Return to Transcripts main page


Arizona Governor Will Likely Veto Bill; Is "Let's Move!" Working?

Aired February 25, 2014 - 16:30   ET



I'm Jake Tapper.

Continuing in national news, this is just one bill in just one state and yet it has divided a country. But now, it's looking increasingly like the controversial bill to amend Arizona's Religious Freedom Restoration Act will not become law.

Sources tell CNN that Arizona's Republican governor will likely veto the bill, which would protect business owners from lawsuits if they cite religious beliefs in refusing service to certain customers. Opponents frame the bill as a way of legalizing discrimination, largely against the gay community. Supporters say it protects First Amendment religious freedom, though now, there are fewer of those supporters, in the state senate, at least. Three Republicans who originally voted for the bill are now asking Governor Brewer to veto it.

I want to bring in former Arizona Congressman Jim Kolbe.

He used to be the dean of the House Republican delegation from Arizona. He was also one of the first Republican Congressmen to say that he's gay while in office.

Congressman, good to see you.


TAPPER: Have you said what you think about this bill and communicated that in any way to Governor Brewer?

KOLBE: Yes. I have spoken to the governor's staff and I've also sent her a personal e-mail expressing my views, which is that I think this is unnecessary and harmful and that it should not be enacted into law.

TAPPER: There's been a big economic movement against this bill. Apple, the NFL, American Airlines, a lot of companies voicing concerns about this bill. We know the economic pressure Governor Brewer must be under pressure to veto this.

What are the other pressures that she might be facing from the other side?

KOLBE: Well, from the outside, she's obviously facing the pressure from conservative Evangelical religious Christian groups saying this is about religious freedom. And I want to respect the motives of those, I think, that promoted this. Legislation. They're for religious freedom. I'm for religious freedom. But this legislation is simply unnecessary. There are plenty of protections now in the law and this just sends the wrong impression, that it has to do with legalizing discrimination against people.

TAPPER: Rush Limbaugh was talking about this bill on his radio show earlier.

I want to play a bit of that.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, HOST: She's being attacked for suggesting that she might veto the bill for economic reasons. I kid you not. She's not saying that the veto would be for the reason they want to hear. The same sex homosexual advocates want her to veto it on the basis of human rights, civil rights, gay rights and what have you. The governor of Arizona is being bullied. She's being bullied by the homosexual lobby in Arizona.


TAPPER: Congressman, does it matter to you why the bill would be vetoed, as long as it's vetoed?

KOLBE: Well, the important thing is that it doesn't become law, that it does get vetoed. But I think it's important that it be done -- I don't know what she'll say in her veto message, but I think it's important that it be done for several reasons. And one I've already enumerated, and that is, I think it's morally incorrect. I think it's unnecessary. And I think economically, it's bad. And I think from a reputation standpoint, it just gives Arizona a black eye and we don't need that.

And so I think we should avoid that.

TAPPER: I want to read part of a letter that those three Republican state senators who changed their minds about the bill wrote.

They say, quote, "While our sincere intent in voting for this bill was to create a shield for all citizens' religious liberties, the bill has instead been mischaracterized by its opponents as a sword for religious intolerance. These allegations are causing our state immeasurable harm.

Sir, do you think the problem is that the bill is being mischaracterized...

KOLBE: No, I don't think it's...

TAPPER: -- or do you think the problem is the bill?

KOLBE: I think the problem is the bill. I don't think it's being mischaracterized. As I said, I'm sure that the motives of many of those who promoted this and voted for it were good motives. But it's not needed and it does send the wrong message. And it's, I think, morally indefensible to say that people should be able to discriminate on the basis of one sexual orientation and there be any repercussions from that.

So I think it's just wrong from everything, whether it's an economic, a moral standpoint, a reputation standpoint. I think it's just wrong.

TAPPER: Former Arizona congressman and former dean of the Arizona delegation, Jim Kolbe.

Thank you so much.

Coming up next, the first lady goes one step further in her fight against childhood obesity on the fourth avenue -- fourth anniversary of her "Let's Move" campaign. The new rules she's announcing that take aim at several big name companies.

Plus, by now, you've probably seen President Bush's showier self- portrait or this Barney painting. Adorable.

But curious about the works you haven't seen?

Well, you're in luck.

Stay with us.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD in national news.

Your child's school day no longer sponsored by Coca-Cola, under new rules being pushed by First Lady Michelle Obama today. The new regulations would stop companies from advertising junk food inside schools, which would mean, say, no giant Coke or Pepsi logos on scoreboards or in gyms.

Right this moment, the first lady is at an event at a school in Miami, Florida after announcing the new measures today, on the fourth anniversary of her "Let's Move" campaign to combat childhood obesity.


MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: And I think we can all agree that our classrooms should be healthy places where kids are not bombarded with ads for junk food.


TAPPER: Some celebrities are helping to promote "Let's Move" on this anniversary, including funny man, Will Ferrell, who joined the first lady for a little focus grouping.


OBAMA: Getting a good body and staying healthy is about dedication and consistency and eating right.

WILL FERRELL, COMEDIAN: So no entire honey baked hams?

OBAMA: Sorry.


TAPPER: It's one thing to get the backing of Hollywood, but for many other people in this country, the "Let's Move" campaign is a quintessential nanny state idea.

And what about the results?

After four years, is the first lady's "Let's Move" campaign really working?

I want to talk about it with Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy at The Center for Science in the Public Interest. Her agency has collaborated with "Let's Move" in the past.

And Genevieve Woods, senior contributor for The Foundry at The Heritage Foundation.

So, Genevieve, it's -- we'll start with you.

It's no secret you're not a fan of "Let's Move."

What do you make of these new restrictions against advertising junk food in schools?

GENEVIEVE WOOD, SENIOR CONTRIBUTOR, THE FOUNDRY: Yes, well, first of all, look, it sounds good. Everybody says, yes, let's keep bad stuff, in that sense, away from the kids.

But I think if the local school district was to make that call, if the state wants to debate that and make that call -- and some states have -- that's one thing. But I don't think it's the role of the federal government.

And as to whether it's working, look, what -- these kids go to places outside schools.

Are we going to ban advertising for Coca-Cola from anywhere else that kids are going to show up?

They don't just stay in school their entire lives.

So this -- I think the question of it being effective, I think it's a little bit artificial. It sounds like we're doing something good.

Is it really effective?

TAPPER: Margo, why the federal government?

Why not state and local authorities? MARGO WOOTAN, DIRECTOR OF NUTRITION POLICY, CENTER FOR SCIENCE IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST: Well, Genevieve is very much in the minority on this. Parents want healthy school foods and they want junk food marketing out of schools. Even the beverage industry agreed with the first lady's announcement this morning.

Food marketing has a very strong impact on children's diets and health. It effects what they want to eat, what they're willing to eat, you know, what they even think of as food.

And, unfortunately, most of the marketing in schools is for unhealthy foods. It's for sugary drinks, snack foods, fast food and other foods that parents want their kids to be eating less of.

WOOD: Well, see, that, I think, is one of the questions, which parents are we talking about?

We're pretending it...

WOOTAN: The majority of parents.

WOOD: Well, but you're pretending that the majority of parents get to decide what all kids eat or don't eat. And I think here's a...


WOOD: -- I mean based on the -- based on what came out this morning, sugary drinks can't be advertised. Well, Diet Coke isn't a sugary drink, but there are a lot of folks who don't think Diet Coke is good for people, even though it doesn't have sugar in it.

You know, the federal government has got a track record here. Back in 1992, not that long ago, they came out with something called the Food Pyramid. When we know that food pyramid wasn't so right. It didn't distinguish between fats. It said that people ought to eat a high carbohydrate...


WOOD: -- a high carbohydrate diet.

Well, if it was so good, why -- and we taught that in schools -- why do we have an obesity problem today?

WOOTAN: Well, because...


WOOTAN: -- the Food Pyramid is not responsible for the obesity epidemic.

WOOD: Well, not...

WOOTAN: The majority of parents...

WOOD: (INAUDIBLE). WOOTAN: -- we send our kids to school each day for a long period of time, six to eight hours. Most parents want that to be a healthy, safe environment, because we're not there to guide our food choices. So most parents want the food choices and the marketing to be healthy. Schools are a taxpayer-funded institution. They are the government. So it's just a matter of making those environment self and helpful the way parents want it to be.

WOOD: Well, I would have to argue with that and say parents are so supportive of this, why don't parents in their local district go and say we want this taken out of our schools? They don't need the federal government to step in and do it.

And talk about the role of the federal government. The federal government should be trying to do things like not passing on a trillions upon trillions of dollar of debt to the next generation of America. That's something they ought to work on.

TAPPER: We all agree on that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's a role for them. This is an area if we're like why are they spending time and energy on this, especially, when as you say, parents already know it's the right thing. They can make these choices at the local level.

TAPPER: Why should the federal government spend time --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Most of us, we're raising our kids, we're working, we have a lot of responsibility. We don't have time to go school by school, district by district to put into place sensible policies. This is a policy that most people want and it is a local wellness policy so the scope of it and how it's run, how it plays out will have a lot of local influence. But this is responding to the demand that parents have voice. This is not pushing something down parents' throats.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is more of the government saying you don't know how to pick out your own doctors, so let's figure out health care for you. You don't know how to take care of your children when it comes to nutritious (inaudible) take care of that. It is indeed the nanny state.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is not indeed the nanny state. We're already spending $15 billion a year. It's important. The marketing will follow the same standards as the school foods standards.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to ask, what is the track record? We've had school lunch programs, school breakfast programs for years. They didn't just show up under Michelle Obama. As we know, many parents don't like what has been served in those for years and we have an obesity problem today, eating these very programs that you talk about?

TAPPER: Margo, I'll give you the last word.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The schools that had strong nutrition programs and good nutrition policies, the kids have lower obesity rates and healthier diets there. Schools are working on the nutritional qualities of the foods. Parents are happy with the changes, but there are still more work to do.

TAPPER: To be continued. Great debate. We really appreciate both of it. Margo (inaudible), thank you so much for coming in.

Wolf Blitzer is here now with a preview of "THE SITUATION ROOM." Wolf, you sat down with the man that Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro called, quote, "The craziest of the crazy," Senator Marco Rubio. What did he tell you?

When we come back, Hillary Clinton said we're in a race against time. Now Secretary of State John Kerry is calling it the world's most fierce weapon of mass destruction. So is the Obama administration doing enough? Stay with us.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. It's time now for the "Buried Lead." These are stories we think are not getting enough attention from the media. Today, Secretary of State John Kerry announced that the State Department will host a two-day conference on protecting oceans. This comes on the heels of President Obama pledging $1 billion to help communities prepare for climate change.

With the Congress that shows little inclination to deal with this issue, the Obama administration has been trying to combat climate change kind of its own for executive actions. Yesterday, the Supreme Court heard arguments over just how far the administration can go, specifically, over whether the Environmental Protection Agency can tighten emission standards for places such as power plants.

Now the U.S. Congress might be nonchalant or even skeptical of climate change, man-made climate change anyway, but the World Meteorological Organization said the first six weeks of this year have been noticeable for unusual weather extremes, extreme cold, extreme heat, and extreme rain.

Our next guest says we should all be paying attention to all of this because earth is on the verge of a cataclysmic and joining us now, Elizabeth Kolbert, staff writer for the "New Yorker" and author of "The Sixth Extinction and Unnatural history," which details in many ways the human species is eradicating other species throughout the world.

Elizabeth, it's so nice to have you here. You cover climate change. I want to remind our viewers of how Secretary Kerry describe the importance of this issue just a few days ago.


JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: Climate change can now be considered another weapon of mass destruction, perhaps even the world's more fearsome weapon of mass destruction.

(END VIDEO CLIP) TAPPER: Is he right? Is that dire?

ELIZABETH KOLBERT, AUTHOR, "THE SIXTH EXTINCTION": I don't think people realize how much of the world depends -- how all of us, all societies depend on this sort of climate that we are used to and how quickly we're pushing the planet, the whole planet into this climate regime that is unknown in human history. So if we really continue on the trajectory that we're on, we're going to have carbon dioxide on the atmosphere and it's very unclear what the consequences of that are going to be.

TAPPER: I think a lot of people in the public, certainly a lot of House Republicans and some House Democrats and Senate Democrats think that there's a quality to all of this. There's Chicken Little, that scientists say that and it doesn't actually mean anything if the water and sea goes up half a temperature or a degree.

KOLBERT: Well, you know, one of the things that scientists do tell us, they look back at the past, at points in which temperatures have been higher than now, which is true. They have been years in the past and they look at, for example, what sea levels were like. Washington, D.C., will be under water. If nobody cares about that, that's unfortunately -- Washington is a place where people think they can choose their facts, like you chose to put on that stripe tie this morning.

TAPPER: Thanks to my wife. But, yes, I get your point.

KOLBERT: But the planet doesn't work that way. You know, the laws of geo physics are a lot more -- you know, unchangeable than the laws of politics and, unfortunately, everyone, everyone around the world, including those people who really did the least to contribute to this problem are going to deal with the consequences of people thinking that they can choose their sets of facts.

TAPPER: So one of the reasons why there hasn't been action on climate change is because people see environmentalists saying, don't do this and they feel like it will -- and a lot of cases they are right -- affect jobs or hurt jobs or hurt the way that Americans live their lives. You talk about extinctions in this book.

Yesterday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service put two salamanders that only live in Central Texas, put them on the endangered species list and they are on the endangered species list because of human actions, groundwater contamination, water pollution. I guess, the question that a lot of Americans might have is who cares? Two salamanders in Central Texas. What does it matter?

KOLBERT: Well, I think, you know, I can answer that two different ways. The first way I can just say is, you know, this is sort of -- this is the beauty and variety of our planet. It took many years to unravel to that point. The list goes on and on and on these days. If you don't care about that, really, what do you care about?

Recently the pope said this line, God always forgives. People occasionally forgive but nature never forgives. You drive those creatures extinct it's never coming back in all of history. But in a more sort of practical in your gut level, one of the things that we've learned by looking back over the long record of life on this planet is there are these moments of mass distinction.

And when that happens, as one British paleontologist that I quoted said, "The rules of the survival game change and you don't know what the outcome of that is going to be. You're just changing the rules for everything on earth and we are obviously part of that.

TAPPER: Elizabeth Kolbert, the book "The Sixth Extinction, An Unnatural History," very fascinating. Thank you so much for coming in. I hope you'll come back when we talk more about this issue.

In politics, prepare to explore the deeply complicated relationships between a former U.S. president and fellow world leaders, not through top secret documents that have been sealed away somewhere, but at an art exhibit being hosted this spring by former President George W. Bush. Bush, as you may know, took a painting in 2009.

The artist in chief will be displaying some of his never-before-seen paintings this April at an exhibit called the art of leadership, a president's personal diplomacy. The exhibit captures how Bush's relationship with world leaders helped to shape global policies during his presidency.

As if learning her phone had been tapped by the NSA was not bad enough, now German Chancellor Angela Merkel has the distinct honor of trending on Twitter over what looks like a Hitler mustache and the photo she took while standing next to the prime minister of Israel.

The "Jerusalem Post" snapped this photo of Merkel with Benjamin Netanyahu as they mark 50 years of diplomacy between their two nations. The photographer happened to take the picture just as Netanyahu lifted his finger, casting a rather unfortunate shadow across the chancellor's upper lip. It did not take long for the photo to go viral with some labeling it the most awkward political photo in history.

Finally a White House goodbye to the Zen master of comedy. Harold Ramis could find humor in seemingly every aspect of life even death and now even the Obamas are paying their respects to the actor, writer, director and all around comic genius who died yesterday at the age of 69 after giving us such classics like "Ghostbusters," "Groundhog Day" and, of course, "Caddyshack."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How about something for your effort?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There won't be any money, but when you die, on your death bed you will receive total consciousness. So I have that going, which is nice.


TAPPER: Carl Spakler, the Obamas said our thoughts and prayers are with his Harold's wife, Erica, his children and grandchildren and all those who loved him, who quote his work with abandon, and who hope that he received total consciousness. We here at THE LEAD hope so as well. That's for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. I now turn you over to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM" -- Wolf.