Return to Transcripts main page


Militias Arming Up; Chavez Goes After Golf

Aired November 16, 2009 - 15:00   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: His father calls it just an atypical act of juvenile delinquency.

Someone who has never been a juvenile delinquent, Rick Sanchez. And he takes it from here.


TONY ALAMO, PASTOR: When a woman is able to conceive and have a child, she is an adult. And she could be married. But it's the Bible, I have a right to preach the Gospel, don't I? OK?

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Tony Alamo tries to explain how the Bible makes him right. The jury doesn't buy it. The Reverend Alamo gets 175 years for abusing under-aged girls.

SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: Only dead fish go with the flow.

SANCHEZ: Seventy percent of Americans don't think Sarah Palin is qualified to be president, but 85 percent of Republicans identify with her. And, hey, she's on "Oprah" today.

Hugo Chavez crusades against golfers because they're bourgeois. Now, about that $264,000 wardrobe, Mr. President?

Your national conversation for Monday, November 16th, 2009, begins right now.


SANCHEZ: And hello again, everybody. I'm Rick Sanchez with the next generation of news. Your newscast.

The idea is simple: close down Gitmo and try the people who are there here. Now Gitmo is a maximum security prison, 200 men, all believed to be enemies of the United States, five of them, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, may be tried in New York. The rest may be imprisoned in Illinois where many of the residents are saying, yes, bring them, please, we want them.

I want you to watch this report from CNN's Elaine Quijano. She's reporting from Thomson, Illinois.


ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): About 150 miles west of Chicago sits the farming community of Thomson, Illinois, population 600, where the biggest building in town, a $145 million state prison, sits mostly empty and just down the road at Sunrise Restaurant...


QUIJANO: ... the talk is all about how to fill it.

ARDEN WEAVER, THOMSON RESIDENT: Well, I myself, I have no objections.

QUIJANO: Like others in Thomson, Arden Weaver has heard the concerns about security and bringing terror suspects from Guantanamo to U.S. soil. But he's not worried.

WEAVER: I don't feel with the modern technology in this prison, I can't picture anybody escaping.

QUIJANO: Neither can restaurant owner Zendel Zendeli. His take? That it doesn't matter who is being held at the prison.

ZENDEL ZENDELI, RESTAURANT OWNER: All the prisoners are in there for a reason. It won't make a serial killer any less dangerous than anybody else. You know? They will be bringing all kinds of prisoners there.

QUIJANO: The Thomson Correctional Center reportedly houses only 144 minimum security inmates, but the state of Illinois is jumping at the chance to fill more of the prison's 1,600 cells.

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: Make no mistake about it, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We have a chance to bring more than 2,000 good-paying jobs with benefits to this region.

QUIJANO: Back in Thomson, the shuttered businesses on Main Street tell the story of the toll that the recession has taken on the town and its people.

(on camera): Federal officials are touring the prison today and meeting with local officials as well. In the meantime, Illinois Republican congressmen are voicing their opposition to the idea, saying they understand full well the economic picture here in Illinois, but believe national security concerns trump everything else.

Elaine Quijano, CNN, Thomson, Illinois.


SANCHEZ: And that's the town we're talking about, Thomson, Illinois. And right now, this very second, we understand that officials from the Pentagon and the Federal Bureau of Prisons are there in Thomson. They're walking through the prison that may be -- may be the future home for 200 or so detainees who are living in Gitmo right now. Here's what the governor of Illinois sees. He sees 3,000 jobs. He sees a billion dollars of juice to his state. And that's just over four years. Now here's where this discussion is divided, though, politics. Democrats, like the governor, are saying, yes, bring them on. Republicans in Illinois and places like Washington, D.C., are saying, no, no way, too risky, terrorist target is what we'll become.

What do you say? Well, looking over here at the board -- the Twitter board, that is, and on MySpace and Facebook, you're saying a lot, plenty, that's coming up in just a little bit. I want to share with you the amount of comments that we've been getting on this.

But first I want you to understand the politics of this decision as described by CNN's Kate Bolduan.


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The political firestorm isn't letting up over the decision to try self-described 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four others just blocks from where the World Trade Center once stood.

REP. PETE HOEKSTRA (R), MICHIGAN: We're now going to go back to New York City. You know, the scene of the tragedy on 9/11. We're now going to rip that wound wide open.

BOLDUAN: Many Republicans, including former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, argue the alleged terrorists should face military commissions, not deserving the protections afforded in civilian courts.

RUDY GIULIANI (R), FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: First of all, it's an unnecessary advantage to give to the terrorists. I don't know why you want to give terrorists advantages. And secondly, it's an unnecessary risk to the city of New York.

BOLDUAN: But the Obama administration is pushing back against criticism the move is misguided. White House senior adviser David Axelrod.

DAVID AXELROD, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISER: These folks should be tried in New York City, as you say, near where their heinous acts were conducted, in full view and in our court system which we believe in. We feel strongly that justice will be done here.

BOLDUAN: At the same time, the administration is still trying to figure out what to do with the more than 200 detainees at Guantanamo Bay, where the alleged 9/11 conspirators are currently being held. A leading contender, the nearly vacant maximum security Thomson Correctional Center in Illinois.

GOV. PAT QUINN (D), ILLINOIS: This is something that is very good for our state. It's good for our economy. It's good for our public safety.

BOLDUAN: Officials from the departments of Defense, Justice, Homeland Security, and the Federal Bureau of Prisons are expected to tour the prison Monday.

(on camera): According to Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, if chosen, fewer than 100 detainees would be transferred to the Thomson facility. President Obama has vowed to close the controversial Guantanamo prison, but that has proved tricky. The administration has acknowledged it's unlikely they'll meet the self-imposed deadline of the end of January.

Kate Bolduan, CNN, Washington.


SANCHEZ: And as promised, let's take you to the Twitter board. We've been getting a lot of reaction on this. So let's go right from the very top there. You see there, @Curious (ph) saying "because logistically wherever the trial is going to be held, it's going to be a nightmare for security and a bunch of crazy supporters.

Now we take you up to the next one above that. "The crimes they are accused of took place in another country. They are prisoners of war and should be returned to their country." That's an interesting perspective, one we hadn't heard all day.

Then there's this: "There is no reason not to do it here. We have the greatest judicial system in the world, the GOP is just the party of no."

Here is another one: "Why not? Have we become a nation of scaredy-cats about housing them here, imprisoning them here, or trying them here?"

And finally this one that says: "Close Gitmo, reopen Alcatraz."


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I've heard about it. I just received a signed copy of it from her yesterday. So I'll have to look -- I'll read it with interest.


SANCHEZ: Lots of interest. Sarah Palin's book reveals her biggest enemies were right under her own nose. The McCain staffers who she takes to task in her book. Palin goes on "Oprah" and we've got part of the interview for you.

Members of this militia group say they're not enemies of the government, but they do say that they are preparing to do something. just in case. We'll tell you what it is, we'll be right back.


SANCHEZ: And I welcome you back, I'm Rick Sanchez, to the world headquarters of CNN.

Sarah Palin, she's back, she's in the news, one year after the demise of her vice presidential campaign, she suddenly seems to be everywhere. Today her long-awaited appearance on the "Oprah" show. Among other things, she says that she wasn't particularly surprised when she was offered the vice presidential nomination.

Bere's the words she told Oprah Winfrey, quote: "I felt quite confident in my abilities and my executive experience. And I knew that this is an executive administrative job." Stop quote.

Palin uses her book to also continue her attacks on Democrats, some Republicans, and members of the media. But her harshest criticism, which may surprise some, is reserved for John McCain's campaign staff who she accuses of, among a bevy of things, sugar- coating her 17-year-old daughter's pregnancy.

She says, quoting again here: "I did not want that message sent out that we were giddy, happy to become grandparents. And that's what that message said."

Winfrey then asked Palin about her angry public feud about Bristol's ex-boyfriend, Levi Johnston.


OPRAH WINFREY, HOST, "THE OPRAH WINFREY SHOW": One final question about Levi, will he be invited to Thanksgiving dinner?


PALIN: You know, that's a great question. And it's lovely to think that he would ever even consider such a thing, because, of course, he is a part of the family and you want to bring him in the fold and kind of under your wing. And he needs that, too, Oprah. I think he needs to know that he is loved and he has the most beautiful child.

And this can all work out for good, it really can. We don't have to keep going down this road of controversy and drama all the time. We're not really into the drama. We don't really like that. We're more productive. We have other things to concentrate on and do, including...

WINFREY: Does that mean, yes, he is coming, or no, he's not?

SANCHEZ: Some say Palin's appearance on "Oprah" marks the start of the 2012 presidential campaign. But officially, it is nothing more than a wonderful opportunity to plug her new book. And yes, excerpts are already stirring things up somewhat. Here's senior political correspondent Candy Crowley.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): While Sarah Palin rolls out "Going Rogue," her former running mate is going mellow.

MCCAIN: I have heard about it. I just received a signed copy of it from her yesterday. So, I will have to look -- I will read it with interest.

CROWLEY: The "Reader's Digest" version is that Sarah Palin is not happy with the way she was treated by the McCain campaign or the media.

The conservative Drudge Report says it obtained a portion of the book in which Palin claims McCain campaign adviser Nicolle Wallace pushed for the now-famous Katie Couric interview, arguing the CBS anchor needed a, quote, "career boost."

"'She just has such low self-esteem,' Nicolle said. She added that Katie was going through a tough time. 'She just feels she can't trust anybody.'"

In a phone conversation with CNN, Wallace denied the gist and specifics of Palin's account. "Not a single thing quoted under my name is anything I ever said or would say in a million years."

According to Drudge, Palin also writes there was something peculiar about the way Wallace talked about her days as White House communications director for President Bush. "She didn't have much to say that was positive about her former boss or the job in general."

Wallace says Palin is making stuff up. "It's not even like it's slightly wrong. It's like I feel totally the opposite. I would never disparage the president. I adored him then and I adore him now."

Wallace does agree with Palin's recent assessment on Oprah of the Couric interview.

PALIN: Because I knew it wasn't a good interview.

CROWLEY: Also in dispute, Palin's claim reported by the AP that she had to pay the legal fees for her own vetting as a vice presidential possibility, "100 percent untrue," said a former senior McCain official.

This she said/they said is a great way to sell books. They don't give million-dollar advances for policy dissertations. But it may not be the best politics.

PALIN: It's snowing in Alaska right now.

CROWLEY: The Palin camp won't comment on any of this. But one Palin supporter said of the few snippets he has read, it just doesn't scream presidential.

Still, Palin's core, conservatives who think she got a raw deal from the media and the campaign, will love it and buy it.

And not every McCainiac takes offense.

MCCAIN: One of the things about campaigns that lose, there's always mistakes made. And the campaign that wins is always the perfect campaign. I'm proud of the campaign we ran. I'm proud of Sarah Palin. And we continue to have a great and wonderful relationship.

CROWLEY: And that makes two of them.


SANCHEZ: Candy Crowley.

By the way, tomorrow, the authors of the other Palin book, "Sarah from Alaska," are going to join me for a little bit of a different perspective.

So is Sarah Palin planning to run for president? Candy Crowley has some insight into this and there's something else that we get to offer you after this break. It involves new poll numbers about Sarah Palin that in many ways may surprise you. We'll have that for you in just a little bit. Stay right there.


SANCHEZ: Welcome back to CNN. I'm Rick Sanchez.

If Sarah Palin's book tour truly marks the beginning of a presidential campaign, she may have a long way to go still. I want you to look at something. These are some new CNN polls. Only 28 percent of Americans say that Palin is qualified to be president. Now that puts her way behind other potential contenders. And I'll just name a few of them here: Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee.

Senior political correspondent Candy Crowley is in Washington. How significant is that poll, Candy?

CROWLEY: Well, certainly it says if she wants to be a presidential candidate in 2012, she has some convincing to go in order to show people that she does have the heft, she does have the credentials to be one of those candidates for president. I think that's...

SANCHEZ: But that's a gravitas issue, isn't it? I mean, that's one of those things...

CROWLEY: It is. And it's the light resume problem. And you could argue, as certainly Palin's supporters do, that President Obama didn't have a lot of experience. But he also didn't have some of the problems that Palin had, which sort of fit into the "she's not ready" story line which would be, of course, the interviews that she did over the course of the campaign, some of the things she said.

I think what's probably even more indicative of what the problem is, that even though inside her party most -- 54 percent, I think, of Republicans say she is qualified, still 44 percent of Republicans say she's not qualified to be president.

And then she has a huge problem among independents. the vast majority of whom don't think that she's qualified to be president. So that's why so many Republicans I talked to now, I say, what do you think of the book or what do you think of the excerpts you've been seeing? And they say, look, it just doesn't -- it sounds to many of them -- albeit critics of Palin within the party, that it's sort of petty politics, who is to blame for this and who is to blame for that.

And they say, it's just not presidential. And they point out that what she needs to do is turn the corner here and go from being celebrity to being a serious politician. Giving speeches, you know, Ronald Reagan had a radio show where -- before he became president. He was also governor of California, obviously. But something that shows the substance of Sarah Palin.

So we have to wait and see if that's what she wants to do. Because at the moment, this book has been about -- or at least the talk shows have been about Levi Johnston or about who was to blame for the Katie Couric interview or how she got her clothes. So that's not the substantive sort of thing that you use to kind of combat the idea that you're not ready.

SANCHEZ: But Americans are really smart people. I mean, they really are. I mean, if you -- Americans have a good eye for who has what. And it has less to do with, you know, what you have on a diploma or a piece of paper and it has more to do with how you carry yourself.

And couldn't it be argued, in many ways, that although a lot of Americans, a lot of good, conservative Americans, Republicans, like Sarah Palin. She's likable. they just like the way she is -- kind of like what they say about George Bush, you kind of want to go and have a beer with the guy, because he reminds of a good friend. That doesn't necessarily cross over into, this is a guy I want to lead me -- or this is the gal I want to lead me, right?

CROWLEY: Sure, I mean, we've known plenty of well-credentialed candidates who people didn't want to have -- be president. So yes. I mean, we do see when we ask Republicans, the vast majority say, I agree with her on issues. And again, 54 percent believe -- of Republicans believe she is ready to be president.

But if the question is, have they made up their minds about Sarah Palin? Have people made up their minds? They've seen her during the campaign, and they already know what they think of her, pro or con, certainly that is true.

But I think what some Republicans are arguing is that she can change that. But not with a sort of gossipy book. And honestly, we don't know about the totality of this book. There may be great treatises on energy policy, though I doubt it simply because it doesn't sound like that kind of book. But there will be something about her background.

And look, here's the big question, we have no idea whether Sarah Palin wants to run for president. I think all we can say right now is, well, she's keeping her options open. She's not saying yes or no. And certainly there are so many people who think they can run for president, and she must be one of them. But whether she wants to or not, I think, is really debatable at this point, and I think was debatable from the minute she decided to step down as governor of Alaska. That's when a lot of people I talked to said, listen, her problem isn't that she's fighting with the father of her grandson or that she said this or the Katie Couric interview was bad, her problem right now is that she quit her job as governor in Alaska, which was the one place where she could show some of that heft that they think is needed.

SANCHEZ: Well, speaking of heft, I mean, if you want to talk about with someone with gravitas and experience, since the driving issues right now for conservatives are the fiscal issues, isn't Mitt Romney sitting in a perfect position? Shouldn't we be talking more about him than we should be Sarah Palin?

CROWLEY: Well, he would love it, as would Mike Huckabee, both of them out there with platforms doing a lot for fellow party members, talking about substantive issues. We just heard last week, former Governor Romney talking about the president of Afghanistan, how long he thinks -- he thinks it's taking too long for the president to make a decision about troops there. So yes.

And when we see -- again, we see in the polling, we do see, especially when you say who is more qualified or is this person qualified, among Republicans, among everyone, Romney and Huckabee both score far higher than Sarah Palin.

So yes, but she's -- you know, she's a little bit of electricity in a bottle. People are fascinated by her for good or for bad and you know that holds true in almost every profession.

SANCHEZ: But it's our fault, too. We succumb to the "American Idol" mentality in this country that makes us talk about celebrity as if it had more import than intellectual curiosity, for example, don't we?

CROWLEY: Well, sure. But it's not as though she came out of Hollywood. She was number two, you know, on the Republican ticket last year. But there are people who are fascinating to other people. I think Bill Clinton was one of them.

SANCHEZ: That's true.

CROWLEY: He was a fascinating politician. but he also was just -- people wanted to know details. People wanted to know details of Barack Obama as well, about his life.

SANCHEZ: When my wife sends me to the grocery store from time to time to pick up some stuff, and I'm paying and I look at those magazines, I thumb through them. So guilty as charged.



CROWLEY: Learn something every day. SANCHEZ: All right. Hey, listen, I need to ask you about what's going on with Gitmo, because this really is turning into a political hot potato. And there are some really good arguments being made on both sides.

The possibility that we as Americans should go ahead and bring some of the key suspects and try them in New York City where the act occurred, which I know sends chills down some people's bones, and even the possibility that some of the others we should jail not in Gitmo, but in places like this city in Illinois, for example, break that down for us, if you would.

CROWLEY: Well, right now, much of this, I must say, is breaking down along party lines, although there are some exceptions. First of all, as far as a criminal trial being held in New York, that's a down deal. That's going to happen.

And that's something that at least -- you know, is there risk? There certainly, everyone would agree, is some real risk when you bring five suspected terrorists to New York so close to the site where we accuse them of having, you know, literally razed, along with the Pentagon, and of course the plane crash.

So you know, there is a lot of emotion to it. There is a lot of risk to it, although everyone says., look, the New York Police Department can take care of this. But what's the other risk? The other risk is it becomes a circus, the other risk is it becomes a platform.

But the president has clearly decided that the bigger risk would be not to show the American system of justice. So that's a done deal. There are people that are going to argue against it from now until the trial begins. But it's going to happen.

As far as the prison is concerned, you talk to the people in that town, as some of our reporters have. And what are we hearing? We're hearing, we need these jobs. And there are terrorists in other prisons in these maximum prisons. To put them in one that's almost empty, they have to put them somewhere.

The president is going to close Guantanamo Bay. And I'll tell you what part of the problem is, if we don't house some of those prisoners here, there is not another country in the world that's going to take some of the other prisoners, because they've been --- you know, this administration, the Bush administration had been working with other countries, saying, will you take back this person? He's a citizen, you can put him in your jail.

And you know, they're sitting there going, well, what about you? Why don't you house some of these people? So you almost have to do it. And the question is, where? If you find a willing town and you find a state which is largely Democratic, the Democrats are siding with President Obama, it may just happen.

SANCHEZ: Look what somebody on the Twitter board says. They've been listening to our conversation and they too share a perspective that, hey, you know what, maybe we've got to own to this. And they say: "Why wouldn't we just try them here? Why has it taken eight years to take these folks to trial?" And they conclude by saying: "Totally unacceptable."

We thank you for your comments. And of course, Candy Crowley, one of the best in the business, we thank you for sharing time and your insight with us.



ALAMO: You're not a nation of laws. You are the Antichrist. You're the exact opposite of the law of God.


SANCHEZ: The verdict is in, Tony Alamo gets 175 years for abusing underage girls. I'm going to take you back to a time when he came here on this show and I asked him how he could possibly defend that. And he defended it with the Bible, the Bible.

And there's Hugo Chavez, he's declaring war on golf. I went to Venezuela. I talked to guys on the golf course. That's our video. But who's the real bourgeois, the golfers or Hugo Chavez? I'm going to break that down for you.

Also by the way, you know you can come inside the national conversation now when you visit the Atlanta, world headquarters of CNN. Just call 877-4CNNTOUR, 877-4CNNTOUR. And you will be able to take part in conversations on the air live with folks like Candy Crowley, like the conversation I just had now.

We're going to do that once a week. We're getting it started. If you want to join us, if you want to come here, you want to shake hands, call the number. We'll be right back.


SANCHEZ: I want to welcome you back to the world headquarters of CNN. I'm Rick Sanchez.

This is the man who came on this show and actually tried to make an argument for sexual relations with minors.

Roll the video, Claude (ph).

All right. See that guy right there? That's him. The guy in the prison orange, that's Tony Alamo. This video is from September when he was standing trial for sex crimes committed against children -- young girls, really. Young girls.

He's a preacher, sort of. A man of God, he says. Even a prophet, he calls himself. He even named his ministry business after himself. Well, he is now going away for a long, long time, 175 years. That's a whole bunch of sex crime counts that he has to serve consecutively, we learned over the past 48 hours.

Some of his own followers call him a polygamist. These are the people he preached to. They say that he took a wife as young as 9 years of age. And the court convicted him of transporting little girls across state lines for sexual purposes. Alas. I can't imagine anything more harmful that you can do to a child.

So, months back when I first heard of this character before his trial, I asked him to explain to me why he did this. Here it is.


SANCHEZ: According to you, the age of consent is puberty -- puberty. What do you mean by that?

TONY ALAMO, EVANGELIST: That's not according to me. That's according to Bible. That means where a woman is able to conceive and have a child, she is an adult and she could be married. But we don't do that at our church. We never have.

SANCHEZ: Why would you be saying that, then?

ALAMO: Well, because it's Bible. I have a right to preach the gospel, don't I, OK?

SANCHEZ: Well, but here's the problem...

ALAMO: What kind of creep are you?

SANCHEZ: Puberty -- puberty is as early as 8 years old. Are you saying that you would be for children as -- young girls as early as 8 years old having sex?

ALAMO: No, you're just trying to make me look that way. You're part of the government regime to try to destroy Christianity and I didn't say that. I don't know when girls reach puberty. Most of them at around 10, 11, 12, 13, 14. God inseminated Mary at the age of around 10 to 12. Should we get him for having sex with a young girl?

SANCHEZ: Well, yes, as a matter of fact, sir, if you go by the law and we are a nation of laws, we should. And the laws specifically state that you have to wait...

ALAMO: You're not a nation of laws. You are the anti-Christ. You're the exact opposite of the law of God. The law of God is what you're going to be judged by and everybody else on this earth.

SANCHEZ: That's fine, sir. But let me just -- let me just ask you...

ALAMO: It's not only fine, it's going to really happen, OK?

SANCHEZ: Well, thank you, sir. (END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: For the record, I'm a Christian. That conversation was in December of 2008. He asked me what kind of creep I was for repeating his claim that the Bible approves of girls being sexually active once they reach puberty. He also said the world government is all child molesters and polygamists, whatever that means.

Tony Alamo, the self-prescribed, self-described prophet of his own church, sentenced now, alas, to 175 years in prison.


BRIAN, SOUTHEAST MICHIGAN VOLUNTEER MILITIA: Well, anytime we get a Democratic president in the office, people become concerned, including myself, and we get a resurgence out here.


SANCHEZ: While the president goes after terrorists in Afghanistan, home-grown militias are popping up here in the United States and we're looking into them. In fact, you're not going to believe what they're training for. You're going to hear them say it themselves.

Also, the Boss is in Michigan -- or is he in Ohio? Where the hell is he?


SANCHEZ: Welcome back.

Hey, Robert, can you get a couple of shots of these tweets?

It's interesting. We've got a lot of responses as you might imagine to the Tony Alamo piece. "That Alamo priest is a sick man. He calls you a creep? He is a creep. Who would do that to children?" he says.

And just above that is somebody who thought it was interesting what he called me. "Rick, I didn't you were the anti-Christ."

All right. Last time voters put a Democrat in the White House, the country witnessed a surge of right wing militias. Remember that? Clinton administration saw Waco and the Oklahoma City bombing, both were tragic events involving extremists who were enraged at the federal government.

Let's fast-forward now. Another Democrat in the White House -- this time, an African-American Democrat in the White House and the militias do appear to be mobilizing again.

I want you to watch this with me. Our reporter is CNN's Jim Acosta.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Once a month in the woods, 30 miles outside the nearest city...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're practicing target acquisition.


ACOSTA: ... members of the Southeast Michigan Volunteer Militia meet for training.

(on camera): Is it getting bigger?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, absolutely.

CROWD: I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Training for what depends on who you ask. But this militia member who didn't want to give his last name worries the government will eventually take away his gun rights.

BRIAN, SOUTHEAST MICHIGAN VOLUNTEER MILITIA: Well, anytime we get a Democratic president in the office, people become concerned, including myself, and we get a resurgence out here.

ACOSTA: Others just don't like President Obama.

(on camera): So, you don't trust him?

MICHAEL LACKOMAR, SOUTHEAST MICHIGAN VOLUNTEER MILITIA: In short, I think he could be dangerous for the nation.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Michael Lackomar sees the militia as a check against government overreach.

LACKOMAR: Just the simple fact that we are out here and we are doing this will give somebody pause, will make them think twice.

ACOSTA (on camera): Because you're ready to defend your rights?

LACKOMAR: Ultimately, yes. Down this fire.

ACOSTA: Right.

(voice-over): And they're prepared to teach anyone, even this reporter, how to fire a semiautomatic weapon like this Russian assault rifle.



ACOSTA (on camera): The members of this militia insist they are not enemies of the government. They say they just want to be prepared in case the government becomes the enemy.

MARK POTOK, SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CENTER: The truth is, is that these groups are popping up like mushrooms after a spring rain.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Earlier this year, Mark Potok with the Southern Poverty Law Center put out a report warning of a surge in militia activity that came with the election of President Obama. Since that report was issued, Potok says his staff has counted 100 new militia groups across the country.

POTOK: There really is this kind of terrible fear mixed with fury about the idea that President Obama is somehow leading a kind of socialistic, you know, takeover of America.

LEE MIRACLE, SOUTHEAST MICHIGAN VOLUNTEER MILITIA: This is not an Obama-centered organization. So, we put this across his wound...

ACOSTA: But militia leader, Lee Miracle, says his group is different, teaching survival skills that might be needed after a natural disaster.

MIRACLE: Two at one, put your rifle back down.

ACOSTA: As a military veteran who's now a postal worker, Miracle urges respect for the president.

MIRACLE: As a postal worker, that's my boss. Nobody's going to mess with my boss. But...

ACOSTA (on camera): He's your boss?

MIRACLE: He's my boss, yes. He's my boss. He should come out and have some barbecue with us.

ACOSTA (voice-over): If he did, he'd find a movement that's not just gaining new members...

(on camera): How many of you are new to the militia?

(voice-over): It's getting more worried.

(on camera): How many of you are worried about the Constitution right now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Worried as in the sense that it's not being followed.


ACOSTA: Jim Acosta, CNN, Bancroft, Michigan.


SANCHEZ: And what do you guys say after watching that? Lots.

Let's go right to the Tweeter board. This is what Jenn says, "This militia people scare the living daylights out of me. If someone else were in office, they'd be singing a different tune." Now to the tease -- it's one of the coolest sights that you can behold in Florida and this is one of the last times that we're going to be able to see it. "Fotos."

And then, can you join me, come inside the national conversation when you visit Atlanta? Well, of course you can. Just call that number, 877-4CNN-TOUR. And they'll tell you exactly how we can get together here. And you could help me do this newscast.


SANCHEZ: All right. And some of the folks I told you about who join us here on a weekly basis have already arrived.

Go ahead and give me a shot of the folks over there.

Hey, guys, how are you doing? Everybody good? Hey, how many of you think that the folks who are in Gitmo now since they've already been there for eight years when we got to do something with them, how many of you -- raise your hands if you think it should -- they should just be brought to the United States and tried here in our courts? Raise your hands. We've got one.

How many of you think, no, leave them there indefinitely? We got -- ha!

How about the idea that maybe we should use one of those jails or prisons, like the ones we have in Illinois, where the people are crying for them to go there because it's $2,000 a head or something like that? What about the idea of just keeping them in prison there in the United States? Raise your hand if you're for that. No?

Again, do you want to leave them there? Raise your hand.

That's pretty consistent. I'm glad you guys are here. Stay right there. We're going to involve you in this in just a little bit.

And we'll be talking about somebody you probably know pretty well. His name is Hugo Chavez. And, no, he's not been seen playing golf. But his knickers, they may be in a little bit of a wad. And them are some expensive knickers on Hugo Chavez these days. I'll tell you how I know.

Stay with me. I'll be right back.


SANCHEZ: And welcome back. I'm Rick Sanchez.

Remember the guy in college who spoke at every demonstration? He smoke clove cigarettes and called his professors, "Bourgeois," but he dated rich girls and now he's a corporate lawyer somewhere? We have a name for a guy like that. We called him parlor Marxist. Remember that?

That brings us to Hugo Chavez, socialist president of the South American country of Venezuela. He may talk like Lenin, but now, it turns out he lives like a Rockefeller.

The Spanish language edition of "Miami Herald," the newspaper I grew up with, has published Venezuela's national budget, which shows Hugo Chavez gets $264,000 a year for clothing. Hugo Chavez spends 18,500 bucks on shoes. And get this -- for soap, shampoo and other toiletries, Chavez gets a government stipend of $145,000.

Come on. This is guy seems to even make limousine liberals look like poppers. Yes, here he is, this bourgeois Hugo Chavez who calls himself a socialist, yet wears Hugo Boss -- get it, Hugo Boss? And he is declaring war now on the bourgeois game of golf?

Here's my colleague CNN's Rafael Romo.


RAFAEL ROMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The sound of a golf club hitting the ball on a Sunday morning. For Venezuela, it used to be a common routine, but it's quickly becoming a thing of the past.

President Hugo Chavez calls golfers lazy and is waging war against the sport.

PRES. HUGO CHAVEZ, VENEZUELA (through translator): I think it's a sport for the bourgeois and we can't justify in the middle of the city there's a golf course when we need so much land to build houses for the people.

ROMO: This is Valle Arriba golf course which overlooks Caracas, the capital of Venezuela. It's one of several courses President Chavez says he would like to seize for public housing or parks open to everybody. In fact, the government already shut down nine golf courses in the past three years and is threatening five more.

JUAN NUTT, PGA VENEZUELA: So what the government wants to do is give this from the rich and given to the poor but they don't really know how things are inside a golf course.

ROMO: Juan Nutt is a representative of the Professional Golfers Association in Venezuela. The PGA has had a presence in the country since 1964. He says Venezuela is going in the wrong direction when it comes to golf, even when compared to communist countries.

NUTT: They have privates in Cuba for 17 golf courses and now in Vietnam. Greg Norman, which is a very well renowned player, has three golf courses developing in Vietnam. China is the host of the world cup in golf.

ROMO: Golfers also say shutting down courses has affected local economies that benefited from the jobs that golf courses provided. John Jordan (ph), an American-born instructor who now lives in Venezuela says Chavez is cutting off the chances of a whole generation of potential golfers in Venezuela.

JOHN JORDAN, GOLF INSTRUCTOR: When you look at the great golfers that have come from Latin America, from Argentina, Colombia, most of them were caddies.

ROMO: Alexis Gonzalez (ph), a former caddy-turned-professional golfer, says the sport was the break that made a difference in his life.

ALEXIS GONZALEZ, PROFESSIONAL GOLFER (through translator): I believe Mr. Chavez is mistaken, because if he only came to a golf course and learned how it works, he would realize it offers opportunities for all people.

ROMO (on camera): There are still 23 golf courses in Venezuela, mostly around Caracas, the capital. Golf enthusiasts say their only hope is that President Chavez will take a second look at the issue now that golf is considered an Olympic sport.

Rafael Romo, CNN, Atlanta.


SANCHEZ: That's the Boss. He's giving a shout-out to the wrong place. It's happened to me, so I get it, but you've got to hear this one for yourself. "Fotos" -- next.


SANCHEZ: And the comments keep coming in. It seems like the talker of the day, and we can separate stories by this -- by this -- by these categories, what's really important and what people are sometimes talking about, the big talker is Sarah Palin. She went on "Oprah" today. She's got a book out and she's saying a lot.

Let's go to these two comments, two very distinct comments. "Palin or Nixon? What I hear when she protests too much is, 'I am not a crook.' Paranoid, not victim."

And then this one. "Palin never got a fair shake from the media, but that does not qualify her to be president. Exhibit A in media bias."

All right. Let's go to the folks who are joining us here today for what I sometimes affectionately call our Twitter tour.

How many of you call yourselves Republicans, raise your hand?


Conservatives? Raise your hand if you're a conservative.


Raise your hand if you're an independent or a moderate?

Raise your hand if you are a Democrat.

OK. Goo. So, we've got a pretty good cross-section. I never met you guys before. How many of you are planning to go out and buy Sarah Palin's book?


How many of you would vote for her for president?


How many would consider voting for her for president?


That surprises me.

We'll be right back with more, including something I'm going to show you that the Boss did and that's not the all of it. Oh, no. There's something else.

Stay with us. We'll be right back.


SANCHEZ: I don't know if you remember, but earlier this year I began this show at Morehouse College by welcoming everyone to Spelman College. Oops! I could say that at least I got the town right which I did, but fact is, I screwed up and made a mistake and so did the Boss, the Big Boss, which is why he's headlining today's "Fotos."





SANCHEZ: That's Bruce Springsteen yelling, "Hello, Ohio!" to his adoring fans in Auburn Hills, Michigan. He went on to reference the Buckeye State several more times before his trusted guitarist stepped in to remind him, "Hey, we're not in Ohio, man," and then he corrected himself.

Fury mounted into protest this afternoon outside the Washington, D.C. office of Goldman Sachs. Look at this. The CEO of a major investment firm ruffled some feathers after being quoted in a paper saying that he's just a banker doing God's work -- a banker doing God's work. Protesters today are calling for an end to the firm's mega-bonuses and are demanding that bankers donate their reported $23 billion in bonuses to foreclosure prevention programs to help people. You know, God's work.


ANNOUNCER: T minus 10, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one... (END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: And there it goes. This video never seems to get old, doesn't did? That's the launch of the space shuttle Atlantis just an hour and a half ago. The shuttle and its six astronauts are bound for the International Space Station. It's one of the last missions of this type that the shuttle will take.


SANCHEZ: That's it for us, and that is "Ay dios mio" and "Fotos."

All right. Wolf Blitzer is coming up now. In the meantime, I'm going to stick around and talk to my crew over here about some of the items on the news in the after show.

First, though, my colleague in "THE SITUATION ROOM" is Wolf Blitzer.