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Roger Ebert Dies; Facebook Phone; Interview with Former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson; Clinton Writing New Book; Inside the NFL

Aired April 4, 2013 - 16:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Movie fortunes rose and fell with the flick of his thumb. I'm Jake Tapper, and this is THE LEAD.

Our top lead, for decades, he helped us separate the must-see from the must-miss. Now in the last few moments, we have learned that film critic Roger Ebert has died at the age of 70.

The world lead, North Korea is speeding up the chess game and could put a weapon in the air soon. Now, while U.S. officials say they are going to dial down their own fighting words, we're wondering, how real is the danger here?

And the national lead. It could become a new status symbol for status updates. Facebook now wants you checking Facebook on a phone screen designed by Facebook.

We begin with our world lead at this hour.

All eyes are on the East Coast of North Korea, where U.S. officials believe the communist nation may be preparing to launch a missile. The target? Who knows? It could be a test to show force. The most alarming part according to a senior administration official I spoke with this afternoon is not necessarily the provocative behavior. After all, North Korea has been conducting nuclear tests and talking tough since Kim Jong-un's father, Kim Jong Il, was in charge.

What's concerning, this official told me, is the accelerated clip of the actions, bellicose rhetoric, a nuclear test, now a missile launch, all in a matter of weeks, instead of years.

Now, few outside Pyongyang believe North Korea has the range to hit the mainland U.S., but there are bases much closer to North Korea in South Korea and Japan and Guam, with a combined total of nearly 90,000 U.S. troops literally all over the map, a bit like the U.S. response to these now daily threats.

Just yesterday, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel called North Korea a clear and present danger, yet today officials at both the Pentagon and State Department say they want to turn down the volume of their own rhetoric against the North.


VICTORIA NULAND, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESWOMAN: It was the ratcheting up of tensions on the DPRK side that caused us to need to shore up our own defense posture. We have done that. But we have also been saying all the way through that this does not need to get hotter, that it can -- we can change course here.


TAPPER: In just a moment, we will be talking to the former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Bill Richardson, who has visited North Korea a number of times.

But, first, I want to bring in our Tom Foreman to explain how this could escalate.

Tom, please explain to us.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jake, all eyes today are on the map of North Korea right now, particularly looking along this eastern coast over here where military intelligence says, you see the red part there, it's about a 250-mile stretch where somewhere a missile has been moved into position for launch.

That's what we're hearing from intelligence. We don't know where, but we hopefully would think that they do. This is a fairly big area. What we do know is what kind of missile we're talking about, by and large. And what we're talking about is a model that is really a very bare-bones type of missile here.

This is called the Musudan. It is believed to have evolved from a missile that was used by Russian submarines, so you can see how this profile would fit well for a submarine launch. There is also a variety of this that was used in Iran called a Shahab missile. It is generally pretty reliable, although the variation on this can be very wide.

Let me get rid of the model here and bring in the stats. Let's talk about that for a moment or two. This thing can be of some considerable length if you think about it somewhere between 40 and 60 feet long. It can carry a payload of 2.5 tons. That really matters because that is a substantial amount of explosive power being carried.

The payload in a missile is a bomb, actually. You either have a nuclear warhead, which is probably unlikely just given the state of the North Korean nuclear program. That would not be very reliable. Or H.E., that stands for high explosive, a high explosive warhead, Jake.

If you have a missile like we just talked here about carrying a high explosive of two tons or something like that, that is an awful lot of wallop being thrown up in the air.

TAPPER: Tom, how far can the missiles go?

FOREMAN: Yes. That is a really great question. It depends on the variety of the missile we're talking about.

I'm going to bring in some stats here on that as well. If you look at a map -- and you can say this is a two-stage missile -- they can be one stage because as I mentioned there are many variations on the Musudan. If it is a two stage and they get both stages to fire they can go up to about 2,500 miles.

What does that show us on the map here? Well, Hawaii, Alaska, California, they're off here. They would not reach it with this. It is called an intermediate missile, but places like Guam would be in the target zone. So would Japan. So would South Korea. And as you mentioned, Jake, there are tens of thousands of U.S. troops and assets in those areas.

TAPPER: Tom Foreman, thank you.

Only a handful of Americans have ever set foot inside North Korea. Former Governor Bill Richardson is one of them. He's actually been there several times and he now joins me.

Governor, thanks for joining us.

As we just mentioned, the North Koreans have moved missile components to their east coast likely for a test launch. That launch could pass over Japan. How are President Obama and the administration trying to cool down this situation right now?

BILL RICHARDSON (D), FORMER NEW MEXICO GOVERNOR: Well, they're doing I believe a good job, first dialing down some of the military maneuvers, the rhetoric in response to the North Korean very angry rhetoric.

But the reality is, Jake, that the North Koreans have really not done anything. They had those missile launches before, the underground tests, but despite the ratcheting up and the threats and the activity, they really haven't done much. If they shoot this missile, this is very serious.

Another sign is the industrial park in Kaesong. I noticed -- this is on the border with South Korea -- that the North Koreans are not letting the 4,000 South Koreans that work there come in, but the 54,000 North Koreans that work there apparently is still going on. They need that for their foreign currency.

So the big problem, though, Jake, is the intentions of Kim Jong-un. I was just there in January with Eric Schmidt of Google. He wouldn't see us. He saw Dennis Rodman instead. So I'm thinking of becoming a basketball player. But the point is that we know very little about this guy. We think somebody in the military, in the party that is not pro-engagement that wants hostile policies to South Korea, to the United States, may be pulling his strings.

TAPPER: In 2010, the North Koreans attacked the South Korean island that killed four South Koreans and in the same year they also attacked the South Korean naval vessel killing 46 South Koreans.

There was no military response by South Korea or by the U.S. Do you think in any way that was a mistake, that that conveyed weakness to the North Koreans? RICHARDSON: Well, Jake, there was some South Korean response at the time. It wasn't as intense as the North Koreans'.

And I remember being there in North Korea right after that happened, and those in my party urged the North Koreans to do it, not to do anything. No, I don't think it was a mistake. I think this is the kind of incident, some kind of naval mishap, altercation on the Yellow Sea that could provoke a trip wire effect that would get South Korea involved intensively with North Korea and then because of our treaty relationship with South Korea, we have to get involved, too.

That's the danger, a miscalculation, a misjudgment caused by all this rhetoric, all this hot air, all of this military activity. So I think the next step has to be, hopefully, there is an endgame here. And that end game is diplomacy and pressure, pressure by the Chinese that have really not leaned on the North Koreas. They have leverage over them, but they haven't done so.

But I think eventually, Jake, the six-party countries, Russia, China, South Korea, Japan, the United States, we have to have some kind of diplomatic effort to gauge where this guy, this new guy in North Korea are going, because you don't want this tinderbox there every day with a new ratcheting, as has been happening.

TAPPER: All right. Governor Bill Richardson, thank you so much. We appreciate your time. We will talk to you again soon.

And a programming note. Wolf Blitzer will have more on the North Korean crisis on "THE SITUATION ROOM" at 5:00 Eastern.

Breaking news in the pop culture lead. It was only yesterday that Roger Ebert announced that he was taking what he called a leave of presence because his cancer had returned. Today, in fact, just a few moments ago, his longtime newspaper, "The Chicago Sun-Times," reported that Roger Ebert has died at the age of 70.

The critic that so many of us joined at the movies over the years was originally diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2002. A year later, Ebert found out he had a tumor in his salivary gland. The Pulitzer Prize winner lost his jaw, and the disease also robbed him of his physical voice, but he continued to review movies on the Web, right up until his last moments.

Roger Ebert was a lovely writer with an almost religious belief in film and a unique ability to turn a phrase. He could be whimsical, he could be angry, but he was always a must-read.

I'm joined now by Tom O'Neil, film critic for And on the phone is David Edelstein, film critic for "New York" magazine.

David, I will start with you. What is the legacy of Roger Ebert?

DAVID EDELSTEIN, "NEW YORK": Well, I think Roger was kind of the mayor of movie criticville, by which I mean we're all such twisted loners, and Roger conceived of himself once he stopped drinking and stopped going to the Playboy Mansion, as a kind of public figure. He really was very close to a politician insofar as he took his public role very seriously. He could -- on his television show, he could command the attention of large numbers of people the way no film critic had ever done before. He had a marvelous gift for speaking in whole paragraphs.

I'm sure you know the difficulty of beginning a paragraph extemporaneously -- and just knowing with his topic sentence what his conclusion would be in a way that not only drew you into what -- to understand what the movie was about, but was able at the same time to communicate his passion.

He was able to make people believe not just in movies, but in the power of criticism to illuminate movies. And he took that into a form, television, in which it had never been successful. And I would argue it has never been done as well as he did it.

TAPPER: And, Tom, same question for you. What is Mr. Ebert's legacy?

TOM O'NEIL, GOLDDERBY.COM: Well, let's also remember that he is the first film critic ever to win the Pulitzer Prize.

And he is, of course, the first film critic with his old cohort Gene Siskel to become a public personality on television, somebody we would recognize. And then along the way in his career, he did little offbeat things that made a huge difference in film history.

For example, when he was at the Cannes Film Festival many years ago, he found this little movie called "Chariots of Fire." He knew it couldn't win the Palme d'Or, but he rallied the critics in the South of France together. He created an award out of nothing and called it the American Critics Award, put that movie on the map. And, of course, it went all the way to win best picture at the Academy Awards.

TAPPER: All right, Tom O'Neil and David Edelstein, thank you so much.

We will miss Roger Ebert.

And we hope to have you guys back on the program some time under happier circumstances.

EDELSTEIN: Thank you very much.

TAPPER: Hillary Clinton says she has not made her mind up about 2016, but that hasn't stopped her friends from jumping on the bandwagon. Is the band getting back together? Our political lead is next.

And our pop lead, I'm no Don Draper, but for a few minutes, I got to pretend I was. Don't worry, just the hardworking ad executive side. My visit to the set of "Mad Men," as well as my interview with the man behind it, that's coming up.


TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: "The Politics Lead": these days, it's almost a pre-req to running for president: you have to write a book first. So, it's no surprise that former senator and former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, is releasing a new one next year, supposedly it's all about foreign policy, her time in Foggy Bottom. And while it does not yet have a title a lot of people think it might as well be called, "hey, I'm running in 2016."

With me to discuss this, senior correspondent for "TIME", Michael Crowley, CNN contributor and Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, and CNN contributor and columnist for "The New York Times", Ross Douthat.

Guys, this thing comes out June, 2014, that's when it is due. So the book tour, July, August, September, right up to the midterms, and then after the midterms, decisions will be made. Coincidence?

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: No. Look, she has really been an incredible public servant, had a front row seat to capture of bin Laden, the Arab Spring. There is no question this is going to be a best seller and, of course, she has time still to plot out a presidential campaign if she chooses to run.

TAPPER: But it's really impeccable timing, is it not?

MICHAEL CROWLEY, TIME MAGAZINE: Well, it is. At the same time, she is going to cash in majorly and she's going to make a fortune on this book. I think she got $8 million on the last one. So, it would also be consistent with someone going to the private sector and maximizing their buying power. But I do think it is also consistent with her keeping her options open. She doesn't mean she has to run, but if she does, it will be very convenient.

I'll tell you, I'll be watching for one thing -- if the book is interesting and candid, we know she is not running.



CROWLEY: And if it's safe and bland, then you know she's in.

TAPPER: Right.

If there's a chapter, Ross, called "what really happened at Benghazi".

ROSS DOUTHAT, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Benghazi, that's what we'll be waiting for.

TAPPER: Right.

DOUTHAT: And looking at the index and so on.

Yes, I mean, I think that it also sort of -- you know, it lays down a marker for, let's say, other Democratic politicians who might be considering a run, basically saying, well, you know, as long as I'm thinking about running you probably want to think about 2020 and 2024.

I mean, I think for Hillary, it's sort of the question of what does American politics look like in 2014, right? I think that the last thing she would want to do is for some reason end up going out a loser. So, if there seems to be any chance of her ending up in a situation like John McCain ended up in 2008 where -- you know, if McCain had been running for president in 2004 he would have won 54 percent of the vote. He was one of the most popular politicians in America. But he was running to extend an unpopular legacy and he lost.

TAPPER: Right.

DOUTHAT: So, if Obama looked really unpopular in 2014, you can imagine Hillary saying, well, I don't want to go down as the woman who lost to Chris Christie by three points.

TAPPER: There is a self-hating moment I'm going to take right now, which is any time we have this conversation, I feel a little guilty because we are fulfilling what everybody hates about the press and pundits. Here we are talking about Hillary Clinton, she hasn't even --

DOUTHAT: It's a slow news week. What are you going to do?

TAPPER: Right. There's nothing going on anywhere else in the world.

But one of the things that is interesting is that we're not making it up. James Carville, it was announced, he's going to help fundraise for the Hillary super PAC. This is a real thing. They are putting everything in motion.

You're active in Democratic circles. You must know a lot of people who are just waiting for the phone call and they got everything plugged in and they're ready to go.

BRAZILE: What do you mean waiting for the phone call? I mean, people are already talking to one another.

James Carville has an incredible following, as you well know. And he put out this statement that if you have a fast car but no fuel, where are you going? So, his job right now is to raise money. Of course, it's 1,313 days away from November 8th, 2016.

DOUTHAT: You just pulled that number out of the air.

BRAZILE: But, clearly, if she decides to run she would be not only the front-runner but she would be the person to beat -- not just among the Democrats who might consider running but also the Republicans.

TAPPER: Obviously, Vice President Biden is watching this very closely. He'll probably run no matter what. Who will be -- will sit by the sidelines if she runs? Who are the ones who are considering running who won't if she runs?

CROWLEY: Well, Biden is the big question, I think. You have Governor O'Malley, is another --

TAPPER: Of Maryland, yes.

CROWLEY: And Andrew Cuomo I think is someone who would very much like to do it, it seems, if she's not in. And I think with these other people in the picture, that goes to the point why we -- why it's important to talk about it at an early stage because one thing that Hillary can do now is start raising a lot of money and demonstrate that she basically has this, you know, these howitzers of money. And if you try to step in, you're going to get blown away.

But she's got to have that show of force early if she wants to keep people out. It frees up donors and it just intimidates other potential rivals. So, you have to start, if you want to do that and I think that is likely to be her game plan if she wants to run -- you've got to start doing that soon.


TAPPER: As for Romney -- yes?

DOUTHAT: And the reason we're talking about it soon is because she is an unusual figure. I mean, I mentioned McCain before, but McCain in 2004 had the problem that a large chunk of the Republican base didn't like him. And so, everyone understood that he would have to get over that hump to win in '08. Whereas Hillary, I mean, what happened to her in the last cycle means that she sort of has a seeming lock on the kind of remaining white, working class part of the Democratic Party and meanwhile, you know, the Clintons and the African-American community have been -- fences have been mended and so on.

So, it's just hard to see how she losses.

BRAZILE: She's also doing well with Latinos as well.


TAPPER: Thank you for indulging my horse race fix. I appreciate it.

Donna, Michael, and Ross, thank you for being here.

Hash# you're it. We want to hear from you. What would you call Hillary Clinton's new book? Hit us up on Twitter @TheLeadCNN, with the #hillarybooktitles.

Normally, a camera in a locker room would result in an arrest or lawsuit but now the NFL is making teams install them so you can watch. What's the catch? Our "Sports Lead" is next.


TAPPER: In "The Sports Lead", the Kevin Ware injury made us all take a hard look at the multi billion dollar NCAA machine and the free labor provided by student athletes.

Today, there are big time allegations against one of the most storied college football programs in the country. A report from former "Sports Illustrated" columnist Selena Roberts quotes former students at Auburn who say under coach Gene Chisick the school paid some players to stay and changed grades for some, leading into the 2011 BCS national championship game. Some of the players that were quoted are now taking to Twitter to say they were misquoted.

This has the potential for all kinds of unfortunate photo bombs. Reports say the NFL will now require teams to install locker room cams to be shown on stadium scoreboards during games next season, in the latest attempt to keep fans in the seat instead of back home on their couches where they can watch several games at once in HD, crack all their fantasy teams and not pay 50 bucks for parking. Let's just hope we don't have any towel malfunctions in front of 85,000 fans.

It's been a long ten months since we last left Don Draper alone or not alone in a smoky bar. In three days, we'll find out what happened. But in only three minutes, you will get your mad men fix. My interview with the creator of the hit AMC series is our "Pop Lead" and that's next.


TAPPER: This is "The Lead" and I'm Jake Tapper.

"The Pop Culture" lead. You don't have to wait until Sunday to return to the offices of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, the creator of "Mad Men", invited us on to the set to preview the hotly anticipated new season.

In other national news, better transparency or just TMI? The USDA wants labels to tell you where your meat was raised and slaughtered, whether you want to know or not. And the buried lead. No human has ever contracted a known case of it until now. A deadly virus overseas and nobody knows how the infection is spreading.