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NEW DAY SATURDAY
Seven Dead in California Drive-By Shootings; Slide Fire Burns 8,500 Acres, 5 Percent Contained; Pope Francis Arrives in Jordan; Sheriff: This is "Mass Murder" Situation; GOP Divide: The Tea Party Effect
Aired May 24, 2014 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Who exactly were you able to talk to at the scene and what were they saying about the moments in that 10-minute that is the shooter was shooting? Because we were reading online that the sheriff's department initially came out and said, listen, people, stay inside. Keep your doors and windows closed. Do not come out, we have an active shooting situation and didn't know how secure it was.
VICTORIA SANCHEZ, KEYT REPORTER (via telephone): Right. What happened is this happened in that span of 10 minutes, happened in multiple blocks, multiple streets. This person was in a vehicle driving, so they were able to get from place-to-place rather quickly in a small college town. They did tell everybody to stay inside.
The people that I did talk to, I spoke with multiple people, people who are working in restaurants saying they heard gunshots and patrons of the restaurant were running inside to try to get away from the gunfire. That was one person. I spoke to another person who saw a girl get shot in the leg. He said he saw someone pointing a gun at a girl on the corner by 7-Eleven.
And then another girl I spoke to who did not have shoes on, she ran from the area, was walking down the street. She said somebody in a black BMW was trying to talk to her. And she was walking away. He pulled out a gun. She said it looked like a small handgun, black handgun and shot at her.
She told me that she felt the bullet go past her face and she ran. As she was running, two more gunshots fired at her. Luckily, she was not hit, was able to go to a neighboring house and on her way, when she was running there, she dropped her phone and other items just to get away from the shooter.
When she got back, she finally found her phone, grabbed her phone, it was shattered and found sheriff's deputies.
VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: For those of you who are just joining us, we want you to understand exactly what we're discussing here, a shooting in the small town of Isla Vista, right near the campus of UC- Santa Barbara. Seven confirmed dead by the sheriff there in San Barbara. Also, seven reportedly in a hospital in the area.
We have on the phone with us, reporter, Victoria Sanchez of CNN affiliate, KEYT. She tells us that the shooter in this case, according to a news conference and a conversation she had with the sheriff there, Bill Brown, that the shooter has been killed. The sheriff says this person acted alone.
Victoria, my question to you, the sheriff says that the shooting went on for 10 minutes and it went on through multiple blocks and multiple areas. How many crime scenes are we talking about here? Are we talking about one large area where the shooting was continuous during those 10 minutes, or, as it would allude to from this conversation the shooter reportedly had, that there were shootings in one area, drive to another area, continue shooting in that pattern.
How many areas?
SANCHEZ: That's exactly right. We are looking upwards, where I walked to, I saw four. We are thinking upwards of five, six, seven different areas where the shootings took place.
So, Isla Vista, again, a small, college town. Many of the areas are cordoned off, not letting people in because of these multiple scenes where people were shot.
BLACKWELL: Do we know, or has the sheriff said because I know your team is doing its own reporting. And we're getting some information from the sheriff. So, I want to rely on what the sheriff said here. Do we know if the dead suspect was a student at UC-Santa Barbara?
SANCHEZ: They're not letting us know. They're not identifying him in any way.
They are saying it's a male driving a car who had a gun. That's it. No names, no school, letting us know if he was a student at UCSB, or a student at Santa Barbara City College. They are not letting us know that information as of right now.
PAUL: OK, Victoria, we know that you said seven people dead, seven in the hospital. Do we know the condition of any of those hospitalized? How serious is it for them?
SANCHEZ: They didn't let us know. What we do is one person has already undergone surgery. That's the extent of what we do know.
We also do know that at least one person might have been hit by a vehicle. But other than that, they are not letting us know the condition of the victims.
PAUL: How many weapons? Do we know what kind of weapons were used and how many?
SANCHEZ: Right now, they confirmed they found one weapon in the vehicle with the suspect.
BLACKWELL: I see on the bottom of the screen, a quote from the sheriff, a premeditated mass murder. On what is that based? The idea this was premeditated. SANCHEZ: I'm not sure if he said premeditated. He definitely said mass murder. He said it was like a madman. And that's all. They are saying they had -- they are investigating written and video of this murder. That's all he's letting us know about that.
PAUL: I was reading, again, on some of the local media there that, and correct me if I'm wrong, the black BMW that was involved, also slammed into as many as two cars. You mentioned that the car may have actually hit a person as well.
Did it seem, at any point that this driver, the shooter was using the car as a weapon as well?
SANCHEZ: It doesn't sound like that as of now. What it sounds like is that he could possibly have been evading police, which is when the accident happened. It doesn't look like he had been using the weapon, the vehicle as a weapon other than just a mode of transportation.
BLACKWELL: Has the sheriff's department said if the vehicle was stolen or belonged to the suspect?
SANCHEZ: He's not said anything about the vehicle.
PAUL: All right.
BLACKWELL: Can you give us an idea, a typical Friday night, a college town near a state school. What are the streets like at 9:30, typically on a Friday in Santa Barbara?
SANCHEZ: Friday night, well, we have to remember that they were close to graduation, close to finals, which is going to make the population on the street a little bit less, but on a typical Friday night in Isla Vista. It's a college town right next to UC-Santa Barbara, a lot of people are out and about, a lot of people out walking on the sidewalk, riding their bikes. Plenty of bicycles in Isla Vista.
And Isla Vista is a town where it's very small. So, you can walk place to place to place very easily. Not a lot of people use their vehicles to get from place to place, because they can walk a few blocks to a friend's house, to their house or even to the UCSB campus.
So, a Friday night, it's usually very popular with people walking to and from different parties and different restaurants in the area. Tonight, from what I saw when I was out there, a lot of people standing around in shock that were walking around to friend's houses and just stopped in the middle of the street wondering what happened to Isla Vista.
PAUL: You have to imagine how jolting that is.
Victoria Sanchez with CNN affiliate KEYT, thank you so much for bringing us the latest from your vantage point since you have been there overnight. We are going to stay obviously on the shooting. Again, if you're just joining us, seven people dead, seven in the hospital. And the sheriff calling this, because of a mass murder by a madman near the UC-Santa Barbara campus in the city or the college town of Isla Vista. But again, it lasted about 10 minutes. It is under control. It doesn't sound as though they are looking for anybody else. The shooter, they believe to be dead as well.
As we get more information from the sheriff's department, we will certainly pass it on to you.
BLACKWELL: Of course, another big story we are following this morning, Arizona, a massive wildfire turning one of the country's most beautiful places, if you have ever been there, into kindling. Look at this.
PAUL: This is a fire near Flagstaff. And you are right, it's a gorgeous area. But it's burned 8,500 acres so far.
Hundreds of people have been evacuated from homes, from their vacation cabins.
CNN's Ana Cabrera is there in Flagstaff where hundreds of firefighters are battling what's dubbed the Slide Fire -- Ana.
ANA CABRERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christi, cooler and calmer weather has helped firefighters make progress on this massive wildfire. But we had a chance to go into the fire zone. We saw a still very active fire with the fire fight far from over.
The heart of a fire is an inferno -- powerful, unpredictable, no match for man. To confront these flames, crews are fighting fire with fire. This smoke is from burnout operation, controlled burns to get ahead of the fire by eliminating the fuel.
(voice-over): Nearly 1,000 firefighters are battling this blaze between Sedona and Flagstaff, Arizona. The Slide Fire has already charred more than 7,500 acres of rocky forestland.
How challenging is this terrain?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is extremely challenging.
CABRERA: This is the Northeast plank of the fire, where trees are torching. We watched as the fire made a run up a canyon wall. It's still a challenge to keep the fire from crossing the road edging closer to hundreds of homes.
The steep, rugged terrain makes it too dangerous for people. That's why they've got the helicopters.
Nine helicopters are part of the air attack dousing the flames with 2,000 gallons of water in each run. The elite, highly trained hot shot firefighters are on the ground, cutting fire line and doing back burns, all while watching the weather, especially the winds. It wasn't even a year ago the deadly Yarnell Fire in Arizona claimed the lives of 19 colleagues.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Again, back to those basics, be prepared. Make sure there are escape routes and safety zones. They are in line. Every time, they are evaluating them. So, if they do get those outposts, they have a place to go.
CABRERA: Over communication is the rule of thumb. Safety reign supreme, both with firefighters and evacuees.
(on camera): Are you worried about your house?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, not at all.
CABRERA: Why is that?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Those things are material. They can be replaced. The kids, the pets, the photos, those can't be replaced.
CABRERA (voice-over): So far, no homes lost and no injuries. No small feat to the ongoing fight to control the flames.
(on camera): It's that combination of weather and terrain making it difficult for firefighters to contain this fire. In fact, we are told to get this fire fully contained, it could still be another seven to 10 days -- Christi.
PAUL: Ana, thank you so much.
BLACKWELL: So, of course, we need to look at how the weather plays into this, because the winds, the heat, the humidity -- I mean those three things are important when it helps or comes to fighting the fire, maybe to help the firefighters there.
PAUL: Meteorologist, Jennifer Gray has all that for us.
JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hey, guys. Yes, we have been talking to you about the weather and it is very, very dry. Seventy- six percent of the state in severe drought, 8 percent in extreme. This is from May 20th. Of course, not a good situation there.
The humidity is expected to continue to decrease throughout the day, 62 percent right now in Flagstaff, 27 percent in Phoenix. And that is going to drop as we go throughout the day today. It's going to stay very, very dry for today, tomorrow and also Monday. Winds are also going to be an issue just like Ana said, 13-mile-per-hour winds by this afternoon. We could see the winds up to 20 as we get throughout the day on Sunday.
So, the winds are going to be increasing. No rain in the forecast and temperatures are going to steadily warm up, 59 today, 77 on Monday. That's almost a 20 degree temperature increase. Guys, dry, hot, windy, not the conditions you want when you are trying to fight the fires that's only 5 percent contained right now.
PAUL: Jennifer, thank you so much.
BLACKWELL: Well, cooked books, delayed wait times for sick veterans and now one lawmaker says the allegations, rather, because they are growing, against V.A. hospitals could be the tip of the iceberg. So, who's being held accountable and should the man in charge resign?
BLACKWELL: Now, to this historic trip, the visit to the Middle East.
PAUL: Pope Francis is in Amman, Jordan, as we speak here. Just arrived about an hour ago.
Take a look here as he arrived. Welcome on the red carpet. His first visit ever as pontiff to the Middle East, we should point out.
BLACKWELL: He's reaching out to Christians, Muslims, and Jews in a volatile region.
CNN senior Vatican analyst John Allen joins us on the phone now from Amman.
John, I referenced it a few moments ago speaking with you and Becky Anderson. You call it a high wire act, this visit, why?
JOHN ALLEN, CNN SENIOR VATICAN ANALYST (via telephone): Well, I mean, you think about all that's on the pontiff's plate, it's a short, 20- day visit. He's trying to give a shot in the arm with the Christian minority of the Middle East, which was 20 percent of the population now less than 5 percent, trapped in the general, the economic and political difficulties, and specifically arrived (INAUDIBLE) n some countries, it's making life difficult.
He's trying to promote healing in the divided Christian family. The official purpose of the visit is for the pope to meet patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, the first among equals in the Orthodox world, to heal things that date way back to 1964.
The first pope named Francis obviously is going to think of himself as peacemaker, in honor of peace-making 12th, 13th century Saint Francis. He wants to promote reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians. And, if that's not enough, he also wants to improve relations with Muslims and Jews at the same time. After that, he can leap tall buildings in a single bound and cure cancer and call it a trip.
PAUL: Well, I mean, as Victor alluded to, this is a dicey region. The pope, as we know, loves to be, quote, "close to the people". And he wants to do that on the trip. He does not want to use -- he's rejecting the use of bullet proof vehicles, or high security. What do you know about that and how dangerous is it for him?
ALLEN: Well, I mean, I can tell you for sure, each of the places he's going, that is Jordan, the Palestinian territories in Israel have no interest at all in having something untoward happen to the pope while he's on their territory. So, they're going to move heaven and earth to try to keep him safe.
That said, you are right, the pope has decided not to travel around in armor plated cars. He's going to do public appearances in the same kind of open air Jeep he uses in St. Peter Square. He's a spontaneous figure that often likes to plunge into crowds, and slap backs and kiss babies. And no doubt, we'll see some of that going on here.
So, he will be exposed. But I can tell you, the local officials I talked to in each one of these three sites have said that they are going to pull out all of the stops to make sure that he is secure.
PAUL: All righty. John Allen, we appreciate your reporting. Thank you so much.
We'll talk with him throughout the morning as the pope continues and gets immersed in this three-day trip.
BLACKWELL: Yes, historic, indeed.
You know, something else happening this morning. These calls for Eric Shinseki to resign as the secretary of Veterans Affairs are getting louder. But he says he's not going anywhere.
PAUL: Who should be held accountable for the alleged cover up? That conversation is next.
BLACKWELL: Well, this Memorial Day weekend, President Obama is speaking out about allegations of delayed care and cooked books by V.A. hospitals. During his weekly address, Mr. Obama said taking care of veterans is a sacred obligation. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In recent weeks, we have seen again how much more our nation has to do to make sure all our veterans get the care they deserve. And as commander in chief, I believe taking care of our veterans and their families is a sacred obligation. Now that we've ended the war in Iraq and as war in Afghanistan ends as well, we have to work even harder as a nation to make sure all our veterans get the benefits and opportunities that they have earned.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL: CNN has been following this story from the beginning. The allegations are really serious here. At least 26 facilities under investigation right now.
Now, the V.A. admits at least 23 veterans died because of delayed care and up to 40 deaths are under investigation.
BLACKWELL: And at some facilities, employees are accused of keeping secret waiting lists to cover up the long wait times. New this morning, the whistle-blower who first spoke to CNN's Drew Griffin about the facility in Phoenix, he is speaking out once again to explain why he decided to come forward.
PAUL: Meanwhile, calls for V.A. chief Eric Shinseki to resign, those are getting louder.
I want to bring in Medal of Honor recipient Paul Bud Bucha.
Thank you so much, Mr. Bucha, for being here with us. We appreciate it. We appreciate your service, too. Let me say that.
PAUL BUD BUCHA, MEDAL OF HONORE RECIPIENT: Thank you very much. Appreciate it.
PAUL: Of course.
In your opinion, based on what you know, who do you think needs to be held accountable here?
BUCHA: Well, I think there's plenty of blame to spread around. For example, the Congress, months ago, a committee out of the Senate, Veterans Affairs Committee, unanimous vote approved Linda Schwartz, currently at Commission of Veterans Affairs from Connecticut, who has a recognized expert in health care delivery for the veteran's community to become the assistant secretary of veterans affairs for policy and planning, but we can't get the Senate to have a vote.
Now, the Senate can have a vote, 50 of them, got together to decide what you should tell the Washington football team owner to do with the name of their team, but can't get 50 of them to vote and to stand-up a vote to put someone into the V.A., who's critically necessary. So, there's plenty of blame to go around.
You want to know whether Ric Shinseki should remain there. What you need in a crisis like this is a leader of integrity. He's a man of integrity. He has no other agenda other than serving the veterans community and their families -- the exact same people he commanded once as chief of staff of the United States Army.
So, we need an honest, competent and courageous leader. And he has proven his courageous when he testified in front of the Senate and someone asked how many troops you need for Iraq. And he defied the secretary of defense when he told the truth, he said several hundred thousand, not a light footprint. So, this is a kind of man, who's a leader who can do things.
What we need to do is give him the resources both in policy and in personnel to be able to solve the problem. And I think that's the critical (AUDIO GAP), 95 percent of cases come back from the V.A., somewhat amazed at the quality of care, just saying what a wonderful experience, compared to the experience we've all had as veterans in the past. Ninety-five percent is excellent.
BLACKWELL: Mr. Bucha, let me ask you about -- I apologize for jumping in here. I want to get to this op-ed written by Dr. Sam Foote, out of the facility in Phoenix that he wrote for "The New York Times", the whistle blower who came forward. And here's portion of it. "Congress and the V.A. need to decide whether to revert to the days of yesteryear when the V.A. took care of only patients service connected conditions, along with providing a safety net for our most impoverished veterans, or trying to reestablish a more universal program that utilizes the current strengths while repairing its weaknesses. If so, it is likely that many medical centers need more financial resources in addition to administrative reform."
In which direction do you think the V.A. should go? Or do you think they can do both?
BUCHA: I think the V.A. has to continue on the path it is on, and that is to provide veterans with the health care they were promised when they raised their right hand.
If you remember, when people go in and they take the oath, there isn't a footnote that sys, by the way, unless you're indigent or disabled, we won't take care of you. No one tells them that. They say you will get health care for life if you survive these wars. And in fact, the only mistake, if you will, it seems silly to say, is that these veterans actually survived and they are now coming in to collection.
By the way, in the last three years, the demand on the V.A. medical centers have gone up 25 percent, but the staff increases have been less than 7 percent. All the veteran service organizations have informed the Congress for $2.5 billion underfunded.
So, that whistleblower suggestion of more staffing and more funds is exactly what all the veterans service organizations are talking about. So, I agree with them. I think it's perfect. That's what they ought to do.
So, we also need to make sure we have enough clinicians to a person. Every expert on veterans health care has said, our problem is, we have too many administrators, and not enough of the clinicians. They are the people who can give you the diagnostic support, and the treatment support. It's not the administrator.
And where does that come from? Let's cut the budget. And you say, how do we get more people at lower price? Less qualified people.
And the vast majority are hard working, patriotic, committed Americans. But there are going to be problems. We've got to fix this 5 percent that is out of line with the rest of the system. And that's going to take more clinicians and more funds. We spent trillions of dollars fighting two wars over the last 12 years.
BUCHA: How about $2.5 billion to fix the system so those warriors can come get the care they were promised.
BLACKWELL: And I'm sure those calls will continue. Medal of Honor recipient Paul Bud Bucha, thank you so much for joining us this morning. And we will continue to follow this story as our Drew Griffin has been doing for quite some time.
BUCHA: My pleasure. Keep at it. Thank you.
BLACKWELL: Thank you.
PAUL: Thank you.
BLACKWELL: The mass shooting near the University of California-Santa Barbara campus. That's the breaking news this morning. We're learning seven people dead, at least seven others wounded. What and who is behind the rampage? We'll have a report after the break.
PAUL: I have a mortgage update for you -- 30 year fixed rates are unchanged. 15 year dropped slightly, though. Take a look.
PAUL: Thirty-two minutes past the hour right now. I'm Christi Paul.
VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Victor Blackwell.
Here's what's happening at this hour. We are following breaking news out of California this morning. Seven people are confirmed dead. Seven others have been hospitalized after a drive-by shooting in a college town of Isla Vista, which is right next to UC-Santa Barbara.
The local sheriff is calling the event a mass murder.
PAUL: By a madman.
PAUL: The incident happened about 9:30 last night, as we said, of Isla Vista. Witnesses reported seeing gunfire from a black BMW. Now, the sheriff says the gunman has been identified, but they are not yet releasing details anymore details on that.
HLN law enforcement analyst Mike Brooks joining us here by phone.
So, Mike, it seems that the threat of other shootings is squashed, at least for now. Do you believe that they are looking for any other shooters or they believe this is the lone shooter?
MIKE BROOKS, HLN ENFORCEMENT ANALYST (via telephone): It looks, right now, like they believe this is the lone shooter. He was seen as a number of different locations around Isla Vista. It has somewhere between four and maybe eight crime scenes established. Apparently, he exchanged gunfire with Santa Barbara County sheriff's deputies and crashed into at least two cars. When they found him, he was dead of gunshot wounds. They don't know if it was from exchange with deputies or if it was self-inflicted. But they believe that this is the only guy they are looking for and they have now and who is deceased.
BLACKWELL: The sheriff now, Mike, says and we are just getting this, nine different crime scenes. You've got a college town on a Friday night and a very large crime scene, several crime scenes, how do you manage that? What's going on now?
BROOKS: A lot of manpower, a lot of manpower. That's why it's going to take a lot of time. Each time someone was shot, that is each crime scene, especially when you are mobile in a black BMW, and you're riding through the streets. I have been at Isla Vista, and it's just a little bit of downtown Santa Barbara, and it is very congested, it's known as a party spot. And that's probably also, Victor and Christi, that law enforcement responded so quickly.
When this initially happened, they were warning people to stay off the streets, because you have this guy in a car riding around, near the university, firing shots. But, it's just a tough thing to do when you have at least nine crime scenes. So, I'm sure the sheriff is getting extra help in there to try to manage the crime scenes because they have their work cut out for them.
PAUL: OK, Mike, this is what I think is probably very interesting to you -- the fact that they're reporting this lasted for 10 minutes. When you think about it, that's a long time for somebody to be driving around, shooting at people. How do you think it is they weren't able to get to him sooner?
BROOKS: Well, you know, one of these things -- you can't have (INAUDIBLE) recorder. So, you have a shooting, he takes off. He's in another part of town. You have a shooting there, he takes off. Another shooting.
You know, you think about it, 10 minutes is a long time, but 14 people were shot, seven dead and seven wounded and, you know, with nine different crime scenes. That's why it's so spread out in this Isla Vista area near the university. It took law enforcement probably a little bit of time to find out what is this?
We are getting reports of a black BMW, then you have to confirm it. That's why it took so much time. But I'm glad they were able to confront this guy and now, they took care of the gunman or he took care of himself.
BLACKWELL: All right. HLN law enforcement analyst, Mike Brooks. Thank you so much. And we'll continue to talk with you throughout the morning.
BROOKS: Yes, you will.
PAUL: We will.
BLACKWELL: Thank you, Mike.
PAUL: Thank you, Mike.
So, turn into politics -- big week for the GOP.
BLACKWELL: Yes. PAUL: Establishment candidates pushed back. They pushed back hard against the competition from the Tea Party in this week's primary. Is the grassroots movement going away or are we looking at something that is here to stay? Our panel is weighing in next.
PAUL: Thirty-nine minutes past the hour.
And let's talk about politics and the ongoing divide inside the Republican Party between the establishment and the Tea Partiers. We want to look at what we learned from this week's primaries. I mean, the establishment, they did well. Tea Party Republicans, not so much.
But here's the thing -- they put up a fight in a few states, causing the base to have a shift to the right to be competitive.
BLACKWELL: Let's bring in Tea Party Express chairwoman Amy Kremer. She's in studio with us. And editor of conservativeblackchick.com, Crystal Wright.
Good to have both of you back.
And, Amy, I'm going to start with you. Considering the results from Tuesday night, is the Tea Party over?
AMY KREMER, TEA PARTY EXPRESS CHAIRWOMAN: Absolutely not. It's not over. We are still alive and look, they have -- actually the establishment hijacked our message. But we have already won because we changed the political landscape across the country, especially in Washington, D.C. But we've also changed the narrative.
Six years ago, no one was talking about cutting spending and reining in this massive debt that we have. Now, that's what both sides of the aisle are talking about, to an extent.
BLACKWELL: Let me press you on that, though. You said you've changed the narrative, but a lot of people think that by possibly some of the decisions made by Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell would not have come about if he didn't think he has a threat from the Tea Party challenger.
If the Tea Party candidates cannot win, do they even need to even pay lip service?
KREMER: Well, there have been Tea Partier candidates that won. Ben Sasse in Nebraska, a congressman in or a Republican primary in West Virginia. It may not be some of the high profile races.
But look, the movement has changed. We are evolving. People are focused on local and state level. And that's not sexy journalism. People aren't reporting on that. But there are victories across the country on the local and state level that people aren't talking about.
But we have won some of these high profile races and I believe they're going to be more that we win. PAUL: OK, Crystal, let me bring you in the conversation, because we talk about the primaries and how they were a win for the establishment, but maybe in the short term. What do you think that is going to have on the chance of taking the White House when we come into 2016?
CRYSTAL WRIGHT, CONSERVATIVEBLACKCHICK.COM: Well, I want to go back to what Amy said. She's exactly right -- if it weren't for the Tea Party, Republicans wouldn't have been brought back to life in 2010. Everybody forgets that.
The Tea Party, like Amy said, got us back on message, got us back to the party of principles that we're known for -- reduced spending, less taxation, more liberty and freedom for Americans. That's -- those are the tenants.
And because of the Tea Party and grassroots efforts started by people like Amy, Republicans were able to take on what? Over 50 seats in Congress, an unprecedented seat gain.
I think the problem is, however, for the Tea Party now, as Amy pointed, is they've got to navigate the next phase. It's not enough to just challenge people. I think challenges are good. It's nothing noble saying you serve 20, 30, 40 years. I think Mitch McConnell is going to have a tough race against Alison Grimes, because she represents really I would say the future face of America.
She's a woman. She's young. And that's something we've had a challenge as a party, that's going to be the challenge I think for the Republican Party heading into 2016. We still look very much like the face of white America.
And as you guys know, I talk about this all the time -- and the Tea Party, I think, was really instrumental in channeling candidates like Allen West. I'd like to see the Tea Party get back to say, hey, look, we've got to bring more people in. If you think about it, it's what the Tea Party was good at, bringing people who never ran for office into the fold of conservatism.
And I think that, as Amy pointed out, as they navigate the next phase of what they're about, that should be part of it. But I don't see them going away, and I think challengers are good. And at the end of the day, whether you call yourself a Republican or conservative, we are picking the right candidates we feel can represent us in these races.
BLACKWELL: You know, I wonder if the Republican Party establishment would call Allen West a success because he was one and done. I mean, he came in, and when the next challenger came up, he was out of office.
But let's get listen to what John Boehner had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: There's not that much -- there's not that big a difference between what you call the Tea Party and your average conservative Republican, you know? We're against Obamacare. We think taxes are too high. We think the government is too big. So, I wouldn't continue to sing that same song.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACKWELL: I wonder if that was the same thing we are hearing from Speaker Boehner during the negotiations over the budget when we had to shut down the government.
My question to you, Crystal first, then you Amy -- do you agree there's not that big of a divide?
WRIGHT: No. I think -- look, Speaker Boehner is doing what he should do as leader of the House. He's trying to bring together the coalition, which is a problem. There's a divide where the Tea Party needs real work is once you are elected, the real work begins with consensus-building.
We, as Republicans can't have everything we want. What looked bad is when Senator Ted Cruz, who was brought into Congress through the Tea Party movement, you know, we have some good folks like Rand Paul as well, but when Ted Cruz just stood on principle, oh, repeal Obamacare, repeal Obamacare, he got nothing out of it.
The government was still shutdown. That's when the Tea Party needs to get much more focused and follow leadership. You can push leadership to do -- you know, to go for better policy, but government is about compromise. I think that's where the Tea Party falls short.
BLACKWELL: What do you think about the word compromise, Amy?
KREMER: Well, I think you can compromise, just not your principles. But I disagree with Crystal on the Ted Cruz and defund Obamacare and Senator Mike Lee because they knew exactly what was going to happen. And they brought awareness to all the problems.
WRIGHT: Right, but Amy -- but, Amy, that's exactly right. They knew what was going to happen. Nothing was going to change. You are not going to get something repealed until we elect to your point -- until we get a Republican in the White House.
What I would have liked to see Senator Ted Cruz do, along with other Republicans, is say focus on repealing the individual -- walking back the individual mandate, which we could have accomplished that. But instead, it became a circus act around, you know, let's repeal the whole law. Well, you can't repeal something that the Supreme Court said was constitutional. You can make a good argument for pulling back on the individual mandate because the president had already, you know, walked back on the businessman mandate. So, I think that's where we're not winning.
KREMER: The problem is, the problem is, the Republicans never fight for anything. These people that have been in office for 30, 40 years, they have been there too long. You cannot lay all this debt at the feet of the Democrats. Republicans have been part of this.
WRIGHT: I agree with that. Yes.
KREMER: When they have been there that long, their policies aren't working. We need some new ideas, some fresh blood. Change things up.
That's how we're going to change Washington. But people want change. They are tired of this. I mean, the polls show that there's an anti- incumbency mentality across the country. They are tired of it.
BLACKWELL: And there stands the divide and we were not going to solve it today, but we'll continue the conversation throughout --
KREMER: I'm no longer with Tea Party Express. I just want to correct the record.
PAUL: Thank you for the corrections.
BLACKWELL: All right.
PAUL: We appreciate that.
Amy Kremer and Crystal Wright, thank you both so much for being here.
PAUL: So, here is a question. How much do we really pay for airfare?
BLACKWELL: And what are we paying for? After you add up all the hidden surcharges and the fees and then this baggage. And if you want to sit in the comfort seats --
PAUL: I can't get free peanuts anymore.
BLACKWELL: It's more than you think. Could that change soon? That's next.
PAUL: Airline baggage fees and reservation change charges. It never stops.
BLACKWELL: On and on.
PAUL: I've got to say.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation -- listen to this -- U.S. airlines raked in $6 billion, billion, in fees from passengers.
BLACKWELL: That's just fees. But, OK, so possibly there is good news coming. The government wants all of us to have an accurate picture of the full price we're paying for travel. It's proposed a set of rules demanding changes like more disclosure from third-party sites and airfare search aggregators like Kayak and Google.
Mark Murphy joins us now to tell us what is happening here. He is a travel expert and author of "Travel Unscripted."
So, Mark, good to have you, first. And second, will these changes help anything or are we going to pay the same thing, which more line items on the bill?
MARK MURPHY, TRAVEL EXPERT: Yes, you still are going to pay more because the whole thing about fees is it's made worldwide airlines, $36 billion in the last year. So, that's not going away.
The challenge for us is when we shop, how do we know the true cost of travel? And that's part of this new rule. They want to be able to show the real cost in these comparison shopping sites.
PAUL: OK. This really stood out to me. In 2012, they had $98 million in fees, baggage and cancellation fees in 2013, $13 billion in net profits by 26 passenger U.S. airlines. If they are not going away, how are airlines going to make their money if these rules do change?
MURPHY: Well, they're still going to make money on those fees. They're still going to charge those fees. I don't think fees are going away. They're going to try to charge you more and more for other choices that you make.
And, you know, it's capitalism. If the passenger is willing to pay for it, they're going to keep doing it. If the passengers push back and travel demand drops, which I don't see it dropping, then they may pull it back. One of the challenges, about two years ago, like you mentioned, in 2012, they tried to -- the government came in and said you cannot advertise a base fare without taxes and other fees in that base fare. They got that passed.
But now, this Airline Transparency Act is trying to get through Congress right now. That is actually doing the opposite. It is going to make it so all the fees are broken down and it's going to make it more confusing for the traveler to choose which airline to fly based on price comparisons.
So, you've got two things going on at the same time. The ability to disclose more fees in the booking process when it comes to baggage and seat selection and then the airlines don't want that, but they are pushing for the rollback of these bundled fares that included government taxes and other fees. So, you've got two things taking place. One is trying to make it easier to shop and the other ones is going to make it a lot more difficult to shop.
BLACKWELL: Hey, Mark, some of these airline officials are shouting hypocrisy. They claim that the requirement in the act allows the government to hide the full extent of its taxation which it says the airline industry says could run about 20 percent of the ticket price. That seems high.
Do they have a point?
MURPHY: Yes. No, here's why. I'm not a big fan of getting taxed to death. I want to know when I'm paying taxes. But that's disingenuous on the airline side. That is nonsense.
The reason they like that is because you could price a ticket to Europe that looks like it's $500 two years ago. When you went to book it, it was $900. They have all the fees loaded in, you know, labeled in lots of different ways. That rule two years ago eliminated that.
So, imagine trying to comparison shop and you go to book and it is $400 higher, $200 higher, $300 higher, not including the baggage and everything else. So, I totally disagree with that.
They are using the government taxation exposure as a way of saying here is what the government is charging you for the services, but I don't go there. I don't believe it. I think it is a way for them to hide the true cost of purchasing the ticket. And that's not good for consumers.
PAUL: All right. Mark Murphy, not good news. We're still going to be paying more. Thank you very much, sir.
BLACKWELL: We know what we are paying for. >
MURPHY: You're welcome.
PAUL: Apparently, yes.
BLACKWELL: Ahead, we have more on the breaking news this morning. A mass shooting near the University of California, Santa Barbara campus. The sheriff there calls it a mass murder, at least seven dead. We'll have a report on the latest developments.