Return to Transcripts main page


Lawmaker Threatens Obama with Impeachment; Protesting Wal-Mart Assault Weapons; Seattle Teachers Say No to Test

Aired January 15, 2013 - 10:30   ET



CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning. I'm Carol Costello. Thank you so much for joining us. It's just about 30 minutes past the hour. Time to check our "Top Stories".

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will testify next Wednesday about the September terror attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. As you know, that attack killed four Americans including the U.S. Ambassador. Four State Department officials have been disciplined after an independent review of the attack revealed leadership failures within the State Department.

For the first time in nearly two months, President George H.W. Bush is waking up at home today. He was released yesterday from a Houston hospital where he had been treated for a bronchitis related cough and other health issues. The former president is 88 years old.

After nearly seven years of not speaking during oral arguments, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas breaks his silence. He did it on Monday, made the joke about the confidence of lawyers from Yale, his alma mater, and their Harvard colleagues. Six members of the current high court went to Harvard. Samuel Alito and Sonia Sotomayor went to Yale.

All right, to politics now and President Obama's pledge to end gun violence possibly through executive action. It has one congressman vowing to take action of his own. His name is Steve Stockman he's a Republican Congressman from Texas. In a statement Stockman said in part, "I will seek to thwart the President's action by any means necessary including but not limited to eliminating funding for implementation, defunding the White House, even filing articles of impeachment."

So in essence he's threatening to impeach the President if he attempts to -- to issue any gun controls law by executive order.

Joining me now are Democratic strategist Robert Zimmerman and Republican strategist and CNN contributor, Ana Navarro. Welcome to you both.


ANA NAVARRO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Good morning. COSTELLO: Good morning. Ana I'm going to start with you. Congressman Stockman says if the President is allowed to suspend constitutional rights on his own personal whims, our free republic has effectively ceased to exist. As a Republican strategist how does this play with most of the party?

NAVARRO: Well look, I think -- I think there is some concern about how much he's trying to do through executive order. I would hope that the first recourse would be to try to get legislation to try to work with Congress. You know, there are two separate branches of government, but they are fairly powerful each and every one of them and both of them need to work together if we are really to get anything of great significance done.

Of course I don't agree with this impeachment business. I think it is one congressman talking a little bit out of turn he's not represented to the Republican Party. That's not where we are. I think if we focus Carol on this gun policy, on things that everybody agrees on, and there are some things but there is wide consensus on perhaps not unanimously but yes wide consensus, like background checks, like enforcing some of the current laws, then you know we can get some things done.

But a lot, you know things like a ban on assault weapons will take legislation.

ZIMMERMAN: You know Ana --

COSTELLO: Go ahead, Robert.

ZIMMERMAN: -- we're not seeing wide consensus amongst the Republican Party. There certainly is wide consensus among the nation and the President speaking to the national concerns about the issue of the dangers of assault weapons, the need for much more aggressive back ground checks, sharing mental health records and the like.

Yet we failed to see any leadership from the Republican Party in terms of working with the President on this point. And I would point out to you Ana too and it concerns me when you listen to this congressman's ridiculous comments about impeachment. both parties we know have individuals in their parties that say ridiculous statements or engage in the freak show of politics.

But it's important for the parties to step up and take them on. Very frankly, I'm proud of the fact that my Democratic Party people like myself and the officers of the Democratic Party and Democratic-elected officials have taken on individuals like Oliver Stone or Dennis Kucinich for saying statements that were -- really beyond the realm of rational discussion.

Yet where are the Republicans stepping up, taking on this congressman or taking on Ann Coulter or Rush Limbaugh for the kind of freak show rhetoric they're engaging in?

COSTELLO: Let's go back to the issue itself that of executive order. I just interviewed Congressman Barbour who's a Democrat from Arizona. You know he took over for Gabrielle Giffords after she resigned. He said he was not too excited about the President issuing executive orders either when it came to gun control. He would much rather that a law went through Congress. So some Democrats are really strongly against this -- this idea of executive order, too.

ZIMMERMAN: Well you know I'm going to tell you something, as a Democrat, I took on George W. Bush for many of the executive orders he put in place. There's a real debate to be had. But the first step is seeing what the executive orders are. Right now the President is talking about administrative steps, making federal appointment. He's also talking about doing much more aggressive -- sharing of mental health information and much more aggressive background checks.

That really do I believe qualify through executive order and there's a place to be had for that debate and there's should be a debate about those points.


COSTELLO: And Ana -- Ana, Harry Reid he weighed in on that potential assault weapons ban. Here's what he told one Las Vegas TV station. Let's listen.


SEN. HARRY REID (D), NEVADA: And let's be realistic. In the Senate we're going to do what we think can get through the House. I'm not going to be going through a bunch of these gyrations just to say we've done something.

REPORTER: President Obama really wants to reinstate the assault weapons ban. Would you be in favor of that?

REID: I think and I've talked to Dianne Feinstein many times about this. But this one of the things I just talked about is it something that can pass the Senate? Maybe. Is it something that can pass the House? I doubt it.


COSTELLO: So even Harry Reid is not so confident that any substantive gun properly law will be able to pass in the House. So why not an executive order if you're President Obama and you've come down strongly in favor of doing something?

NAVARRO: Well Carol you know first of all, Harry Reid does not want to go through gyrations, he's happy to go through gyrations and other thing. He doesn't want to go through gyrations on gun policy because frankly he comes from Nevada. Harry Reid has had a very high record from the NRA, very high ranking from the NRA. You know any of us who have been to Nevada know that there is a very big gun culture there and the other surrounding states.

And frankly, the two senators from Nevada and the two senators from Idaho where there is great gun culture have just as much votes as the two senators from California or from some other northeastern states. And I think it's important that the White House listen to some of these voices coming from some of the more rural areas like an Idaho, like a Nevada, because they you know they vote, too. And we need to make them part of the debate. I've been very concerned to -- sorry.


ZIMMERMAN: It's clearly they're going to be listened to them but that's not the point. They'll clearly be listened to. That's not the point. The issue is how you build consensus for real gun --

NAVARRO: Have you heard, have you seen -- Robert have you seen folks from out west from the rural areas be part of the debates on the Sunday shows? Or be part of the meeting -- I've seen a lot of the urban mayors be part of it --

ZIMMERMAN: Absolutely. Absolutely, and I've seen -- excuse me, Ana I've seen -- excuse me Ana, then you should take it -- then you should listen up to what Senator Joe Manchin had to say from West Virginia where he then took, had the courage as an NRA A-plus member the courage to say he recognized the need to review these issues of gun safety measures or Senator Warner from Virginia for that matter step up as well. Or Senator Casey from Pennsylvania the number one NRA state in the country where these Democratic senators knowing the risk they're taking --

NAVARRO: They are all from the East Coast Robert. My question is have you heard anybody from the Midwest talk about it?

ZIMMERMAN: Absolutely. Senator Tester from Montana has weighed in on the issue, as well. The point though Ana is these are senators from strong NRA states. And they understand the need to address this issue. This isn't going to be a test of political courage --


NAVARRO: And that's why Harry Reid doesn't want to take it on Robert because he is from a strong NRA state because in Las Vegas, they have Christmas wreathes made out of bullet casings. I just saw them when I was there in December.

ZIMMERMAN: But the point simply is this --


NAVARRO: You know these policies are local and Harry Reid has a local skin in the game.

ZIMMERMAN: But Ana he's not --


COSTELLO: Oh sadly -- sadly we have to wrap this up, but I hope --

ZIMMERMAN: And Carol, can I just --

COSTELLO: But I hope you guys will continue the conversation out there because it's --


ZIMMERMAN: Carol can I just say a quick --

COSTELLO: I got to go.

ZIMMERMAN: Get well to George Herbert Walker Bush.

COSTELLO: Oh sure.

ZIMMERMAN: OK absolutely, he's a great man.

COSTELLO: Oh thank you both very much.

NAVARRO: I agree on that.


COSTELLO: Me, too. Robert Zimmerman, Ana Navarro, thank you so much.

Gun control activists take on Wal-Mart.

In the shadow of Newtown a rally begins just minutes from now urging the nation's biggest gun retailer to stop selling assault weapons.


COSTELLO: OK, just to make it a little clearer. We've been telling you President Obama is looking at using administrative action to fight gun violence. Well, CNN has learned the President would use 19 executive orders to get his plan started, including appointing a director to the ATF, the agency in charge of alcohol, tobacco and firearms, and more sharing of mental health data between federal agencies.

The President's plan would also exclude legislative action. One possibility of that exclusion is an assault weapons ban. Another is limiting the capacity of magazines. The President may also ask Congress to expand the background checks to include all private gun purchases.

Lawmakers say President Obama could announce his plan as early as tomorrow. Of course, we'll keep you posted.

Supporters of stronger gun control laws are gathering for a rally right now to protest Wal-Mart's policy of selling assault weapons. The demonstration begins at the top of the hour outside a Wal-Mart in Danbury, Connecticut, just minutes from Newtown.

Deborah Feyerick is in Danbury to tell us more. Good morning, Deborah.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well good morning there Carol. And look, you can see the Wal-Mart behind me. What stands out is it says market, home and pharmacy, there's also a crowd of people who have gathered. They are small, but they are very determined. They want to give a petition to Wal-Mart saying that they should stop selling military style assault weapons.

Some of those who have come here today, Roxana Green, Pam Simon, Lori Haas and Adam, your daughter was shot at Virginia Tech, you were shot in Arizona and you lost your daughter at the shooting of Gabby Giffords. Tell me why you've decided to can here today about.

ROXANA GREEN, : Well, we don't think assault weapons, military style weapons should be sold at a family department store. I mean, you go to Wal-Mart with your kids and your family members to buy household items and the toy section, the stroller section, and then you look over and there is all these assault weapons of mass destruction. It's just -- it's just not right. They shouldn't be sold.

FEYERICK: When you think about Pam the availability and the accessibility of weapons, it's not just Wal-Mart, it's everywhere, it's online as well. Why single out Wal-Mart for example?

PAM SIMON: Well, the -- the bullets that were shot in my chest came from a Wal-Mart. And they were purchased very easily, much more easily than you can buy Sudafed or spray can, cans of paint.

So it just makes sense that maybe we need to rethink this and really it is -- it's a family friendly store. It's not a place for assault rifles. There is no place in our society for assault rifles.

FEYERICK: Lori, your daughter also was shot. She was shot at Virginia Tech. Tell me how important do you think legislation is actually going to get passed?

LORI HAAS: Yes, I absolutely do. I think that the time is now, the time has been now for a long time. We see these mass shootings in our community. Almost all of them are -- take place with a high capacity magazine. And an assault weapon. Those military grade weapons designed for one person, people killing. And now they're killing our children. And we must stop this. This is unacceptable, all communities deserve to be safe from gun violence, all communities.

FEYERICK: OK, Lori Haas, Pam Simon, Roxana Green, thank you so much.

Again, a small group you can see behind me, but a very determined group. They want to make sure that something positive at least comes from all the tragedies that have been going on throughout the country.

And Carol, just so we can note, this particular Wal-Mart does not sell the military style assault weapons. But Wal-Mart began putting them in more of their stores, a business decision to boost sales a couple of years ago -- Carol.

COSTELLO: All right. Deborah Feyerick, reporting live from Danbury, Connecticut this morning.

Testing is an important tool in the learning process at least that's what some say. Seattle teachers though, they're saying no to the mandated standardized test. We'll tell you why. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: 47 minutes past the hour. Time to check our top stories.

In just a few hours, NASA and NOAA will release their findings on global temperatures for the last year. We already know that 2012 was the warmest year on record for the United States. A new record was also set worldwide. It will further stoke concern over climate change.

Florida A&M University says it's indefinitely postponed this morning's news conference about a new band director. That raises some questions about the future of the band which was suspended after the hazing death of drum major Robert Champion.

Facebook's been building a mystery and many people think it might be a much-rumored Facebook phone. The social media giant have invited the media to its headquarters today with an invitation that read quote, "Come see what we're building." We'll keep you posted.


COSTELLO: From pop quizzes to final exam, teachers love tests. But in one Seattle area school district, the teachers are saying no, they will not give a district mandated standardized test for the good of the students.

Jesse Hagopian, is a history teacher in Garfield High School in Seattle. Welcome.

JESSE HAGOPIAN, HISTORY TEACHER, GARFIELD HIGH SCHOOL: Thank you, Carol. And let me say "Go Bulldogs".

C1; I'll take that. The test itself, your particular school district mandates kids take these tests why?

HAGOPIAN: Well, they mandate this test because they say that it's a tool that we can use to show student growth, but the courageous teachers at Garfield High School have said that they're going to refuse to give this test and they've been met with overwhelming support and solidarity. The Garfield High School PTSA voted to support us. The student body government voted to support us. And yesterday we got pizza sent to us during lunchtime from a school in Florida. Flowers coming in, we finished off with some chocolates from another school district.

So I think there's a lot of schools around the country that have been put under this testing and testing and more testing regime that has really served I think the interests of corporate driven so-called reform movement in education. And so many people are happy to see that Garfield High School is standing up and pushing back and saying education should be much more than just testing.

COSTELLO: Is there a fear that kids won't be able to pass these tests? I mean how is it harmful to students? HAGOPIAN: Well, that's not really the fear at all. I think there's so many things that are deeply flawed about this specific test. First of all, the test was brought to us under an utter scandal. Former superintendent, the late Maria Goodlow Johnson sat on the board of the company that made the test and sells the test that we adopted in the Seattle public schools for over $4 million.

And it's not me who has a problem with that but it was actually the state auditor came in and found that to be a, quote, ethics violation. So Garfield High School teachers are saying we're not going to administer an ethics violation. But more than that, what we're worried about with this test is that, one, it's not aligned to our curriculum. So the math teachers tell me that there's questions on the ninth grade math portion that aren't taught until 10th or 11th grade.

And other teachers across the curriculum are telling us it hasn't been aligned to our curriculum. What's worse, there's really nothing tied to this test for students. There's no graduation requirement or grade tied to it, but there is something tied to teachers' evaluations. So students often just try to rush through the test, sometimes they race each other, because there's nothing tied to them, but then it can end up negatively impacting a teacher evaluation.

And let me just say that teachers at Garfield High School are not against accountability. We definitely want more accountability. And we want to be able to show our student growth. It's just that this is not a tool we can use to show student growth because it's not properly aligned to our curriculum.

We want to replace this test -- some of my colleagues want to replace the test with a better standardized test. But many of us like myself think we have too many tests and we should move towards things like portfolio based assignments where you gather data over time and then you're actually showing the skills that are being taught in your very class room.

COSTELLO: Thank you so much for joining us this morning, Jesse Hagopian.

Thank you very much.

HAGOPIAN: Thank you so much.

COSTELLO: OH, you're welcome.

"Talk Back" question today: Can Lance Armstrong redeem himself? Your responses next.


COSTELLO: "Talk Back" question today: "Can Lance Armstrong redeem himself?"

This from Sean: "No, he can't redeem himself no matter how much he apologizes. He cheated and lied in one of the biggest scams ever." This from Zachary: "America loves a comeback kid. Lance will be back on top."

This from Yejeira: "Absolutely not. Lance Armstrong is a fraud. He's a cheater. He'll never be viewed as anything else."

And from Kimberly: "He didn't do anything wrong. He won seven titles and the jealousy of others caused this exposure. He has given more than he ever took from society."

Keep the conversation going, or tweet me @CarolCNN.

Thank you so much for joining me today. I'm Carol Costello.

CNN NEWSROOM with Ashleigh Banfield after a break.