Return to Transcripts main page
AC 360 LATER
Nevada School Shooting; Obamacare Rollout
Aired October 21, 2013 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, everybody. Welcome to "AC360 Later," a lot to talk about tonight, the debacle of a Web site that is supposed to help you sign up for Obamacare, but has been a mess since day one. The president says he is madder than anyone about that. We will talk about that.
Also, will there be long-term damage to Republican Party after the government shutdown showdown? We have got a great panel tonight to talk about it.
But I want to first begin with the breaking news tonight on the middle school shooting in Nevada, where a student opened fire with a handgun, killing a math teacher, wounding two students before killing himself.
The teacher who was killed, his name is Mike Landsberry, earlier tonight, I spoke with his brother, Reggie.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Reggie, what do you want people to me about your brother?
REGGIE LANDSBERRY, BROTHER OF SHOOTING VICTIM: I Guess just to know that he loved teaching at Sparks Middle School. He loved the kids. He loved coaching them. He loved teaching them. He was just a good all-around individual.
COOPER: Everybody says that so many of the kids there just loved him and loved being in his class. He also had served overseas in the military, correct?
LANDSBERRY: Yes. Yes, sir. He was in the Marine Corps. And just up until recently, he was in the National Guard.
COOPER: Have you been told by police any more about what actually happened?
LANDSBERRY: I called a few of my friends who are in law enforcement just trying to get some information, and I finally -- I got a number to a gentleman who was on the scene there. And he was the one who initially told me that Michael didn't make it.
COOPER: As you know, witnesses say that he tried to reason with the shooter before he was killed. Does that sound like something that he would do? LANDSBERRY: Oh, yes, sir, yes. Yes.
I mean, growing up, my -- our dad was in the Marine Corps for 22 years. So it was -- to me, that was the kind of person that Michael was. And he would do -- he was the kind of person that if somebody needed help, he'd be there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: With me on the panel tonight, Andrew Sullivan, editor of The Dish, though his Web site is AndrewSullivan.com, CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger, CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor Sunny Hostin, and in the fifth chair, Matt Kibbe, president and CEO and FreedomWorks.
And Stephanie Elam joins us with the latest from Sparks, Nevada, with the latest on the shooting.
Stephanie, is there any idea of motive behind this?
STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There isn't at this point, Anderson.
It's still not clear whether or not this student shooter who was just 13 years old, if he was targeting this teacher or if he was targeting the other students that he shot, the two 12-years-olds, who I can tell you one is in fair condition and the other in serious condition, one shot in the arm and one shot in the abdomen.
Still not clear why he would have gone out and done this. We did hear from other classmates saying he was a nice kid and they had seen him bullied before. But we don't know at this point if that is what drove him to violence, Anderson.
COOPER: I talked to one student who said she had him in a class and that he had problems with some of the teachers in that class. But again we just don't know the details on this.
The weapon, I understand he got it from his parents?
ELAM: That's what we're hearing, that it was a family weapon. They still have not said anything else about it. We do know it was a handgun of some sort. But how he got it, if his family knew he had it, all of that is still unclear at this point.
COOPER: Stephanie, thanks very much.
You know, it's the kind of thing that it doesn't even make huge headlines when something like this happens.
SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Exactly, but it doesn't make any sense.
You're talking about a 13-year-old possessing a weapon at a school. What sounds right about that? I think we really have to look at parental responsibility here, because when I first heard about this the first thing I always do is go to the law books. Right? Nevada has such, such permissive gun laws.
At the age of 14, a kid can possess a gun with parental permission. That is shocking to me.
COOPER: But it sounds like from all the reports he took the gun from his parents. It's not necessarily...
HOSTIN: Why was it available, though? Why was it available?
COOPER: Gun safety is obviously a huge issue.
HOSTIN: It's a big issue. It's a big issue. Perhaps there's a mental health issue here. We don't know about it. But when does it stop? Are we going to continue talking about shootings at schools.
COOPER: Do you write a lot about this?
ANDREW SULLIVAN, ANDREWSULLIVAN.COM: Not really, because it depresses me every time I try and write about it, because this is going to happen.
When you have a country with lots of guns and you have 13-years- olds in schools who have a lot of feelings -- you know what it's like to be a 13-year-old boy. You have sorts of grudges and all sorts of feelings. We don't know, but you don't have to be mentally unwell to be a teenager with an axe to grind at 13 years old.
The question is, if you are going to have a country with all these guns, this is going to happen. And somehow we are all supposed to say this isn't going to happen and it's terribly sad. You see a man who comes from a Marine family and served his country and he's gunned down by a 13-year-old? It's awful. But at some point, Americans are going to have to just accept this is reality in a gun- loving country.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: And there's nothing you can do about it in Washington. Right?
SULLIVAN: No, nothing.
BORGER: If they didn't do anything about it after Newtown, when are they going to do something about it? What we discovered in the Newtown debate was that it's easy to say, oh, it's Republicans.
It wasn't. There are lots of Democratic senators who are up for reelection in pro-gun states. And they had as much difficulty with this issue as anybody else. And that was probably one of the most frustrating parts to the president, who really put himself on the line on this. SULLIVAN: I don't want you to misunderstand me. I understand the Second Amendment. And if we don't get rid of it, then it should be upheld and I don't have a problem with the law being as it is, as long as we accept the consequences of our liberty, which is that people like this are going to get shot more often...
HOSTIN: I can't accept that. Of course I accept the Second Amendment, but there are ways to regulate handgun possessions.
COOPER: Let me bring in Mark Kelly, husband of former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who was obviously injured in the Tucson shooting in 2011.
Mark, again, another shooting. When you see this, is actual change possible? Is -- have you been able to see any results from the work you and your wife have been doing so far?
MARK KELLY, HUSBAND OF GABRIELLE GIFFORDS: Well, Anderson, change is always possible.
But for the past 30 years, you have to give the gun lobby a lot of credit. They have built an enormous amount of influence on Capitol Hill. They have done a very good job, which has made it very difficult for us even after Newtown to get something as commonsense as expanded background checks passed.
But I truly believe we can do something about it. It's just going to take a little bit of time. You know, things in Washington, as we all can see, move very slowly, especially recently. But if people get engaged -- I really believe that a lot of people care about this issue and they don't want us to stay where we are with regards to gun violence, which is 15 to 20 times the death rate from guns than any other country we would ever want to be compared to.
We can do something about it. It's just a matter of people standing up and asking that their members of Congress take action.
BORGER: But, Mark, you had Democrats and Republicans last time joining together on a -- what seemed like a pretty decent compromise to a lot of people and it still -- it still couldn't get anywhere, even with you lobbying.
KELLY: It wasn't quite -- it wasn't quite enough. But it was close. I mean, we fell short by a handful of votes on the Manchin- Toomey bill, and next time it comes up maybe it will be different.
I think people are starting to get tired of this. You just think about what has happened since Newtown. It seems to be a regular occurrence. And Anderson mentioned that right at the top of the show that maybe people aren't paying attention to things like this, but I think they do. And they see this and they make phone calls. And eventually I think we will see this at the ballot box. COOPER: But hasn't what we have seen at the ballot box and in polls so far that though a lot of people say, OK, we would like to see some sort of change, the level of intensity of feeling is not as strong in the general public as it is among those who very strongly believe in maintaining the gun rights as they are, or even expanding them?
KELLY: You are absolutely right.
BORGER: Go ahead, Mark.
KELLY: Yes, Anderson, you are absolutely right. That's part of the issue. It's the intensity of the single-issue voter.
The gun rights people are very good moving -- Gabby and I are gun owners. We understand that people want to have guns to protect themselves. I have guns in my house. They are locked up. Obviously, in this case it doesn't seem like these parents did a good job of securing their guns. But the intensity of the voter that votes on this issue is -- it's quite lopsided. Is it going to be that way forever?
KELLY: I'm not convinced.
SULLIVAN: Isn't that something we could ask of the gun lobby more, which is say, can we get some real gun safety?
COOPER: But they do a lot -- I mean, Mark, correct me if I'm wrong. You probably know this more than I, but the little -- I mean, I read NRA literature. They do talk about gun safety, how to secure your weapon in your home quite a bit. They have an education program on gun safety.
KELLY: You're right. The NRA does a better job than anybody, I think, talking about gun safety.
KELLY: But where they fall short is the responsible gun ownership.
SULLIVAN: People who don't have that and have guns need to be stigmatized. They need to be shamed for...
HOSTIN: This all comes down to parental responsibility in this particular case.
But, Mark, what's fascinating to me about Nevada, you don't even have to register your gun in Nevada. And, apparently -- I was looking at this and what was also odd to me was if you have just regular citizens that want to just transfer guns to each other, they don't have to register their guns. Isn't there something that can be done even on local levels to somehow tighten up the laws in places like Nevada?
KELLY: Well, you know, I spent some time at the Nevada state legislature before they voted on a bill that expanded background checks, similar to what the Manchin-Toomey bill did.
And it got through the House and it got through the Nevada Senate or the -- well, the House is the Assembly there, and then it went to the governor's desk and it was vetoed. So it fell short by the governor's signatures.
But, you know, there are members of the legislature in Nevada and citizens in Nevada, and these things poll really high. So, I mean, it can get passed in Nevada. It fell short this time. I'm sure it's going to be -- it's going to come back again, especially in light of this horrific shooting.
COOPER: Mark, it's good to have you on the program. Thanks for being with us, Mark Kelly.
Let us know what you think at home. You can follow me on Twitter @AndersonCooper. Tweet us using #AC360Later.
Coming up, the Obamacare sign-up debacle, what the president said today about the Web site mess, what went wrong and who is to blame. The panel weighs in next.
COOPER: Hey. Welcome back to the program.
Some breaking news tonight about the mess that is healthcare.gov. "The Washington Post" reporting now that government officials and contractors tested a key part of the site just days before the launch. It crashed during a simulation when just a few hundred people tried to log on at the same time. Still, the launch went on as scheduled, and we know what happened then. It has been riddled with problems, making it very challenging for people to log on.
The White House is not saying how many people have actually been able to sign up. But today the president made it clear he is well aware of the problem.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The problem has been that the Web site that's supposed to make it easy to apply for and purchase the insurance is not working the way it should for everybody.
There's no sugarcoating it. The Web site has been too slow. People have been getting stuck during the application process. And I think it's fair to say that nobody's more frustrated by that than I am. (END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, back with the panel, Andrew Sullivan, Gloria Borger, CNN political commentator and "New York Times" op-ed columnist Charles Blow is joining us at the table, and in the fifth chair, Matt Kibbe of FreedomWorks.
Matt, obviously, you are opposed to Obamacare in all its forms. To you, is the Web site a surprise that it's not working?
MATT KIBBE, PRESIDENT, FREEDOMWORKS: I'm actually shocked that it's so dysfunctional.
It's almost like a caricature that we would have designed to prove just how bad government could be.
KIBBE: And it's not -- I think it's not just a small case of a failure. I think it's a fundamental case of failure.
There is this interesting report from the Sunlight Foundation that looks at the contractors, all of whom are legacy contractors.
COOPER: Many contractors that are involved.
KIBBE: Yes, many contractors.
COOPER: Booz Allen, who brought us Ed Snowden. Yes.
KIBBE: All this fabulous stuff and there is a lot of political contributions. There's millions of dollars of dollars of lobbying.
And I would argue what has happened with this Web site is what we're afraid to happen when the government gets so involved in our health care.
CHARLES BLOW, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: ... extrapolation, though, right, to jump from, you know, a problem with the Web site to the policy.
KIBBE: It's not a problem with the Web site. It's a functional corruption.
BLOW: No, I think there is right now a problem with the Web site. I think that's a real thing.
Whether or not there is lobbying in Washington, that's not a surprise to anyone. That happens in every way. I think -- but the idea that Obamacare will eventually with history be judged on the working of a Web site and not the working of a policy is a jump that you can't make.
COOPER: This doesn't give you pause that there is something larger here, that you think this is just a Web site problem?
BLOW: I just don't connect those two as strongly as I hear some people doing.
And I think that looking at a tech issue as opposed to a policy issue are just two completely different things.
BORGER: The tech issue is opening the door. Then you get to the policy issue and you talk to people about whether their premiums are actually higher or their premiums are lower.
The problem for me for the president is that just last week he gave a speech after the shutdown was finally over extolling the virtues of government, which we all saw when government was closed. We saw -- I don't know if you did, but we saw that government was important, right, and can function when you need it to function.
And then you have this massive, epic fail of the Web site and suddenly it looks like government can't do anything right, feeding people who don't want Obamacare.
COOPER: Do you think that Obama was contrite enough today?
SULLIVAN: I want to hear him say, I'm really sorry. I screwed this up.
COOPER: No politician ever says, I'm sorry, do they?
SULLIVAN: He has before. He has apologized before. That was part of his shtick to begin with, if you remember. He would say every now and again, I'm sorry, I got that wrong, because we had a president before him that would never say that.
And he should have said that much more forthrightly. He was too defensive, I thought. I think there is a tech issue, obviously, which is separate from the policy issue. But I think there's also a managerial issue here.
I think that what I'm angry at President Obama about is the fact that it seems That many people knew that this thing was not going to go well. And they didn't tell their bosses. They didn't have the kind of managerial expertise to tell the people who needed to know.
BLOW: And it's an embarrassment.
SULLIVAN: And he's responsible for it. And no one has been held accountable for it.
COOPER: Also, thank understanding is, the way it was designed with all these different contractors, some who were responsible for the back end, some who were responsible kind of for the front end interface, there was no sort of one person responsible for the overall user experience from front end to back end. That seems ludicrous.
SULLIVAN: There are -- that's the command. We did not see a contrite president. We should have. And we did not see any accountability. We need someone to be fired.
BLOW: I think you're going too far. The idea that there's no accountability, I think that he was saying that nobody is more upset about this than me.
SULLIVAN: That's not the same thing.
BLOW: I didn't say it was the same thing. But I'm saying, you said there was no accountability. That's not just true. It's wrong.
I'm saying that he did take some responsibility for that. Whether or not they will go further than that and get rid of somebody, somebody's head will be on the chopping block...
BLOW: I'm sorry. I'm sorry. He did take responsibility for it. That's just the way it is.
SULLIVAN: Just saying no one is madder than me suggests he is a bystander in his own administration.
BLOW: What do you want him to do?
SULLIVAN: I want him to say I have found out...
SULLIVAN: I want him to say, I found out what was wrong and how it went wrong and I fired this person.
BLOW: That's what I just said.
BLOW: That's a different thing.
COOPER: From your standpoint, obviously, from...
KIBBE: Thank you.
COOPER: ... from the work you do, do you hope -- what do you hope people see in the next month or two? Because there are those who say, well, look, why don't people in the Tea Party, conservatives just allow this thing to roll out and if it's as bad as you say it's going to be, just let it fail and let people come around to your point of view?
KIBBE: I think what they proved is that government can't do complicated things, and once you create this complicated infrastructure...
SULLIVAN: The IRS is not a complicated thing?
KIBBE: And how well does that work?
KIBBE: When I heard the president talk about this half-apology, it reminded me of the half-baked apology he gave for the IRS targeting of grassroots citizens.
SULLIVAN: Because it didn't happen.
KIBBE: It should not be acceptable that this happens in this country.
But the fact is that there's always interest that get to the table before Americans trying to buy health insurance will. And there is going to be strong insurance interests, and there's going to be pharmaceutical interests and there will be all of these people that have juice in Washington that we don't have...
SULLIVAN: How do you manage to insure a country without a complex system and without having those interests buy into it? How do you?
BORGER: Even state systems would be complex.
(CROSSTALK) SULLIVAN: You don't propose anything, right? Nobody with preexisting conditions -- everybody should be thrown away. There should be no guarantees of health care, right?
KIBBE: No, no, no. You want simple rules and you want transparency. This is what this president promised.
SULLIVAN: But you are opposed to covering people with preexisting conditions? You want to allow people to be turned away for that, right?
KIBBE: No. I think you should get rid of all the biases in the tax code that choose winners and losers and create third parties, because our system right...
SULLIVAN: You don't favor insurance -- you don't favor it being a law that people with preexisting conditions can get insurance that they can afford?
KIBBE: Well, I think if you do that, you have to understand that you are driving up everybody's health care costs.
SULLIVAN: You don't support that. You believe that people with preexisting conditions need to fight on their own for their own survival, even if it means being indebted for the rest of their lives?
KIBBE: No. No.
I think that you need to get the middlemen out of the process, so that people -- I happen to have a preexisting condition, so I feel pretty strongly about it. People have to have more control so that their employer or government can't take it away from them. That's the problem.
BLOW: I'm sorry. I want to understand the answer to this question. Do you support people with preexisting conditions getting affordable health insurance? I'm just trying to make sure that I understand the answer to this...
KIBBE: Yes, I do.
BLOW: You do?
KIBBE: Yes, I do.
BLOW: But just not under Obamacare.
KIBBE: But you have to understand that if the government is going to get involved after the fact, you're going to have all sorts of folks gaming the system and not getting insured until the moment they need it.
COOPER: So, how would it work? What system are you proposing? Because that's the criticism made of those who oppose Obamacare. What are you actually proposing in its place?
KIBBE: There's such an easy fix. A lot of the corruptions come from the employer-based system based on decisions that FDR made.
If we would change the tax code so there is not a bias between those who get it from their employer and those who don't, you would make it easier for people to afford better insurance. They could save for themselves. I think they should be able to save with pre-tax dollars in health savings accounts. I think young people should be able to buy catastrophic plans, so that when they do get sick, they're ready for it.
SULLIVAN: If they lost a job and applied again and they had a preexisting condition, under those rules, they couldn't get one again.
KIBBE: No. Well, that's my point. I don't want you to get from the your employer. I want you to control it individually.
SULLIVAN: You keep shifting this every single time.
The point is that a free system means that people will not get health care, that those people with preexisting conditions are going to have a really hard time getting insurance policies. And you propose nothing to solve that.
The one thing in defense of Obamacare is that it does actually give people a chance, people like you and me with preexisting conditions, to know that we have some kind of baseline security.
SULLIVAN: Why is that the worst thing ever to happen to America?
KIBBE: I don't think it is. But I think...
SULLIVAN: That's what you have been saying the last like several weeks. You wanted to shut down the global economy to stop this. You felt very strongly about it only recently.
KIBBE: Oh, I think Obamacare is going to be a disaster for people that need health care as this thing goes on. I think that is absolutely true. SULLIVAN: You think the current system is a great thing for people who can't afford...
KIBBE: No. Our current system is completely broken.
BLOW: Why do you think it's going to be a disaster? Because I'm really struggling to figure out what this rationale is, because it's not -- it doesn't seem to be based on data, because there's evidence to base it on.
BORGER: Are you sure premiums are going to go up?
BLOW: So, what are -- how are you judging that it's going to be an absolute disaster for America? Can you explain that to me like in two sentences?
KIBBE: Sure. Sure.
BLOW: Thank you.
KIBBE: In the first 10 years of Medicare, costs exceeded projections by 700 percent.
When you have those kind of cost projections, you inevitably ration care. They are going to start squeezing providers. They are going to start telling you that you have to get in line. This is how rationed systems work.
BORGER: So, you are saying that Medicare is bad, like that Medicare itself...
KIBBE: No, I'm saying the government doesn't do a good job reining in costs. I think the Web site proves that.
BORGER: But health care costs have gone down.
SULLIVAN: I'm a big believer in the private sector, like you.
I believe private businesses tend to be more efficient than the government, but health care is the great exception to this rule, that the private health care system is the most inefficient in the world and much less efficient than Medicare. So why do you count the private system as a success?
COOPER: Well, also, isn't the private system currently -- aren't they doing that exact thing that you say the government is going to start doing about rationing care, about deciding what sort of care people get? The private system does that now. It tells you what is going to be covered and what is not going to be covered and it totally seems arbitrary, up to these insurance companies, no?
KIBBE: Oh, it is. There are all sorts of co-pays that corrupt.
If Medicaid is reimbursing, if Medicare is reimbursing, if Blue Cross is reimbursing, they are all paying a different price. If you walk in, you pay this astronomically higher price.
BORGER: You are saying you would take the corruption out of it?
KIBBE: But that's not a market -- it's not -- it's corrupted by all of the rules and all of the buyers. The government today, primarily through Medicare and Medicaid, is the primary buyer of health care services.
BLOW: There is no evidence at this point that Obamacare is a failure. I think that the point that Anderson made...
BLOW: That's what I'm saying.
BLOW: That's what I'm saying. But you hear this drumbeat that says, it's a failure, we are trying to protect America from this failure. It's an abject failure today. That is simply not the case. There is no evidence that that...
BORGER: But the president should have said that more strongly and said, you know what? I feel for the people who have preexisting conditions who need to log on to that Web site immediately. That's who I feel for.
COOPER: Let us know what you think, #AC360Later.
Up next, the panel, we're going to shift our focus to another mess, this one on Capitol Hill -- the mud-slinging within the GOP getting dirtier by the day. We will talk about that ahead.
COOPER: Welcome back to the program. Once upon a time, there was a political party that seemed to speak in a single voice. That may be a little bit of a fairy tale. But year after year, when Republicans had their difference, they aired them privately. Nowadays, especially in the wake of the shutdown, they're slinging political mud in broad daylight, calling each other not just mistaken but idiotic at times.
Back with our panel tonight, are you surprised by what is happening in the Republican Party?
BORGER: I'm surprised it's so public. You know, I'm surprised John McCain goes to the floor and calls people whacko birds in his own party.
SULLIVAN: You're surprised by John McCain doing that? He's the one person one should never be surprised.
COOPER: Let me -- let me show you some of the things John McCain just said, actually. This is John McCain talking to Gloria about the damage to the Republican Party.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BORGER: I mean, what does this do to the Republican Party brand, then?
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Well, it's hurt. The question is, is how deep and how long. But the point is, that what we need to do, move forward with immigration reform, get a positive agenda for America, continue the fight against Obama care, get taxes down, address this whole issue of sequestration which is devastating our military.
There are so many things we can do on a positive agenda and get off of this, keep up the fight against Obama care but don't shut down the government and have so much collateral damage.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BORGER: Well, there he is, the voice of reason, John McCain.
SULLIVAN: The voice of reason. Who, I must say, put Sarah Palin on his own national ticket.
BORGER: That's the irony.
SULLIVAN: The idea that he is now posturing that he's a resistor when he appeased it and he enabled it and put one of the craziest, least informed people on the ticket. He owns it.
BORGER: Creating Sarah Palin who begat Ted Cruz, if you will, in a way. And now...
BORGER: Sorry. And now circling back there is John McCain on the floor of the Senate calling them whacko birds.
COOPER: Your interpretation of what happened in Washington is that basically, the so-called "hell-no" caucus, Ted Cruz and others, were betrayed by -- by Republicans in the Senate, by more moderate Republicans, who weren't willing to stand tall with them, who didn't -- and that's what caused the ultimate showdown.
MATT KIBBE, PRESIDENT AND CEO, FREEDOMWORKS: I was taken by surprise by how quickly McCain and some of his colleagues started shooting at Senator Lee and Senator Cruz. But I do think that there's a bigger story going on.
And the Democratic party has already gone through this when Barack Obama beat Hillary Clinton in the primary. The Republican Party is going through a paradigm shift when the old bulls, the guys who sit behind closed doors and decide what we were all going to do, are being replaced by a very decentralized, democratized and sometimes chaotic system, where activists have opinions and activists have more impact, and Ted Cruz and Mike Lee and Rand Paul and some of these other young guns represent that new generation.
BORGER: But wouldn't you argue that what they did was so ultimately cynical, because they knew in advance that they didn't have a chance of winning. I mean, even Cruz after the House fought its fight said, "Well, you know, this isn't going to go anywhere in the Senate," and then he got attacked by all those Republicans in the Senate -- I mean, in the House who had just gone over a cliff for them. And then he had to back off and say, "Oh, no, no. I have to lead this fight."
BLOW: And it's even more cynical because the cynicism is broader than that. It has completely kind of taken over the party. Because now the party just is an opposition party. That is the whole premise of the party is to stop things.
The idea of thought leaders being members of the Congress on the Republican side and people having agendas that are progressive. I mean, McCain was making a good point, even if he did you know, he did pick Sarah Palin. But he's making a good point, which is you have to be for something, not just against something. And this idea that you have, you know, all these young members -- Republican members of Congress, and all they are there for, they've run on this idea of just go there and stop them from doing things.
KIBBE: That's not actually true, by the way. Senator Lee, one of the first things he did was craft a balanced budget amendment that brought the entire Senate Republican Caucus behind one plan. First time in my lifetime it's happened. Marco Rubio, all of these guys have introduced bills to fix problems. There are health-care bills. There are things.
BORGER: But they used to say replace Obama care. Now they -- and then if you were going to replace Obama care, OK, with what? Then it became defund Obama care, because you didn't have to replace it with anything.
SULLIVAN: The first thing McCain suggests they go forward with is immigration reform. Wow, and that's another war. There is not a single policy, really, that they can agree on without engaging in internecine warfare.
Immigration reform is a classic, because they know that to win the next election, they have got to end the terrible image they have among Latinos and Hispanic Americans. And yet, the House is absolutely opposed to any idea of this -- in fact, trying to prevent anything it during conference. Trying to prevent anything from actually happening.
So don't you get the impression, as an average Joe watching this stuff, that the Republicans are just -- first of all, they're not a very nice party. They seem to be angry. And secondly, they always seem to be against everything. You know, they seem to be opposed to everything.
COOPER: You would argue, though, they're for fiscal responsibility?
KIBBE: Well, they're for fiscal responsibility. They've actually drafted and passed and voted on all sorts of legislation in the House that solves their problems.
SULLIVAN: I'll tell you why. Because the Republicans have got to pick between debt -- what they hate most, the debt or the government.
At some point, this government is not going to be shrunk into a bathtub. With the boomers retiring, it's maybe going to have to be a tiny bit bigger, and at that level we're in debt. So the obviously solution is to try and cut the spending and raise some revenues. And that's the only deal you're going to get with Democrats. And they won't do that.
KIBBE: Of course we just raised a lot of revenues. And I would like to...
SULLIVAN: We didn't. We raised a teeny bit. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) under Bush.
KIBBE: I would like to go back. You know, there were two examples where the conventional wisdom in Washington said, "We just can't do this." One was the sequester, and the other was -- was extending the Bush tax rates after the 2010 election.
Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid extended the Bush tax rates, and everyone said it was impossible. What we set out to do was change the national conversation, because regardless of what the political solution was in Washington, we keep increasing the debt.
SULLIVAN: And you helped it.
KIBBE: No, we didn't.
SULLIVAN: By refusing -- refusing to do a deal now, because every year that goes by, it gets worse. By refusing to do a deal, by doing the -- giving something, just anything to the Democrats, they are making the debt crisis worse. And also, I might add, the debt crisis in this country began when? Under Ronald Reagan, exploded when again? Under Bush and then the recession that he bequeathed us.
KIBBE: And you sound a Tea Partier. You sound like a Tea Partier.
SULLIVAN: I was a Tea Party when the rest of you were supporting Bush. I was actually criticizing him for spending this much money. You can't now turn around and be more purist than thou about this.
BORGER: So do you think you dug yourself in a hole now, or do you think the shutdown goes away and people just...
KIBBE: I think when the dust settles six months from now, a number of Democrats are going to be saying what Ted Cruz was saying before about how Obama care is not ready for primetime, and the guys that tried to do something about it are going to reap that political reward for actually trying to do something. Everybody in Washington, D.C., is -- understands that this whole system is dysfunctional. Everybody in America is pissed off at Washington, D.C.
BLOW: They're more pissed off at Republicans. And everything that you're saying just flies completely in the face of what they're -- what they're...
COOPER: We'll have to continue during the break.
Coming up, Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins us to talk about his interview with former vice president, Dick Cheney. Sanjay asked him whether his health problems affected his job performance. You're going to hear how Cheney responded next.
COOPER: Welcome back. Dr. Sanjay Gupta's interview with former vice president Dick Cheney aired last night on "60 Minutes." You may have seen it. It's getting a lot of buzz. Cheney is, of course, promoting his new book about his struggles with heart disease and his heart transplant.
Sanjay pressed him on something Cheney didn't seem eager to discuss: whether his decades of heart disease affected his ability to do his job. Listen.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You were instrumental in many big decisions for the country, including going into Afghanistan and Iraq.
DICK CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And terror surveillance program and enhanced interrogation.
GUPTA: Terror surveillance program. Wiretapping. Enhanced interrogation. You'd had four heart attacks, three catheterizations at this point. A defibrillator, bypass surgery.
GUPTA: Did you worry about your physical health impacting your judgment, your cognition?
GUPTA: Not at all?
GUPTA: Were you the best that you could be?
CHENEY: Well, I was as good as I could be, given the fact that I was 60-some years old at that point and a heart patient.
GUPTA (voice-over): Cheney didn't want to acknowledge numerous studies that show a significant connection between severe heart disease and memory loss, depression, a decline in decision-making abilities and impaired cognition, or that he could be one of the many patients vulnerable to these side effects.
(on camera): They talk about the potential side effects, again because of limited blood flow to the brain on cognition and judgment. Was that something that you had heard about in any way? You didn't know about it and weren't worried about it? Both?
CHENEY: I wasn't worried about it.
GUPTA: Did anyone counsel you at all on it?
CHENEY: Not that I recall.
GUPTA: What about even things like depression?
GUPTA (voice-over): And that's all he wanted to say about that. But what Dick Cheney was eager to talk about was his transplant, detailed in his new book, "Heart."
CHENEY: When you emerge from that gift of life, itself, there's this tremendous feeling of emotion. But it's very positive. I think my first words when I came out from the anesthetic were "hot damn," literally.
COOPER: Sanjay joins us now from Atlanta. Back at the table with me, Andrew Sullivan, Gloria Borger, Charles Blow and Matt Kibbe.
It's interesting, Sanjay, to hear -- I didn't -- I was not aware of these studies -- And you and I have talked about heart disease an awful lot -- about the potential impact that the potential impact it has on decision making, on memory, things like that. GUPTA: Yes, you know, especially after someone has undergone bypass surgery. There is a lot of data specifically around that. Because oftentimes this operation -- and I had talked to former President Clinton about this same stuff. The heart is actually stopped for a period of time. And so there have been studies looking at people at the time of discharge; months after; years after. And that was what I was really asking about, curious given the position that he held at that time, what he had heard, what he had been counseled about, and how it affected him.
COOPER: He's very good at those one-word answers.
BORGER: Yes. Too good.
Sanjay, what about all the medication he -- he might have been on, beta blockers, that kind of -- I mean, can't that affect judgment, mood?
GUPTA: Yes, I mean, certainly. And that was something we talked about, as well. But I will tell you, to your point, I mean, he really did give sort of very terse answers to that. He does not believe that any of those health problems, be it the surgery, the heart attacks -- you saw the list of things -- affected his job. And by the way, he didn't think that his job, a stressful one and certainly more stressful at times than others, didn't affect his health. He felt those two things were completely separate. And that's just how he got...
BORGER: Do you believe that, though?
GUPTA: I think it's very hard. And certainly, it would put him very much in the minority.
I will tell you, it's interesting in terms of the job affecting the health. I mean, I hear this from a lot of people I've interviewed, again, including former President Clinton, who said, "Not only did the stress not affect my heart. Of I wasn't working, it would have been worse for me. I thrive under stress."
I heard the same sort of thing from Vice President Cheney.
COOPER: Andrew, what do you think his legacy is going to be? I mean, you are very critical of him.
SULLIVAN: Look, this is a man who made some of the worst decisions in American history, which you can forgive. I mean, people make mistakes.
COOPER: And you said this as someone who supported the war in Iraq initially.
SULLIVAN: Yes. I made a mistake, too.
COOPER: Did you support Dick Cheney initially?
SULLIVAN: Yes. COOPER: Did you think he as good.
SULLIVAN: Yes. I knew him. Friends with his daughters. I've never had any reason to think he's not a perfectly lovely person. And I think everyone makes mistakes.
But however, I do think that deciding the United States is going to take human beings and torture them, in many cases to death, and then to say it was a no-brainer and to joke about it afterwards when those are war crimes, the most serious crimes imaginable that he committed, strikes me as -- as disturbing. And I think his legacy will be as the -- the vice president who brought torture into American government and helped enable it throughout the world.
COOPER: And you think it was him who brought that into U.S. government?
SULLIVAN: Absolutely. And he -- he said so himself. He's absolutely adamant about it. His defense and, really, embrace of torture, his making jokes about waterboarding a couple weeks ago.
COOPER: It is interesting when you go to Tuol Sleng, which is the prison in Phnom Penh that the Khmer Rouge used, you can see the table that they used for waterboarding. And I remember going there over the years, and it was described as a torture device.
SULLIVAN: It's in a museum of torture.
COOPER: It is, yes.
SULLIVAN: No one ever in the history of mankind thought that waterboarding wasn't torture until this man came along. Because this man has the ability to look at black and say it's white.
BLOW: You said you can forgive him for making mistakes, but you're not saying you can forgive this mistake? What are you saying?
SULLIVAN: I -- it's not my position to forgive anybody. But I do think, let me say this. I think that violating the core...
BLOW: I mean, you have an opinion about this.
SULLIVAN: I do have an opinion. I think it's one of the most awful acts by an executive of this country in the history of the United States. I think it's soiled this country. I think it still haunts this country.
SULLIVAN: And it is not forgivable by history. Not forgivable. It will be his legacy, the man who brought torture to America and was proud of it.
SULLIVAN: As well as bankrupting the country in two disastrous wars and refusing ever to admit error.
COOPER: When did you change your mind about him?
SULLIVAN: I changed my mind through the events of that war. And actually, I put out an e-book called, "I Was Wrong," which was a chronology of my attempt to figure this stuff out.
And of course, I never believed -- I conceded. I said no one, no American -- these stories from Guantanamo are all lies or propaganda. No American president would do that. I was incredibly contemptuous of those saying that until the evidence was overwhelming.
Then we found out the documentary evidence we have that showed he approved it and still...
COOPER: There's actually a documentary called "Attached to the Dark Side," which is actually fascinating, about how the -- the techniques gravitated from Afghanistan ultimately into -- into Iraq.
SULLIVAN: This is a widespread policy. Hundreds of people were tortured.
COOPER: Sanjay, what else surprised you about him?
GUPTA: You know, I think there is a single-mindedness we were talking about quite a bit that he certainly thinks helped him get through this significant heart disease. Keep in mind, he had his first heart attack when he was 37 years old.
But he was very diligent about getting his -- any time he had symptoms, getting them checked out. But he did sort of admit that he had this sort of single-mindedness. I mean, do you think Dick Cheney changed over the years? Or was he always sort of that way? I'm just curious.
SULLIVAN: I think he -- look, I think he probably did change, because I think that 9/11 almost certainly filled with him unbelievable amount of guilt, for one thing. I mean, he was responsible for the security of the country when the worst attack occurred.
BLOW: You think he feels guilty about it?
SULLIVAN: I think -- I think at some subconscious level, yes. I think he thinks...
BLOW: But it's just your intuition.
BORGER: But I talk to people about how Dick Cheney has changed. I mean, I used to cover him when he was in the Hill and when he was in the House. And everybody who I've spoken with who served with him in the House says he's a different person now.
COOPER: After 9/11?
BORGER: After 9/11. And you know, what we have learned by Peter Baker has a great new book out about the relationship between George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. And what we've learned is that he was very, very powerful sort of in the first term; much less so -- much less so in the second.
COOPER: We've got to leave it there. Sanjay, thanks for joining us. Appreciate it.
Up next, "What's Your Story?" We'll ask the panelists to share a story that caught their attention and maybe I didn't hear about it or you didn't hear about it. We'll be right back.
COOPER: Welcome back. Time for "What's Your Story?" I'll kick it off.
My story is last night I actually emceed an amazing event for a charity called Puppies Behind Bars. It's for service members who have PTSD, and they're given by these organizations service dogs to help them with their PTSD. And the service dogs are actually raised by inmates in correction facilities.
This is Anderson, the service dog. They actually teach the dogs to salute. So that's Anderson saluting. It was an honor to be on stage with these service members. And I just wish them well with their new canine buddies.
Andrew, what's your story?
SULLIVAN: I just want to note the passing of Mother Antonia, a rich Beverly Hills woman who was twice divorced, had a calling from God to go serve prisoners. Went to the prison, La Mesa prison in Tijuana, Mexico. Because she was divorced, the church wouldn't recognize her, but she made her own habit, and she became...
SULLIVAN: And then she went to live inside the prison with the prisoners. And -- and eventually got recognized by the church. There was a riot. She walked through it. It stopped. She was a great woman -- a great woman of the church and proof that women are the future of the church.
COOPER: Matt, what's your story?
KIBBE: Well, I was listening to Andrew earlier talk about Dick Cheney's daughters, one of whom is challenging a sitting Republican senator. Liz Cheney is running against Mike Enzi. And when the daughter of the vice president of the United States, former vice president, the very definition of Republican establishment, is willing to go after a sitting Republican senator, it means that Republicans now believe in competition. I think that's awesome.
COOPER: All right. And Gloria?
BORGER: Think she's going to win? No. He's shaking his head no. That's the story I'm covering.
COOPER: We're out of time. We're out of time. We'll get it next time. That does it for AC 360 LATER. We want to thank our panel.
Thanks for joining us. We'll see you tomorrow night. Bye-bye.