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Margaret Thatcher Dies at 87; Congress Returns, Gun Control Looms; Margaret Thatcher Dies

Aired April 8, 2013 - 09:00   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The death of Lady Thatcher on "CNN NEWSROOM" starting right now.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now in the NEWSROOM, showdown. The president Connecticut bound pushing for new gun restrictions.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Every senator will get to vote on whether or not we should require background checks.


COSTELLO: But the filibuster threat alive and well this morning.

Also Cuba controversy. Beyonce, Jay-Z and an anniversary trip to Havana. Now two lawmakers want answers.

Plus tale of the tape. The FBI zeroing in on Rutgers and the man who gave the video to ESPN.

And tonight's the night. Louisville, Michigan, from the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, you're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

COSTELLO: And good morning. Thanks so much for being with us. I'm Carol Costello. We do begin with breaking news this morning out of Britain.

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has died. Known across the world as the iron lady, Thatcher was tough, she was unrelenting. And her staunch conservative views made her a natural ally of President Ronald Reagan. They were kindred spirits and is likely to evoke strong emotions then as now.

CNN's Becky Anderson takes us back.


BECKY ANDERSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR (voice-over): She did defiance.

MARGARET THATCHER, FORMER BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: The lady is not for turning. ANDERSON: She did direct.


ANDERSON: And when she chose, with femininity alongside the steel.

THATCHER: Where there is doubt, may we bring faith. And where there is despair, may we bring hope.

ANDERSON: Her longest serving Cabinet member remembers it this way.

GEOFFREY HOWE, FORMER CHANCELLOR AND FOREIGN SECRETARY: Her style was essentially a determination not to be driven off course. Her phraseology there is no alternative. The lady is not for turning. Demonstrated a clear determination to see tough policies through.

ANDERSON (on camera): Margaret Thatcher grew up here in Grantham, a solid uncomplicated English market town. And the values that she learned here shaped her entire political ideology. Her father, a pillar of the community, ran a corner shop.

(Voice-over): Now a herbal medicine store, a modest plaque on the wall is all that testifies to its small place in history.

Margaret Roberts, as she was born, lived with her parents and sister above the family grocery shop. She had the honor of serving as her school representative or head girl in her final year before she went up to Oxford where she studied chemistry. But it was her father who was her biggest influence. It was he who impressed upon her the wrongs as he saw it of living beyond your means, a lesson she took to heart.

THATCHER: One of the most immoral things you can do is to pose as the moral politician demanding more for health, for education, more for industry, more for housing, more for everything, and then when you see the bill saying, no, no, I didn't mean you to pay tax to pay for it. I meant you to borrow more.

SUSIE WALLINGTON, GRANTHAM CONSERVATIVE WOMEN'S ORGANIZATION: I think she was the woman for the moment. We've had the discontents, we had wild cat strikes. We really needed a strong leader. And that's what we got.

ANDERSON: For today's conservative ladies of Grantham, Margaret Thatcher is a source of great pride.

JILL BARRY, GRANTHAM CONSERVATIVE WOMEN'S ORGANIZATION: She had such a wonderful code for life. And you know, you've got certain rules and regulations in the way you conduct yourself. Manners, this sort of thing. She was a great icon of those things, which I think are missing now.

BECKY DUNBAR-BECKFORD, GRANTHAM CONSERVATIVE WOMEN'S ORGANIZATION: Great Britain became great again through Margaret Thatcher. Divisive, though. CHARLOTTE FAROUHARSON, GRANTHAM CONSERVATIVE WOMEN'S ORGANIZATION: Divisive, definitely, because there are a lot of people who do not like having things taken away from them. And they don't like change. But she had a job to do and she did it.

THATCHER: This gallivant of principle is seeking the common consent of the people of Britain to work together for the prosperity that has eluded us for so long.

ANDERSON: Mrs. Thatcher's economic priority when she came to power was to squash the twin menace, as she saw it, of trade union power and high inflation. The result was soaring unemployment.

Neil Kinnock, the leader ever the opposition during most of Margaret Thatcher's time in office accepts that change was needed, but believes she was overzealous and misguided.

NEIL KINNOCK, FORMER LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: You can't make an omelet without smashing eggs, but you don't have to break the shells by throwing them against the wall and Mrs. Thatcher was of the throwing them against the wall school. She actually believed or eventually persuaded herself to believe that there was a spurring galvanizing consequence of inequality which meant that inequality had to be tolerated and if necessary worsened in order to shape a new and more vital and vigorous economy and society.

ANDERSON: When the going got tough as it inevitably did over 11 years in office, she had her husband Dennis, a successful businessman, and their two children, Carol and Mark, to rely on. She was always quick to pay tribute.

THATCHER: I think it's critical for a person in this very grueling job to have total support of the kind which I received from one's family. And he's absolutely marvelous both when we're doing the job of prime minister and doing the campaign. He's been terrific.

FAROUHARSON: I liked her. She irritated me like anything a lot of the time, but I liked her.


I think the big thing about Margaret Thatcher is that she did what she believed was right.


WALLINGTON: You know often in this day and age people say and do what they think they should do for popularity, but she did what she believed this country.

ANDERSON: While her record will likely remain contested as it surely does for all major political figures, her passion for office and conviction in what she believed was never in any doubt.

THATCHER: No, I don't have a lot of time. But then this is the most absorbing job in the world. As most fascinating job in the world. And it's an immense privilege to do it.

There are those who say our nation no longer has the stomach for the fight. I think I know our people. And I know they do.

ANDERSON: Becky Anderson, CNN, Grantham.


COSTELLO: Christiane Amanpour is CNN's chief international correspondent. She joins us now from New York.

And, Christiane, I want to talk a little bit about Margaret Thatcher's legacy. I mean, what legacy does she leave?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, she was a really soaring towering public figure. You can see by that retrospective, that obituary that Becky Anderson just did. She was cut from the old mold of really ferocious leaders. She believed fiercely in the power of Britain even as the empire was sliding into the sunset. She believed fiercely in the conservative principle which allied her very closely with Ronald Reagan at that time.

She believed absolutely fiercely in the power of self over the power of community. Once famously saying there is no such thing as society.

She was very divisive in Britain. On the one happened, she raised the middle class. She -- it was under her prime ministership, and she won three general elections, that the middle class really rose high evident but it came at a cost. There was huge unemployment as well. And in the end this terrible poll tax that she imposed was one of her last sort of undoings domestically.

But as I say, when it comes to foreign policy, for instance, she did things that are still resonating and that is still important. Whether it was having been called the iron lady by the Soviet press back in 1976 because of a speech she had made condemning Soviet aggression, then under her prime ministership and with Ronald Reagan, she was the one who introduced Mikhail Gorbachev to the West, having met him first as a world leader, having said, I like Mr. Gorbachev, we can do business with him.

She took that message to America. She told President Reagan and as that -- as he came into power, then we saw the gradual dismantling of the Soviet empire and the fall of the communist system. So that was huge -- Carol.

COSTELLO: America has long been fascinated with her. Just a couple of years ago that Meryl Streep starred in a -- starred in a movie about Margaret Thatcher. As far as female politicians are concerned, Christiane, of course Margaret Thatcher was called the iron lady, there is still doubt today that, you know, can a woman leading a country be strong enough? Margaret Thatcher did her part in combating that idea, right?

AMANPOUR: Yes, Carol. I think really of all the developed democracies, unfortunately it's only the United States who hasn't yet been able to get itself around to electing either a woman president or a woman vice president. Whether it's Margaret Thatcher who did it for Britain, you know, 35 years ago or whether it's leaders from Latin America now, who are women, to even the Muslim world, who women -- obviously women can do it.

And Margaret Thatcher perhaps crystallized the fact perhaps better than anyone that women are as tough. Look, she took Britain to the Falklands when the Falklands decided to try to take back the -- when Argentina decided to take back the Falklands. And she had to do it even though the United States led by then Secretary of State Alexander Hague preferred that the U.S. back Argentina.

Margaret Thatcher was very disappointed about that. Eventually obviously the Americans did help, but it wasn't as public as she would have liked it. And she recaptured the Falkland Islands. That is still a matter of dispute and argument between Britain and Argentina.

Nonetheless she did it and she won a triumphant third -- a triumphant election after that. She also survived an IRA bombing attack that one of the Conservative Party conferences and further burnished her credentials as a survivor.

And then in 1990 when Saddam Hussein first went on his adventures against the Arab world and invaded Kuwait and thus bringing the United States into this huge coalition to drive him out of Kuwait, it was Margaret Thatcher who along with then President Bush, President Bush the first, really forged a very close relationship in deciding to stand up to Saddam Hussein, not allowing that aggression to stand, and in her own biography wrote that at one point she said to President Bush, George, this is no time to go wobbly. We had to make sure the sanctions worked and we had to make sure that Saddam Hussein's aggression was repelled.

So in many of the things that she did, they remain very important issues right now. And almost templates in how to deal with a lot of the world issues that are going on right now. In England, in Great Britain, her legacy is mixed. She is considered a very powerful person. Even Tony Blair, you know, when he came into be prime minister in 1997, the Labour prime minister, he openly talked about some of the benefits, some of the political prowess of Margaret Thatcher and some of the economic and world benefits that she had brought to Britain. So even he had an admiration for her.

COSTELLO: Christiane Amanpour, thanks so much.

Of course Britain is grieving this morning. So let's head there now and check in with Max Foster.

Good morning, Max.

MAX FOSTER, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hi, Carol. Yes, grieving is expressed in this country that the sort of level with the flag at Buckingham Palace flying at half-mast. My sources are telling me it's about to be brought down to that level. So officially in mourning. Although this isn't going to be a state funeral we're told. It will be a ceremonial funeral, so if you think of Diana's funeral, that wasn't a state funeral. But it did have many of the hallmarks.

There were some military involvement in Diana's funeral and there will be on this. But there will be huge crowds and a big national occasion. So it's close to a state funeral as you can probably get.

Also, Carol, we're starting to get the responses from around the world on this and senior figures. So David Cameron, the current prime minister of the same party as Margaret Thatcher, talking about his sadness. And also the president of the European commission, President Barroso, talking about Margaret Thatcher being a great state's woman. And also Henry Kissinger tellling me earlier that he saw her as a great leader.

But you heard Christiane there talking about how she has a mixed legacy, mixed feelings in the UK. She was a divisive figure and her archenemy in politics you could argue is Gerry Adams from Sinn Fein northern Ireland. They were at battle politically and some would say militarily, as well because of his links with the IRA.

He has just issued a statement saying this, "Margaret Thatcher did great hurt to the Irish and British people during her time as British prime minister. Working class communities were devastated in Britain because of her policies. You could argue that's true. If you look -- in the mining community, and her role in international affairs was equally belligerent, whether in support of the Chilean dictator Pinochet, she certainly spent some time with him, lots of images of her with him. And now her oppositions to sanctions against the politics in South Africa. So a divisive figure -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Max Foster reporting live from London this morning.

Thirteen minutes past the hour. Time to check other top stories now. North Korea about to suspend operations and pull all of its workers from an industrial complex that it jointly operates with South Korea. Pyongyang has barred South Korean workers from entering the area. The complex had been viewed as the last major symbol of cooperation between the two nations. Seoul has warned that the North might conduct a missile test this week.

Two Republican lawmaker want an investigation into Jay-Z and Beyonce's recent trip Cuba to celebrate their fifth anniversary. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart, both of Florida, say the superstar couple may have violated longstanding travel restrictions to the communist nation. They say the Castro regime used the visit as propaganda.

The man who brought the Rutgers scandal to light is now under scrutiny himself by the FBI. Former assistant Eric Murdoch who released a video of Coach Mike Rice physically and verbally abusing players is now being investigated for possible extortion. That's according to the "New York Times". At issue, a letter Murdock reportedly sent to the university demanding close to a million dollars to settle a wrongful termination claim.

Now let's talk some politics and shift gears and head on to Washington. Congress does return to work today and the Senate is bracing for a showdown over gun control. Today the White House begins ramping up the pressure. The president makes his case in Hartford, Connecticut. Not very far from the grade school where a gun man killed 26 children and adults.

The tragedy inspired tough new laws in the state of Connecticut and the grief-stricken families are calling on Congress to do the same.


JIMMY GREENE, FATHER OF VICTIM: We didn't get to move on. We don't have the benefit of turning the page to another piece of legislation and having another debate and then playing mole ticks the same way we've been doing. We don't have that benefit. We're going to live with this for the rest of our lives.

So, our legislators need to hear us.

NICOLE HOCKLEY, MOTHER OF VICTIM: For many of us, coming up to the four month anniversary, we're only just starting to find our voices and to be able to come out of that initial state of shock to be able to do something actively ourselves. So, we are not going anywhere. We are gaining momentum now to prepare for this marathon.

SCOTT PELLEY, CBS NEWS: This is a life long pursuit for all of you?



COSTELLO: A life long mission for the families, a week long blitz by the White House.

CNN's Brianna Keilar looks at the Obama offensive which, of course, as I said kicking off today in Connecticut.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The president is heading to Connecticut, where the governor just signed some of the nation's toughest gun laws, requiring universal background checks, and imposing limits on the number of bullets in a magazine. Speaking not far from the scene of the Newtown shootings, he'll again say lawmakers in Washington have an obligation to the 20 children killed there.

SBARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Every senator will get to vote on whether or not we should require background checks for anyone who wants to purchase a gun.

KEILAR: But despite polls showing 90 percent of Americans support universal background checks, even getting that vote is increasingly uncertain. Republican Senator Rand Paul is leading a growing group of Republicans threatening to block any vote. A total of 13 now signing onto this letter to Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, saying, any new gun restrictions would violate the Second Amendment.

OBAMA: They deserve a simple vote.


OBAMA: They deserve -- they deserve a simple vote.

KEILAR: White House officials respond by saying, every member of Congress applauded the president's call for a vote at the State of the Union, with Newtown families looking on. But officials won't say whether the president would sign a watered down bill without background checks.

DAN PFEIFFER, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADSIVER: I'm not going to make any predictions here. But we're going to try to get the strongest bill we can.


KEILAR: Now, so far, Carol, Democrats in the Senate have been pinning their hopes on discussions between West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin and Oklahoma Republican Tom Coburn. They've been trying to work out some sort of compromise on a provision that would involve these background checks. They haven't been able to do that so far.

So, now, you're seeing Senator Manchin open up this new dialogue with Pennsylvania Republican Pat Toomey and the hopes they can perhaps strike a deal. Democrats, I'll tell you, Carol, say they're hopeful that something is there, but at the same time, they admit this isn't a done deal and it also could still fall apart.

COSTELLO: It certainly could.

Brianna Keilar, reporting live from the White House this morning.

And to illustrate just how uncertain any kind of vote on gun control is, 13 Republicans are now threatening to filibuster any law that hits the floor, something even John McCain, a Republican Senator is surprised by.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I don't understand it. The purpose of the United States Senate is to debate and to vote and to let the people know where we stand.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you'd encourage Republicans not to filibuster.

MCCAIN: I would not only encourage it. I don't understand if. What are we afraid of?


COSTELLO: Today, a letter will be delivered to the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid about that filibuster.

Also, President Obama will talk about reducing gun violence tonight at 5:45 Eastern Time. He'll be speaking at the University of Hartford. Of course, we'll bring you some of his comments live.

Just ahead in the NEWSROOM, to many, Margaret Thatcher is more than the British prime minister. She's one of the famous characters played by Oscar winner Meryl Streep.

CNN senior political analyst David Gergen will join us next on America's fascination with Margaret Thatcher.


COSTELLO: Breaking news this morning. Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has died. The British prime minister was 87 years old. It's believed she died from a stroke.

Now, younger Americans know about Margaret Thatcher, not from her role so much as the British prime minister, but how she was portrayed in the movie "The Iron Lady."


MERYL STREEP AS MARGARET THATCHER: We will stand on principle or we will not stand at all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But, Margaret, with all due respect, when one has been to war?

STREEP: With all due respect, sir, I have done battle every single day of my life. And many men have underestimated me before.


COSTELLO: CNN's senior political analyst David Gergen joins me now.

She really, Meryl Streep I'm talking about, captured Margaret Thatcher's personality. I mean, she wasn't a tough lady.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: She was a tough lady. She wrote famously back in 1975 that if you want something said in politics, ask a man. If you want something done, ask a woman.


GERGEN: And, Carol, she lived up to that. She was first woman prime minister, most influential British prime minister since Winston Churchill, a figure who had enormous popularity here in the United States.

I was working for President Reagan when the two of them became such strong partners. And I saw them together more than once in private meetings. And she was always -- they were equals in everything on policy. And when it came to the personal, she was much younger and she always looked after him. She sort of helped him along in a variety of ways. And he just thought the world of her. And she was very popular here. She of course came to power by unseating the leader of her party. And she left power by when she was unseated. You live by the sword, you die by the sword. COSTELLO: As far as her relationship with President Reagan and Great Britain's not a big country, right? I mean, it's not a political super power, it's not a military super power. Why did President Reagan latch on to Margaret Thatcher?

They latched on to each other in fairness. And that was because she was a fellow conservative and a much more Reaganesque. Typically, conservative before her in Britain has been more moderate in our times. The welfare state was born in conservative hands in Britain.

She was the one who tried to reverse the welfare state. She wanted to rollback spending, she wanted to roll back and she had a great influence in rolling back the power of unions. She wanted to denationalize the government at that time owned a lot of industries in effect in Britain.

She wanted to turn to the free market. And in that sense, she was a soul mate for President Reagan. The striking thing was they were both strong anti-Soviet anti-communists throughout their careers, but they both came to realize that they could do business with Mikhail Gorbachev. And she led the way in that

But President Reagan, of course, struck some memorable agreements. And that was in many ways the Thatcher/Reagan years, or the beginning of the end, along with Gorbachev. Gorbachev had enormous influence over it. But dismantling the fall of the Soviet Empire came toward the end of the Reagan/Thatcher years and they were very important forces in that.

COSTELLO: David Gergen, thanks so much. We appreciate it.

GERGEN: Thanks, Carol.

COSTELLO: Talk back question for you today, should Americans be allowed to travel freely to Cuba? You heard about Beyonce and Jay-Z going there on their fifth anniversary., I'll be right back.


COSTELLO: Your chance to talk back. The question this morning: should Americans be allowed to travel fee freely Cuba?

Hip hop royalty kick being back on the beach in Cuba.

Yes, you recognize them. Beyonce and Jay-Z partied in Havana to celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary. The thing is, they possibly violated the ban on travel there. Now, anti-Castro lawmakers are demanding an investigation.

In a letter to Treasury officials, they said, quote, "Despite the clear prohibition against tourism in Cuba, numerous press reports describe the couple's trip as tourism, and the Castro regime touted it as such in its propaganda. Cuba was once America's playground, but after Castro took power in 1959, Americans have been banned from spending money there with very few exceptions. No problem visiting North Korea or Iran.

All you need there in those countries are a visa. Is Fidel Castro worse than Kim Jong-un?

As Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona tweeted, "So Beyonce and Jay-Z are in Cuba? Fine by me. Every American should have the right to travel there."

And as the influential Cuban dissident Sanchez points out, the ban on American tourism simply gives Castro an excuse to blame the country's problems on the United States.

Talk back question for you today. Should Americans be allowed to travel freely Cuba?,, or tweet me @carolCNN.