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Rand Tries to Expand the GOP Base; Carnival Offers $38/Night Cruise; Girl Asks Snow White for Dad

Aired April 11, 2013 - 10:30   ET



CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. I'm Carol Costello. Thank you so much for being with us. Checking our "Top Stories" at 31 minutes past the hour.

As early as next hour the Senate could begin debating a gun control bill and here's a reminder of just how impassioned this issue is. Gun control activists have erected 3,300 grave markers near the capitol.

That's the number of Americans killed by guns since the school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut.

President Obama getting thanks for hosting a dinner for 12 Republican Senators. They talked about the budget, the deficit, immigration reform and preventing gun violence. Senator Johnny Isaacson of Georgia organized the guest list. Senator Orrin hatch of Utah was there with Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee plus Senator Marco Rubio from Florida and Senator Collins of Maine, Susan Collins along with seven others. Senator Isakson commended the President for reaching out.

Outside of Little Rock, Arkansas a tornado leads a debris path 30 miles long. The twister hit one town, passed over another before slamming into a third. In all, three people hurt, 33 homes damaged. A church was demolished. That's what you are looking at. This church was demolished just 90 minutes before the start of weekly services.

Those severe storms are now heading east. Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia could see some strong winds and damaging hail later today.

Golf's first major now underway at the Augusta National and the focus is on the familiar Masters champ, the world's number one ranked golfer Tiger Woods tees off in just a few minutes. He is the favorite to win his fifth green jacket.

Maybe it's the Republican twist on that 1980s hit "Back to the Future." The party seeking to rebrand holding its spring meeting to craft the new strategy. Among the headliners? Dick Cheney. Yes, that Dick Cheney. The former Vice President who once told a Senator to, well, we can't say that on TV, but it wasn't very nice. The same Dick Cheney who left the White House with a 13 percent approval rating. News of Cheney's appearance coming on the same day that Rand Paul seemed to be looking to the party's future during a visit to Howard University. Paul is the first major Republican to speak at the historically black university since Colin Powell back in 1994.

Joining me now Pete Dominick, a Sirius XM Radio host, Patricia Murphy, founder and editor of Citizen Jane Politics and contributor with the "Daily Beast" and Stanford Fraser, a senior at Howard University who attended Senator Paul's speech. Welcome to all of you.




COSTELLO: Hi Stanford, I want to start with you. You sat in the audience. How was Rand Paul received?

FRASER: It was -- it was a mixed message. The students were definitely welcome to hearing him speak and we -- we definitely noticed he tried to appeal to us. At the same time we didn't agree with everything he said.

COSTELLO: It was a tough audience, though, to begin with, wasn't it, for Rand Paul?

FRASER: It was -- it was a very tough audience. Early on a couple of students actually walked in the middle of his speech and held up a sign saying "Howard University doesn't support white supremacy." And sensationalism aside, I think it just demonstrates how African- Americans are wary of the Republican Party.

COSTELLO: Yes Howard, by the way, in case you think as all of you don't know it, Howard University has produced giants in the political world, including Thurgood Marshall and Edward Brook, the first African-American elected to the Senate but when Senator Paul tried to give a little history lesson during his speech, things did not go over so well, so let's listen.


SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: How many of you would have -- if I would have said who do you think the founders of the NCAAP are do you think they are Republicans or Democrats would everybody in here know they were all Republicans?


PAUL: All right. All right. You know more than I know. And OK and that's -- and I don't mean that to be insulting. I don't know what you know, and you don't -- I mean, I'm trying to find out what the connection is. But the thing is that I think the general public doesn't -- we and the Republican Party hasn't talked enough about the great history and interaction between the Republican Party and black history and voting rights in our country.


COSTELLO: So Stanford.


COSTELLO: I mean did that negate the whole speech?

FRASER: Well, definitely during the speech, you could tell he was well researched in the speech and he was trying to speak to us. During the question and answer period, he had some times where he messed up.

COSTELLO: I think Stanford should be a politician. Yes.

FRASER: Oh, man.

DOMINICK: Did anybody watching that, Carol, not cringe? I mean, that's literally the definition of condescension. He went into people who know a lot more than him at a you know historical black college that have to, if I'm -- correct me if I'm wrong, Stanford, study African-American history as part of the curriculum and tried to teach them. And it was -- it was literally condescension, it was the definition. He was also intellectually dishonest a lot in that program and Rand Paul pointed out the history of the Republican Party.

Most African-Americans don't remember when the Republican Party was -- was the party of black folks. They don't remember that time. We're looking at the last 50 years here and that matters and the policies matter a lot more than -- I mean rhetoric matters, it matters a great deal and Republicans can't appeal to Hispanics. They're having a hard time appealing to women and they're having obviously a very hard time appealing to African-Americans. So rhetoric matters but policy matters too.

COSTELLO: Patricia -- but Patricia, I would say, that at least Rand Paul tried.


COSTELLO: It took some courage for him to appear before what was sure to be a tough audience.

MURPHY: I give Rand Paul a lot of credit for going to Howard. I don't give him credit for literally saying I don't know what you know. I mean, this felt like a conversation you should have had in a small group to at least start to know what people know and what they don't know. So it came off as just so literally painful to watch.

But you do give him credit, and you have to give him a credit because he is doing something that the rest of his party is not doing, which is speaking directly to African-Americans, seeking out African- American audiences, and at least starting a dialogue. Hopefully he heard some of the information that was coming back to him.

But again, it's really not about a dialogue. It's not about who you're talking to or sort of what's the top line, how does -- how does -- how is the message go with African-Americans? I think African- Americans are sophisticated enough to know that the underlying policies that the Republican Party is advancing don't feel right to them, and I think that is the underlying problem for the Republican Party. They don't have enough African-American leaders. They don't listen to enough African-American voices and the policies that they have do not appeal to African-Americans that they are respecting their community and advancing policies that are going to benefit them.


MURPHY: And so you know, there's just a whole level of problems for them, but I do give Rand Paul credit for at least starting a conversation, which is -- which is much more than his leadership is doing.

COSTELLO: OK. Well Stanford, I'm going to ask you another question. Because the Republicans are going to get together for their spring meeting and they're going to talk about rebranding the Republican Party to attract more minorities.

And one of the headliners is Dick Cheney and his mission is to help the Republicans rebrand the party. How do young people, young African-Americans view Dick Cheney?

FRASER: Not favorably. Not at all.

COSTELLO: Why not?

FRASER: Well, people are still thinking about the Bush years and what happened in that administration, so some of his policies weren't very popular. Especially his -- especially war mongering policies.

COSTELLO: And I think that sometimes we forget that not just young African-Americans, but young people in general aren't really in favor of war. Is that correct, Stanford? Am I saying that right?

FRASER: Definitely. One of the few cheers Rand Paul did get yesterday is when he spoke about needing congressional approval to go to war and being anti-drone strike. And he got a little applause from the crowd from that.

COSTELLO: I got you. OK so there's a mixed message going on. So Rand Paul does a courageous thing and he goes to Howard, but then the Republicans invite Dick Cheney as a headliner to help rebrand the party -- Pete.

DOMINICK: Yes I mean, listen at what point does your credibility become compromise I mean, yesterday Republicans -- or a couple of days ago were asking Dick Cheney. They invited him to speak to him about -- about North Korea. I mean asking Dick Cheney for advice on foreign policy is like asking Dick Cheney for advice on gun safety.

His credibility is gone. He was the architect of the worst foreign policy disaster of our generation. Asking him about the future on foreign policy especially much less anything else, I mean, this guy in my opinion, frankly, I think Dick Cheney -- I'm one American who thinks Dick Cheney is actually a bad person.

COSTELLO: Oh. So Patricia, on the other hand, you can't really alienate your base either and the Republicans know that. They have to hang on to their base as well as track new people to the party right? Dick Cheney is still much admired among core Republicans right?

DOMINICK: For what?


MURPHY: The reason Dick Cheney is the right person for them to hear from is that Republicans still respect Dick Cheney. You know, the reason that he is the wrong person to hear from in terms of policy going forward is that he is a 72-year-old white man. They are doing just fine with 72-year-old white men among the Republican Party and they're losing national elections. And it feels right now about a party that is all about the past.

And when Rand Paul was talking about the virtues of the Republican Party, he was talking about the Republican Party in the 19th century, not the 21st century. So there is a debate among Republicans do we moderate or modernize?

I would argue they probably need to do both. I don't think that Dick Cheney is the man to do either of those, but listen, Republicans respect him. They want to hear from him. I think they should at least open up their tent a little bit and start to hear from some younger people who don't look exactly like them.

COSTELLO: OK last question -- last question for Stanford. So among Republicans, Stanford, is there someone that you respect and admire and wish would really speak at Howard?

FRASER: That's a great question. I think yesterday was great to start a dialogue. So I would love to have a lot more of Republican leaders because I --

DOMINICK: The last Republican -- the last Republican to speak at Howard -- sorry to interrupt you Stanford -- was Colin Powell.

FRASER: No problem. Yes, definitely. I think yesterday was great because for the first time instead of getting the headline, you got to read the whole article. So instead of you know hearing little sound clips, you got to hear the Republican Party and at least Rand Paul and how he felt on certain stances.

COSTELLO: All right, interesting conversation. Thanks to all of you.

Pete Dominick, Patricia Murphy and Stanford Fraser.

MURPHY: Thanks, Carol.

FRASER: Thank you for having me.

COSTELLO: Just ahead in the Newsroom, Carnival cruise is now practically giving away rooms. It comes after that cruise from hell on "Triumph". How about $38 a room? We'll tell you more after a break.


COSTELLO: Carnival is trying to lure back passengers after months of bad public relations. You remember the ill-fated cruise from hell back in February followed by reports of power problems aboard other ships. Well, now Carnival is offering bargain basement prices, and we mean bargain basement prices.

Alison Kosik we go to you. This is incredible.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you know what this is, Carol? It's really an attempt to get back from what was an absolute PR disaster. What's funny is you look at some of the names of these ships. The "Triumph", the "Dream", the "Legend". They sound so magical, don't they, but all of them had problems -- big problems, mechanical issues, generator issues -- oh, never mind that completely stranded ship.

So how the heck do you get people to forget all that. Well, you try some ridiculously low prices for cruise. So we went ahead and looked on Carnival's Web site. They're advertising several trips this month out of Miami for under $40 a night, but here's why they have to do this.

This shows you why this is need. If you ever wanted to see a company that's got to do something because something is wrong, look at how much Carnival shares have plunged since that "Triumph" PR nightmare. After the "Triumph" was stranded in February, shares plunged 12 percent. They haven't recovered.

Now, last month the company, in addition, issued a weak profit in sales forecast. It said bookings this year are lower than last year. There's been a bit of recovery with those bookings, but you know what; not enough. So what are they going to do? They're going to offer you cheap cruises to get you on the boat, and once you're there, they're hoping you spend money -- Carol

COSTELLO: I know. My friend just left for a Carnival Cruise. I asked her when she was going to get back. She said I don't know, it's carnival.

KOSIK: I don't know. I know. Well, you know, good luck with all that.

COSTELLO: Yes. That's what I told her. Alison Kosik, thank you.

We'll be right back.


COSTELLO: 49 minutes past the hour. Time to check your top stories. We're just getting word of a large bus overturning on the George Bush Turnpike in Irving, Texas. Police say there are passengers aboard, and they're waiting to learn if there are injuries. We're making calls, and we'll bring you details. That looks bad. We'll bring you details as soon as we get them in.

Five men have been arrested in Los Angeles suspected of being part of a crew of serial bank robbers. Police say the crew would break into banks through the roof using power tools and then gain access to the vaults. These men are accused of hitting four banks in the last year and stealing, get this, $6 million.

Also in California, watch as police use a taser and arrest a -- oh, a 62-year-old man. Police say Harley Kelly pulled out a knife and crossed the highway stopping traffic in both directions. They say he moved towards police with the knife so they hit him with seven high- powered bean bags and shot taser shots, but he kept walking. They say he went down on the seventh taser hit. He now faces charges of assault with a deadly weapon.

We're getting our first look at aerials of the damage from overnight tornadoes. Samantha Mohr is at the CNN Weather Center -- show us.

SAMANTHA MOHR, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. Well, right now we have a watch that's in effect until 3:00 p.m. Central here for parts of Louisiana and Mississippi but we have some aerials to show you from KTBI where they're going out to survey much of this damage from the potential tornadoes we saw yesterday. Of course, we have seen the pictures coming in of the incredible damage that occurred there last night, so they are heading out to the Hazleton area here.

They had a report there of wind gusts up to 101 miles per hour, and look, you can see from the aerial pictures showing you much of the damage. Trees uprooted. Homes, buildings just torn apart. Many cars turned over on their sides. They will be out going to these three different areas.

I believe we had that on Google Earth. I'm not sure. You can put that source. Here we go. We have at least three separate areas around St. Louis Bridgeton here, north of St. Louis. Then the Union (INAUDIBLE) area. This is where we really had some widespread reports of a lot of damage. This is where they're focusing on today, Carol. We'll let you know when we have word as to exactly what happened there last night in regards to tornado activity. Wow.

COSTELLO: Thanks so much, Samantha.

MOHR: You bet.

Coming up in the NEWSROOM, one little girl asks Snow White to grant a very special wish.


ALYSSA BROWN: I wish for daddy to come home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You wish that daddy would come home?


COSTELLO: Oh, we'll tell you if her dream came true.


COSTELLO: If you know your Disney fairy tales, you know Snow White's wish. That someday my prince will come. Well, that's exactly what one little girl wished for. Here's Jeanne Moos with her happy ending.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): When Show White has you by the hand and you're headed for the wishing well at Disney Land you better come up with a good wish.

JENNIFER LOVE BROWN: Alyssa's had a hard time with her father being gone. She's a daddy's girl.

MOOS: And with daddy gone for seven months to Afghanistan, no wonder the four-year-old Alyssa Brown gave Snow white this wish.

ALYSSA BROWN: Daddy come home.

MOOS: Hide your eyes, don't peek.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm wishing, I'm wishing for the one I love --

MOOS: And while Alyssa was wishing, not peeking, who should appear.


MOOS: But the one she loved. We'll let Alyssa give you the play-by- play.

A. BROWN: I gave him a big hug.

MOOS: A hug she's happy to recreate sitting in their San Diego home.

(on camera): You know, Scott, I kept expecting you to pop out of the wishing well.

S. BROWN: That would have been a pretty cool trick, but we just kept it simple for this one.

MOOS: It was made simpler because the Browns had a friend of a friend who has a sister working in PR at Disney Land and she helped with the Marine Lieutenant's request. But when it was his 14-month-old son Liam's turn to greet daddy --

Liam looked scared of you.

S. BROWN: Well yes he was only seven months old when I left and he's only seen pictures of me and the daddy doll.

MOOS: That would be deployment daddy doll. With Lieutenant Brown's picture on it.

A. BROWN: I miss you, daddy. MOOS: This was the day when Alyssa first laid eyes on her dad's stand in. Within a few hours of the reunion, Liam was getting used to his daddy, playing and cuddling.

(on camera): But there is a down side to going to a wishing well and making your kid's wish come true. Alyssa has already told her parents --

J. BROWN: My next wish is for a puppy. Wish for a puppy, no, we got a brother instead.

MOOS: Maybe that wishing well worked a little too well.

A. BROWN: Puppy.

J. BROWN: I don't think Snow White can bring a puppy.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN --

J. BROWN: Just daddy.

MOOS: New York.

J. BROWN: Good try, though.



COSTELLO: Thank you so much for joining me today. I'm Carol Costello. "CNN NEWSROOM" continues right now.