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Interview With Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright; New Problems for Carnival Triumph; Interview With Ted Turner; Madeleine Albright Weighs in on North Korea; Rutgers Fires Coach Over Abusive Video; President Pushes for Tough New Gun Safety Laws; CNN Founder Working to Save Planet; Hovering Around the Golf Course

Aired April 3, 2013 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: North Korea says its plans for a nuclear attack against the United States, they say those plans are ready to go.

This hour, the former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright here is in THE SITUATION ROOM. We will talk about the possibility of war.

New problems for the Carnival Triumph, the same ship that trapped passengers on a filthy cruise from hell.

And new details about an arrest and threat as investigators try to solve the mystery of who's killing Texas prosecutors.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

The breaking news this hour, North Korea's most brazen and provocative threats so far. Kim Jong-un's regime claiming plans now are set for what they describe as a merciless nuclear attack against the United States. The Pentagon is taking defensive action right now, vowing to take North Korea's aggression very seriously in case this is more than just saber-rattling.

Kyung Lah standing by in South Korea. Tom Foreman is standing by here in our virtual studio, and our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr is over at the Pentagon.

First to you, Barbara, with the very latest. What's going on?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, earlier today the Pentagon announced it was sending a missile defense system to the U.S. territory of Guam, 2,000 miles east of the Korean Peninsula in the Pacific Ocean because the North Korean regime has threatened also to attack the U.S. base in Guam.

The question on the table, is this all rhetoric or is it serious, is there a threat? U.S. officials shaking their heads at these latest words out of Pyongyang. The assessment is that, look, North Korea could not readily attack the continental United States, Alaska or Hawaii with its missiles or its nuclear capability.

It could attack, of course, the 28,000 troops just across the border in South Korea. It's put the entire region on edge, and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel made clear today how soberly he is taking all of this.


CHUCK HAGEL, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: I hope the North will ratchet this very dangerous rhetoric down. There is a pathway that's responsible for the North to get on a path to peace, working with their neighbors.


STARR: But make no mistake, one of the big challenges here is the lack of U.S. intelligence about exactly what the North Koreans are up to. The U.S. has satellites overhead. It can get some information from the Chinese. But it doesn't have any direct knowledge on the ground.

So far, they say, they believe there are no unusual North Korean troop movements, but that may be small comfort, all of this being watched now around the clock, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Barbara Starr.

Let's go to South Korea right now, where fears of war with the North, they are very real.

Kyung Lah is in Seoul, South Korea, watching all of this unfold.

There must be a lot of nervousness looking at the bizarre behavior of this young Korean -- North Korean leader.

KYUNG LAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, bizarre is what they're used to here when dealing with Pyongyang.

And when South Koreans hear this sort of rhetoric directed at them, this is something they're used to. North Korea for years has been saying to Seoul, which is, again, about an hour south of the North Korean border, they're used to hearing that they're going to melt down into a sea of flames. That's something the North likes to say.

The difference this time, with this particular statement, is that it's directed at the U.S., directed right at the U.S. This statement came out at 4:00 a.m. local time, Kim Jong-un not speaking to his people. He is speaking to America saying, OK, you're going to move warships here, F-22s, you're going to move a defense system to Guam, this is North Korea reacting.

Viewed in a slightly different lens from the ground level here in South Korea because they are so used to it, but there is that concern, Wolf, that Kim Jong-un, man-child that he may be, still has his finger on the nuclear button.

BLITZER: What worries me, Kyung, is that there could be some miscalculation. The North Koreans could do what they did a couple years ago, blow up a South Korean warship, kill a lot of South Korean sailors. At that time, the South Korean government did not respond, did not take retaliation. But this time, there's a new leader, and she's pretty tough right now. She presumably would be under a lot of pressure to respond. Who knows what would happen after that.

LAH: She's pretty tough, as you say, and she also has something extraordinary to prove.

Just like Kim Jong-un is 28, 29, something to prove to himself, and to the international community, this woman, the first female president for this country, in a male-dominated society, certainly has something that she needs to prove. She wants to show that she is behind her people. But something you should also understand, while we're hearing all this rhetoric, all this smoke and mirrors at the front, what we're also seeing is this president is still allowing the very first shipment of humanitarian aid to go into the North.

We just spoke to an NGO. They're going to be able to deliver tuberculosis medicine into North Korea. The government here in South Korea is still allowing that shipment to take place. That is significant, because it does show that even though the South Korean president is being very strong with her rhetoric as well, she still is extending a hand to North Korea.

BLITZER: Cool heads prevail all around. Kyung Lah in Seoul.

There's clearly a lot of concern and uncertainty about what the new young leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un, is up to.

CNN's Tom Foreman is in our virtual studio with retired U.S. Army General and CNN contributor Spider Marks, who studied North Korea's military for several years.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, despite the global implications that would follow if North and South Korea went to full- on war, the truth is, the Korean Peninsula would really bear the brunt of all of this. That's where most of the fighting would take place.

We know the DMZ between the South and North is so heavily fortified that neither side can just charge in and go across that land to attack the other. If the North wanted to set this up and make it happen, what do they do?

BRIG. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Tom, the very first thing we're going to see is large concentrations of artillery and missile fire from the North against targets in the South, for example, Seoul, which is just a little south of the DMZ.

What's interesting is the firing positions are on the north slope of the mountains that define the DMZ. Very difficult for the coalition forces in the South to see those pieces before they're activated.

FOREMAN: So while that firing is occurring from these mountains down here, what else is going on from the North?

MARKS: The North is going to activate the insertion of special operations forces, both along the coasts.

FOREMAN: Taking them in by ship or submarines?

MARKS: By submarines most likely, as well as the activation of sleeper agents that have been in the South, in some cases as many as a couple of decades, identifying targets for these missiles and for these artillery pieces.

FOREMAN: OK. The U.S. and South Korea is not just going to sit this while all of this happens, so what is the immediate response if such an attack took place?

MARKS: Number one is the U.S. Navy will increase its presence. For example...

FOREMAN: More aircraft carriers?


MARKS: More aircraft carriers. More aircraft is what we're looking for.

You have aircraft that's in Japan, you have aircraft that's in South Korea. You now have these aircraft to go against these firing positions that are targeting the South. It's called the counterfirefight. And once that's accomplished, they will then go after the command-and-control capabilities, as well as the air defenses.

FOREMAN: Communications, air defenses.

MARKS: You got it.

FOREMAN: So they can control the sky.

MARKS: Completely own this airspace above North Korea.

FOREMAN: And then what happens?

MARKS: Then they will probably go after some very specific targets like bridging in the North to eliminate the freedom of movement so the North Korean forces cannot maneuver in their own country.

FOREMAN: All right. So if all of that happens, obviously you have a shift in the battle. The North takes the initiative to start the attack, but then the South and the U.S. responds. How quickly does it turn so the initiative is not in the hands of the North, but is in the hands of the U.S. and coalition forces?

MARKS: Tom, what's important to realize is, the coalition, U.S. and South Korea response will be instantaneously. However, the control of that will be over the course of probably three to four days and the momentum will shift toward the coalition.

And their objective is to maintain the armistice. FOREMAN: But you don't think this will happen?


MARKS: Not at all. I think the risks are way too high. The North understands that and the United States and South Korea certainly understand that.

FOREMAN: So, what would we expect?

MARKS: Mostly limited objective attacks, not unlike what we saw before.

FOREMAN: When they bombed those islands and attacked this boat off the coast?

MARKS: You have got it, where the North Koreans will go after South Korean-specific targets, not targeting the United States, and try to keep it contained somewhat.

FOREMAN: And yet send a very clear message that they have a strong new leader and a strong military and that they still need to be respected in that way in the world -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Tom Foreman, Spider Marks, guys, thanks for that analysis.

Later this hour, I will speak with the former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright about North Korea's threats and potential danger for the United States and the region -- that interview coming up.

Up next, another dangerous situation for the Carnival Triumph only two months after passengers were trapped aboard a nightmare cruise.

And we will hear from the fired Rutgers University basketball coach caught on video berating his players and using anti-gay slurs.


BLITZER: Let's get to today's latest bad luck for the cruise ship Carnival Triumph. That's the same ship where an engine fire knocked out most of the power back in February, forcing passengers to endure a slow, miserable trip home with little food and backed-up toilets.

Today, during a storm, it broke loose from its repair dock in Mobile, Alabama.

CNN's John Zarrella is joining us with the latest details.

Broke loose? How does that happen, John?

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN MIAMI BUREAU CHIEF: Yes, Wolf, another twist in the saga of the Carnival cruise ship Triumph. As you mentioned, back in February, it took four days to tow it to Mobile, Alabama, for repairs. And the passengers had to endure all those miserable conditions. Well, now, today, there were high winds, reportedly about 70 miles an hour, and there will be an investigation now into how it may have broken loose from its moorings at the repair dock where the work is going on.

Now, the ship, when it broke loose, it actually drifted across the bay and hit a -- across the river -- and hit a cargo ship on the other side of the river. It caused some damage, as you can see, in those images, to the stern of the Triumph.

Now, the Coast Guard is saying that there are numerous tugs on the scene as well as Coast Guard cutters. They are stabilizing the cruise ship where it is. But the bad news in all of this, Wolf, the worst news is that two members of the company that was doing the repairs, they went overboard, fell in the water, not clear if they were working on the dock or they were working on the ship.

One man was rescued, but the Coast Guard is now searching for that second unidentified man. And they have been for the last couple of hours, with their own people in the water, and searching on the water, but with no luck so far in finding that unidentified man -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And we hope they find him and he's OK, obviously.

But a huge ship like this, even if there are 75-mile-an-hour winds, how extraordinary is it that it can loosen itself from the dock?

ZARRELLA: Yes, it is. We know during hurricanes, we see it all the time, that ships break loose from their moorings. But usually that's smaller ships. But we don't know what wave action there might have been on that river, which is a fairly large river.

But, yes, it's very strange. And the Coast Guard did say, of course, there is an investigation now into what happened. And all Carnival will say right now is that numerous tugs are on the scene and they are continuing to work to go ahead and stabilize. But clearly that will be a key question in the upcoming investigation -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Let's hope they find that worker, first and foremost.


BLITZER: Thanks very much, John Zarrella.

This afternoon, we also learned about an arrest in the Texas county where they're investigating the recent murders of a prosecutor and his wife. Authorities say this man, Nick Morale, called a crime tip line and named the county official who supposedly will be the next victim.

CNN's Ed Lavandera is joining us now from Kaufman, Texas, with the latest. What else is going on?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, in the midst of dealing with this tragic investigation that so many law enforcement officials are working on, they also have to deal with a little bit of the crazy, quite frankly.

And authorities here have announced, and they're kind of annoyed by this, you can tell in speaking with many of these officials here at the scene, this man arrested, and charged with making terroristic threats. They went and arrested him here in Kaufman County for threatening a county official. And this is the kind of thing that they're dealing with.

But it's now been four days since Mike McLelland and his wife, Cynthia, were found murdered and still no breakthrough in what many people are hoping for is a situation that will come to a close quickly.


LAVANDERA (voice-over): Law enforcement sources say the hunt for the killer or killers of two Kaufman County prosecutors is very broad and that nothing and no one is being ruled out.

LT. JUSTIN LEWIS, KAUFMAN COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE: The investigation into the murders of Mike and Cynthia McLelland is ongoing.

LAVANDERA: Investigators did say they arrested a Kaufman County man for making terrorist threats against a county official. He's being held on a million dollar bond, but authorities don't think he has anything to do with the killings. Investigators believe the clues to finding the killer could very well be buried in the case files where the prosecutors worked together.

But so far, there don't seem to be any breaks in the case. CNN has learned of two different men who have drawn the attention of investigators, and both are involved in court cases where they faced off with Mark Hasse and Mike McLelland, one man convicted of stealing county property, another man in a civil dispute to open a gun range on this Kaufman County property. Neither man was taken into custody. And both told CNN they're cooperating.

LEWIS: We have not in this investigation named officially a person of interest or any suspects.

LAVANDERA: Investigators are still trying to establish a solid link between the murders of the two prosecutors. The tone of this news conference much more guarded than the one where the now dead DA for help in tracking down the killer of his assistant two months ago.

MIKE MCLELLAND, KAUFMAN COUNTY, TEXAS, DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Anything that you people can do to accelerate our getting our hands on this scum will be appreciated. LAVANDERA: Mike McLelland and his wife, Cynthia, were found dead Saturday. Investigators have spent several days talking to neighbors, asking if they heard or saw something suspicious. Investigators spent time analyzing these tire tracks and skid marks in the McLellands' neighborhood. Could they have been left by the killer trying to make a quick getaway? It's an unanswered question at this point.

One neighbor of the McLelland family says he didn't hear anything the night of the murders, despite law enforcement sources saying several high-powered rifle shells were found inside the house.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Got up about 5:00, 5:30, let the dogs out, and let them back in. I watched a little TV. My wife was sleeping. And I never heard anything.

LAVANDERA: The string of murders that appear like sophisticated hits on two top local government officials has sent chills through the law enforcement community in Texas. Security measures are being stepped up in nearby Dallas County government buildings.


LAVANDERA: And, Wolf, you know, all of this is reverberating across the street. We have also learned today that down in Houston, a U.S. attorney that was prosecuting a case against members of the Aryan Brotherhood, the white supremacist group that has gotten so much attention, we spoke with a defense attorney involved in that case, and we're told that according to an e-mail that this man received, that U.S. attorney has recused himself of the case because of threats that were made against him as well.

So a great deal of unease and uncertainty continues here in not only Kaufman county, but around the state of Texas.

BLITZER: Indeed. Ed Lavandera, thanks very much.

Stay right there. We're going to have some pictures we want you to see, pictures involving guns, beer and hard drugs, get this, all inside a jail, in one of the country's most famous cities. What's going on?

And later, CNN founder Ted Turner, he's here in THE SITUATION ROOM with me. And he tells me what he misses most about running cable news.



BLITZER: Still ahead: The former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, she is here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We will talk about North Korea's threat to launch a nuclear attack against the United States.

Plus, the Rutgers University basketball coach now fired for bullying players. Here's a question, though. There is a push on campus for more heads to roll. Should they?


BLITZER: Happening now: North Korea warning the moment of explosion is near. Should the U.S. believe its threat of a nuclear attack? The former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, she is standing by to talk about the breaking news.

Also, President Obama surrounded by police -- their role, and his fight in Colorado.

And CNN's founder, Ted Turner, he gets personal and political. He has a message for the president in our brand-new interview.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Get back to our stop story this hour, breaking news out of North Korea. It says it's finalized -- it's finalized plans for a nuclear attack against the United States, warning that war could break out, in their words, any day.

Even before that announcement, the United States ordered ballistic missile defenses to Guam as a precaution. The U.S. has thousands of troops on the island of Guam.

The defense secretary, Chuck Hagel, is calling North Korea "a real and clear danger" after weeks of escalating threats. Let's assess what's going on with President Clinton's secretary of state, and now the former secretary of state Madeleine Albright is here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Madam Secretary, thanks for coming in.


BLITZER: I'll play the clip from Chuck Hagel, the new defense secretary. Listen to him.


CHUCK HAGEL, DEFENSE SECRETARY: They have nuclear capacity now. They have missile delivery capacity now. And so, as they have ratcheted up their bellicose dangerous rhetoric, and some of the actions they've taken over the last few weeks present a real and clear danger, and threat to the interests, certainly, of our allies.


BLITZER: You take all these threats from North Korea seriously?

ALBRIGHT: Well, we have to take them seriously. But I think also we should not overreact. They have had this pattern of making threats ever since I've been following it. And they go through this cycle, and they think they're going to get something out of it, and the United States is not going to give in.

I think that what Secretary Hagel has done is absolutely appropriate in terms of making sure that our allies are defended, that we are clear in terms of -- that we can defend ourselves. Secretary Kerry has done the same thing.

But I also think, Wolf, we have to be careful not to kind of bite on their excessive...

BLITZER: Do you think they're bluffing or...?

ALBRIGHT: Well, they have bluffed. That's been their record. And I think you have to kind of parse this a little bit. Some of this is because Kim Jong-un, the new leader, is trying to gain control and make clear to his own people that he's in charge, especially the military. He also is somebody that is -- I think, is playing this kind of provocative game.

But at the same time, it fits into a pattern that they have done for a long time. I know when I first got to the United Nations in '93, they were...

BLITZER: You were the U.S. ambassador there.

ALBRIGHT: I was the U.S. ambassador there, and they were threatening to pull out of the nonproliferation treaty. And the -- a North Korean representative spoke to the Security Council, and I was bound and determined that he would not get my goat, that we would not react to it.

And so I said, "I'd like to thank the representative for making me feel 40 years younger, because I'm about to have my birthday, with this Cold War rhetoric." And they have been doing this kind of thing...

BLITZER: Here's the problem. And I was there a little bit more than two years ago, spent six days in Pyongyang, at a time when there was also severe tension. The North Koreans had just bombed an island, killing a bunch of South Koreans. They had bombed a South Korean warship, killing a bunch of sailors, more than 40 or 50 sailors.

At that time the South Koreans didn't respond. But the new president, President Park of South Korea, she is tough. She is determined if similar kinds of provocative action by the North Koreans were to take place right now, I would suspect the South Korean military would respond. And I don't know what the North Koreans would do. But you know they have a million troops just north of the DMZ.

ALBRIGHT: Well, they do. And I've been to the DMZ; so have you. It's kind of like being on the moon and looking over into this horrible North Korea, where they really have loud speakers and they have phony buildings and various things.

But I think that the part that we all have to know, the South Korean foreign minister is in the United States. We are in very, very close contact, Secretary Kerry, the White House, in very close contact with the South Koreans. They know that we have the capability of protecting them. And by the way, that's part of what Secretary Hagel was talking about. We have exercises going on with the South Koreans as we speak. We have also made very clear we can defend ourselves. So I think -- and our allies. And I think the important part here is to keep calm and recognize, in fact, that they go through these cycles.

The other part, Wolf, I think that's important is the Chinese need to really be very helpful on this. Because they are the ones that are the closest to the North Koreans. They supply them with a lot of energy. And we believe that they have much more leverage on them.

BLITZER: When you went as the secretary of state in the '90s, you met with Kim Jong-un's father, Kim Jong-il. You went there, and you were trying to ease tensions. You brought a basketball signed by Michael Jordan to Kim Jong-il. And they -- when I was there, they told me they cherish that basketball. First of all, why did you bring that basketball?

ALBRIGHT: Well, first, we were in the middle of some very interesting talks. We had had interest of the No. 2 guy come to the United States. We, in fact, signed a no-hostile intent agreement. And they were inviting President Clinton to come. And President Clinton wisely said, "I'm not going to go right away. I need to have the secretary of state go to figure out what is going on."

We did have some intelligence about Kim Jong-il, and one of them was that he loved Michael Jordan and basketball. So I did bring -- bring that. He was very pleased. But we were in the middle...

BLITZER: And his son now has met with Dennis Rodman. Couldn't get Michael Jordan to come, but got Dennis Rodman. That's a big deal. And he said the most important thing -- this is what Dennis Rodman said, Kim Jong-un wants a phone call from the president.

ALBRIGHT: Well, I -- you know, I think that the main thing here is, I promise never to play basketball, if Dennis Rodman promises not to do diplomacy.

BLITZER: He may be going back, he says. He may be going back. But as ridiculous as that thing sounds, the president when he was a candidate back in 2007, he did say he's open to these kinds of conversations, reaching out to these despots.

ALBRIGHT: Well, the president, I think, is right in wanting to talk to people. I think the issue here is, one does not do it under these kinds of threats. And what has to happen is the North Koreans know what they have to do. They have to abide by the agreements that they've made. We want a denuclearized Korean Peninsula. And once they abide by all the agreements, we have a way that we can to talk to them.

BLITZER: Former secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, thanks very much. You're not going to play basketball?

ALBRIGHT: I don't think so. BLITZER: I think Dennis Rodman will still be doing things.

ALBRIGHT: President Obama makes an emotional plea to Congress to pass his new gun restriction proposals. In a minute, we'll explain why he went all the way to Colorado to do it.

And new questions emerging right now about who saw what, when, and why an abusive basketball coach wasn't fired before today.


BLITZER: If you've ever doubted the power of pictures, Rutgers University fired its basketball coach today, less than a day after we first saw this video of him physically and verbally abusing his players during practice sessions. Now some people are asking what took so long? CNN's Mary Snow spent the day on campus.


MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): one day after this video went viral, Rutgers basketball coach Mike Rice was fired. But there are calls for the university to do more.

Rutgers officials were aware of its existence since November. Rice is seen shoving and kicking players, throwing balls at their heads, and can be heard using homophobic slurs.

The state-run university came under pressure after ESPN made the video public Tuesday. Even New Jersey's governor spoke out. By Wednesday morning, Rice was dismissed.

MIKE RICE, FORMER BASKETBALL COACH, RUTGERS UNIVERSITY: Can't say anything right now except I'm sorry. And there will never be a time where I'm going to use any of that as an excuse. There won't be any excuse.

I've let so many people down. My players, my administration, Rutgers University, the fans. My family, who's sitting in their house just huddled around because of the fact that their father was an embarrassment to them.

SNOW: On campus, students want more answers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Action should have been taken earlier. And there should be a zero-tolerance policy for things like that.

SNOW: Athletic director Tim Pernetti, who decided not to fire Rice last year, said in a statement, "I thought it was in the best interests of everyone to rehabilitate, but I was wrong. His statement is not satisfying critics, including New Jersey civil rights organization, Garden State Equality. Its executive director came to campus demanding answers about why action wasn't taken sooner.

TROY STEVENSON, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, GARDEN STATE EQUALITY: Is there some reason they were hiding information to protect the reputation of the university, I think he should resign immediately. And if he doesn't, he should be fired.

SNOW: There are also questions about university president Robert Barchi and his role in approving Rice's punishment last year. In a statement Barchi said he'd only seen the video a day ago. This is what his athletic director told WFAN Tuesday.

TIM PERNETTI, RUTGERS UNIVERSITY ATHLETIC DIRECTOR: I was aware of the tape, when I handed down the suspension at the end of December.

MIKE FRANCESCA, WFAN RADIO HOST: Did your president see this tape?


SNOW: When asked about that, a university spokesman said Pernetti meant the president only viewed it Tuesday. One New Jersey lawmaker said questions still need to be answered.

SHEILA OLIVER, UNIVERSITY SPOKESMAN: I want to call the hierarchy of Rutgers University down to the state house and conduct an investigatory kind of a hearing. I want to know if any of those student athletes ever went to the athletic director and complained about Coach Rice.


SNOW: And Wolf, we did try to get some of those questions answered here today on campus. We tried to speak with university officials, including the university president, but we were told that he was not being made available for interviews -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Mary, thank you.

Just a little while ago, President Obama told a Denver audience if a state like Colorado can pass what he calls common-sense gun laws, so can Congress here in Washington. Our chief White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin, is joining us from Denver with more -- Jessica.


The president came here to call on supporters to pressure Congress to pass a law expanding background checks before he said opponents can run out the clock.


YELLIN (voice-over): President Obama traveled west to keep up his campaign for tough new gun safety laws.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Every day that we wait to do something about it, even more of our fellow citizens are stolen from our lives by a bullet from a gun. Now, the good news is, Colorado has already chosen to do something about it.

YELLIN: He's talking about the package of new gun safety laws Colorado's Democratic governor signed last month. They limit magazine clips to 15 rounds, require universal background checks, and require gun customers to pay for the cost of their background checks.

The proposal introduced in the U.S. Senate doesn't even include two of those three new measures, but it's struggling for votes. That may be surprising, considering universal background checks are supported by 90 percent of the American public.

So why was a cowboy state like Colorado able to pass a strict new gun law? When the nation's leaders are still at a loss? One important reason: gun violence is a present concern to voters in this state. It's home to two of the nation's worst mass shootings: the Columbine and Aurora massacres.

Some family members of those killed fought to pass these new gun laws and met with the president before his speech here. Among them, Dave Hoover, whose nephew was killed in Aurora.

DAVE HOOVER, NEPHEW KILLED IN AURORA: There were Republicans' children and Democrats' children that were killed in that theater that night. This is not an issue of "R" versus "D"; this is about common sense.

YELLIN: Tom Mauser's son was killed at Columbine just after joining the debate team.

TOM MAUSER, SON KILLED AT COLUMBINE: I feel like today that's what I'm doing. I'm in his shoes. These are his shoes.

YELLIN (on camera): Literally?

MAUSER: Literally. These were the shoes he was wearing that day at Columbine.

YELLIN: Why are you wearing them? What's the message?

MAUSER: The message is that I can take his place on the debate team.


YELLIN: And he said he is fighting for more gun safety laws.

Now, Wolf, about a dozen Colorado sheriffs say they might not enforce the state's new gun safety laws, because in their view, they violate citizens' rights, but so far, no legal challenges to those rules have been filed -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Tough battle ahead for the president on this issue of guns. Thanks very much, Jessica Yellin.

Next, Ted Turner wants President Obama to seize the moment. My interview with the CNN founder, it's just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: People all over the world certainly have heard of Ted Turner, especially fans of this network. I spoke to my former boss today about his life and his accomplishments and about the new book that is just coming out about him called "Last Stand: Ted Turner's Quest to Save a Troubled Planet."


TED TURNER, CNN FOUNDER: I dedicate the news channel for America, a Cable News Network.

BLITZER (voice-over): On June 1, 1980, Ted Turner sealed his place in history as the inventor of 24-hour TV news. It's the stuff of legend.

(on camera): Ted Turner, the man who hired me here at CNN 23 years ago is in THE SITUATION ROOM right now. Ted, always great to see you. Thanks very much for coming in.

TURNER: It's my pleasure to be here.

BLITZER: What's the single most important thing that people will learn about you if they read "Last Stand"?

TURNER: Things that they didn't know before.

BLITZER (voice-over): Turner is opening up about his relationship with his father who committed suicide when Ted was 24 years old.

(on camera): You had a tough father.

TURNER: I did.

BLITZER: You think about him a lot still?

TURNER: A lot. I loved him very much. He was my best friend.

BLITZER (voice-over): After his father died, Turner turned the family's struggling billboard business into an empire. Over the years, he's had his hand in TV, sports, sailing, and the restaurant business.

He's also passionate about his causes, including the environment.

He's one of America's biggest private land owners. He has about two million acres across 13 states. It's a big part of his life and the new book about him.

(on camera): You're really determined to save this planet, aren't you?

TURNER: I'd like to. It's the best planet we've got.

BLITZER: And the single most important thing all of us can do, especially if we read this book would be... TURNER: Is take care of everything.

BLITZER: Are we doing that?


BLITZER (voice-over): Turner has said his biggest goal is to change the world. He's close to fulfilling his long-term pledge to give $1 billion to help the United Nations. And he's a champion of nuclear disarmament.

(on camera): You fear nuclear war. All of us do.

TURNER: You bet. It will be the end of -- it will be the end of the world. Though I'm very much in favor of us getting rid of nuclear weapons as quickly as we can.

BLITZER (voice-over): Turner's politics clearly lean left. He talks about his admiration for former president Jimmy Carter and his hopes for the current commander in chief.

TURNER: I think he's got an opportunity to really get us out of trouble.

BLITZER (on camera): If he's watching you right now, give him some advice. You're Ted Turner speaking to President Obama.

TURNER: Let's be sure to get this global climate change under control.

BLITZER (voice-over): When it comes to politics, Turner's son Teddy has different views. Teddy recently lost his bid for the Republican nomination in a special house election in South Carolina.

(on camera): Let's talk about your son, Teddy, for a moment. He was running for Congress.

TURNER: That's right.

BLITZER: As a conservative Republican.

TURNER: That's OK.

BLITZER: How do you feel about that?

TURNER: Not bad at all.

BLITZER: Did you help him? Did you want to help him?

TURNER: I did help him.

BLITZER: Did you give him some money to run at all?

TURNER: I did.

BLITZER (voice-over): Ted Turner isn't as rich as he used to be. His fortune is estimated at $2 billion. He reportedly was worth more than $10 billion in 2000 after the sale of Turner Broadcasting to Time Warner. Since then, Turner has been sidelined. It's been a long time since he ran CNN, but he still watches it.

(on camera): And so you see what's going on. So you miss it, right?

TURNER: Yes, I miss it.

BLITZER: What do you miss the most about it?

TURNER: The action. There is lots of action.

BLITZER: You got involved in all sorts of decisions whether the first Gulf War. You were there at the end of the Soviet Union. You remember those days very vividly.

TURNER: Absolutely.

BLITZER: Any big -- any one story stand out in your mind the most, looking back, that really changed you, changed CNN, may have changed the world?

TURNER: Well, us staying in Baghdad to cover the war from behind the lines, it had never been done before.

BLITZER: On behalf of all of us, all of us not only here at CNN but all of us who love news, all of us here in the United States and around the world, Ted, thanks so much for what you have done and what you will continue to do.

TURNER: Thank you, Wolf.


BLITZER: You've seen plenty of golfers who walk and plenty who ride golf carts. I bet you've never seen a golfer get around in one of these.


BLITZER: Why walk on the golf course when can you hover? There isn't a question out of a science-fiction story. CNN's Jeanne Moos shows us it's very real.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's a golf cart that is anything but par for the course and hit a driver drooling, watching masters champ Bubba Watson tooling around in a modified hovercraft, zipping over water hazards.

BUBBA WATSON, GOLFER: And who doesn't want to do that?

PIERS MORGAN, CNN ANCHOR: If it's real, then I want one.

MOOS: Well, Bubba put the "if" to rest.

WATSON: This is not a gag. This is really it. Me and Oakley teamed up.

MOOS: Oakley being Bubba's sponsor. It took two months for this prototype to be adapted by a company called Neoteric Hovercraft. It's been building hovercraft for over 50 years.

CHRIS FITZGERALD, NEOTERIC HOVERCRAFT (via phone): It's sort of a magic carpet floating around on the golf course. It's about nine inches off the ground.

MOOS: The great thing about a golf hovercraft is it doesn't mess up the grass, says company founder Chris Fitzgerald.

FITZGERALD (on camera): You leave absolutely no tracks.

(voice-over): It's about the same -- the same force as a seagull standing on one leg.

MOOS (on camera): Now some golfers might be tempted to take a club to the hovercraft. It makes about as much noise as a vacuum cleaner or an electric leaf blower.

(voice-over): Make that several leaf blowers. Though they have reduced the engine noise some and hope to reduce it more.

WATSON: It was fun to do. It was scary to drive it. I only had a five-minute lesson.

MOOS: Actually, Bubba, you're supposed to say "fly it," not "drive it."

The controls are on a handlebar like a motorcycle. It's a little like flying a helicopter.

Hovercraft are especially good for rescues on ice and in swift moving floodwaters. But it took a golf cart version to get everyone excited. YouTube commenters say, "Should have called it the BubbaHova or Bubbacraft."

The small company that made the prototype is being flooded with orders from golf courses worldwide. But it won't be able to meet demand for months.

FITZGERALD: You just can't press a button and have these things coming out.

MOOS (on camera): The makers of Bubba's hover estimate its price tag would hover at around 30 or even $40,000.

(voice-over): Noted one poster: "Rich man's sport just got richer."

But at least Bubba didn't mow down golfers like Jackie Chan did with a giant hovercraft in "Rumble in the Bronx." Better to get hit by a flying golf ball than a flying BubbaHova.

Jeannie Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: Leave it to Jeanne Moos. Thank you, Jeanne.

Remember, can you always follow what's going on here in THE SITUATION ROOM on Twitter. Just tweet me, @WolfBlitzer. You can tweet the show, @CNNSitRoom.

That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.