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Fiscal Cliff Looming; New NRA Response to School Shooting

Aired December 27, 2012 - 18:00   ET

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


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Don't miss our top 10 of 2012 special. CNN revisits the biggest stories of the year in money, crime, politics, and even scandals. That's CNN Sunday night 8:00 Eastern.

Happening now: Members of Congress are called back to work with time running out to avoid the fiscal cliff. We will meet one man who's reaching into his own pockets to help America ease its enormous debt.

And we're learning how North Korea deceived the world to launch a rocket with the ability to strike the U.S.

Wolf Blitzer is off. I'm Candy Crowley. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

On the surface, you might think there's new movement toward avoiding the fiscal cliff that starts making an impact just five days from now. President Obama is back in Washington and plans to meet with congressional leaders tomorrow. And House members have been told to return to the capital Sunday. But there's still no evidence this standoff is anywhere close to being resolved.

Here's our CNN senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And, Candy, you know that even speaks to what is going on here, which is virtually nothing. Jessica Yellin reported in the last hour that our Ted Barrett, our Senate producer, saw Harry Reid go into Mitch McConnell's office. Well, it turns out that Reid walked back out, and told Ted Barrett that they did not talk about the fiscal cliff at all.

That sort of defies logic, but so it goes, that's what he says. And it sort of speaks to the warning that I got earlier this week, which is that most people here think that if anything is going to get done before the fiscal cliff deadline, it won't happen until the pressure is on, on or around December 31. That's practically and probably why what we saw today was suspended animation.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (voice-over): This is one place in Washington free of gridlock, Starbucks, where baristas are writing the words "Come together" on customers' coffee.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People are basically tired that Congress can't come to a compromise or actually agree on anything.

BASH: But even that doesn't seem to be moving lawmakers.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: Taxes are approaching the wrong direction. Come the 1st of this year, Americans will have less income than they have today.

BASH: Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, back from Christmas break, was highly pessimistic about passing anything to avert the fiscal cliff and keeping all Americans' taxes from going up January 1.

REID: I have to be very honest, Mr. President. I don't know, time-wise, how it can happen now.

BASH: Five days until the fiscal cliff, and both sides are engaged in legislative and political chicken. The president called each of the four congressional leaders before leaving Hawaii. In his conversation with the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell told the president, he must see details of any Democratic proposal before agreeing to allow a vote, according to a McConnell aide, who also said it was the first time the two men talked since Thanksgiving.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: We will see what the president has to propose. Members on both sides of the aisle will review it. And then we will decide how best to proceed. Hopefully, there's still time for an agreement of some kind that saves the taxpayers from a wholly, wholly preventable economic crisis.

BASH: Democrats say the only way to avert that crisis at this late date is with the president's long-held position. Keep tax cuts in place for households making under $250,000.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is absolutely no reason, none, not to protect these Americans from a tax hike.

BASH: But Republicans say public pronouncements are not enough. They need and expect to get more details. Meanwhile, the blame game is getting even more personal.

REID: John Boehner seems to care more about keeping his speakership than about keeping the nation on firm financial footing.

BASH: As Democrats try to take political advantage of the House still being home for Christmas.

REP. STENY HOYER (D-MD), HOUSE MINORITY WHIP: We're not working. Every Democrat, every Republican ought to be here. And the speaker ought to call us back into session.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: Well, the speaker is calling the House back into session. They're not going to get here, though, Candy, until Sunday. That's two days before the fiscal cliff deadline and every American's taxes go up. House Republican leaders though did reiterate that if the Senate passes something, the House will take it up, which is different from what we have seen before, but it is important to emphasize it is still a big, big if the Senate can pass anything at all before December 31.

CROWLEY: I'm still trying to wrap my mind around the fact that the majority leader and the minority leader, that is Senator Reid and Senator McConnell -- sorry -- I had a brain freeze again -- that Senator Reid and Senator McConnell met and didn't talk about the fiscal cliff. That's crazy to me. Did you say, what did you talk about?

BASH: Well, Ted Barrett was down there. I was not there. They said they talked about Senate business, other Senate business. As I said to you earlier, it sort of defies logic, but a Reid aide is also insisting that he went over there to talk about other things. You know, it's head-scratching.

CROWLEY: Yes, it is. Well, I imagine we will see you tomorrow. Thanks so much, Dana.

BASH: Thanks, Candy.

CROWLEY: Another possible blow to the U.S. economy could happen in a matter of days.

Dockworkers are threatening a strike that would shut down seaports from Massachusetts to Texas. Billions of dollars of imports to this country would be affected and corporate America is worried.

Our Brian Todd is at the Port of Baltimore, where a strike would hit hard.

Brian, what kind of economic impact would this strike have overall?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A massive impact, Candy.

The ports like the one behind me and the dockworkers who off-load the containers, they are responsible for getting our clothes, our shoes, our electronics to the stores. Just billions of dollars worth of goods pass through these ports just about every week. And you're talking about 14 ports on the East Coast and on the Gulf Coast that could be affected by this.

Those ports, on the East Coast and Gulf Coast, handle about $55 billion worth of cargo in a given month this year. So you're talking about just massive amounts of goods and other things that come through these ports that we rely on every day.

But it's not just the merchandise we're talking about. We're also talking about jobs. You know, farmers, retailers, the truckers that come in and take these containers out, those jobs are also impacted by this. And, by the way, we have been seeing trucks come out of this port all day long. It is a huge circulation here. So you're talking about just about a major impact. Now, as far as dollars and cents are concerned, we do have something to compare this to. Here's Jonathan Gold from the National Retail Federation talking about that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JONATHAN GOLD, VICE PRESIDENT, NATIONAL RETAIL FEDERATION: When you take a look back at the last time we had a full shutdown of the coast-wide ports, back in 2002, when you had the entire West Coast that was shut down for 10 days for a lockout, most economists agreed that cost the economy about $1 billion a day and it took over six months to recover from.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: Now, in that work action, President Bush stepped in and invoked what's called the Taft-Hartley Act. It's essentially a presidential power that can prevent a strike or end one. President Bush did that.

There are calls for President Obama to do something similar to try to prevent this strike, but no word from the White House on whether he's going to do that -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Brian, you talked about the impact on goods like clothes and shoes, electronics. What about cars? I know the port behind you is a major entry port for automobiles being shipped to the U.S.

BASH: Absolutely it is. It is the number one transit point for automobiles, at least in this entire region, Candy.

But what we're told is that this strike, for the moment, is expected to affect only containers. So automobiles and other types of cargo coming in, not in containers, would not necessarily be affected by this, unless, we are told, there is a lockout.

If there is a lockout, then this strike could really broaden and affect automobiles and other cargo. You're talking about a real devastation at that point to the U.S. economy.

CROWLEY: Brian Todd watching what may be another blow to the economy coming this weekend. Thanks so much, Brian.

Hundreds of additional flights were canceled today as a powerful winter storm pushed deep into the Northeast. Extreme weather has jammed holiday travel across the U.S. Northerners are used to the snow and bitter cold, but Arkansas is still reeling from a record- breaking nine-inch snowfall on Christmas Day. At least nine deaths are being blamed on the severe weather, including two children in Arkansas.

(WEATHER UPDATE)

CROWLEY: America's oldest living former president is fighting to get out of intensive care. We will have an update on George H.W. Bush's health.

And you may be surprised by the way Matthew McConaughey looks as the actor talks to CNN about keeping kids healthy.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Family members say they're confident former President George Herbert Walker Bush will soon be released from intensive care. He's being treated for a high fever at a Houston hospital. At 88 years old, Bush is America's oldest living former president.

CNN's Miguel Marquez joins us from Houston.

Miguel, what's the latest?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The latest seems to be that he is sick, but not critical. Even his current chief of staff coming out today, Jean Becker, with a statement saying, you know, put the harps back in the closet. He's not going anywhere yet.

Want to read you a little bit of that statement. "Will he be in the hospital for a little while?" wrote Becker. "Yes. He is 88 years old. He had a terrible case of bronchitis, which then triggered a series of complications, partially brought on by the fact that he also has a form of Parkinson's disease."

The 41st president entered the hospital here in Houston early in November to deal with the Parkinson's disease and some physical therapy. He got out of the hospital for a few days, went back in with the bronchitis, and it really took it out of him, it sounds like.

Now he's beyond the bronchitis, but they're trying to get him back up to his fighting weight, back into shape so he can get out of the hospital, get rid of that fever that seems to be keeping him down a little bit. His spokesperson today did say, make no make about it, this guy's humor, his trademark sense of humor is intact and all of his family members seem to say the same. So it seems as though he's getting better, but it's going to take some time -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Miguel Marquez, that's great news. We wish the former president well. Thanks for your report.

I asked CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, for his take on the former President Bush's health and the treatment he's getting in the intensive care unit.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Age, obviously, has to play a factor here. There's no two ways about that.

And I think, you know, I will tell you, as a physician, when we have an elderly patient in the ICU, that's usually the first person, the first patient that we're making rounds on, and, you know, everybody has a heightened level of concern. What we're hearing from the office, as you know, Candy is, look, he's talking, even joking around with his doctors. He's in good spirits. They think that this is an abundance of caution. That is all fine and good, but, again, from a medical perspective, you have got to, you know, keep tabs on several different things. And I think that's what the doctors are probably doing, sending him to the ICU, so he can be more closely monitored.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: CNN's Sanjay Gupta.

Now another top NRA official is speaking out about the Connecticut school shooting and insisting that people who support gun rights are not crazy. We will discuss the state of the gun control debate right now.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

CROWLEY: America's debt is enormous and growing. But one man thinks he can make a dent by crushing cans -- his story ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Happening now: U.S. officials reveal how they were deceived by North Korea when it pulled off a surprising and threatening rocket launch.

One man, fed up with inaction in Washington, is spending his own money to try to reduce America's debt.

And actor Matthew McConaughey talks to CNN about his campaign to keep kids healthy, at a time when some are wondering about his health.

Wolf Blitzer is off. I'm Candy Crowley. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

The president of the National Rifle Association is speaking out about the Connecticut school shooting.

David Keene is talking about new calls for gun control and the NRA's controversial proposal to put armed volunteers in American schools.

He spoke to CNN's Carol Costello.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID KEENE, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION: When Wayne LaPierre spoke about a week ago, he suggested that what has to happen and what should happen is that in every school district, administrators, teachers, and parents should sit down and ask what's needed to protect the students in that school. Some of them will be want police officers there. Others of them will want private security guards. There may be some places where they want volunteers to do it. We're willing to work with everybody on those questions.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Should someone who sells a gun have to report that somewhere? I mean, shouldn't the police...

(CROSSTALK)

KEENE: If I sell -- no. If I sell a gun to my son, or if I sell a gun to my wife, if I sell a gun to my cousin, the answer is no.

COSTELLO: So what if that gun is used in a crime and police can't find where that gun came from? Shouldn't it be easy for police to do such a thing?

KEENE: We do not keep -- this country does not keep and should not keep a national gun registry.

COSTELLO: Why is that?

KEENE: Because a national gun registry can on the one hand lead to the sort of thing that happened in New York, which was the purpose of this interview.

And, secondly, because history shows that nations that register guns are in a position then to take the guns away from the citizens. We have a right under the Second Amendment in this country unless we're criminals, unless we're in a prohibited group, unless there's a law against us having a firearm, we have a right to have one.

COSTELLO: There's got to be some middle ground. It's not either/or. And you're kind of making it sound that way, like there is no middle ground on this. This is the way it should be, period. And that gets us nowhere. And that's the problem we have in this country.

KEENE: You know, if you expect me to say, yes, let's jettison the Second Amendment, then there's no middle ground.

(CROSSTALK)

COSTELLO: I'm not asking you to do that at all.

(CROSSTALK)

KEENE: The Second Amendment is valuable and worth preserving.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Joining me for today's "Strategy Session," our Democratic strategist and pollster Cornell Belcher, president of the Brilliant Corners Research and Strategies. He is here with CNN contributor Erick Erickson, who is editor in chief of RedState.com.

Gentleman, thank you both for being here. I want to take a step and look at this -- quote -- "gun debate" that we're having. And it seems to me there are three debates. And neither debate is integrated into the other. There is a debate on how this country deals with mental health. There is a debate on the kinds of guns that are available. And there is a debate on school safety.

Looking at this, Cornell, can you see something in the NRA's school safety program that you think is a good idea, somewhere to start a conversation?

CORNELL BELCHER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it's problematic, because I think the NRA is -- and I watched it, their press conference the other day. And I have got to tell you, just as a consultant, someone who consults organizations and people in politics, I think it was an absolute disaster.

I mean, they blamed everyone but themselves. They positioned themselves as being victims and then didn't really sort of offer up anything new or change. Look, what happened in Connecticut was a moment that I think changed the conscience of Americans.

It was a jolt to the conscience of Americans in the same way that 9/11 was a jolt to the conscience of Americans. And the NRA's position right now is simply not tenable. When you have in your own CNN polling 70 percent, over 70 percent of Americans thinking there should be some restrictions on guns, and thinking that, yes, we should have a registry for gun owners, and for the NRA to say, well, any sort of laws or amendments that you make, you know, it sort of takes away our ability to have guns or it's against the Second Amendment, that becomes real problematic, because they are not where the majority of Americans are. The majority of Americans are not where the NRA is on this issue.

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: Erick, let me try with you and then go back again with Cornell.

But I guess my point here is that when you are looking at this discussion, it's not a discussion at all. Everybody has their own sort of area they want to talk about, and no one is saying, well, why don't we discuss school safety?

Maybe, I mean when -- and the NRA makes this point, -- when we want to make the president safe, he's surrounded by people with guns. When we want to make money safe at banks, we put men with guns there. So it's not as though it's a foreign concept to protect what is dear to people, what is important, with guns.

ERICKSON: You know, Candy, I'm really frustrated with the conversation, because people are talking past each other and not to each other. The gun control advocates, the gun rights advocates.

And you know, if you look at Columbine in 1999, it was after the -- the semi-automatic weapons ban, the assault weapons ban. There was an armed police officer there. The casualties would have been much more extensive, had he not engaged the shooters and his deputy working with him began evacuating people from the schools. So that is a conversation worth having.

The problem here, I think for gun control advocates, and for gun rights advocates, is there's this desire to do something in the face of this tragedy. We didn't have it last year in the Colorado shooting. We've got it now after the campaign's over. But what are they going to do?

The last time they did something, they did an assault weapons ban that really didn't do anything. The violence prevention center said it didn't really solve any problems. It just caused them to make guns look less scary.

CROWLEY: There seems to be no discussion on the part of the NRA or on the part of those who want gun control. I mean, you're right. The NRA has said, you know, we don't see any need for any further gun restrictions. And so they're not entering into the conversation. But, you know, when the NRA brings up these issues about school safety, everyone says, no, it's about guns.

BELCHER: No, I don't think everyone does say it's about -- it's about guns. You've probably got a majority of Democrats, you know, right now on the Hill that would side onto something around security guards, more security guards in school. That's not the holdup. You know, putting more security in school, I don't think anyone would be against that. But what the holdup is, you've got people sort of dug into their ideological positions, and they won't move.

ERICKSON: But it's more complicated than that, Cornell.

CROWLEY: Let me -- I've got, literally, 30 seconds -- Erick...

ERICKSON: It's more complicated than this, Candy, largely because of the polling.

CROWLEY: Yes. It is.

ERICKSON: You know, when you poll people on this issue, they say they want restrictions, but then they can't agree on the restrictions.

And you've got a number of Democrats from states up for re- election that Barack Obama and John Kerry both lost. They're not going to go along with this. So where's the common ground? There probably isn't any, and somethings [SIC] bad things do happen, and you can't prevent them.

CROWLEY: OK, I've got to -- I've got to go. I had two subjects for you, so you each get a one-word answer. It has to be yes or no. Are they going to avoid the fiscal cliff, Erick?

ERICKSON: No.

CROWLEY: How about you, Cornell?

BELCHER: No. CROWLEY: Oh, my goodness. Unanimity, thank you! Happy new year to you all. Cornell Belcher, Erick Erickson, I appreciate it.

Many Americans are fed up with watching politicians bicker, while the U.S. gets closer to that fiscal cliff and the federal debt keeps rising. Some people, very few, are taking matters into their own hands by reaching into their own pockets.

CNN's Kyung Lah talked with one man who's trying to make a difference.

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Candy, this is not a young guy. He's been around for 85 years. And in that time, he says he has heard a lot of hot air coming out of Washington, and finally, especially as we're watching these fiscal cliff talks continue or not continue, he has had it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LAH (voice-over): In his unheated garage, 85-year-old Atanacio Garcia is working to fix the fiscal cliff, one can at a time.

(on camera) How much money have you sent the government?

ATANACIO GARCIA, DEBT CRUSADER: A little bit over $3,000.

LAH (voice-over): Three thousand, one hundred ninety-seven dollars and eighty-eight cents, to be exact. All tracked on a hand- written ledger. The last three years, Garcia has been paying the government $50 a month of his postal service pension and money from cans he collects.

A. GARCIA: We are paying absolutely too much interest, too much interest.

LAH (on camera): It really bothers you?

A. GARCIA: It bothers me, because it makes no sense.

LAH (voice-over): Sense is something Garcia's wife of 59 years thinks her husband could use.

(on camera) Do you think he's crazy?

A. GARCIA: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) ... loco?

GLORIA GARCIA, WIFE: Uh-huh.

LAH (voice-over): Call him crazy, but there is an entire federal office, the Bureau of Public Debt, that collects money from hundreds of Mr. Garcias. This office in Parkersburg, West Virginia, was set up by President Kennedy, so citizens could pay down the national debt. This year alone, it's collected $7.7 million in gifts, about $90 million since it was established.

(on camera) But $90 million isn't that much, especially when you consider the federal deficit is $16 trillion and climbing. To retire the debt, every single American would have to pay $50,000.

But Garcia says, you've got to start somewhere. Especially when Washington won't.

(voice-over) The partisan bickering has bothered him since...

(on camera) 1992.

(voice-over) That's when Garcia first wrote his congressman, suggesting a formula to eliminate the debt. The Depression-era kid and Army veteran says he's giving back to a country that's given him so much. A sense of duty that's infectious.

His daughter is now collecting cans at work. His grandson drives Garcia to friends' houses, just to collect more cans.

Garcia knows that his monthly money orders won't avert the fiscal cliff, but his priest says that's not the message Garcia's sending to Congress.

REV. MARTIN ELSNER, CATHOLIC PRIEST: In order to really solve the $16 trillion national debt, you have to sacrifice.

LAH: Politicians talk about kicking the can down the road. One American has decided that road has to end, and it might as well be here.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAH: So if you want to be, like his granddaughter says, be like Grandpa, you can Google the Office of Public Debt, and they are willing to take contributions from American citizens -- Candy.

CROWLEY: I have to tell you, I think Mr. Garcia is remarkable. I mean, he's giving, you know, $3,000 to the government just -- and they can't even get this work done here. He's a veteran, you know. Thank you for your service, Mr. Garcia. I think that's a remarkable story. Although someone should get him a can crusher.

Let me ask you, how much -- you got into this a little bit, how much are Mr. Garcia's contributions actually helping?

LAH: You know, it's a lot of money for Mr. Garcia. Let's make that very clear.

CROWLEY: Absolutely.

LAH: But that $3,000, that disappeared in a millisecond, Candy. And it's something that he wants people to understand. It's not really the amount, it's the spirit. And it's the spirit that he really wants Washington to listen to. Outside the beltway, people want to fix the government. People want to make sacrifices. People want to avoid the fiscal cliff. And is D.C. listening? That's what Mr. Garcia is asking.

CROWLEY: Yes, it's the principle of the thing. I salute him. But this -- the Bureau of Public Debt -- I have to admit, it's not a bureau I'm that familiar with -- does other things.

LAH: Absolutely. It's a very big office. They basically borrow the money through treasury bills and notes. It's the money that allows the government to keep running. That's essentially their job.

But they also have manners. They manage to write thank-you letters to every citizen who does send them money. So if you're going to send anything, you will receive a thank-you note from the bureau.

CROWLEY: Kind of the least they can do. Kyung Lah, what a great story. Thank you.

LAH: You bet.

CROWLEY: North Korea caught the U.S. off guard and raised nuclear fears with a recent rocket launch. We have new details about the deception that was involved.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: It was a launch that raised nuclear fears around the world. North Korea caught American officials off guard when it successfully fired a rocket that could be capable of striking the U.S.

Now we're learning details about the deception that was involved. We're joined by our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr. What happened?

BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Candy, sort of think of it as a game of three-card monte, but in this case, it might have been two-card monte.

What we know is this. North Korea launches this rocket on December 12. About a week before, they said they were having technical problems. They were going to take the whole thing apart. But were they, really?

Well, now a U.S. intelligence analysis, partially conducted by the military, we're told, has taken a look at all of this and concluded, indeed, the U.S. was caught by surprise. Those technical problems, maybe not. It was a deception campaign.

They started to take the missile apart, and they brought out other parts, knowing that U.S. satellites would see all of that. But those parts were from some old missile that wasn't even being used. The satellites overhead see that. They think it's all going to go on for days is and days, but suddenly, when the satellites are not overhead -- this is the assessment -- the North Koreans wheeled out the first missile and lit it, basically launched it. Very successful launch, by all accounts. They put a satellite into space.

What U.S. officials are telling us, Candy, is there's no question that Asia, the United States, were well protected. There were military outsets out at sea. There were planes and radars watching, but the North Koreans did achieve one of their goals here. They surprised the U.S., and that shouldn't be underestimated. CROWLEY: They fooled us, absolutely. What's the end game here? For North Korea?

STARR: For them, they're happy to -- they wanted to get a satellite into space. By all accounts, it's still up there. Not working all that well, but they got something into orbit.

But they also were able to achieve a tactical intelligence victory. They managed to get this out there, light it off, launch it, if you will, when U.S. satellites weren't exactly able to watch as close as they might have. They weren't over North Korea at the time. They proved they could fool us.

CROWLEY: So here's what we know. We know that North Korea has not responded to sanctions against the U.S., saying, OK, if you're going to continue to try to get nuclear...

STARR: We're going to be really mad.

CROWLEY: We're going to be really mad. And so now, what our big thing has been, is we could watch them. We could tell when they were doing something. And now we're learning, actually, no.

STARR: Maybe not. Maybe not.

CROWLEY: So what is our best -- what is the best defense of the rest of the world? Do you just stay on high military alert, forever?

STARR: To some extent, on the Korean Peninsula, South Korean forces are on alert most of the time. Japan watching very carefully. There's a lot of focus by the U.S. military now about putting more planes, more ships, more radars out in Asia to watch all of this.

CROWLEY: It does make it more complicated when you're not watching everything. Barbara Starr, thanks so much.

CNN contributor John Avlon is sitting in tonight on "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT." John, we hear you're talking with a sheriff who supports the idea of letting school principals have guns?

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: This is true, Candy. We're talking to an Arizona sheriff who's backing the NRA's plan, wants to arm school principals as a way of hedging against any future gun violence. We're going to ask him if that plan really adds up.

Also, of course, the latest on the fiscal cliff, and our top 5 political viral videos of 2012. They helped set the tone of the debate. It's a lot of fun to go through them.

CROWLEY: About 15 minutes from now, we'll be watching. Thanks, John.

AVLON: Thanks, Candy.

CROWLEY: Actor Matthew McConaughey is opening up to CNN about the way he's using his fame and money to help young people improve their lives.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY, ACTOR: I've got things. I'm one of the haves. There are a lot of have-nots. We're giving the proverbial fishing rod instead of the fish to a lot of these kids, and thankfully, they're taking it and they're using it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: In this holiday season, we're profiling big-name celebrities who are trying to give back to their communities, their country, and the world. CNN's Alina Cho spoke with actor Matthew McConaughey about his campaign to keep kids healthy and why he doesn't look very healthy right now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Candy. When you think about charity, there are a million ways you can help. And a lot of stars do give back. But actor Matthew McConaughey says he wanted his hands in the clay. So he started his own foundation, helping kids live healthier lives.

We sat down recently to talk about that. We also talked about the one thing everyone's been buzzing about lately: his dramatic weight loss for a movie role.

MCCONAUGHEY: I go, I want something philanthropic or charitable. I said I want it on my desk every Monday morning, something that I need to follow, I can build, I can track.

CHO: So Matthew McConaughey, movie star...

MCCONAUGHEY: Hi, I'm Benjamin Barry.

KATE HUDSON, ACTRESS: Andie Anderson.

CHO: ... started to think about how he could give back.

MCCONAUGHEY: I said, I want to find a place where I can help out, where it's prevention before you need the cure. So that also, then, obviously led me to kids.

CHO: It led him to high schoolers, kids at a crossroads.

MCCONAUGHEY: A freshman year in high school, a little odd, because you've just come from being the big dog in the eighth grade, in middle school.

CHO: It led him and his wife to start the J.K. Livin Foundation.

MCCONAUGHEY: Just Keep Livin', no "G" on the end of "Livin," because "life" is a verb. J.K. Livin Foundation is dealing with kids 15 to 18, high school kids in Title I schools.

CHO: J.K. Livin doesn't just provide support to existing programs. It created and funds its own after-school curriculum in 14 schools with high poverty rates nationwide.

MCCONAUGHEY: Break a sweat. Learn to eat healthy. And say thank you. That's sort of the three monikers.

CHO: The kids meet twice a week, two hours a day, like 16-year- old Esperanza Ortega.

ESPERANZA ORTEGA, STUDENT: We have our monthly goals, so I would say, "Oh, I'm going to lose five pounds," and when I lost five pounds, I felt great.

CHO: And Jeffrey Jin.

JEFFREY JIN, STUDENT: Working out, it's a great stress reliever. It really takes off the pain. It takes your mind off a lot of things that happened during the week.

MCCONAUGHEY: So if you can get them there and get them started on some good habits that maybe they didn't have or get them to maintain good habits that they already have, they have a better chance of carrying them over.

CHO: Then there's the gratitude circle.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm thankful for my best friend that I had for five years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For the opportunity to pursue a college education.

CHO (on camera): Besides the obvious, what's the real value in doing that, do you think?

MCCONAUGHEY: Reciprocity. The things that we show gratitude for, the things that we are thankful for, it creates more things to be thankful for.

CHO (voice-over): Like McConaughey's success as an actor.

MCCONAUGHEY: I think I see a lot of law breakers up in this house.

CHO: Which leads us to that dramatic weight loss.

MCCONAUGHEY: I'm the lightest -- I'm the lightest I've been since I was, I don't know, in eighth grade or something.

CHO (on camera): Yes, let's talk about that, 38 pounds or something.

(voice-over) The new film, "Dallas Buyers Club." McConaughey plays an AIDS patient.

A working actor with worldwide fame and a conscience.

MCCONAUGHEY: I've got things. I'm one of the haves. There are a lot of have-nots.

We're giving the proverbial fishing rod instead of the fish to a lot of these kids, and thankfully, they're taking it, and they're using it, and they're coming back and they're customizing it in their own life. That definitely feels good.

CHO (on camera): And for more on Matthew McConaughey's J.K. Livin Foundation and how you can help, go to CNN.com/impact.

Candy, happy holidays.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: And happy holidays as well to our Alina Cho. Thanks.

Retailers have recalled a popular brand of baby recliner after several deaths. Lisa Sylvester is back with that story and more -- Lisa.

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, there, Candy.

Well, major U.S. retailers, they are recalling the Nap Nanny recliner after the reported deaths of five infants. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said the Nap Nanny poses a substantial risk of injury and death to infants. Pictures show how babies can hang or fall out over the side of the recliner. The company tells CNN it stands behind the product 100 percent.

And a security camera recorded this incredible video of a tornado sweeping past an Alabama Walgreens on Christmas day. High winds blew through the store's front door as workers and shoppers took shelter in the back. The twister came about a hundred yards from smashing the store.

And shoppers is at a Shanghai mall got a terrifying surprise when an aquarium burst open. See the pictures there. The massive tank, it held 33 tons of water, along with lemon sharks, fish, and turtles. At least 15 people were injured, and three sharks were left dead. Officials think cold weather may have weakened the tank's glass. At least that is the official reason. Cold weather.

CROWLEY: Yes, I don't get that. Thirty-three thousand gallons of water and it only lasts for two years because of the cold?

SYLVESTER: I know.

CROWLEY: They need to check further.

SYLVESTER: Something a little fishy about that.

CROWLEY: Thanks, Lisa. If you are a fan of the group Queen or maybe you just like to watch bizarre videos, stick around.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MOOS: Police dash cams usually catch some pretty memorable moments. This next one is no different. Here's a look at one of the most popular Jeanne Moos reports of 2012.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What would we do without police dash cams, showing us half-naked speeders, and even a bank robber eating the evidence, the "give me the money" note? But this Royal Canadian Mounted Police dash cam recorded something special.

ROBERT WILKINSON, UNDER ARREST FOR DUI (singing): Galileo, Galileo, Galileo, Galileo.

MOOS: A guy in Edson, Alberta, was pulled over in a pickup.

WILKINSON: I didn't see that I was intoxicated when you grabbed me, and I haven't (UNINTELLIGIBLE). But it doesn't even matter.

MOOS: Maybe he couldn't speak so well, but he sure managed to sing all of the "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen.

WILKINSON (singing): Mama, just killed a man.

FREDDIE MERCURY, LEAD SINGER OF QUEEN (singing): Put a gun against his head...

WILKINSON (singing): ... pulled my trigger...

MERCURY (singing): ... now he's dead.

MOOS: He sang the lyrics almost flawlessly for six minutes.

WILKINSON (singing): Easy come, easy go.

MOOS: Even after they arrived at the station house, the Mountie let him finish the song.

WILKINSON (singing): Baby!

MOOS: The Mountie only admonished him once.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Robert, come down.

WILKINSON: I can't.

MOOS: A lot of people can't stop singing the "Bohemian Rhapsody."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): I see a little silhouetteto of a man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): Scaramouch, Scaramouch, will you do the fandango?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): Thunderbolts and lightning, very, very frightening.

MOOS: Parts of the dash cam solo were frightening.

WILKINSON (singing): Mama... (HOWLS)

MOOS (on camera): You've got to give the guy credit. Even Beyonce messed up the words to the song, and she was cold stone sober at a concert.

BEYONCE, SINGER (singing): Put a bullet to his head...

MOOS (voice-over): Actually, it's "put a gun to his head," not a bullet.

Authorities have charged Robert Wilkinson with drunk driving. He's an unemployed home brewer.

WILKINSON (singing): Let me go! We will not you go.

MOOS: Wilkinson told the Smoking Gun that he's the one who let the dash cam video go onto YouTube.

(on camera) Our police cruiser crooner did improvise just once at the end of the song, and he did it in a witty way. Instead of singing "nothing really matters," he sang...

WILKINSON (singing): Nothing really matters, even the RCMP.

MOOS: And with that, he put on his glasses and awaited his removal.

WILKINSON: Do you have to cuff me? Physical violence is the least of my priorities.

MOOS: His priority is rhapsodizing like a bohemian.

WILKINSON (singing): Mama mia.

MERCURY (singing): Mama mia.

WILKINS (singing): Let me go.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: Not much left to say. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.