the ripe old age of 18. 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?

FOREMAN: LaPierre announced plans for what he calls a national school shield program to recruit and train volunteers to thwart such attacks.

(on camera): Mr. Keene, could you answer one question? One question, Mr. Keene.

FOREMAN: But details on precisely how that might work remain unclear, because for all their statements, NRA officials are still not answering questions. We're


FOREMAN: ... be available to answer questions some time next week. We're not sure why they wouldn't do it today. But they said next week they might get around to it.

Bottom line, though, Wolf, is the big message here was absolutely clear. The NRA is not backing down, not interested in talking about new gun laws and as best I can tell not afraid of changes of public sentiment or what the president is having to say -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Tom, thank you.

We're hearing a good deal of negative reaction to the NRA statement. A top Republican, the New Jersey governor, Chris Christie, says putting armed guards in schools won't be effective. The Democratic Party chair, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, put it in much tougher language a little while ago.


REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA: The NRA, I would say that they were tone-deaf, but it's beyond that. They are just deaf.

I mean, they have completely ignored, don't understand, don't grasp how deeply wounded this nation was over the Newtown tragedy, over the tragedies that have collectively built up in our consciousness and across the spectrum of how people feel about gun rights. That all across that spectrum, people in America want us to come together and solve this problem and make sure that we can, in a rational, commonsense way get weapons of war out of the hands of the average every-day person who can come into a school and blow away 26 people.


BLITZER: We also heard from some Connecticut gun owners who say they are fed up with the NRA.


GERI TRAVIS, CONNECTICUT GUN OWNER: I'm very torn at this point. I'm not happy with the NRA. I'm not happy with the NRA. And I am a gun owner myself. There's just no reason for automatic weapons out there in the public and clips that discharge so many rounds of ammunition.

ROWLAND TRAVIS, CONNECTICUT GUN OWNER: I have many guns. But I don't have a 30-round clip in a semiautomatic weapon. We have a tragedy here. And we have to address it. They're not addressing it. That's what I tell them. You're not addressing the situation here.


BLITZER: Of course, other gun owners we spoke to defended the NRA's position in its call to put armed guards in every school in the United States.

We will have much more on this story coming up. We're going back to Newtown for some reflections as well, the latest on the investigation. Stand by for that.

Meanwhile, Senator John Kerry now is officially President Obama's choice to succeed Hillary Clinton as the secretary of state. Today's announcement was brief. It was widely expected. Senator Kerry let the president do all the talking.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Over these many years, John's earned the respect and confidence of leaders around the world. He is not going to need a lot of on-the-job training. He has earned the respect and trust of his Senate colleagues, Democrats and Republicans.

I think it's fair to say that few individuals know as many presidents and prime ministers or grasp our foreign policies as firmly as John Kerry. And this makes him a perfect choice to guide American diplomacy in the years ahead. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Kate Bolduan is with me, as usual.

Kate, you're our congressional correspondent. You spent some quality time covering the next secretary of state, if he's confirmed, which he presumably will be.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: It's of course widely expected that he will be confirmed.

But in terms of a relationship with President Obama, he's not considered part of the Obama inner circle, though President Obama and Senator Kerry have forged quite a close bond, especially during presidential debate prep this year when Kerry played the role of Mitt Romney.

And Kerry also played a pretty key role in making Barack Obama a national name.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Thank you very, Mr. Secretary.

BOLDUAN (voice-over): His Senate colleagues have joked about his ambition, what many regarded as the worst-kept secret in Washington. Even in recent Senate hearings, John Kerry already sounded like he was looking ahead to his future job and the anticipated battles over the State Department budget with Congress.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: That must change. And in the next session of the Congress, I hope it will.

BOLDUAN: He wasn't the president's first choice. U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice took herself out of the running after Republican backlash.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: It was unjustified to give the scenario as presented by Ambassador Rice.

BOLDUAN: Senator Kerry knows himself about being torpedoed by attacks, accused in his 2004 presidential run of lying about his military record in Vietnam.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John Kerry has not been honest about what happened in Vietnam.

BOLDUAN: And criticized for his 1971 testimony of opposing the Vietnam War.

KERRY: How do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Vietnam?

BOLDUAN: Kerry was pointed a flip-flopper and out-of-touch, unable to grasp the struggles of regular Americans. But candidate Kerry did put President Obama, then an unknown politician, on the national stage at the Democratic National Convention.

OBAMA: John Kerry believes that in a dangerous world, war must be an option sometimes but it should never be the first option.

BOLDUAN: Following the loss, Kerry immersed himself in foreign policy.

KERRY: We stand adjourned.

BOLDUAN: Now, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he's been an unofficial envoy for President Obama, helping ease tension with President Karzai in Afghanistan and helped mend strained relations in Pakistan after the killing of Osama bin Laden.

KERRY: We are strategic partners with a common enemy in terrorism and extremism.

BOLDUAN: But Kerry is not totally in sync with Obama. He has supported limited military intervention in Syria something the president has resisted. Over his 30-year career, Kerry has built deep relationships with many foreign leaders.

NICHOLAS BURNS, FORMER UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE FOR POLITICAL AFFAIRS: There are very few people in our country with greater experience over a longer period of time in foreign policy than Senator Kerry.


BOLDUAN: Now, looking ahead, perhaps Kerry's biggest challenge is not his confirmation on Capitol Hill, which is really all but assured, but rather following in Hillary Clinton's footsteps.

She's become one of the most popular officials in the Obama Cabinet, both here and abroad. And then it becomes the big political fight or at least political interest in who will fill the vacated Senate seat of Senator John Kerry.

BLITZER: Still not feeling well enough. She couldn't go there for the announcement at the White House.

BOLDUAN: Hillary Clinton, that's right.

BLITZER: And let's hope she feels better soon.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely.

BLITZER: Thank you.

The NRA's call for armed guards in public schools has a Connecticut senator furious right now. The Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal is standing by to join us.

And the president's new pitch for avoiding that fiscal cliff, some millionaires say they're ready to take a hit.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This country is in a lot of fiscal trouble. And I think it's the obligation of all those that can give and help out the country. We're Americans and we should.



BLITZER: Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut called today's NRA statement, in his words, "sadly, shamefully inadequate." Senator Blumenthal is joining us now from Capitol Hill.

Senator, thanks very much for coming in. Let me get your reaction to what Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association said today, your former attorney general of your home state of Connecticut.

He says there should be armed police guards in every school in the country to protect our kids. Is that a good idea?

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: Not a good idea if they are volunteers, as he suggests, because he wants to save money by avoiding payment for them. The watchdog dads, not a good idea.

But better school security, certainly a very important goal.

And it ought to be part of a comprehensive, serious, substantial set of ideas that have the goal of real change, taking the assault weapons off the streets, stopping sales of them, as well as the high- capacity magazines, better background checks, more of them, covering the 40 percent that right now are completely uncovered in the gun show loophole. And, of course, mental health initiatives.

There are a set ideas, no single one of them is going to accomplish this goal. But better school security can be part of an overall program, not the vigilante approach that seems to be suggested by the NRA today.

BLITZER: He did suggest that it would be appropriate for Congress to spend some more money, to appropriate funds to beef up security at schools all across the country. I assume you'd be ready to vote in favor of that kind of legislation?

BLUMENTHAL: Very much so. Better school security that comes from professionals who are trained and equipped, have the expertise and the ability to stop these kind of attacks.

But, remember, schools have multiple entrances and exits, multiple ways for killers to blast their way into schools, as happened in Newtown.

And the high-velocity magazines that have 30 rounds apiece and perhaps multiple use of them will enable a killer to possibly overwhelm even the best security guard, even the best armored and armed. So we need to think beyond school security and launch a program that really accomplishes effective change. And I'm afraid that the NRA has proved that it's not a credible or a constructive partner in this debate, by only focusing on this one solution and saying it is the only acceptable solution.

BOLDUAN: And, Senator, when the president visited Newtown, Connecticut, he was really talking about the need for stronger gun control measures.

Have you spoken with him personally since his visit to Connecticut about his gun control measures? What have you told him?

BLUMENTHAL: I've spoken to the vice president about the potential set of proposals and indicated my strong support for the proactive and aggressive stance that the president's taken. I talked to the president before, just before, as he arrived at the high school in Newtown. And I think the president's very determined.

But we should be very clear. It will take a sustained effort and it will take all of America standing up and speaking out as they have done in the past week, and the kind of letters and calls that I received just within the last few hours, "The NRA does not speak for us. I'm an NRA member. I'm a hunter. The NRA is not speaking for me." That kind of really sustained effort has to be part of it.

And, again, I think the NRA in its present approach is making its largely irrelevant.

BOLDUAN: Senator, let me ask you about the investigation. What are you hearing the latest is from the Connecticut State Police in terms of their investigation, what more they're learning about Adam Lanza and possibly why he went about this horrific, horrific tragedy?

BLUMENTHAL: This investigation is making progress. I think that's the most -- or the best I can say right now because I've been briefed on it. But I don't think I can say much more at this point.

We may never have a fully adequate or complete explanation of what the motives were, what went wrong in Adam Lanza's head that resulted in such an inhumane, brutal, absolutely horrific kind of criminal act.

But I think the state is finishing this period of mourning and very determined that we will honor the memory of these beautiful children and the very heroic professionals who sought to stop the killing by placing themselves in between the killer and their children, by moving forward and making America safer.

BLITZER: So many of our viewers here in the United States and around the world, Senator, would like to do something to help your constituents in Newtown, Connecticut. Is there anything specific you would recommend that they do? What do the folks there really need?

BLUMENTHAL: They need support in thoughts and letters, prayers. But also there are donations that can be made to community organizations and charities.

I'm pleased to say that I've called for an end to the transaction fees and processing charges that are often applied or imposed in connection with donations to, for example, the United Way, the Newtown Savings Bank that are planning to provide supportive work for the families and, of course, cover some of the funeral expenses, I understand.

But, really, the thoughts and support for measures that will accomplish real change, I think, is the -- is one good way to honor the memory of these innocent victims and the more support we receive, the more congressmen hear from their constituents, the stronger we will be in accomplishing these goals.

BLITZER: Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Senator, thanks very much for coming in. Our heart, of course, goes to out everyone in Connecticut; so many people have suffered. We appreciate your joining us.

BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.

BLITZER: We will take a quick break.

Much more from Newtown, much more on the NRA's proposal to put guns in every American school -- when we come back.


BLITZER: We will head back to Newtown, Connecticut, shortly for the latest on the investigation.

Kate, but let's update our viewers on what happened today, important developments on that so-called fiscal cliff.

BOLDUAN: Yes, President Obama just spoke about it before leaving for vacation to Hawaii.


OBAMA: In 10 days, we face a deadline. In 10 days, under current law, tax rates are scheduled to rise on most Americans.

And even though Democrats and Republicans are arguing about whether those rates should go up for the wealthiest individuals, all of us, every single one of us, agrees that tax rates shouldn't go up for the other 98 percent of Americans, which includes 97 percent of small businesses.

Every member of Congress believes that, every Democrat, every Republican. So there is absolutely no reason, none, not to protect these Americans from a tax hike.


BLITZER: Let's bring in our chief White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin, and our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash. Jessica, the president basically said he's a hopeless optimist. He still thinks we can get this done. Tell us why he believes that.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, he has -- it's because he's proposed something here that's significantly smaller than what he originally outlined to Speaker Boehner.

It's both a policy shift, something that is a scaled-down version that could get the U.S. through the new year, something that could pass in the next 10 days, and also a shift of responsibility now, saying it's up to Capitol Hill to get something done, and that it's really on their shoulders at this point.

The president making this clear right before he gets on board a plane. He's now going to be taking off for Hawaii and his Christmas break within the hour. The White House has just announced that he is going to Hawaii with his family for -- well, they didn't say when he will be coming home. But, Wolf, he made it clear that he will see us next week. So at some point, he will be back here to finish negotiating this deal, and so we get a few days of rest. And then I guess it's back to the drawing board.

BOLDUAN: Let's bring Dana Bash into the conversation.

Dana, the presidents in his statement, he urged -- he said it's up to congressional Republicans and Democrats to get this -- pass this scale scaled-down package, if you will. What are the chances?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Still very hard to see it happening, Kate. As you well know, it is difficult to get anything done in a bipartisan way, and it was illustrated very clearly how hard it is going to be to get Republicans, even just to pick off a few Republicans in the Senate, maybe seven or eight, which is what they will need, and about 30 in the House for any kind of tax increase. It's possible, but it is going to be very, very difficult.

The speaker, through a spokesman, released a statement saying that from his point of view, when the two of them spoke, he spoke with the president -- the president mentioned that as well -- he told the president, it is now up to the Senate to act, but the speaker, too, he is going to be back right after the holidays. So maybe there could be some kind of Christmas miracle between the two of them.

BLITZER: Always believe in miracles.

All right, guys, thank you. Thanks very much.

Those of us who spent time in Newtown, Connecticut, this week will forever be changed. Kate and I had a chance to speak with Dr. Sanjay Gupta about what happened. Stand by.


BLITZER: It's been an unimaginable week of pain and suffering, not just in Newtown, Connecticut, but all across the country. Many of us saw it firsthand.

Let's talk about what we saw. Joining me now, our Kate Bolduan. She was in Newtown, as well as our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Both had a chance to see what was going on.

Kate, let me talk with you. Is there a moment that really stands out in your mind, something you will never forget?

BOLDUAN: I think you and I both will never forget just the sense in the community when we were there, the sense of grief and despair that was just everywhere, everywhere you went.

Beyond that, the moment that I will never forget is sitting down with the Licata family, Robert and Diane. Their 6-year-old son, Aiden, was in Victoria Soto's classroom. Victoria, as we -- as we now know, was shot and killed by the gunman along with students in that classroom.

When I sat down with Robert and Diane, we talked about many things. But one of the things that really struck me was how they said how difficult it was going to be to break the news to Aiden that their teacher was not coming back.


DIANE LICATA, MOTHER OF SHOOTING SURVIVOR: He keeps asking about her. And I think he's reassuring himself that she's going to be OK. He really, really cared about his teacher. He was very close with her. And she really loved that class.

And he keeps saying, "I really hope she's OK. I hope it's not her." He knows that she's been hurt, but he doesn't know the end result. He knows the kids that he saw getting shot. He doesn't know the outcome.

So I think he's reassuring himself. In his 6-year-old mind, I know he's processing it. But I think he's reassuring himself. I think he's telling himself that it's going to be OK.


BOLDUAN: And beyond that, Wolf, I not only spent time with Robert and Diane, I had the chance to spend some time, although they did not want their children to be interviewed, of course, spent some time with Aiden as well as his older sister, who's also a student at Sandy Hook.

And just seeing young Aiden, 6 years old, acting like a 6-year- old, wearing his pajamas, watching cartoons, even showing off his Kung Fu moves to me that Saturday morning, just 24 hours after this had happened. It just struck me not only that he's just 6 years old but then to think of the horror that he witnessed and also how incomprehensible it is that there are so many kids his age that are gone now.

BLITZER: It's a shocking situation.

Sanjay, I know you were moved, you were powerfully moved by Robbie Parker, the father who lost his little 6-year-old daughter, Emilie Parker. We saw him on television Saturday night. Let me play a little clip.


ROBBIE PARKER, FATHER OF SHOOTING VICTIM: She was the type of person that could just light up a room. She -- she always had something kind to say about anybody. And her love and the strength that she gave us and the example that she showed to us is remarkable. She is an incredible person, and I'm so blessed to be her dad.


BLITZER: What a beautiful little girl. Sanjay, I know you have daughters around the same age. And you were -- you were moved really strongly by what we heard.

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, just such -- still so painful to watch. And to hear Robbie, it's that visceral, just gut-wrenching pain.

You know, Wolf, it's tough. I think anybody who has kids, you know, people always ask, you know, do you think about your own kids in situations like this? And of course you do. But I think there was a couple of things in particular.

One is this whole notion -- the way he was describing Emilie, you know, I've probably used some of those same ways to describe my own daughters. And I think there was nothing in their world context that could explain to them what was happening when this tragedy unfolded.

I mean, I know if it was my daughters, they'd probably be curious about this guy and want to say hello. And it just -- for some reason, that is so particularly heartbreaking.

And I think also this idea that it's not so much that you're thinking about your own kids. When you go to a town like Newtown, Connecticut, and you know, you were there. You saw how small the community is; everyone knows each other; they all take care of each other. It's not so much that you're thinking about your other kids, it's that they are your kids. In the town of -- the children here in Newtown, they're everybody's kids, you know. And I think that that was -- you know, what I've still been thinking about quite a bit over the last several days.

BLITZER: I'm thinking also, Kate, about those -- that makeshift memorials that sprung up all over Newtown, especially the memorials that had little angels...


BLITZER: ... on them. When we think of those 20 kids, those 20 angels, just walking down the street, and we've got some pictures there.

BOLDUAN: Right there. And so many things leave an impression on us, on everyone, from this horrific tragedy. But what other moments stuck with you?

BLITZER: You know what else stuck in my mind was when I met some of the clergy who had been at that firehouse, where all the parents had shown up, because they heard there was something going on at the school. So they came to the firehouse. The police directed them there. That's where they got word that their little kids were OK. They came out right down the street.

But there were 20 sets of parents that got really horrible news. When I spoke with Rabbi Shaul Praver, who's a rabbi in Newtown, and he described what it was like when these parents got the horrible news.


BLITZER: Rabbi, is there one moment yesterday when you were in firehouse with these families that stands out that you'll never forget in your life?

RABBI SHAUL PRAVER, NEWTOWN: Yes. There are some very unshakable images. That's when the news came from the governor that the children did not make it and the wailing of the parents and just sort of the groping and trying to reach for something intangible. It was horrific, terrible scene.


BLITZER: Sanjay, you can only imagine when he talks about the wailing, the groping, what was going on in that firehouse. How are these people going to cope in the years to come?

GUPTA: If it's -- yes, losing a child is such an unnatural thing. I mean, you know, you don't ever expect to bury your own children. So I don't know that they ever -- can ever fully recover from this.

You know, there have been -- there's been lots of studies, Wolf. We've talked about some of this with regard to how long posttraumatic stress, for example, lasts. And you know, for example, in people who have seen violence or been exposed to it so closely, even months, years later, a significant percentage, up to 77 percent three months later, had diagnosable posttraumatic stress. So this isn't going to go away anytime soon.

There's also something else, Wolf. We see this after other tragedies. But there's this period now where there is a lot of support. There's a lot of media attention. Family and friends have all come together. But it doesn't last forever. And so after a while, these people -- they're sort of going through this period now a little bit numb with all the support. But then over a few months or a few weeks, even, it starts to go away a little bit. It's a good reminder, I think, for people who want to continue to give support to Newtown. BLITZER: Sanjay, thanks so much for your reporting this week.

Kate, thanks to you, as well. I know all of us -- you know, I don't think any of us are ever going to be the same after what we experienced, and certainly the people in Newtown, Connecticut, will never be the same either.

And as the people of Newtown mark one week since the school massacre, our own Anderson Cooper is there for us.

Anderson, you've been around the world. You've covered some of the worst tragedies in recent decades. What are you taking away from this situation, from this horrible tragedy in Newtown?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, I guess two things. I mean, one, you know, I think a lot of people -- this is the one-week anniversary, and a lot of people, maybe, who are watching this sort of feel like, this is something that happened a week ago. To people here in Newtown, this is something that is still happening again every single day. And they are going to wakes and funerals every single day. Five funerals today.

And just the -- you know, the horror of that, day after day, going to 20 children's funerals. Going to the funerals of six adults. And it is -- I mean, how do you even figure out where to go and, you know, organizing how to get from one funeral to a wake? And it's just -- you know, an ongoing horror here in Newtown for this town.

And I think Sanjay made a really important point. That often adrenaline sort of carries -- I talked to a number of families who have lost children in the last couple of days. And, you know, adrenaline carries them for the first couple of days and planning the funeral and planning the wake, and then -- and they're surrounded by support and by family members and by friends.

But over time, a week or two goes by, and the rest of the world continues to spin, and their world feels like it's -- it's frozen. And I think that's -- you know, already I think many in this town are preparing for that, to -- to, you know, be there for these families once attention goes elsewhere and once people from out of town leave and people return to their normal lives.

These families are not going to be able to return to a normal life. Their lives will be forever changed. And I think -- I talked to one priest and a number of people here who already are trying to plan for that and continue to offer these families support and attention and love at a time when -- when they will need it most.

BOLDUAN: And Anderson, you're live from Newtown once again this evening. Give our viewers a preview of what you have coming up on the show.

COOPER: Well, we continue to -- to honor the lives that were lost, the five funerals that took place today, three children, two adults. One of the kids, Grace McDonnell, we interviewed Lynn and Chris McDonnell a couple of nights ago. So we're going to tell you about the five people who were laid to rest today, and a celebration of their life, really.

We're also going to talk to a local -- the senator, former congressman from Newtown who's outraged at the NRA press conference. You'll hear his very strong remarks about what -- what Wayne LaPierre from the NRA had to say today, the plans that the NRA put forward and what he thinks of them and what a lot of people here, frankly, in Newtown feel about them.

And there is a growing sense of -- from a lot of family members, I think, of wanting to have something come out of this, of wanting to do something.

Grace McDonnell today -- Grace McDonnell's mother, Lynn, talked about that she now feels fearless, and she has -- she will never feel as much pain as she has felt this last week and last Friday. And she now feels fearless, and she is going to try to effect change and move forward in life with the strength that her daughter showed.

And I think you're hearing that from a lot of the parents. So we're going to talk about that tonight and just a lot more of the sights and sounds from Newtown.

BLITZER: Anderson, 8 p.m. Eastern, "AC 360" live from Newtown. We'll be watching, of course, Anderson. Thanks very much. Thanks for all the excellent reporting and the work that you've done this week and that you do every day here on CNN.

This is, Kate, a horrible story for all of us to cover. But you know...

BOLDUAN: As Anderson said, we'll continue to honor those lives that were lost and the families who continue to suffer through this tragedy. We'll have much more.

BLITZER: Right after this.


BLITZER: No matter how the fiscal cliff negotiations play out, the wealthy will probably see their taxes going up.

BOLDUAN: But Congress can't seem to agree on who is wealthy. And even if they figure that out, there's also disagreement about how their taxes should go up.

BLITZER: Fortunately, we have Lisa Sylvester.

BOLDUAN: To explain it all.

BLITZER: She's here to explain what's going on.

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are hearing lots of calls for raising taxes on the rich. And I sat down with one man who is a mega millionaire. He's definitely part of the 1 percent. And he shares his thoughts on what he would do to solve the fiscal crisis. And it does include tax increases on the wealthy.


SYLVESTER (voice-over): The question is who is considered rich? House Speaker John Boehner pushed for tax hikes for those making $1 million or more. President Obama is drawing the line at incomes of $400,000 or higher.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You can afford to pay a little bit more. You're not -- you're not too strapped.

SYLVESTER: Earl Mack falls well within the range of wealthy as a multimillionaire. He agrees millionaire earners should see taxes rise.

EARL MACK, PHILANTHROPIST: We are -- this country is in a lot of fiscal trouble. And I think it's the obligation of all those that can give and help out the country. We're Americans and we should. And it's our -- it's our heritage.

SYLVESTER: Earl, who is a former U.S. ambassador to Finland, says the rich could chip in in other areas. He made his fortune in real-estate development and investment. He says leave the capital gains tax alone, because that encourages business development. But he says the dividends tax rate should be raised back to 25 percent. And says Congress should close tax loopholes on luxury items for jets and yachts.

Founder's stock, he says, well, that should be taxed at ordinary income tax rates. And he says it's time to touch entitlements. He believes there should be means testing that cuts off the mega rich from government health programs like Medicare. And even though it may be unpopular, he says, you have to reform Social Security.

MACK: They say a child born today could live to 100. You, if you just follow the averages, your life span has increased in the last decade a couple of years. So I think you've got to raise that age for people, let's say, that are under 50.

SYLVESTER: But the one area he's adamant should not be touched is charitable deductions that encourage the wealthy to give. He's not alone. The richest of the rich, they're the ones who also give the most.

CLAIRE COSTELLO, BANK OF AMERICA'S NATIONAL CENTER FOR FAMILY PHILANTHROPY: We know if you take the large pie of approximately $300 billion that was given away last year, including corporate giving, roughly two-thirds of that was given by individuals. Roughly half of that was given by the top 3 percent.

MACK: Charitable institutions...

SYLVESTER: Mack Earl [SIC] says Washington should debate, negotiate, compromise but by December 31st, they need to get a deal done.


SYLVESTER: And he says if Congress fails to act, that could really hurt the economy. The U.S. could be pushed into a recession. Even as we get closer to the fiscal cliff, many companies, they've stopped hiring, and investors are pulling back -- Wolf, Kate.

BLITZER: They want to know what's going on, and we don't know.

SYLVESTER: Well, the...

BOLDUAN: So much uncertainty.

SYLVESTER: Right. In the absence of certainty, what do investors do? They don't do anything. They sit on the sidelines. And that's what we're seeing as we get closer and closer.

BOLDUAN: They don't really have confidence, you know, the past couple of years, of Congress actually getting together and getting a deal done, or especially a grand bargain. So...

SYLVESTER: And I think there's a reason.

BOLDUAN: Right. Exactly.

Lisa, thank you.

Still ahead, more on the ceremonies marking one week since the Newtown school massacre.


BOLDUAN: Five Newtown victims were laid to rest today: three children and two teachers. We want to honor them right now.

Grace McDonnell was always smiling. She loved her dog, Pudding, and was described as a girlie girl.

Olivia Engel laughed a lot. Her favorite colors were pink and purple.

And Dylan Hockley had dimples and a mischievous grin. He loved video games, movies and the trampoline.

Rachel D'Avino's boyfriend was about to propose. He'd recently asked her parents for their blessing.

And Mary Sherlach was looking forward to her retirement. The school psychologist worked at Sandy Hook for two decades.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dawn Hochsprung, principal.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mary Sherlach, school psychologist. (BELL RINGING)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Victoria Soto, teacher.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ann Marie Murphy, special education teacher.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Lauren Rousseau, teacher.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Rachel D'Avino, behavioral thermometer.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Charlotte Bacon, 6 years old.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Daniel Barden, age 7.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Olivia Engel, age 6.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Josephine Gay, age 7.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ana Marquez-Greene, age 6.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dylan Hockley, age 6.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Madeleine Hsu, age 6.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Catherine Hubbard, age 6.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Chase Kowalski, age 7.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: James Mattioli, age 6.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Grace McDonnell, age 7.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Emilie Parker, age 6.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Noah Pozner, age 6.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Caroline Previdi, age 6.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jessica Rekos, also age 6.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Avielle Richman, age 6.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Benjamin Wheeler, age 6.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And Allison Wyatt, age 6.



BLITZER: All of us want to say good-bye to our long-time president of CNN Worldwide, Jim Walton. Jim started at the lowest levels of CNN back in 1981, a year after the network was created. He worked his way all the way to the top levels of management. He says it's been a hell of a ride. It certainly has been.

Today is his last day. We wish him only, only the best.

BOLDUAN: Only the best.

BLITZER: That's it for us. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.