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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Interview With House Speaker John Boehner; Controversial Autism Numbers; What's Happened Since Heat's Last Loss; Report: "Tonight Show" Moving To NYC; Diplomat's Wife's Rock Goddess Past; Suing World Banks, Spies In The Cloud; Alison Hickey Speaks On Capitol Hill After Damning Report On Veterans' Claims
Aired March 20, 2013 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: President Obama again caught off-guard by a hot mike.
I'm Jake Tapper and this is THE LEAD.
The national lead: President Obama on open mike takes a dig at Congress to Israel's leader. And by Congress, of course, we mean Republicans. House Speaker John Boehner reacts in our exclusive interview.
Also in national, the CDC now says one in every 50 children has autism, one in 50. There are real questions being raised at how the CDC arrived at these numbers.
And the sports lead. Just how long has it been since the Miami Heat lost a game? Well, back then, most of us had not even heard of the Harlem shake. Good times.
We begin with the world lead. And, finally, all sides of the Mideast peace conflict are seeing eye to eye on something. What they're seeing eye to eye on is that none of them expect much to come out of President Obama's first trip to Israel as president. The president just wrapped up a news conference with the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, in Jerusalem.
And as you will see from this clip, things are off to a chummy start for two leaders with legendarily limited affection from one another.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to express a special thanks to Sara, as well as your two sons, for their warmth and hospitality. It was wonderful to see them. They are -- I did inform the prime minister that they are very good-looking young men who clearly got their looks from their mother.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Well, I can say the same of your daughters. (LAUGHTER)
OBAMA: This is true.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Even before the president's arrival, the consensus among Israelis, Palestinians, and even White House officials was that this visit will not do anything concrete to move the peace process forward, so we can't help but ask, what's the point?
Let's try to get some perspective from CNN's Jessica Yellin, who is live in Jerusalem.
Jessica, were there any surprises from the president at the press conference today?
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think, Jake, the president was especially forceful in his expression of support for Israel's security. He used the language he needed to use to reassure the Israelis that he understands.
Now, his posture with regard to Iran and Syria was strikingly different, and that's worth noting. On Syria, he was cautious, saying that officials are still determining whether chemical weapons were used there and there's no action he is willing to take until he knows what was used.
We will see if he will take action when he knows what actually happened there. When it comes to Iran, his language was much more vigorous. Let's listen to this and we can talk about it on the other end.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: The United States will continue to consult closely with Israel on next steps, and I will repeat, all options are on the table. We will do what is necessary to prevent Iran from getting the world's worst weapons.
Meeting none of these challenges will be easy. It will demand the same courage and resolve as those who have preceded us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
YELLIN: None of that was new language from him, but his expression of support and saying that all options are on the table and he, you know, said that he has Israel's back was about as emphatic as analysts expected him to get speaking from Israel.
And I would add that we know that Secretary Kerry is coming here to Israel after the president leaves to try to see if he can jump- start peace talks. So it's possible that the administration is trying to talk down expectations so that they can actually get something out of this in terms of peace talks in the end, Jake. TAPPER: Jessica, this trip as you know comes in the shadow of claims that Syria is using chemical weapons against the rebels, claims that President Obama just minutes ago noted were unconfirmed, but he did also say that if they're true it would be a game changer.
You had a chance to talk to Israel's justice minister about this. What did she say?
YELLIN: Well, she said that the U.S. involvement would make a difference in Syria and she said chemical weapons in Syria threaten Israel and she's confident that they have been used in Syria, but she wouldn't say by whom. This is Tzipi Livni.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
YELLIN: Have you seen any evidence of proof that there has been chemical weapons used in Syria?
TZIPI LIVNI, ISRAELI JUSTICE MINISTER: It is clear for us here in Israel that it is being used.
And the problem is that while it is being used, we have Syria, we have Hezbollah and Lebanon. And the situation is that the appearance is that -- is that it is not going to be only in Syria, but Hezbollah can reach all these chemical weapons and use it against Israel in the future.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
YELLIN: So obviously there is some daylight between what Israeli officials are saying, there were chemical weapons used, and what the president is saying, they're still assessing the situation.
Perhaps for strategic reasons, the president would no doubt also need some time to figure out what to do if the U.S. believes that any red line has been crossed, Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Thank you, Jessica Yellin, in Jerusalem.
Our mercurial ally Afghan President Hamid Karzai told the U.S. not long ago that he wants U.S. special forces out of Wardak Province, which is not far from Kabul. Today, we learned that Karzai will get his wish. The presence of U.S. special forces has been a big source of tension and has sparked protests in Kabul over the weekend. President Karzai wanted them gone earlier this month, but the U.S. ignored the deadline, arguing the province is still a Taliban stronghold.
One of the most powerful women in the world just got a dose of what it's like to be on an episode of "Cops." French police raided the home of Christine Lagarde as part of an investigation into a long- running business dispute. Lagarde, the head of the International Monetary Fund, or IMF, says she never did anything wrong. She, of course, replaced former IMF Chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who resigned over sex assault allegations last year, though those charges were later dropped. The new pope just loves working the crowd and it is apparently driving his security team bananas. Vatican security put the kibosh on what they deemed excessive public contact after the failed assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II more than 30 years ago, but that has not stopped this pope, Pope Francis, from riding around in an open air car, a convertible popemobile of sorts, shaking hands and even kissing babies.
According to "USA Today" security experts are worried his friendly ways will make it harder to protect him. The good news, of course, is that the Vatican is thought to have among the best security details in the world.
Now let's turn to our national lead. It's like a monster under the bed. It keeps a lot of new parents up at night. But the more data we get on autism, the more troubling the issue seems to become. A new report out today says that 2 percent of American schoolchildren, that's one in 50, have been diagnosed with some aspect of the disorder.
That's one million kids. But do more kids really have it or is there something going on with this study?
I want to bring in Professor Zachary Warren. He's the director of autism clinical services at Vanderbilt University.
First of all, professor, there are real questions being raised about how researchers got to this number. It's a survey of parents about their kids. It's not a survey of medical records. Can we trust these numbers?
ZACHARY WARREN, VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY: You know, I think what we can trust is sort of the finding that autism is a really common disorder. We have known this for quite some time.
Numbers have varied, but the fact remains the same. Autism is extremely common.
TAPPER: The survey indicates that there was something like a 23 percent response rate. Now it seems to me, I'm no doctor, but those parents who have children with autism would be very eager to participate and those who are not as invested might not be. Is it common to survey children this way?
WARREN: Well, you know, the numbers we get are direct results of the ways we go about counting children with autism.
The number we saw last year was really as you said before based on educational record review. This survey was based essentially on a phone survey and who responded to that, asking parents yes or no, had a medical professional diagnose their child with an autism spectrum disorder. So these numbers get us in the ballpark. But they really don't confirm a true number, and because they don't confirm a true number they really don't tell us if there's been a true increase, and if there has been, the size of that increase. TAPPER: Last year's number from the CDC was one in 88 kids. This year's is one in 50. It just seems like that's a chasm, that's a huge shift.
WARREN: Different studies, different methods. That's why you end up with different numbers.
Right? You know, again, as I said, I think if you go about looking for something in one way, you tend to find something differently than if you look in a different way. So, you know, I think the hammer-home message here is autism is common. If you ask most experts to say what is the true prevalence rate, they're going to -- they vary a little bit on their numbers. If you ask most experts is the rate somewhere between one in 50 and one in 200, most are going to say yes.
TAPPER: All right. Professor Zachary Warren, thank you for shedding some light on this study for us.
Now first on CNN, they have alleged al Qaeda ties. They have a price on their heads. And they're American. The State Department is offering $5 million apiece for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Omar Shafik Hammami and Jehad Serwan Mostafa. Their faces are now on posters and even matchbooks in Somalia, where these two are believed to be working for an al Qaeda affiliate.
He might not have been president, but for 20 minutes yesterday John Boehner was the most powerful politician on U.S. soil. How did he spend his time?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Free cigarettes? Nothing at all?
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Nothing.
TAPPER: Free happy hour? Nothing going on? OK.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: My interview with the speaker of the House is next.
Plus, if the research that marketing firms have on me is right, I'm a happy homemaker that spends my weekends at Bed, Bath, & Beyond. What online advertisers think they know about me and you. Our money lead is ahead.
TAPPER: Our national lead. President Obama just can't get Congress off his mind, though he clearly wants to.
Shortly after bounding off Air Force One, meeting and greeting his Israeli hosts, and standing in place for the welcome ceremony he's probably by now gotten pretty accustomed to, still, among the pomp and circumstance, he could not help himself to a little dig at the Capitol's expense.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Get to rest for these next two days.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Get away from Congress.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Meanwhile, back here in Washington, House Speaker John Boehner was at the nation's Capitol sitting down with me for an exclusive interview.
TAPPER: Mr. Speaker, thanks for doing this.
BOEHNER: Congratulations, Jake. Going to be a real success, I think.
TAPPER: I hope so.
So President Obama arrived in Israel today. He had some interesting comments for Prime Minister Netanyahu on the tarmac. He said it's good to get away from Congress. Netanyahu laughed and said, "Believe me, I know."
BOEHNER: So much for the charm offensive.
TAPPER: But does a comment like that actually have any impact, do you think, or...
BOEHNER: No, not really.
You know, the president's meeting with the president of Israel. You know, he's got his legislative issues. The president's got his. It comes with the territory.
TAPPER: Comes with the territory.
BOEHNER: I would rather be heckled than ignored, or, as I like to say, you only tease the ones you love.
TAPPER: So, White House Chief of Staff McDonough was on our show yesterday and he said if Syria is using chemical weapons, it's a game changer and we will act accordingly. I know that you were not happy with the kind of consultation that congressional leaders were given before the U.S. acted in Libya. Are you similarly concerned about potential action in Syria?
BOEHNER: Well, I do think that the threat, that Syria used chemical weapons is a serious one. And I would hope that as the president is making his decision with what our reaction will be that he will in fact consult with the bipartisan leaders in the Congress, something that didn't happen before our involvement in Libya. This is an important part of the process, and I would hope that that he would reach out to the Congress so that we could be part of that process.
TAPPER: Have you conveyed that to the White House?
BOEHNER: I have not but I'm sure they're well aware after the storm that erupted over Libya.
BOEHNER: You said the House is close to a bipartisan immigration reform package. Mr. Hoyer, Steny Hoyer, Democratic leader, has said that it will include a pathway to citizenship for undocumented workers. What can you tell us about that?
BOEHNER: Well, my job as speaker is continuing to help facilitate these bipartisan discussions. And while we've had four Democrats and four Republicans meeting now for four years, they're fairly close to an agreement, there are other members that have not been part of this group that have their own ideas. And so, what I'm trying to do is to continue to facilitate a bipartisan discussion about what really is a big problem in our country.
TAPPER: The forced budget cuts have already had an impact and starting tomorrow at Wright-Patterson Air Base back in Ohio, it was announced by the base commander that 13,000 civilian employees will start receiving notices about their furloughs.
How concerned are you? And is it a done deal already, the sequester, the forced budget cuts? Can anything be done, or has the country just moved on?
BOEHNER: You know, we've tried over the last 16 months to avert these automatic spending cuts that the president demanded as a result of the agreement on the budget act in 2011.
TAPPER: He didn't want one. He wanted them as a threat so that you would come to an agreement.
BOEHNER: The president, for his own convenience, didn't want another vote on the debt ceiling before his re-election.
BOEHNER: And so, he forced this process to occur and insisted.
TAPPER: But he didn't want the sequester cuts.
BOEHNER: Well, no. He didn't want the cuts, but we had the sequester as a result of his demands. And I'm told my colleagues in the House that the sequester will stay in effect until there is an agreement that will include cuts and reforms that put us on a path to balance the budget over the next 10 years.
TAPPER: But no tax increases.
BOEHNER: No tax increases. The president already got $650 billion worth of tax increases January 1st. He got a trillion dollars worth of tax increases in Obamacare. This year, the federal government will bring in more revenue than any year in our history and yet we're still going to have a trillion dollars budget deficit. Spending is the problem.
TAPPER: The White House says in response, yes, it's true. Taxes went up more than $600 billion over 10 years at the end of the year but it is also true the White House put $1.5 trillion worth of spending cuts in their budget.
The truth is you're both right. I mean, they have offered spending cuts. The taxes did go up. It still hasn't made enough of a dent. You still have to sit down and do something.
BOEHNER: Right. I think we're doing our budget this year. Actually we're doing it this week here in the House. Our budget will balance in 10 years.
We're going to pass our budget. Hopefully, the Senate will pass their budget, except their budget never comes to balance. The president's budget never comes to balance.
You can't continue to spend money as far as the eye can see that you don't have. And that's what they're continuing to propose, along with higher taxes on the American people.
TAPPER: But the political reality is, no budget deal can probably happen, not one that will seriously address the deficit without Democrats onboard and without President Obama onboard and they want to raise taxes.
BOEHNER: They already got their tax increase in January. How much more do they want to take from the American people?
TAPPER: Yesterday, on his way to Israel, President Obama was in the air. Vice President Joe Biden was in the air on his way back from Rome. You were the highest ranking American official on American soil for I think roughly 20 minutes, half an hour. You were essentially the president.
BOEHNER: No, I wasn't. I was the speaker of the House and that's why I say prayers for President Obama and Vice President Biden every day.
TAPPER: You don't want to be president.
BOHNER: I don't want to be president. It's not anything I've ever thought about.
TAPPER: Is there anything you did during those 20 minutes? Did you, you know, make it mandatory that everybody listen to polka or, I mean --
BOEHNER: No, no, nothing.
BOEHNER: Just kept my eyes focused on my job and the U.S. --
TAPPER: Free cigarettes? Nothing at all?
TAPPER: For happy hour? Nothing going on?
TAPPER: OK. Thank you so much, Mr. Speaker.
BOEHNER: Nice to see you.
TAPPER: I appreciate you taking the time.
TAPPER: We also asked Speaker Boehner about how he as a father felt about what happened at Sandy Hook. We'll have more from our interview with Speaker Boehner later in the show.
The last time the Miami Heat lost, Hillary Clinton was still secretary of state. Putting the 23-game winning streak into perspective. That's our "Sports Lead" and that's next.
TAPPER: In "The Sports Lead" -- let's face it. The Cleveland Cavaliers have about as much of a shot at winning an NBA title this year as I do. But for the Cavs, the team LeBron James abandoned so ignominiously in 2010, stopping him and the rest of his fancy pants Miami teammates from extending their 23-game winning streak -- well, that might qualify as the next best thing.
James takes on his scorned ex-team tonight in Cleveland. It is a David and Goliath matchup in which Goliath will almost certainly win again. After all, the Heat have not added to their loss column since February 1st. And if that does not seem that long ago, it might once you realize just how much has happened since then.
TAPPER (voice-over): It has been a full 47 days since we last saw the Miami Heat walk off the court with these sad puppy dog faces after getting spanked by the Indiana Pacers. That's a long time ago. It was only one day later when the Internet phenomenon that launched a thousand copycats was born. That's right. It may seem like the "Harlem Shake" has been haunting our lives for years, but the first video appeared online just 46 days ago. Few of us could have guessed it would be spoofed by everyone from TV hosts to divers, even the Miami Heat.
The team's streak officially started on February 3rd. Of course, we were all too busy paying attention to that other big sports story. And since that win we've lost a pope and gained one, saw the epic fall of an Olympic hero, and the meteoric rise of a Hollywood underdog.
BEN AFFLECK, ACTOR/DIRECTOR: I was confident we would win.
TAPPER: And speaking of meteors, this happened, in Russia.
But, of course, there was no need to panic. After all, President Obama had just provided these reassuring words.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNION: That the state of our union is stronger.
TAPPER: By the time the Heat made it to sweet 16 in their streak, we'd witnessed the death of a world leader, and the birth of a bizarre romance.
DENNIS RODMAN, FORMER NBA PLAYER: I don't condone what he does, but he's my friend.
TAPPER: And more recently, we were reminded that even the best streaks eventually come to an end. Just don't tell that to these guys.
TAPPER: They built a brand new stadium with taxpayer money. Then they tanked and traded away their stars. Now, the Miami Marlins are flipping off even their most loyal fans. The fish have threatened to sue a couple who's had season tickets since 1998 after they demanded new seats. Bill and Jan Leon paid 25 grand for these seats down the third baseline and they claim they cannot see the game or dangerous foul balls now because the team added a billboard.
This is the before. This is the after. The Marlins told the "Miami New Times" that it did offer new seats but cannot move the sign.
Even the most rabid football fans among my numbskull college friends do not care about the pro ball, but the NFL for some inexplicable reason is trying to keep the game alive. The NFL network says officials are now thinking of having a pro bowl draft where captains choose their teams instead of having conferences go head to head and pick new uniforms and team names.
That brings us to hashtag you're it. We want to hear from you on Twitter. Help the NFL out with their pro bowl. Come up with your own name for the pro bowl team, the NFC gripers, say. Tweet your best to @TheLeadCNN. Use the #namethatteam. Let's check in on our power political panel waiting in the green room. Enjoy the indoor plumbing while you can get it, guys. We're just a week away from a government shutdown that could mean lights out for a big chunk of this town.
We'll hear what Van Jones, Susan Paige, and Grover Norquist think about that in our "Politics Lead." And that's next.
TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
The Money Lead. Don Draper would be so disappointed. Despite all the personal information Web sites are stealing from you, online advertisers really don't have the first clue what you want to buy.
The Buried Lead. They're returning with injuries from the war zone only to battle the bureaucracy at home. Can't we do better for our wounded veterans?
And the Pop Culture Lead. What links do the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, and Jim Morrison possibly have to do with the super serious world of Middle Eastern politics? Well, if you guessed, the wife of one of our top diplomats, you might be right.
Time for The Buried Lead. That's what we call stories we think are not getting enough play and, boy, does this one ever qualify. The official in charge of benefits for veterans, Alison Hickey, visited Capitol Hill today, trying to convince lawmakers that she should keep her job after a damning report by the Center for Investigative Reporting showed that endless paperwork is wearing down our wounded vets in ways the enemy never thought of. And it's a problem that's reaching epidemic levels under the Obama administration.
TAPPER: They are waiting and waiting and waiting. Hundreds of thousands of veterans who still have not received the care they were promised when they came home. Zack McIlwain is one of them. He fought in Iraq not once but twice, coming back with a hand injury that caused an infection that almost killed him. Almost three years later, he is still waiting for some of his benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
TAPPER: So what does it mean that more than 970 days later, the VA still has not accepted your claim?
ZACK MCILWAIN, IRAQ WAR VETERAN: I am just kind of sinking in quicksand just waiting for something to happen.
TAPPER: The VA disputes this, arguing that Zach's claim has not been ignored. It's been denied.
But the larger travesty is this. The problem with processing benefits claims for veterans has gone from bad to worse under the Obama administration. One VA office in North Carolina had claims stacked so high the building was at risk of collapsing. A new study from the Center for Investigative Reporting found that since President Obama took office, the number of veterans waiting more than a year for their benefits jumped from 11,000 in 2009 to 245,000 this past December. That's a more than 2,000 percent increase.
ALISON HICKEY, DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS: We've been now ten years at war where our men and women are ten times more likely to survive than their previous cohorts.
TAPPER: The VA argues it is going as fast as it can. Two long wars that injured but did not kill so many soldiers have flooded the system.
What kind of an emotional toll does this take on your family? How much do you feel like your life is just on hold?
MCILWAIN: There were moments where I questioned whether I really had a future that was worth living at a certain point.
TAPPER: You would have taken your life?
TAPPER: Zach also gives voice to another serious problem faced by countless veterans -- his struggle with post traumatic stress disorder and questions about whether the va is equipped to deal with this epidemic. Last year for the first time in this war, more American soldiers died at their own hands than were killed by the enemy.
MCILWAIN: It's coming home and feeling like we can't get the care and the help that we need. It just feels like you're just lost. And that's unfortunate.
TAPPER: What do you want the VA to be doing for your PTSD that they're not doing?
MCILWAIN: I want the access to care when I need the access to care. I don't want to be thrown into a waiting list.
TAPPER: Veterans advocates say the VA should have seen this crisis coming.
PAUL RIECKHOFF, IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN VETERANS OF AMERICA: Failing to plan is planning to fail. And the idea that they didn't know this was coming or they need more time. It's been over ten years. And this is absurd.
TAPPER: The Iraq war ended for the U.S., but I guess didn't end for you.
MCILWAIN: No, and a lot of my fellow veterans, not only the Iraq war but the war in Afghanistan and everything else. They fight these conflicts, they fight these battles honorably. And they come home only to fight again.
(END VIDEOTAPE) TAPPER: The VA says it has completed more than 4 million claims in the last four years but it acknowledged more work remains and, quote, "too many veterans are waiting too long for benefits." They've announced a plan to improve their system by 2015.
As for Zach's claim, the VA says they have acted on it but it is stuck in the appeals process. They note he does receive compensation for other wounds including his PTSD. We couldn't help but notice the VA granted one of his outstanding claims the day after they found out we were working on the story. Maybe that is a coincidence. We asked. We did not hear back.
Now the Politics Lead. Spineless or politically savvy? The Democrats go soft on assault rifles. (INAUDIBLE) here now to talk about it, conservative/libertarian Grover Norquist, "USA Today's" Washington bureau chief Susan Paige and CNN contributor Van Jones.
So, let's talk with you, Van. It appears that the Democrats blinked on the assault weapons ban, this ban on certain kinds of semiautomatic rifles.
VAN JONES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it does. And I think it's dispiriting for people. I mean, I've never been a big fan of the assault weapons ban personally, but it's symbolic. It's important. And there are other things it looks like they may be blinking on for now as well.
Three months after those children got killed, it looks like Democrats are going to play this kind of game where they put a very bare bones bill through and have all the meaningful stuff as amendments on the side that people can vote on. All that stuff is cute in Washington, D.C. I think it's shocking to people in America. I'm disappointed.
TAPPER: Grover, you are a member of the National Rifle Association, I believe.
GROVER NORQUIST, FOUNDER, AMERICANS FOR TAX REFORM: Yes. I'm on the board of directors.
TAPPER: And so, what is your take on what the Senate is coming up with? Is there anything in there the NRA can get on board with?
NORQUIST: Well, what you have is a bunch of guys who felt they ought to do something. What they ought to do is something useful. I mean, there are a lot of states that don't put their list of people who have been judged insane by the courts on the NIC list, on the list of people not to be able to buy guns. I think we ought to get those states that are not cooperating to put the lists of people who have been -- not somebody who went to a therapist 20 years ago, but somebody who's been judged by a judge to not be competent, they should be on those lists. That information should be there.
The NRA agreed to that in '93-'94, and it was Ted Kennedy who put the kibosh on it because of certain mental health group lobbies that didn't want people embarrassed. We ought to not embarrass anybody, but those lists ought to be made available to the NIC list.
TAPPER: OK, so I did ask House speaker Boehner about guns, and I want to play that and get your response, Susan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Just tell me, as a speaker of the house -- I just know as a dad, myself, when Sandy Hook happened, I just wanted to do something --
TAPPER: -- whether it was changing the laws to make it easier to commit people or making sure that background checks were better. What did you feel as a dad?
BOEHNER: Oh! I mean, it was awful. And our hearts go out to those who are the victims of Sandy Hook and these other mass shootings. I would have hoped that the president would have focused on the bigger problem -- you know, violence in our society.
TAPPER: Do you think background checks, improving background checks might be part of that?
BOEHNER: They should actually do a real background check on everyone. And maybe the Department of Justice ought to enforce the law.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Now, what the speaker meant by that, I should say, because I wanted to -- I had to go back to his office and say is he coming out in favor of an improved background checks? No. He supports the background check system that exists to be implemented better.
What do you see happening realistically with guns? Can anything get through the House?
SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF,"USA TODAY": Well, we know something could get through the Senate. I think a ban on straw purchases might in fact be a meaningful thing that has some heft.
But you can see from Speaker Boehner's comments how hard it is going to be to get anything through the Republican-controlled House, even the most modest measure. I mean, the idea of an assault weapons ban, we knew from the start was not something that was going to be enacted into law. You hear from Speaker Boehner how uphill the fight is going to be for any measure at all, including expanding background checks, which the NRA is opposing. Maybe the straw purchase. I mean, it's only one step, but --
JONES: But I just think it's heart breaking, just terrible. Because, I mean, the American people, even gun owners, are saying -- you know, super majorities. They're for a lot of these measures. The background checks. These are not controversial measures. And yet somehow D.C. can't get it done.
And I think the Democrats are making a big mistake. I think the Democrats should go ahead and have this face-off with the NRA. Everybody is so afraid of 2014 and what might happen to their seat in 2014. What might happen to some children tomorrow morning? That should be -- and I think it's actually an opportunity for Democrats, including red-state Democrats, to say I'm going to stand with a super majority of gun owners on some of these basic issues.
TAPPER: Grover, you clearly want to weigh in. Please.
NORQUIST: No, look, you want something that's useful. And the assault weapons ban is not a machine gun. One of the things that irritates gun owners is you hear press guys talk about semiautomatic as if it meant sort of automatic. Instead, what it means is not automatic.
NORQUIST: But people say semiautomatic as if it was a machine gun. It's not. These are not assault weapons, meaning that's why they call it assault-style. You put little goo-gah (ph) on them to make them look interesting, that makes them banned? That has nothing to do with making anybody safer.
NORQUIST: What you do want to do is what the Democrats have refused to do, which is to get those states that have lists of people that have been judged not certifiable -- those people need to be on the list not allowing them to buy. That is the Democrats' fault. There are liberal states doing this. That ought to be done. It's been going on for more than ten years. The NRA was for this from the start. Ted Kennedy was the guy who killed it. (INAUIDBLE) even Schumer (ph) at the time was for it.
TAPPER: There are some things you can do.
PAGE: The Republicans use the issue of mental health, which is a real issue, to avoid talking about the other gun control measures. I mean, it's really diversionary, I think --
NORQUIST: No, no. You can oppose the other -- I mean, gun control -- look, what you want to do is protect people from bad people, and you focus on bad people. You don't make lists of honest people with guns because that can lead to confiscation as it has in Australia, New York City --
TAPPER: We went deep on this topic, and we'll have to have you back for the other topics I wanted to talk about. Thank you so much.
For a show that is supposed to be funny, it sure had its share of drama. But sorry, Jay. There is a new host for "The Tonight Show." We'll tell you who is moving into the house that Johnny Carson built. That's next.
TAPPER: Our Pop Culture Lead, and it is breaking right now. NBC is about to change the person you go to bed with at night. "The New York Times'" Bill Carter is reporting that Jay Leno is out at "The Tonight Show" and Jimmy Fallon is in. Not only that, the show is reportedly coming back to New York City after coming to you from sunny Burbank, California for the past 40 years.
There are African nations that have had smoother leadership transitions than "The Tonight Show" has had with its hosts. NBC had to shell out $45 million to get rid of Conan O'Brian and reinstall Jay Leno.
Then there was a battle between Leno and David Letterman chronicled so memorably in the late shift by aforementioned "New York Times" reporter, Bill Carter, who broke this latest scoop for the "New York Times" and Bill Carter joins us now on the phone.
Bill, thanks so much for joining us. You know the story inside and out. Why not make Fallon go to Los Angeles? Why move the show to New York?
BILL CARTER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES" (via telephone): Well, that really, Jake, is the big news here. I mean, the idea that Jimmy was getting the show was kind of out there because Jay has got one contract that he's working on. He's 62 so there was, you know, an expectation he would be leaving soon if not this contract then maybe another year.
So Jimmy getting the show was kind of expected. What is really surprising is the move back to New York. Though there are a lot of reasons for it I think they all feel the energy of New York helps Fallon. He is on "Saturday Night Live." He is from New York, Albany.
But also you have Lauren Michaels who is the producer of the show who has always been close to Jimmy and he is, of course, New York based. Then you have the band, "The Roots" and "The Roots" are a Philadelphia based band. Some of the guys still commute I think to New York and they're very important to that show.
I don't think they wanted to lose them. So there are a lot of reasons for that and also you might think it's bad to leave L.A. for the bookings, but if you have Jimmy Kimmel out there, two shows going head to head for bookings.
I think they feel like in New York, you know, Dave Letterman is still here, but they don't know how long that'll be so they may have an advantage there instead of going head to head in L.A.
TAPPER: So Bill, do people in NBC think Fallon is ready to take over and perhaps the question really on everybody's mind, will Jay Leno leave this time?
CARTER: Well, look. It's not -- there is no deal yet for the timetable of this. They have an understanding. I'm sure Jay knows about the understanding, but Jay has a contract that goes until the fall of next year, 2014.
So, you know, I think from Jay's point of view he will work until they tell him to stop. That is the way he is and the kind of guy he is. He is going to work as hard as he can as long as he can.
And you know, the last time this happened, something changed. So maybe he thinks something will change again and you can't blame him. That's what he likes. He likes to do this show and he'll hang on as long as he can.
TAPPER: Is Fallon ready?
CARTER: Is Fallon ready is the question they undoubtedly have decided yes or near yes. Interestingly, he's only done the show four years, the late night show. And Conan did it 13 and David Letterman did it 11. So this is a much faster path to the 11:30 slot than anybody has had before.
But it's a different time in television. Things are changing. I think they want to have a new kind of a show. They want to have young blood. They don't want Jimmy Kimmel to get established for a long time and try to take all the younger viewers away. He hasn't really done that from Leno by the way.
Leno continues to win a lot of nights from the younger viewers, which is important to "late night" because that is what the advertisers want to reach. But I think there is a strategy at NBC that it is time to get this lined up at least and it'll be, you know, in the next 18 months or so. It's not like Jay Leno is leaving tomorrow.
TAPPER: All right, the "New York Times" Bill Carter, congratulations on the scoop.
CARTER: Thanks, Jake.
TAPPER: In other pop culture news, there are the music fans who chased the Beatles down the street in hard days night. The fans who are painting over Justin Bieber's attempt to grow a mustache as we speak and the fans who mixed with the greatest acts of the flower power era and grew up to play a role in middle eastern diplomacy. Actually there's only one of that last group, Sally Oren. Her story is incredible.
TAPPER (voice-over): Rock and roll posters covering the wall, sandals off, bedroom floor hot pink. This is teenage Sally Oren, the future wife of the Israeli ambassador to the U.S. back in her native San Francisco. Where due to family connections and the love of music she saw perform and became friends with a line-up of musicians who are now legends.
SALLY OREN, WIFE OF MICHAEL OREN, ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO U.S.: Quick Silver, The Dead, The Airplane, I had a mad, you know school girl crush on Marty Ballon. TAPPER: Decades before official events with president and first lady Obama, Oren hung with a very different kind of crowd in the heart of San Francisco's counterculture haven, Haight-Ashbury.
(on camera): You would play Frisbee with Jerry Garcia and The Grateful Dead?
TAPPER: What is your favorite "Dead" song?
OREN: I can't give you a favorite "Dead" song. The truth is I don't know if I should say this on camera. I was not a "Dead" head. I don't know -- that's OK.
TAPPER: It's OK.
OREN: I sort of felt like I was a band mascot.
TAPPER (voice-over): But do not call her a groupie.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are not groupies.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is Penny Lane, man. Show some respect.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We inspire the music. We're here because of the music.
TAPPER: In the late '60s, Sally Oren and her older sister were almost famous, but they were PG versions of Kate Hudson's "Penny Lane."
(on camera): "Jefferson Airplane" had written a song about you.
OREN: They actually wrote two songs about me, but one was never recorded and/or played live. I think I was the only audience when I stood in the hallway at the Fillmore Auditorium and Marty Ballon sang the song to me, but I was so embarrassed.
TAPPER: Do you have a recording of it?
OREN: They never played it live. So the other one, "Young Girl Sunday Blues" was played and recorded on their third album.
TAPPER: Do you realize how cool this is?
OREN: Yes, I think it -- yes, yes. It was pretty cool.
TAPPER: What does the ambassador think about this chapter in your life?
OREN: He gets a kick out of it. He tells me I talk about it endlessly, but the truth is I don't.
TAPPER (voice-over): Oren's husband is today in Israel for President Obama's first visit there as president.
(on camera): Is there anything that you learned in the Haight as a teenager, any spirit that if it could be brought to Israel and the region this week, during this presidential visit you would like to infuse the local leaders with?
OREN: You mean peace and love?
TAPPER: A lot of bragging rights there in case Bravo ever does a "Real Housewives of Jerusalem." So right now, we're going to say your smartphone can do a lot of things -- text, tweet, turn into a virtual bubble wrap.
But can you place it next to a body and get a complete non- invasive medical diagnosis? Now "Star Trek" fans may know where I'm going here. Bloomberg says the guy who invented the Blackberry, Mike Lazaritus is putting up $100 million in an effort to turn "Star Trek's" hand held medical tricorder into reality.
There are other tech projects going on like it right now. Some say these devices could become as common as a household thermometer and help us all live long and prosper. Want to know if your favorite show is about to get the ax? Your Twitter feed might hold a few clues.
A study out today shows there's an undeniable link between Twitter and TV ratings. As you might predict the more tweets about a show the more likely the show is catching on with viewers. The study was released by Social Guide, which is a company that looks for ties between TV and social media.
And now, of course, we turn to our friend, Wolf Blitzer, who will give us a prediction is not the right word, a preview, a survey of what we can expect.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST, CNN'S "THE SITUATION ROOM": Sally Oren's husband, the Israeli ambassador to the United States is a musician as well.
TAPPER: Like a good musician?
BLITZER: Percussionist. I've seen him play the drums with Governor O'Malley of Maryland who is into that kind of stuff as well.
TAPPER: Is this like a real thing?
BLITZER: This is real.
TAPPER: Or a bunch of baby boomers --
BLITZER: He is a real percussionist. He's a good diplomat as well, but he is an excellent percussionist. TAPPER: He's also actually a former U.S. citizen. He gave up his dual citizenship.
BLITZER: We're going to follow up on this amazing news conference that the president of the United States and prime minister of Israel had. The chief spokesman for the Israeli prime minister will join us live in our 6:00 p.m. Eastern hour.
We'll follow up on your interview with the speaker Paul Ryan, the former Republican vice presidential nominee. He'll be joining us live in our next hour. We'll go through a lot of significant stuff.
TAPPER: That's an action packed show.
BLITZER: Of course. It's "THE SITUATION ROOM."
TAPPER: Coming after the show and right next door.
BLITZER: We're neighbors.
TAPPER: We are neighbors. Good to see you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Better be a good neighbor.
TAPPER: I'm trying to be a good neighbor.
TAPPER: So much for the rise of the machines, those complex programs that collect your info to sell you junk online aren't as smart as you might fear. That's up next in our "Money Lead."
TAPPER: The "Money Lead," you know those ads on the side of your screen when you're on your computer to tell you how to refinance your mortgage or lose weight or buy those great pair of Lulu Lemon yoga pants? Maybe that is just me.
Have you ever thought these ads just don't get the real you that you're too sophisticated and complicated for some data mining firm to figure out? You might be a little vain, but also you might be right.
The group "Enliken" put out a survey to give consumers a real sense of how data mining companies view them and respondents found up to half of it is wrong. I now know the pain personally and tomorrow will share my weird, online traits with you on the show.
I filled out your -- the "Money Lead," hard to know who to root for here. The banks that gambled on all the toxic home mortgages or one of the government backed outfits that insured them.
Freddie Mac is suing more than a dozen of the world's biggest banks accusing them of manipulating the interest rate that banks charge each other to borrow money. Freddie Mac claims that resulted in losses that could reach into the hundreds of billions of dollars. Since you brought this, you may also like a match box camera, an umbrella gun, or a drone. Amazon.com is reportedly getting in the spy business. The trade site federal computer week says Amazon is helping the CIA build a secure cloud computer network.
Amazon and obviously, the CIA are not saying anything but the deal is said to be worth $600 million over ten years. A tough break for the animal rights activists of "People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals," potential confusion about whom to throw paint on.
It turns out some of the fake fur on the market is not fake at all. Neiman Marcus and two other retailers settled a federal case by admitting they sold real fur to customers who thought it was fake, why?
The "New York Times" says the demand is actually much higher for the fake stuff these days. Now it's time for the results of hashtag "you're it." Earlier, we asked you to send us some NFL pro bowl team names, your best efforts.
One tweet, the NFC helmet knockers versus the AFC head cases or the NFL pro bowl team should be team irrelevant versus team it really doesn't matter. That's it for me, on to Wolf Blitzer.