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AMERICAN MORNING

Storm Targets Northeast; Missing NFL Players; Clinton's Mideast Challenges; Gov. Sebelius New Health Secretary Nominee; American Guns in Mexico Drug Battle

Aired March 2, 2009 - 7:59   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: President Obama, your agenda's not new. It's not change. And it's not hope.

(APPLAUSE)

LIMBAUGH: Spending a nation into generational debt is not an act of compassion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Radio host Rush Limbaugh firing up the crowd at the Conservative Political Action conference. The GOP is in search of a leader, and Limbaugh certainly rallied the base. So, what is Limbaugh's role in the Republican Party right now?

Congressman Ron Paul joins us now, live on the phone. He's in Lake Jackson, Texas. So, when you take a look at what happened at CPAC the last few days, Congressman Paul, Rush Limbaugh appeared to be the big hit. Is he emerging as the leader of the Republican Party?

REP. RON PAUL (R), TEXAS: Well, I think the Democrats would certainly like that. And he is a leader. He does say the right things now. And I think a lot of people like to hear what he's saying, but I think it's also a little bit polarizing and confrontational, and I think that's why the Democrats are bragging that Limbaugh now speaks for the Republicans. So I guess the Democrats think it's to their advantage if he's leading the charge.

ROBERTS: Now, of course, he's a very popular person. He's a staunch conservative. But what does it say that almost like the spokesperson for a political party is a radio talk-show host as opposed to it being one of the political leadership?

PAUL: I think it's pretty sad. It's a good point to make. And it means that the Republicans are really starving for some type of leadership. Now -- and I think his message is good and does appeal to a lot when he criticizes some of the extravagance of the -- Obama's administration.

But he really didn't broaden the base. I mean, it's still very narrow, and that is why some of us would like to see an approach that would emphasize personal liberties and civil liberties, looking at the drug war. And certainly looking at foreign policy.

And in those areas, it's really the old Republican Party, because even Limbaugh was a strong supporter of Bush. So, he doesn't have anything new either when it comes to, you know, bringing our troops home and not expanding the war in Afghanistan, and talking about, you know, the danger to our personal liberties and our privacies.

So, there is a group of us that would like to appeal somewhat differently to the Republican base and, as a matter of fact, to the American people. That's what is really important.

ROBERTS: I was fascinated to see in terms of expanding the base that Ron Paul is bringing a lot of new young people in the door. Young Americans for Liberty is a new organization that's cropped up around your Campaign for Liberty. It's fascinating that a 72-year-old white guy from Texas is bringing young people.

Also, this straw poll that took place over the weekend, you tied for third with Sarah Palin. Mitt Romney came in first for the third year in a row. Bobby Jindal came in second. What does that say about the 2012 election cycle? Are you going to gear up the Campaign for Liberty again?

PAUL: Well, the Campaign for Liberty has been geared up, and it's going to continue to grow, so it's going to be alive and well. And I think we will have a presence. Exactly how that translates into my personal activity and all that remains to be seen.

But the important thing is that somebody comes through with a philosophy that appeals to good, principled, liberal Democrats and progressives who like personal liberty, who don't want to see perpetual war and to appeal to people who believe in the free market. I mean, this is what we need. We're in desperate shape financially. Worldwide, we're bankrupting ourselves because we're overextended.

So, there's room for these views. So, I'm very excited the Campaign for Liberty is going to continue and to continue to grow, although it's recognized although we did well at that convention, the base is locked in the old-fashioned conservative viewpoints which is, to me, very restrictive.

ROBERTS: So, let me see if I can get you out early here. Will you run again in 2012?

PAUL: I don't think so. I'm not planning that. It's a long way off. I hardly can visualize what the country's going to be like then at the rate we're deteriorating financially. So, right now, I just plan to promote the cause.

ROBERTS: Gotcha. Congressman Ron Paul, it's always great to catch up with you. Thanks for joining us this morning.

PAUL: Thank you very much.

ROBERTS: All right. Take care.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: It's three minutes after the hour. And we're checking the top stories. A dangerous winter snowstorm paralyzing travel across the northeast. In fact, in New York City, in the area, they've preemptively canceled flights as the snowstorm is working its way into the northeast.

It's expected to drop more than a foot of snow in parts of New York and in southern New England. It's already created quite a slushy mess in many parts of the south.

And our Susan Candiotti is right in the middle of it. She is right here just outside of CNN studios actually.

And how is it looking out there right now?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, the snow has lightened up just a little bit here since it did earlier this morning. But, you know, on most days, you could never get away with what I'm doing right now. And that is standing in the middle of a New York street basically without getting clipped. But I'm able to do it for the most part today.

You do see traffic picking up a bit. You can see the busses running. You see some cabs out, but certainly traffic is way down from what it normally is. It would appear as though people are taking the advice of officials here to use public transportation, and that's what they're doing. Using the subways, using the trains, et cetera.

They've got all kinds of equipment out. The snow plows are working. They've got a hundred thousands of tons of sand and salt available to help keep the tracks clear, to help keep the streets clear.

We're hearing out at the local airports, LaGuardia, Newark and JFK as well that, of course, we've got massive flight cancellations there, so clearly anyone who is coming into the city will have their flights canceled or delayed.

Here in Central Park, they've had the plows out as well. So people are able to get around on foot as they continue their morning jogs or take their dogs out for a walk.

But the main thing here is we want to tell people that for the first time in five years, New York City schools are closed. A rare event. And on Sunday night, New York's mayor was saying it looks like the lions are getting ready to roar. Well, I think it's safe to say the lions are reorganize.

Back to you, Kiran.

CHETRY: Yes. And we've seen the snowplow behind you there. A lot of people were noting, right when they got out of the tunnels coming over from New Jersey. It seemed like there was no plowing at all around some of those really busy streets like Tenth Avenue. CANDIOTTI: Well, certainly the streets are slick there and treacherous. We're seeing people slipping and sliding. But in this particular area, not so bad. Car seems -- traffic seems to be moving.

CHETRY: Of course. Right in the center of the upper west side this morning, Columbus Circle right here where CNN is located.

Thanks a lot, Susan.

ROBERTS: The brutal northeaster is expected to be the worse storm of the season for major cities like Philadelphia and New York, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C.

And that's where CNN's Elaine Quijano is live on the National Mall for us this morning.

It's still coming down there, Elaine.

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. You know, I feel like I'm in a giant snow globe. Basically, John, that's how it's been all morning long. The story, of course, here on the National Mall is that we've got probably 4 to 5 inches or so of accumulated snow. The snow is continuing to come down. But the story is the blowing and drifting snow. And take a look.

This is really what road crews are trying to deal with right now. Sort of a powdery snow that's coming down. So as those plows are moving through city streets as people try to shovel their sidewalks this morning, they are just having it cover those sidewalks and streets once again. So the plows have been out.

The conditions, of course, not at all ideal for morning commutes, but the plows have been out in force. Salt trucks as well. We've seen them coming through around the mall here, in fact. People out as well shoveling their sidewalks. But all across the region, schools, many of them are closed or are opening late. Of course, this is having an effect on the airports as well. Well, we're seeing delays and cancellations.

So it is bad, definitely here in D.C. And we're expecting things to taper off later on this morning. But it's also quite cold as well. Probably about 21, 22 degrees or so, at last check, and the wind chill is pretty brutal. So folks are really, as I look around the mall here, keeping, following the advice of the weather forecasters and staying inside for the most part. We've only seen a few people out and about this morning. Federal employees, we should tell you -- the government is not shut down. Federal employees, though, coming in a couple of hours late today - John.

ROBERTS: And we should point out it looks like the guy that updates the FAA Web site finally made it into work. We are now hearing about 45-minute delays coming in to Philadelphia, delays coming out of Dulles Airport, and I was like checking, you know, the local airlines Web sites. Delta has been cancelling shuttles all morning, too, from LaGuardia to D.C. and probably reverse. So check with your airline before you head out this morning. Elaine, thanks so much.

QUIJANO: Sure.

CHETRY: We just got a word, also, Washington Dulles declaring a ground stop until 8:47. So they're not going anywhere right now out of Dulles for at least the next 30, 35 minutes. We'll keep tracking this for you throughout the morning.

A developing story right now off the Florida coast. The search expanding this morning for four people lost at sea. Among them two NFL players. Raiders linebacker Marquis Cooper and free agent defensive end Corey Smith left for a fishing trip Saturday morning in choppy waters.

Carol Costello joins us now with new details on the search. Live from Washington.

I understand that they actually called back Coast Guard boat, right, because of the rough waters?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, yes, rough seas. It's looking grim, Kiran. You know, the Coast Guard said it would keep looking and it has with a helicopter and planes. But, so far, nothing.

These four young men left to go fishing on a beautiful calm morning in Clearwater early Saturday, left at 6:30 a.m. in a 21-foot Center Console boat with a single engine, and then the weather turned ugly. On board, four dear friends. Four men who loved to fish. Detroit Lion's Corey Smith, Oakland Raiders Marquis Cooper. Also on board, Will Bleakley and Nick Schuyler, two former University of South Florida football players.

The men's family believed they might have gone out 50 miles to fish near an old ship wreck because there is lots of fish there. But some investigators say the seas grew rough during the day on Saturday and 50 miles is a long way out for such a small boat. Friends and family keeping watch, but it's been a long time now. They still have hope but they are realistic, too.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REBEKAH COOPER, MISSING NFL PLAYER'S WIFE: It's my worst nightmare to think of anyone I love, especially my husband, in any situation where, you know, he is struggling to get back and, you know, can't get in touch with us or get the help that needs. I've been trying to keep my mind away from thinking, you know, too far down that line. I don't think there are any words to express how much I wish that he was here.

STU SCHUYLER, MISSING BOATER'S FATHER: I'm a nervous wreck. I've been out of street rolling and crying.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: The Coast Guard says it received no distress call from the boat, but that doesn't mean one was not sent out.

The weather in Clearwater, not much better today. The seas, still rough. Over the weekend, the Coast Guard had to stop using its 87-foot cutter to look for the missing boat because of 14-foot seas and 30-mile-per-hour wind gusts. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will join the search. They are going to search along the shore hoping for the best, Kiran.

CHETRY: And how large did you say their boat was again?

COSTELLO: Their boat was a 21-foot Center Console boat with a single engine. So, if the seas are very rough and that little boat is being tossed around, that single engine is not going to help them out very much. There were life jackets and flares on board the boat, but the problem is the boat is white and it's very difficult to see in rough seas.

CHETRY: Wow. Carol Costello for us this morning. They're still holding out hope, I know. Thanks so much.

COSTELLO: Sure.

ROBERTS: AIG, the global insurance giant, reporting this morning an astounding $62 billion loss in just one quarter. And Uncle Sam extends another helping hand to the troubled insurer. Why the government says AIG is just too big to let fail. Christine Romans breaks it all down for us, coming up. It's 11 minutes after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

ROBERTS: And breaking news this morning at 15 minutes after the hour. The question we're asking this morning -- how much money can you lose and still stay afloat? Christine Romans now joins us with more on AIG's huge losses. She's "Minding Your Business."

These figures are just staggering.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: It's almost an unlimited amount of money at this point, you know. I mean, $95 billion for the year the company lost, the last quarter of last year was just utterly terrible. It lost some $62 billion. The company now, it's going to be able to get $30 billion more from that big bank bailout thing that we call TARP. They are going to be able to get 30 billion if they need it more than that. And they're restructuring sort of the federal government's bailout of AIG for the fourth time now, John. Fourth time.

ROBERTS: So what's the deal -- that the government is just so far into this organization that it can't let it fail?

ROMANS: That's right. And the Treasury Department says this is why they won't let it fail. "Given the systemic risk AIG continues to pose and the fragility of the markets today, the potential cost to the economy and the taxpayer of government inaction would be extremely high."

And the Treasury Department goes on to say why -- because AIG provides insurance to all kinds of different companies, a hundred thousand different kinds of companies, small businesses, municipalities, 401(k) plans, for example, Fortune 500 companies altogether that employ some hundred million Americans, 30 million policyholders in the U.S.

The Treasury Department goes on with this laundry list of all the reasons why they're not going to let this company fail. And the company, AIG, says it's doing its best to restructure the bailout to try to figure out how to get stability, so that it can go through with its plans to try to get back to becoming a healthy company again.

ROBERTS: And we should see if Ed Liddy will come back on and talk with us again a little bit more about what they're doing.

ROMANS: Yes.

CHETRY: You know, there are lessons learned about not allowing one company to, you know, have all of those tentacles moving forward, you know? I mean, I know that you talked about how they're going to try to break up some of the more profitable arms, but, I mean, if that's the case, can we ever risk it again to have one company be too big to fail?

ROMANS: I think that they are so far-flung. I think the lesson came after Lehman Brothers. And now, they're just desperate. The government is desperate to make sure that the lessons we learned from that are on paper, not necessarily on -- not necessarily in terms of this company blowing up and the kind of impact that would have on all different kinds of companies.

ROBERTS: There are so many lessons to learn from all of this.

ROMANS: I know.

CHETRY: You could write a book.

ROMANS: You could write a book. Yes. Ten books.

ROBERTS: Thanks, Christine.

ROMANS: Sure.

CHETRY: Well, developing right now. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in the Middle East. The obstacles to peace in the region seem to be growing every day. We've got some great political minds standing by to talk about the challenges, actually not just political minds, Mideast experts. And we're going to talk more about the challenges facing America's top diplomat, coming up in just a minute.

It's 17-1/2 minutes after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CHETRY: Developing right now -- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in the Middle East. She plans to hold talks with Palestinian and Israeli leaders. The urgency of these meetings punctuated by new rocket attacks into southern Israel. Over the weekend, at least 11 reported attacks.

Joining me right now Robin Wright, author of "Dreams and Shadows: The Future of the Middle East," as well, Aaron David Miller, former Mideast negotiator and author of "The Much Too Promised Land" And also Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer, former U.S. ambassador to Israel and Egypt and now a professor of Mid-East policy at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School.

Thanks to all of you for being with me this morning.

Obviously, we know that these challenges are vast and growing every day, especially with the new rocket fire and also the change in leadership in Israel.

Robin, I'd like to start with you. What is your assessment of the prospects for peace as we get ready to take another go at it under a new secretary of state?

ROBIN WRIGHT, FMR. DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT, WASHINGTON POST: They are pretty bleak. I think Secretary of State Hillary Clinton inherits a very different position from her husband when he was president. The reality is there are now two different Palestinian actions that had take radically different positions on both Israeli's existence and the use of violence. And it's hard to see that anyone can make any progress unless those two sides reconcile and present one common position.

I think the administration will probably be get bogged down in this initial stage in just trying to figure out how to help with reconstruction, how to prop up its allies in Fatah which control the presidency, and they may mind themselves actually looking elsewhere in the peace process notably Syria to see if there is any prospect for peace and movement, generating new momentum on that front.

CHETRY: Aaron David Miller, let me get your take as a former Mideast negotiator. Obviously, two of the biggest stumbling blocks is that there is a more -- a more right government in place in Israel and more hawkish government than we have seen before, and also with the fact that technically, there's two leaders, if you will, or two groups leading the Palestinians.

AARON DAVID MILLER, FMR. MIDEAST NEGOTIATOR: It's true. When we've had breakthroughs in the past, we've had strong Israeli and Palestinian and Arab leaders who essentially masters of their own politics, not prisoners of them.

And the reality is in the Palestinian side, you have a Humpty Dumpty that has fallen off the wall and cracked into two parts. Hamas and Mahmoud Abbas chance of reconciliation very slim.

In Israel, you are going to have a right wing government. But there's one point that's worth making. The history of peace-making in Israel has never been about doves talking the talk. It's about hawks walking the walk. The promise is not that you have a right or center right government in Israel. The problem is that you have a weak government. And that's going to confront any would-be peacemaker with tremendous challenges.

So I think Robin is right. Israeli/Palestinian peace very tough to do. Ultimately, the administration I suspect will come around and take a serious whack in trying to do one Israeli/Syrian peace treaty.

CHETRY: Ambassador Kurtzer, I want to ask you about this, though. Because one of the sources of a lot of anger among Israelis was that they felt the rocket attacks went with no response and that response should have come sooner in Gaza. Now we're faced with a similar situation. 11 reported attacks just over the weekend alone. So how do you start going down the road towards being able to negotiate when there is such anger and when what is viewed as the instigation is still happening?

DANIEL KURTZER, PROFESSOR MIDEAST POLICY, PRINCETON'S WOODROW WILSON SCHOOL: Well, I think, first of all, the Israeli government is not going to tolerate the kind of consistent and persistent rocket attacks that preceded the Gaza war. There will be a reaction, probably not of the magnitude as we saw in the Gaza world. But Israel has an obligation to defend its citizens.

On the other hand, the United States can't have its hands tied by a pursuit of a cease-fire. We've seen this in the past where these kinds of events on the ground become hamstringing to our diplomacy. I would, therefore, be very cautious about the doom and gloom analysis and, rather, hope that the secretary of state, Senator Mitchell set a course of strong diplomacy in which we articulate what we would like to see, and then pursue it vigorously.

CHETRY: All right. Well, we're going to have to leave it there. I want to talk a little bit more about this aid package of the Palestinians, but we are out of time right now. Of course, we will bring you, guys, back on because this problem, unfortunately, isn't going away.

Robin Wright, Aaron David Miller, as well as Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer, thanks to all of you.

ROBERTS: Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss? Hardly. Hear how Defense Secretary Robert Gates describes the difference between Presidents Bush and Obama. We've got a live report from Barbara Starr coming up from the Pentagon at 25 minutes now after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.

It is day 42, and President Obama has found his point person for health care reform. This afternoon, he will formally announce Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius as his nominee for Health and Human Services secretary.

Our Suzanne Malveaux is live at the White House for us this morning.

And Suzanne, I can't imagine anything more lovely than a Suzanne Malveaux snow globe to greet our viewers with this morning.

Good morning to you.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I like that, John. That sounds great.

Hey, listen, I just talked to a senior administration official who said that this health care summit that the president is going to be holding here at the White House is going to happen on Thursday. Now, as you know, John, it really was quite a blow to the president when he didn't get his first pick for HHS secretary Tom Daschle.

Tom Daschle, a former Senate Majority Leader really the man, the guy they expected that would push through this controversial overhaul of health care through Congress. But President Obama is making it very clear today that he is launching a new offensive, and that to his critics, he says, "bring it on."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX (voice-over): President Barack Obama's next big challenge, reforming health care. To those who may get in the way, his message heading into this week, bring it on.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I know that the insurance industry won't like the idea that they'll have to bid competitively, to continue offering Medicare coverage. But that's how we'll help preserve and protect Medicare and lower health care costs for American families. I know these steps won't sit well with the special interests and lobbyists, who are invested in the old ways of doing business. And I know they're gearing up for a fight as we speak. My message to them is this, so am I.

MALVEAUX: The woman to lead the charge, Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius. Obama offered her the job of Health and Human Services secretary on Saturday. The East Room announcement comes later today.

A fixture early on in the Obama campaign, Sebelius courted female voters, Midwesterners and moderate Republicans.

GOV. KATHLEEN SEBELIUS (D), KANSAS: Barack Obama is exactly the leader we need to get this country back on track.

MALVEAUX: The two-term Democrat governor served as insurance commissioner in her state for eight years, and oversaw the Medicaid program, successfully increasing health care aid for the poor. But her nomination is just the kickoff of this week's focus of health care reform, and the battle that's expected to ensue.

MIKE MURPHY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: This thing is very low on spending cuts. Very high on phony rhetoric.

MALVEAUX: In the coming days, the president will lay out his agenda at a White House health care summit. Among his goals, to set aside $634 billion in a health care reserve fund over the next ten years, to move the country closer to comprehensive health care, to require seniors making more than $170,000 a year, to pay a greater portion for the prescription drugs, and to modernize and computerize medical records to save money.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: And, John, one important note. Sebelius is not taking on the position of White House health care czar. That is something that Daschle created for himself to give himself additional duties and power in addition to the HHS secretary job.

That position is going to go to someone else. It will allow Sebelius as somebody to really have some backup, some additional help and really pushing through a lot of what is going to be some legislation, tough legislation in dealing with those insurance companies through Congress -- John.

ROBERTS: Our Suzanne Malveaux snow globe this morning from the White House.

Suzanne, thanks so much. It's great to see you.

MALVEAUX: Thanks, John. Good to see you, too.

ROBERTS: President Obama will formally announce Governor Sebelius' nomination at 1:00 Eastern from the White House. You can see it live on your CNN and if you're not near a television set, but you do have a computer, live on CNN.com/live - Kiran.

CHETRY: All right. Well, Defense Secretary Robert Gates is the only holdover from the Bush cabinet and he is sharing his unique insight on the differences between the two presidents.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT GATES, DEFENSE SECRETARY: I think that probably President Obama is somewhat more analytical and he makes sure he hears from everybody in the room on an issue and if they don't speak up, he calls on them. President Bush was interested in hearing different points of view, but didn't go out of his way to make sure everybody spoke, if they hadn't spoken up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: All right. Well, Gates also says the differences between the two presidents would make a good book. CNN's Barbara Starr is live at the Pentagon for us.

Who better to write one than the only man who was able to serve in both republican and democratic administrations in the cabinet, right? BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Kiran. You got to wonder if he is already typing. Because this man, Secretary Gates, remember, he is a former CIA chief. He places cards very close to the vest all the time. He doesn't say anything that he doesn't want to say. So people here at the Pentagon really surprised to hear that level of candor and those comments from him.

Also, recall that Mr. Gates is a longtime Bush family loyalist. He took the job, we are always told, under President Bush because of his loyalty to the Bush family. Now making these really remarkable remarks.

So, I checked around here a little bit earlier today. Senior Pentagon official who has sat in many meetings with Dr. Gates says that he often now has said privately that President Obama is more analytical than the former President Bush And so then I asked this official, so does Gates go out of his way to get people to speak up and participate in meetings? This official said, not really.

So it's pretty interesting to see this level of candor from Mr. Gates and see how long he actually stays and serves in this Obama administration. That's already a question in these hallways, Kiran.

CHETRY: All right. Barbara Starr for us this morning at the Pentagon, thanks.

ROBERTS: It's getting more dangerous by the day. The Mexican drug war. But are American guns fueling the violence? The top man at the National Rifle Association is coming up to talk to us about that live.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: That's the kind of gun battle you see going on in broad daylight just over the border. We talked about it last hour with our Michael Ware in Mexico City, the chaos, loud shed. Drug traffickers have practically taken over the streets of Juarez, Mexico. The mayor there says American guns are fueling the violence.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR JOSE REYES FERRIZ, CIUDAD JUAREZ, MEXICO: A major part of the problem that we have is that all of the killings here are with arms from the United States and everybody in the United States knows those assault weapons are coming illegally to Mexico to fund the organized crime figures. And nobody is doing anything about it in the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: As a result of all of this, the Attorney General Eric Holder is talking about reinstating the 1994 assault weapons ban. Well joining us now in Las Vegas this morning to talk more about this is Wayne Lapierre of the National Rifle Association. Mr. Lapierre, you heard what the mayor of Juarez said. It's American guns that are fueling a lot of the violence. Mexico's drug violence is quickly becoming America's problem. Why not reinstate the assault weapons ban?

WAYNE LAPIERRE, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION: You know, John, let me start by saying, the NRA takes a back seat to no one in our opposition to illegal firearms trafficking. We want the law enforce the full extendable law and we want anyone who violates it prosecuted.

I mean, that being said, I think it's bizarre the attorney general's notion that by diminishing the firearms freedom of American citizens, law-abiding people, you're going to impact these drug cartels that are in Mexico - that are the equivalent of terrorist operations in Pakistan over the border from Afghanistan.

I mean, we need to deal with them the same way. One more gun law in the American public isn't going to have any impact.

ROBERTS: You know, Newt Gingrich was twittering about this over the weekend. I picked up a little bit of that. He said why not just, you know, enforce border controls. But the Bush administration didn't appear willing to do that. And this administration doesn't appear willing to do that. So nobody is going to enforce the border. You know, why not go to a secondary type of backstop which would be not to sell assault weapons, particularly border states?

LAPIERRE: Well, this starts with a secure border. I mean, let me start to say that right here. I mean, we don't have it in either direction right now.

On the other hand, what the attorney general is trying to do is play from the old Bill Clinton playbook where that so-called assault weapons ban that the Clinton folks enacted in the '90s. They led the American public to believe these were machine guns, that they were weapons of war like our soldiers used. They sprayed bullets like the one you just showed on TV.

Those guns have absolutely nothing to do with this ban, domestic ban, that Attorney General Holder is trying to thrust back on the American public. You guys at CNN even have footage in your files where you went to the range with the police officers and you showed that the guns on that attorney general ban list are no different than any other guns American citizens own.

They are not machine guns and they don't spray bullets and they are not weapons of war. And for the attorney general to go back and try to mislead the American public and lie this thing into law again, I think, is a disgrace.

ROBERTS: But, but Mr. Lapierre, if you have to acknowledge that if you got an AK-47 with a 30-round clip, semi automatic or not, you can still fire off an awful lot of rounds in a very short period of time. LAPIERRE: If someone has got a firearm and they are trafficking it illegal into Mexico they ought to be prosecuted. Let me talk about it. It's not U.S. gun laws. Juarez had 1,550 murders last year. OK. Lawlessness right across the border in El Paso, Texas. One of the safest city in the U.S. with American gun laws. Only 16 murders last year. U.S. has a death penalty. The U.S. allows law-abiding people, the good guys, to protect themselves from the bad guys...

ROBERTS: Right.

LAPIERRE: ... and Mexico doesn't.

ROBERTS: At the same time though, it's not just Eric Holder who is calling for a reinstatement of the assault weapons ban. Carlos Alvarez, the mayor of Miami Dade, down there in South Florida saying he wants to see a reinstatement of it because of the skyrocketing murder rate in Miami Dade county. He is a former police chief of Miami-Dade. He is and also a republican. Is he wrong?

LAPIERRE: This gun ban that Congress let expire, expired because there was absolutely no evidence it had any impact on crimes and the guns that banned were no different than any other firearm still owned by the American public. It was a cosmetic ban, but, simply said, you can't own a gun with a banned out log or a fat flash suppressor and I don't remember anybody being bayonet - bayoneted to death on the streets of the United States.

This whole thing is politics. It has nothing to do with reality. The Congress found it out. That's why they let this lie expire. And I don't think that the democratic party on Capitol Hill wants to be led into reenacting this lie that Bill Clinton said, in his book, cost the democrats the House of Representatives in 1994.

It's all a bogus sham phony thing they are trying to thrust on the American public, relying on the American media to give it legs without doing their homework.

ROBERTS: Well, certainly Senator Harry Reid doesn't seem to have any appetite to bring it up and Speaker Nancy Pelosi basically took a line out of your textbook saying a good place to start would be to enforce the laws already on the books. So we see that the president has got an uphill battle.

Wayne Lapierre, tt's good to talk to you this morning. Thanks for joining us.

LAPIERRE: Thanks, John. I appreciate you having me.

ROBERTS: Take care.

CHETRY: We have latest on the massive winter storm burying the east coast right now. There are flight cancellations and delays up and down the east coast. Reynolds Wolf is tracking all of it for us. He is going to be joining us in just a minute.

It's 41 1/2 minutes after the hour. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

CHETRY: That's right. We have breaking news right now. It's the winter storm unleashing heavy snow across the northeast. Up to a foot of snow expected in some places and the result understandably major problems at the major airports. Philadelphia air travelers being hit with 45-minute delays. At Washington Dulles, as we speak, they are ending a ground stop that was in effect since a few minutes after 8:00 Eastern time.

This is the same system that also brought a rare snow event to the southeast part of the country. In fact, check out this iReport from Andrew Foster. He's in Atlanta.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDREW FOSTER, IREPORTER: Coming to you from Atlanta, Georgia. I have to say that this is probably the most snow that I've seen since I moved from Michigan about five years ago. It's actually accumulating out here, as you can see. You can probably see my breath on the screen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: And our CNN's Reynolds Wolf is live in Atlanta as well. That's not what he expected when he moved, right? He wanted it to be all sunshine and beautiful.

REYNOLDS WOLF, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Absolutely.

CHETRY: Look at you. You look like you're very cold.

WOLF: Well, the sun is out. There is some snow on the ground. A lot of it has actually melted yesterday. There were some issues with some icing on the roadways. We do have an entirely different breaking news though out of Boston Logan Airport. The approach lights on the runway are now out. They are going to do what they can to fix those immediately but for the time being, flights in the area of Boston are going to be in a holding pattern for at least an hour or so. So that is really going to cause many delays and, of course, the arrivals to mount up. So again, patience is the virtue.

We're going to jump right into the current airport delays. Let's show you what else we have for you, in Philadelphia, you see ground delays there of about 45 minutes or so. Kiran, as you mentioned, the delays that we had in Washington. We had some issues there. Things are getting better. However, we expect delays later on today at Washington metro because we're going to see more snow and more the wind. And it's pretty much the name of the game what happens when you have these big storm systems. This one has just been tremendous and it will bring in some heavy snowfall to parts of the eastern seaboard.

We're going to zoom in a couple of locations here to give you a good idea of what is happening. You can see the heavy snowfall in spots around Washington, D.C., inside the beltway in the suburbs near Rockville back into Baltimore, same story.

Now New York, you've had plenty of snow there near Columbus Circle. Some locations in Long Island, you could see up to 14 inches of snow, also in the higher elevations.

Now, let's make our way back up towards Boston, where they had a little bit of a break awhile ago and now it looks like they're having a little bit of dry air eventually coming in just from parts of the southwest so you might see a little break in the action, possibly in the next 45 minutes or so.

Take a look at this one last map. You see that one storm system that's bringing in all that snow and moving out later on today into the Atlantic but out west, yet another storm system bringing some snow, some rain in to parts of California.

Great news for them. They are desperate for that precipitation and, of course, more snowfall for the Wasatch range and back into parts of the Cascades. That is a look at your forecast. It is a breezy day here in Atlanta and of course, the wind and snow will continue to pound much of the eastern seaboard. Let's send it back to you, Kiran.

CHETRY: All right. For your best estimates, what your computer models are telling you, when do you think we're going to see this clear out?

WOLF: I would say you should really see a big difference later this afternoon and into the evening. However, your temperatures are going to be right at or below the freezing range well through Wednesday but then into Thursday and Friday, you're going to get up just a little bit. So certainly there are brighter days ahead, but, for the time being, you guys are going to be socked in parts of the northeast.

CHETRY: Welcome to March. Hopefully it will be cleared out by St. Paddy's day. Reynolds Wolf, thanks so much -- John.

ROBERTS: Well we heard so much about businesses bleeding jobs. What about companies who are actually hiring? Our personal finance editor Gerri Willis will tell us how green could be your golden opportunities.

Forty-eight minutes after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING.

About $113 billion has been set aside for green energy and the creation of green jobs. This is part of the stimulus bill. Studies suggest that for every million dollar investment about 10 to 15 green jobs are created.

Our personal finance editor Gerri Willis helps us break down where these jobs are as part of her on-going series.

We hear a lot about green jobs. So what exactly are we talking about here?

GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: Yes. You know, it's confusion. You wonder what people are talking about. Anyway, green job is simply a job that directly contributes to making something more efficient or generate energy more cleanly. Now, green collars jobs are jobs you probably heard about in the blue collar world.

They are people who are carpenters, brick layers, but they are using new techniques, new materials to make their jobs green. And there are white collar jobs too that are green as well. You might know them as marketers but now have the green spin as well.

CHETRY: I got you. So where are some of these jobs?

WILLIS: I'll show you where some of these jobs are. They are really all over the country. And what's so interesting about this is that if you are in, say, the northeast, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, a lot of the jobs are going to be concentrated here in manufacturing which is great news for people who have lost their jobs in that part of the country.

There are also jobs in solar. Arizona, Nevada, that's a great place for developing solar energy and installing solar panels. You can expect that to happen there. And of course, in the middle of the country, it's all about the development of wind energy and production of turbines and installation of turbines in Oklahoma and Wyoming.

So the good news here is that there are jobs all over the country in these green areas and for some parts of the country, actually, I think you're going to start seeing that people are getting jobs who used to be employed in the housing boom, now they are employed in the green boom.

ROBERTS: Yes, some of these technologies kind of cross over, don't they. So what are the companies that are hiring?

WILLIS: Well, we got a long list of people who are actually in New York City recruiting for green jobs. Let's take a look at some of those. These are companies you may not have expected. Booz Allen, a big consultant, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the Peace Corps, the U.S. EPA hiring a ton of people, also the Environmental Defense Fund, the New York City Department of Transportation. And what's interesting about this list though in a lot of cases they are not hiring thousands of people. We're talking maybe 10, maybe 15 at the most.

Again, you have to have the right kind of training for this. But again, we are starting to see some opening in these fields that require special training, but, again, we're going to expect a lot of people who had jobs during the housing boom could find new jobs in green technology.

ROBERTS: Interesting stuff. Gerri, thanks so much for bringing that to us.

WILLIS: My pleasure.

ROBERTS: Everybody could use a promise of a job, not an actual job.

WILLIS: That's right.

ROBERTS: Appreciate it.

Do you doodle? Well, it could be a very good sign. What your brain is really up to while you're doodling. Coming up, our Elizabeth Cohen on what the scribbling says.

It's 53 1/2 minutes after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Well, are you a doodler? You might be asking the question, why do we doodle? Maybe you're in a boring meeting or on a conference call at work and you're sitting there scribbling away. Do you think that that means your mind is wondering not on the job?

Well our Elizabeth Cohen discovered that if you think doodling means that your spacing, scratch that. She joins us now from Atlanta.

So we're actually engaged here in constructive brain activity while we're scribbling down nothing on a piece of paper in front of us?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John. According to this new study. You know, sometimes when you see someone in a meeting doodling, you think oh, they're not paying attention. Well actually, they might be paying attention really, really well. These researchers in England, they took 40 people and split them into two groups.

The 20 doodlers were given this thing to listen to, this long boring speech to listen to and they said, doodle. Doodle while you listen. The folks who doodled, they remembered about 30 percent more information than the folks who didn't. And all they did to doodle in this study was they had to shade in these squares. They just said shade in the squares and these circles. That's all they did. Really, it could have been any kind of doodling. And so John, I'm curious, are you a doodler during boring meetings?

ROBERTS: I have been known to doodle on occasion. Obviously, the show wasn't very boring because here is my sum total of my doodling today. It's nothing. Just a blank page.

CHETRY: What about these guys? Were you just trying to see if your pen worked?

ROBERTS: Yes. I thought it was running out of ink so I did that. I mean, if I doodle things it's just like errant geometric shapes. What does that say? How weird am I? COHEN: No, it doesn't say that you're weird at all. What it says actually is that a part of your mind is sort of working while the other part is listening. And what the researchers think is that you're better off doodling than daydreaming. That when you doodle, it keeps you from daydreaming. And so you can pay more attention to what you should be paying attention to.

ROBERTS: Got you.

CHETRY: All right. Well, how about mine? I doodle flowers.

COHEN: Ah!

CHETRY: That's so girly, isn't? My name or the name of a person like I put Elizabeth because I knew we were doing your thing. And then Garfield. I don't know why, we learned how to do Garfield when we were little.

ROBERTS: That is a copyright infringement right there. Serious trouble on that doodle.

CHETRY: Any of that means?

COHEN: I think any kind of doodling according to this study is good. But you know that Garfield was actually pretty good. Once you start getting into art, Kiran, once you start creating art it ceases to become doodling and you might have some attention problems. So you don't want to make it too good.

CHETRY: No one is buying it.

COHEN: OK. I'll buy it.

CHETRY: You know what John does. This is interesting. He says he doesn't doodle but what he does do, we have these big round metal, I guess they hold the desk together. He traces it with his finger while the reporters are talking.

ROBERTS: Sometimes I make a Snoopy dog.

CHETRY: That's a copyright infringement.

COHEN: Snoopy and Garfield.

ROBERTS: That's a real (inaudible) there you go.

CHETRY: Do you know what I'm talking about? You do this all the time when the reporters are talking.

ROBERTS: Yes. I'm mechanical. So...

CHETRY: Are you trying to unscrew the desk and make it fall apart?

ROBERTS: What does it say when you doodle your own name? COHEN: Oh, that might mean that you're very egotistical. No, I'm just kidding. I think when we talk to an art therapist, I'm just kidding, Kiran. When we talked to an art therapist, she said it doesn't - your doodles don't really necessarily say all that much about you. But if you want to think about it, you can think what it means to you. Like, Kiran, if you think you're writing your own name for a particular reason that reason is probably true.

CHETRY: On all of those checks that I have to sign. All the money I owe to creditors.

COHEN: OK. I see. There you go. Doodling means you're in debt.

(LAUGHTER)

ROBERTS: Fascinating stuff. Elizabeth, thanks so much for joining us this morning.

COHEN: Thanks.

ROBERTS: And that's pretty much going to do it for us. Thanks for joining us on this AMERICAN MORNING. We'll see you back here again tomorrow.

CHETRY: Right now, here's CNN NEWSROOM with Heidi Collins.

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