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Interview with Aaron David Miller; Should the United States Act on Chemical Weapons in Syria?; Democrats Drop Assault Weapons Ban; Christine Lagarde's Home Raided in Paris; New Colorado Bill Requires Gun Background Checks; Christine LaGarde's Home Raided

Aired March 20, 2013 - 09:30   ET



MICHAEL MOORE, FILMMAKER "BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE": In my blog I talked about a young man by the name of Emmitt Till, 1955, a young black kid that was murdered down south simply because he was black. And his mother insisted that there bow an open coffin because she wanted photographers, the news people, to see what happened to this 14-year- old boy, to see what racism and bigotry does. That galvanized the country back then. It was just three months later that Rosa Parks refused to get up out of her seat on that bus.


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: No Newtown parent we know of has offered the public a picture of their murdered child. The question, will the Newtown death photos force lawmakers to enact new gun laws? Or you can tweet me @carolcnn.

This morning President Obama is in Israel to discuss issues both sensitive and ominous. Among them Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons and growing concern that Syria used chemical weapons. The high-stakes talks come amid strained ties between Obama and the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In a "Washington Post" op-ed one Middle East expert describes things this way. "This odd couple's ties are the most tenuous we've seen between the White House and Jerusalem. From the beginning the Obama administration has prompted a batten- down-the-hatches mentality in Netanyahu's circle," end quote.

Joining us news is the author of that op-ed, Aaron David Miller. He was a Middle East negotiator in Democratic and Republican administrations and is now vice president and distinguished scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Good morning.


COSTELLO: We often hear things aren't good between Netanyahu and President Obama, but how strained are they?

MILLER: You know, with the exception of David Ben-Gurion and Dwight Eisenhower, whose relationship probably was more strained and tense over the Suez crisis, this has got to be the most dysfunctional relationship between an American president and an Israeli prime minister probably in the history of the relationship. That's saying quite a lot because you've had a couple of pretty dysfunctional pairs. I think the president frankly is in Israel because of the intersection of politics on one hand and policy on the other. You know, being good on Israel helps him politically with Republicans who continue to hammer the fact that somehow he's anti-Israel. Even among members of his own party, so I think he wants to clear that issue away to create a new relationship not only with Netanyahu if he can but with the Israeli public. And then there's some serious issues, not only Syria, but the reality is if Barack Obama doesn't want to be the American president on whose watch Iran gets a nuclear weapon and on whose watch the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian problem expires, he's going to have to find a way to work with Netanyahu. And by the way, vice versa, because the prime minister bears a lot of responsibility for the soap opera that has been the U.S./Israeli relationship.

COSTELLO: Let's talk about Iran and nuclear weapons. There's these stringent like terrible sanctions now placed on Iran but that doesn't seem to be stopping the country from developing a nuclear weapon, so what can Israel or the United States do now? I mean what will the -- if we could be a fly on the wall, what are they discussing as an option?

MILLER: Look, I think the president is telling the prime minister that they have done about all they can on the sanctions side. Now they're trying diplomacy. I think he's going to make a pitch to the prime minister. Give me the time and the space to work with the P-5 plus 1, the five permanent members of the security council in Germany, to see if we can work out some deal on enrichment. But I'm giving you my assurance that if in fact sanctions and diplomacy don't work, I'll have your back on this one and I will make good on what I've said publicly, that we will use every option, including military force, to make sure that the mullahs (ph) do not get a deliverable nuclear weapon.

COSTELLO: So is the biggest fear from the United States' standpoint that Israel on its own will attack Iran?

MILLER: I think the odds of that happening, and there was a lot of concern of that last year, really aren't great. I think the Israelis understand that there's no real end state if they strike. Their capacities are limited, the regional complications are immense. What they want to do is, frankly, make this Barack Obama's problem. And it is a challenge to the United States. We can't afford to see Iran with a nuclear weapon for all kinds of reasons. It would be transformative in a negative sense for the region at large. So I think they are going to cooperate on this. Obama's tenure, his legacy and his status as a lame duck are going to compete with one another and Netanyahu may also be looking at the end of his tenure as a prime minister having served next year longer than any other prime minister in Israel's history, so time is not an ally right now, it's an adversary. And I think it's going to compel both men to try to find a way to work together.

COSTELLO: Aaron David Miller, thanks so much. We appreciate it.

MILLER: Thanks, Carol.

COSTELLO: "Political Buzz" is your rapid fire look at the best political topics of the day. Three topics, 30 seconds on the clock. Playing with us, Jason Johnson a political science professor and chief political correspondent for "Politic365," and Katon Dawson, a national Republican consultant and former chairman of the South Carolina Republican party. Welcome to you both.


COSTELLO: Let's start with a tough one. First up, chemical weapons in Syria. Syrian forces versus the rebels, both accusing each other of using chemical weapons. Some experts debate whether any chemical weapons were used, but chairman of the House Intelligence Committee says there is a high probability they were.


REP. MIKE ROGERS, (R) HOUSE INTELLIGENCE CMTE CHAIRMAN: That they are either positioned for use and ready to do that or in fact have been used. Both of those scenarios I think we need to step up in the world community to prevent a humanitarian disaster.


COSTELLO: Now, remember, President Obama called the use of chemical weapons in Syria a redline. That the United States would have to act in some say militarily if Syria starts moving around those chemical weapons. So our question, is it time for the United States to intervene in Syria? Jason?

JASON JOHNSON, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, POLITIC365: I don't know if we can afford to intervene at this point seeing how the sequester is going to be limiting our military capacity in the next couple of weeks and next couple of months. No. I think it was nice rhetoric by Barack Obama, but we've much more important things to be looking at. We have to make sure Iran doesn't get a nuclear weapon, we have to make sure the two-state solution doesn't disappear in Israel. Whether or not the Syrian government in the beginning of their civil war was using chemical weapons doesn't need to be a priority right now.


KATON DAWSON, NATIONAL REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: For once I agree with the president, laying the marker down. The United States of America has never sat on the sidelines when people have created this type of chaos against their own people so I think certainly Senator McCain and Senator Graham along with the president have laid a marker down what is proper and right. This is a serious thing. When people use chemical weapons against themselves, what else will they use against their neighbors? I think the president was correct, he was right, it's very serious and something that should concern the American public. We're certainly weary of war and conflicts, but we're a country that looks out.

COSTELLO: Topic two, Senator Harry Reid, a Democrat, is dropping a proposed ban on assault weapons from a new gun control bill because he says it has no chance, zero -- I can't even get it out. It has zero chance of passing but Reid says another senator could bring it up as an amendment in the future. In a recent ABC News/"Washington Post" poll, 57 percent of Americans say they support an assault weapons ban. The NRA opposes it. Now liberals like Michael Moore are slamming Democrats.


MOORE: This attitude of, well, we're not going to be able to -- we're not going -- you know, this is why our side. We have these weenies on our side. Well, if we can't get the votes, you know.


COSTELLO: Michael Moore says introduce the bill. Let Republicans vote against it. So my question, are Democrats weenies for not bringing an assault weapons ban to the floor? Katon?

DAWSON: For once this dysfunctional place called Washington is trying to come together with an agreement, and certainly the second amendment stands fairly firm in this argument. Again, there has been a lot of pain caused in America and more from the mental health side than probably the gun control side. Whether Michael Moore calls somebody a name or not I find comical, but at the end of the day I think partisanship maybe will work out and they'll work an agreement. Senator Reid was probably being very pragmatic on what the vote was going to look like in the United States Senate.

JOHNSON: Weenie isn't good enough. We need like Gerkins, this level of cowardice on the part of the Democratic party is preposterous. Put the bill forward. If the Republicans don't like it, if conservative Democrats don't like it, that's fine. But this idea of self censoring legislation because you don't think it's going to pass, that is not what people vote for. They vote for members of Congress, they vote for senators to push through policy, not to back up because think it's going to be inconvenient or they can't pass it.

COSTELLO: Now on to the buzzer beater, 20 seconds on the clock. Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann was practically running away from CNN's Dana Bash refusing to answer questions about claims she made about the president at CPAC, the conservative conference. Bachmann accused the president of wasting taxpayer money on lavish perks and excesses in the White House like chefs and a dog walker. Those claims are either misleading, unsubstantiated or completely false. As you can see, Michele Bachmann wasn't exactly eager to answer questions about that. My question this morning, how does making false claims about President Obama impact the Republicans' re- branding efforts? Jason?

JOHNSON: You know, the Republicans have such a re-branding problem going all the way back to their primary. But in all honesty, lies about the president and his lifestyle is not nearly as bad as having a CPAC committee where somebody was talking about how they support slavery. I think what the Republicans need to do in general is they need to get specific about policy and not talk about personality and not talk about all these other social issues that don't really matter. They need to talk about the budget and things that they're good at.


DAWSON: Well, look, that's why we have CNN and why we have reporters. Michele Bachmann needs to answer those questions. But at the end of the day, CPAC is a good organization. It brought a lot of things to light. But you've got to tell the truth and you've got to have facts when you're a public official. That's why we have primaries and general elections.

COSTELLO: All right, Jason Johnson, Katon Dawson thanks for playing today, appreciate it.

JOHNSON: Thank you.

DAWSON: Thank you.

COSTELLO: Coming up, we'll have more on that unbelievable shooting out of Colorado. The executive director of the department of corrections, the man in charge of all of the prisons in Colorado opens his front door and is shot in the chest. More to come next.



COSTELLO: At 45 minutes past the hour, we have breaking news out of Paris, France. French police have raided the home of international monetary fund chief Christine Lagarde. The IMF is a group that helps struggling countries in trouble manage their finances. We're going to get more information on this developing story as it comes to us. It's a strange story out of Paris. As you know, Lagarde is the first woman to head up the IMF. We'll keep you posted.

Today the state of Colorado is going to do something the federal government has not. Sign new gun legislation into law. Colorado's governor will sign bills that require universal background checks for gun sales, make buyers pay for those checks, and limit the size of ammunition magazines. But today's historic signings come as Colorado mourns the death of the executive director of the department of corrections, the man in charge of Colorado prisons. Tom Clements was shot and killed at his home last night and right now police have no suspects. Colorado state representative Rhonda Fields is in the Newsroom. Welcome.


COSTELLO: Thank you for being here. You know, I want to start with the shooting death of Tom Clements. When you heard about it, what went through your mind?

FIELDS: I was very shocked and saddened. Our director is such a kind leader. He was very competent. And I'm not quite sure why someone would do that. My heart goes out to his family.

COSTELLO: And I'm sure it does even more than most because you have tragedy in your own life with gun violence.

FIELDS: Absolutely. Absolutely. So I -- I know first-hand what it feels like to lose a loved one.

COSTELLO: Let's talk about these -- these gun laws in Colorado. Maybe the secret to getting gun laws passed is a Democratic Governor and most chambers of the state legislature being Democratic. Is that it?

FIELDS: You know, basically it just takes bold leadership. It's putting together the right policy that that makes common sense. It's a reasonable approach to require background checks to purchase a gun. We've limited the capacity for high-capacity magazines. And then you also mentioned paying for your own background check. So these are just reasonable measures to keep our community safe.

COSTELLO: When you look at the federal government's efforts to pass some sort of gun control measures, what do you think about the lawmakers in Washington?

FIELDS: Well, you know, I think they need to get busy, because to make our nation a lot safer, we need to have common gun safety reform across the nation. So I think they need to get busy.

COSTELLO: There seems to be consequences though about these gun laws signed -- or these gun control measures signed into law in Colorado, because one company that manufactures ammunition has threatened to move out. You know, they employ hundreds of people, so what do you say to that company to make them stay?

FIELDS: You know, nothing in the legislature and in the bill that we created indicates that they need to leave the state of Colorado. So you know, this is a business decision that they're making. I wish they would not do that. We would like for them to stay. But however, it's their choice to do what they think that they need to do.

COSTELLO: But is it worth it?

FIELDS: Absolutely. I mean the legislation that we're signing, if it's going to save a life, then I believe that we should be protecting our citizens and our children and our community.

COSTELLO: Colorado State Representative Rhonda Fields, thanks so much for joining us this morning.

FIELDS: Thank you.

COSTELLO: And as I mentioned, the Colorado Governor, Governor Hickenlooper will hold a news conference right at the top of the hour in about ten minutes -- actually about 12 minutes. Of course we'll bring that to you live.

Still ahead, we'll also read your responses to our "Talk Back" question of the day. "Will the Newtown death photos force lawmakers to enact new gun laws?" or tweet me @carolCNN.


COSTELLO: "Talk Back" question of the day and it's at a hot one. I can see we have just about 300 comments already. The question for you this morning, "Will the Newtown death photos force lawmakers to enact new gun laws?"

This from Dennis, "Perhaps, but I'm not sure those photos should be in the public domain. I personally don't think I could bear to look at them."

This from Charles he says, "Pictures like that need not be shown to the public. It is hard enough losing a child but to show the pictures of them is not necessary. Democrats will do anything to get what they want."

This from Glen, "No, we love guns in this country and we have accepted the heartbreak and misery that gun violence causes. To be an American means that you are willing to accept the death of a loved one as a worthwhile price to pay."

Please keep the conversation going. It's quite heated and interesting actually. I love reading -- reading those comments at the break. or tweet me @carolCNN.


COSTELLO: It is a very busy morning here at CNN. Back to that breaking news out of Paris: French police have raided the home of International Monetary Fund Chief Christine Lagarde. The IMF is a group that helps struggling countries in trouble manage their finances, so it's a very powerful financial organization.

Jim Bittermann is on the phone. I believe Jim's in France. Why did they raid her apartment?

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this dates back to a case that started 20 years ago in France. It's in connection with the businessman, Bernard Tapie, a French businessman. The IMF by the way was aware of the fact that the police were investigating this matter when she was named the director.

But in any case, the case has been dragging on for some time now. Basically, she appointed an arbitration panel to look into the case of the businessman who had sold a property to a bank that was then owned by the French government and the question was, did she know that the arbitrator had had business connections or at least but Bernard Tapie's lawyer.

If the case, did she know that the arbitrator that she was naming was dealing with the same lawyer as Bernard Tapie and did that in some way allow Bernard Tapie to in the end get a favorable verdict from the arbitrators, which ended up with tens of millions of euros going into Bernard Tapie's pocket.

It's really a long-standing case and the police raided her home, because they were trying to turn up any further information. There's a very dogged prosecutor who's been pursuing this for some time. And the prosecutor has apparently ordered the police to look into her personal, her home, for whatever they could find in her home that might indicate that she had some kind of knowledge about the background of the arbitrator.

COSTELLO: Jim Bittermann, I'm sure you'll keep on this story.


COSTELLO: Again, the French police have raided the home of the International Monetary Fund Chief, Christine Lagarde. Of course, we'll keep you posted on this story.

The next hour of CNN NEWSROOM after a quick break.


COSTELLO: Happening now in the NEWSROOM, four homemade bombs, guns, and a checklist for a massacre.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He just pulled a fire alarm and he's got a gun out.

COSTELLO: The 911 call that saved lives at a Florida college.