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THE SITUATION ROOM

Flu Spreading; New Treasury Secretary Nominated

Aired January 10, 2013 - 18:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

The virus is spreading. Concern is growing about the flu. The current outbreak is impacting the entire United States and is considered widespread in 42 states. And now there are troubling reports of vaccine shortages, as well as a shortage of children's Tamiflu, a prescription drug used to alleviate symptoms.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will issue a new flu report tomorrow. The latest one counts more than 2,000 people hospitalized and dozens of deaths across the country.

Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health is now calling it an epidemic. Listen to what he told me last hour.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: If you look at the charts that the CDC put out on their Web site, it clearly has gone above that threshold.

So we are into what would classically be described as a flu epidemic. It's still on the uptick. And, usually, when you're above that baseline, in a flu season, you stay there for about 12 weeks. We're right now at about week five or so. So we still have a way to go.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Let's bring in our own expert, our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Sanjay, we all want to avoid this flu virus, so where does it live? On the surfaces, in the air? In other words, how does it spread?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you know, it's kind of everywhere. And that's part of the reason it becomes so widespread.

Certainly in the air is how you -- people typically think about this, people coughing and sneezing, these microscopic droplets, potentially causing infection, but it can also live on surfaces. It usually lives on a surface for about eight hours, Wolf. So if you have been typing on a keyboard or opening a door or something like that, you can potentially, you know, get it that way. You also, without knowing it, Wolf, touch your hand to your face hundreds of times a day, and that can be a route of transmission.

Wolf, one thing I should point out is that a day or so before you even get sick, if someone's going to get the flu, they become contagious. And that's important to point out, because we obviously look for the people who are sick and try to avoid them, but really, anybody can potentially be spreading the flu. You have just got to always be mindful and protect yourself, Wolf.

BLITZER: What did you think about what Dr. Anthony Fauci at the National Institutes of Health told me, that for all practical purposes, he takes a look at what the CDC, the Centers for Disease Control, is putting out, and he sees it already as an epidemic.

GUPTA: Yes, you know, we have been sort of charting this and monitoring it as well. Yesterday, it looked like it was getting pretty close to that threshold that Dr. Fauci was describing.

An epidemic, sort of in layman's terms, means the cases are now higher than we would normally expect. And we have sort of known that for some time, but now that they have officially crossed this threshold. The big question, Wolf, is that obviously we're seeing more cases earlier. Typically, we see a peak with regard to flu in February.

We're seeing a lot more cases now in Boston, for example, 10 times as many cases as we saw at this time last year. The question is, is it going to stay high? Are these numbers going to stay high for the rest of the flu season? Dr. Fauci says, look, we're about halfway in. So at least another six, seven weeks, he thinks that we're going to see an increase in numbers in many parts of the country.

So, unfortunately, I think this shouldn't be as scary as it should be a reminder that you have got to do everything you can to protect yourself.

How BLITZER: do you know if you have the flu as opposed to simply a common cold?

GUPTA: It can be hard to tell. There's a couple of things that I think sort of are giveaways.

One is that flu really tends to come on quickly. We have all sorts of different symptoms that we talk about, the fever, the cough, the muscle aches. With cold, you may get one or two of these things at a time. Sometimes, they overlap a little bit. With flu, it's often like you feel OK Tuesday morning, and by Wednesday afternoon, you're sort of just knocked down, in bed, can't get up.

And also, with this particular strain, which is called H3N2, it tends to be more severe symptoms than we have seen in the past, and they're also lasting longer, seven days or so, Wolf, on average. BLITZER: So if someone's sick right now, Sanjay, what's the best way to treat it?

GUPTA: Mom's advice probably applies best, go home, get rest, get plenty of fluids. I know that sounds maybe overly simplistic, but that is going to be important for a couple of reasons. One is, you need to just get rest to allow your immune system to be able to tackle the virus.

But two is staying home means you're isolating yourself, and you're not getting other people sick. You have got to think about other people around you as well, in your workplace and in your community. But there are going to be some people who do need to see the doctor. And these are people who develop worsening symptoms.

They have difficulty breathing, develop tightness in their chest. And one thing, Wolf, I want to point out, is important and maybe not intuitive, is, let's say you had the flu and your symptoms go away completely, you think, great, I got this licked, and then a couple days later, a fever comes back. That's a red flag, Wolf. That's something you need to pay attention to, and here's why.

That fever now could be an indication that you have developed a secondary infection, a bacterial infection, and that's something that needs to be treated. It's also -- what I have just described is also how young people often die from this flu, from these secondary infections, Wolf.

BLITZER: Very scary stuff. Sanjay, thanks very much for that update.

GUPTA: You got it, Wolf.

BLITZER: President Obama has tapped his chief of staff, Jack Lew, to replace Timothy Geithner as the next treasury secretary.

Kate Bolduan is here in THE SITUATION ROOM working this story for us -- Kate.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: He's now officially announced his next nominee for treasury secretary, but that very nomination is raising some concerns, including questions of diversity in the president's second-term Cabinet.

CNN White House correspondent Brianna Keilar has been looking into this.

Brianna, what's the response from the White House?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Kate, the White House has been asked a lot about this. In fact, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney has said that the White House values diversity. He's highlighted that there are a number of women serving in high- level posts, both in the White House and in the administration in general, and that is true.

However, there has been a lack of diversity in the president's recent picks for high-level administration posts.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR (voice-over): President Obama chose a trusted insider to replace Timothy Geithner as treasury secretary.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Under President Clinton, he presided over three budget surpluses in a row. So for all of the talk out there about deficit reduction, making sure our books are balanced, this is the guy who did it three times.

KEILAR: Jack Lew, Obama's chief of staff and former budget director, has been by the president's side through bruising deficit reduction negotiations. But Lew is not a darling of Wall Street or Republicans.

In Bob Woodward's "The Price of Politics," Speaker John Boehner says he told the president, "Please don't send Jack Lew" during the fragile debt ceiling negotiations of 2011. "It was unbelievable," Boehner said. "At one point, I told the president, keep him out of here. I don't need somebody who just knows how to say no."

With the Lew pick, all of the president's top four Cabinet posts, State, Defense, CIA, and Treasury, will be white men. At every briefing this week, reporters have peppered Press Secretary Jay Carney about what some observers have dubbed Obama's white guy problem.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: These stories are in reaction to a couple of appointments. I think it would be useful to wait and make judgments about this issue after the president has made the totality of appointments that he will make in the transition to a second term.

KEILAR: Of Obama's 16 Cabinet positions, only two are women., Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, though Labor and Commerce are open and more will likely become so.

It's an issue that can catch fire, as we saw during the presidential campaign.

MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I went to a number of women's groups and said, "Can you help us find folks?" and they brought us whole binders full of women.

KEILAR: The White House is sensitive to this becoming Obama's binder full of women moment, but there are other issues with the new Cabinet.

In the East Room, as the president spoke glowingly of Lew, he noted one exception, Lew's loopy signature, which, as treasury secretary, will appear on dollar bills.

OBAMA: When this was highlighted yesterday in the press, I considered rescinding my offer to appoint him.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: Jack assures me that he's going to make at least one letter legible, in order not to debase our currency, should he be confirmed as secretary of the treasury.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR: That was probably the funniest moment during the announcement today. But, Kate, back to the issue of diversity in the president's Cabinet and in his administration top administration posts.

There are a number of women whose names are being discussed as possibilities for these open Cabinet positions or positions that may become open. That would include Washington Governor Chris Gregoire, as well as former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm. But, so far, nothing is official.

BOLDUAN: So far, as you well pointed out, 16 Cabinet positions, only two of them are held by women at this moment. Brianna Keilar at the White House, thanks, Brianna.

BLITZER: Let's get a little bit more on what's going on right now.

Joining us is our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger. That picture that the White House officially released was on the front page of "The New York Times" yesterday, in the Oval Office, the president with a lot of his aides. Take a look at it. There it is right there, all guys. Valerie Jarrett is being hidden. Maybe you can see her leg over there. There it is right there.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Behind Dan Pfeiffer, the communications director. Yes.

BLITZER: It looks like they have a serious problem with diversity right now. They're getting a lot of grief for this.

BORGER: Yes, they are.

And they're trying obviously to combat the problem, as one might expect. So what do you do when you have one bad picture? You release a good picture. Right? So what they did today was they released a good picture. You see here, I think we have got it, we have got three senior women, actually, around the table, there you are, with the president there in the Oval Office, one of them, of course, being Valerie Jarrett.

And you see her front and center right there, first among equals, very close to both the president and the vice president. So the way, though, to really fix the problem is to start appointing some women to top posts. You know, of course, the president did want to appoint the U.N. ambassador, Rice, to the State Department. That was not to be, because she would have had too much opposition. I'm told the White House would really like to appoint a woman to the commerce secretary job, which is a key Cabinet position. But when you look at the choreography of all of this, and we have been talking about this all day, this rollout has not been the way the White House would have wanted. Maybe it's because they were busy with the fiscal cliff, but, for example, the Jack Lew appointment today, you didn't see the whole economic team there, because you know why? That's all men.

Now, I would argue at some point we might end up with a woman running the Budget Office. We will just have to see. But that wouldn't have been a good picture for them either, so they didn't have it.

BOLDUAN: It's one thing to have one bad picture put on the front of "The New York Times," but when you look at it all together, as they have been pushing out information, are they getting a raw deal, or is this fair criticism? Because Brianna pointed out 16 Cabinet positions, only two of them are held by women.

BORGER: Well, yes and yes. On the one hand, they are getting a bit of a raw deal, and they put out this whole huge statistical piece of paper about how many women they have.

And here's some of the things they have said, to their defense; 50 percent of the White House staff are women. Two out of three deputy chiefs of staff are women, and when it comes to judicial appointments, very important, 47 percent of the president's confirmed judges have been women.

They also point out, when you talk to them, that women have handled some of the president's most important agenda items. Kathleen Sebelius, over at Health and Human Services, ran health care reform, of course, Hillary Clinton, foreign policy, at the State Department. But that doesn't erase the issue that of these big, you know, Cabinet posts, they don't have any women in them.

BLITZER: And, arguably, the most important decisions he has made, the two Supreme Court justices that he named are both women as well. And they're going to be there for decades.

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: They are. And I would also argue, as somebody who's watched this administration closely, is that this is not a Cabinet-run administration. This is an administration that's run from inside the White House.

If you have top women inside the White House, that's almost just as important. But I also believe that the four top jobs, and you know those jobs, and the nominees, John Kerry, Chuck Hagel, Jack Lew, Eric Holder, already attorney general, those will be held by men. And those jobs, those top four jobs, are real policy-making jobs.

BLITZER: I will say what I said yesterday. Valerie Jarrett, in terms of influencing the president and the vice president, probably equaling four or five men.

BORGER: Well, we all do, Wolf.

BOLDUAN: Every woman does, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

The NRA talks gun control with the vice president, Joe Biden, but says that his agenda is an attack on the Second Amendment. The NRA president, David Keene, he will be here live this hour in THE SITUATION ROOM. We will discuss.

Plus, why this pastor is bowing out of the president's inauguration.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The pastor who had been scheduled to deliver the benediction of President Obama's inaugural abruptly withdrew today after the words to an old sermon he delivered caught up with him.

CNN's Athena Jones is here in THE SITUATION ROOM with details of what happened.

What happened?

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.

This is not the first time that we have seen a controversy arise over gay rights, a pastor, and an inauguration.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JONES (voice-over): Atlanta Pastor Louie Giglio tapped to give the benediction at the president's second inaugural is now pulling out of the festivities. Why, because of a firestorm over his mid-1990 sermon on homosexuality.

REV. LOUIE GIGLIO, PASSION CITY CHURCH: If you look at the counsel of the word of god, Old Testament, New Testament, you come quickly to the conclusion that homosexuality is not an alternate lifestyle. Homosexuality is not just a sexual preference. Homosexuality is not gay, but homosexuality is sin. It is sin in the eyes of God, and it is sin according to the word of God.

JONES: Giglio withdrew from the ceremony after those words drew fire from gay rights groups saying in a message to his congregation, the issue of homosexuality is one of the most difficult our nation will navigate. However, individual's rights of freedom and the collective right to hold differing views on any subject is a critical balance we as a people must recover and preserve.

Earlier this month, Giglio welcomed thousands to a conference for his passion movement aimed at ending human trafficking and global sex slavery. He said Thursday he feared his participation at the inauguration would distract from that message. The Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group said that Giglio made the right decision.

FRED SAINZ, HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN: His inclusion in the inaugural festivities would have been inconsistent with the tone that this president has set for inclusion and diversity and such. We thought that his pulling out of the inaugural festivities was entirely appropriate.

JONES: The president's Inaugural Committee said that they were not aware of Giglio's past comments and are now working to select a new speaker who better reflects the administration's views.

This isn't the first time a pastor's invitation to take part in the inauguration has sparked controversy. In 2009, liberal and gay rights groups slammed the choice of influential Evangelical Pastor Rick Warren to speak because of his open possession to same-sex marriage.

The Family Research Council, a conservative Christian advocacy group is concerned about what they see as a growing trend.

TONY PERKINS, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: What's shocking here, I think, is that this is further evidence of a desire to sanitize the public square of anyone who holds the biblical morality.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JONES: Now, I should also mention that the president's inaugural committee is making history in selecting Richard Blanco as the first Hispanic and the first gay person to recite a poem at an inaugural.

BLITZER: There's a lot of things happening getting ready for January 20. But the big inaugural will be the 21st on that Monday.

JONES: Exactly.

BLITZER: Athena, thanks very much.

JONES: Thanks.

BOLDUAN: Still ahead, the NRA at the White House today talking gun control with Vice President Biden and slamming his task force. The NRA president is here to talk about it with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

BLITZER: The vice president, Joe Biden, has been taking the pulse of the public on gun control today. He met with gun advocates. I am going to ask the head of the NRA how it went.

And what's so crazy about minting a $1 trillion coin to head off another debt ceiling fight?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: A 16-year-old student is in critical condition after yet another school shooting. It happened today at a high school in Taft, California.

Police say a student at the school entered a classroom with a shotgun, shot one student, but missed another. The teacher and other adults talked to him, and at one point, he put down the gun, the gun was then taken into custody, so was the student. Fortunately, it happened -- fortunately, it could have been so much worse than it actually turned out to be. But we will stay on top of this story for you as well.

At the same time, the vice president, Joe Biden, says his gun task force created after the Connecticut school massacre will make specific recommendations on Tuesday.

BOLDUAN: Biden also -- Biden held another White House meeting today, this one including a representative of the National Rifle Association.

CNN's national political correspondent, Jim Acosta, is over at the White House for us.

So, Jim, what happened in the meeting?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf and Kate, before the vice president even met with the National Rifle Association, he said he was starting to see a consensus on gun control. It is a sign that this White House is getting ready to make some proposals with or without the blessing of the NRA.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): About an hour before sitting down with the National Rifle Association, Vice President Joe Biden hinted at new gun restrictions, including one the nation's firearms industry is sure to oppose, universal background checks for all gun sales.

JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Not just close the gun show loophole, but total, universal background checks, including private sales.

I'm putting together a series of recommendations for the president that will -- that he will take a look at. There's a real, very tight window to do this.

ACOSTA: In addition to beefing up those background checks, Biden said his task force may also urge a ban on high-capacity gun magazines, improve gun safety information, and fund more research on gun violence and violent video games.

The vice president then met face to face with NRA official James J. Baker, who left the White House without comment. The NRA released a statement, saying: "We were disappointed with how little this meeting had to do with keeping our children safe and how much it had to do with an agenda to attack the Second Amendment."

That frustration may have started building Wednesday, when Biden said the president would likely move forward with reforms that did not require the consent of Congress.

BIDEN: The president is going to act. There are executive orders, executive action that can be taken.

ACOSTA: That drew a sharp rebuke from the Gun Owners of America, which said in a statement, "This does not surprise us, given the administration's antipathy to the Constitution and its disdain for the God-given right of self-defense that all gun owners enjoy."

That sounds a lot like what NRA leaders said at this Mitt Romney rally last fall.

WAYNE LAPIERRE, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION: If President Obama gets re-elected, yes -- we can kiss our constitutional right to own a firearm in the United States good-bye, along with a lot of the rest of our freedoms.

ACOSTA: The White House is trying to convince other stakeholders in the gun debate, such as hunting and wildlife groups, to consider supporting the administration's proposals. Attorney General Eric Holder met with retailers that sell guns like Wal-Mart.

Just as Biden was speaking to reporters, authorities in California were dealing with another school shooting, the latest in a rural community near Bakersfield. The vice president said the goal is to prevent another Newtown.

BIDEN: There is nothing that has gone to the heart of the matter more than the visual image people have of little 6-year-old kids riddled, not shot with a stray bullet, riddled, riddled with bullet holes in their classroom.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: Now, this evening, the vice president is meeting with representatives of the entertainment industry. Tomorrow, it's video game makers. But a crackdown on Hollywood does not appear to be in the vice president's sights. He plans to have some recommendations for the president by Tuesday -- Wolf and Kate.

BOLDUAN: Sure. Sure is. Not a lot of time to put those recommendations together...

ACOSTA: Right.

BOLDUAN: ... but we will see what they come up with.

Jim Acosta, thanks so much, Jim.

BLITZER: And we're standing by to speak live with David Keene. He's the president of the NRA. He's about to come into THE SITUATION ROOM. We'll get his thoughts on what happened at that meeting with the vice president earlier in the day.

On another big story we're following, the next treasury secretary, if he's confirmed, that would be Jack Lew. Balancing work and personal life certainly can be difficult for many people here in Washington, but the treasury secretary nominee has an extra challenge. His religion.

He talked about that with CNN's Candy Crowley back in 2011, when he was director of the Office of Management and budget.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT/ANCHOR: You are an orthodox Jew, which means that you can't use electrical devices, over the weekend, Friday night to sundown Saturday. How does that work in a 24/7 job? Have you ever had to cheat?

JACK LEW, TREASURY SECRETARY NOMINEE: Well, it's actually not cheating. If there's a matter of real urgency, it is totally consistent with my religious beliefs to do whatever I need to do to deal with it.

The hard part is making that judgment of what's an emergency and what's not. What's really serious. And frankly, the hardest part is saying to yourself that it won't change the outcome if I'm not involved.

And I've found that there's an enormous amount of respect, has been from the time I was very young, working for Speaker O'Neill, to working for two presidents, to taking things that are of real importance seriously. And when the phone rings on Saturday, I don't have to wonder whether I need to pick it up. There's no one who calls me frivolously.

CROWLEY: So you know automatically you need to pick it up on a Saturday?

LEW: People know where I am. They know how to find me. I'm never out of reach. And it's -- and I think it says a lot about our country that you can be true to your own beliefs and be available and have a position like the one that I hold.

CROWLEY: So you don't ever want to just, like, look at your BlackBerry or...

LEW: Not unless there's something really urgent going on. And if there's a crisis going on, a different set of rules kick in. Just like if I were a doctor.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: You can see Candy interview top newsmakers on CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION," Sunday mornings, 9 a.m. Eastern, only here on CNN.

BOLDUAN: Still ahead, the president of the NRA will be joining us live in THE SITUATION ROOM shortly.

Also, an unlikely idea is gaining momentum. Minting a $1 trillion coin to avert a debt-ceiling crisis. Some experts say it's not as crazy as it sounds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: It may sound like a pretty crazy plan, but the idea of minting a $1 trillion coin to avert another debt-ceiling battle is gaining some momentum and gaining some prominent supporters.

CNN's Brian Todd has been working this story for us.

So Brian, what's the latest?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate and Wolf, this has picked up more serious momentum in the last few days than any of us could have imagined, despite all of our jokes that, quote, we hold in our hands the solution to the debt ceiling crisis.

This is because, mostly after the fiscal cliff and everything else, so many just want to avoid the fallout from another political brawl in Washington.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): It's gone from "never in a million years" to, "well, maybe." The idea of the president minting a $1 trillion platinum coin to do an end run around the Republicans and avoid debt ceiling drama, has gained popular and political momentum.

What started as a blogosphere win in 2010 got more attention during the debt ceiling standoff a year later and now has left- leaning, Nobel-Prize-winning "New York Times" columnist Paul Krugman writing that, if the debt ceiling impasse isn't avoided, quote, "mint the darn coin."

Democratic Congressman Gerald Nadler is solidly behind it. Not to mention a petition on the White House Web site with thousands of signatures in support.

Speaking of the White House...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you totally rule it out?

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: You can speculate about a lot of things. I would refer you to treasury for the specifics of this question.

TODD: The punt's in the air. It's a high floater. The Treasury Department decides not to field it, declining comment.

But why is this being discussed more seriously now? Analysts say frustration and fatigue in Washington.

PETER BEINART, "THE DAILY BEAST": There's an increased search for ways out of this problem, especially by Democrats, and I think that's how some of them hit on this idea about the coin.

TODD: We've explained how it would work.

(on camera): The treasury can mint it and then just print on it, "$1 trillion." The president can then order that coin to be deposited at the Federal Reserve.

Enough, enough already. The real buzz over all this is about the possibilities, humorous or not, of who'd be on the coin. President Obama and John Boehner have been considered, because, after all, we wouldn't be here if it wasn't for them. Lady Liberty is always a popular choice. Michael Phelps, riding on a bald eagle, is a little bit too scary. We should probably just keep it on the safe side with him.

Have a nice look to it or no?

MATTHEW COOPER, EDITOR, "NATIONAL JOURNAL": Well, it's nice to collect. I don't think it's a great way to solve our national debt problems.

TODD (voice-over): Matt Cooper of the "National Journal" says one reason why the idea hasn't been shelved is because it's more politically adroit for President Obama to threaten to mint the coin for leverage than it would be for him to actually use it.

COOPER: I think it would be very hard for him to then go forward and negotiate things on the budget and other tax issues and the sequestration, and other things that face this president.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Not to mention the mockery that it would draw on the president, on the Congress, and on the American currency system. Still, as strange as the coin idea might seem, most analysts say it's really no crazier than getting into another huge political fight over the debt ceiling, possibly even jolting the financial markets as a result -- Kate and Wolf.

BOLDUAN: So what really are the predictions here? Do analysts think this could actually be used?

TODD: People are saying mostly that it's unlikely, very unlikely, but not impossible. And one of the reasons is because the president and the White House have already kind of given up one weapon that they have in this. They say they're not going to invoke the 14th Amendment. It's kind of obscure, but it basically says the president cannot question the validity of the debt.

So basically they've given up that as a weapon, saying they're not going to use it, so this could be a weapon. They're not ruling it out.

BLITZER: Crazy. Thanks very much for that update.

BOLDUAN: Crazy. It's not crazy (ph). BLITZER: ... update today. Appreciate it very much.

BOLDUAN: Thanks.

BLITZER: David Keene is here, the president of the National Rifle Association. He's walking into THE SITUATION ROOM. We're going to be talking right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: Before Vice President Biden met with the NRA and other gun rights groups today, he appealed for some room to negotiate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: There's got to be some common ground here, to not solve every problem, but diminish the probability that what we've seen in these mass shootings that occur can diminish the probability that our children are at risk in their schools.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Let's get to more on the meeting and what happened there. David Keene is joining us now. He's the president of the National Rifle Association.

The vice president says you've got to find some common ground. Based on what you heard from your representative who went to that meeting at the White House today, one of your top lobbyists, is there any common ground?

There isn't on guns.

BLITZER: There isn't?

BOLDUAN: There is not on guns, not that I can see. Except in one area. Except in one area. We have for years urged that those who have been adjudicated as potentially violently mentally ill ought to be included on the national database of those who are not allowed to buy firearms. Twenty-three states don't do that.

We think that that's something that they're at least willing to consider, and that would make a difference, because the people that have been involved in these shootings have been people who are severely mentally ill.

Now, we're not blaming, and we don't think you should -- you should demonize everybody who's got a mental problem. Most of them are no more a threat than you are. But the fact is, there are people who are not in the gray area. There are people who have been adjudicated, as potentially violent schizophrenics and the like. They should not be allowed to buy firearms. Secondly...

BLITZER: On that point, though, I really always have a hard time understanding. If -- if you go to a gun store and buy a weapon, a gun, you need a background check. KEENE: Right.

BLITZER: But if you go to one of these gun fairs or whatever, a gun show, you don't need any background...

KEENE: That's not, strictly speaking, true.

BLITZER: Well...

KEENE: Most of the guns that are purchased at a gun show are purchased from federal firearms-licensed holders. Anybody who buys a firearm from a federal firearms-licensed holder, whether it's a dealer or a private party, has to undergo a background check.

BLITZER: I've heard that about 40 percent of all purchases are without any background checks at all.

KEENE: There -- we don't know what percentage at gun shows. It may be 10 percent. And those are -- those are private transactions. Whether they're at gun shows, or whether...

BLITZER: But there shouldn't be background checks if somebody buys it there?

BOLDUAN: Background checks are a good thing, right? We can all agree on that?

KEENE: Background checks are generally a good thing.

BLITZER: But that loophole?

KEENE: It's not such a loophole at gun shows. But it's like if you sell me your shotgun, that's a private transaction. Just as if I sell you a car, I don't have a dealer's license.

But the problem is, how do you enforce a law that would require me to check you out? That's a very difficult kind of thing. It can be done at a gun show, perhaps, if the ATF wanted to spend the money to have an instant check thing there, but in private transactions, it's very difficult. So you can talk theoretically or you can talk about the real world.

BLITZER: The other thing to do is just have -- just have stores where they sell guns, you require a background check, and you eliminate the gun shows.

KEENE: Well, it's not that -- most of the private sales you're talking about don't take place at gun shows. They take place between you and me.

BLITZER: They sell a lot of guns at gun shows, though.

KEENE: They sure do, but very few of them are sold except by dealers at gun shows.

BOLDUAN: David, the vice president today said in the meetings there was a growing consensus around the need to strengthen background checks. But do you not agree with that?

KEENE: We agree -- we agree, for example, as I said, that it should be tightened up in the sense that the people who should not have firearms should be included in the database.

When you buy a gun, and they call into what we call the NIC (ph) system that the FBI runs, that runs it through all the databases, and it says you either can or cannot buy that gun.

Now, if you've been adjudicated to be a violent schizophrenic, you may not be on that list, and you should be. And we think that you should be on that list.

A lot of the -- a lot of the other proposals, frankly, in the strictly gun area that the administration is making are what I call feel-good proposals. The...

BOLDUAN: OK.

BLITZER: For example, the high-capacity magazines. Why do people need those?

KEENE: Well, the AR-15s...

BLITZER: Do you have an AR-15?

KEENE: I do not, but my daughter does.

BLITZER: What does she need it for?

KEENE: Well, my daughter, like most people who have served in the army -- she served two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, like to shoot for fun at the range, and in competition, the same gun they learned on or something similar to the same gun.

She was in the Army. She learned on a military weapon. This is the semi-automatic civilian version of that. It's the only gun she owns, because she likes to go to the range and she likes to shoot it.

BLITZER: You heard General McChrystal say last night on CNN, he doesn't see why these military-type weapons should be available to civilians.

KEENE: Well, military-type weapons are not...

BLITZER: But the AR-15...

KEENE: It's not a fully automatic weapon. It's a semi-automatic weapon. And civilians have been able to buy semi-automatic firearms for over 100 years.

The only thing that's different is the platform, and some people don't like the way it looks. But that gun is the best-selling long arm in this country. Over 3 million Americans own them. They're fired at ranges. They're the gun that most people train on today, and they're fired in competition. If you go to the national matches at Camp Perry in Ohio, you'll see lines of people firing the AR-15. So it is not a gun -- and it's also used extensively for hunting, particularly for coyotes, for varmint hunting. It's not powerful enough in a lot of states to be used for deer hunting.

BOLDUAN: Let's take this out of the weeds a little bit. Because this is about -- the gun control debate is at the forefront of many people's minds, unfortunately, because of the horrific shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.

What I'm hearing from you and I think our viewers are hearing from you right now, is this isn't going anywhere, any further than it has over the many years we've been talking about it.

KEENE: Well, you know...

BOLDUAN: So -- did you go into this meeting thinking that you were going to be able to work with the White House on gun control measures, or did you go in already knowing, this is a foregone conclusion, you guys don't agree with them?

KEENE: We knew -- we knew going into this meeting what the president's position on the so-called assault weapons ban is. It's a stance he's taken for years. These are not new positions.

The vice president said we do this with an open mind, but at the meeting, he said, "No, we've already made up our mind on that." NO, there's not going to be an agreement on that.

BOLDUAN: So did you feel like a prop in the meeting, then?

KEENE: Well, I mean, in a sense, they were checking the box. They were able to say, "We've met with the NRA. We've met with the people that are strong Second Amendment supporters." That doesn't mean that there isn't an area for agreement.

Now, if the question is, should we ban guns, should we ban so- called assault weapons, should we do that, should we do the other, there's not going to be an agreement there.

If the question, however, is how, as the vice president put it, how do we deal with the problem of these kinds of shooting, I think then there is an area for agreement. And that is tightening up on putting information in the database. It's school security. It's beefing up the way we deal with the mentally ill.

We have -- we have, as a society, not done that over the years. There are lots of areas that we can agree on. We are not going to agree on these gun questions. Because we don't think that either from a constitutional standpoint or from a policy standpoint, works.

BLITZER: I want to be precise. On high-capacity magazines, ammunition clips, there's no negotiation on that?

KEENE: No. BLITZER: On a ban on assault weapons, there's no negotiation on that.

KEENE: No.

BLITZER: There is negotiation on background checks, a little bit on that. Maybe a little bit...

KEENE: On who's included...

BOLDUAN: So David, what do you say when Biden said yesterday, he said very clearly, the president is going to act. What does the NRA say to that?

KEENE: Well, we stated our position. They stated their position.

BLITZER: If he does executive -- if he does executive orders, you don't need Congress for that.

KEENE: Well, you know, some things you can do by executive orders and some things you can't do by executive orders. And some things that you do do by executive orders need money to be implemented, and that's up to Congress.

BLITZER: So you'll go through that. All right. David Keene, thanks for coming in.

BOLDUAN: David, thanks so much.

BLITZER: The bottom line is they heard what you had to say...

KEENE: And we heard what they had to say.

BLITZER: The vice president made some common ground. David Keene is the president of the NRA.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

BLITZER: Thanks very much for coming in.

KEENE: Anytime.

BLITZER: Good to see you. Don't leave yet.

Please be sure to join us tomorrow, by the way. I'll interview the former New Mexico governor, Bill Richardson. He's just back from North Korea. He'll with here in Washington. We're going to hear what he learned in Pyongyang.

BOLDUAN: Also, this may be the best drive-through video you have ever seen. Fast-food restaurant workers take an order like they normally would, but when the car drives up, it's completely empty. As you might expect, their reactions are priceless.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hello. What the heck is going on?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: We learned today that Hollywood really does like Abraham Lincoln. When the Academy Award nominations were announced this morning, the film "Lincoln" got the most Oscar nods, 12 in all, including best picture and best director for Steven Spielberg.

"Argo," "Zero Dark Thirty," and "Django Unchained" are among the other Best Picture contenders. But the directors of those films -- Ben Affleck, Kathryn Bigelow, Quentin Tarantino -- they were snubbed by the Academy.

Speaking of snubbed, Wolf, I have a feeling you can feel their pain. If memory serves me correct, there are three chances now that the Academy could have nominated you?

BLITZER: I'm very, very pained by just thinking about it.

BOLDUAN: What have you done to the Academy?

BLITZER: I don't think they like me.

BOLDUAN: OK. Let's remind our viewers. How could you forget the powerful performance in "The Adjustment Bureau"?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: His father, before he got to high school, he got over that. He had such promise.

BLITZER: And he was, what, the youngest person ever elected to the House of Representatives, James.

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: He was elected when he was actually 24.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: That was brilliant.

BOLDUAN: Spot-on, brilliant.

BLITZER: I was a great supporting actor.

BOLDUAN: It was pretty amazing.

Also, the Will Farrell movie, "The Campaign," would that have been nearly as funny without you?

BLITZER: No.

BOLDUAN: I don't think so. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Bizarre news coming out of the 14th District congressional race in North Carolina. Now, get this: Cam Brady, four- time congressman, punched a baby.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Punched a baby.

BLITZER: Brilliant. Brilliant.

Again, I can't even begin. I'm outraged. Did any Oscar nominations come from those performances?

BLITZER: None.

BOLDUAN: None.

BLITZER: No supporting actor, nothing.

BOLDUAN: We will never forget. And now, Wolf's riveting cameo in the blockbuster James Bond movie "Skyfall," also a snub. But, Wolf, if it's any consolation, Daniel Craig did not get nominated.

BLITZER: Well, let me just say, we -- that movie, "Skyfall," grossed $1 billion.

BOLDUAN: One billion dollars.

BLITZER: I was in that key scene.

BOLDUAN: And Wolf got all of not $1 billion.

BLITZER: No.

All right, maybe next year. I'm going to keep doing these major motion pictures.

BOLDUAN: Keep hoping.

BLITZER: Imagine a car driving up to a fast-food restaurant, orders, but then creeps up to the window without a driver. That's exactly what CNN's Jeanne Moos found.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In under five seconds, he can turn himself into a car seat.

RAHAD HUSSEIN, CREATED CAR SEAT COSTUME: I built this car seat costume.

MOOS: Now he's riding his car seat to fame.

HUSSEIN: So this is how the costume looks. MOOS: Twenty-four-year-old Rahad Hussein is the star of a prank sweeping the Internet called the drive-through invisible driver.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my God!

MOOS: Arriving like a ghost driver, he stunned workers at over 50 fast-food restaurants in Virginia and Maryland.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Really?

MOOS: Really.

HUSSEIN: I'm overwhelmed, you know?

MOOS: Overwhelmed at how an oddball prank has become a sensation. The last time we saw anyone turn himself into a car seat is when the Border Patrol released this photo of someone smuggled into the U.S. from Mexico, sewn into the upholstery. And now this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hello? Are you serious?

MOOS: He's serious, all right. This criminal justice student is serious about becoming a magician.

(on camera): Originally, Rahad considered trying to get reactions from motorists on the open road, but his costume limited his sight so much that he figured it might be dangerous.

HUSSEIN: Basically, the eye hole is right here. It's actually a mesh material, where you can actually see right through.

MOOS (voice-over): His handmade, mostly cardboard costume, topped with an actual car seat cover, consists of seat and head rest.

(on camera): I could almost sit in you.

HUSSEIN: Right.

MOOS (voice-over): He takes his hands off the wheel on the straightaway right before he pulls up to the window, leaving workers looking for the missing driver or calling for an Instagram photo.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Instagram this.

MOOS (on camera): One thing the well-behaved car seat absolutely must not do is crack up laughing.

HUSSEIN: I was trying hard to keep a straight face. I was like, I thought I was going to shake.

MOOS: Though at the end, he did break character.

HUSSEIN: Just throw it in here. I'm a ghost.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Throw it in there?

HUSSEIN: Yes, I'm a ghost, just -- thank you!

MOOS (on camera): What, no seat belt?

HUSSEIN: No seat belt at all.

MOOS (voice-over): Double take, make way for the triple take at the takeout window.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you serious?

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Got a lot of free time, that guy.

BOLDUAN: You always say that when people do funny things.

BLITZER: People do a lot of crazy things.

BOLDUAN: Not stupid. It was funny.

BLITZER: Yes, very much. That's it for us. Thanks for joining us. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.