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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Obama, Senate Return to D.C. Tomorrow; Teetering on Edge of Fiscal Cliff; Arizona Attorney General Supports Arming Principals; Gun Violence Against First Responders; Severe Winter Storm Barrels East
Aired December 26, 2012 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN AVLON, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT next, just six days until we all fall over the fiscal cliff and tonight, there's no action on Capitol Hill. Will that change by the end of the year? Tonight, two congressmen, Republican and Democrat, come OUTFRONT to talk specifics.
Plus, in the wake of mass shootings across this country, Arizona's attorney general backs a plan reminiscent of the NRA to arm school principals. Does more guns in schools really begin to add up.
And we countdown 2012's biggest political fumbles, the best from the worst of our politicians. Let's go OUTFRONT.
I'm John Avlon in for Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, Christmas is over. Washington, get back to work. The countdown is on. The clock is ticking. You've got six days to prevent this country from going over the fiscal cliff.
And today at least, we didn't see any action, nothing. Now, I'm not trying to be a Grinch here. I hope everyone's had a very Merry Christmas just like the president prescribed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Drink some eggnog, have some Christmas cookies, sing some Christmas carols.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AVLON: But today's the 26th. You've drunk, you eaten and you've sung. Now is the time for action. The latest news out of Washington tonight, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner told Congress that the country will hit the debt ceiling on December 31st, New Year's Eve, some two months earlier than expected.
But there's still no date yet on when the House of Representatives will be called into session to veto a vote on any deal. President Obama cut his Hawaiian vacation short and is due to land in Washington tomorrow, but if politicians aren't feeling enough urgency, the American people certainly are.
A brand new Gallup poll out today shows 50 percent of Americans think a deal is likely. That's down nine points from just a few weeks ago and make no mistake, if we go over the cliff, it will affect all of us.
If you're a family that makes $50,000 a year, your taxes will go up by $2,000. If you make $100,000, your taxes will go up by $4,600. The combination of tax hikes and deep spending cuts could end up looking a little bit like this over the cliff in a free fall, whisky and cigarettes in hand.
OUTFRONT tonight, we've got the view from both sides of the aisle, Democratic Congressman Raul Grijalva of Arizona and Republican Congressman Reid Ribble of Wisconsin. Earlier, I spoke to the Arizona congressman and asked him what he would support a scaled down deal that the president pushed for on Friday?
REPRESENTATIVE RAUL GRIJALVA (D), ARIZONA: Yes, I would. I think that's realistic. I think we're at a point after, after the implosion by Boehner and the party not to be able to come to an agreement with President Obama.
That we're talking about a short fix relative to a new congress dealing with the complexity and a comprehensive package of long-term, of fiscal policy in this country. That's what many of us have asked for, that everything has been to be on the table. That it has to be an honest and open discussion.
AVLON: You just said, Congressman, that everything should be on the table. The president has made this clear. He said that everyone needs to give a little bit to reach a grand bargain and the American people agree.
A brand new Gallup poll says that 68 percent of Americans want Congress, that's you, to compromise, to come up with a solution on the fiscal cliff. Only 22 percent say stick to your principles, don't negotiate.
Now, you spoke out against the president's first off, saying it looked like he was offering a cut to Social Security, but if his next offer or in the next Congress, a grand bargain looks the same and that's the only way to come together for a long term fix, would you support it?
GRIJALVA: Honestly, John, the support and many of us, including myself, are disappointed that cutting Social Security benefits was part of the grand bargain. It became kind of like a symbolic issue, the Republican in the House needed to have a symbol. It was Social Security.
My point is everything on the table also includes derivatives. It includes a transaction fee. It includes a variety of things that are not on the table tax code issues, subsidies, and looking at how we look at entitlement programs in a way that creates solvency and protection.
Not in the hysteria of the moment, where something, everybody has to provide a symbol. A grand bargain, fiscal bargain is not about symbolism. It is about fiscal policies and if we get to that point, yes, we're prepared to compromise.
AVLON: Let me stop you right there then. What specifically would you support in terms of entitlement reform if everything is indeed on the table as you say?
GRIJALVA: I would support a discreet and separate process that looks at Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security in terms of what their historic role have been in this country, which is protection and solvency.
AVLON: Congressman, if I'm hearing you correctly, what you're saying you'd be willing to offer is another commission to further study entitlement reforms in Medicare. That's what you're saying. Not any cuts up front.
GRIJALVA: Not any cuts up front, absolutely not because we're making cuts up front based on a presumption. The presumption is that Social Security caused the problem. Even the Bowles-Simpson Commission said it didn't cause a problem.
Health care, the biggest add to our deficit in this country is rising health care costs. Do we need to tackle those? How do they interact with the exchanges that are going to be set up across the country? Is it going to cost the taxpayer more or less? All those have to be in the realm of realistic facts and figures.
AVLON: Final question, you're in Arizona today. Many of your constituents worked over the holidays. Do you think congress should have stayed in Washington to work for an agreement?
GRIJALVA: Absolutely, absolutely. Once you know, once the Boehner "Plan B" collapsed, all we got was a notification, you can go home. We'll call you when we're ready.
Boehner's got to get off the majority of the majority must agree to something. It's going to take Democratic votes to pass a tough fiscal compromise and unless there is inclusion and discussion on both sides of the aisle about this issue, that compromise gets tougher and tougher.
AVLON: Congressman, thank you for coming OUTFRONT.
GRIJALVA: Appreciate it, thank you.
AVLON: Now, on the other side of the aisle. Republican Congressman Reid Ribble of Wisconsin, Congressman, you just heard your Arizona colleague say you all should have absolutely stayed in D.C. and worked on a deal over the holidays. Do you agree?
REPRESENTATIVE REID RIBBLE (R), WISCONSIN: Yes, I do. I absolutely agree. We should have stayed there. I think the president should have stayed there. I think the government should have stayed in place and kept working on it. As a freshman member of the Congress, I don't have the pull or the power to say when we're going to be there, when we're not, but I will say this, at the U.S. House of Representatives has acted, we're waiting for the Senate to act and I believe that as soon as they act, we'll be back in town to find some forge, some pathway forward.
AVLON: Well, a senior White House official told CNN tonight to that point, they said we believe very strongly a reasonable package can get majorities in both houses. The only thing that would prevent it is if Senator McConnell and Speaker Boehner don't cooperate.
Now, Congressman, you're a part of the problem solvers coalition, do you think McConnell and Boehner are in the mood to cooperate with President Obama?
RIBBLE: Yes, I absolutely do believe that they're in a mood to cooperate. Speaker Boehner's talked for a very long time about a grand bargain, about a big deal, about trying to find some major solution going forward.
But the Senate hasn't acted on anything, so I think we have to be careful on just placing the blame on McConnell or Boehner without adding in to this mix, Senator Harry Reid who is running the U.S. Senate and yet they have refused to act on anything yet.
AVLON: And will you support whatever short-term deal or grand bargain the Republican leadership supports?
RIBBLE: Well, I don't know what I'm going to support yet until I see it. You know, the previous congressman you had was on, interesting enough, his office is right next to mine in Longworth. The fact of the matter is we're going to have to find a place to come together that the president has offered a 7 percent solution for a 100 percent problem.
I was struck by the fact that not a single Democrat supported Speaker Boehner's "Plan B" when that was actually Nancy Pelosi's solution. Raise taxes on those earning a million dollars or more. Not one Democrat agreed to vote for it.
AVLON: Let's talk about that "Plan B" because obviously it was not successful. The votes were not there and Dennis Hastert, the former Republican speaker actually had some unkind words for Speaker Boehner, saying, "I don't want to be critical of John, but you don't ever bring something to the floor if you don't have the votes."
So Congressman, did the speaker miscalculate and do you think he'll be challenged for the speakership when the new Congress convenes?
RIBBLE: No, he's not going to be challenged for the speakership. Did he make a mistake? No, I don't think so. He didn't bring it to the floor. He decided not to bring it to the floor, but he could have brought it to the floor, if they had had even 30 Democrats willing to say I'll do what NANCY PELOSI said we should do. And that "Plan B" would have passed. It would have demonstrated that we were willing to put some revenue on the table and got the wheels greased a little bit for an ongoing negotiation.
AVLON: Look, Congressman, final question, the "New York Times" reporter, John Harwood, tweeted this the night the "Plan B" failed. He said, "GOP House members and colleagues, I blame most of this on a block of about 50 members who have the political judgment God gave a goose."
Do you think the far right of your party is a big part of the problem in Washington right now?
RIBBLE: Listen, I think the extremes on both sides are a big part of the problem right now. And I've got a lot of respect for the men and women who are representing voters in their district who are telling them this.
But we have to look at a broader reason why we're having members of Congress coming from the perimeters. We can talk about gerrymandering of districts and the whole political process that has brought us to this place. Those are the types of reforms long term that I believe will get the Congress working correctly again.
AVLON: It's a great and important point. Thank you for coming OUTFRONT, Congressman.
AVLON: OUTFRONT next, after a string of mass shootings across this country, Arizona's attorney general is pushing a plan to arm school principals. Are more guns really the answer?
Plus, a deadly winter storm hits the east coast, a nightmare for thousands of travelers coming home from the holidays.
And new details on the condition of former President George H.W. Bush.
AVLON: Our second story OUTFRONT, arming your child's principal. Tonight, Arizona's Attorney General Tom Horn backed a plan to arm principals with a gun that could be used in an emergency like the horrific school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.
But are more guns in our schools really the answer? OUTFRONT tonight, CNN contributor, Reihan Salam, who also writes for the "National Review" and political analyst, Roland Martin. Good to see you.
All right, Reihan, first question to you, is this just playing up to the NRA or is this a plausible solution to stop school shootings in your opinion?
REIHAN SALAM, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It's certainly not a plausible solution, but the problem is, there are no plausible solutions. When you look at mass shootings, there's a guy called James Helen Fox, a criminologist from North Eastern University who wrote a great piece about this.
The thing with mass shootings, these guys are determined. They plan well in advance to evade security measures and so, the idea from the right that you're going to arm police official. You're going to have them at every school that that's going to solve the problem is false.
And the idea on the left that you're going to eliminate guns, you're going to regulate them in such a way that you'll get rid of it. That's also false. The fact is that you have to look at the gun violence problem more broadly rather than fighting the last war.
AVLON: But there is a disconnect in this conversation we're having. I want to play for you, guys, the quote from Frank Lutz, a conservative pollster. Here's what he had to say about the NRA's proposal last Friday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRANK LUNTZ, POLLSTER: The public wants guns out of the schools, not in and they're not asking for a security official or someone else. I don't think the NRA is listening. I don't think they understand. Most Americans would protect the second amendment rights and yet agree with the idea that not every human being should own a gun.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AVLON: So, first to you, where is that common sense ground? From the Republican perspective, what would that middle ground look like?
SALAM: My view is that you have to focus on gun trafficking. We have a huge problem with the federal private sales loophole in this country and the truth is that a lot of Republicans have been very resistant to closing that loophole.
I think Republicans need to recognize that a second amendment and cracking down on legal private sales, both can happen at the same time. They need to move on the issue to be where the country is right now.
ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Ever since the Newtown shooting, I felt this has been a one dimensional conversation. That it's been solely based upon the whole issue of gun control when to deal with and I think you have to look at it from multiple directions.
The problem though is that you have folks who want the quick fix. They want to be able to say, we did something, it was so dramatic, you feel so much better when that is not going to be the actual answer. It must be pieces.
Well, that's only 8 percent to 10 percent. Well, that's the piece then another piece and another piece. That's how you actually go about it.
AVLON: That's right. And Lyndon Johnson famously in 1968, pushed through legislation. But to your point, you know, these mass shootings, horrific slaughter captures our attention.
But I want to talk about the daily toll that occurs on our streets because just in the last five days, in the last five days since Wayne Lapierre gave his speech to NRA, eight first responders, eight uniformed first responders have been killed or wounded in the line of duty in the United States.
That includes three state troopers during a shoot in Pennsylvania while Lapierre was giving the speech. Two firefighters killed in Webster, New York, as you know, after being ambushed by a shooter with the same similar rifle that was used in Newtown.
That same day in Houston, your hometown, a police officer was killed during a traffic stop. How come this steady toll doesn't keep our attention? Shouldn't it add some urgency to this debate?
MARTIN: Look, it's not just the first responders -- on my Sunday show, "Washington Watch," I dealt with the issue that there have been on average, dealing with black kids, a Newtown every 40 days in the last two years.
AVLON: Say that again that's a great step.
MARTIN: Every 40 days, when you take the number of black kids who have been shot and killed across this country, there has been a Newtown every 40 days. Same with Chicago, yes, we're sort of used to it. What we must do is look at when you have a mass shooting.
That focuses the attention and causes folks to say have you been asleep at the wheel when it comes to these other issues and we have. It is because again, America unfortunately has to have a major issue. A major issue to go, now let's do something about it.
SALAM: I think Roland made a really profound point earlier when he said the problem is we always want a silver bullet when there's a big thing like this. You want to pretend as though there's one magic bullet and then you're going to take care of the problem, exactly.
You have to have a comprehensive, smart approach that it could be piece meal, but when you take a comprehensive route, that's where you're more likely to get real results.
AVLON: Quick take, I want your take on this, news in Westchester, New York, published an interactive map that had people with concealed weapons on their web site. Now that seems to me to be an invasion of privacy at the very least. Where do you come down on that?
SALAM: Well, you know, funny thing. Also, you had folks who supported Proposition-8 in California who were also identified in a very similar manner and you had folks who were sending them harassing e-mails and what have you. This is not just about gun permits. There's a lot more transparency in our culture right now and information is a lot more accessible, so this kind of thing is going to become more common whether we like it or not.
MARTIN: I've run three newspapers. I would not have done this, but let's keep in mind. These are public documents. We see stories done all the time. You talk about crime stats in certain areas. We talk about rapes. We talk about murder victims.
Again, also, the census takes data and shows the concentration of certain things, and so, we have a public document and in this case, this is what you're going to see. What's what happens when you sign up for a handgun. It's a public document.
AVLON: This is an important civic debate we need to continue. Not just in a wake of a massacre.
Still to come, it started with a deadly number of tornadoes and now, the winter storm leaves thousands of travelers stranded.
And the deadly costs of covering the war in Afghanistan. OUTFRONT next.
AVLON: Our third story OUTFRONT, a severe and deadly winter storm slams the east coast. This is the same storm that killed at least three people last night while spawning a record on Christmas day, more than 30 tornadoes reported throughout the south and Midwest.
More snow and high winds are threatening the east coast now, causing a travel nightmare for thousands of people returning home from the holidays. More than 1,000 flights are canceled today and another 100 already halted for tomorrow.
Now CNN meteorologist Alexandra Steele joins us with what we can expect tonight and tomorrow -- Alexandra.
ALEXANDRA STEELE, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hi. Good evening to you, John. Well, much of the same. Here's a look at the snapshot of airport delays right, New York and LaGuardia, ground stop. Philadelphia, Newark, two and a half hour delays and the predominance and problem here, the winds. Philadelphia gusting to 30 miles per hour, New York, 33 miles per hour gusts.
So that's really part of the problem because the big cities aren't seeing snow accumulation. They're seeing very heavy rain with the wind. Here's a snapshot of those winds. In Central Park gusting to 31 miles per hour all the way from Cleveland to Indy, 20 to 30 mile per hour gusts and New York, the potential 50, 55 mile per hour gusts.
So, he's the big picture. The good news though, we've seen things clear out, in Illinois, Indiana, even into Ohio. You see those kinds of holes in the radar, the dark white, of course, showing where the heaviest snow is. But see all these dry pockets now? All that is lifting out, still very wet here along the 95 corridor, but all the snow, we saw a lot. So in South Eastern Illinois, 18 inches, Bloomfield, Indiana, 11, Evansville 10, Indy, 7.2, Paducah, Kentucky, 4.6 so certainly a lot of strong storms with this.
No question about that and a lot of snow, but here's where the heaviest snow is now. The access, in upstate New York and Western New York, that's really where the problems will be. Albany points northward.
So here's a look at some snowfall totals, some a little less than originally expected in Western New York. It's kind of drying out a little dry air intrusion here, so maybe 5 to 9 inches from Erie to Cleveland, but 9 to 12 inches here in Northern New York, upstate New York and 12 to 15 in the green and white mountains of New England.
AVLON: Thank you, Alexandra. I guess careful what you wish for regarding a White Christmas.
STEELE: That's right. We saw this Christmas two times the amount of snow on the ground in the lower 48 than the last year.
AVLON: Unbelievable. Thanks for joining us OUTFRONT.
Next, just six days until the fiscal cliff, the clock is ticking and it's not just about taxes. Ahead, what else is at risk if a deal isn't reached in Washington?
And the latest on former President George H. W. Bush, an update on his condition is next.
AVLON: Welcome back to the second half of OUTFRONT. We start the second half of our show with some updates and a few stories we've been watching.
Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie has named Brian Schatz to replace the late Senator Daniel Inouye. Schatz is currently the state's lieutenant governor. In a statement, Schatz says he plans to travel to Washington, D.C. as soon as possible to be sworn in.
Schatz will fill the term until a special election is held in 2014. He succeeds Inouye, a World War II veteran who represented Hawaiian Congress for more than five decades.
Former U.S. President George H.W. Bush is still in the hospital tonight. A spokesman for the former president tells CNN Bush has a stubborn fever and has been in the ICU since Sunday. Bush is in the guarded condition and on a liquid diet, which had begun after he was sent to the intensive care unit. The spokesman said there have been no dates set for the former president to be released from the hospital, says he is conversing with his doctors and is surrounded by his family.
We wish him well.
Meanwhile, former South African President Nelson Mandela has been released from the hospital. A spokesman for the South African government says Mandela will continue to receive treatment at his home. The 94-year-old entered the hospital earlier this month for treatment of a lung infection and later underwent surgery to remove gallstones.
Our fourth story OUTFRONT: It's not just your taxes. If lawmakers can't find a way to work together before the New Year, taxes won't be your only problem. Milk prices could double. Unemployment benefits could expire for millions of Americans. The Postal Service could go bankrupt and hurricane Sandy relief could be stalled.
So what needs to happen for Congress to wake up?
OUTFRONT tonight, Reihan Salam, CNN contributor, Roland Martin and Navarro -- welcome.
Ana, first for you, the fiscal cliff, the world's most predictable political problem. This is the cover of "The Washington Post" the day after the election, saying time to deal with the debt. Everybody knows it. That was the whole idea, right? This was the big plan. Election year is too divisive to get anything done. Well, just kick the lame duck.
So what happened? Why can't Congress find a way to work together even with a gun at their head?
ANA NAVARRO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Because they don't get along, because they haven't done anything so long, because it's become modus operandi in Washington not to get along.
I think it may have been naive if some of us, including myself, to think that the election was going to be the magic formula and that they were going to play well in assigned box after the election. What's it going to take? I think it's going to take for us to go off the cliff and it's going to take the American public demanding action.
I think we're going to see that over and over again. It's going to be the American public demanding action on gun control. It's going to be the American public demanding action on immigration, because we have to force them to act.
ROLAND MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: But American public also has to stop acting as if they play no role in this. When you look at our politics over the last 20 years, if you were a moderate Democrat and if you were a moderate Republican, you frankly have been forced out of both parties. So as a result, you've lost the people who can actually bring sides together and say, hey, I could bring 18, 20 on my side in the House to come together, I can bring 18, 20, over here. And I think we can actually -- can construct a deal.
The problem now is you have folks who said I'm in my corner, I'm in my corner and all we're going to do is have a standoff.
AVLON: Amen, but are you saying you miss the blue dogs?
MARTIN: No, no --
NAVARRO: I miss the blue dogs. I have no problem for saying I miss the blue dogs.
MARTIN: It's not a question of the blue dogs. Again, it's those moderate individuals who stopped going by the labels, because the problem is, when it came to the Democratic side, if you call yourself a blue dog, it was oh, you're a trifling conservative. Then if you're moderate Republican, oh, you're one of these Rockefeller liberals.
The labeling act is part of the problem. You have to have some people say, look, I agree on some stuff. I disagree on those. But for the good of the country, we've got to get this done.
AVLON: So, Reihan, for all the RINO hunting we've been seeing in the Republican Party and demise of the blue dogs in the Democrats, let me ask you this -- at the end of the day, if we get a deal, is it going to be the center coming together to save the day again?
I just want to remind folks about something. During the debt ceiling debacle in 2011, let's not forget what ultimately happened. After we got downgraded, after we got killed by our credit rating because of this division and dysfunction, it was the center both parties who came together. We had 95 Democrats vote yes for the bill, 95 vote no, 174 Republicans vote yes, 66 vote no.
So, the extreme on both sides, they sat it out, the center showed up. That's why we ultimately got that done.
Are we going to see that again?
REIHAN SALAM, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I have a fundamentally different view. I don't think we get solutions from the center. I think we get mushy compromises that are very destructive from the center.
AVLON: Let me push back. Let me ask you this.
AVLON: This shows you, we finally got the debt ceiling done not because of the extreme spirit of the day, but because centrist Republicans and Democrats a way to find common ground on the urgent facing American people. That's not mushy. That's problem solving.
SALAM: The center punted. And that's what he center does time and again.
If you look at, for example, the farm bill that we're seeing, both from the Democrats and Republicans, this is a farm bill that is actually making our food system more vulnerable to drought. That's a centrist solution. That's centrist, quote-unquote, "solution". And then if you look at the fiscal cliff, if you think the deficit is the problem, going over fiscal cliff addresses that problem in a big way.
AVLON: All I see, Reihan, is ideologues on both sides saying a bad deal is better -- no deal's better than a bad deal. And that's an extreme problem.
NAVARRO: Let me tell you, though, once we go over the cliff and I come to the belief now that we are going over this cliff, we're going to all be asking for a parachute, John. And the markets are going to hell in a hand basket. People are going to start screaming bloody murder.
SALAM: -- deficit dramatically, and if the idea that the deficit is the problem, that will be addressed by going over the fiscal cliff. I happen not to think the deficit is the problem. But it calls people's bluff.
MARTIN: How in the world is it we can tell our children, you can't give your way up everything, so you and your brother and sister, you better figure it out. It works with my nieces and nephews, but for some reason, if it works in Congress, it's a mushy deal or really isn't going to work. I'm sorry, folks, if it works for children, it could work with Congress.
AVLON: Stop the sand box politics. I couldn't agree more.
One last thing, we heard both one congressmen at the top of the show saying they shouldn't have gone home for Christmas. They should have been kept in Washington to work a deal out.
Do you think if we go over the cliff that that will ultimately be a political cause for vacationing, while the American economy and political system is hanging in the balance?
MARTIN: No, Congress will take a vacation the next week. They love vacations. This will not affect any future vacations at all.
AVLON: There should be a political cost.
NAVARRO: I think we should do like we do when we elect a Pope, OK? Stick them in there and just have them meet until white smoke comes out. In the meantime, just lock them up and have them meet.
MARTIN: Actually, the cardinal, that's probably more than the Congress is when it comes to reaching consensus.
AVLON: You know, locking people in a room and telling them they can't leave until they get a deal sometimes works.
MARTIN: That's right. Give them bread and water.
(CROSSTALK) AVLON: Now, to Afghanistan where violence is plaguing the transition. A suicide car bomb at a U.S. base today, a U.S. contractor killed in Kabul on Monday. When Erin was in Kandahar just two weeks ago, a car bomb you may remember killed a U.S. service member only hours after she and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta left the base.
Author Sebastian Junger, one of the filmmakers behind the documentary "Restrepo" has seen the violence firsthand, and he's out with a new e-book called "A World Made of Blood", which is inspired by his experiences in war-torn countries.
Recently, Erin sat down with Sebastian and asked him whether journalists, having seen their deadliest year in 2012, are specifically being targeted.
SEBASTIAN JUNGER, AUTHOR, "A WORLD MADE OF BLOOD": I don't know if they're being targeted, but the wars that are happening now are more and more sort of out of control. I mean, the Arab spring, in some ways, I think it was a necessary process, but it's thrown open these countries to a huge amount of chaos. The front lines are completely available and open for young freelancers or experienced journalists to go. It's hard to get to a front line.
And now, you can just sort of drive up to them. My friend Tim was killed that way in the frontline. And so, just to give you a lot more --
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Tim Hetherington, it was, of course, in Libya, right?
JUNGER: Yes, Tim Hetherington. I think there's just basically a lot more shooting and a lot more opportunities to get in trouble.
BURNETT: It's amazing, too, when you're in those situations. I'm trying to remember, you know, being in Iraq, this summer, we are in the Mali border, you have those moments where it sort of hits you, the risks. And, you know, we go through war training and things like that, but a lot of people now who are covering wars don't have that training, right?
JUNGER: Well, I would say about 90 percent of the war reporting is done by freelancers and that means that sometimes, there's very inexperienced people out there.
JUNGER: The great thing about that system is in a way, it's wide open, so you don't have to go through grad school and get a job at CNN and eventually you get out of the frontline. You can just go there.
BURNETT: Democratization, right, is a good thing in some ways. JUNGER: Absolutely. If you have the initiative to buy a plane ticket and go to Libya, and go to Syria, and start reporting on the war, within a year, you can be an established war reporter and that is a wonderful thing about journalism, but it's also extremely dangerous.
BURNETT: Tell me about your personal experience. Obviously part of the reason you wrote this book was because of your friend, Tim Hetherington, who died.
BURNETT: You also wrote it based on an experienced you had when there was a moment when you are in a war zone and suddenly realized it could be me.
JUNGER: I was in Sierra Leone during the war and I was stopped at a rebel checkpoint. These guys stepped out with machine guns and basically threatened to kill everybody. And I spent about 15 minutes -- they obviously didn't -- but I spent about 15 minutes trying to get myself ready for that. And obviously, it was a 15 minutes I thought I was going to be executed and it was a 15 minutes that really changed me.
And so, I wrote about that in the article for "Vanity Fair", but then later, I thought wouldn't it be interesting if we ratcheted it up a bit, fictionally, to find out what happens in a situation like that, like they do start killing people. How do you react?
BURNETT: Well, it's interesting now in light of the horrific story in Connecticut, when you think about people who have that power in their hands.
BURNETT: I mean, I'm not sure what you think about gun control, but it does make you feel that we don't always -- we don't always think about the power in someone's hands when they don't understand the responsibility that goes with it.
JUNGER: Yes. I mean, one of the problems, I studied anthropology in college, and there are initiation rites for young men to turn them into men and one of the purposes of those initiation rites is to teach them how to handle deadly weapons responsibly, I mean, just -- in tribal societies, like that's what in the points of initiation rites, is you're going to be giving these young guys weapons, right?
JUNGER: And they need to know how to handle them responsibly so they don't turn on their own people.
I think one -- the Army does that quite well, right? But I think those kids in West Africa, they were not initiated like literally or metaphorically and they had these very powerful guns. And they really were -- they were terrifying because they didn't understand their own power.
And obviously, in Connecticut, in Newtown, one of the problems maybe was that that guy in some ways, had a weapon that far more -- too powerful, more powerful than his personal development, basically.
BURNETT: And the final question about Afghanistan where you've spent a lot of time. You know, we were there last week and there was a suicide bomb in Kandahar. So soldiers died, Afghans died. And people there seemed to be saying, a lot of people, look, when the Americans leave, there's going to be a civil war. Things are going to be devolved here. Not everyone agrees, but there are people who think that.
You've spent so much time there. What do you think?
JUNGER: I mean, this is the lowest level of civilian casualties in 30 years in Afghanistan because NATO forces are there. The Russians, there was a blood bath in the '90s when I was there. In the '90s, it was a blood bath, it was a civil war. That war ended with 9/11, when NATO went into Afghanistan.
It will probably -- something like that will resume. I think it's probably going to be a civil war. Clearly, Pakistan wants to control Afghanistan. Clearly, the Taliban want back in.
It's going to happen. The northern alliance is organizing itself, arming itself, getting ready to fight the Taliban. I think what's going to happen, you know, the U.S. seems like they'll leave enough troops there, Special Forces, to make sure Kabul doesn't get overrun.
I think there will be some static front line between the Pashtun areas and all the other areas. The Tajiks, the Hazaras, the Uzbeks, that -- getting to that stasis is going to be violent in my opinion. But I think they'll get there eventually.
BURNETT: Right. Sebastian, thanks very much.
JUNGER: Thank you.
AVLON: OUTFRONT next, nearly two months after superstorm Sandy devastated the Northeast, the victims are still not getting the help they need. And the reason may surprise you.
And the best of the worst political fumbles of the year, a couple of your favorite flubs. I bet they made the list.
Tune in, next.
AVLON: Now, let's check in with Randi Kaye. She's in for Anderson Cooper, with a look at what's ahead tonight on "ANDERSON COOPER 360." RANDI KAYE, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, John. More on the breaking news straight ahead on "360". Travelers trying to get home. Got a white Christmas, that's now turning into a holiday nightmare and it is not just the roads. More than 1,400 flights have been canceled, leaving airports looking like this.
And it's not over yet. Airlines still are canceling flights system wide. It is a mess. We'll tell you how long it's going to last.
And also ahead, President Bush Sr. spent Christmas in the hospital and remains in intensive care tonight. His condition downgrading after a setback. Dr. Gupta joins us with an update.
Those stories and out countdown begins toward the top "Ridiculist" of 2012 begins all at the hour -- John.
AVLON: We'll be looking forward to it, Randi. Thank you.
Our fifth story OUTFRONT tonight, a look at the top five political fumbles of 2012.
Now, there was no shortage of material. These were the gaffes that got us talking and some of them maybe had an impact on the outcome of the election. So drum roll, please.
OUTFRONT tonight, CNN contributors Roland Martin, Ana Navarro, comedian Tom Shillue.
Welcome, my friends.
NAVARRO: If I do that, my nails will break.
AVLON: We try to reduce actual damage onset. Let's not lose further time. We're going to do starting number five, this is the number five political fumble of 2012. Let's watch and get your reaction.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I had the chance to pull together a cabinet and all of the applicants seemed to be men. And I went to my staff and I said how come all the people for these jobs are all men? They said, well, these are the people that have the qualifications. I said, well, gosh, can't we find some women that are also qualified?
And so, we took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet. I went to a number of women's groups and said can you help us find folks. They brought us whole binders full of women.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AVLON: Binders full of women.
AVLON: That left a mark. That left a mark, Ana.
You couldn't have been happy with the binders full of women.
NAVARRO: I'm not happy looking at this right now. I'm wondering how cringe inducing this segment is going to be. We could be reliving the Mitt Romney fumbles. This could be a very long segment for me.
AVLON: Tom, you're a Massachusetts native. Are you proud of the way Mitt Romney did with the binders full of women?
TOM SHILLUE, COMEDIAN: The binders full of women was not -- it's not a real story. This is a Twitter trending topic.
SHILLUE: If it was not in the age of Twitter, this would not have been a story. Would you have written about this --
MARTIN: Actually, it would have been talked about on talk radio.
NAVARRO: That's the problem. We are in the age of Twitter, and the Romney campaign never knew it.
SHILLUE: I never knew what he was talking about.
MARTIN: -- couldn't find any women, so he needed some binders.
AVLON: This is the curse of a memorable phrase, binders full of women. I hear they sell them in some places.
All right. Number four, let's take a look at number four political fumble for 2012.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Does anybody out there think that the big problem we had is that there was too much oversight and regulation of Wall Street? Because if you do, then Governor Romney is your candidate. But that's not -- what I believe.
ROMNEY: That's just not the facts. When the president ran for office, he said that by this year, he would have brought down the cost of insurance for each family by $2,500 a family.
OBAMA: Let me just finish the point. I suspect it will be --
ROMNEY: It's going very well in my state, by the way, yes.
ANDREW SULLIVAN, THE DAILY BEAST: It was an absolutely disgracefully bad performance. I've never seen a president of the United States blather on like that. Bore us. Tell us none of his major arguments. He let us all down.
Everybody who's ever supported him and he turned in the laziest, dumbest, most meandering, confusing performance.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NAVARRO: This one I like a lot.
AVLON: That was Andrew Sullivan melting down on TV, the bad debate fumbles.
MARTIN: Let me imitate President Obama and Andrew Sullivan, I won.
SHILLUE: You are right. You know what, he is never been a good debater. There was nothing terribly bad about that.
MARTIN: It was bad.
SHILLUE: Listen, I want you al to look back on YouTube at McCain/Obama. He wasn't that good. He's never been a good debater.
MARTIN: He wasn't a five star recruit in the previous debates. But in that one, he got cut. That was bad.
NAVARRO: It made the campaign that much more interesting because it changed the dynamics.
AVLON: It sure did change the dynamics and almost cost him the race.
NAVARRO: It didn't last too long, but it changed.
AVLON: All right. Now, listen, number three. Number three, what we got. Number three fumble of the year.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINT EASTWOOD, ACTOR: So, Mr. President, how do you handle promises that you have made when you are running for election and how do you handle it? I mean what do you say to people? Do you just you know I know, people -- I thought make it was an excuse. What do you mean shut up?
(END VIDEO CLIP) AVLON: Just the palpable weirdness of that moment.
NAVARRO: If you expect a comment on that, you're going to get a comment --
MARTIN: Look how bad that was, quit until the (INAUDIBLE).
AVLON: I love it.
MARTIN: I'm out. I was in the hall that night. I was sitting there going what is he talking about.
AVLON: Me too.
SHILLUE: This is another thing. Hollywood legends are always bad at giving speeches.
NAVARRO: They have a script.
MARTIN: And at the Democratic convention, they spoke.
AVLON: We got to move it on.
MARTIN: Those were good compared to that speech.
NAVARRO: You all move by.
MARTIN: I moved on, my wife was a minister, I moved on. I celebrate Jesus. I don't know who is they. That is them not me.
AVLON: I'm glad to see I provoked such passion.
Let's have the next political fumble and see if we can have that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. TODD AKIN (R), MISSOURI: If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to shut that whole thing down. But let's assume that maybe that didn't work or something. You know, I think there should be some punishment but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.
RICHARD MOURDOCK (R), FORMER U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE FROM INDIANA: Life is a gift from God. And I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AVLON: Two Senate seats. In states that Romney won by double digits because of that fumble.
MARTIN: Two words: they lost.
AVLON: Ana, as a Republican woman, does that make your want --
NAVARRO: I think this is punishment. This is. As a Republican woman, I just want to forget it. And I want to say to everybody that's running for office, every old white man, go study a chart of a woman's reproductive system.
AVLON: Remember that fumble.
Final one, the top fumble of 2012. Come on now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: There are 47 percent of the female who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has the responsibility to care for them, who believe they are entitled to health, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. These are people who pay no income tax. So, my job is not worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AVLON: This 47 percent, not only did Mitt Romney succeed in making the number a sound bite, but he acts as a character witness against himself in this video. He ended up compounding every single stereotype in his campaign in that one fumbled clip.
NAVARRO: You know, the only thing we can do here is play Newt Gingrich. We've got to talk about the skewed media, the liberal media, four out of five fumbles were Republican. Yes, I bet they were. Maybe that is why --
SHILLUE: You know what the problem is here --
AVLON: That is deflection. You just don't want to deal with the truth here.
SHILLUE: (INAUDIBLE) should not be allowed to have video cameras when they are waiting tables.
AVLON: Is the comedian's anti-First Amendment?
SHILLUE: Who took that? It was somebody in the kitchen.
MARTIN: The first spot is great and how perfect could it end if Mitt Romney ended up getting 47 percent of the vote.
AVLON: Exactly right.
MARTIN: That was perfect. But Tagg said he didn't want to be president, anyway. So --
AVLON: You know, and if you believe that, I gotten years of your life back for you.
NAVARRO: I believe in (INAUDIBLE).
AVLON: Well, listen, we are going to do this again tomorrow, but we are going to be talking about the five top political viral videos of the year. Now, we want your input. Tweet your suggestions to @outfrontCNN or @johnavlon.
Tomorrow night, we'll have the top five political viral videos of the year.
And OUTFRONT next, the help Sandy victims need but aren't getting from the U.S. Senate.
AVLON: It's been two months since hurricane Sandy hit the Northeast. But the relief bill is still stalled in the U.S. Senate. That's called adding insult to injury.
The superstorm damaged or destroyed more than 350,000 homes, knocked out power to more than 8 million people in 16 states and killed 132 Americans. Private citizens and businesses did their part to the tune of $300 million.
But that's not nearly enough. The governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut say they need nearly $80 billion in aid. That means the federal government. Now, the president has called for a $60 billion recovery package and Democrats have done just that.
There's just one problem: pork and lots of it. Their plan is larded up with a lot of non-Sandy cause, including $150 million for fisheries in Alaska and $41 million for U.S. military bases including Guantanamo Bay. And you just can't get further from the Jersey Shore than Alaska or Guantanamo.
Republicans refused the $60 billion package and proposed $24 billion alternative. In addition to the pork, it cuts almost $13 billion set aside to protect against future disasters. The solution should be simple, cut the pork and keep the relief on track.
But if Republicans and Democrats can agree on disaster relief, how can they expect to find common ground on the really tough stuff, like entitlement reform and tax reform and avoiding the fiscal cliff? It's just another urgent sign of the division and dysfunction in Washington, D.C., a crippling disconnect where the common concerns of Main Street America.
"A.C. 360" starts right now.