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President Obama's Apology; Federal Judge Rules on Morning After Pill

Aired April 5, 2013 - 16:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Being in love might mean never having to say you're sorry, but apparently being president does not mean that.

I'm Jake Tapper and this is THE LEAD.

The money lead, weak jobs numbers and a budget proposal that includes possible cuts to Social Security, President Obama on defense on the economy.

The national lead, a federal judge rules that girls of every age can get the morning after pill and the only person who will know about it is the cashier at Walgreens.

And the politics lead, if you said it you might find yourself in the human resources complaint department. President Obama now apologizing to this state attorney general. We will tell you why.

We begin today with the money lead, the bell ringing on Wall Street ending the week on a sour note after a dismal jobs report dragged the Dow to a loss. Nearly 500,000 people gave up looking for jobs last month. Their exit from the work force had the deceptive effect of dropping the unemployment rate to 7.6 percent.

The economy only added 88,000 jobs in the month of March, not enough to keep up with population growth.

Our Alison Kosik is standing by at the New York Stock Exchange.

Alison, companies have money. Why are companies not hiring?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know what this is about, Jake? It's about uncertainty of what's coming, what's ahead.

What we saw were companies reining in their hiring plans last month because they're not completely sure how the government spending cuts are going to affect the economy. So this really could be the beginning of a spring slump for the jobs market and maybe the economy as a whole even though it often happens anyway at this time of year when temporary holiday jobs are cleared off the payrolls.

But with jobs missing by a long shot, we certainly saw Wall Street react at least with a knee-jerk reaction. We saw a sell-off happen most of the session with the Dow down 172 points. It had a remarkable recovery, now at the closing bell only closing 41 points lower.

TAPPER: Alison, is there an expectation the weakness in job growth will continue?

KOSIK: That really is at the crux of this. That's the big reason there is worry about this report today because while, yes, we have been expecting a possible slump it's before we're feeling the full impact of the government spending cuts.

You know, everybody is wondering, what's the job report going to look like when the spending cuts are in full swing? So the uncertainty of what will happen, that's keeping companies cautious about more hiring. Also, look what's happening to the labor force. You touched on this in your open. That dip in the unemployment rate, 7.6 percent, it's great for a headline, but it didn't happen for the right reasons. It's because so many people got frustrated, threw up their hands and said I'm not looking for a job anymore.

So that unemployment rate is reflective of a smaller group of people in the mix and the number of people in the labor force, Jake, has shrunk to a level we haven't seen since the late 1970s. So the fewer people who have jobs, the harder it is for the economy to get moving. And that's really what's weighing on everybody's minds -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Thank you, Alison Kosik.

The president is planning to deliver his budget next week. That's about two months late. Some of the numbers have some heads scratching, $1.8 trillion in savings deficit reduction over 10 years, $600 billion in new revenues, which some say is code for higher taxes, $400 million in savings to Medicare, which some would call cuts, and using what's called chained CPI to adjust Social Security benefits.

So what is chained CPI? It's basically changing the way the government accounts for cost of living adjustments to Social Security and other benefits. That means your benefit increase could be smaller, saving the government money. But, of course, some supporters of the president's say that this is outrageous. They say it takes money away from the people who need it most.

We asked the White House to answer some of our questions about this proposed budget.

And we're joined now by Gene Sperling. He's director of the National Economic Council and assistant to the president for economic policy.

Gene, thanks for being here.


TAPPER: I want to get to the budget in a second, but first let's start with these anemic job numbers. President Obama was fund-raising in California, where the unemployment rate is tied for the highest in the country, 9.6 percent.

I know he was fund-raising there. Can you tell us some of the things President Obama has been doing this week to help create jobs in this country? SPERLING: Well, sure.

I mean, what we're doing right now is continuing to try to fight for a sensible economic strategy that fundamentally aims to strengthen jobs and strengthen the middle class and have a stronger recovery, so that we got more people back to work and more people getting higher wages. And I think that our economic strategy right now is doing a few things.

One, it aims to invest in the American people in training and skills. Secondly, it aims to take away some of the self-inflicted wounds that we're seen happening I think because of lack of willing to compromise by some of our Republican colleagues, first, by continuing to allow the sequester to stay in place that most economists think will cost up to 600,000, 700,000 jobs this year at a time when we should be trying to get this recovery gaining momentum, and then also just the uncertainty, the sense of manufactured crisis, of unavoidable -- or, excuse me, unnecessary conflict.

And so what you see the president doing today is making clear once again that he is willing to compromise on behalf of the American people, that he is willing to have an economic strategy that does invest in people and jobs, that asks the most well-off and the most well-connected to do a little -- with a little less in terms of tax loopholes and tax expenditures, and to take on entitlement reform, but in a way that strengthens those core programs like Medicare.

TAPPER: Let's talk about that. MoveOn, the progressive group, put out a statement calling these proposed cuts to Social Security unconscionable.

Quote: "Millions of MoveOn members did not work night and day to put President Obama into office so that he could propose policies that would hurt some of our most vulnerable people."

We're talking about for the average 65-year-old, it's about $650 less a year in Social Security benefits by the time they're 75; $650 can be a lot of money. What is President Obama's response to this?

SPERLING: Well, let me make a few points.

Number one, the president is trying to move our country forward in the midst of significant conflict that is hurting jobs, hurting children with these sequester cuts, and part -- and the fact is that...


TAPPER: No, Gene, but I'm talking about the Social Security cuts.

SPERLING: No, I know. I'm getting to that, though.

But if you ask what we need to do to break the gridlock, one of the things that Speaker Boehner and Leader McConnell have said were necessary to break the gridlock they have asked for is this change in CPI. And the president has been willing to agree to that as part of an overall agreement that would do things like protect Medicaid, that would protect the core benefit of Medicare.

Yes, it does involve some compromise, but it's part of a broader plan that would be very good for our jobs, for our country, for low-income Americans because of the choices this president makes. And then, finally, the president has been very clear the whole time that if we're going to make this correction to the CPI, even though it might involve being more technically accurate, we understand that it is -- that it has to be applied everywhere.

It's not targeted at Social Security. It applies to all programs. It's applies to how we index our tax revenues. And he has said it has to have protections in for older Social Security recipients, for those who are most vulnerable. So, yes, there is some tough compromise we have to make, but the president is standing by the values in his budget, which are jobs, middle class, and initiative after initiative protecting those people who are working hard to get up into the middle class.

TAPPER: All right, Gene Sperling, that's all the time we have. Thank you so much.

SPERLING: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: It is not every day the president of the United States apologizes, but that is exactly what President Obama just did. What is he sorry for? Our political lead is next.


TAPPER: The politics lead.

It's the kind of thing your drunk uncle might say at a wedding. But was it really sexist? We're talking about President Obama's uncomfortable compliment perhaps to California's attorney general, Kamala Harris. Here is the quote from last night's fund-raiser -- quote -- "You have to be careful to, first of all, say she is brilliant and she is dedicated and she is tough and she is exactly what you would want in anybody who is administering the law and making sure that everybody is getting a fair shake. She also happens to be by far the best-looking attorney general in the country."

Hmm. President Obama later called Harris to apologize, according to White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, who was pushed on the issue by our own Brianna Keilar, who joins us now live from the White House.

Brianna, presidents don't apologize every day. This one, I know, doesn't apologize very often. What happened?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: No, but it seems they do apologize when something they say creates quite an uproar, Jake.

And certainly this is something that created a huge conversation. Some people wondered if he was just paying Harris a compliment, but some others sort of piping up and saying perhaps this is sexist. They say it's troubling that there may be a pattern that a woman's appearance is linked to her success professionally and that it was unseemly that President Obama may say that.

I asked Jay Carney about it. Here is how he responded.


JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He believes and fully recognizes that the challenges women -- or he fully recognizes the challenge women continue to face in the workplace and that they should not be judged based on appearance.

KEILAR: He felt like he messed up?

CARNEY: Look, I think I made clear he apologized for creating this distraction and believes very strongly that Attorney General Harris is an excellent attorney general and that she's done great work and she is dedicated and tough and brilliant.


KEILAR: Now, President Obama apologized to Harris, Jake, last night after he returned to the White House because the comments that he made were said at a Bay Area fund-raiser. He made the comments after returning to the White House from his trip.

And I will tell you the president frequently does comment on people being good-looking, but if you go back and look at his comments, it is normally men that he says that to. He's kind of saying it in jest. This isn't something that we think that he said before to a woman and it created a whole lot of attention and a lot of discussion.

TAPPER: All right, Brianna Keilar, thank you so much.

Here to talk about this all, our roundtable, CNN political contributor and Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen, Republican strategist and the vice president of the Winston Group, Kristen Soltis Anderson, and Ron Fournier from "The National Journal," who is a genius and also happens to be the sexiest man alive.


RON FOURNIER, "THE NATIONAL JOURNAL": You're going to have to apologize for that. Not only is that sexist, but it's wrong.



TAPPER: So, Hilary, if I were to say that about you, you're brilliant, you're tough, you're smart, you're also the best-looking, let me say, Democratic panelist we have ever had on this panel...

HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Since nobody has ever said that before, it would actually maybe be a good thing.

TAPPER: But, I mean, tell me why it's sexist.

ROSEN: So, here's the thing.

Kamala Harris is out there with her peeps in the audience, her California constituents. The president is giving her a compliment. He's stretching a little and keep going and she probably would have rather had him say and, you know, she fought for you against the big banks when they were trying to take advantage of consumers and the like.

And it's not a huge deal because they're friends, and I'm sure the president meant it kind of caj, but that's not the kind of thing you want to be known for when you're in a position like the attorney general. It's just -- you want to move past that at some point.

TAPPER: I want to hear what you think.

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: So, you know, I don't give him too much grief for it.

It was a slip. I mean, he had a similar slip I think in 2008, he called a female reporter "sweetie" on the campaign trail.

The reason why this matters is that, you know, scientific studies have shown that when women are running for office, their attractiveness matters subconsciously.

TAPPER: More than a man's attractiveness?

ANDERSON: More than a man's attractiveness.

And it's sort of this unfortunate reality ever since our campaigns have been on television that it's a visual medium. We don't like the idea that our elections are beauty pageants.

And so, when you hear a comment like this, it sort of reminds us of this unseemly thing in our culture that I wish we could change.

RON FOURNIER, EDITORIAL DIRECTOR, NATIONAL JOURNAL: I think there's something else going on too. These things, all these B.S., only really take hold when there is some kind of context before hand. In this case as you know Barack Obama has been accused of not having enough women in his inner circle and running a White House is kind of high testosterone.

When those things are the pretext, something like this has a little bit more (INAUDIBLE) --

ROSEN: I don't think that has much to do with it, though. They've added a lot of women.

FOURNIER: Would you say they've added (ph) women?

ROSEN: Yes, absolutely.

TAPPER: But here's the thing. Some of us know President Obama a little bit. He is a little -- I don't want to say fratty like President Bush was, but he's jockey. ROSEN: Locker roomy.

TAPPER: Locker roomy.

ROSEN: He's a guy's guy.

TAPPER: He is. He really is.

And that's why in 2009, you know, the complaints about there weren't women in the inner circle and there were legitimately women staffers at the White House who didn't like the fact that he played ball with the male staffers and he went golfing with the male staffers, but they were shut out of that. That's what it feeds into as Ron says. Is that --

ROSEN: You know, I think he is a little locker roomy and I think that is kind of a natural tendency. The fact that he is younger, I think he gets away with some of that a little more.

But here's the thing. This is a guy who actually when it was mentioned to him that this actually has caused a little bit of a stir, he was kind of horrified. And the first thing he did was pick up the phone and call her and say, well, I'm sorry.

You know, that's not something that most guys would do. So, you know, I give the props to the president here.

TAPPER: And what do you think about -- I mean, obviously, there is a whole legislative idea, a legislative angle in terms of what the president has done for women. And we're going to be talking about that right now. But that is part of the context.


TAPPER: Would a Republican president get more heat for this do you think?

ANDERSON: Potentially, I think so. I mean, I do think that in this case because there's this idea that, well, Republicans I think have to be much more careful treading around these issues because of the last election. I think it's important. I think Republicans are held to a different standard.


FOURNIER: Yes, I think so. Again, that's partly because of the context. Republicans don't have the kind of record the Democrats do on women's rights, so they are held to a different standard.

TAPPER: And I would be remiss if I didn't say this is your 27th wedding anniversary.

FOURNIER: You got that. Thank you.

TAPPER: So congratulations to you.

FOURNIER: Thank you.

TAPPER: Thank you for being here on that incredibly important day. Appreciate it.

I appreciate all of you being here. Thanks so much.

ROSEN: Thanks.

TAPPER: Coming up in our "National Lead" should an underage girl have access to the morning after pill without her doctor or her parents knowing? A judge has now made the call for you. That's next.


TAPPER: A few moments for the "Sports Lead".

For months, he sat on footage of Rutgers head coach Mike Rice acting like a bigoted lunatic. Now, athletic director Tim Pernetti has joined Rice in the ranks of the unemployed. Pernetti resigned this afternoon, a couple days after ESPN first aired the video of now ex- coach Mike Rice berating and abusing players and using homophobic slurs. Rutgers officials originally saw the video back in late November but they only suspended rice for three games and fined him $50,000.

I'll trade you a 1980 Topps Greg Gross for it with that delicious stick of gum of course for the holy grail of baseball cards. A 1909 T206 Honus Wagner, it's up for auction again and with a few hours left bidding has reached close to $1.8 million. There are only about 50 of them known to be in existence. Wayne Gretzky used to own one. The cards back then came in cigarette packs.

This one so rare because Wagner, a Hall of Famer, was ahead of his time in thinking tobacco was bad for kids and he had the card pulled.

#tag you're it. What baseball card or sports card would you pay millions for? Me? I'd give a million bucks for the entire collection of the 1980 Philadelphia Phillies. Rose, Bowa, Schmidt. Autographed of course. And with the million dollars get to relive the entire season as a wide-eyed 11-year-old.

Tweet your answers. What would you want and why would you want it, to @TheLeadCNN. Use the #buymeabaseballcard.

It's been 20 years since "Jurassic Park" made movie goers scream and scientists roll their eyes. We'll take a look at the dino-mite fun facts we've learned since then when the film makes its 3D comeback.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

"The National Lead": If you have a daughter, regardless of her age, she'll now be able to get the morning-after pill without you or family doctor ever finding out about it. Is that OK? "The World Lead": This isn't "Call of Duty". It's a real life, in- your-face reminder the fight is still fierce in Afghanistan as a CNN crew gets caught in a shootout.

And "The Pop Culture Lead", the science of "Jurassic Park", if there were ever a movie that need a 3D re-release, this is it. But this may be the closest we get to bringing dinosaurs back to life. It turns out we've learned a lot more in the 20 years since this film first hit the theaters.


TAPPER: Our "National Lead", for some, it's about time. For others, it's an outrage. A federal judge in New York has ruled that every woman and girl regardless of her age should have access to the morning-after pill. That's without a prescription, and in the case of minors, without the consent of a parent.

Erin McPike is here with more.

Erin, this flies in the face of the Obama administration's stance on emergency contraception. Do you think this is the last word or will this fight continue?

ERIN MCPIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It probably will continue. White House spokesman Jay Carney said today that the president still stands by age limits, even though the judge today said this order rather is arbitrary and unreasonable. So, the Justice Department said today it is looking into its options and likely will appeal this very quickly.


AD NARRATOR: Plan B is emergency contraception that helps prevent pregnancy after birth control failure or unprotected sex.

MCPIKE (voice-over): The drug called Plan B doesn't terminate pregnancy like RU486, commonly called the abortion pill. Instead, it's meant to prevent pregnancy by using a higher dosage of birth control taken within three days of unprotected sex.

And yet the emotional debate over access to the morning-after pill or Plan B stretches back almost a decade when the Bush administration refused to allow women of any age to obtain it over the counter.

But in 2006, Bush's FDA eventually ordered Plan B to be made readily available to women 18 years and older. Shortly after Obama took office, it was lowered to 17 and older.

But that wasn't enough for the Center for Reproductive Rights, a group that has argued for years that the drug should be widely available to all women. So they pursued the case further. And the FDA agreed.

In December, 2011, Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said in a statement that Plan B is safe and effective and should be approved for nonprescription use for all females of child bearing potential. On the very same day, in an unprecedented move, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius overruled her, keeping the age limit at 17.

And heading into campaign season, President Obama agreed.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The reason Kathleen made this decision was she could not be confident that a 10-year-old or 11-year-old going to a drug store should be able, alongside bubble gum or batteries, be able to buy a medication that potentially if not used properly could end up having an adverse effect.

MCPIKE: Now, 16 months later, federal district court Judge Edward Korman called Sebelius' decision politically motivated. He ordered the FDA to remove the age limits to make the drug available to all Americans in the next 30 days.


MCPIKE: And now, Jake, I would just point out that this is really not a partisan political battle right now. I reached out to Republicans on the Hill and some conservative groups today and they don't appear to be saying much of anything because they support the president on this one.

TAPPER: All right. Erin McPike, thank you so much.