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NRA: Obama is "An Elitist Hypocrite"; Wal-Mart Will Buy American; Obama Unveils Gun Proposals; "Purple Tunnel of Doom" Closed

Aired January 16, 2013 - 10:30   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: On another front, the NRA has unveiled a new ad. We've been talking a lot about that ad this morning. It labels the President a hypocrite. Listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are the President's kids more important than yours? Then why is he skeptical about putting armed security in our schools when his kids are protected by armed guards at their school? Mr. Obama --


COSTELLO: That clip is posted on a Web site called "Stand and Fight". An NRA spokesman tells CNN quote, "Stand and fight sums up what Americans need to do when to preserve our Second Amendment freedom."

Joining me now is Jason Johnson, chief political correspondent for Politics 365 and a political science professor at Hiram College in Ohio and Republican strategist Ron Bonjean. Welcome to both of you.



COSTELLO: Good morning. Jason, I just want to get your thoughts on this ad because it's powerful.

JOHNSON: It's powerful and it's ridiculous. It's sort of like saying why does Barack Obama get a White House and other people can't pay their mortgage. I mean, look, the President's children should always be off limits in any sort of political discussion one way or another. And the idea that them getting protected is in some way an indicator of him not caring about other children in this country I think is ridiculous.

But it works very well for the NRA. They're going to get to call the President elitist and Democrats and liberal will respond to it and it will raise them a lot of money but I don't think it furthers this debate at all and really just sort of lowers this discussion to name calling rather than really talking about the dangers of gun violence in America.

COSTELLO: Ron, do you think it's ridiculous? BONJEAN: Well I do -- I do think it's probably -- it's probably over the top but it's extremely effective. I think people are already talking about it. And they're trying to get an effort going regarding protection in schools, having, you know, armed guards in schools. Now do I think that's possible? I think it's -- I think the money isn't there for it.

But the ad itself is driving a lot of news on it. And, yes, it is quite -- quite aggressive, but it is effective. And everybody is talking about it right now.

COSTELLO: A lot of free advertising here on CNN, I got to admit to that. Ron you're right about that.


COSTELLO: The ad doesn't just target President Obama now. Take a look at some of the other stars.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Obama demands the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes. But he's just another elitist hypocrite when it comes to a fair share of security.


COSTELLO: OK, you see there's Mayor Bloomberg, NBC anchor David Gregory and Senator Dianne Feinstein. So, I mean they're tapping into that, too, because many people think that the media is one-sided on this issue, Jason.

JOHNSON: Well yes didn't we do this for the last two years? The election is over. OK, the whole Barack Obama is part of this elitist cabal of New Yorkers and Californians who don't like fly over country, it's a dead argument. And it doesn't move things forward. What the NRA should be talking about is hey let's make sure people have to be licensed properly to have their guns. Let's make sure that people have to make sure that they actually know how to use a gun if someone comes into their home.

These sorts of name calling and attacks again, it raises money, it gets people talking, it does not move anything forward and it doesn't help the NRA's reputation with the public which is something I think they should be concerned about right now.

COSTELLO: And Ron, Jason has a point. Because this could create a backlash. A recent Washington poll shows -- "Washington Post" poll I should say, ABC News poll shows 44 percent have an unfavorable view of the NRA's leadership.

BONJEAN: Well I don't think that necessarily matters to the NRA. I think that what their -- their goal is to protect gun rights, to protect the rights of the Second Amendment. And you know they're -- they're going to do everything possible to make sure that happens. You know and you have Republicans and Democrats joining together. You know that will end up joining together to fight President Obama's proposals frankly.

I mean, you have red state Democrats in the Senate, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid extremely cool to this proposal as well as Senate Judiciary Chairman Pat Leahy, a Democrat who is going to take his time and look this over. I think that this is going to end up being dead on arrival in Congress. They're going to get very little done here. And the only thing that you're going to see is executive action.

COSTELLO: Yes but the thing is, if you step back and you look at what the American people want, there's a separate "Washington Post" poll that shows the majority of Americans support measures like bans on assault weapons, high capacity ammunition clips, and background checks at gun shows. These are the kinds of things that President Obama will suggest today. It has nothing to do with taking Second Amendment rights away.

BONJEAN: But what it -- but -- but the American people also want the economy and jobs to be taken care of first, for spending issues to be taken first before they get to these issues. And when you get to these issues and you -- and you go one layer deep you start peeling, you get the devil is in the details here.

So when you're talking about an assault weapons ban, what does that mean? Can gun manufactures just change its specifications. When you're talking about magazine clip restrictions, does that mean look, if you go from ten bullets to seven bullets, will somebody go out and buy, OK, go out and two and three guns just to replace -- just to replace the problem?

So they have to really look at the issue here. And not only that, but obviously we've been -- you know there's a big focus now on mental health. And -- and what does that mean? Does that mean health privacy rights will come into play here as well? So yes.

COSTELLO: Jason go ahead.

JOHNSON: Yes I've just got to say this -- this -- the American public expects the President to be able to do two jobs at once. He can pat his head and rub his tummy. He can work on the economy and he can do something about gun violence. So I don't believe under any circumstance that Americans just want to sit by. They want background checks. They want their children to be safe and they want to be able to keep their gun rights, too.

And all of those things can be done with commonsense proposals, making sure dangerous people don't have guns, making sure people have to actually have them registered one way or another. And I think a lot of the Republicans and conservative Democrats and the NRA are standing in front of what the American public actually wants because they want to keep making money with the gun rights industry as opposed of really caring about what the American people want.

COSTELLO: All right we're going to have to wrap it up. Ron Bonjean and Jason Johnson. Thanks so much for the interesting conversation this morning. JOHNSON: Thank you.

BONJEAN: Thank you.

COSTELLO: Is Wal-Mart's $50 billion pledge to buy American-made products actually a bait and switch? Some critics say it's just a ploy to make you forget the giant retailer also sells assault rifles.


COSTELLO: OK, this is a strange story with a happy ending story of the day. Let's take you to Portland Oregon where a woman at 3:45 a.m. in the morning somehow became trapped between a building and a wall. She fell in that tiny space and she was stuck. A passerby heard her cries for help, called the fire department and as you can see and rescue workers attempted to pull this woman out. Evidently she was stuck so tightly between the wall and the building that she was having trouble breathing.

But as you can see she's mighty happy to be out, free and it appears that she'll be OK. So see? There's your weird story with a happy ending story of the morning.

Your next flight to San Francisco could land you in Harvey Milk Airport that's if one San Francisco lawmaker has his way. A member of the city's board of supervisors plans to introduce legislation early -- early next week to rename the airport after the openly gay politician, you remember he was playing back in 1978.

Starting this weekend, all presidential vehicle will have brand new license plates. They'll be switch to the standard D.C. plates that read "No Taxation without Representation". The plates are a not so subtle form of protest for those in the District of Columbia since they don't have a voting representative in Congress. Even though the city has a larger population than the state of Wyoming.

Wal-Mart is putting its money where its mouth is when it comes to supporting the United States. The mega retailer says it will spend $50 billion over the next ten years on buying American made products. But critics say the company is pulling one, a fast distracting customers from the controversy over the assault weapons itself.

Alison Kosik is at the New York Stock Exchange. OK, let's talk about the timing.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes it's interesting timing isn't it Carol. I mean, the company has been taking some heat over the assault weapons they sell. There was that dust up over whether or not they would attend the meeting at the White House last week. And then all of a sudden they announce this plan to hire veterans, and then now this plan to buy American products. So sure, it is a little curious, especially since Wal-Mart have gotten heat over selling too many products that were made in countries like China.

So we spoke with the executive director of the American Alliance for Manufacturing who points out you know what, we've actually seen this one before.


SCOTT PAUL, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ALLIANCE FOR AMERICAN MANUFACTURING: Wal-Mart has been a major part of the problem for the last couple of decades. And I point out and just to stretch your memories a little bit in the mid-'80s Wal-Mart announced a big made in America campaign saying they we're going to bring jobs back. And it proved to be a PR stunt. At the same time they were citing very specific examples of some products they were sourcing in the United States and they continue to off-shore.


KOSIK: And he went on to say that 80 percent of Wal-Mart suppliers are based in China, and Wal-Mart has actually disputes that number saying the items made, sourced or grown here in the U.S. actually account for two-thirds of goods in its U.S. stores -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Alison Kosik reporting live from the New York Stock Exchange. We'll be right back.


COSTELLO: In just about an hour, we'll take you live to the White House, that's where President Obama and Vice President Biden are expected to unveil the Administration's plan to fight gun violence. We're told they'll be joined by several families who lost relatives in the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

There will also be children surrounding the President who've written letters to the White House about gun violence. Actually let's go to the White House right now and check in with Dan Lothian. Dan what do we expect the President to say?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well you know the White House aides say that the President will be rolling out what they believe is a comprehensive approach to try to cut back on gun violence. The kinds of scenes that we've seen play out across the country over the last few years and most recently in Connecticut.

And according to sources familiar with what the President will be laying out today, he will look to ban assault weapons, to ban those high capacity magazines with more than ten rounds. Now, they believe that this is something that could impact the gunmen's timetable in terms of how many shots can be set off in a certain period of time.

So that's one of the things that the President will be pushing -- pushing for universal background checks. We've talked a lot about that but the President wants to see all sales, whether it's private sales, whether it's gun shows, that people involved in the transactions need to have background checks on their mental health and also their criminal record as well.

And then a request for funds that they be made available to treat those with mental illness and also to be used to enhance school safety. In addition to that, the President will be rolling out a series of other efforts that he -- or measures rather that he hopes to do on his own through executive action. We'll hear more about that when the President makes his remarks today.

Clearly, though, there's been a lot of pushback from the NRA and other gun rights groups. They're very concerned about what the President is putting out there and what potentially could go through congress and how that will impact their Second Amendment rights -- Carol.

COSTELLO: All right. Dan Lothian reporting live from the White House. Again, the President expected to speak in just about a half hour. A little more than an hour, I should say. I'll take that back -- he'll speak in a little more than an hour.

New York State is the first state to introduce sweeping new gun regulations in the wake of the Sandy Hook School shootings. Governor Andrew Cuomo signed it into law yesterday after getting bipartisan support. The laws in New York now expand the ban on assault weapons, limits gun magazine size to seven rounds down from ten and includes provisions to keep guns away from the mentally ill.

Experts say the new laws are largely cosmetic because the state already has some of the strictest gun laws in the country. Now, we don't think the President will go as far as New York State did, but we don't know right now. We do know any hint of banning any kind of weapons has caused a sort of national hysteria. At least that's what gun control advocates would call it.

In Lynn County, Oregon, the sheriff is refusing to enforce any of the President's gun laws even though there are no new gun laws in place right now. He even wrote a letter about it to Vice President Biden.

Some gun rights advocates are suggesting guns could have prevented everything from the Holocaust to slavery and there have already been threats of impeachment from Republican lawmakers to former attorney- general Edwin Meese.


EDWIN MEESE, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: It would not be legal. It would not be constitutional. And indeed if he tried to override the Second Amendment in any way, I believe it would be an impeachable offense.


COSTELLO: "Time" magazine will tackle the gun issue this week. It's cover, you see it there, "Gunslingers". Joining me now is Jim Frederick, he's the executive editor of "Time" magazine. Welcome.


COSTELLO: Thanks for being here. Let's put up the cover of the magazine again. It's labeled, "Gunslinger". And it kind of makes Mike Bloomberg, Joe Biden and Gabriel Giffords look like superheroes. If you showed that cover to the NRA, what do you think it would say. FREDERICK: I think the time is right. I think the Obama Administration is playing -- they decided to play a long ground game here, and I think that they've decided that the way to combat the NRA and some of the more emotional outbursts that the NRA is taking is learning from the last two elections where the Obama administration avoided the gun issue as a third rail.

But looking back at the way that they got grassroots support, that they were able to combat some of the Republican Super PACS with small donors and a consistent ground game of outreach and belief in change. They think that they actually have a pretty potent weapon against the NRA.

So I mean the NRA participated in this story. So if they saw the cover I think that they would have to acknowledge that they're up against some pretty formidable foes.

COSTELLO: They certainly have all their weapons out. I mean they really are fighting back through many means. The thing is there's nothing particularly extreme about what President Obama is going to present later this afternoon. Why do you think there's all this hysteria?

FREDERICK: I think the Obama Administration is being realistic. They're not overreaching. And they're well armed to use a phrase, against the charges that there's an executive override of the Second Amendment or that the government is coming for your guns.

That's really not the case. So they're not making that argument. They even backed off of the assault weapon provisions. They're trying to make gains where they can make gains because they believe that there's a silent majority out there who have said enough is enough. Like what they learned from the last election, through consistent pressure and saying we need to get out the votes on this, that mothers and fathers and the people for whom this is not necessarily the hot button issue but it's definitely a swing issue, they can get people who never stood up before to say to their elected congressmen that we care about this issue now in a way that we didn't before.

COSTELLO: Well, there is the thing -- Congress. And you want the silent voices in Congress to stand up. But it seems nobody is willing to because supposedly the NRA is so powerful that they could make sure these people are not re-elected.

FREDERICK: Well, you know, Mike Bloomberg who is obviously a very rich and powerful man himself -- in my (inaudible) great story he comes out and he says the NRA is as powerful as we allow the NRA to be. And going back again to the election, everybody said that there was no way to fight, that the Democrats could fight back by the Coke Brothers or Sheldon Adelson, and all of this monetary power brought to bear.

The ground game election proved that to be false which is one of the reasons I think that Bloomberg and Gabby Giffords and Biden are actually quite optimistic that they can get something done here because the myth these days they say, of the NRA almost precedes itself because there's a very loyal constituency who cares passionately about this issue.

But there's a much broader segment to the American population, they believe, that's finally willing to stand up and say we don't agree with what the NRA is doing or how powerful they had reportedly been allowed to become.

COSTELLO: Jim Frederick, executive director with "Time". Thank you so much for being with us this morning.

FREDERICK: Thank you for having me.

COSTELLO: We'll be right back.


COSTELLO: It was known as The Purple Tunnel of doom during President Obama's first inauguration. It won't be this time, we swear. Several hundred people got stuck inside the 3rd street tunnel under the national mall. That happened four years ago during Obama's first inauguration.

So Monday, Obama's second inauguration, to avoid any problems that tunnel will actually be closed to pedestrians. A smaller crowd is expected to attend the swearing in this year, too and that will certainly help.

It will still take a lot of work though to accommodate the hundreds of thousands who are expected to show up in Washington for the President's inauguration, and they say they all want to stay connected. That could be a problem. Here's Sandra Endo.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I Barack Hussein Obama do solemnly swear --

SANDRA ENDO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's the picture everyone will want to capture. President Obama's swearing in for a second term and cell phone providers are gearing up for those coming with cameras and Smartphones in hand.

RICHARD DOLSON, VERIZON WIRELESS: Everybody wants to post pictures so that their family can see that they were here. People want to check the weather. People want to check how the transit system is doing. All of those capabilities are done through apps on their Smartphones or tablets.

ENDO: Will be a smaller crowd than the historic 1.8 million people who watched his first inauguration, but hundreds of thousands will descend on the nation's capital on Monday. If you are one in a throng of people here on the national mall during the inauguration, try posting your photos on Facebook, and it may be slow going.

TANYA JONES, SPRINT, EMERGENCY RESPONSE TEAM: You're going to experience slow data speed because everybody is trying to do the same think. They want to be able talk. They want to be able to send their pictures. They want to be able to send their text messages.

ENDO: Cell phone providers are hoping to prevent service disruptions like four years ago. And they're putting cell towers like these around the national mall to handle the crowd. Most people will likely be coming with more than one device.

DOLSON: Since the last inauguration we have built additional permanent sites that serve this area, we have added capacity to existing cell sites, and then we have added temporary locations like we have here.

ENDO: Service providers also put up temporary towers at other big events, like the super bowl and Nascar races. The extra cell towers also ensure communication for emergency responders. At any big event, experts recommend not making phone calls if possible, leaving frequencies open for 911 calls. But if you absolutely wanted to share the excitement --

GREG NAJJAR, SPRINT ENGINEER: Text is really the best thing. That doesn't take up much bandwidth at all. It can go very quickly and you can actually probably get a response.

ENDO: The presidential inaugural committee wants people to stay plugged in. It launched a new Smartphone app providing key information regarding road closures, inaugural events and even port-a- potty locations. It can also be used off line to prevent (inaudible) data connection.

Service providers recommend taking all the pictures and videos you want, but upload them once you get back home.


COSTELLO: Sandra, are you standing near the purple tunnel of doom?

ENDO: I am, Carol. They really dressed up the National Mall. You can take a look at the temporary cell towers behind me. They're not very attractive but they will hopefully keep people connected. And Carol, that's really a big worry here because if nearly a million people all click and send at the same time, there could still be service problems, even though there's extra resources here on the National Mall.

So service providers again are saying that just use text, try to stay off your phone, upload that material, all the photos and stuff at home, not here all at once when you're crowded on the national mall.

And they really spent the last four years to beef up the infrastructure here, spending more than $1 million on extra repeaters and bringing in these cell towers to really try to keep people connected --

COSTELLO: I'm just trying to imagine a million people clicking all at the same time. That would be a cool experiment.

Sandra Endo, thank you so much. Just a reminder the President is scheduled to announce his gun control recommendations in just about an hour. Wolf Blitzer will anchor our special coverage -- that begins at 11:45 Eastern time.


COSTELLO: "Talk Back" question today, and man is it a popular one: "Is the NRA leadership on target or out of touch?"

This from Peter: "They may be out of touch but they're fighting for rights. It's the truth. Security in school, it's your kids, not his."

This from Anthony: "The NRA is spot on. None of these proposed gun control solutions would have stopped these shootings. Crazy people will find a way to do horrible things and the only way to stop them is to have a defense plan in place.

This from Brandy: "Our President loves his children and wants them protected. That's all we American parents wanted as well, protection for our children, our schools and staff."

And this from Carolyn: "Totally out of touch and not listening to the cares and concerns of American citizens. Their thinking is crazy and skewed."

Keep the conversation going. or tweet me @CarolCNN. I'm Carol Costello, thank you so much for joining me today.

CNN NEWSROOM continues right now with Ashleigh Banfield.