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CNN NEWSROOM

"Iron Lady" Margaret Thatcher Dies; McCain Opposes Gun Bill Filibuster; GOP Lawmakers Gear Up for Fight; Complaints Up in New Airline Report; Candidate Puts a Curse on Voters

Aired April 8, 2013 - 10:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. I'm Carol Costello. Thank you so much for being with me this morning. Checking out "Top Stories" at 30 minutes past the hour.

President Obama heading to Connecticut today to push for tighter gun controls. The President will make his case in Hartford, not far from the grade school where a gunman killed 26 children and adults. The tragedy inspired tough new laws in Connecticut and grief-stricken families from Newtown are calling on Congress, the federal Congress, to act.

And condolences pouring in from all around the world following the death of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Known as the "Iron Lady" for her personal and political toughness, Thatcher was the only woman to become the British Prime Minister.

President Obama said Thatcher was quote, "An example to our daughters that there is no glass ceiling that cannot be shattered. As prime minister she helped restore the confidence and pride that has always been the hallmark of Britain at its best."

Margaret Thatcher does leave behind quite a legacy. Ted Bromund is the Margaret Thatcher Senior Research Fellow at the Heritage Foundation. He now joins me from Washington. Good morning.

TED BROMUND, SENIOR RESEARCH FOLLOW, THE HERITAGE FOUNDATION: Good morning.

COSTELLO: Margaret Thatcher, such a defining personality. In 2011 an American movie was made about Margaret Thatcher. Why does she resonate with Americans?

BROMUND: I think she resonates with Americans, in part, because she had such tremendous affection for the United States. She really thought of the United States as the greatest, the most important nation in the world, and she wasn't afraid to say that to Americans, to Britons and the people all around the world. Of course, she was a British patriot, but she loved this country and Americans naturally love a foreign leader who loves them back.

COSTELLO: That is true. She and Ronald Reagan were great friends. What attracted the two? BROMUND: I think they had underneath very similar goals and very similar personalities in many ways. Reagan started off his life as a Democrat, rose through the ranks in California, and showed tremendous toughness, tremendous political courage ultimately in reaching the presidency of the United States. Margaret Thatcher showed similarly very -- very great conviction, great courage in rising through the British political system as a woman at a time when that was very unusual to become Prime Minister.

And they both reached office within a year of each other at a time when the West, in general and conservatism in particular seemed to be on the defensive and they recognized each other as soul mates in that fight.

COSTELLO: And it's interesting that Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan continue to this day to be symbols for the conservative party in this country for conservative Republicans. What draws -- well, we know Ronald Reagan, right? But you know, smaller government less powerful labor unions. Margaret Thatcher was for all of those things.

BROMUND: Absolutely. Margaret Thatcher and Britain stood for many of the same things that Ronald Reagan stood for in the United States. Of course, she worked in a different country in a different system, but nonetheless, you could see the lessons transferring from one country to the other.

They both opposed the Soviet Union. They both fought the cold war. Well they both recognized Gorbachev as a man, as Lady Thatcher said, that we could do business with. At home they wanted smaller government, lower taxation, and greater liberty for the individual and of course they recognized each other as friends and comrades and wrote and met with each other frequently.

So it's quite natural that conservatism in the U.S. see Margaret Thatcher as a great ally and friend of theirs.

COSTELLO: What will her legacy be?

BROMUND: I think her legacy will be the greatest prime minister of the 20th century apart from Winston Churchill. A great leader of Britain; a great leader of the Western world at a time when the West was in really a terrible situation with terrible economy facing a rising Soviet Union and at home a restorer of Britain to a great position in the world, and ultimately a reformer in Britain and a friend for Ronald Reagan and conservatives and liberty around the world.

COSTELLO: Ted Bromund, many thanks. We appreciate it.

Still ahead in the NEWSROOM, as Congress comes back to work, President Obama meets with victims of the Sandy Hook shootings. Can he get a deal on gun control?

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COSTELLO: To the politics of guns now. President Obama in a last ditch effort is on his way to Connecticut. He'll talk about the kids who died at Sandy Hook and the obligation we all have to prevent such tragedies.

In the meantime, 13 Republican senators promised to filibuster any gun control proposal. Something Republican Senator John McCain finds curious.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I don't understand it. The purpose of the United States Senate is to debate and to vote and to let the people know where we stand.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you encourage Republicans.

MCCAIN: I would not only encourage it. I don't understand it. What are we afraid of?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: Let's see. An assault weapons ban, a limit on high capacity magazines, universal background checks. Yes. That's what many Republicans are afraid of.

So let's talk more about this. Maria Cardona is a CNN contributor and Democratic strategist; and Patrick Millsaps is the former chief of staff for Newt Gingrich's presidential campaign and a Republican strategist. Welcome to both of you.

PATRICK MILLSAPS, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF, NEWT GINGRICH PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: Good morning Carol.

MARIA CARDONA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Thank you. Good morning, Carol.

COSTELLO: Good morning. So Patrick, it's probably pretty safe to say the assault weapons ban is pretty much dead, as are most other gun control measures so what are the 13 filibuster loving Republicans afraid of?

I'll let you answer that question.

MILLSAPS: Well first, this is where the Republican Party starts looking like we're the lord of the flies and we're fighting each other and we've missed the boat. Look I'm a fan of Cruz, I'm a fan of Paul and I wish that John McCain would take a break from the Sunday shows, but in this situation the truth is in the middle. Your premise is that we -- the assault weapons ban is a done deal or gone. We don't know that because we don't know what bill they're voting on.

So while McCain was rather inarticulate and just being expressive of why he didn't understand, I think there's got -- there's a happy medium that I think both sides of this issue, quite frankly, I would love for the Dianne Feinstein bill to come to the floor of the Senate because the Senate would lose -- the Democrats would lose the senate the next time around.

They just don't have the votes, and this is providing Harry Reid political cover by us fighting ourselves over this. COSTELLO: Well you know, as just a Joe citizen, I just want to hear what the problems are with the bill. Why can't we just bring it to the floor and we can listen to them fight over it and try to understand it? Why can't we do that, Maria?

CARDONA: That's a very good question. And I commend Senator McCain for really saying what he thinks and I think saying what the majority of the American people think. Look, the problem with what's going on with the GOP right now is that -- is that they're not representing the middle. They're representing the extremes, or at least many of them are. There are some reasonable folks who are trying to get this done. Like Senator McCain, like Senator Toomey, who is working on a deal with Democrat Manchin, to try to get something done that, frankly, Carol, the majority, over 90 percent of the American people want at least universal background checks.

And guess who else wants it? 84 percent of NRA members. So your question was what are these Senators afraid of? They're afraid of two things. They're afraid of giving senator -- they're afraid of giving President Obama what he wants and they're afraid of the NRA. But the problem is the NRA doesn't represent the majority of the American people.

COSTELLO: Ok so Patrick -- Patrick let's talk about that. Because we always say -- we always hear this that the NRA has all control over members of Congress. Doesn't this prove that it really does?

MILLSAPS: Well, you know, we keep applying to the NRA -- what -- we you know everybody keeps talking about these polls about the support for this. Well, produce a bill. I mean, we're back to -- we're back to square one when it comes to we'll read it once we pass it. We'll keep talking about the gun control bill, but we don't know which bill we're talking about. The devil is in the details. They keep throwing around universal background checks. If that was so popular, don't you think Harry Reid would already have the bill ready to be voted on by the Senate?

And that's where Cruz and Paul have a point in terms of they keep throwing out, oh, we have to do something about gun control, but they're very, very vague on the specifics and I think that is a political calculation on the part of Harry Reid who hosts the largest gun show in the world in his state.

COSTELLO: Well that's true. Harry Reid, right, Maria, he could also be afraid of the NRA, because he lives --

MILLSAPS: That's right.

COSTELLO: -- in a state that values they are guns.

CARDONA: Absolutely. He could be afraid of them. And he also needs to show political courage, but, you know what, he has been doing that, because he is not saying that he is going to filibuster the bill. He is not saying he is going to block a bill from coming to the senate. On the contrary he is talking about --

COSTELLO: He did, he dropped Dianne Feinstein's bill is not coming to the floor because of Harry Reid.

CARDONA: But right -- but right now he is talking about focussing on what can get done. And the politics of this are very complicated. There is no question about that. We've been talking about this for weeks.

So Harry Reid wants to make sure that whatever comes to the floor actually has a chance to pass. But at the end of the day if these 13 senators really want to filibuster background checks, something that, again, 90 percent of the American people support, then I hope Rand Paul goes with what he did several weeks ago, which is they stand up on the floor of the senate, these 13 senators, and whoever else wants to join them, and they have the courage of their convictions, so the American people know exactly who is standing in the way of trying to protect the American people from gun violence.

COSTELLO: I will say, Patrick, and this is true, that when Rand Paul stood up and you know did his filibuster, he was widely admired. His constituents loved it. Why wouldn't he want to do it again?

MILLSAPS: Well but that's -- and this is a little bit inside baseball. That was kind of the Mr. Smith goes to Washington type filibuster. The filibuster that we're talking about right now is the more procedural filibuster where they force their hand on a cloture vote to get to a vote. And so it's less dramatic. It's less good TV.

But again, two points. If the bill -- if there's so much support for this type of thing, why hasn't Harry Reid and the Democrats said this is the bill we're going to vote on? Why are we still speaking in platitudes about universal background checks without any detail?

And the other thing is we keep applying the NRA's power, but the NRA represents a lot of people. It's not -- they didn't force their membership to go up in the past few months. That happened because Americans, people like me that live in the rural areas of Georgia, people that cherish the Second Amendment right and don't think that we should cherry pick amendments, that's who the NRA is representing.

So again, I say to Harry Reid, if you have so much of a groundswell, let us know what bill you're going to bring. Show us your card.

CARDONA: And that's exactly what he is going to do. That's exactly what he wants to do, Patrick. He is going to do that so let's debate.

COSTELLO: Show us the bill, I have to end it here. Thank you so much. Maria Cardona and Patrick Millsaps, many thanks.

CARDONA: Thanks, Carol.

MILLSAPS: Thank you.

COSTELLO: Been on an airplane lately? Got any complaints? Coming up, which airline is the best and the worst? We'll tell you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COSTELLO: Crowded flights, tight seats, costly tickets. The latest airline quality report is out this morning, and there's a surge in complaints among the nation's 14 largest airlines.

Joining me now to break it all down is CNN personal finance and business correspondent Zane Asher -- I'm ready.

ZAIN ASHER, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Carol. Yes, you know, people are really unhappy. It turns out that airline customer complaints are up roughly around 20 percent. This is according to a new study on airline quality at Wichita and Purdue Universities. United Airlines is, again, the worst offender taking in more than four complaints per 100,000 customers.

Flyers are mostly complaining about things like tight seats, crowded planes, customer service -- that type of thing. Overall complaints could actually rise this year. Partly because of all the recent mergers. You have United merging with Continental, Delta and Northwest to name a few.

And typically during mergers, you know, there are more complaints. Partly because of lost baggage. That typically increases because you have computer and record integration between two companies, and that can be tricky. You also have American Airlines and U.S. Airways expected to merge this fall as well -- Carol.

COSTELLO: So United has the most complaints. Southwest has the least. Can you give us the middle?

ASHER: Well, you know, overall airlines are actually scoring better for things like being on time and that's partly because of fewer planes in the sky. When you have fewer planes, there tend to be fewer delays. On time arrivals actually improved for eight out of the 14 airlines. You want to get somewhere in time, the best airline, by the way, is Hawaiian airlines. That tops the ratings for timeliness, and that's pretty much because Hawaiian airlines travels to warm weather areas so, they're rarely going to be delayed for things like snowstorms and blizzards.

Also want to mention that mishandled luggage is at a 25-year low. Virgin America gets top marks there. Less than one in 1,000 bags of virgin America goes missing on its watch as well -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Got you. Zain Asher, thanks so much.

A 90-year-old grandmother decides she would celebrate her birthday by sky diving.

Here we go.

That's Marion Stanglor and the plane headed for 14,000 feet. There she is doing what most people her age and younger would never have to think about doing. Folks from her retirement home were there to cheer her on. Once on the ground, her son answered the inevitable question. Why?

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JEFF MILLER, MARION'S SON: I think it was we were talking about different people that did crazy things.

MARION STANGLOR, SKY-DIVING, NONAGENARIAN: Yes.

MILLER: I said George Bush jumped out of a plane for his 80th birthday. Then came back to that sounds like a good idea.

That's a good reason as any. When it was all over, Marion said she was not afraid, but added I thought the chute would never open. good for her. That's so awesome.

NCAA basketball is not the only big event crowd showed up to watch. We'll tell you about all the free concerts. That's not news. Anyway we'll be back.

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COSTELLO: Fifty-two minutes past the hour, time to check our top stories.

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has died. She suffered a stroke. Known as the iron lady, she was the first woman to become Britain's Prime minister. The man who has the job now David Cameron says they lost a great leader, a great prime minister, and a great Britain. Thatcher was 87.

A kayaker in northern California is credited with helping save a family of five. He was right there when their SUV veered off a road and into the river. He got the three children to safety first. And then he went back in for the parents. It also helped that a fire crew got to the scene within minutes.

Politics can get a little strange at times. In Venezuela, the acting president Nicolas Maduro said he will put a curse on anybody who does not vote on him in next week's election to replace the late Hugo Chavez. Oh, who else could tell this story but Zain Verjee?

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Carol. Imagine if Barack Obama's campaign slogan was "Vote for me or I will curse you?" Well, it probably wouldn't have gone down very well, but someone has to try it, right? Well, this man Nicolas Maduro told a crowd of Venezuelan voters that a big curse would fall on them if they don't pick him. He is running for president there after Hugo Chavez died last month.

Now, Carol, it is not just any old curse. It's the famous curse called the Mara Capana -- it goes like that. No, it doesn't. It actually dates back to the 16th century when the Spanish soldiers killed thousands of native people. So what he is doing is implying that anyone who doesn't vote for him will actually be destroyed.

His main rival, Enrique Capriles had his own comeback saying that the only curse would be if Maduro won the election. We're yet to see if this curse works. I'll update you in a few weeks -- Carol. COSTELLO: This is so much more pleasant, isn't it? It's the country Grammys. The academy of country -- the Academy of Country Music Awards that were handed out in Las Vegas last night. Co-host Luke Bryan won the big award, "Entertainer of the Year". He beat out some familiar favorites like my favorite Taylor Swift, Jason Aldean, Blake Shelton, and Miranda Lambert, although Lambert won three honors, including "Female Artist of the year for song" and "record of the year".

For those who were not really into basketball but are into all of the excitement surrounding basketball, the NCAA's big dance concert series provided free entertainment to thousands of people. Massive crowds packed Atlanta Centennial Park for big acts like Ludacris, Sting, Dave Matthews and the popular British band and personal favorite, Muse.

In the next hour of CNN NEWSROOM, Congress returns to the Hill today. Will they take up any gun control pill? Jeffrey Toobin weighs in.

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COSTELLO: "Talk Back question today, "Should Americans be allowed travel freely to Cuba? This from Manuel, "This idiocy must end now because I, for one, would really love the freedom to go to Cuba and the Miami hardliners be damned."

This from Dakota. "Cuba has shown many signs of being hostile and dangerous. I don't think it would be right to allow our citizens there."

This from David. I have been to Cuba 13 times. Had there been normal contact with Americans over the years, the dictatorship would have been gone years ago."

Please continue the conversation. Facebook.com/carol cnn or you can tweet me @carolcnn.

And as always thank you for joining that conversation. And thank you for joining me today. CNN NEWSROOM continues right now.

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Carol. And hello, everyone. I'm Ashleigh Banfield. Great Britain has had plenty of great leaders and not so great leaders. Shakespeare made sure that some will last forever, but today the world remembers not a king or a queen, but Britain's first woman prime minister and longest serving prime minister of the 20th century.

Margaret Thatcher died today at the age of 87 after suffering a stroke. And oh, what Shakespeare could have done with her story. Reporter Karen (inaudible) looks back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KAREN CAIFA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: She was a grocer's daughter who became the first female prime minister of Great Britain. Margaret Thatcher was called "The Iron Lady" for her personal and political strength. The Tory leader swept into office in 1979, with the promise of transforming the British economy that was suffering from strikes and inflation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We decided there was no alternative to toughness and we'll just have to sustain for some time. And it was accepted.