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CNN NEWSROOM

Powell Blasts GOP "Intolerance"; Wal-Mart Faces Protests Over Gun Sales; Cadillac, Chrysler Win Best in Show; Gun Violence Summit Underway

Aired January 14, 2013 - 09:30   ET

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


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: According to "The Financial Times," Goldman Sachs is considering paying its employees bonuses in the U.K. after April 6. That would allow the company to take advantage of the top income tax dropping from 50 percent to 45 percent. The proposal would benefit bonuses deferred from 2009 through 2011.

Apple is slashing component orders for the iPhone 5. That's according to "The Wall Street Journal." Weaker demand and increasing competition from Samsung are blamed. The iPhone 5 was released in September.

"I am still a Republican." Colin Powell declaring his support for his political party but not before warning that some ideas held by his fellow Republicans could be hurting the party's future.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLIN POWELLL, FMR. SECRETARY OF STATE: There's also a dark vein of intolerance in some parts of the party. What do I mean by that? What I mean by that is they still sort of look down on minorities. How can I evidence that? When I see a former governor say that the president is shucking and jiving. That's a racial era slave term.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: Powell is most likely talking about former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin who blasted President Obama for his handling of the Benghazi consulate attack on Facebook writing in part, quote, "Why the lies? Why the cover up? Why the dissembling about the cause of the murder of our ambassador? On the anniversary of the worst terror attacks on American soil?

We deserve answers to this. President Obama's shuck and jive shtick with these Benghazi lies must end."

Joining me now, CNN contributor and senior writer for ESPN.com, L.Z. Granderson, and CNN contributor and analyst for "The Blaze", Will Cain.

Welcome to you both.

WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Good morning.

L.Z. GRANDERSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Good morning, Carol. COSTELLO: Good morning.

OK. So, Will, let's start with you.

Palin later defended the remarks saying there was nothing racist about them. Was there?

CAIN: You know, I'm going to go with no, Carol. You know this is always my favorite segment.

You know, why are Republicans racist? Are you racist? Tell me again what is not racist about conservatism? It's always the burden of proof to prove you're not a racist, which is a near impossible thing not to do.

I understand you're not asking me about my personal views. You're asking about a party. I don't know, whatever that is, tens of millions of people across this country. Are they embodied by a phrase that Sarah Palin used on Facebook? The answer is emphatically no.

What's interesting about Sarah Palin using that one phrase, "shuck and jive", and whether or not it's right or wrong, is that Colin Powell followed that. That conversation about this dark vein of intolerance was after he was talking about Chuck Hagel. The conversation was about Chuck Hagel and Colin Powell's support for Chuck Hagel, and he's being questioned about Chuck Hagel talking about the Jewish lobby, and Colin Powell said that's a slip of the tongue, that happens. He meant the Israeli lobby.

So he's ready to forgive Chuck Hagel, I think a move that is correct, for a phrase that many interpreted as anti-Semitic or intolerant, and yet not Sarah Palin.

COSTELLO: See, I thought you were going to break out the aggressively gay comment made by Chuck Hagel.

But, before we get to L.Z.'s viewpoint, I want to play something that Jay Carney said, one of the president's men. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDO CLIPS)

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Thanks. Sorry. I'm going to shuck and jive.

Time to shuck and jive.

The -- that's the super secret book.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

COSTELLO: So, L.Z., Jay Carney, the White House spokesman, said shuck and jive too. Doesn't that muddy the waters a bit?

GRANDERSON: No, of course not. It all depends upon who is saying it, what is the phrase is -- who the phrase is directed toward, and what is its intent? I think in the Sarah Palin incident, I think she was blowing a dog whistle. With Carney, he was just referring to himself. Those are two different things.

I just want to back up to some of the things that Will talked about. It's not that the Republican Party is viewed as a bunch of racists by Democrats and independents. It's the fact that there is such silence in the face of racism when it rears its head that makes the party look bad.

I don't think anyone believes the Republican Party is completely full of racists, but I do think that we believe that there is a courtship of individuals with racist attitudes, and that courtship is done in order to attract votes. That's the part that makes the party look bad.

COSTELLO: You know, a question I had too. Colin Powell is a widely respected man. You don't see many Republicans coming out and embracing him as they once did.

Why is Colin Powell still a Republican? Will?

CAIN: I don't know that Colin Powell is a Republican. He self- identifies as one, but, you know, Republican/Democrat, that's a team and a label, right? It's much more interesting to examine people's policies and principles.

And, Colin Powell -- I don't have to go back far. The same interview with David Gregory, he talked about health care for the nation, he talked about climate change, he talked about progressive income tax, redistributive tax policies -- these are things that Republicans oppose on principle, and he did that, though, which makes it worse, in a conversation, and there was a subtle link to this issue of race.

So, it makes Republicans look like they don't oppose President Obama for all these principle or policy reasons that were just brought up, but rather because he's black. And that's what is really, really disturbing and destructive, that we have a serious disagreement with policy and principles, not because of who the president is or what his race is.

COSTELLO: L.Z., response?

GRANDERSON: You see what I mean, Carol? That's a perfect example of what I talked about earlier. There are racist facets of Republican Party. When you look at comments made by Republican John Sununu, how could you not see the hint of racism in his voice when he talks about the president?

Are there disagreement when's it comes to policy? Absolutely. Let's remember the Republican Party actually was the party that gave us the EPA. The Republican Party gave us the president who fought to enslave them. The Republican Party was the party that had the first president -- or former president speak in support of marriage, of gay marriage, and of gay rights, and I'm speaking of President Ford when it comes to that. In other words, the Republican Party used to be the party of big ideas that believed in freedom and believed in diversity. The question isn't, as Colin Powell is a Republican? The question is what has happened to the Republican Party?

That it's moved away from this wonderful history of moving this country forward, and it's become somewhat of an antiquated viewpoint of what this country should be. That, to me, is the real question about the Republican Party, not Colin Powell.

CAIN: That's just true.

COSTELLO: OK. Final word, Will.

CAIN: It's just not true. Look, in 2008, the Republicans nominated --

GRANDERSON: Not true?

CAIN: -- perhaps the most moderate candidate in modern history at least with John McCain. And Colin Powell did not embrace John McCain.

The party did not move away from him. He moved away from the party. He chose President Obama over the most moderate Republican since, I don't know, what, Eisenhower? Nixon?

GRANDERSON: Didn't John McCain give us Sarah Palin? The same person we're just talking about a couple of minutes ago. Wasn't John McCain the one whose ticket included an individual who was part of the courtship of those racist voters I was just talking about earlier?

So, no, he won't accept that because he saw during the campaign rallies individuals that were holding up signs that said kill then Senator Obama. Why would you embrace someone who doesn't come out against that action?

(CROSSTALK)

CAIN: Quickly on that last note. Carol, here's the deal. I am always, and Republicans are always forced to defend the worst elements that exist in this country who label themselves under the brand of Republican.

Are there racists within the Republican Party? Yes. Are there racists within the Democratic Party? Emphatically, yes. Are there anti-Semites within the Democratic Party? Yes.

But we don't have to sit here on a weekly basis and say, why is it that L.Z. won't and Democrats won't call out and ostracize the worst elements of his party over and over again? Why is it -- we don't play that game. But we play that game with Republicans on a consistent basis.

COSTELLO: I could bring up the whole birther movement, right? It took Republicans forever -- and I'm not sure that anyone even came out strongly enough against the birther movement, and I could mention a name, Donald Trump. He's still being interviewed in places. Come on.

I could bring that up, but I won't, because I have to end this conversation.

CAIN: Right as we go. It's interesting, right? Right as we go.

COSTELLO: L.Z. Granderson, Will Cain, thanks so much.

The fight is on to keep assault weapons off the shelves of the nation's largest retailer as thousands of people call on Wal-Mart to honor a pledge it made almost a decade ago.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: The push for stopping gun violence is coming to the front door of the nation's largest retailer. Tomorrow, protesters will deliver a petition to Wal-Mart, demanding it stop selling semiautomatic weapons.

George Howell has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A month after the tragedy in Newtown, some gun control activists are turning their focus on the world's largest retailer and a top gun seller, Wal-Mart.

The company, which pledged after the Brady Bill expired in 2004, that it would not sell assault weapons, actually does sell semiautomatic firearms in many of its stores, that many people would describe as assault weapons.

On Tuesday, the advocacy group, someofus.org, will lead a protest in front of the Wal-Mart in Newtown to present a petition. A spokeswoman for the group tells CNN, quote, "We want Wal-Mart to see that over 250,000 people, its customers and potential customers, want Wal-Mart to stop selling assault weapons."

Wal-Mart has not yet responded to CNN's latest request of an explanation of its policy on gun sales. But in a recent interview with CNN's Gary Tuchman, Wal-Mart's vice president David Tovar had this to say.

DAVID TOVAR, VICE PRESIDENT OF COMMUNICATIONS, WAL-MART: All of our decisions are based on what our customers want and the law. And, of course, if the law were to change, you know, we'd follow the law. One of our sayings at Wal-Mart is, you know, the customer is number one. That's who we focus on. That's who we listen to. They guide our decisions.

HOWELL: While Wal-Mart doesn't provide statistics on gun sales, the company said in late December, it sells guns in roughly 1,800 of its 4,000 stores. It sells automatic rifles in 1,200 of those stores.

Even though no guns in the Newtown massacre were bought at Wal-Mart, the company has stopped selling the Bushmaster AR-15 that the gun used.

Tovar says that after the Newtown shooting, Wal-Mart executives discussed the issue of firearm responsibility internally and with outside experts.

TOVAR: We have heavy hearts when those types of unfortunate incidents do happen, but we do know we have a very strong program to sell firearms in the most responsible manner as we can.

HOWELL: Wal-Mart critics say that's not nearly enough.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO: And George Howell joins us now.

I think people get confused about what exactly --

HOWELL: Right.

COSTELLO: -- the definition is of an assault weapon. Does Wal-Mart sell assault weapons?

HOWELL: Carol, there's definitely a lot of gray there. Wal-Mart does not sell assault rifles, OK? But they do sell semiautomatic guns, and there are some people who consider those to be under a class of what's being called assault weapons.

So when you hear this group, someofus.org, they're saying, look, they shouldn't have gun sales in a place where you sell baby food, where you sell diapers. They want that to stop.

COSTELLO: George Howell reporting live for us today, thank you so much.

HOWELL: Thank you.

COSTELLO: General Motors and Chrysler earning top dog at the Detroit auto show. An insider's look at the car and truck of the year, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: It's 47 minutes past the hour.

Checking our "Top Stories" now. A debate begins later today in the House on more relief for Sandy victims. Congress passed a nearly $10 billion aid bill more than a week ago. The House is scheduled to vote tomorrow on two more aid packages totaling $51 billion.

President Obama will be holding a news conference this morning in the East Room. First on his agenda, he's expected to talk about the debt limit -- you know the debt ceiling. That's in just about an hour and a half. When it happens, we'll bring it to you live.

The 20 million people of Beijing, China are enduring a fourth day of choking, hazardous air pollution. Reports of respiratory problems and mask sales have sky rocketed according to state media. Schoolchildren are not allowed to play outdoors. Many say the pollution is worst now than it was four years ago, while officials in China well, they claim the air quality has improved.

Back here at home, water levels of the Great Lakes are expected to break the all time low sometime in the next few months. Lake Michigan and Lake Huron fell to record low levels in December. Cargo ships are being forced to lighten their loads, and some harbors have already closed.

After three months of gas prices going down, they're now working their way back up. The Lundberg Survey found the average price of a gallon of regular is $3.32. That's up more than six cents from three weeks earlier.

A couple of new American rides can now be called best in show. This morning at the North American International Auto Show, the Cadillac ATS was named car of the year. It is the first time Cadillac has won this award. And on the heavy duty side, the Ram 1500 won the show's truck of the year award. It's given every year by a panel of 50 auto critics.

Joining me now on the phone is CNN Money's Peter Valdes Dapena. Good morning, Peter.

PETER VALDES DAPENA, CNNMONEY.COM: Good morning. How are you?

COSTELLO: Oh we're good. We wish we could be where you are. We're a little surprised that Ford was shut out of the awards. Did that surprise you?

DAPENA: That actually surprised me quite a bit. I was just telling someone this morning that I have to bet of all three cars and trucks, I was going to go with the Ford -- the Ford Fusion and the Ford C-Max in the truck and SUV category. I thought they might have a sweeper.

So yes, I was a little surprised. Not shocked or stunned, but a little bit surprised.

COSTELLO: And interesting fact, both winning automakers benefited from the government bailout. What are people saying about that?

DAPENA: Well, a lot of people are saying, good job, well done. I mean these are two companies that really were in trouble a few years ago. GM product quality had been improving for quite some time, even before the bankruptcy, their cars had been getting better and better. So a lot of people are giving a big thumbs up to that one. Saying look -- look what can happen. They have a little confidence in these companies they can do really -- they can do really good things.

COSTELLO: We're looking at pictures of the Cadillac right now and I don't want to ignore that because that does not look remote like the Cadillac of old to me.

DAPENA: It does not look like a Cadillac of old to you?

COSTELLO: No. DAPENA: It is certainly not. I mean this is -- this car have been very different for Cadillac. In the past Cadillac used to make car that were a little bit bigger or a little bit smaller as competing vehicle. So they didn't -- they didn't have to compete directly against German auto makers. This time they built a car that competed directly against the BMW 3 series. That's a really tough contest to win and a lot of the critics out there, myself included, are saying that yes this car really does do that very well and very credible.

COSTELLO: Ok and I want to touch on the Corvette because after 60 years, a new Stingray is out and it looks pretty cool.

DAPENA: Yes that was a really neat looking car. Yes they brought back the Stingray name last used back in 1976. It's -- it's at the same time it is definitely a Corvette. You can tell by looking at it in an instant you recognize that shape. But they really changed it up a lot especially from the back.

It looks like a fantastic car and they're saying it's going to be the most fuel efficient one they've ever done because believe it or not fuel economy always has kind have been a selling point for the corvette compared to other cars in that category and they're going to pump that part of it up even a little bit more.

COSTELLO: Oh that looks awesome. Ok final question, does winning these top honors help auto manufacturers sell these cars?

DAPENA: You know, that's always a big question. The bottom line is yes, they do. They do help auto manufacturers sell cars it's stuff you can use, it's stuff you can use in your auto -- in your advertising. So an award like this the motor tran car of the year things like they really do help to sell car but it is no guarantee.

We have certainly seen cars win these awards in the past and then just fail in the marketplace, just for whatever reason they didn't catch on with customers. So it helps, but it's certainly not enough to do all about itself.

COSTELLO: I'm loving that truck, Peter Valdes Dapena from CNNMoney.com. Thank you so much.

DAPENA: Thank you.

COSTELLO: Have fun.

The "Talk Back" question for you today is serious one, "What's the best way to honor the Newtown victims?" Facebook.com/CarolCNN or you can tweet me @CarolCNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: We want to take you live to Baltimore now, this is the Johns Hopkins summit on gun control. As you can see New York City Mayor and a gun control advocate, Mayor Michael Bloomberg is talking he has the keynote address. Let's listen.

(BEGIN LIVE FEED)

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, MAYOR, NEW YORK CITY: -- including private sales at gun shows and online. These private sales now account for more than 40 percent of all gun sales nationally, which means that in 2012 alone, there were more than six million gun sales that happened with no background checks.

Many of those guns, being sold are handguns which are used in about 90 percent of all firearms murderers -- firearms murders. And across the United States, more than 80 percent of gun owners and more than 90 percent of Americans support requiring background checks for all gun sales.

So there's really no debate here, it's common sense. We have laws on the books that require a background check when dealers sell guns. It's time for the President and Congress to make that the law of the land for all sales. 40 percent where the law does not apply to means the law is basically a sham.

Second, Congress should make gun trafficking a federal crime n New York City, 85 percent of the weapons that we recover from crime scenes come from out of state sources but federal laws designed to curb illegal sales across borders are incredibly weak. Criminals through traffic get a slap on the wrist.

Now we've made New York the safest big city in the nation in part by adopting tough gun laws and proactively enforcing them. Every state in the union has citizens killed by guns coming from another state and every state is powerless to stop the mayhem. Until Congress gets tough on trafficking, guns will continue flowing to our streets from states with much looser gun laws.

The third legislative measure that the White House should support is limiting the availability of military style weapons and high-capacity magazines with more than ten rounds, these guns and equipment are not designed for sport or home defense. They are designed to kill large numbers of people quickly, that's the only purpose they have. They belong on the battlefield, in the hands of our brave, professionally trained -

(END LIVE FEED)

COSTELLO: We're going to break away from this. We'll continue to monitor Mayor Bloomberg's remarks in Baltimore.

We're going to take a quick break. We'll be back with much more.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)