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What is the Gun Control Debate Really About?; Will Gitmo Ever Close?; Rumors Fly That Jimmy Fallon is Set to Replace Jay Leno

Aired March 21, 2013 - 0945   ET



CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Thank you for being with us. I'm Carol Costello. Time for "Political Buzz." "Political Buzz" is your rapid fire look at the top political topics of the day. Three topics, 30 seconds on the clock. Playing today, Jason Johnson, chief political correspondent for "Politic365,"and political science professor at Hiram College. And John Avlon, CNN contributor and senior political columnist for "Newsweek/The Daily Beast."

Welcome gentlemen.


COSTELLO: Good morning. First up, Steven King, the author, the man best known for horror novels, we he's turning his attention to gun violence. In an op-ed King, himself a gun owner, writes that he doesn't want to overturn the second amendment, he does say it's time for both sides to stop the rhetoric and think about the bigger pitcure. King says, quote, "you can outlaw AR-15s, but you the can't outlaw crazy. The next Adam Lanza is out there somewhere. The job we all have as responsible Americans to make it as hard for these loonies as possible. Can we at least find a middle ground on that?" end quote. But as King points out there is no middle ground on guns or anything else in this country. And let's face it. Is the gun argument in the country really about the safety of children anymore? The question, what is the gun argument really about?

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Carol, I love Stephen King's essay. This is Stephen King as a radical centrist. We need more of them out there, kind of planting that flag making a strong case. The crazies on either side have disproportionately dominated the debate. And there is a rational middle ground. Reasonable gun restrictions are not about overturning the second amendment. So let's stop buying it into that myth. We need more voices like this out there, bringing people together and tuning out the crazies. Rooted in reality.


JOHNSON: The core of the gun argument is just who's asking. If this was any other president who was saying we need gun control, the Republicans would probably be more reasonable with it. All you need is that it should be as difficult to get a gun as it is to get a driver's license. You should have to prove that you can shoot it, you should have to prove that you're going to be responsible, and you should have to get gun insurance. These are simple solutions, but the argument is about Obama, not about kids and it really not event about ideology anymore.

COSTELLO: All right, on to question number two. It was one of the signature issues of Obama's first campaign for the White House. The president's pledge to close Gitmo.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have said repeatedly that I intend to close Guantanamo, and I will follow through on that.


COSTELLO: But once in office, President Obama found it hard to keep that promise. As concerns over where to house the detainees grew. Now, we're learning that a hunger strike at the detention facility is expanding to 25. One U.S. general is playing down those reports, though, saying action is a result of anger at President Obama.


GEN, JOHN KELLY, COMMANDER, U.S. SOUTHERN COMMAND: They were particularly put off, I'm told, when the president has made no mention of closing the facility. He said nothing in the inauguration speech, and this is them bringing this up to us. Nothing in the inauguration speech about closing it. Nothing in the "State of the Union."


COSTELLO: In January, the office working to close Gitmo set up by the president, it was closed itself. The special envoy in charge, reassigned, with no plans whatsoever to replace him. Our question, will Gitmo ever close? Jason.

JOHNSON: You know what? It probably won't and this is one of the great embarrassments of the 21st century in the United States. These are men and women, these are men who are accused of crime. It's not Lex Luthos, it's not The Joker, they're not super-criminals. They deserve trials and we should use the American system to find these people guilty and then put them in a real prison, not holding them forever. And this is an embarrassment that Obama really should take care of.


AVLON: Yes, the reality is, of course, it's not that easy. There is a gap between campaign rhetoric and the responsibilities of office. We have created an extra legal situation. If it was easy to close Guantanamo, it could have been done. And we should try these folks in the United States. It is doable. It doesn't help that Congress cut off funding to move them to mainland prisons. But if this was easy, it would have been done. So let's focus on the facts.

COSTELLO: Finally, your buzzer beater, actually let's go 30 seconds on this one because it's one of my favorite topics this morning. It turns out Jay Leno is a conservative darling, at least for blogger Matt Drudge (ph). Drudge (ph) tweeting his anger over reports that Leno may be replaced by Jimmy Fallon. Writing in part that Leno dared to offer jokes for the other 50 percent of the country and not just liberals. Perhaps Drudge (ph) was talking about moments like this.


JAY LENO, HOST, ""TONIGHT SHOW"": After losing two presidential elections in a row, the Republican party now has now outlined a plan to attract minorities. They want to attract minorities, women, gay, lesbian, young voters. Show the newest ad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get ready, America, for a brand new Republican party. We've changed our position on just about everything. For starters, we'll raise taxes on everyone who makes more money than you. Also, we decided we're A-okay with same-sex marriages. In fact, we'll pay for the honeymoon. And lastly, we'll not only embrace immigrants, we'll make it easier to get into the country by installing a moving sidewalk on the border. The new, more inclusive, Republican party. Sign up today and get a free bag of weed.


COSTELLO: I just love that. Actually, Leno is doing what Rush Limbaugh and others have done all week. They are mocking that recent Republican autopsy and a plan to broaden the party. For his part, Leno seems to agree with Drudge (ph) about having what you call a big comedy tent.


LENO: I'm kind of old school. I try to reach that broad audience, where you reach everybody. The ""Tonight Show"" is different from "The Daily Show," and Colbert and some of these shows, because I think they have a specific audience. And excellent. Nobody funnier than Colbert and Jon Stewart. But they are reaching a specific audience. I'm reaching, hopefully, some of that audience, maybe some of their friends, maybe some of their parents, maybe some of their kids. We're going for a wide scope.


COSTELLO: So our question, are conservatives overlooked in popular culture? Jason?

JOHNSON: No. This is a ridiculous question. It's not that Jay Leno reaches the other 50 percent. It's that he's reaching people 50 and older. He talks to an older crowd, an older audience. I was a Conan O'Brien kid when I was in college. That's why he's going to be moved by Jimmy Fallon. The truth of the matter is conservatives don't tend it be funny. Look, no one has liked Dennis Miller since he's left Saturday Night Live. If there were conservatives out there that were funny, they wouldn't get overlooked by pop culture. That's their problem.

COSTELLO: That is cold.

JOHNSON: It's true.


AVLON: Look, the question is, are conservatives overlooked in popular culture. The reality is that conservatives end up being very often at war with popular culture. They're trying to basically do a flanking move with much of modernity, because they want to conserve the past. They are traditionalists. While there is space for libertarian "South Park" conservatives, that makes fun of politically correct excesses, conservatives who feel like they are locked out from popular culture better look in the mirror and get with the program, and start working with American culture as it is, not as they wish it was or as it was in the past.

COSTELLO: Jason Johnson, John Avlon, thank you for playing today.


COSTELLO: Coming up, Jimmy Fallon might join the ranks of Johnny Cason on the ""Tonight Show"." And of course that means good-bye, Jay Leno. NBC, thought, isn't talking, but it's building a new studio. We'll tell you more about that too.


COSTELLO: Okay. We talked about Jay Leno going bye-bye. And Jimmy Fallon replacing him. Jimmy Fallon talked about that rumor on his show. Let's listen.


JIMMY FALLON, COMEDIAN: Before we get started, I have to talk about the rumors that came out today, which says that I will be moving up to 11:30, or as my parents call it, still too late. The rumors are true, NBC is turning the "Tonight Show" into a diving competition. So exciting.


COSTELLO: Why not just confirm it? We all know it, NBC is building a new studio in New York for Jimmy Fallon. Here's CNN's Nichelle Turner.


NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Could the "Tonight Show" return to New York with "Late Night's" Jimmy Fallon taking over for Jay Leno. According to various reports, it might happen by the fall of 2014 and the latest. No official word yet, but NBC is building a brand new New York studio for Fallon who already broadcasts from the Big Apple.

FALLON: Thank you for tuning in.

TURNER: The dramatic cross country move would take the late-night talk show back to its roots where Steve Allen, Jack Parr and Johnny Carson held court from 30 Rockefeller Center. In 1972, Carson, looking for easier access to Hollywood guests, took the show to the west coast. So, why go back to New York?

JOE FLINT, L.A. TIMES MEDIA REPORTER: That's his comfort zone, where Lorn Michaels, who over sees his show is, these days, air travel is a lot easier and a lot of stars are in New York as well. So I don't think that will hurt him too much.

TURNER: "L.A. Times" writer Joe Flint says don't forget that other Jimmy.

FLINT: Advertisers pay more for younger viewers and Jimmy Kimmel, since moving to 11:30 from midnight is making inroads in that audience. NBC wants to get Fallon in there sooner rather than later before Kimmel gets too established.

TURNER: Kimmel spoke to CNN's Jake Tapper about Fallon taking over the "Tonight Show."

JAKE TAPPER, HOST, "THE LEAD": There is talk about Mr. Leno's departure, although I've read those stories before.

JIMMY KIMMEL, COMEDIAN: I know. You read stories and really never know if they are true or not, unless you hear it from somebody over there.

TAPPER: It has to be a direct response to you coming and --

KIMMEL: God, I hope so. I really hope. I don't know. I mean, I have no idea. Obviously, NBC is looking to move on, because they did it once already. This would be the second time that this has happened. So I mean, it makes perfect sense and Jimmy Fallon is doing a great job, very popular. Eventually it will happen, one way or the other.

LENO: St. Patrick drove all of the snakes out of Ireland and they came to the United States and became NBC executives.

TURNER: How does Leno feel about all of this?

FLINT: Jay is still number one, but his grasp on the audience has slipped a little bit and he knows he won't be in this job forever. And there was always a little bit of tension between Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien that doesn't really exist between him and Jimmy Fallon, so I think that also helps as well. There's just better relationships there all around.

TURNER: In fact, according to "The Hollywood Reporter", Fallon called Leno to smooth things over and ease the transition of coasts and hosts.

Nischelle Turner, CNN, Hollywood.


COSTELLO: And there's a lot more about the late night TV wars on the interview with Jimmy Kimmel and Jake Tapper that's today on the "The Lead with Jake Tapper", that's at 4:00 p.m. Eastern, only on CNN.


COSTELLO: 48 minutes past the hour. Time to check our top stories. A full-scale manhunt underway this morning for the person who killed Colorado's prison chief. Tom Clements was shot in the chest Tuesday night when he answered the door at his home near Colorado Springs. Police have very little to go on but hope to talk to a woman walking in the area and the driver of a boxy looking car spotted at the time of the shooting.

And this coffee it might be the world's strongest brew. At least that's what its makers say. It's called "Death Wish" coffee. It's roasted in upstate New York and claims to have 520 milligrams of caffeine in a 12-ounce cup. Compare that to 260 milligrams found in your average 12 ounce mug at Starbucks, and that's a whole lot of caffeine.

Oh the Autobots and the Decepticons are coming back and they're headed to the Motor City, the Michigan film offices says "Transformers 4" will be filmed this spring in the Detroit area. The state is doling out $20 million in incentives for the sci-movie project which is expected to hire more than 300 local people.

Did you ever wonder if that junk have you been saving for a yard sale is worth big, big money? Our next story will make you think twice about selling your old stuff for pennies on the dollar. Here's Zain Verjee.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hi, Carol. Why wasn't this me? Why didn't I buy the bowl, or you? Well it doesn't sound real, but take a look at it. This bowl was picked up for just three bucks, $3. It just sold for $2.2 million in New York City. The white bowl is actually a really rare Chinese artifact from the Song dynasty. Curators are saying it's 1,000 years old. The buyer -- the lucky buyer just stumbled on it at a regular yard sale about five years ago and he just kept the treasure in his living room for years. It wasn't until he had it valued that he realized what it was worth. The bowl is now in the hands of a wealthy London dealer. It's close to me now, I know where it is, but I can't afford it, Carol.

COSTELLO: Me neither. Thank you, Zain.

The field of 64 are set. Are your brackets ready? The two final teams punched their tickets to the NCAA tourney. "Bleacher Report", next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COSTELLO: Our "Talk Back" question today. "Will Gitmo ever close?"

This from Marie, "Keep it. The release would be a hazard to all countries."

From Dale, "Gitmo will never close, because the countries that the detainees are from don't want them back and our allies won't share in the workload."

And from Jeremy, "Gitmo is one of those things which people refer to as a necessary evil. It needs to close, but what happens afterwards and just how evil does it make us for keeping it open?"

Please continue the conversation, or tweet me @carolCNN. Thanks, as always, for your comments.


COSTELLO: The Heat is on in the NBA. Lebron James and the NBA champs won their 24th straight after mounting an amazing comeback.

Andy Scholes is here with today's Bleacher Report.


The Heat are now just nine wins away from tying the 71-72 Lakers for the longest winning streak in the NBA history. And the way they kept their streak alive last night in Cleveland was incredible.

The game got off to an odd start. The tip-off was delayed about 35 minutes because the scoreboard was leaking some sort of liquid. Now, the delay must have affected the Heat, because they fell behind by 27 points. And teams trailing by 27 or more in the second half had come back to win only five times in 2,018 games, coming into last night.

But once again, Lebron would not be denied. He led a furious comeback in the final 18 minutes. He finished with a triple double as the Heat win in amazing fashion, 98-95 to keep the streak alive.

And one of the craziest moments from last night's game is the number two story in the line up on right now. A Cavs fan donning a "We miss you, Lebron" t-shirt ran on the court in the fourth quarter, but he didn't rattle King James.


LEBRON JAMES, NBA PLAYER: He just said he missed me and come back, please, and I didn't have much time to say much to him, because, you know, the security got to him. But I just patted him on the head.


SCHOLES: And playing games for the big dance wrapping up last night. LaSalle back in the tournament for the first time in 21 year and has no problem with Boise State. They won 80-71 and will play Kansas State on Friday. Rounding out the field of 64 will be James Madison. The Dukes won their first tournament game in 30 years, taking care of LIU Brooklyn 58-55 to earn them a matchup with one seed Indiana in round two. By now you should have your brackets filled out and ready to go for today's action. And in case you had any hope of ending up with a perfect bracket, let me end that for you right now. The odds of filling out a perfect bracket are 1 in over 9.2 quintillion.

Now to put that number in perspective, if all the people on earth filled out bracket per second it would take over 43 years to fill out every possible brackets. Also of all possible brackets were stacked on top of each other, the pile would reach from the moon and back, over 1.1 million times.

Carol, there is some good news. If you know something about basketball and the tournament, like 16 seeds don't beat one seed, your chances increase to 1 in 128 billion.

COSTELLO: How long did it take you to figure out all that math Andy?

SCHOLES: I'm crunching some numbers. I had my calculator out earlier today going through it.

COSTELLO: I heard it exploding. Thanks Andy.

The next hour of "CNN NEWSROOM" starts right now.

Happening now in the NEWSROOM, 50 Chicago elementary schools closing. Mayor Rahm Emanuel set to announce the plan today. Critics say it targets minorities and the poor.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Any part of Chicago that's trying to rebuild, the neighborhood is important.


COSTELLO: Parents, as you heard, they want answers.

Also, accused of slapping a baby on a flight. This man says he is not guilty, he was just stressed out.

And racing against time to make a life or death decision, his own son on life support.

Also the legal battle over Monster Energy drink. The caffeine stays the same but there is a major change --