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"Kid President," at White House Easter Egg Roll; CBS Apologizes to Veterans; Jim Carrey Takes on Gun Lobby; Silicon Valley's Money and Power Play; Cinderella Men; Rethinking the War on Drugs; Changing Face of the GOP

Aired March 25, 2013 - 16:30   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: So at the cute and fuzzy end of the spectrum, the Annual White House Easter Egg Roll is scheduled for next Monday.

Did you get your tickets in the lottery? No? It's pretty tough to get in. This year, the White House is banking on the president's popularity to make the event a success. I'm not talking about President Obama. It's kid president, the 9-year-old Tennessee boy who has become a viral video sensation.

CNN's White House correspondent Brianna Keilar joins us from the north lawn to explain. Brianna, what is kid president?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The kid president is this little boy, Jake, whose name is Robbie Novak, and he dons a little suit because he is a little guy and he plays kid president delivering some pretty hilarious, but also very inspirational messages.

He does this on videos with some help from his older brother-in-law, and this airs on "Sole Pancake," which is a kind of feel-good web site. He is the special guest for the Easter Egg Roll, but he was also tasked with doing PR for the event. Check it out.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Kid President, looks like you got my message.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Yes, Mr. President, I got your message. This is historic, the White House Easter Egg Roll, kids dancing, eggs rolling. I'm in. You should be, too. I got asked by the White House people. I can't believe this is happening. My head's getting ready to explode. You should make my head explode. Yes, that would be so funny.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You want to edit your head exploding?

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Yes. Do it, man. Do it for the children.


KEILAR: Pretty funny little guy. So he'll be bringing his sense of humor here to the White House for the Easter Egg Roll on Monday, and he'll be here with dozens of other guests, including Charlie Brown and Snoopy.

You've got Mr. And Mrs. Potato Head, Scoopy Doo and also a couple of Jakes, Jake from "Adventure Time" and Jake from the "Neverland Pirates" if you're familiar, since you do have little kids.

TAPPER: I am very familiar, there's Cubby. There's Izzy.

KEILAR: Goodness.

TAPPER: You'll know all of these guys sooner or later.

KEILAR: I'm sure I will.

TAPPER: Thank you so much, Brianna Keilar.

On a more serious note, 850,000 Vietnam veterans are alive today, and the memories still sting. Now they're all getting an apology from CBS. After the network aired an episode of "The Amazing Race" that was taped near the Hanoi War Memorial in Vietnam and includes the wreckage of a downed B-52 bomber in which two Americans died.

The episode also featured Vietnamese children singing a pro-communism song under a portrait of Ho Chi Ming. The American Legion National Commander, a Vietnam vet himself, had called the episode, quote, "A disgraceful slap in the face to American war heroes."

The odds the NRA is laughing at Jim Carrey's new parody video are about a billion to one. To which all you dumb and dumber fans at home should be saying, you're saying there's a chance.

In the video posted today on the web site, Funny or Die, Carrey mocks gun control advocates and even portrays one of the lobby's most well known supporters, the late Charlton Heston.

Of course, conservative pundits didn't waste time firing back. They say many of Jim Carrey's movies have glamorized the same kind of violence he's speaking out against. Take these scenes, for example.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, I'm looking for Ray Finkelle and a clean pair of shorts, a Tommy gun.


TAPPER: Carrey says he made the video because he's frustrated by the rash of gun violence. Here's what else he told CNN's Nischelle Turner about his recent foray into politics.


NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT: What drew you to this? Was it just the message and everything we're seeing these days? JIM CARREY, ACTOR/COMEDIAN: Yes. It's life, life in the fast lane in America. I want to treat it in a humorous way, but I guess I'm trying to say a little something.


TAPPER: Carrey's "Funny or Die" video has already racked up more than 200,000 views.

Hash tag, you're it. Come up with a title for Jim Carrey's next anti- gun song, assuming he does one. Tweet your ideas to us @theleadcnn, use the hash tag, sing it Carrey.

They call it the greenroom so it's a perfect place for us to take a peek into our panel as they prepare for this week's politics lead. A Republican senator is saying it's time to stop sending kids to jail over pot. Is the GOP platform about to go up in smoke? We'll hear what our panel thinks about it all. That's ahead.


TAPPER: The "Money Lead," Mark Zuckerberg is now trying to influence your life in a whole new way. The Facebook billionaire just made a major money move into politics, reportedly putting up $20 million of his own fortune to help launch a political non-profit.

The lead's Erin McPike is here. Erin, he's not the only very, very young, very, very wealthy Silicon type who is getting involved in politics, is he?

ERIN MCPIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, he's not but the other big names won't be announced for another couple of weeks. They're not ready to roll them out yet. One of the big organizers told me is that they're going to be acting as influential, responsible individuals and not on behalf of their companies, but of course, they could still affect their bottom lines.


MCPIKE (voice-over): Mark Zuckerberg is one of the youngest billionaires in the world. At just 28 years old, he's worth $13.3 billion, and his global empire Facebook has more than 1 billion unique visitors a month.

Along with that money, comes power and lots of it. President Obama visited his company's headquarters. Celebrities have showered him with attention and Hollywood even made a movie about his life.

But their sweatshirt-wearing Zuckerberg is looking to broaden his influence this year. Sources tell CNN he's one of a growing group of mega wealthy tech stars throwing their famous names behind an issue advocacy organization to make waves in Washington.

They're forming what's known as a 501-C4, a non-profit organization that can raise unlimited amounts of money to lobby Congress on the issues they care about, starting with immigration. The issue is obviously an important one to Zuckerberg and his had contemporaries.

Earlier this month, he and more than 100 other tech leaders wrote to President Obama urging him to move on immigration reform this year. The letter was organized by a bipartisan political policy network "Technet" and included top executives from Yahoo!, Oracle, eBay and Microsoft.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, there have been other issues, but we view this issue as a defining issue. You know, last century people talked about the arms race. Now it's all about the brain race.

So whoever has the best brains, the best minds, the best talent is going to win that race. That's what the United States needs, and immigration is at the core of that issue. So when you think of immigration, it's about bringing talent from all over the globe.

MCPIKE: After facing criticism for not giving away enough of his fortune, Zuckerberg made a splash on Oprah in 2010 announcing his plan to plunk $100 million into Newark, New Jersey, schools. Two years later, Zuckerberg and his wife gave 18 million Facebook shares or roughly $500 billion to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation for health and education funding.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And most important things that your administration has done.

MCPIKE: But now it's all about political influence, and Zuckerberg is playing both sides of the aisle, hosting a town hall for President Obama and a fundraiser for New Jersey's Republican Governor Chris Christie.

In addition to immigration, techies are taking on other issues close to their hearts, education and technology. Jack Dorsey, co-founder of Twitter and the founder of Square joined Zuckerberg, Bill Gates and a host of others in a campaign that encourages schools to teach computer coding.


MCPIKE: Now, Jake, the reason that they're starting with immigration is because it's moving through Congress right now. It's a bipartisan push and it affects their industry.

TAPPER: But, Erin, I interviewed Jack Dorsey, a couple of weeks ago. I can't tell if these guys are liberal, if they're conservative. You see Zuckerberg doing something for Obama, something for Republican Governor Christie. Where are they in their politics?

MCPIKE: From what -- from the people I've talked to, I don't think that they even know. And a lot of the Republican organizers of this very thing are saying that a lot of these multimillionaire, multibillionaire techies are just learning how government affects their industries for good and bad. Some of them think that the Obama administration does stifle business growth. So they want to get involved.

TAPPER: All right, Erin McPike, thank you.

Our "Sports Lead," if you had Florida Gulf Coast in it the sweet 16, you're lying. The team from a city more well known for its snowboard birds and retirees and for Red Sox spring training is making NCAA history and making it look easy, dunking and dancing their way into the sweet 16.

The first-ever 15 seed to make it that far, John Berman, who I might observe is bringing up the rear in our own CNN anchor NCAA poll, has more on the magical run. John, thanks for joining us.

JOHN BERMAN, ANCHOR, CNN'S "EARLY START": Jake, thank you. Thankfully this is not about me. As you said, Florida Gulf Coast University, the first 15-seed to make the sweet 16, they have the best nickname ever in dunk city.

And you know, none of this would have been possible 25 years ago because Florida Gulf Coast University didn't even exist 25 years ago. And that's not even the most interesting thing about this unlikely team.


BERMAN (voice-over): It is a team a coach and a tale that is the ultimate Cinderella story. Assuming Cinderella founded a tech start- up worth millions, liked to dress down, way down, liked junk food, and that Cinderella could dunk. I mean, really dunk.

There has never been a Cinderella story like Florida Gulf Coast University and Coach Andy Enfield. The South Fort Myers School with more than 11,000 under grads didn't start holding class until 1997.

The basketball team wasn't even eligible for March Madness until two years ago. After jilting Georgetown in the first round, they sacked San Diego State in round two and they might not be done yet.

SHERWOOD BROWN, FLORIDA GULF COAST UNIVERSITY PLAYER: We want to do bigger things here so we're just going to keep being motivated.

BERMAN: But it's not just the score. It's the way they it get there, high flying soot of your pants basketball that is just flat-out fun.

COACH ANDY ENFIELD, FLORIDA GULF COAST UNIVERSITY: If you're not a fun loving guy, if you take yourself too seriously or you're just a jerk, you're not going to play for me.

BERMAN: Then there's the coach who this weekend heard himself described as --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is the most interesting man in the world.

ENFIELD: I'm not that interesting. I'm a pretty simple person.

BERMAN: We'll be the judge of that. Now 43, he was a college star at Johns Hopkins. After working as an assistant in the pros, he helped launch a tech start-up to manage contracts for health services. It grew to be worth millions.

That was before he got back into coaching and ultimately took the job at Florida Gulf Coast University. Then there's his wife. You might have Googled her, Amanda Markham Enfield is a former model who appeared in "Maxim" and "Vogue." They met while carpooling to a basketball tournament in 2003. How did he woo her?

ENFIELD: I wanted to take her to a nice dinner, but the only thing open was Taco Bell.

BERMAN: He bought her a burrito. Now they have three kids, must have been some burrito, just the type of magic that seems to be fueling the Florida Gulf Coast run.


BERMAN: So sales at the campus bookstore shot up 1,000 percent this weekend, visits to the web site for prospective students shot up 400 percent this weekend. Times are pretty good for Florida Gulf Coast University. They head to Friday night's game when they play the number 3 seed Florida. Jake, I'm sure you have Florida Gulf Coast University in your brackets.

TAPPER: I had them losing in the first round, but let's just discuss how badly I'm beating you in the CNN bracket challenge. I am ranked fifth. You're ranked 15th. That's 5 and 15. John, first of all, I assume you did not pick your alma mater Harvard to win in the first round, did you?

BERMAN: No. That would have been a wise choice, and I made only unwise selections, Jake. I suppose the good news is I'm up from last place. For much of the weekend I was in dead last in the CNN pool. Now I'm fourth from last, kind of a position of honor. I made the choices from my heart. Obviously my heart is a shrivelled, deeply flawed piece of junk.

TAPPER: Well said, John Berman in New York. Thank you.

Is Tiger Woods back? Are you tired of hearing that question? Well, you'll hear it a lot today because Tiger Woods won today at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and that put him back at the top of world golf rankings.

In case, you're wondering what his now very public girlfriend, Lindsay Vonn thought, she posted this on Twitter. Number one, yes, that's 13 exclamation points. I don't know how to pronounce them.

Kind of hard to believe in retrospect, but Jimmy Carter actually carried Texas when he ran for president in 1976. He was the last Democrat to pull that off, but now Governor Rick Perry is taking a step that some Republicans fear could help turn Texas blue. We'll tell you how in the politics lead.


TAPPER: What do Snoop Lion, the former Snoop Dogg, and Republican Senator Rand Paul have in common? Well, they both think putting people in jail for smoking pot is crazy.


SENATOR RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: The last two presidents could have conceivably been put in jail for their drug use. Look what would have happened. It would have ruined their lives. They got lucky, but a lot of poor kids don't get lucky, don't have good attorneys and they go to jail for these things and I think it's a big mistake.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it actually would be the last three presidents but who's counting.


TAPPER: Apparently, Chris Wallace. So could Rand Paul turn the red states green? Joining us are senior editor for the "National Review," Ramesh Ponnuru, "USA Today" political reporter, Jackie Kucinich and Democratic pollster and strategist, Cornell Belcher.

OK, first of all, I have to say, gay marriage and now marijuana legalization, or at least decriminalization. What is going on with the Republican Party?

RAMESH PONNURU, "NATIONAL REVIEW": Well, you know, I think what's really interesting there is, on the one hand, you've got this liberal shift on social issues on those two issues, and you're not seeing it on abortion. You've seen a real divergence where the country seems to be getting if anything more pro-life and when we could talk about social issues at one monolithic whole, that's over.

JACKIE KUCINICH, "USA TODAY": As far as the marijuana issue, it's been a libertarian argument for a while. I mean, lest we forget his father Ron Paul's rift at one of the debates on heroin legalization. So coming from Rand Paul this isn't terribly surprising, but it does show that the strain of libertarianism within the Republican Party is growing stronger with him.

CORNELL BELCHER, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER AND STRATEGIST: I've got to say I appreciate this when a member of the Senate takes a principle stand, but if you look at -- you think about the idea of him running for president, if you look at the gauntlet he'll have to run through a Republican primary in the south with all those Christian conservatives it might be an issue.

I'm amazed that the country is actually sort of divided right now, 47- 47 from CBS polling on marijuana legalization. I have to think the power of the conservative Christian base in the south that he's going to have to win over in the Republican primary might not be a big fan of the legalization.

TAPPER: Speaking of redefining Republicanism, Ron Brownstein has an interesting column in the "National Journal" about Rick Perry's war on Obamacare, the theory that it may actually help turn Texas blue.

Here's what Brownstein writes about one in four Texans are uninsured, that's the highest percentage in any state, that some 6 million people, the total population of Missouri. Does this actually put Texas at risk?

Could a Democrat win because of Rick Perry waging war on Obamacare, refusing to expand Medicaid to help insure up to 6 million people?

KUCINICH: Well, it's also possible the public might just get sick of governor for life Rick Perry in Texas. Look, I think republican governors are at risk no matter what they do on this question.

The governors who say they'll cooperate with the expansion of Medicaid have gotten pretty serious criticism from Republicans and a lot of time the legislatures aren't cooperating. I suspect if Perry went along with it, his legislature wouldn't.

PONNURU: Quickly, before Democrats get too excited, Texas is a big, very expensive state. Truth of the matter is, Democrats keep looking at the shift in demographics in Texas, say, we can put this state in play.

We would -- Texas is like a country. You would have to come up with a lot more money to sort of put Texas in play, and that's a real -- so you shift resources from Ohio and Florida to move to Texas? That it's a real risky proposition for Democrats.

KUCINICH: Also, they use a lot of the figures of Hispanics, the growing Hispanic population in Texas. But not all Hispanics down there are Democrats. A lot of them voted for Bush. A lot of them voted for Perry. So there are a lot of moving parts here. I think it's going to be a little bit before --

TAPPER: A heavy lift for Democrats. And then finally before I let you guys go, we were talking about social issues and Republican Party shifting. Karl Rove said this on ABC, asked about whether or not there could be a Republican presidential nominee who supported same- sex marriage.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Karl Rove, can you imagine the next presidential campaign a republican candidate saying flat-out, I'm for gay marriage?



TAPPER: He said yes then changed the subject pretty quickly. Do you think it's possible?

PONNURU: I think what's more likely is you've got a Republican nominee who changes the subject pretty quickly. The rank and file Republican Party actually have not moved all that much on same sex marriage over the last few years. It's Democrats and independents who have moved.

I think what you're going to see is Republicans accepting if there is same-sex marriage in many states or even across the country that they are not going to do anything about it, but not themselves come out for it.

KUCINICH: As we were saying, there's still the primary process and they are still a lot of activists. They don't think a Republican activist, this is something that should happen.

TAPPER: Especially in Iowa.


PONNURU: South Carolina.

KUCINICH: In Iowa, they had a huge problem with it. So, yes, getting -- the way the Republican primary process is set up right now, good luck.

BELCHER: "Wall Street Journal" polling had 27 percent of Republicans favor this. That's not a winning place to be if you're a Republican in a primary.

TAPPER: All right, thank you, Ramesh Ponnuru, Jackie Kucinich, Cornell Belcher, thank you so much.

It's no surprise that big drug companies make big bucks off consumers, but are they playing fair? The little thing they're doing you probably never knew about and why the Supreme Court is weighing in. That's our "Buried Lead" and it's next.


TAPPER: Is it time for the "Buried Lead." That's what we call stories we think aren't getting enough play. The Supreme Court is taking up a case that could impact anyone who's tried to save a little money on prescription drugs. At issue is a practice called pay to delay.

It's when pharmaceutical companies pay the makers of generic drugs to hold off on putting those cheaper drugs on the market. The FTC says the practice is not only illegal, it hurts consumers, but drug companies argue that the system is a way to work around patent disputes. The high court is expected to rule on the issue this summer.

We're just starting our second week and we want to hear from you. How's my driving? Let us know what you like, what we need to work on. E-mail us at the

Hash tag you're it. Earlier we asked you to come up with a title for Jim Carrey's next anti-gun song. May I present your best efforts, Lemony Snikts, a series of unfortunately box office bombs. That's not nice.

And the eternal arrogance of the liberal mind, I guess, some conservative entrance. That does it for THE LEAD today. Be sure to join us every day this week at 4:00 p.m. Eastern. I'll turn you over to Kate Bolduan who is filling in today for Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.