tv The Situation Room CNN December 6, 2012 4:00pm-7:00pm EST
misrepresentation it causes damage injury to the business. and so therefore moral of the story, a, on the one hand businesses do what you're supposed to do. and on the other hand, if you're the consumer, just be careful in the way that you express what they've done to you. >> be careful. be careful. >> avoid those lawsuits. >> joey, thank you so much. >> on the case here. >> pleasure, brooke. >> now to washington and wolf blitzer and "the situation room." wolf. >> brooke, thanks very much. happening now, we're hearing from members of a virginia family that play host to a very unusual house guest today, the president of the united states. a hero of the tea party movement shocks washington by announcing he's about to leave the united states senate. senator jim demint joins us live this hour. we'll talk about his decision and new job. and syria's civil war is in a very dangerous perhaps decisive tipping point right now. can the world prevent bashar al
assad from using chemical weapons against his own people? i'm wolf blitzer. you're in "the situation room." we begin with president obama taking his battle to extend tax cuts for the middle class into the heart of the middle class suburb today. he visited a family just outside washington, d.c., using their story to dramatize what will happen in just 26 days if he and congress can't make a deal on the so-called fiscal cliff. a source of great concern for so many people, everyone's taxes will go up, will go up if there's no deal. let's go live to our white house correspondent dan lothian. he's on the scene for us over at the white house. how did it go, dan? >> reporter: well, wolf, we've seen the president do this before in the past whenever he's locked in negotiations with lawmakers.
he heads out on the road, either goes to a backyard or sits down around a dinner table to put pressure on congress. that's what he did today when he went to falls church sitting down with the santana family. their parents who also are employed live in the household with them. so if taxes do go up on middle class americans, the overall hit on that household will be $4,000. so they're very concerned, but they were quite happy. they said it isn't every day that the president comes by and hangs out at your house. the message the president was trying to drive home today was aimed directly at congress and using this backdrop to tell a personal story. >> for them to be burdened unnecessarily because democrats and republicans aren't coming together to solve this problem gives you a sense of the costs involved in very personal terms. obviously would also have an impact on our economy because if
this family has a couple thousand dollars less to spend, that translates to $200 billion of less consumer spending next year. >> reporter: now, the president said that this is a solvable problem. he remains optimistic. he says that there needs to be some certainty for families who are concerned about their taxes going up, for businesses who are making plans about whether they'll add investments or add employees in 2013, so he's pushing congress to act, wolf. but i can tell you that republicans simply are not seeing eye-to-eye with the president. they also don't want to budge, don't believe the taxes should go up even on the wealthiest of americans, wolf. >> i know they had a phone call -- a phone conversation yesterday the president and house speaker john boehner, has there been any follow-up that we know of? are they talking on the phone? are they gearing up for an actual meeting? john boehner staying in town while this crisis continues. >> reporter: that's right, wolf. he is. and we are told that no additional calls, no further discussions that we are aware
of. there was that call, and that came after a lot of criticism on the white house that the president was not negotiating face-to-face with john boehner. but what we're seeing here is this strategy that the president has employed before where instead of sitting down with republicans, he takes his message outside of sort of inside the beltway or brings people to the white house. you've seen him sitting down with middle class americans also bringing ceos and small business owners here to the white house. that's what he is using to put pressure on congress to get a deal. >> yeah. let's see if he invites the speaker to come over to the white house and put some pressure on him. >> reporter: that's right. >> see if they can -- what they can do. as we all know, that clock is ticking. dan lothian, thanks. let's dig deeper with our chief political analyst gloria borger. interesting numbers in a quinnipiac university poll. who will make a good faith effort to cooperate? will the other side act in good faith? 56% thought obama and democrats would. only 43% thought the republicans
would. will the president not act in good faith? 38% thought president wouldn't act in good faith. 51% thought republicans wouldn't act in good faith. but if there's no deal and the country goes over that fiscal cliff, taxes go up for everyone, mandatory spending cuts go into effect, a lot of folks are going to say where was the president? he was just re-elected. why couldn't he put together a package, a deal to avoid this disaster? >> i think this is a question of political leadership. and as that poll showed, there's no doubt that the president has the political advantage going into this. but at some point, and i think we're kind of getting close to it, the president has to be able to pivot and to say how do i turn this political advantage into a real policy accomplishment? and, wolf, i don't think you're going to do that with continued campaign style events like we just saw meeting with middle class families. okay. we get that. that occurred during the campaign. the white house has clearly
gotten its message out. i think now there has to be a next step. you know, timing is everything in politics. and this is absolutely no different. what i'm getting from talking to some democrats on the hill is i think there's actually a lot of pent up anger and frustration among democrats how they feel republicans were obstructionist for the last four years. there's a little bit of payback going on here. they've got the advantage. their message is getting through. people believe they're on their side. they're going to let this play out, but you're right. at a certain point the president has to be president and lead so people don't go over the cliff. >> yeah. i think it's clear based on everything i'm seeing out there, the american public is getting increasingly frustrated. >> oh, they are. i want to play something for you. there was a focus group done by a democratic pollster peter hart. he took 12 suburban milwaukee women, some of whom voted for the president, some of whom
voted for mitt romney, and he asked them what they thought about the fiscal cliff. take a look. >> time to sharpen your pencils and get over yourselves. >> be realistic and stop being political. >> i think they're all -- because they're not getting together. don't be democrats, don't be republicans. they're american citizens. work together to get the work done. >> so that's the clear message, wolf. you understand there was a huge gender gap for democrats in this last elections. republicans have to look at that and say, okay, we have to get something done. but let me add this. when peter hart actually laid out on the table here are the choices you have to make on spending and here are the choices you have to make on taxes, they had a little bit more difficult time in deciding what to do. so they began to realize the extent of the difficulty in cutting any real deal. >> yeah. not belittling the difficulty. these are tough, tough issues. but the stakes are really, really important right now. there is a little wiggle room. >> yeah. >> as far as the president and
the democrats are concerned when it comes to raising tax rates for the wealthy. >> sure. the president's been very careful not to say we have to go up to the clinton-era 39.6%. he hasn't used that number. and so he's -- you know -- >> right now it's 35%. >> right now it's 35%. so if you look in the middle, okay, 37% is a real possibility. but here's the caveat. john boehner, the house speaker, cannot take a rate increase to his caucus unless it is accompanied by some signal of real entitlement cuts. something that they do now and give a down payment on for the future. i don't think you get -- could get rates through unless the president gave a little bit. and if you look at the document from the grand bargain back in july of 2011, the president was willing to give on that. so we'll have to see if they can get back to that. but again, has to be one significant item that they know
they'll be able to build upon in the future. an item from both sides. >> neither side's going to be thrilled. but they've got to compromise. >> that's the way life usually works, doesn't it? >> certainly does. thank you. meanwhile, huge announcement today on capitol hill. the conservative senator jim demint of south carolina is resigning to take a new job. he's here in "the situation room" live. later this hour he'll explain what's going on. also later, new warnings that the u.s. should be prepared to intervene in syria's civil war. senator john mccain now says he's deeply disturbed by the latest reports that the current regime in damascus is preparing to use chemical weapons against its own people. >> these reports may mean that the united states and our allies are facing the prospect of an imminent use of weapons of mass destruction. year-end event. so, the 5.3-liter v8 silverado can tow up to 9,600 pounds? 315 horsepower. what's that in reindeer-power? [ laughs ]
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syria's rebels say they're closer and closer to toppling the government, but soon they could face a weapon even deadlier than any they've seen so far. cnn's pentagon correspondent barbara starr is joining us with the latest new threat on the possible use of chemical weapons. >> reporter: wolf, the challenge is for the obama administration to figure out exactly what bashar al assad is up to with his deadly arsenal. the horror remains unspeakable. 25 years ago saddam hussein unleashed one of the worst poison gas attacks in history. thousands were killed. now, in syria, u.s. concerns are growing by the hour that bashar al assad may be planning the same thing against his citizens. >> the intelligence that we have raises serious concerns that this is being considered. >> reporter: u.s. intelligence shows syria has mixed chemical
compounds needed to make a deadly agent that can quickly kill thousands. >> the united states and our allies are facing the prospect of an imminent use of weapons of mass destruction in syria. and this may be the last warning we get. >> reporter: the u.s. is not precisely saying what the syrians are doing, but there are two ways of mixing elements to make a saren filled weapon. >> you have to handle it very, very carefully. a drop will kill you. often it's done at the last minute. there's another style. >> reporter: chemicals placed in an artillery shell separated by a disk. when the shell is fired, the disk explodes, the chemicals mix becoming deadly chemical. but at some point the chemicals are on the move. >> then they have to decide to move it to the place where the delivery system sits. so it may be artillery pieces in an artillery battery of some
kind. it could be an airport or military air base where the bombers are sitting. >> reporter: that may be the final opportunity to strike before chemical weapons are used. >> time for talking about what to do may now be coming to a close. we may instead be left with an awful and very difficult decision. >> reporter: now, deadly saren gas when stored properly we're told does have a shelf life of several weeks. so these tensions, wolf, could be at the forefront for some time to come until there's a clear picture of what the syrians are up to or the u.s. or one of the allies decides to do something about it. wolf. >> barbara, thank you. the white house is closely watching the crisis in syria. and there's a growing sense of dread there. so it's absolutely no surprise that syria came up repeatedly during secretary clinton's trip to ireland. jill dougherty is traveling with the secretary. >> reporter: wolf, there's a new press for diplomacy on syria
with the secretary here in europe. as concern mounts that syrian president bashar al assad might use chemical weapons, secretary of state hillary clinton makes a new diplomatic push to end the conflict in syria. >> events on the ground in syria are accelerating. and we see that in many different ways. the pressure against the regime in and around damascus seems to be increasing. >> reporter: in dublin for a security conference, clinton met twice with russian foreign minister sergei in their one-on-one meeting discussing one thing they agree on need to set a line for the use or loss of control over syria's chemical weapons. the second meeting held behind closed doors at the russian insis tans including wanting to
work out a process to get syria back from the brink. so far moscow has blocked action of president assad at the united nations insisting there should be no regime change. but diplomats now say moscow increasingly doubts assad can survive in power as the armed opposition gains ground. some u.s. senators say now is the time for russia to act. >> this is an opportunity for russia to show the international community at large that you can be a constructive force at a time of great need. and you have a unique capability as a nation to do some good. >> reporter: for the u.s., the insurgents gains are a double-edged sword. some of the most ruthlessly affected fighters also are the most radicalized. washington is moving to declare one of those groups a terrorist organization. but the obama administration worries that the stronger radical fighters become the more
armed combat, not political efforts to find a solution will decide the outcome in syria. early next week secretary clinton travels to morocco for a meeting of the so-called friends of syria group. the focus will be on the opposition with the obama administration taking the first steps towards officially recognizing them. jill dougherty, cnn, dublin. we're just a few minutes away from speaking with senator jim demint of south carolina. he's here live in "the situation room." he will explain his stunning decision today to resign from the senate. [ roasting firewood ] ♪ many hot dogs are within you. try pepto-bismol to-go, it's the power of pepto, but it fits in your pocket. now tell the world daniel... of pepto-bismol to-go.
let's get the latest on the new york subway death that became infamous by a haunting newspaper photo. lis is sylvester's monitoring that and other top stories in "the situation room" right now. what's the latest? >> wolf, the suspect was arraigned and charged with second-degree murder. the 30-year-old homeless man is being held without bail until he appears in court again tuesday. a photo that appeared on the front page of the "new york post" saw him trying to claw his way back onto a new york subway platform after he was shoved on to the tracks. seconds later the oncoming subway train struck and killed him. and the u.s. navy is moving warships to monitor the potential north korean launch of a long-range ballistic missile. the u.s.s. benfold and u.s.s. fitzgerald and two others might join them. north korea plans to launch a rocket between december 10th and 22nd claiming for science and
research. and new jersey governor chris chr tooe. the two showed a unified front in the wake of the storm. and the royal baby watch, it is on. there you see a pregnant and smiling catherine, duchess of cambridge. she was in for acute morning sickness. prince charles says he is thrilled he's going to become a grandfather. and the baby will be the next in line to the throne after prince william and actually after prince charles as well. so there's a little bit of a line there. >> rather it's a boy or girl. >> i think it's exciting. i don't think there's anybody out there they've been waiting and hoping and now we've seen she's pregnant and with child. >> catherine and no more kate.
>> she's the duchess now. >> thank you. one of the most conservative members of the united states senate, i think it's fair to say he shocked washington today, the tea party favorite senator jim demint of south carolina, he's standing by live. he's here in "the situation room." he's getting ready to explain why he's resigning from the senate less than halfway through his second term. it's hard to see opportunity in today's challenging environment. unless you have the right perspective.
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our commitment has never been stronger. well, having a ton of locations doesn't hurt. and a santa to boot! [ chuckles ] right, baby. oh, sir. that is a customer. oh...sorry about that. [ male announcer ] break from the holiday stress. fedex office. a bombshell announcement today on capitol hill. senator jim demint of south carolina, certainly a great champion of the tea party movement announced he's leaving the senate to become the president of one of washington's most influential conservative think tank organizations, the heritage foundation. the senator's standing by to join us live in "the situation room" in just a moment. first, let's get some background from our senior congressional correspondent dana bash joining us from capitol hill. i think it's fair to say, dana, all of us were stunned by this
announcement today. >> reporter: that's right, wolf. well, senator demint had always said he was going to limit himself to two terms in the senate. but he's not even halfway through his second term and saying he's going to leave in january with almost four years left. i'm told he didn't tell his staff about his decision until this morning right before it was made public. but he said this was an offer to go to this conservative think tank he couldn't pass up. jim demint's announcement that he's leaving the senate was a stunner. >> i honestly believe i can do a lot more on the outside than i can on the inside. >> reporter: the anti-government, anti-tax conservative crusader certainly made a mark on the inside. on the senate floor, a frequent voice of objection against legislation backed by both parties. >> is there any objection? >> mr. president, i object. >> reporter: just this week he helped block a disabilities treaty opposed by many conservatives and one of house
speaker john boehner's loudest conservative critics for a fiscal cliff proposal with $800 billion in tax increases. >> republicans should not be conceding that the federal government needs more money, negotiating with ourselves. >> reporter: demint really made a name for himself in recent years as a tea party king maker raising millions to help elect half a dozen like-minded conservatives to the senate. marco rubio, rand paul, johnson and ted cruz. >> i've played a role in stocking the senate with solid conservatives who are younger and brighter and better spokesmen than i am. and so i know i'm leaving the senate better than i found it. >> reporter: but demint also infuriated republican leaders by backing several gop primary candidates who could not win their senate seats. remember christine o'donnell? cnn is told senate republican leader mitch mcconnell was annoyed for backing o'donnell and a couple other losing candidates in 2010 and cost
republicans the majority. at the time demint told us he was unapologetic and still is. you're trying to send a message to the gop establishment. >> the gop establishment is out. and what we're going to do is help the american people take back their government. >> reporter: in the flood of gop reaction to demint's surprise retirement, he didn't have to read between the lines much in the gop leader's three-sentence statement to see some hard feelingsthanking demint for his service and another who called demint a friend. >> i've always liked the guy. and even though i disagree with so much of what he's done, i appreciate that -- i personally believe he does this out of a sense of real belief. it's not political posturing for him as it is for a lot of people. so i like jim demint. i wish him well. >> reporter: now, wolf, remember jim demint is one of the most conservative senators who worked
very, very hard to block many pieces of legislation that the democratic leader harry reid was trying to pass through the senate. and demint made a point of personally going to harry reid's office to tell him face-to-face that he decided to resign. i can tell you as an observer of the senate watching relationships deteriorate, this was surprising but a good surprise. >> leaving on a good note at least with the majority leader in the senate. dana, thanks very much. and i'm joined now by senator demint along with heritage foundation founding trustee, the current president, we see the outgoing president, ed feulner, thanks for coming in. we're going to talk a little about the state of the heritage foundation and the republican party. the senator's here, the newsmaker, you shocked all of us. why did you do this? >> wolf, after this last election it's apparent we need to do more as conservatives to convince americans that our ideas and policies are going to make their lives better. the heritage foundation is the premier think tank, research organization, the premier idea
group for the conservative movement. this will give me the opportunity to help take our case to the american people. and to translate our policies into real ideas. >> so you think you can be more influential within the conservative movement as the leader of the heritage foundation as oppose today a united states senator? >> there's no question about it. >> what does that say about the senate though? i thought being a senator one of only a hundred you had a real -- you had enormous power. >> well, we do. and i think i've had a lot to do with changing the senate and bringing in some folks who better reflect america to the republican party. but for me particularly since i spent most of my life doing research, working with ideas and marketing and trying to sell those to people all over the country, this is like coming home to be able to work with people who are likeminded as heritage. >> if romney won, do you think
you also would have made the switch? >> i said jokingly the only president i want to be is president of the heritage foundation because they're about ideas and their ideas are backed up by solid research. and, wolf, the thing that breaks my heart is as republicans we're not doing a good job of convincing americans that we care about every one of them and that our policies are going to make their lives better. >> the impression is that you only care about the rich. >> that's the impression. i'm a conservative first. and i believe if we do a better job of helping americans understand what we're trying to do, to showcase every place in the country that our ideas are working at the state level, that that will help those at the federal level who want to carry those policies and frankly if independents and democrats want to work with us on conservative ideas, i can do that better at heritage than as a partisan inside the senate. >> ed, you've been at heritage forever, right? >> 35 years. >> i didn't realize based on how
powerful he says he's going to be within the conservative movement, do you feel you've been that powerful? >> unquestionably. we've co-sponsored a presidential debate with you. >> i moderated, wasn't it great? >> we are an idea factory. ideas are the raw materials of what goes on in washington. if we can pull together a stronger coalition, republican, democrat, conservative and even some liberals sometimes on the broad issues that face us, man, and jim demint knows how to do it. he knows the marketing side as well as the issue side, it's going to be an exciting time at heritage. >> it's not just the job, it's the thinking, raise money, speak, a big staff, a lot of work to do. >> he does. he has to administer 230 people, we have 600,000 members around the country who are going to be really ecstatic when they hear the news of jim's coming in. it's an exciting time at heritage. >> not everyone is upset that you're leaving the united states senate. i'll play a little clip minority
leader in the house of representatives nancy pelosi. >> for them to slap the face of our veterans, of people with disabilities, of families with children with disabilities, that was one of the saddest days. anyone who was a party to that, well, i wish them well wherever they are going and hope that we can have more of our values represented there. >> she was referring to your may vote, your vote against this international treaty to help people with disabilities all over the world. there are a bunch of republicans who voted against it even though john mccain and bob dole and others came and pleaded with you to vote for this treaty. >> wolf, the issues -- the rights and privileges, opportunities for the disabled are very important. they're too important to turn over -- >> why were you against this treaty? >> if it's important, why turn it over to united nations? >> senator kerry says they're not turning it over. the united nations is just the
body that's going to help other countries do what we are doing here in united states. >> wolf, if that were true, we don't need a legally binding treaty. we can work as an international community to spread our ideas abroad. but america has set the standard for our treatment of the disabled in creating opportunities and removing obstacles -- >> even senator mccain and senator dole, you say they are wrong. >> they are wrong because the united nations cannot take an issue of that importance and carry it effectively around the world. this is the group that wants to make palestine a state, they're the group that wants to regulate the internet. wolf, if you look behind the scenes of the united nations, this is not something we want to turn over the rights and opportunities for the disabled. >> so it's more of an expression of your disdain for the united nations than it was necessarily the merits of the treaty? >> well, there's a small part related clearly to the disabled, but it was well over 100 pages
of treaty of legal language that affects parental rights and other issues that are important. >> and you're with him on this? or with bob dole? >> no. absolutely we're with him. we did some of the early background on it. our guy steve groves was writing papers on this weeks and weeks ago. we're also surprised frankly the senate would bring it up in a lame duck session. this is something that needs full and considered -- >> they're going to bring it up again next year. you won't be there. >> they can bring it up and we'll take the same position. >> should there be a compromise in order to avoid going over the fiscal cliff? john boehner's already $800 billion in increased tax revenue, not necessarily raising the marginal tax rate on the wealthy, but capping deductions, limiting loopholes, are you with the speaker of the house on that? >> unfortunately, wolf, the policies of president obama have already taken us over the cliff. if you meet with businesses like i do all the time, they've already paired back plans for next year anticipating what's going to happen.
we can fix this christmas eve if we want, but we've already hurt the economy and job growth. >> are you with boehner? >> i'm not with boehner. this government doesn't need anymore money. this country needs less government. we're going to have historic levels of revenue to the government this year. >> everyone's taxes are going up at the end of the year if there's no deal. >> we have already offered to extend current tax rates. that's what we should have done six months ago until we could come to some agreement, some compromise on tax reform. >> when you say compromise, where are you ready to compromise as far as taxes are concerned? >> how we go about tax reform, there's a lot of room to work together to lower the rates. >> give me an example? >> i'm not sure where the democrats are because they have not offered a plan. >> their plan is to keep the bush tax rates from 2001, 2003 forever. make them permanent. top 2% let them go from 35% to 39.6%. >> it's incredible we're even talking about it because it
doesn't solve the problem. >> it's a beginning. >> it runs the government for five or six days. >> but it's a beginning. a billion here, a billion there winds up being real money. >> the president has known about the so-called fiscal cliff for a year but has yet to come up with a plan that actually reduces our deficit. i'm willing to work with anyone to put a plan on the table, but we're not willing to negotiate with someone who hasn't put a plan on the table. the president has not put a serious plan on the table. >> as far as a compromise on the marginal tax rate 35% going up let's say 36% or 37%, is that acceptable? >> no. no. because marginal tax rate increases if there is any increase in revenue, just gives them more to play with on capitol hill and more to spend. when we talk about fairness, when the top 2%, the $250,000 and above are already paying 45% of total income tax, that's a big question of fairness there too. >> who should nicki haley name
to replace you? >> i talk today her today. i share the same philosophy, the conservative philosophy. i told her i trust her decision and i'm not going to push her one way or another. >> a lot of speculation, congressman scott? >> he's a wonderful person. our whole delegation is really strong. she's got a tough choice, but i'm convinced she'll give me someone as good or better than i am i can pass the torch to. and i'm honored to have ed feulner to pass the torch at the premier organization of the country. >> senator demint, we'll have you back as the president of the heritage foundation in the weeks, months, years to come. thank you so much. ed feulner, are you going to be reti retired? >> no. i'll be hanging out in a part-time and giving you free advice. hope you'll have me back. >> thanks for joining us. >> thank you, wolf. up next, our strategy session. we're going to look ahead to a senate without jim demint and whether some republicans will side with president obama in this fight over raising taxes on
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let's discuss what we just heard in our strategy session. joining us three cnn contributors, democratic strategist donna brazile, erick erickson, editor and chief of conservative blog redstate,.com. and david frum, a former bush white house speech writer now contributing editor at the daily beast and newsweek. guys, thanks very much. erick, you know jim demint. were you surprised by his announcement today? >> you know, i got a phone call before the announcement went out. yeah, i was surprised but not really.
ever since i've known jim demint he said the only other job he'd like to have is the presidency of the heritage foundation. an opportunity like that only comes along one time. it really is an interesting torch-passing moment, wolf. when you think about it, most of the up and coming generation of republican leaders were not even in high school when ronald reagan was president and now one of the standard bears of the reagan revolution is retiring and beginning to pass the torch. you don't see that very often. >> david, is this a loss for conservatives in the senate? >> it is a i think a gain for the effectiveness of the republican party in the senate. it will be a more unified caucus. >> because he was so to the right, is that what you're saying? >> the reason there's so little good will between him and mitch mcconnell is in the last cycle jim demint reached into mitch mcconnell's own state of kentucky where mitch mcconnell had a hand picked junior senator and jim demint said i want my guy, rand paul, and fought mcconnell in his own state and beat him.
that was a demonstration of the balance of power in the senate. and i think it left a lot of ill will behind. as we saw today in that not altogether enthusiastic announcement. >> not exactly crying when he heard jim demint was leaving. we're talking about mitch mcconnell. is this good for the democrats or bad for the democrats, donna? >> well, it's a mixed blessing, i think. i think on one hand he's a wonderful southern gentleman. everyone likes him personally. but everyone knows that he is to the right of just about everybody else in the united states senate when it comes to public policy and personnel in terms of going out there and recruiting other conservative republicans. it's a perfect match for the heritage foundation to have him at the helms. but i think in terms of overall, i don't believe this is going to hurt senator mcconnell at all. >> erick, for the conservative movement out there, will he be
morie influential, more powerfu at the heritage foundation than the senate? >> i spoke to one of our mutual friends saying in the past years he's gotten a number of conservatives in the senate but they haven't stretched their legs largely allowing him to still be the front man. without him there you have ted cruz coming as well, you're going to i think see marco rubio and mike lee and the guys he got into the senate now feel like they don't have to stand behind demintd. on the outside it's not just heritage foundation. republican members of congress hate because they score so aggressively on who's conservative or not. if he doesn't put a chain or leash on herrage action for america, he could be causing more trouble for republicans and be there a lot longer instead of the four years he'd been if he'd stayed in the senate. >> turn to the fiscal cliff quickly. listen to what allen simpson, former commissioner, he's angry at tim geithner, other democrats for suggesting it's okay to go
over the fiscal cliff if the republicans don't budge. listen to this. >> when you have leaders of parties and people from the administration saying i think it would be to the advantage of the democrats to go off the cliff, or i think it would be advantage for the republicans to go off the cliff or the president to go off the cliff, that's like betting your country. there's stupidity involved in that. >> he's not happy with some of these statements coming from democrats. >> that's probably misplaced anger. the democrats have been very clear not just over the last two weeks but the last two years, unless they extend the bush tax cuts for 98% of americans, the democrats will not budge one inch. so the 2%, the top 2% will have to pay a much higher rate. the democrats have been very consistent. >> do you think they have been? >> right now all over the country people who are unemployed and unemployed for more than 25 weeks are getting robo calls warning them their benefits will end on december 1
31st. our conversation in washington we talk about it being a tax event and only tax event. but the impact on unemployed people will be dramatic. the impact on those americans who don't pay a lot of income tax but benefitting from the extra two points of payroll relief, may not be dramatic but noticeable. this country could go into a recession. what's going on in this discussion is richard nixon's old madman theory, each side trying to persuade the other that it's just crazy enough to blow up the world. >> erick, quickly, you say it's better to go over the cliff than accept what the president's offered? >> yeah. i absolutely think so. the republicans unfortunately for people like me are willing to raise taxes to the tune of $800 billion. the democrats want to argue with them over the mechanism. and it's the mechanism that would hurt small businesses. the republican negotiating hand winds up being a little better on the other side. the fiscal cliff is the maximum of what ghkts want. you've got howard dean saying we need to raise taxes on everybody, not just the rich. steny hoyer says the same thing.
i think republicans have a better handle on the other side, but it's the democrats in transition on the mechanism. >> more on this story coming up. erick, donna, david, guys thank you. authorities trying to catch up with technology. in this case it's all about text messages and finding a way to use them against criminals. tdd#: 1-800-345-2550 let's talk about low-cost investing. tdd#: 1-800-345-2550 at schwab, we're committed to offering you tdd#: 1-800-345-2550 low-cost investment options-- tdd#: 1-800-345-2550 like our exchange traded funds, or etfs tdd#: 1-800-345-2550 which now have the lowest tdd#: 1-800-345-2550 operating expenses tdd#: 1-800-345-2550 in their respective tdd#: 1-800-345-2550 lipper categories. tdd#: 1-800-345-2550 lower than spdr tdd#: 1-800-345-2550 tdd#: 1-800-345-2550 and even lower than vanguard. tdd#: 1-800-345-2550 tdd#: 1-800-345-2550 that means with schwab, tdd#: 1-800-345-2550 your portfolio has tdd#: 1-800-345-2550 a better chance to grow. tdd#: 1-800-345-2550 and you can trade all our etfs online, tdd#: 1-800-345-2550 commission-free, from your schwab account. tdd#: 1-800-345-2550 tdd#: 1-800-345-2550 so let's talk about saving money, tdd#: 1-800-345-2550 with schwab etfs. tdd#: 1-800-345-2550 schwab etfs now have the lowest operating expenses tdd#: 1-800-345-2550 in their respective lipper categories. tdd#: 1-800-345-2550 call 1-800-4schwab tdd#: 1-800-345-2550 or visit schwab.com tdd#: 1-800-345-2550 to open an account today. tdd#: 1-800-345-2550 funding is easy
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police are investigating a crime, they can follow a trail of phone calls and e-mails, but texts certainly much harder to track down. but that could change if law enforcement agencies can persuade congress to act. there are new developments and brian todd is joining us now. what's going on here, brian? >> wolf, law enforcement now
wants to be able to retrieve our text messages. not just the so-called meta data, the who and when, they want the context and carriers to store it for three months. as one prosecutor pointed out to us, these days your text is often where the evidence is. michelle says she started getting the harassing texts in early november. an anonymous person threatened to send nude pictures of her to her mother and then to a wide circulation. one text said i'm so close to sending them to everyone. you are so sexy, you'll be an online star in no time unless you answer me. the threats came from different cell phone numbers. a model and college student, she was terrified. >> i was very, very afraid. i mean, that week i didn't go to a night class because i didn't feel safe to walk by myself. >> reporter: it's tho kinds of texts that u.s. law enforcement authorities want more power to investigate. several law enforcement groups including chiefs of police,
sheriffs associations, are pushing congress to pass a law saying your carrier has to record and store your text messages. it's not clear how long they want them stored. scott burns of the national district attorney's association, one of the groups pushing for the new law says his group favors a period of three or four months. maybe longer if an investigation is urgent. >> if you're in the middle of an investigation and bad guys are communicating back and forth whether it's a homicide, whether it's evidence of a crime, it's crucial. i mean, 20 years ago we weren't talking about this. today everybody has a cell phone, everybody texts and e-mails and is on social media. and that's where the evidence is today. >> reporter: or not. as of 2010 major carriers like at&t, sprint and t-mobile didn't retain any content of customers text messages. they got rid of them immediately. verizon keeps them up to only four days. why can't they get texts from individual cell phones?
it's faster and more efficient to get it from the carriers. and of course the bad guys often erase their incriminating texts. many believe the law enforcement benefit of mining texts doesn't outweigh privacy concerns. the aclu says with some 60 billion text messages sent every day, there's just too much private information that would be stored. >> and that's not just something law enforcement can get. it's divorce attorneys, it's other investigators, it's the press. even if you feel like you have nothing to hide, there's a lot of embarrassing and personal information there. >> experts point out this does become a security issue. if the carrier store your texts for any length of time, they can be hacked into. we contacted the major wireless carriers to see what they think of this law to store our texts. reached out to verizon, sprint, at&t and t-mobile, none of them would comment. the main lobbying arm for the carriers also would not comment. >> they never caught that person
harassing that model. >> no. >> brian, thank you. syria's rebels have pleaded for international intervention but could be capable of bringing down the regime on their own. what's going on? we'll have the latest. that offer an epa-estimated 30 mpg highway or better. yeah? hey. hey. where's your suit? oh, it's casual friday. oh. [ male announcer ] chevy's giving more. this holiday season, get a 2013 malibu ls for around $199 per month, or get $1,000 holiday bonus cash.
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the world. i'm wolf blitzer. you're in "the situation room." president obama steps out of the white house and into the home of a family much like those many middle class families all across the united states. it's all part of an effort to winover support for his plan in the face of fierce deadlock with the republicans over the looming fiscal cliff. our white house correspondent dan lothian caught up with the family just after the president left. dan is joining us now with the latest. how did it go, dan? >> reporter: well, wolf, the white house believes it went well. we've seen the president use this strategy before when he's locked in battle with republicans. he takes his message on the road. white house spokesman jay carney saying there are no announcements about face-to-face meetings or phone calls. for now this is how we see the
president negotiating. it's a negotiating tactic that president obama always keeps in his tool kit, head to a backyard or living room, sit down with families who say his approach offers economic relief and send a loud message to congress with a personal touch. >> for them to be burdened unnecessarily because democrats and republicans aren't coming together to solve this problem gives you a sense of the costs involved in very personal terms. >> reporter: this time the scene played out in falls church, virginia, at the home of high school teacher tiffany santana and her husband richard who works at a local toyota dealership. also at the table, tiffany's parents who live with them. >> it ain't every day that your president comes into your home. >> reporter: this family's political tattoo is still staked in the front yard. >> i'm concerned. >> reporter: cnn sat down with the santanas after the presidential motorcade road away down james street just nine miles from the white house. because their parents are also
middle income wage earners, the entire household would see a $4,000 tax increase if an agreement isn't reached. >> i think the president has a mandate from the people. i think that most of the people don't mind the president's plan. they support it. so i feel like it's really a matter of congress backing what the people's mandate was. >> reporter: a deal appears much further than the distance between this home and capitol hill because the president won't budge on extending tax cuts for the very wealthy leading republicans to charge he isn't interested in compromising. >> what the president's really interested in as we learned just yesterday is getting as much taxpayer money as he can first by raising taxes on small business that he believes are making too much money. and then on everybody else. >> reporter: but the president says the so-called fiscal cliff is a solvable problem. critical as the holidays approach and businesses make
investment and hiring decisions for next year. while polls show many americans are pessimistic, there's optimism in this home. >> i got a sense that he's confident that what's best for the american people will happen. >> yeah. >> reporter: you agree? >> yes. >> i do too. >> reporter: but for now, the gop's resisting any tax increases even on those upper income americans. house republicans of course have made the counteroffer with $800 billion in new revenue and an overhaul of the tax code. wolf, they feel as if they have moved the ball, but they don't believe that the president is interested in avoiding the fiscal cliff. >> these negotiations, dan, they usually go until the bitter, bitter end. a lot of folks are assuming that before that end there will be a deal. give us a flavor of the mood at the white house. >> reporter: well, i think they're preparing for this fiscal cliff scenario to play out, wolf. but as you point out when we look back over the last three years, we've had these kinds of
negotiations, it at times appears very optimistic that things will get done, then both sides very far apart. but in the final hours they get a deal done. that's the hope that despite the rhetoric what you're hearing now that this deal will happen before the end of the year. >> all right. we can only hope that there will be a compromise, this fiscal cliff will be avoided. dan lothian, thank you. not everyone seems to think it would be such a bad idea to actually go over the fiscal cliff. just one day after the treasury secretary said the white house is absolutely prepared to do just that under certain circumstances a leading economist is echoing those sentiments. >> i would not come up with a deal unless it's a really good deal before the end of the year. i would take it into next year if that means you're going to get a better deal. >> let's bring in our senior congressional correspondent dana bash. dana, democrats are saying this is either raise tax rates for the wealthy or they are prepared to go over the cliff. there must be a lot of fear up there about all of this.
what are you hearing in the halls of congress? >> reporter: there's a lot of fear. there's no question on both sides of the aisle. even top republicans disagree with that. even republicans who don't want to give on that big issue dan talked about, tax rates for the wealthy. john kyle, number two republican in the senate i spoke with him and he said he thinks any deal would be better than going over the cliff. the reason is because there's so many problems, real life, real world problems going off the cliff would cause for americans beyond the issues that are making headlines. i want to show you some of what we're talking about. first of all, the payroll tax. if we go over the cliff, it will go up from 4.2% to 6.2%. that's a big jump for most americans in taxes. especially for small businesses who if they file a self-employment tax would see their taxes go up 4%. then the amt. this effectively what has happened now is middle class families are treated like the wealthy. the a.m.t. was implemented to make sure the wealthy pay their
fair share. but it has to be fixed every year for congress to make sure that the middle class don't get hit. it's not going to be fixed if we go over the cliff. next, medicare doc fix, another thing we don't hear much about, but doctors would get less money from the government to pay for medicare patients that they have. and many doctors say if that happens, they're going to have to drop medicare patients. that would be very bad news there. and the last thing again not many people are talking about is an estate tax increase. right now there's an exemption for taxes on estates $5 million and below. that would go down if we go off the cliff to $1 million. and the rate would go up 35% to 55%. so these are all very, very real world problems that will cost americans a lot of money out of their wallets if we go off the cliff beyond the big ticket items which are the spending cuts and those tax rates. >> yeah. a lot of consequences if we go over the cliff. what are you hearing, dana, if anything about actual
negotiations, talks being resumed. >> reporter: we are told by a republican source that talks have resumed between at least on a staff level between the speaker's office and the white house. wolf, the fact that this is news that talks are happening at a staff level is really telling as to where we are right now in this process because there has been nothing -- we're told nothing that happened this entire week until the president and the speaker spoke yesterday. so, you know, let's just keep our fingers crossed that they keep talking. whether or not they're going to get anywhere, it's another issue. >> that's a good point. dana, thank you. u much more on this story coming up later. also, major developments in syria. a syrian city dating back all the way to biblical times now stands in ruins. our own arwa damon as i've been pointing out she is risking her life with exclusive reports from inside syria. we'll be speaking with her momentarily. also, the nfl commissioner now speaking out for the first time
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secretary of state hillary clinton is spearheading a tough new diplomatic push to reign-in the embattled syrian president bashar al assad. amid growing concerns the syrian regime is on the verge of using chemical weapons. and a new nbc report saying those weapons are actually being loaded into bombs. it's a move the defense secretary leon panetta is reiterating would be a red line for the united states. and it's a moment senator john mccain now claims may be the last warning washington gets. cnn's senior international correspondent arwa damon is inside syria right now where the fighting rages on. >> reporter: aleppo's old city has not seen such devastation
since occupied by the mongol invaders eight centuries ago. this mosque for example dates back to 1315. this is syria's rich cultural heritage. and now everywhere we look it's been scarred by war. once bustling winding streets now a maze of ever-shifting front lines. overhead, the thundering of fighter jets. a small han lodging for caravans lies in ruins. for more than three millennia aleppo has been a cross roads for traders. we hurried through the courtyard of a traditional home. sheets are strung across streets to block snipers' line of sight. those who dare venture quickly across. a unit of fighters records
people's names and license plates. only those who have shops here are allowed through. abu bashir says they're trying to clamp down on robberies. he shows us the list. the highlighted names have cleared out all their possessions. in one market a shop recently hit by army fire still smolders. a man who doesn't want to appear on camera rushes to clear his wears. the stench of filth and cord identity has replaced the intoxicating smells and spices that wafted down these streets. down one narrow street we run into a man carrying an infrared camera he's about to install. there are government snipers, so we've started putting up cameras to observe and target them, he tells us. a former electrician, he's so
far managed to put up four and string together a jumble of power cables. as we move toward the front line, he picks up a mortar and points out the rebel's former firing position. now they've moved it up a block. step this way, there is a sniper he warns. this is the rebels' so-called field operation center. a flat screen tv and a medieval setting. the camera that he wants to set up is going to be in front of the building that we can just see from here. an right in front of it is a makeshift slingshot. and that is how they're firing the mortars. an ancient weapon deployed in a very modern war. in a narrow alleyway, the call to prayer. there is no power to amplify his
appeal. and his voice echoes off the walls punctuated by the ricochet of bullets. the heart of old aleppo now the historic battleground for the very uncertain future of syria. >> and arwa's joining us now once again from aleppo. amazing, amazing reporting, arwa. as you know the secretary of state hillary clinton is holding urgent international talks to deal with this crisis in syria right now. especially the fear of chemical weapons being used. the rebels you're talking to, arwa, do they have any hope for a diplomatic solution? or do they think the military route is the only way this is going to be resolved? >> reporter: they are completely and utterly convinced, wolf, this is only going to be resolved militarily. that is a conviction that many of them have had for quite some time now saying that they had no choice but to pick up weapons
because the position and artillery and gunfight that the assad regime was using against them. it's also important to note that many of the activists, the rebel fighters that we have been speaking to, have been bringing up the issue of the u.s. designating the front a terrorist organization. and they have found this to be absolutely infuriating. even amongst those mainstream fighters, the mainstream activists, those who do want to see a democratic state, they are finding this type of a designation to be completely counterproductive. and they are growing increasingly frustrated with america's policy or lack of a policy when it comes to how it has been dealing with the syrian opposition. many people fail to understand why it is that america is taking the position that it has been taking up until now when it comes to handling syria, when it comes to how it is choosing to deal with the syrian opposition. and now most recently when it comes to this designation of the
group being a terrorist organization. they are finding it to be completely counterproductive, wolf. >> arwa damon on the scene for us. as i say to you every day, arwa, please be careful. thanks so much. it's legal to own marijuana in washington state, but where to get it is another matter. up later, producing, processing and selling pot, could a new industry be ripe for the picking? stay with us. you're in "the situation room." at the chevy year-end event because chevy's giving more. more efficiency with sonic and cruze... more function in equinox and traverse... more dependability with the legendary silverado... and more style in the all-new malibu. chevy's giving more at the year-end event because 'tis the season. chevy's giving more. this holiday season, get a 2013 cruze ls for around $169 per month or get $500 holiday bonus cash.
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liberty mutual insurance -- responsibility. what's your policy? syrian government forces already started combining chemicals that could be used to make deadly sarin gas for weapons. our chief medical correspondent dr. sanjay gupta taking a closer look at what the deadly gas can do to the human body once it hits. sanjay, describe what is going to happen. we hope it doesn't happen, but if the syrian regime were to use sarin gas against its own people, what would happen? >> this is a substance started as a pesticide and now can be a weaponized chemical. i should just point out that it's colorless, it's tasteless and odorless. that's important because it can be very hard to know that it's actually there, that it's present. what typically happens, it affects specific areas of the
brain, specific chemicals in the brain, wolf. what a person will experience, typically, if they've been exposed to this -- it depends the dose of how much they've been exposed to, but typically they'll start to feel some tunnel vision. their pupils become very constricted. they'll start to sweat. may develop a lot of congestion in their nose and that area. but ultimately what happens, think of it like this, the on switch for various muscles in your body is sort of stuck in the on position. ultimately somebody may start to have convulsions. and ultimately the problem and what can cause death is if they develop respiratory depression, the diaphragm sort of seizes. it's tough to talk about, wolf. and again it's somewhat dose dependent and exactly what progression or how significant what i just described will be. that's sort of the biggest concern. >> so what does someone do if they've been exposed to the sarin gas? >> you know, if you have the option, which a lot of people don't obviously in this situation, you try to get medical attention as quickly as possible because there's a
couple of different antidotes i'll talk about. first of all, just by touching it, ingesting it, inhaling, it any of those ways you could become effected by sarin gas. what people have to remember if they've been in an area where sarin has been released, they've got to get out of that area but also remove their clothes. they could be a conduit for sarin gas. it's heavy and tends to stick closer to the ground. so getting up to higher elevation, that sort of thing can help. this may sound a bit simplistic but that's exactly what people are told to do if there's a concern. there are a couple medications which can help if given quickly after an exposure to sarin gas. you can see the list there. atrophine and valium are medications that do a couple things. they help the symptoms but also unstuck that on switch i was talking about, wolf. that on switch is in the stuck on position.
it can help fix that. but again, that has to be given very quickly. and a lot of people simply don't have that option, wolf. >> you and i remember, sanjay, we were in kuwait on the eve of the war march 2003 in kuwait when the u.s. forces moved into iraq. we had atrophine, we were taught how to use it, at least i was taught to use it to take a shot and stick it in my thigh. you had to do it within seconds. we were afraid at the time that the iraqis had weapons of mass destruction, chemical weapons they were going to use. you remember those days. >> oh, very well, wolf. we wore the bio suits as well. it was hot and the gas masks. but you're absolutely right. taking it, you know, if you haven't been exposed can certainly make you feel not well. but that was the thing. if there was a suspicion, you would go ahead and take the antidote and then remember that kit we got, wolf, there were a few doses because you're supposed to take it every five to 20 minutes depending on how
you're doing. in a situation like that it's one of the few things that might be able to help somebody. >> i remember those days well. i'm glad it's ten years ago. sanjay, thanks very much for that report. even the possibility that syria's regime may use chemical weapons certainly chilling. republican senator john mccain says if the reports about syria are true, time may be running out. >> this may be the last warning we get. time for talking about what to do may now be coming to a close. and we may instead be left with an awful and very difficult decision. >> joining us now our cnn contributor the retired u.s. army general spider marks. also joining us cnn national security contributor fran townsend, a member of the external advisory committees to the cia and department of homeland security. general marks, let me start with you. what are the military options at this stage right now? realistically, what could the use, nato, the international
community militarily do if there is an indication that the syrian military's about to use chemical weapons against its own people. >> wolf, that's the key point. in advance of its use what can the u.s. do? and it's clearly having a very robust, very broad intelligence collection apparatus that takes into account all means of collection, technical as well as human intelligence. there are known sites where the chemical weapons are stockpiled, where the production sites are. then there has to be an act to marry those up with the distribution or delivery means. >> a missile. >> a missile, artillery shell, put into a bomb then uploaded under the wings of an aircraft. all those are indicators of what might occur. intelligence has to be very, very robust in order to go after that. then, if it is such that we see that happening in a tactical sense, in other words, there's not much time to respond, we have to have an ability to go after the weapons systems. >> how do you do that without the poison gases or whatever? >> you don't. >> hurting a lot of innocent
people in the neighborhood? >> chemical weapons are by definition area denial weapon systems. they aren't precise. everybody gets effected badly. >> what do you make of all of this, fran? right now from the white house perspective they see these indications, maybe these weapons are being, you know, getting ready for use. what do you do in a situation like that? i assume the president goes in in his own situation room and meets with his top people. >> reporter: that's exactly right, wolf. those meetings begin with an intelligence meeting much like general marks just described. we heard afterwards when the president was going through considering the bin laden raid, he asks the intelligence community some hard questions about what are your gaps? what is it that you don't know that we ought to want to know? how confident are you in the intelligence including the tactical intelligence that you're giving me? because there's always gaps, wolf. how do we know what we know? in other words, what is your confidence in the sourcing of
it? are they u.s.-controlled sources? is it signals intelligence and technical means? if it's human intelligence, are they u.s. sources or controlled by another foreign service in the region? there's a whole series of questions the president will be asking to decide what his degree of confidence is that they really are getting ready to use these weapons. >> cause you know there are a lot of syrians and others sort of blaming the u.s. and international community for sitting on the sidelines for so long that it in effect created this moment where the syrian regime might end up using chemical weapons. >> i think that's right, wolf. we've made this harder by the fact that we've waited so long to intervene. because as you point out. now taking a military action, whether it's an air strike when these weapons may be mated or ready to be mated is very dangerous. what you're trying -- what you're looking at now is how can you get into the decision cycle from the time somebody like assad gives the order to the guy who's got to actually pull the trigger or launch that artillery shell or missile, you have to
interrupt that cycle or get to the guy before he pushes the button. that's very difficult. and that's really realtime tactical intelligence that's per shable and hard to come by and even harder to act on in that decision cycle. >> general marks, you were involved in the search for weapons of mass destructions in iraq where stockpiles never really materialized. but afterwards there was a sense that saddam hussein wanted the world to think he had wmd and he was happy people thought that. here's the question. how do we know that bashar al assad isn't doing the same thing right now? how do we know that the intelligence that the u.s., the international community is getting is really accurate that there are wmd stockpiles, weapons of mass destruction, sarin gas, mustard gas, in syrian? >> wolf, the key thing right now is that if assad is putting up a front, we're not going to know that unless we have good solid human intelligence on the ground. and that begins with interrogations of the key personnel that are involved, the
scientists, research and development community, the military leaders, the commanders, that as fran indicated would give the directives to pull the triggers. those guys have to be rounded up. and you have to conduct interrogations. that's very tough. that's kind of basic intelligence work. and it doesn't start until you get on the ground and you start interrogating those guys. >> there's always concern. i remember there was a guy named curve ball providing the u.s. information supposedly about saddam hussein's wmd. >> it was one source. >> but he was an important one. people believed him. >> it was one source. and it became much clearer when these great americans who were on the ground in iraq and through sources and through proxies were able to start to round up the top 55 and conduct these very basic interrogations. the picture became clearer. that's a step that has to take place. >> general marks, thanks very much. fran, thanks to you as well. the story unfortunately not going away. other news we're following including domestic tragedy bringing some sweeping nfl issues to a head.
the nfl commissioner roger goodell's response to the murder-suicide involving a promising young player. that's next. "time" magazine asks the question, can the enforcer save football? [ male announcer ] lifts to clear obstacles. ♪ lowers to cut drag. rises to every challenge. the class exclusive air suspension in the new 2013 ram 1500. engineered to move heaven and earth. guts. glory. ram.
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jovan belcher has been laid to rest. the kansas city linebacker's funeral was held yesterday. it's been five days since belcher shot his girlfriend to death and then fatally shot himself before the eyes of team officials. this is a huge tragedy in its own right. but the murder-suicide has also triggered a larger discussion and springboarded the nfl commissioner roger goodell to
the cover of "time" magazine. joining us is "time"'s managing editor rick stengel. i'm going to read a quote from the interview you did with roger goodell. he says this is not a football tragedy, it's a human tragedy that impacts families, loved ones and an innocent child left behind. i mean, what's the bottom line here? does that mean he's not taking any responsibility for what happened? >> well, wolf, it's a tough question. i mean, it was a human issue. it's in all likelihood unrelated to anything having to do with football. i think it was a difficult decision for him. in the story roger talks about he looked at all the different angles, he sent grief counselors down there, he spoke to the coaches, he spoke to the owners. and he made the decision that in fact the most healing process was to allow the game to go on, allow the players to play. the players did in fact win the game. and it seems to me that that was the right decision.
>> as you know, some of the critic of the nfl right now they say there is a culture of guns for a lot of these nfl players. listen to bob costas, the sportscaster. >> if we're looking for a perspective on this, we're going to have to have a serious discussion within sports, an ongoing discussion, not five minutes of faux tears about it, but a serious discussion about domestic violence, about the culture of the game itself, about the easy access to guns, about steroids, drugs and alcohol. >> i guess he's making the point that so many of these nfl players and other sports athletes who make a lot of money very quickly, they go out there and buy guns right away. >> you know what, i have no idea about how prevalent that is or not. i don't know what any statistics about the percentage of gun ownership among nfl players or any professional athletes. you could be confusing the issues here. belcher's death i believe is a fourth death of an nfl player
this year through some violent means. it's a violent sport. i mean, one of the things that goodell says in the piece is that it's a brutal sport. it's a sport about violence. when people are banging their heads together, there are going to be head injuries. the question is not to get rid of football but how to make it safer, how to make it more palatable and how to keep the game going. >> it's a strong interview. and i guess the nfl, they're studying it very closely to see what if any lessons they need to learn from this tragedy that happened in kansas city. quickly on paul ryan. you have a separate interview with the former republican vice presidential nominee. and among other things you quote him as saying this "i've decided not to decide" when you ask if there's a future for him. you can't hold on forever doing that. but i've decided to focus on my family and my job. it sounds like he's keeping the door pretty open. but what was your impression? >> well, that would be my
impression as well, wolf. i mean, by his selection for the vice presidential ticket it catapulted him to the front of the line in the republican party. he's an attractive young interesting fellow. you know, why wouldn't he want to keep the door open? >> an excellent cover story as usual. rick stengel from our sister publication "time" magazine. he joins us every week at this time. thank you, rick. >> thank you, wolf. we have live pictures coming in from near the white house over there. they're getting ready to light the white house christmas tree. there's kenny baby face edmonds. we're going there live in just a moment to see what's going on. let's listen for a moment before we do. ♪ i love the holidays.
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this time yesterday smoking a joint on the streets could get you arrested. not anymore, at least if you're in washington state. it's the first state in the nation to legalize marijuana for recreational use. cnn's miguel marquez is joining us from see yat -- seattle. still some roadblocks, but what's the latest? >> reporter: some roadblocks indeed. you can have pot right now, but you can't go out and buy it. you still have to go to the black market. but in a year's time if everything goes the way it's supposed to, washington state
will be a haven for pot. in the war on drugs, the government surrenders to marijuana users here in washington state. up to an ounce now legal for anyone over 21. >> we got that weed growing. we ain't worried about no police. we're out here living like tupac, baby. all eyes on the city cause we got it going on. >> reporter: this is the moment when marijuana became legal to possess at least under one ounce here in washington state. several dozen people, perhaps 100 people have showed up here at the space needle to smoke up and celebrate. including this guy. >> america, freedom! >> reporter: rick steves of tv travel fame co-sponsored pot initiative here saying it's about decriminalizing marijuana and freeing up government to focus on more important things. >> i think we're going to see a lot less prison congestion and
hundreds of millions of dollars raised a year in revenue earmarked for drug education and health programs. >> reporter: a former senior executive at microsoft now the head of a proposed pot a proposed pot empire. >> what we're doing is creating the adequacategory of premium marijuana, something that doesn't exist until right now. >> reporter: he envisions two dozen shops in washington and eventually colorado. >> what were you more passionate about, marijuana or computers, technology? >> right now marijuana. >> reporter: they still have to license growers and sellers of marijuana products. that could take a year or month. the justice department is only saying it's reviewing legalization laws and has reminded states, in the u.s. government's eyes, pot is illeg illegal. >> the federal government could come in and end this. i hope it doesn't. i hope, obama, if you're listening right now, you have compassion for everybody out here. >> reporter: recognition, even
on this day, their new right fragile and uncertain. now, it it may get a little more certain in days to come. colorado before january 5th is supposed to approve, and the governor is going to sign off on their initiative legalizing marijuana there as well. they're slightly different but mainly the same in the way they treat it, and most proponents feel that once two states do it, the cat is out of bag, and you're going to see many states rushing into the marijuana game. wolf? >> thanks very much, miguel. let's go right over to the white house. the president and first family are getting ready to light the white house christmas tree. let's listen in. >> happy holidays to you, mr. president. >> is it time? >> i think it's time. >> i think it's time. >> for the big button. let's count it down, everyone. >> i hope everybody's ready. we've got to do the countdown. starting with five.
ellipse ever since just south of the white house. this year a giant blue spruce, a blue spruce christmas tree. folks love it already. we'll continue to watch a little bit, get back there. but there's other news we're following, including over in britain. prince charles is showing off his sense of humor. he's speaking out to cnn for the very first time about his new grandchild that's on the way. >> your royal highness, what's your reaction to the news about the duke and duchess of cambridge? >> how do you know i'm not a radio station? [ male announcer ] there are plenty of reasons to be jolly at the chevy year-end event because chevy's giving more. more efficiency with sonic and cruze... more function in equinox and traverse... more dependability with the legendary silverado... and more style in the all-new malibu.
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>> a beautiful, beautiful christmas carol, lots of christmas carols going on there. you're looking at live pictures of the ellipse much that's where the white house christmas tree. you just saw the president and first family. they just lit the christmas tree once again. this is a giant blue spruce. it was transplanted in october right over there on the ellipse south of the white house. this is a wonderful, wonderful ceremony that goes on every single year over at the white house. three days in the hospital. seems to have agreed with katheri katherine, the duchess of cambridge. the new mother to be was released today after wrestling with the hazards of early pregnancy, morning sickness. here's cnn's matthew chen. >> reporter: wolf, the duchess left the hospital in central london, where she's been treated for acute morning sickness. escorted by her husband prince william, the duke of cambridge,
clutching a bouquet of roses with a smile on her face. it's been a difficult few days for her. a royal statement says she's resting at home in kensington palace and that the duke and duchess thanked the staff of the hospital for the care and attention they gave. prince charles, the heir to the british throne, has also commented for the first time saying he's excited at the prospect of. ing a royal grand dad. >> your royal highness, what's your reaction to the pregnancy of duke and duchess of cambridge? >> how do you know i'm not a radio station? i'm thrilled. it's good to be a grandfather at my age. so it's splendid. and i'm very glad my daughter-in-law is getting better. thank goodness. >> there has been controversy over the privacy of the duchess in the hospital. a radio show made a prank call impersonating charles and the queen and managed to get information regarding the
duchess' condition from the nurse on the ward. the station has apologized saying it's all meant as a thing. the hospital has been forced to seriously review its telephone security procedures in order to protect other high profile patients like the royals in the future. matthew chance, cnn, london. >> happening now, a warning of imminent use of weapons of mass destruction in syria. a chilling look at what a chemical attack would look like. stand by. law enforcement tracing your text messages. how the push for a new law impacts your privacy. and the living legal nightmare of a man who spent decades in prison, even though he's never, ever been convicted of anything. i'm wolf blitzer. you're in "the situation room." a new urgency to the crisis in syria right now with growing signs the increasingly desperate regime of bashar al assad may be
preparing to unleash chemical weapons against his own people. u.s. intelligence shows syria has mixed chemical compounds needed to make sarin gas. in an extraordinary move, the secretary of state hillary clinton met twice today with her russian counterpart on the sidelines of the security conference in ireland. there are signs russia's staunch support for assad may be faltering as the civil war rapidly evolves. >> events on the ground in syria are accelerating. we see that in many different ways. the pressure against the regime in and around damascus seems to be increasing. >> there's growing fear the assad regime will respond to that pressure with dramatic and deadly force, including chemical weapons. u.s. intelligence believes the chemical in question is sarin, which causes a horrifying death. our pentagon correspondent barbara starr joins us more. barbara has more on the latest.
what are you hearing, barbara? >> reporter: wolf, the priority at the pentagon is clearly to figure out what bashar al assad is up to. the horror remains unspeakable. 25 years ago, saddam hussein unleashed one of the worst poison gas attacks in history. in the town of haladja, thousands were killed. now concern is growing by the hour that bashar al assad may be planning the same thing against his citizens. >> the intelligence we have shows this is being considered. >> reporter: u.s. intelligence shows syria has mixed chemical compounds needed to make sarin gas, a deadly agent that can quickly kill thousands. >> the united states and our allies are facing the prospect of an imminent use of weapons of mass destruction in syria. this may be the last warning we get. >> reporter: the u.s. is not precisely saying what the syrians are doing, but there are two ways of mixing elements to
make a sarin filled weapon. >> going to have to handle it very, very carefully because a drop will kill you. so often, that's done at the last minute. >> reporter: there's another way to do it. two chemicals are placed in an artillery shell separated by a disk. when the shell is fired, the disk explodes. the chemicals mix, becoming deadly sarin. but at some point, the chemicals are on the move. >> then they have to decide to move it to the place where the delivery system sits. so it may be artillery pieces in an artillery battery of some kind. it could be an airport or military air base where the bombers are sitting. >> reporter: that may be the final opportunity to strike before the chemical weapons are used. >> time for talking about what to do may be coming to a close, and we may still be left with an awful and very difficult decision. >> reporter: wolf, consider this. sarin gas, we're told by the experts, when stored properly,
can have a shelf life of some weeks. so these heightened tensions, this concern about what assad may be up to may go on for some time. wolf? >> we'll stay on top of it with you, barbara. meanwhi meanwhile, the protests are heating up in egypt. kate bolduan is here. she's picking up that part of the story. >> embattled president mohammed morsi went on nationwide tv. he addressed the protests. he seemed to inflamed their outrage. within minutes, the muslim brotherhood headquarters in cairo was up in flames. reza joins us on the phone from cairo. we want to talk about president morsi in a second. first, you just arrived at the scene of the fire at the muslim brotherhood headquarters. what are you seeing, and what are you learning about who's responsible for this?
>> reporter: let's verify what happened. two hours ago, they reported the main headquarters here in cairo was attacked by protesters and torched. we raced over here. we're in front of the headquarters right now. there's no indication of a fire here, but certainly there's a large group of what appear to be opponents of president morsi and the muslim brotherhood. they're trying to do everything they can to get to this building, and they're being blocked by police. so we have yet another standoff. if anyone thought president morsi's speech would pacify these people and calm them down, this is a sign it has not. earlier tonight, president morsi delivered a speech. a lot of people were anxious to see if he would make some concessions back down from his position, and in many ways he did not. i think he tried to do several things. he called for peace and calm. he called on all political factions to get together at the presidential palace on saturday and talk. he also issued a stern warning to protesters to stay away from
violence. but he didn't back down from his key position, and that is the referendum on the constitution will take place on the 15th, and he didn't reverse the controversial decrees that he delivered a couple of weeks ago that gave him additional power. he said that would only happen after the referendum, and that speech certainly did not pacify the opposition supporters. they were outside his house again calling for his ouster, and now at this hour, the large group finding its way to the muslim brotherhood's offices. >> and all the while, the situation getting worse and worse. reza sayah watching it on the ground for us in cairo. >> let's get more on what's going on in syria and egypt. jane harman, former democrat congresswoman, joins us. it seems morsi has inflamed the passions in egypt. you were just there a few days
ago. >> and i've been in the headquarters that may or may not have been torched. >> of the muslim brotherhood. >> yeah. two steps forward, one step backwa backward. the cease fire in gaza was an important development and morsi, and the role that egypt played was crucial, and getting an imf loan, or at least a promise of an imf loan, to help egypt's staggered economy was also useful. however, here the process has been very poor. it may be that the contents of this new constitution are pretty good, based on what i've been able to tell. but the way it was announce d after 30 of the 100 people left this council and their seats were back filled, and this decree giving morsi powers through the enactment of the referendum, has created enormous mistrust, and i don't think it's going away. his call for dialogue on saturday, as i understand it, does not open the possibility that he could change this
constitution and include some amendments. i think that might have reduced the tension. >> the violence is intense. >> he called for dialogue again today, but it clearly is getting more and more inflamed. what is your sense, jane, on president morsi? his protesters are speaking to folks on the ground. some are saying this is not what we wanted. this is another dictatorship. what's your sense of it? >> it's a fair election, and the opposition, these liberal seculars, as they call themselves, had numerous parties that ran. it was a run-off. morsi won the run-off. i was an observer. >> 52% of the vote. it was not 100%. 52% is a fair majority. >> that's right. his group claims in this council they only had 51% of the seats. others were represented. others chose to walk out. egypt doesn't do politics as well. you posted last week that basically says they know how to protest and boycott. they know how to deal with each other.
tum actually, our congress doesn't either. in this case, this say toxic development. what the morsi crowd wants to do, and you had morsi's national security adviser on your show last night, wolf. what they hope to do is to have a fair vote in a few weeks, have a new constitution, which they claim represents egypt broadly, and then repeal this decree and elect a new parliament and move along with a democracy. sounds good except that a whole bunch of people feel disenfranchised by the way they're doing it. >> you talk about ha dad. he was on the show, a national security adviser to morsi. you met with him. you know him. particularly, he sounds pretty reasonable. then when i asked him about the $1.3 billion a year in military aid the u.s. provides egypt, hundreds of millions of dollars in economic assistance the u.s. provides egypt, he said this. listen.
>> i think u.s. assistance to egypt is more important for united states more than it is important for egypt. >> he thinks it's more important for the u.s. to give $1.5 billion a year, and it's better for the u.s. than it is for egypt even though egypt is the recipient. you understand that kind of logic? >> i think foreign military sales help aerospace firms employ people. i think that was that comment. i think it's very important for egypt to get the help. egypt's economy is stagnant. getting the imf loan of $4.8 billion, $6 billion promised from the eu, and this money from us will matter a lot. at the end of the day, morsi has to deliver. morsi has to provide food and jobs and employment for his people. that's what will create buy in. >> jane, real quick, because we never have enough time, i want to quickly get your take on syria. secretary of state clinton meeting with the russian foreign minister as well as the u.n. envoy to syria. with so much concern about the threat of chemical weapons at
this point, do you think there are any diplomatic options left? >> i think the play -- and hillary clinton met twice today with russian foreign minister lavrov -- is to get russia in the tent with the rest of the world. everyone has predicted, when facts on the ground change, russia will be there. this could be a reset moment for vladimir putin, and he could, because of his unique sway in the area, persuade, i would think, the bashar family to step aside and create a peaceful transition, like the transition in yemen. the opposition is now more broadly representative, and i would hope the russians would see that being on the wrong side of this just creates more carnage, more opportunity for terrorists to get traction there and won't help russia. >> it's a pivotal moment, as we say, a clear tipping point. glad you're back safe and sound from egyp. jane harman, thanks so much for coming in. the jersey shore about to meet the fiscal cliff.
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the united states is now only 26 days away from the so-called fiscal cliff. drastic cuts that some feel will plow us back into a recession. >> only negotiations between the republicans and the white house have stop it. president obama tried to step up the pressure on republicans, visiting a family in northern virginia whose taxes would go up by some $4,000 a year if an agreement isn't reached. >> they're keeping it together. they're working hard. they're meeting their responsibilities. for them to be burdened unnecessarily because democrats and republicans aren't coming
together to solve this problem gives you a sense of the costs involved in very personal terms. >> the president also met with new jersey's governor chris christie over at the white house. the republican governor was here in washington to talk about hurricane sandy relief efforts, and now they're in danger of going over the fiscal cliff with the rest of the country at the end of the month. our national political correspondent jim acosta has been covering this story for us. what's the latest with chris christie in washington. >> reporter: this is some of the unintended consequences of the fiscal cliff. after a series of meetings with the president and house speaker john boehner, new jersey governor chris christie had little to say as he left washington, but as other senators we spoke to see it, the jersey shore may be running head on into the fiscal cliff. he visited the president at the white house, then he met with senators from his own state before slipping in to meet the speaker of the house. >> going home, guys. see you later. >> reporter: but then chris christie, a potential
presidential candidate who is rarely at a loss for words, departed the nation's capital in near total silence. as it turns out, the new jersey governor's quest for money to rebuild the battered shoreline may be waiting for another fiscal cliff. in other words, bad timing. >> there's a chance that any of this could get caught up in the fiscal cliff talks. >> it doesn't come at an opportune time because of the fiscal cliff, both the talks and the idea we're short of money. traditionally, what this country has done is treated disaster separately. >> senators from the storm ravaged states believe the obama administration will propose roughly $50 billion in relief, far short of what the states want, $82 billion. >> is there that kind of money lying around? >> certainly not that kind of money lying around. it's such a complex time right now we're dealing with a host of
issues. we're going over the fiscal cliffs. >> senator susan collins are facing budget cuts they would like to pay for the storm cleanup. the uncertain fate of the relief money comes little more than a month after the jaw dropping pre-rel pre-election image of president obama and governor christie shoulder to shoulder, a time when he promised to help victims quickly. >> i want you to cut through red tape. i want you to cut through bureaucracy. there's no excuse for inaction at this point. >> the white house said the president remains committed. >> there's no question what the president saw on staten island that enormous suffering continues. that's why we're looking at states and localities to continue the effort to assist in the recovery. >> reporter: a top congressional aide tells cnn lawmakers are waiting to see the administration proposal, and an administration official tells cnn the white house is still
crunching its numbers. as for chris christie, who is up for re-election in new jersey next year, the top aide to the governor had no comment. just to get to a staggering sum of money we're talking about here, the $80 billion the governors are seeking roughly equal to the amount of money we'd raise in one year from raising taxes on the top 2 percent. so it's a lot of money. >> it's a tough time, that's for sure. jim acosta, thank you so much. get this, apple products made in america. details of the tech giant's plans to bring jobs home. [ male announcer ] when this hotel added aflac
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stories who's getting a lot of attention. the state's new voter approved law legalizing the possession of small amounts of pot took effect at midnight. technically, the people in seattle immediately broke it by lighting up in public to celebrate. police, though, looked the other way. it will take a year before the state has rules for growing and selling pot. at some point, the feds may shut it all down because there are still federal laws against that, if i neededed to remind you. just now, michigan's house of representatives passed a right to work law. the 52-58 vote with thousands of demonstrators who packed into the capitol building caused state police to lock it down. the right to work law will make michigan more competitor, says the governor, though representatives say it will result in lower pay. and apple news to tell you about. apple ceo tim cook says his company will start building one of the computers in the u.s. next year. cnn's dan simon says the decision is a bit of a gamble
because the u.s. made products may be more expensive. >> there are two ways of looking at it. you're using cheap labor in china. you're not going to have that in the united states, and also you're talking about adding infrastructure costs, how that might impact their bottom line remains to be seen, but tim cook made it clear this is not a financial move necessarily. this is a move to really bring back jobs to the united states and do something positive for the american economy. >> for now apple isn't saying which computer will be built in the u.s. you can be sure a lot of people will wait to see that. stay tuned. >> a senate bombshell. tea party candidate jim demint catches everyone off guard announcing his return from the senate. my interview with him straight ahead. paired with savory garlic shrimp. just $12.99. come into red lobster and sea food differently. and introducing 7 lunch choices for just $7.99.
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details of a push for a controversial new law. 30 years in prison. he's never even convicted. >> jim demint of south carolina took everyone by surprise, even his own staff, when he announced he's resigning at the end of the year to take over a new role at the heritage foundation. he believes he can make more of a difference outside the senate than inside. >> this is a good time to leave because i, in effect, term limited myself. i never agreed to be a career politician.
i played a role in stocking the senate with conservatives who are younger and brighter and better spokesmen than i am. i know i'm leaving the senate better than i found it with real leaders. this is an opportunity to do more to get the american people behind them. if we don't do that, it's going to be hard to keep people here in washington who are promoting the right ideas. >> demint drew praise from an unlikely source, democratic majority leader of the senate, harry reid. >> i've always liked the guy. and even though there's so much of what he's done, i personally believe he does this out of a sense of real belief. it's not political postures for him as he does for a lot of people. i like jim demint. i wish him well. >> i'm joined now by senator demint along with heritage foundation founding trustee, the current president, the outgoing president edwin fulner.
thanks very much for coming in as well. we're going to talk about the state of the heritage foundation, the state of the republican party, the senator is here, the newsmaker. you shocked all of us. why did he do this? >> wolf, after this last election, it's apparent we need to do more as conservatives to convince americans that our ideas and our policies are going to make their lives better. the heritage foundation is the premier think tank, research organization. the premier idea group for the conservative movement. this will give me the opportunity to help take our case to the american people and to translate our policies into real ideas. >> so you think you could be more influential within the conservative movement as the leader of the heritage foundation as opposed to a united states senator. >> there's no question about it. >> what does that say about the senate? i thought, being a senator, one of only 100, you had enormous power. >> we do. and i think i've had a lot to do with changing the senate and bringing in some folks who
better reflect america to the republican party. but for me, particularly since i spent most of my life doing research, working with ideas and marketing and trying to sell those to people all over the country, this is like coming home to be able to work with people who are like minded at heritage and all over the country. >> if romney would have won, do you think you also would have made the same decision? >> i would have thought differently about it, but this, i told ed four years ago, half jokingly, that when people ask me to run for president, i said the only president i want to be is president of the heritage foundation because they're about ideas and their ideas are backed up by solid research. wolf, the thing that breaks my heart is, as republicans, we're not doing a good job of convincing americans that we care about every one of them and that our policies are going to make our lives better. >> the impression is you only care about the rich. >> that's the impression. i'm a conservative first, and i believe that, if we do a better
job of helping americans understand what we're trying to do to showcase every place in the country that our ideas are working at the state level, that that will help those at the federal level who want to carry those policies. frankly, if independents and democrats want to work with us on conservative ideas, i can do that better at heritage than as a partisan inside. >> you've been at heritage forever, right? >> i've been there 35 years. >> i didn't realize, based on how powerful he says he's going to be within the conservative movement, do you feel you've been that powerful in galvanizing everyone out there? >> unquestionably. we've co-sponsored a presidential debate with you as our moderator. >> i remember. it was a great debate. >> we are an idea factory. ideas are the raw materials of what goes on in washington. if we can pull together a stronger coalition, republican, democrat, conservative, even some liberals sometimes on the broad issues that face us, man, and jim demint knows how to do it. he knows the marketing side as well as the issue side.
it's going to be an exciting time at heritage. >> you've got to raise money, go out there and speak, you've got a good staff. got a lot of work to do. >> he does. he has to administer 250 people. 600,000 members around the country who are going to be really ecstatic when they hear the news of jim's coming in. it's an exciting time at heritage. >> should there be a compromise in order to avoid going over the fiscal cliff? john boehner is already ready for $800 billion of ip creancre tax revenue. calculating deductions, eliminating loopholes. are you with the speaker of the house on that? >> unfortunately, the policies of the president obama have already taken us over the cliff. if you meet with businesses like i do all the time, they already pared back plans and hiring for next year, anticipating what's going to happen. we can fix this christmas eve, if we want, but we've already hurt the economy and hurt job growth. >> are you with boehner? >> i am not with boehner.
this government doesn't need any more money. this country needs less government. we are going to have historic levels of revenue to the government this year, but we've doubled spepding in the last ten years. >> everyone's taxes are going to go up at the end of the year if there's no deal. >> we have already offered to extend current tax rates. that's what we should have done six months ago until we could come to some agreement, some compromise on tax reform. >> when you say compromise, where are you ready to compromise as far as taxes are concerned? >> how we go about tax reform, there's a lot of room to work together to lower the rates. >> give me an example. >> i am not sure where the democrats are because they have offered a plan. >> especialkeeping the tax rate 2001, 2003, whatever, make them permanent. the top 2%, let them go from 35% to 39.6%, which was what it was during the clinton administration. >> it's unbelievable to me we're even talking about it. that doesn't solve the problem. >> it doesn't solve it. it's a beginning. >> it runs the government for five or six days. >> it's a beginning.
a billion here, a billion there, it winds up being real money. >> the president has known about this so-called cliff for over a year, and he has yet to present a plan that's comprehensive that actually reduces our deficit. i'm going to work with anyone who is willing to put a plan on the table, but our party or anyone should not sit down and negotiate with someone who will not put a plan on the table. the president has not put a serious plan on the table. >> ed, i want you to weigh in. we're running out of time. as far as a compromise on the marginal tax rate, 35%, going up, let's say 36% or 37%, is that acceptable? >> no, because marginal tax rate increases, if there is any increase in revenue, it just gives them more to play with over on capitol hill and more to spend. when we talk about fairness, when the top 2%, $250,000 and above, are already paying 45% of total income tax, that's a big question of fairness there. >> ed feulner and jim demint, outgoing and incoming heritage
leader. >> and who will be the senator from north carolina? >> speaking of, the chilling photo of the man pushed onto the new york city subway tracks. he's talking to cnn's anderson cooper. why do toys for tots and hasbro trust duracell to power their donated toys? duralock power preserve. it locks in power for up to 10 years in storage. guaranteed. duracell with duralock. trusted everywhere. and the candidate's speech is in pieces all over the district. the writer's desktop and the coordinator's phone are working on a joke with local color. the secure cloud just received a revised intro from the strategist's tablet. and while i make my way into the venue, the candidate will be rehearsing off of his phone.
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billions of text messages sent every day. have you ever wondered what happened to yours? >> most of them simply vanish when you delete them. now there's a push for a law that would require carriers to restore your text messages. that's raising serious privacy concerns. cnn's brian todd is looking into this. brian, it really had me thinking. >> it's really strange. law enforcement, they want to
retrieve our text messages. they want to. not the so-called meta-data. theyn th they want the content to be restored in some cases. as one prosecutor pointed out to us, the text is often for the evidence. michelle said she started getting the harassing texts in early november. an anonymous person threatened to send nude pictures of her to her mother then to a wide circulation. one text said, i am so close to f'ing sending them to everyone. you are so sexy. you'll be an online star in no time unless you answer me. the threats came from different cell phone numbers. medoff, a model and college student, was terrified. >> i was very, very afraid. that week, i didn't go to a night class because i didn't feel safe to walk by myself. >> it's those kinds of texts that u.s. law enforcement authorities want more power to investigate. several law enforcement groups, including chiefs of police,
sheriff's associations, are pushing congress to pass a law, saying your carrier has to record and store your text mess ge ages. it's not clear how long they want them stored. scott burns says his group favors a period of three or four months, maybe longer if an investigation is urgent. >> if you're in the middle of an investigation, and bad guys are communicating back and forth, whether it's a homicide, whether it's evidence of the crime, it's crucial. 20 years ago, we weren't talking about this. today everybody has a cell phone. everybody texts and e-mails and is on social media, and that's where the evidence is today. >> reporter: or not. as of 2010. major carriers like at&t, sprint, and t-mobile didn't retain any content of customers' text messages. they got rid of it immediately. verizon keeps them only five days. why can't the law enforcement
get the texts from individual cell phones, scott burns says it's faster and more efficient to get them from the carriers and, of course, the bad guys often erase their incriminating texts. many believe the law enforcement benefit of texts doesn't outweigh privacy concerns. chris calabrese of the aclu, with some 6 billion text messages sent every day, there's too much private information that would be stored. >> that's just not something law enforcement could get. it's divorce attorneys, other investigators, it's the press. even if you feel like you have nothing to hide, it's a lot of embarrassing and personal information there. >> reporter: experts point out this does become a security issue. if the carriers store your data for any length of time, they could be hacked into. we contacted the major wireless carriers. we reached out to verizon, sprint, at&t, and t-mobile. none of them would comment. the main lobbying arm for those
carriers also would not comment. >> have they captured the person responsible for the embarrassing e-mails? >> these people can get away. they toss their phone. they disabled it. >> a major decision-maker. thanks very much, brian todd, for that. the photographer who took those non-attorneys, pictures of a man about to be hit and killed by the subway train, is speaking tonight on cnn's anderson cooper 360. anderson is joining us now. this man has caused so much controversy. tell us about it. tell us what's going on. >> we're going to be talking to him tonight on 360 at 8:00. he's a freelance photographer for the new york post who took those pictures that have been seen around the world and sparked huge discussions the
last several days about shouldn't he have done more. there were other people on the subway platform. his position has been all along, as he ran toward this, there wasn't time for him to help the man on the tracks, and he had hoped, by using the flash, that he would signal the subway train conductor that there was a man on the tracks. that obviously did not happen. he also said there were a number of people who were much closer than he was to mr. hahn on the tracks and did nothing to help, and, in fact, took out cell phone cameras after mr. hahn had been brought back on the tracks and cpr was being administered. he was saying he had to yell at the crowd to stand back. people were standing around using their cell phone cameras to videotape his body. we're going to talk to him about more details about exactly what happened and what could have been done differently, if, in fact, anything could have been done differently. >> that picture of mr. hahn hanging on the edge of that
platform, and there were a lot of people. at least to me, i wasn't there, i don't know what i would have done. just to go over there and try to grab his arms and lift him up. this is video of him speaking to the individual who's been charged right now, but what i can't understand is somebody's lying there obviously screaming for help, and nobody's going over there to get his arms and just lift him up. >> i mean, again, i think it's easy to criticize when one isn't there, and people, you never know how you're going to react in any kind of situation. we want to talk about all of this. >> i'm looking forward to it. anderson, we'll see you at 8:00 p.m., "ac 360." thanks very much. still ahead, behind bars without a conviction for three decades. a miscarriage of justice that continues right now. details of how it happened. been lying around. tdd#: 1-800-345-2550 tdd#: 1-800-345-2550 rollover your old 401(k) to a schwab ira, and we'll help you tdd#: 1-800-345-2550 find new ways to make your money work harder.
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it's a stunning miscarriage of justice. a man who spent more than half his life in prison without a valid conviction. now his case is drawing new attention, new outrage. how can this happen in the united states of america? cnn's justice correspondent joe johnson has been working this story. how could this happen? >> wolf, it's still being fought out in the courts, but legal observers we talked to called this case highly unusual, a huge breakdown, a classic failure of the justice system to work the way it's supposed to work. behind the walls of this texas prison sits jerry hartfield, a 56-year-old man caught in legal limbo for 30 years, the charges against him overturned long ago. the story starts back in 1977 when a jury in texas convicted
and sentenced hartfield to death for a grisly crime, killing a woman with a pickax in a bus station. three years later, while hartfield was here on death row, the conviction was condition was reversed. by dismissing a woman from the jury pool because of her reservations about the death penalty. richard deeter heads a group that opposes capital punishment. >> he had a trial, but it wasn't a fair trial. he was convicted. and sentenced at that trial, but without it being a properly selected jury, the conviction didn't stand and the texas courts were unanimous about that. so, they had the obligation then to retry him or to free him. they have done neither one. >> the court ordered a new trial more than 32 years ago. one that hartfield never received. almost unheard of in modern jurisprudence. >> i've never seen someone
linger in prison for 30 years without a conviction. without the basic due process. >> so, how did this happen? the state wanted to change his sentence from death to life in prison instead of holding a new trial which was state law at the time. in 1983, mark white issueded a proclamation commuting the sentence to life in prison in an attempt to prevent another trial. then for almost 25 years, nothing happened. the state of texas assumed the case was resolved and hartfield who can't read or write, never challenged it. then this 2006 with the help of another inmate, he filed a motion calling on the courts to either retry him or let him go. at issue was the constitutional right of a speedy trial. in response, state lawyers wrote hartfield has not shown he is actually innocent for the crime he was convicted. additionally, the federal court finds most of the grounds for
relief are barred. thenz the state has to do something. texas attorney general's office declined an interview, but said the state continues to handle the case in the courts. we reached out to some of the institutions who playeded a role in the case, including the district attorney's office that sent him to prison and the public defender's office. nobody wants to comment because they would still play a role depending on what the courts decide. >> got a 51 i.q. >> already behind bars for 30 years. what are the courts going to decide? >> you got me, but it's a very, very difficult situation. a lot of people say they commuted the sentence. the bottom line is it's really hard to commute a sentence that's already been reversed by a court. >> just stay on top of it for us. >> thank you so much. we'll be right back.
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the holiday season officially here. the president, the first family and many, many celebrities. wolf is dancing, but you can't see him. the first family was in the crowd singing christmas carols during the speech at the lighting of the national christmas tree. the president made a little joke about life in washington. >> we've been laying the national christmas tree for 90 years now.
in times of war and peace, triumph and tragedy. we've always come together to rejoice in the christmas miracle. but our tree has been having a hard time recently. this is our third one in as many years. our long standing tree was lost in a storm. then its replacement didn't take hold. just goes to show nobody's job is safe here in washington. >> live pictures here right now in front of the white house with that beautiful christmas tree. the holiday season's officially here, wolf. >> lovely christmas tree. i love this time of the year. so, do you need a designated driver? maybe the family dog? jeanne moos has the story of three pups in new zealand who are getting some very special treatment. >> sniff this. dogs giving up the backseat for the driver's seat. >> just when you thought you'd seen it all.
>> and soon we'd all seen it video of three dogs and an spca branch in new zealand being taught to shift gears. >> good. >> and steer. >> boy. >> first on carts, then on actual cars with the controls modified for doggie legs. a is the command for accelerate. >> turn. good boy. turn. >> next week after two months of training, quarter will attempt to drive a mini cooper alone on an empty track live on new zealand television. just months ago, the idea of a dog driving was considered a joke. a gag sub rue used to advertise cars. and remember those old snl bits? ♪ let's hope the new zealand dogs -- do better than toonces
the driving cat did. celebrateded by gawker with the headline, dog drives man. buzz feed noted finally dogs who chase cars will have something to do once they catch them and david letterman didn't even need to make a joke to get a laugh. >> honest to god. isn't that -- >> he never the less did the top ten signs you're dog's a bad driver. >> crosses four lanes of traffic to go after a squirrel. oh, no. >> online posters imagined the future. i see dogs in cars cutting me off, then flipping me the paw. look, i know you have a dog license, but do you have a learner's permit? now, where were we with the top ten signs your dog is a bad driver? >> use your car to mount a nissan sentra. the number one sign your dog is a bad driver, always taking eyes off-road to lick himself. >> being trained to drive with treats is sure to have dogs
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