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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

President Obama Admits Failure, Promises Fix; Illegal Ivory Trade Funding Terrorism?

Aired November 14, 2013 - 19:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I am not a perfect man, and I will not be a perfect president.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): The president apologizes again and again and again.

OBAMA: We fumbled. That's on me.

I feel deeply responsible.

We fumbled the rollout on this health-care law.

BURNETT: But is this enough to save his presidency? Is he waving the white flag on his signature legislation or did he stop the bleeding and save Obama care?

Let's go "OUTFRONT."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Good Thursday evening, everyone. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, the president admits some failures but promises a fix, President Obama trying to resolve his broken promise that if you like your health care plan, you can keep it. As we've been reporting, million of Americans have been receiving cancellations notices as a result of changes from Obamacare. But today under enormous pressure even from within his own party, the president offered a fix.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I completely get how upsetting this can be for a lot of Americans. Particularly after assurances they heard from me that if they had a plan that they like, they can keep it. To those Americans, I hear you loud and clear. I said that I would do everything we can to fix this problem and today I'm offering an idea that will help.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: All right, will the president's fix work? Let me explain what it is. The proposal says you can keep the plan that you have if you like it for a year. But there is a big, big assumption here and that is that the insurance companies will cooperate. We'll have more on that. As for the disastrous rollout itself, the president took the blame.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Ultimately, I'm the president of the United States and they expect me to do something about it. It is legitimate for them on expect me to have to win back some credibility. That's on me. I mean, we fumbled the rollout on this health care law. We should have done a better job getting that right on day one. That proved not to be the case. That's on me. I feel deeply responsible. I am not a perfect man and I will not be a perfect president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: So will the president rebound? Dana Bash is OUTFRONT tonight on Capitol Hill. Dana, a lot of Democrats who were listening to those words that he was trying to win over as well, what was the reaction?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, for the most part, Democrats here on Capitol Hill thought that it was good first step. They're not satisfied both substantively and politically. Let's start with the substance and you alluded to it. The president can only suggest to insurance company that they reinstate these plans. He cannot force them to do it. That would have to have to happen legislatively.

And there are a lot of Democrats up for re-election who are still saying they want to have a bill. Senate Democratic leaders though today said that they are going to hold off on that for now. When it comes to the politics, Erin, look, a lot of Democrats on Capitol Hill made the same promise. If you like your health care plan you can keep it that they broke. There is a little reluctance to sit on the sidelines and let the president handle it.

They want to get in the game and show voters back home they're working on fixes too and also there is a recognition even among Democrats that the president's poll numbers are not great especially on the issue of trust. There is a little wariness about letting the president handle this when voters are saying, really? We're not so sure the White House can handle this.

BURNETT: Dana, the president has sent his chief of staff to the Hill today. I mean, this was a full-court press, right, he giving that speech, answering those questions. But obviously Dennis McDonough's job was to sell worried Democrats that this plan would work. How did they respond to McDonough?

BASH: For the most part we're told pretty well. We reported yesterday that there was a very tense, intense heated meeting between other White House officials and how Democrats primarily over this issue. The House meeting in particular this afternoon, we're told because he actually went pretty far in trying to explain how to web site was going on work better so that people will be able to be enrolled.

On this issue of people having their health care plans dropped. He explained the president's plan and came with this whole proposal, which is what the Democrats in the House in particular were asking for yesterday. Why is it? It is because the timing of all of this is surrounding the House. There is a vote tomorrow on a Republican plan that would as far as Democrats are concerned, dismantle Obamacare.

So Democrats were really desperate for an alternative. They got that in this idea from the president. We're told they are going on put them on the floor legislatively tomorrow so they have something to vote for not just vote against the Republican plan.

BURNETT: All right, well, Dana, thank you very much. Let's get to the floor. I want to bring in Democratic Congressman Keith Ellison, co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and chief deputy whip. Congressman Ellison, great to have you with us. You heard Dana's reporting there. Let me put the question to you point blank. You met with the president today. You're one of those he's been trying to convince. Do you support his plan?

REPRESENTATIVE KEITH ELLISON (D), CHIEF DEPUTY WHIP: I actually believe that the president didn't mislead the public. I believe that we should fix the web site and we should move forward. The fact is these plans, many of them, are defective from the start. They lack essential quality controls. Like these annual caps on care. Some of them don't exclude for pre-existing conditions or they do plan for it and they have other problems with them.

So the fact of the matter is, if you go to a restaurant and you like it, but that restaurant is defective and has health code violations, maybe the city will say you cannot go there and shut that place down.

BURNETT: You're going a lot stronger than the president. I'm surprised. I haven't heard anyone tried that. Even he himself is saying he misled the public. You're saying he did not.

ELLISON: Well, I interpreted the president as saying, for that 80 percent of Americans who rely on employee based health care that will essentially stay the same. Only it will be better because there will be insurance reform. For the 15 percent of Americans who have no health care at all, they'll get it for the first time in their lives and have another alternative than the ER.

For the 5 percent in the private insurance market, look, I interpreted the president's statement all along saying, not that anyone under any circumstance ever will lose a plan. The insurance company have the prerogative to cancel plans without regard to the affordable care act at all.

BURNETT: That's a fair point. When someone says if you like your plan you can keep it, it meant it. If you like your plan, you can keep it. It may have caps. The world may not think that's good for you. If you're OK with it, that's your choice.

ELLISON: Ultimately it is not up to the president. The fact is what I interpreted him as saying, during this whole period, is that if your plan, if you are the vast majority covered by employer-based health plans, you'll be in the same situation. Could he have been more precise? Sure. I think as he stand-up guy and he's trying to take responsibility and I appreciate that.

In fact, any time people feel that they could have done better, I think it is good to try to come clean and say that. But I don't believe that the affordable care act is in any jeopardy. I think it is a good bill and I think we need to let it get fully implemented so with could reap the benefits.

BURNETT: So you think it is OK if someone likes your plan and were told they can keep it, that now they cannot keep it because as you say, it wasn't in compliant with all these things. You made your argument on that. Then people will have to pay a lot more. That's the reality for a lot of young people, the very people on whom this system rests, right? It will fail if young people don't sign up and those are the people you're saying have to pay more.

ELLISON: Well, look, I'm not saying they have to pay more.

BURNETT: The insurance companies are that's the definition of it.

ELLISON: I'm not saying it is OK. It is disruptive to their lives. They might have had expectations, but for many of these plans, Erin, you know, these folks -- these insurance companies were taking their premiums. When they go to get covered, they will find that they're not covered on things they need to be covered for and that's not good either.

I'm not saying it is OK. It's disruptive. It's a problem and I think the president tried to stand up to that. Let's me say one more thing if I may. The fact of the matter is that this plan is bad. It does gut the affordable care act. It will undermine and set us back and bring us back to the bad old days when people were being excluded for pre-existing conditions.

I'm a strong no on that. We've got to plow forward. This affordable care act is a great thing because we're going to be able to cover Americans for the first time and have real insurance reform.

BURNETT: Let me ask you. What this has brought to the fore isn't just a promise the president made. It is something else. As I indicated the rock on which all of this rests in materials of the exchanges which is the young, right? I was trying to figure out, if young people are going to go ahead with this, right? And I have to ask you. Let me ask you how you get around two things.

First of all is this, right? When you look at the first thing that took effect about Obamacare, it was young people got to stay on their parents' plans until they were 26. People love that. But that means you have 15 million people according to the numbers we confirmed today. Young people who stayed on their parents' plans.

They aren't going to go on and the exchange and pay a lot more for the same healthcare. They'll stay on their parents' plans, right? It does not concern you because you need those people to buy these plans so the older people who are suffering from pre-existing conditions or other problems can get that care without a huge surge in premiums.

ELLISON: We do need to get as many people in so that we can balance the risk pool. That means you need healthy people in there, but I think young people should sign up. You never know when you're going to get in a car accident, get hurt playing basketball, roller blading and fall. I mean, you just don't know life is unpredictable.

In fact, I had a young woman working in my office who had a serious chronic condition, which she could not get covered for and the bottom line is Obamacare, the affordable care act gave her a chance to get an affordable policy and save her life according to her. I think young people will sign up. This is not easy. It doesn't help when you have Republicans doing everything they can to try to stop access to affordable care.

BURNETT: Fair point. Let me ask you one final question.

ELLISON: Look at this. This is, this says, Boehner-Upton bill is a step on the Obamacare repeal. Look at that. They're admitting that this is not a good-faith effort to improve the bill. They're trying to destroy it.

BURNETT: One final question, let me ask you before you go. That is this. I talked to some young people on our staff today. All of them that were able to stay on their parents' plans stayed on them. And one of them said, you know what the truth is and I feel badly admitting this? I would rather pay the penalty than go on one of these exchanges. The penalties are a fraction of the cost of actually signing up, right?

So young people who feel, I know the government is telling me I'm morally obligated. Am I morally obligated to pay a lot of money and pay this huge hit? That really seems to be the problem here. It is a math problem.

ELLISON: Erin, a lot of those young people are going to qualify for subsidy too. In my state of Minnesota, if you look at the folks the bronze and silver plans, they're like under $100. So I mean, the fact is young people will get a chance to get real coverage where they don't have to worry about, I hope I don't twist my ankle playing basketball or get messed up in a car accident. Young people will benefit from this plan and I think they should sign up.

I'm encouraging them to sign up. If they get hurt or injured, need health care that they cannot afford, they're going to be in a real tough situation. The number one reason for bankruptcy is medical debt. At least over the last several years it has been. We want to spare young people from that tragedy and that financial hit. I think they should sign up.

BURNETT: All right, thank you very much. We appreciate your taking the time with a fierce defense of the president. The president addressed reporters today when he gave that apology that you heard Congressman Ellison say he didn't need to make. He accepted responsibility for the Obamacare issues. He spent a lot of his time focusing on one word.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRESIDENT OBAMA: We fumbled the roll out on this health care law. We did fumble the ball. Two fumbles.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: All right, fumble. What does this mean for the future of the Obama White House? OUTFRONT tonight, RNC communications directors, Sean Spicer, host of CNN's "CROSSFIRE," Van Jones. Van, Congressman Ellison, I have to give that guy credit for some courage. He said the president shouldn't even apologize for promising people they could keep their health care plans if they liked them. When you have defenders like that, you have some real defenders. Do you think admitting failure so profusely as the president did today is enough?

VAN JONES, CNN HOST, "CROSSFIRE": I don't think it is enough, but it is definitely a first step. First of all, you can have a broken web site. You can recover from that. You can't recover from the sense of a broken promise. He had to get out there and say, listen, I made a promise. I'm going to do everything I can to fulfill that promise and to begin to take steps going forward.

He did that and I also think it is very interesting to me. You have Republicans saying this guy is so arrogant. So high handed. He was contrite. He took responsibility. He didn't blame anybody else. I expect Republicans to say he did today what we've been wanting him to do and give him credit for the courage that he showed.

BURNETT: All right, Sean, are you going other give him some credit and agree with the word contrite by your colleague Van?

SEAN SPICER, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: I think Van is giving a little too much credit. I felt like the whole press conference sounded like "my bad." Like I left the keys in the car, I'm sorry about it. He kept saying like I fumbled the ball. This isn't a game. There are people who got -- millions of people are getting notices saying your health care has been taken away. You have to find a new plan, a new doctor. And we're acting like you locked the door by mistake and we have to get the other guy to let us in.

This is a very serious subject and I think Van is somewhat minimizing it. I understand why he has to do it, but at the same time, this is a really, really serious thing. The other point that I would make is this, the point that Congressman Ellison was getting to, minimizes what the real quote was and people are not actually looking at what the president actually said.

Let me read it for you quick. These are his actual words. Actually any insurance you have would be grandfathered in so you could keep. So you could decide not to get on the exchange better plan. I could keep my Acme insurance, a high deductible catastrophic plan. I would not be required to get a better one. We can debate the merits of whether or not Congressman Ellison was getting into, whether or not it is good or bad policy. But that's not what we were promised.

BURNETT: A fair point. As the president said, I mean, the president did apologize. I want to follow up where you said, he was contrite and didn't blame anybody else. He did have one point where it was a little vague. He said he didn't know about the looming problems with the health care web site maybe because people didn't tell him. Let me just play that part.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRESIDENT OBAMA: On the web site, I was not informed directly that the web site would not be working. The way it was supposed to. Had I been informed, I would not be going out saying this would be great. You know, I'm accused of a lot of things, but I don't think I'm stupid enough to go around saying this is going to be like shopping on Amazon or Travelocity. Even a week into it the thinking was that these were some glitches that would be fixed with patches. As opposed to some broader systemic problems that took much longer to fix.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: The line I'm holding in on, had I been informed, I wouldn't have said this was great.

JONES: That's true.

BURNETT: Implying someone may have known. Let me put the question to you this way, Van. How is it possible that the president didn't know the problems were horrific? It would seem to me then either somebody lied to him when they shouldn't have, or the people that were putting this in place were so incompetent, they didn't realize the scope of the problem themselves. Which is worse?

JONES: Well, I tell you what something went wrong in the White House. I worked there. One thing I know with this president. He is a famously hands-on president. Listen, you work in the White House, you write something, you know there will be one person in that building that reads it. His name is President Obama. Something went wrong in that White House.

They need to figure out who is responsible, but I think the president stepping forward and saying the buck stops with me and trying to if I will it is a good thing. I'm shocked that I've not heard Republicans saying, listen. This is what we were called for. Instead they are trying to kick the guy.

BURNETT: Sean, you get the final response.

SPICER: One, he didn't know what was going on with the NSA that we were doing Merkel's phone calls. He didn't know the justice department was taping reporters' phone calls. What -- there is a pattern here on this whole area, too, about what he does and doesn't know. The bigger issue is that he also did blame big government. He said the problem is it is too big.

The way the government is set up in material of procurement and stuff. You cannot be the champion of big government and then blame big government for the failure to implement the program. That's the bigger issue here that we have a government too big, too out of control. You cannot go blame the size of government that you inflated as the problem.

JONES: You and I agree on something. The procurement process of the federal government has developed for itself is terrible. That's why the Pentagon is paying $500 for a screw. That's not big government per se. That's a particular set of problems that can be fixed.

SPICER: So let's extrapolate that.

JONES: Let's not forget, there are 40 million people who got a shot at health care now, women who are not being discriminated against. Obamacare is working. You have a couple million people who are in trouble now and we're trying to help them. Don't erase the 40 million people in better condition. America's government can and has done good stuff.

BURNETT: I'm going to hit pause there. Thank you very much. We have much more coverage of President Obama's health care announcement, the fix that he's put forth coming up. We'll talk about whether his legacy, whether it is safe, whether he can recover. Plus, what the one-area extension may not for the millions had a have gotten it.

Meet a man who says it won't help. We went to the ground to find people dealing with this.

Plus, the real key to Obamacare, young people, we've done the numbers. We'll show you exactly why that is so crucial.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Tonight President Obama bowed to public pressure and panicked Democrats by wavering from one of the pillars of his health care reform. He won't make give up your current health care plan if you like it for another year even though that plan may come nowhere close to meeting the qualifications of Obamacare. It is very unclear whether this fix will mean people who get the cancellations notices will get their plans back.

Washington State has said no way. It is the insurance regulators in each of the states that will make that choice. Not the White House. Dan Simon is OUTFRONT with the story of one man who may have been saved by this announcement, at least for now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In 2009, Steve Brown did his homework. Researching and shopping around for the best insurance policy. STEVE BROWN, RECEIVED INSURANCE POLICY CANCELLATION: The plan we had met our family needs. It was a good plan, low deductible, expensive, but it met our needs.

SIMON: That's why Brown who lives in San Francisco was upset to learn his policy was being canceled because of Obamacare. Because of the requirements of the new laws, we can no longer offer your current individual health benefit plan, read the letter from his insurer, Anthem Blue Cross.

BROWN: One of the reasons I was so surprised. I did not have a subpar or a sham insurance policy. It was a great policy to begin with. Over the last couple years actually got better because they had to comply with state and federal law to expand health care for women, to have a stronger preventive care.

SIMON: The insurance company suggested a new plan. He said they did not make it clear what the add benefits would be, but they did make it clear it would cost 27 percent more, along with a higher deductible.

BROWN: To say we're having to cancel it, it is not Obamacare compliant and it will come more. You'll have a higher deductible and a higher out of pocket expense and not really better benefits shocked me and then it became irritating.

SIMON: Even with the president's quote/unquote "fix" today.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Those who got cancellations notices do deserve and receive an apology from me.

SIMON (on camera): Did that give you some comfort hearing from the president?

BROWN: It was nice to hear him acknowledge there had been a mistake, but I'm still feeling uneasy because he said that insurance companies may provide their policies. It is not a guarantee that they will.

SIMON: A million people in California received similar termination letters. It is not known how many would have had to pay higher premiums. The state insurance commissioners are asking company to resend those cancellations. The question is will they and that is unknown for people like Steve Brown.

(voice-over): Even so Obamacare supporters say you it doesn't mean should you automatically keep your policy. There may be better ones available at a cheaper price. Brown hasn't really dug into that yet. He just may bite the bullet with a higher premium and deductible because he like his network of doctors. Consumer advocates say there is a benefit to this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The fact a million Californians received termination letters was scary for a lot of people.

ANTHONY WRIGHT, HEALTH ACCESS CALIFORNIA: As opposed to people shrugging their shoulders and saying this is the way the market works thinking there is nothing to be done about it, people are at least now engaged in the fact, this is a policy issue.

SIMON: An issue that seems more complicated than ever. Dan Simon, CNN, San Francisco.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: In order to prevent premiums like you just saw from surging, the administration needs about 40 percent of the people who enroll in Obamacare to be young and healthy. That was sort of what I was getting at with Congressman Ellison there. This is crucial group that everything rest upon. Those numbers are integral to the success or failure of the law.

Our Tom Foreman is OUTFRONT. Tom, you've been looking at this, since it is so crucial. Exactly how these insurance plans are set up so that they could remain affordable, which is all that matters to young people who buy really cheap plans with really high deductibles when they have the choice.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Erin, everyone knows how health insurance is supposed to work. You have a lot of people who pay money to an insurance company. As they get sick, the insurance company pays for their care. The risk of anyone being hit with medical bills, it works as long as they're generally healthy, as long as they pay this more than they take out. Under Obamacare, as you noted, this whole system is being expanded to include a lot of new folks, the uninsured, and they must fit into this equation.

Meaning this cannot be a whole bunch of people out here with serious illnesses or chronic health issues. It must include 40 percent healthy people. That means as you noted, young people. Why, because people over 65 are roughly 2.5 times more likely to feel unwell than people in their early 20s, Erin. So that's really the cross here. Younger people are healthier and they may not want health insurance. They may want to spend the money but have this to have them.

BURNETT: Here's the question, whether young people will sign up. Not only are they the people, if they're allowed to keep their plans for cheaper would be more likely to do so rather than getting the exchanges in the short term. That is a big problem for the viability of the entire Obamacare system, but also, when you look at them staying on their parents' plans. They were allowed to and they did in overwhelming numbers. It seemed like very easy thing.

FOREMAN: That may be the problem.

BURNETT: It would seem to me if I had the option, I would stay on my parents' plan. Keep my existing plan or pay penalty, which is a heck of a lot cheaper than getting into an exchange before I would buy an expensive plan even if I felt a little guilty about it.

FOREMAN: If you look at the 40 percent they have to have. We keep talking about the absolute number here. They got to have 4 million sign up, 3 million sign up or 10 or 12 million sign up. The absolute number matters less than that 40 percent. Here are the three reasons why they're concerned about the young people. You noted the web site problem.

If you have people come in to try and it doesn't work the first time, everyone knows it is harder to get them to come back and try again. The second problem is 26 and under. This is one of the most popular features of Obamacare. The idea people could stay on their parents' insurance until they're 26 years old. That cuts out this entire group.

Of course, there is the question of the penalty, Erin. I've talked to a lot of analysts the penalty for not getting insurance the first year, even the second year, maybe even the third year for some people is simply not high enough. It is not going to push some young people to buy. They're going to say, I'm counting my pennies and I can pay the penalty and take my chances about getting sick.

If that happens on a large scale, then that 40 percent threshold starts feeling the pressure. The whole Washington establishment will be talking if that doesn't get reached -- Erin.

BURNETT: Of course, those who are proponents of this plan over the long term are betting that will not happen. Tom Foreman, thank you very much. Just explaining why that that is central to the problem today.

Still to come, our coverage continues of the president's health care announcement, a hugely significant development today. Has Obamacare tarnished his legacy permanently?

Plus, we're going to talk about the fact that he can make whatever promises he wants today but the insurers aren't on board.

And things get even weirder in Toronto. Rob Ford, you saw him there, facing new drug accusations, making an unbelievably vulgar comment. I think there has never been any -- I know there has never been anything like this said in front of cameras before by a politician. You're going to see it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Numbers don't lie. That's the problem President Obama is facing. We've gone through a lot of the numbers of signups and the problems.

And I want to bring John King in now, our chief national correspondent. He's OUTFRONT.

Numbers don't lie, of course, was the title of your op-ed today, John. You're talking about enrollment numbers for Obamacare and the president's poll numbers which have taken a real hit. Obviously, disapproval rating now for the president, 54 percent. Approval is now below 40.

The president says he does not care about polls. Really? JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No. Now, look, he's trying to look past the polls, Erin. He's trying to look past the polls where he says, I can get my mojo back. We can get my agenda back on track.

At the moment, you know, he kept saying today, I'm not perfect. I'm not a perfect president. I'm not a perfect man.

What he needs to try to get is be productive again. If you look at those poll numbers, that's what's causing the paralysis of his presidency right now. The Obamacare numbers themselves were abysmal. His approval rating is bad and people have lost, starting to lose faith in him personally. They don't trust him. They say that he wasn't honest about that if you like your doctor or your plan, you can keep it.

So, the president is trying to turn it around. The question is, can he? And the early evidence is a huge question mark. Out in the country, as you've been noting throughout the program, can he make peace with those people who got cancellation notices? Well, that depends in part on whether their state says OK. Let them reissue those policies.

It also depends in part on whether when they get a letter from their insurance company, sure you can keep, the rates go up and go up substantially. So that's the problem and the question in the country.

Here in Washington, a lot of Democrats still saying, no, sorry, Mr. President. Thank you for coming out today, but we still think Congress should do something. Your fix did not go far enough.

So, politically, he did not stop the problem.

BURNETT: And I want to talk about insurers in a moment, but -- you know, as you know, of course, it's not just about Republicans as John Boehner, the congressman I also pointed earlier in the show admits, he still wants to get rid of Obamacare, it's Democrats, too, and it's not just those in Congress that are angry with the president.

Here's the guy who opened up the free-for-all against the president this week when he weighed in on letting people keep their health insurance. I don't need to say who he is. Everyone, you'll know it when I play it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT: I personally believe, even if it takes changing the law, the president should honor the commitment the federal government made to those people and let them keep what they got.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Why did Bill Clinton do that?

KING: Well, you know, he didn't say anything that President Obama doesn't agree with. But the fact that he did say it tells you a lot.

You don't criticize the leader of your own party even if you're a former president when they have good high poll standing numbers. Remember, a lot of Republicans didn't like Medicare Part D. Some Republicans didn't like the Iraq war. They kept their mouth shut during the Bush administration until the tide turned.

When did the tide turn? When public opposition to Iraq went off the charts and when the Katrina moment happened, and people started to think, this president cannot run the government in a competent way.

That is President Obama's challenge, Erin. If people come to the conclusion, he not only can't keep his promises. You know, he can't get the government to do most basic things. Like have a Web site. Remember he said this would be like buying an airline ticket.

So, some people see this as a potential Katrina moment. A very smart Democrat I talked to tonight said let's keep it in the Democratic Party. He said, unless the president changes the tide quickly, this could be his energy shortage, a reference to what debilitated Jimmy Carter.

BURNETT: All right. John King, thank you very much.

And I now bring on the civil war, because it's Dem versus Dem. You know, a month ago, we were talking about the GOP waging a civil war and they still are. But now, it's the Dems that are on the front line because this one-year fix that allows people to keep their health care plans is not making a lot of Democrats happy, and, in fact, maybe completely impossible to implement. We'll talk about that now, too. In fact, a group of Democrats went into the White House this week angry.

Candy Crowley is OUTFRONT.

And, Candy, you know, a lot of Democrats not on board with the president's one-year fix. High profile senators like Mary Landrieu among them, right? She said, look, I appreciate the president's move, but I'm going to have legislation to allow people to keep those plans permanently.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Exactly.

BURNETT: So, Senator Jeanne Shaheen, also Democrats, agree. Is there a real rift here within the Democratic Party?

CROWLEY: Sure, on this issue. And I think you kind of heard that in the president's voice. I think he was trying to offer them a little bit of cover saying, I'm the team head here. I'm the coach. I know I put a burden on these Democrats.

Because I can assure you that in that meeting, the Democrats said, let me tell what you I am hearing at home as I prepare to launch my re-election bid, which many of them are, including Landrieu and those that you mentioned.

BURNETT: Right.

CROWLEY: So, absolutely. And I think you heard it a little bit tonight with Keith Ellison, because there are those who go, hey, stop apologizing. You shouldn't let these substandard insurance policies be OK for another year. Robert Reich wrote an op-ed and said stop, you know, these are bad insurance policies. Don't let it happen.

And then, you're hearing the moderates and many up for re- election in purple states going, not far enough. We need a legislative fix, because they want to vote on it so that they can vote on and take that back home.

So, there is that rift.

BURNETT: And there's also this problem, Candy, because you're saying the Democrats are arguing, do you let people keep their plan for another year or for forever? Here's the problem, they can't control it. And neither can the president, right?

I mean, the insurance company who were dragged kicking and screaming with all kinds of nasty thing said about them, went along with preexisting conditions and all these to begin with. And now, the ball is in their court. They get to decide whether they're going to extend these plans, and already in Washington state, this is a state by state thing, as you know -- they're saying no way. Sorry. We're not going to do it.

So, the president is now coming out and saying, you can keep your plan for another year and now, people still may not be able to.

CROWLEY: Exactly.

And you can say, well, now, the president can say, well, I told them to go ahead and keep it for another year, I can't control the insurance companies. For some Democrats, that's not going to be enough. They want legislation that says you have to offer what you were offering before.

The insurance agencies are already out there. A spokesman for the group of them saying this is going to hit premiums really hard. I mean, this is -- you know, again, the sort of new alliances kind of splitting over there. I think the White House feels that it can argue, we did what we could, but the insurance companies won't allow it. I think that Democrats, many Democrats on Capitol Hill won't let that be the last word.

BURNETT: All right. Candy, thank you very much.

CROWLEY: Thanks.

BURNETT: Still to come, some of the other key stories we're following at this hour. The Rob Ford scandal turns foul and gets even weirder. Toronto's mayor facing new acquisitions and holds the most bizarre press conference in political history. Yes, more bizarre than yesterday. Yes, you must hear this and it is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Toronto's embattled mayor shocked the world today -- and yes, that is still possible, because -- let me explain and, of course, I'm going to play for you but I've got to explain first, because it started this way. There are new allegations against Rob Ford, including guzzling vodka while driving, inviting a woman who looked like an escort to his office, and making lewd comments to a female staffer among others.

Ford says that's all lies and he got so angry with the accusations that he hit back with this vulgar response.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR ROB FORD, TORONTO: I have to take legal action against the waiter that said I was doing lines at the Bier Markt. That is outright lies. That is not true.

You know what? But it hurts my wife when they're calling a friend of mine a prostitute. Alana is not a prostitute. She is a friend and it makes me sick how people are saying this.

Olivia Gondek, it says that I wanted to eat her (EXPLETIVE DELETED). Olivia Gondek, I've never said that in my life to her. I would never do that. I'm happily married. I've got more than enough to eat at home.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: OUTFRONT tonight, CNN anchor Bill Weir.

We should have come to your face after that because that is so shocking. I mean, this is the mayor of the fourth biggest city in the United States, I mean, in North America.

BILL WEIR, CNN ANCHOR: After I scoop my jaw off the floor after hearing it this morning, I think I realized what that is. That's not Mayor Ford. That's Andy Kaufman in a great costume, or Sacha Baron Cohen. Because who says this? You get thrown out of truck stops for talking like this.

But then he went on to the floor of the council wearing his Toronto Argonauts jersey. They were very disappointed. It's the playoffs. They even so. And all the councilors deliberately turned their backs on him after that comment.

But he does this manic mood swing. He has the impulse control of a 13-year-old boy with that first press conference, because you know that line, it seemed like he worked that line out before he came out. It wasn't extemporaneous, but then, I guess remorse sits in, right? And a few hours later, he changes out of jersey and apologizes.

BURNETT: Right. And let's just play the apology here. Here's that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) FORD: I want to apologize for my graphic remarks this morning. Yesterday, I mentioned it was the second worst day of my life except for the death of my father. For the past six months, I have been under tremendous, tremendous stress.

The stress is largely of my own making. I have apologized and I have tried to move forward. This has proven to be almost impossible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: So what happens next here? There are 500 pages of police reports in which a lot of these allegations that he responded to in that vulgar way are detailed.

WEIR: It is project brazen two. That's what the police are calling this. But, yes, those were basically interviews that have been given in order to get search warrants, none of it proven in court. But, yes, I think probably the video -- some surveillance video of this long time buddy of his who is now indicted for extortion and drug dealing as well.

But he is not helping his cause in keeping in power. Now they're trying to take his mayoral power away from him after that press conference and we haven't talked about his wife, his poor wife who --

BURNETT: And she was there today. She was there.

WEIR: She was there. And the Canadian media, politer than us, they stayed -- family is hands-off. But he brings her to that conference after saying what he said, and instead of taking back door out of that press conference, he chooses to go through this scrum.

So, I wonder if he's playing the sympathy card to his base here. Look at the camera, the journalists ganging up on us, my wife.

But even the premiere of Ottawa, like their governor is opening the door that if things get really ugly, they may have to step in.

BURNETT: And I mean, here's the truth -- when you talk to people with this, there isn't a mechanism to get rid of him.

WEIR: There is not. I talked to the guy who ran the losing campaign who is a big time political consultant up in Toronto last week. His name is Jamie. He had this to say.

It blew me away when we talked about, how do you get this guy out of here?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMIE WATT, POLITICAL STRATEGIST: There is no mechanism to get rid of him. The only way he can be removed from office is if he is convicted of an offense and incarcerated.

WEIR: Oh, really.

WATT: Both.

WEIR: Both?

WATT: Both.

WEIR: So, he can be convicted and still stay in office.

WATT: Unless he is incarcerated.

WEIR: You are some generous folks up there.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WEIR: So if he appeals, he could run again. But poll looks like he's not.

Maybe the best idea came from Mary Margaret McMahan (ph), a councilor up there, who said today, he needs to duct tape himself.

BURNETT: That might be the best thing when thing like that come out of your mouth.

All right. Thanks very much to Bill Weir, of course, went to Toronto to talk to people to find out the truth on this story.

Still to come, why the ivory trade might be a threat to American national security. Pretty shocking, right? You could be funding terrorism and not even know it yourself.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Today, a 6-ton stockpile of elephant ivory destroyed by the U.S. government. The ivory crush as it's being called highlight what some say is a worldwide threat, not just to the elephant population but to American national security.

Anna Cabrera is OUTFRONT with tonight's "Money and Power."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANA CABRERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Six tons of elephant ivory tusk carvings and trinkets destroyed, a symbolic call to action to crush the illicit ivory trade.

BETH ALLGOOD, INTERNATIONAL FUND FOR ANIMAL WELFARE: It's not just an animal problem anymore. It's an animal and people problem.

CABRERA: While elephants live in the other part of the world, this is a United States problem. According to the International Fund for Animal Welfare, a nonprofit organization, the United States is the second largest retail market for elephant ivory, only behind China.

We went behind the scenes at the U.S. government's national wildlife property repository. Ivory is among 1.5 million items of wildlife contrabands stored here, confiscated around the country.

(on camera): More than 1,100 ivy specimen have been seized since 2009 by U.S. border agents -- everything from small statutes to large elephant tusks. And again, that's just what was seized. Experts believe this represents just 10 percent of what's actually being traded illegally.

(voice-over): To get the ivory, poachers have to kill the elephants.

ALLGOOD: They cannot possibly reproduce as fast as they are being killed, and they are being killed, you know, from airplanes with machine guns, you know, I mean, heavy artillery.

CABRERA: Now, some terrorist-linked groups, including al- Shabaab, the group connected to the Westgate Mall attack earlier this year, have been connected to the illegal ivory trade, with ivory fetching up to $1,000 a pound in places like Beijing, investigators believe these criminal organizations are using tusks to buy weapons and sustain their activities.

ROBERT DREHER, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE: What we're seeing is a level of engagement that is actually destabilizing of governments, that's a threat to world order, that's a threat to our national security.

CABRERA: Robert Dreher is part of a U.S. Presidential Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking. He says a possible solution could come with new laws to go after the illegal proceeds, not just ivory. Some animal activists want to see a ban on the sale of it all together. The task force hopes to have a plan drafted by the end of the year.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CABRERA: Right now, it is legal on some level to buy and sell ivory here in the U.S. You can buy it on auction sites, on eBay, at antique stores. But you cannot bring ivory into the U.S. Since 1989, there's been a ban on exports and imports of Ivory in this country. But the problem is, once the illegal ivory makes it into the marketplace, it's very difficult to distinguish what's old versus what's new, what's legal, versus what's illegal -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Ana, thank you very much. Pretty shocking. I think a lot of people out there watching tonight probably thought the U.S. got rid of that, right? Second largest market after China.

Thanks so much for joining us. We appreciate your time.

"AC360" starts after this.