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Why the Historic Filibustering of Chuck Hagel; Who is Winning the War over Gun Control; Are There Any Hero Athletes left?

Aired February 15, 2013 - 10:30   ET



CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our new half hour show, "Talk Back." Three hot topics, great guests, your comments: Hagel's historic filibuster, winning the war on guns, and another fallen hero, Oscar Pistorius.

Playing with us today, CNN contributor and ESPN senior writer L.Z. Granderson, former DNC communications chair, Maria Cardona, and Politics 365 chief political correspondent and Ohio's Hiram College Professor Jason Johnson. And rounding things out nicely, Republican strategist Rich Galen. Welcome to all of you.

On to question one, why the historic filibustering of Chuck Hagel? History of the U.S. Senate, not the Lincoln and the 13th Amendment history, but the partisan kind. Republicans have successfully blocked the nomination of Chuck Hagel for Defense Secretary in part because of Hagel's controversial remarks on gays and Jews and a terrible performance during his confirmation hearings, but also because five months ago, terrorists attacked the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R): We will continue pushing and asking questions about Benghazi, not because it's personal, not because we're Republicans and he is a Democrat, but because America needs to learn what happened and we need to learn from our mistakes.


COSTELLO: This despite testimony about Benghazi from General Petraeus, Hillary Clinton, Admiral Mike Mullen, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and General Martin Dempsey among others. Not enough Republicans want more answers from the President, even though the President sent them a letter overnight with more details.

So first "Talk Back" question, "Why the historic filibustering of Chuck Hagel, Rich?

RICH GALEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well first of all I don't think it's so much a filibuster. It's more -- in senate terms it's more like a temporary hold. And they made it pretty clear that when they get back from their two-week vacation because they have worked three weeks in a row, that -- that they'll probably clear him and so I think -- I think Hagel will be the defense secretary. And you know he -- he was only nominated on January 7th. So it's not like this has been held up for six or seven months.

COSTELLO: But what's the danger? What do they fear the most fear about Chuck Hagel?

GALEN: Oh I don't think they fear anything from him. I do think they -- you get a chance to stick to poke your -- poke your finger in his eye and you take it if you're a senator. That's what they do for a living?

COSTELLO: But Jason that's ridiculous, they just did it to poke you in the eye, or poke Democrats in the eye?

JASON JOHNSON, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, POLITIC365: Yes they're bitter and they are being petty. Look but this is not new for the Republican Party. Remember the Senate Judiciary Committee has blocked every woman and every minority judge that Barack Obama has put forward.

So the Republicans are continuing to be the party of no. This is a waste of time. We need a secretary of defense when we got sequester coming up and this is just another black eye for a party that hasn't got over the 2012 lost.

GALEN: Marietta College is going to beat Hiram in basketball this year.

JOHNSON: Oh my God.

COSTELLO: Man. Maria, you would think that Democrats would have finessed this better and tried to like avoid this from happening because it's kind of embarrassing, isn't it?

MARIA CARDONA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, look, I actually think it's more embarrassing for the Republican Party. This is just about the two Ps, Carolyn. And I'm not talking about the conditions on the cruise ship. This is, it's personal and it's political.

It's personal and frankly, John McCain was very clear about this on another network yesterday, Carol. That he and many other Republicans have not gotten over the fact that when Hagel was in the Senate he was absolutely against the Iraq war, never mind the majority of the Americans ended up against the Iraq war as well. This is something that he's never been forgiven for.

And secondly, it's -- it's political, because back to what Jason said, and I completely agree. This is a Republican Party who is hell-bent on not ever -- be not ever willingly giving President Obama what he wants.

JOHNSON: Right. Exactly.

CARDONA: And there's a big danger here because the American people were very clear during the election that they want the two parties to work together. And the Republicans have only obstructed and said what they're against. They still have not told us what they are for.


COSTELLO: Well, L.Z., you've mentioned earlier that John McCain spoke in glowing terms of -- of Chuck Hagel just a few years ago. And he already knew about that Iraq war thing?

L.Z. GRANDERSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Right, he was for Hagel before against him. He pulled a John Kerry on us. It's what everyone has already said, this is political and this is petty. You know and just one other thing I want to point out what is true that he you know he wasn't officially nominated or presented until January 6th or 7th, the fact IS his name has been floated out there since November.

And so it's not as if you know the Republicans didn't already tell us ahead of time that they were going to do this. They told us they were going to do this before the official process even began. And so really this is going on to be like a three or four month long process and not just a couple of weeks.


COSTELLO: And Rich I will pose to you -- I would --

GALEN: Oh they can -- they can sit up with that and let me -- let me remind everybody about John Bolton. The Democrats -- not only they blocked him forever to be the ambassador to the U.N. solely because they didn't like his personality. And ultimately, George W. Bush needed to use his resources to put him there.

JOHNSON: Wait a minute, wait a minute, there were reports that John Bolton had sexually harassed people who worked under him. There were reports of John Bolton behaving an absolutely ridiculous ways. So this is a bit deeper. This is a bit deeper.

GALEN: Right, there were reports -- if we -- if we -- yes let me just tell you something, if having reports were a disqualification for public service --


JOHNSON: And it's an absolute legitimate -- it's an absolutely legitimate concern for the Senate to ask about. This is nothing but petty politics by the Republican Party --


GALEN: His statements about Iran, his statements about Israel, his statements about gays, those are not -- those are not necessary?


JOHNSON: Yes he has concerns about Israel. He has and those are questions that have been asked and those have been questions that have been answered. So the issue here is what else did the Republicans want other than to just poke Barack Obama in the eye. (CROSSTALK)

COSTELLO: And Rich, Rich I would -- Rich wait a second --


GALEN: Stop -- stop with the projectile sweat. In 12 days or 13 days he'll be the defense secretary.

COSTELLO: Well exactly. Now I was just going to ask you about that. So it's likely he'll be confirmed anyway despite this lull in the action, so to speak. But the Pentagon has to deal with Congress, with lawmakers.



COSTELLO: With Republican lawmakers and won't this affect their relationship?

GALEN: No, no, of course not. This is all a transaction it always has been for the last 257 years whatever it's been but the -- I mean, one of the reasons that I believe the President chose Hagel is because he was a senator, he was a non foreign -- he wasn't on Armed Services but he was a senator, he understands how the place works.

Now he's got three people that can help him because the President doesn't like dealing with the Senate very much. Who can blame him but now he's got Joe Biden, John Kerry and he will have Chuck Hagel all of who are very skilled in dealing with the Senate and that will be helpful to him moving through time.

CARDONA: But here's, Carol --


GRANDERSON: You know I will also add if you could --

CARDONA: -- this is one of the reasons why -- this is one of the reasons why it's so problematic with -- for Republicans. And Rich is right that you know there have been some holds and there has been something like this in the past.

But we're in a very different place right now.


CARDONA: And the reasons that they are stating as to why they are against Chuck Hagel do not pass muster.


CARDONA: The American people are sick of petty politics in Washington. This is a President that he has said he's willing to meet the Republicans halfway. We have yet to see the halfway where Republicans are willing to meet this President. It's a -- it's going to be a PR nightmare for Republicans if they continue with this kind of petty politics.

COSTELLO: Ok. We want our Facebook --

GRANDERSON: Well there's one thing I really, if I could just add this --

COSTELLO: Sure. Go ahead.

GRANDERSON: -- if I could just add one little caveat here, if we fast-forward in three years, everyone's projecting that Hillary Clinton is going to run and be the Democratic nominee. The more that they're able to drum up this kind of mess and have this kind of archived if you will, the more they'll have an artillery to be able to combat her when they do have to face her in the general election.

And so I don't think this is all about being chess -- or checkers rather. I think there's a little chess being involved as well.

COSTELLO: Interesting. Ok we want to hear what our Facebook friends feel about this question. So the question is "Why the historic -- why the historic filibustering of Chuck Hagel?"

This from Jody, "Hagel is just the flat out wrong person for Secretary of Defense. That said, he may have been ok for some other staff position. There is more to Benghazi than what's being said publicly."

And from Vicky, "Because the Republicans will go against anything President Obama wants or does. It's shameful and continues to ruin their reputation if they even have one left anymore."

Keep the conversation go on or tweet me @CarolCNN.

Sorrow, fear and the fight over guns, our next "Talk Back" question. "Who's winning the war over gun control?"


COSTELLO: "Talk Back" question, "Who is winning the war over gun control?"

President Obama is all touchy feely emotion when it comes to guns surrounding himself with gun violence victims at the State of Union. Many were choking up as the President pleaded --


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The familes of Oak Creek and Tucson and Blacksburg and the countless other communities ripped open by gun violence. They deserve a simple vote.


COSTELLO: It cannot get more raw than that. At the same time, for the National Rifle Association, the NRA, it's all about fear.


WAYNE LAPIERRE, NRA: We're the millions and millions of Americans who take responsibility for our own safety. And protection of our children as a God-given right. And for our Second Amendment freedom, Mr. President, we will stand and fight throughout this country as Americans for our freedom. We promise you that.


COSTELLO: It's almost as if you don't own a gun, you'll die. You can't trust anybody, that is, except your gun. In the political game, it's sorrow versus fear.

So the question, "Who's winning the war over gun control?" L.Z.?

GRANDERSON: President Obama, right now. But I think the more that you have the emotional speeches and victims and survivors on camera without any action, the less power influence you'll have and the American people start to tune him out. I think there's a very finite window here in which this administration needs to act and build on that -- on the PR side that they have right now. But the longer this takes, the longer it's going to -- the less influence he's going to have.

COSTELLO: And Maria, I spoke with a community leader out of Chicago today because the President's going to go there. He's there right now. He's going to talk about gun laws. And this community leader said, you know, it's great to talk about murder victims and the families who are left behind.

But -- but we need concrete ideas. We need the President to come up with something for legislators to consider. And he's not doing that.

CARDONA: Oh, I would disagree, Carol. The President has been very clear on what we can do legislatively to try to prevent, even at least one gun murder in the future. And here's why I -- here's where I think that the President is winning the PR battle. Because he has put out sensible solutions versus Wayne LaPierre and the NRA and Wayne LaPierre rants that he put out in the "Daily Caller" yesterday, again focused on the fear that you -- that you just talked about, Carol.

Talking about Hispanic gangs going crazy; talking about those people in Brooklyn after Sandy. I mean, it was just a very racist rant that does not do any good for their position. And -- and the reality of it is, Carol, the positions -- the proposals that the President has put out are very sensible.

There's a Quinnipiac poll -- Quinnipiac poll that came out yesterday that essentially said that 56 percent of Americans, a majority, not a huge majority, but a majority, support bans on assault weapons and on the high-capacity magazine clips; 92 percent, Carol, support the universal background checks.

(CROSSTALK) COSTELLO: But universal have no chance for passing, they have no chance of -- this community leader also says, you can talk about banning assault weapons all you want. But you have to get to the root of the problem. And the problem she says, isn't so much about guns, it's about the gun culture and the culture of violence.

CARDONA: I agree.

COSTELLO: Especially on the main streets of Chicago. Go ahead Jason.


CARDONA: And the President -- and the President absolutely should be addressing that as well. There's no question about that.

JOHNSON: Here's the thing, Barack Obama already won the PR battle because (AUDIO GAP). Most gun owners in America are responsible, reasonable people. The NRA is running around saying let's arm teachers and slavery would never have happened if slaves have guns, I mean, there preposterous.

So Barack Obama has always been on the right side of history with this issue but he's not going to win the legislative battle and that's the real concern that people have. None of his proposals are going to pass Congress. Very few of them if they pass Congress will be implemented in any functional way at the state level. And that's the problem. But the PR battle was won the moment anyone start getting really concern about children getting killed.

COSTELLO: Well, and Rich I will say that the NRA's idea to arm security guards in schools has caught on in some school districts across the country.

GALEN: Let me take a wild flyer here, suggest of the five of us I'm the only one that owns a gun and is a member of the NRA, let me just posit that as sort of a wild guess. That's number one.

Number two is --

GRANDERSON: I'm a gun owner but I'm not a member of the NRA.

GALEN: Well, you know, I'll send you the form.

GRANDERSON: That's quite all right.

GALEN: I don't think there's anything wrong with going to -- for a local district, if they so choose, to use retired local cops who have known these kids. Knew their parents, maybe, and ask them if they would like to have a part-time job during the day in protecting that school. And I suspect a lot of communities would find that to be comforting to have somebody who knows because they even know who's supposed to be in there, who's not.

You know, going back to our Ohio days, I mean in Marietta, Ohio I guarantee a lot of retired cops know every single kid that goes to one of the elementary schools. COSTELLO: Ok. And just quickly, I'd like to end this segment. Like on a scale of one to ten, ten being the best shot, so to speak, how likely is it that some kind of bill is introduced in our legislature, in our lovely bodies of Congress, by the end of the year. Rich?

GALEN: Well, if it's such a good idea, Harry Reid can bring up a bill anytime he wants. So my guess is probably it's got two out of ten.


JOHNSON: Getting passed, you know, four out of ten.


CARDONA: Feinstein's already introduced a bill. Getting passed I think -- I'm going to give it, I'm going to give it more. I'm going to say seven out ten if we can get to where we agree. Universal background checks Carol, is somewhere where some Republicans have said they're agree with that. Let's start with that.


GRANDERSON: I'm going seven out of ten as well. I agree. I think there are some very sensible things that's been proven to be bipartisan that we can go through without actually saying, we're going to go in and get your guns out.

COSTELLO: Ok. But what are our Facebook friends saying. Let's check. Ok.

This from Matthew, "Gun makers and" --

Who's winning the war on guns? I should ask the question first.

This from Matthew, "Gun makers and campaign fund-raisers and especially the lawyers."

This from Justin, "Gun advocates, the left is really misunderstanding how pro-gun and rational the U.S. is".

And this from David, the criminals. The law abiding Americans argue who is right. Keep the conversation going or tweet me @Carolcnn.

Still ahead, scandals taking down some of the biggest name in Sports. "Talk Back" question for you, are there any hero athletes left?


COSTELLO: "Talk Back" question for you, "Are there any hero athletes left?"

Oscar Pistorius, once a hero, a double amputee who ran into Olympic history.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OSCAR PISTORIUS, OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALIST: Being in a international sports there's a little responsibility that comes with that. Having to toggle told that, remembering there are kids these days that look up to you is definitely something that you need to keep in the back of your mind.


COSTELLO: Now, Mr. Role model is accused of murder. Pistorius breaking down in court. Accused of shooting his girlfriend four times reportedly through a bathroom door. We don't know what happened, although his agent denies the murder charge.

Still, there are hints Pistorius may not be the man we thought he was. Police say there were allegations of a domestic nature at his name before this incidents. Sadly, the story is latest fallen hero. It's frankly exhausting. Lance, Tiger, A-Rod -- brought down from everything to cheating in sports to cheating on their wives. Maybe Charles Barkley was on to something.


CHARLES BARKLEY, FORMER NBA PLAYER: I am not a role model. I'm not paid to be a role model.


COSTELLO: But like it or not Sir Charles, we look up to people like you. So maybe it's time for us to look elsewhere. "Talk Back" question, are there any hero athlete left -- Rich?

GALEN: Yes, I mean Maria and I both live here in Washington, D.C. We have six professional sports teams. The only reason I know about this is because I'm on the nationals press list. They send me all their stuff.

And these men and women go to schools. They go to Bethesda to visit with Wounded Warriors. They do a lot of good stuff all the time but it doesn't make news. Nobody gets on the news for stopping at all the stop signs on their way to work.

So yes, I think a lot of these people make a ton of money and they work very hard for the community for coming out and see them play.

COSTELLO: Yes, but always in the back of your mind lurks suspicion that these people might not be -- come on, Jason. You get when I'm going with this?

JOHNSON: Look I understand. But see, the only hero athletes I appreciate are the ones who are successful on the field. I don't really care. I'm from Cleveland and I still root for Lebron and the Miami Heat. I know that's strange.

You know, but you look this Sunday is Michael Jordan's 50th birthday. Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player if not one of the best athletes in American history. But he was a nice guy. He was terrible to his roommates. He was probably unfaithful to his wife from what she said, but he's still a hero because of what he accomplished on the field. So that's what I think is the most important -- not what they do off the field..

COSTELLO: See, I think that "Hero" word is misplaced. Why is someone a hero, L.Z., simply because they're good at like making baskets?

GRANDERSON: They're a hero at the game. And I think we kind of built this meat off to create these people to be more noble than what they may actually be. I'll tell you, it's been a long time since an athlete's personal life has disappointed me. But when I read that story yesterday about Blade Runner that one hit me.

And I think it would have put it on for me -- I won't speak for anyone else. But definitely for me was about my own sort bias, right, because he was a double amputee. I wanted him to be even more noble because we were behind him because he was a double amputee and he did this great thing.

Had he been you know, fully able athlete, I mate not have been as surprised. But that factor added to it that made this story so much more shocking to me and perhaps I think other people as well. I'm trying to remember a time which we had heroes. You know, Ty Cobb was considered a racist back then. Babe Ruth was a philander as well. So where was the time in which we had these perfect athletes -- never?

I think that's what (inaudible) -- understand that these aren't perfect.

CARDONA: How about Roberto Clementi

COSTELLO: Well, Maria you have a point. Roberta Clemente, it was awful.

CARDONA: Roberto Clemente, look I think it all depends, the niece had this Carol.

What we mean by hero. And the fact that we tend to really overuse that term. And frankly apply it to people that don't deserve it. Yes, these people are who are incredibly successful in their field. Of sport. And that's fine. And if you want to call them a hero in that sport, that's fine. But I think it takes much more to be a hero.

And to Rich's point I do think that there are hero athletes. Roberto Clemente is an example. Steve Nash opened a cardiac clinic in Paraguay for little kids. You have others doing things in their home countries that again, you know, people don't really focus on.

Manny Pacquiao, for example, how much has he done for his home country?

So I think it really is upon us, the fact that we put this "hero" title on people who don't deserve it. '

But then I'll give you the other side of that, Lance Armstrong, Carol, how many cancer survivors are there that do think that Lance Armstrong is a hero for all of the money that he raised and all the focus that he put on cancer research? Again, I think it's upon us. And our definition --


GRANDERSON: -- is a hero.



GRANDERSON: I would argue that Manny Pacquiao was no hero either.


GALEN: You democrats are really cynical. You need to back down a little.

COSTELLO: No, Rich. You live in Washington. RG3. He's a fabulous athlete. He seems to be a fabulous human being. I'm just waiting for like something to drop. I don't want him to mess up because I admire him so much.

CARDONA: Pat Tillman who turned down a multimillion-dollar contract to fight for us after 9/11.

COSTELLO: He's a hero. But Rich I just wanted you to respond to my RG3 argument?

GALEN: Well, I mean, you know, if you're going to sit around, if you're going to look hard enough, you're going to find something wrong with everybody. This perfection is say religious concept. Not a political or sports concept.

CARDONA: And they're human.

JOHNSON: Right. Exactly. Arthur Ashe, you know, I mean Muhammad Ali. There are people out there who have been sports stars, who have been wonderful, political ambassadors. So it's not the question of. It's what are What are we looking at in a hero today. As far as I'm concerned, a hero is somebody who goes out, does their job well, doesn't get into a tremendous amount of trouble and gives me some entertainment on Friday and Saturday night. I'm not really looking for much more than that.


COSTELLO: That's what you call a hero.


COSTELLO: We've got to wrap this up although it's been great fun.

I want to thank my guest for joining me today. L.Z. Granderson, Maria Cardona, Jason Johnson. Thank you Rich Galen. Thank you for talking back. Of course, we want to hear from our Facebook friends too on this issue. Are there any hero athletes left.

This from Kel, "We should not put anyone on a pedestal as a hero until they do something heroic. Is athletic prowess heroic Does it save a life or improve the quality of life."

This from Michael. "Peyton Manning, not only a great athlete but an excellent role model. Contributed a lot to Indianapolis, including a fine children's hospital."

This from Javier, "Be be your own hero. Role model and one to set and achieve standards.

Please keep the conversation going, or tweet me at Carol CNN.


COSTELLO: I'm Carol Costello. Thank you so much for joining me today, CNN NEWSROOM continues right now with Ashleigh Banfield.

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you so much Carol Costello. Hi everybody and let's start this way.

A fireball streak to the sky slams into Russia. More than 1,000 people now reported hurt by the flying glass. The collapsing buildings. Look at the images. Listen to the sound -- 1,000 people. We're going to take you there for more details.

And also now that those 4,000 people are off that disgusting cruise ship, what happens to the ship now.

And that Olympic athlete, Oscar Pistorius accused of murdering his girlfriend in his own home, collapses and sobs in court.