Return to Transcripts main page


Gun Control Compromise; Interview With Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey; Anthony Weiner for Mayor?; Rand Paul Reaches Out to Black Community; Obama's Budget Wish List; CNN's "Parts Unknown" Begins Sunday; Where Have You Gone, Jackie Robinson?

Aired April 10, 2013 - 16:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: A bipartisan deal on Capitol Hill? You heard me right. Do not adjust your sets.

I'm Jake Tapper and this is THE LEAD.

The national lead, one Democrat, one Republican coming together on a deal to expand background checks. Senator Pat Toomey, Republican from Pennsylvania, is already drawing fire from his allies in the gun rights movement. And he will join us in just moments.

The world league. Are you under the impression that no matter how crazy North Korea proves to be, the U.S. will be able to handle the problem no problem? Think again. We will take you inside a Pentagon war game that has some disturbing lessons about a war with Kim Jong-un.

And the political lead. After nearly two years of silence, Anthony Weiner is back. The former congressman is taking a shot at redemption and wife by his side weighing the possibility of a mayoral run. Are voters willing to be as forgiving about his sexting scandal?

We begin with the money lead, the closing bell on Wall Street where they will be talking about this day for a long time to come or at least until the next time the Dow and the S&P 500 both shatter records all at once.

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

Alison, what pushed stocks so high today?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know what this seems to be about, Jake?

It really seems to be about sheer momentum, much of it being driven by the Fed, the Federal Reserve pumping billions of dollars into the economy. The Fed is buying billions of dollars in treasuries and mortgage-backed securities every month. That's driving down interest rates and moving any investors who would otherwise invest in bonds, moving them over to stocks. They are buying into stocks.

And, you know, and then you see the Dow of course rocketing to their highest levels ever. It's really surprising, actually, even to some of the more pessimistic traders and analysts here on Wall Street. They didn't expect it to happen this quickly. They were predicting levels like this to come maybe during the summertime.

TAPPER: Alison, when we talk about this we're not adjusting for inflation. Right? If you adjust for inflation, there have been higher Dows.

KOSIK: Good point, very good point, because in real terms we aren't at records. The records we're talking about are actually in what's known as nominal terms, which means the prices, they don't take into account the impact of inflation which has gone up more than 10 percent over the past five years.

If you factor that in, the Dow is actually below it's all-time inflation-adjusted high. Still, you know what? This is quite the confidence builder to see these big numbers on the screen. It could give confidence to your average consumer.

TAPPER: All right, Alison, thank you.

Now to our national lead.

Weeks ago, virtually no one in Washington thought it would happen, but it now seems now possible Congress could enact new regulations on guns, even against the wishes of gun groups.

Joining us is Republican Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania. We had hoped to have West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin join us, but he's right now meeting with the families of the Newtown victims. He's been understandably delayed.

Both senators are strong supporters of gun rights. They have struck a bargain to expand background checks to firearms bought at gun shows and online.


SEN. PAT TOOMEY (R), PENNSYLVANIA: The common ground rests on a simple proposition, and that is that criminals and the dangerously mentally ill shouldn't have guns.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: This is common sense. This is gun sense.


TAPPER: Senator Toomey joins me now for the first interview after this announcement.

Senator Toomey, thank you so much.

TOOMEY: Thanks for having me, Jake.

TAPPER: Here's the NRA response to your plan -- quote -- "The sad truth is that no background check would have prevented the tragedies in Newtown, Aurora or Tucson."

They are right, aren't they? This bill would not have prevented those tragedies.

TOOMEY: Jake, I have never heard of any proposal that's a complete and perfect solution to the tragedies we have when as in these cases deeply disturbed and dangerous mentally ill people, you know, go on a rampage.

There's no perfect solution to that. If there were, we probably would have adopted it. What this legislation does, what Senator Manchin and I tried to do is find some common ground, find a way to expand background checks. And I think it's indisputable that if our legislation is successful, it would make it more difficult for the dangerously mentally ill and for serious criminals to obtain these weapons.

It wouldn't make it impossible. It's not a cure-all, but I think it would be some progress.

TAPPER: So, one of the things your bill does, as we explained, is it would expand background checks requiring them at gun shows and for Internet sales.

There's a mental health component that's drawing fire. I want to read you this. The group Gun Owners of America is calling your legislation the see a shrink, lose your guns bill.

Can you explain exactly what it is that they are upset about and how precisely your legislation would keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill?

TOOMEY: Well, I don't know what the basis for them saying what they have said.

What I know is that under current law, states are able to provide information that they have, the various states have about criminal records and about people who are determined to be mentally dangerous, unstable. And they don't always provide that information to our background check system.

And we know that there are states that provide very little and there are some states that provide a great deal of this information. What this legislation does is it creates greater incentives for states to come up with a plan and to fulfill that plan to provide that information so that when a background check is run, it's more likely to capture the information that -- if a person shouldn't be allowed to purchase a gun.

TAPPER: And who determines whether or not a person is mentally unfit to have a gun? Is that a psychiatrist, a psychologist, or is it a judge?

TOOMEY: Well, that's done at the state level.

And one of the criticisms of current policy which we try to address in this bill is that it's very difficult for a person to adjudicate that, to challenge that designation. I will tell you there's a category as well which is important to me. Our veterans are subject to this designation for reasons that I don't think are always valid, including the inability to manage their personal financial matters.

It doesn't strike me as a given that just because a person who may have suffered an injury is not able to manage their personal financial matters that they automatically ought to be disqualified from owning a firearm, and yet that's the current policy. We would create a system that would allow veterans to challenge that designation.

And that doesn't exist today. So, in fact, I would argue that our proposed legislation would give people the opportunity to challenge unfair designations, should they occur.

TAPPER: And let's talk about the politics of this. How many Republicans in the Senate do you think will vote for this and can it get through the Republican-controlled House?

TOOMEY: I don't know, Jake.

I have spoken with a number of my colleagues. There are a number of my Republican colleagues who have expressed some interest. Many of them are looking carefully at the legislation. But I don't know in the end how many will support.

I should point out that Mark Kirk, the Republican senator from Illinois, has been a great leader on this issue. He's also a Second Amendment supporter and one who believes that expanding background checks is not gun control. It's just common sense to try to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and dangerously ill people. And, by the way, there's nothing in any of my proposal that would in any way infringe the rights of law-abiding gun owners, law-abiding citizens.

TAPPER: While you and I have been talking, President Obama released a statement applauding you and applauding your Democratic colleague Senator Manchin.

Is that problematic for you, for a conservative Republican to be applauded by somebody like President Obama when it comes to a gun issue?

TOOMEY: You know, I don't think it should be.

I think what we ought to be trying do is find where there's common ground. I got to tell you, there's lots of areas where President Obama and I have very strong disagreements, including in this area of gun control.

The president is an advocate for all kind of bans and restrictions that I'm strongly opposed to. But on this idea of trying to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and dangerously mentally ill people, I'm glad that we have that common ground.

TAPPER: All right, Senator Pat Toomey from the great state of Pennsylvania, thank you so much for your time.

TOOMEY: Thanks for having me, Jake.

TAPPER: Chicago gets a visitor from the White House to talk gun violence, but I'm not talking about the president. I'm talking about first lady Michelle Obama, who took a rare step into the gun debate today.

All first ladies have their causes. But this is different. This is a first lady taking up a major a plank in her husband's platform, a controversial plank, in a way that few of her predecessors ever tried.

THE LEAD's Erin McPike is here with more.

Erin, the first lady went home to Chicago for this, a city plagued by gun violence. We're used to her talking about not putting fried cheese in your mouth, but -- not yours specifically, but one's mouth -- and I'm wondering if this is a risk for her.

ERIN MCPIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, it's very personal to her because, of course, Chicago is her hometown, and, as you may remember, Hadiya Pendleton, this 15-year-old girl who performed at the inauguration was then shot and killed just a few blocks away from the Obamas' home in Chicago just a week after that.

She got very emotional talking about that today and that's why she took the very rare step of urging Congress to act.


MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: Thank you so much.

MCPIKE (voice-over): First lady Michelle Obama is breaking new ground today with an emotional speech condemning the gun violence that's wounded her hometown of Chicago.

M. OBAMA: And let me tell you, it is hard to know what to say to a room full of teenagers who are about to bury their best friend.

MCPIKE: It's a different side of the first lady than we have seen. She's tackled uncontroversial issues like healthy eating all while staying away from the gory political fights between the White House and Capitol Hill. But just as the gun debate is reaching it's most critical moment, here she is.

M. OBAMA: And these reforms deserve a vote in Congress.

MCPIKE: For the first time weighing in on a major policy issue that could define her husband's legacy.

ANITA DUNN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: What the first lady is doing today is speaking to an issue that affects families across the United States in her own way.

MCPIKE: Anita Dunn have known Mr. and Mrs. Obama for almost a decade.

DUNN: It's interesting they complement each other so well, because he's obviously in charge of looking for governmental solutions or where the government plays a role, and then she kind of picks up what I call the civil society, everything else.

MCPIKE: The White House is intensely protective of the first lady's image. It doesn't want to be seen as using her to push a political agenda, but they know her popularity is a powerful tool.

JODI KANTOR, AUTHOR, "THE OBAMAS": People close to her say that she doesn't want to be popular for the sake of being popular. She wants to use her popularity to move issues forward.

MCPIKE: Jodi Kantor has written extensively about Mrs. Obama.

KANTOR: This is a dramatic test case because as we have seen in the last couple of days, the gun legislation on the Hill is sort of right on the border. The outcome is uncertain. And so part of the test here is whether she can use her popularity and personal appeal to help ease the legislation into a more favorable position.


MCPIKE: Now, that's to be determined, of course, Jake, but the latest polling that we have on this from CNN is from December and her approval ratings are sky-high at 73 percent.

TAPPER: Interesting. Thank you so much, Erin McPike.

Rand Paul heads to historically Black Howard University to remind students that Republicans have -- quote -- "always been the party of civil rights." Do you think the audience agreed? I was there. I will let you know what students thought.

And if there is a part of you that ever wondered what does fried chicken tastes like in Libya, well, wonder no more. Anthony Bourdain is here to tell us how Uncle Kentocky (ph)'s chicken stacks up to the colonel's original recipe.


TAPPER: The politics lead, until today, the world had not heard a peep from the once-loquacious Anthony Weiner in quite some time, specifically not since his June 2011 press conference, in which the then married -- I mean, the married then-congressman owned up to a number of inappropriate e-mail relationships he had had and the tangled web of lies he had spun to conceal them.

You may recall it all began with Weiner doing something he would surely give a finger to be able to erase from history, perhaps even the very same finger he used to hit send on his smartphone sending a TwitPic of shall we say his own personal tribute to the Washington monument to his tens of thousands of Twitter followers, instead of to one college woman in Seattle.

Now, Weiner claimed his computer had been hacked, but soon enough, it was revealed that the married congressman had racy Internet interchanges about a half dozen of women. It stunned the world and more importantly his wife, Huma, a top aide to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. He resigned and seemed to have all but disappeared from public life until today.

In an interview published this morning where Weiner says he's exploring a return to public life, that he might be even ready to take a run at the mayor seat in New York. Huma also makes clear in the story she is committed to her husband and her family. They have a baby boy now. And she seems to be on board.

Jonathan Van Meter interviewed Congressman Weiner for "The New York Times Magazine". He joins us live now from New York.

Jonathan, why? Why did he do this interview now?

JONATHAN VAN METER, CONTRIBUTING WRITER, THE NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE: Well, I think it's all about exploring as you said whether he wants to get back into public life. My sense is that he was -- the person I experienced was deeply ambivalent and very unsure about whether he actually wants to run for office again. And I think talking for hours and hours to somebody like me was one way of finding out how the answers felt to these very strange questions that one has to ask and I also think that he wanted to see what the reaction is to this big piece that's now, you know, about to be published and I think that's what he's going to be basing the decision to run on.

TAPPER: In other words, he's watching you and me right now. He's deciding whether or not he should run based on how snarky and obnoxious my interview with you is.

VAN METER: Well, you know, I have to tell you. I was -- the most surprising thing about interviewing him was that of all the difficult and sort of embarrassing questions that I had to ask, the easiest ones would seem to be, you know, do you want to run for office, do you want to run for mayor, how will you decide whether you're going to run for office and those were the ones that were the most difficult for him to answer, where the pauses were uncomfortably long.

So I really -- he's like the very essence to me of ambivalence about whether he wants to get back into politics or not. So I think, you know, I think he's trying to figure it out.

TAPPER: At one point in the interview he says something really interesting. He says, quote, "I want to ask people to give me a second chance. I do want to have that conversation with people whom I let down and with people who put their faith in me and who wanted to support to me. I think to some degree I do want to say to them give me another chance.

How much of this is about -- and it's difficult to judge this, I guess, for somebody who is a public servant, a politician. But how much of this is about politics and how much of this is about redemption?

VAN METER: You know, it's a very good question. I think that a big part of him wants to kind of cleanse himself of this scandal in more ways than one. Politically speaking, you know, some people think he may very well be running for mayor, a race he probably can't win, to do that very thing, to cleanse himself of this scandal, to be able to move on, to run for another office and be able to say we've discussed this and we moved on.

But on the other hand, you know, personally, it's hard for me to imagine that he wants this to be the last part, the last note of his public life. So, you know, I think it's clearly part of what's happening here.

Redemption is definitely part of the formula for what's happening.

TAPPER: All right. Jonathan Van Meter with an excellent story in "The New York Time Magazine" out online today and will be in the magazine on Sunday -- thank you so much.

VAN METER: Thank you.

TAPPER: The Republican Party lost 93 percent of the black vote in the last presidential election. Now, if Senator Rand Paul wants to be president in 2016, he's probably going to have to do better than that.

Today, the senator from Kentucky gave what he calls an outreach speech at the historically black Howard University in Washington. He thinks Republicans have not done enough to let the black community know that Republicans are on their side.

I went to Howard University today to find out what the students thought of his selling points.


TAPPER (voice-over): Senator Rand Paul came to Howard University with an olive branch.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: A Republican came to Howard, but he came in peace.

TAPPER: And a message from the Republican Party.

PAUL: Republicans are often miscast as uncaring. I hope that some of you will be open to the Republican message that favors choice in education, a less aggressive foreign policy, more compassion.

TAPPER: Howard University is only blocks away from Capitol Hill, but Paul today was the first Republican elected official to speak at the historically black university in decades. He drew applause for his positions against mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders and against going to war.

But it was a tough crowd. In addition to the racist newsletters that used to go out under the name of his father, former presidential candidate Ron Paul, Senator Paul got into hot water in 2010 for comments he made about the Civil Rights Act in an interview with "The Louisville Courier Journal".

PAUL: I think it's a bad business decision to ever exclude anybody from your restaurant. But at the same time, I do believe in private ownership.

TAPPER: That came up today.

PAUL: I never questioned the Civil Rights Act and never come out in opposition to Civil Rights Act, nor I have ever introduced anything to alter the Civil Right Acts. So, your characterization is incorrect.

TAPPER: At times, things just got awkward.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was like repeating stuff we already knew about the history and everything.

PAUL: If I would have said, who do you think the founders of the NAACP are, do you think they were Republicans or Democrats? Would everybody in here know they were all Republicans?


PAUL: All right. You know more than I know.

TAPPER (on camera): Do you think Rand Paul won anybody in the room over?

JULIAN LEWIS, SENIOR, HOWARD UNIVERSITY: Yes. I think Rand Paul won everyone in the room over when he made the announcement that he was going to come to speak Howard University students.

TAPPER (voice-over): That's Julian Lewis, a former intern in the Obama White House. Before anybody at the Republican National Committee minority outreach division unfurls that mission accomplished banner however, listen to what else Lewis had to say, specifically about Republican efforts to require picture IDs for voters which civil rights groups say discriminates against minorities.

LEWIS: And I think that the right, it's something that you should not continue to lie about if you don't support it for certain people because my ancestors fought and died for that right.

TAPPER: The students we spoke to today appreciated Paul's efforts to make the sale, but they weren't buying.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When he was asked a question he didn't answer directly. It was nice to hear but it was just rhetoric.

MICHAEL CRUZ, SENIOR, HOWARD UNIVERSITY: He wants the government to leave everyone alone. And I think in a lot of ways, black voters don't identify with that.


TAPPER: We did reach out to Senator Paul's office to see if he would speak with us after the speech. But his aides say they would not be able to fit it into his schedule.

We now interrupt you for this important safety announcement. There's something more dangerous than that idiot on his cell phone driving in front of you and no law can prevent it from happening. I'll explain it in our "Buried Lead" and that's next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: The "Buried Lead", that's a story we think is not getting enough play elsewhere. And today, for us, it's the bird flu outbreak which claimed two more lives in China, bringing the death toll to nine. That's according to Chinese state media. But the World Health Organization says there are still no signs that the virus can spread between people.

Health experts are not sure about the source of the infection but one Chinese colonel has his theories. The air force officer accused the U.S. government of creating the new strain as part of a biological warfare attack. The U.S. State Department wasted no time dismissing that claim.

There is a dangerous habit many of us have while driving, one that lawmakers could not possibly ban because it's got nothing to do with gadgets or music or cell phones. It has to do with our minds. Researchers say day dreaming is even worse than texting when you're behind the wheel. A study released about the Erie Insurance Group claims day dreaming is to blame for more than half of all fatal accident. So, stop fantasizing about telling off your boss and keep your eyes on the road.

Let's check in on our political panel in the green room, where I'm sure they are busy poring over the president's budget plan, all 2,460 pages of it. Jim, Jessica --


TAPPER: I don't see any budget there.

YELLIN: It's all online.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have it memorized.

TAPPER: You're going to be talking about the budget. Oh, it's on our BlackBerry.


TAPPER: All right. That's a big heavy thing you guys got out there in your budget. I appreciate it. That's our "Politics Lead" when we come back.


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

The World Lead. North Korea collapses. The country is in chaos, and American forces drop the ball on locking down the regime's nuclear stockpile. Good thing. It was only a game.

The Sports Lead: a new movie about Jackie Robinson's life is opening on Friday. He cleared the way for African-Americans to play Major League Baseball, but these days fewer and fewer actually want to. How Major League Baseball is trying to change that.

The Pop Culture lead. He's been to places you only heard about and eaten things you would never dream of. Chef Anthony Bourdain joins us to talk about what's next on his plate: his new show on CNN.

The World Lead: it could be bombs away any minute now in North Korea with the latest intel indicating multiple missile launches may be planned. Defense secretary Chuck Hagel said today Kim Jong-un is coming close to a very dangerous line.


CHUCK HAGEL, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: Our country is fully prepared to deal with any contingency, any action that North Korea may take or any provocation that they may instigate. And we have contingencies prepared to do that.


TAPPER: Prepared for any contingency? Really? That's not exactly what the military found during a recent war game exercise.


TAPPER: Imagine this. The North Korean regime is toppled. Either because the U.S. or South Korea take it out or because of a coup. And the U.S. now has to surge troops to secure the country's nuclear stockpiles to make sure they don't fall into the wrong hands. It's a frightening scenario played out recently at the U.S. Army War College, one that did not end all that well.

The military set the scene for their war game in the fictitious land of North Brownland, essentially an alias for North Korea.

PAUL MCCLEARY, DEFENSE NEWS: It was a family regime, had nuclear weapons, lost control of nuclear weapons. The population was considered to be essentially brainwashed.

TAPPER: Paul McCleary, a writer for Defense News, was present as the military officials debated the plans. U.S. troops, he says, had immediate problems surging into the North Korea-like country. B-22 Ospreys zoomed U.S. soldiers deep beyond the border, but with reinforcements so far behind, they are quickly surrounded by the enemy and need to be pulled out.

American troops eventually make it over the border, but with nuclear sites located in populated areas, their mission grows more difficult. U.S. forces make humanitarian aid drops to draw people out of the cities.

MCCLEARY: They made the game as difficult as possible to really test their capabilities. They have not spent a lot of time or money modernizing their nuclear and chemical troops. So that's a big concern.

It takes the U.S. a staggering 56 days and a huge force of 90,000 troops to secure the country's nuclear weapons. Seen by many as way too long and way too many troops.

BRUCE BENNETT, SENIOR DEFENSE ANALYST, RAND CORPORATION: We're not very well prepared to deal with a collapsed North Korea.

TAPPER: North Korea expert Bruce Bennett says his numbers for containing the regime's nuclear arsenal run much higher. 200,000 troops. That's larger than the forces in Iraq and Afghanistan at its peak.

BENNETT: We would have to send perhaps a third of our army to South Korea in order to deal with the weapons of mass destruction.

TAPPER: It's thought that North Korea has 100 sites linked to their nuclear and missile program, but with a black tarp shrouding intelligence on the locations, U.S. troops would likely have to fight their way through the country to find and secure them.

BENNETT: North Korea has about 1.2 million people in the military. That's a very large military for us to deal with. But they also have according to the South Korean defense ministry about 200,000 special forces. And those special forces would be prepared to fight you like Taliban or the Iraqi insurgents.


TAPPER: The Army today was quick to remind CNN that the fictional North Brownland in the war game may not expressly be North Korea per se but any one of any 28 countries that have weapons of mass destruction capabilities.

General Walter "Skip" Sharp was commander of U.S. forces in Korea until 2011. Thank you for being here, General.


TAPPER: So you just received a briefing at the Pentagon. In terms of the war game that we just saw, it took a long time for U.S. troops to secure the various weapons of mass destruction that the North Koreans are thought to have: nuclear, chemical, biological. Why? Why did it take so long?

SHARP: We obviously know of some sites, some of the bigger sites we're able to see from imagery. We suspect where there's other sites. But we also clearly believe that with the great underground facilities that they have in North Korea there are many, many other sites of weapons of mass destruction. And when you look for, you know, six to 12 rounds of nuclear capability that could be hidden anywhere in that country, it's going to be very difficult. TAPPER: How different is this from what we thought we knew about, for instance, Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program that turned out not to be correct? How do we know this information is right?

SHARP: In this case, the leader, Kim Jong-il and now Kim Jong-un, have said they are developing this nuclear capability and have this nuclear capability.

TAPPER: And intelligence has picked up evidence that -

SHARP: We've seen the nuclear tests, and we believe that they have been at least partially successful in the nuclear test.

And I mean, this is not new. They have been trying to develop this nuclear capability for many, many years. So, the idea is, and what we have planned for and exercised is you form a task force that has the experts out of the United States and Republic of Korea to go in and do site surveys when you forcefully get into North Korea to the known sites. You very quickly look at the documents. You try to determine where are there some others. You do interviews, and you try to very quickly secure the sites, exploit them, and then move to other sites that hopefully some of the intelligence has been able to garner, either through the documents or talking to people that you think there could be actual nuclear weapons.

TAPPER: The amazing thing is from this war game just from my own reporting, there's so much we do not know about what's going on in North Korea.

So you met with officials at the Pentagon. You obviously as former commander in the region know a lot about this. They are concerned at the Pentagon and the national security apparatus. They think this is different from previous episodes with North Korea. How it is different?

SHARP: In the past, especially before 2010, these provocations would be met by, we would like to talk, you stop doing this we'll give you food and we'll give you aid. That is totally different after the artillery attack in 2010.

TAPPER: Well, after 2010, just to remind our viewers, the North Koreans attacked a South Korean ship, killing 46 South Koreas sailors. And they also shelled an island, killing four South Koreans. And there was some small response but not anything major and not anything by the U.S.

You think it's different now. You think the U.S. military and the Obama administration, they are not likely to let something like that happen again.

SHARP: The first -- when you get attacked, the first self-defense response try to kill what's trying to kill you is all going to be from South Korea. We'll provide some intelligence from our intelligence assets that we have to help more accurately target. But the actual kinetic response going back will be from South Korea. And we'll work this as an alliance. It will take a presidential decision to go beyond, OK, the immediate self-defense. But that's what this -- this provocation plan is lined up.

TAPPER: All right. General Walter "Skip" Sharp, former commander of U.S. forces in Korea, thank you so much for joining us.

SHARP: Thank you.

TAPPER: Next in our Money Lead: I know the rules for a peaceful dinner party. Don't talk money or politics. Good luck with that tonight, Mr. President, as the Republicans head to the White House to dine and discuss his new budget.


TAPPER: In other money news, it rivals the Harry Potter collection in length and it's a lot less fun to read. The president unveiled his new budget today, all 2,460 pages of it. Geez.

The president's offer 3.77 trillion dollar budget, including 563 billion dollars in tax hikes for wealthier Americans and 78 billion dollars in new cigarette taxes over the next decade. A lot more than that, of course.

In an exciting new twist, the president has managed to annoy both the right and left with this plan. I'm here to talk about it with CNN chief White House correspondent Jessica Yellin, Nancy Cook from "The National Journal," and Jim Tankersley from "The Washington Post."

Jessica. So, here's the big question, first of all.


TAPPER: You read it. I know. I know you did. Because you took the Evelyn Wood speed reading course. So, the AARP and other progressive groups are really mad about the changes, the adjustments, the cuts to Social Security in here. President Obama has talked in the past about he wants to be somebody who responsibly deals with the entitlement or social welfare programs. But he's also talked how this is not actually his ideal, it's a compromise. A fig leaf to Republicans -- an olive branch, rather. Does he actually want to cut Social Security or not?

YELLIN: You know, I think he does in a way -- this is who he has been all along. I think he'd rather find other ways to cut the deficit, but he is a person who campaigned on deficit cutting. And a lot of progressives didn't hear it. They didn't want to hear it. They didn't want to believe it. In 2008, he talked about it. His first month in the office in 2009 when you were still at the White House, Jake. You'll remember, he held a fiscal responsibly summit. He said and he was a deficit trimmer and he wanted to get there.

So, does he want to change Social Security ideally? No. But does he think it's necessary to alter our deficit spending future? He does. And it's not what progressives want to hear. TAPPER: So Jim, pretend we're in an alternative reality where this actually has a chance to become law.

JIM TANKERSLEY, "THE WASHINGTON POST": So, we're back on the Harry Potter

TAPPER: Exactly. A Harry Potter world. How would this affect -- if this did become law, how would it affect the economy? How would it affect unemployment?

TANKERSLEY: Not a ton is the sort of sad answer here. This is not a big unemployment fighting budget. This is a budget about, like Jessica said, deficit reduction. And this is a budget by the president's own projections doesn't get the nation to full employment, what we sort of consider the optimal length or level of people working until 2018.

TAPPER: 2018?


TAPPER: He won't be president any more by then.


TAPPER: You can't pull a fast one on me!

And Nancy, one of the things in here, he talked about this during the State of the Union was pre-k. He proposes a cigarette tax.


TAPPER: Now, I know Republicans say they hate taxes. Some Democrats don't like them either, but would people oppose a cigarette tax to help pay for poor little children?

COOK: Well, I think in general the Republicans really just don't want any new taxes and I think of course the message is who wants to oppose universal pre-k. One of the interesting things more broadly there's no new stimulus programs here all the stimulus programs like pre-k or minimum wage are all paid for either through taxes or through private-sector things.

So there's nothing new -- he's not asking the government to spend my more money and that's falling into this whole idea that Jessica was talking about is talking about a president whose about reducing the deficit.

TAPPER: Jessica, one of the reasons I've heard it's speculated that one of the reasons that President Obama was so late in delivering this budget, which I believe was due in February.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: But Sasha and Malia always get their homework in on time.

TAPPER: They do. Well, no one begrudges them, but one of the reasons I was told or it's been suggested to me is that the Senate introduced theirs, the House introduced theirs and now President Obama gets to be the guy who introduces the moderate compromise. Is that accurate?

YELLIN: Well, I think that they had to negotiate a lot of substantive budget issues because everything got so late because of the fiscal cliff negotiations, et cetera. But I do think you are right that they wanted to be in the middle and presenting some sort of compromised position. The reality of the situation, Jake, is nobody thinks it's going to go anywhere.

TAPPER: Right.

YELLIN: You know, so he's trying -- I don't know. You all are budget experts. I don't know if you think this is actually has any legs.

TAPPER: Jim, I'll give the last word on this. The moves the president makes in this budget proposal to cut Social Security as a way of extending an arm to the Republicans and say I'm willing to take on entitlement spending, do you think as a budget expert do you think it's a sincere move?

JIM TANKERSLEY, "WASHINGTON POST": I think this is the best possible move within the sort of list of proposals he's laid out. These are the best chance he's trying to get Republicans to say he's serious maybe we've had a grand bargain. This does not read to me as a budget that says absolutely I believe we're getting to a grand bargain and we're a couple of putts away. We're still on --

TAPPER: Jessica, Jim and Nancy, thanks. I have to interrupt right now because my neighbor has shown up, Mr. Blitzer. He stops by and when he stops by often for a cup of sugar, I let him in. You can stand -- I'm not the director. What do you have coming up? Are you going to be -- first do you want to borrow this?

WOLF BLITZER, HOST, CNN'S "THE SITUATION ROOM": I want to read this. My favorite part is the appendix to the appendix.

TAPPER: Your show is in 12 minutes. Bone up.

BLITZER: We'll talk about guns. As you know, critical moment. At 6:00 p.m. we're doing another special North Korea. It's a crisis right now. U.S. and South Korean troops have just activated, they've gone to a higher state of alert right now.

You know, it's 12 hours the next day already, it's already Thursday morning over in Pyongyang in Korea and Japan, in China, and if they do launch these missiles we believe they will do it early, early in the morning their time so we're standing by to see what's going on.

TAPPER: That's a lot to chew over. Thank you, Wolf Blitzer. He's traveled the world in search of food, but that wasn't enough for Anthony Bourdain. Now he wants to do it in the middle of rebels fighting. He'll tell me about his latest journeys to parts unknown. Our "Pop Lead" is next.


TAPPER: The "Pop Culture Lead." My next guest is a real live international man of mystery. Anthony Bourdain is a world renowned chef, bestselling author and now the host of CNN's new show, "PARTS UNKNOWN." The show debuts on Sunday at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

So we should tell our viewers in addition to all that eating there's usually plenty of drinking on your show, Anthony. So we want to see how much you remember about your travels this season. We've been briefed by your producers.

Now I'll attempt to stump you on trivia from your own show. First of all, welcome, I should say.


TAPPER: It's good to have you aboard. So here's question number one. You visited one country this season that serves guinea pig as a delicacy. What country was it?

BOURDAIN: That would be Peru, delicious.

TAPPER: That's correct. It's good?

BOURDAIN: Yes, tiny little pig, quite tasty.

TAPPER: OK, you enjoyed Uncle Kentucky the knock off version of Kentucky fried chicken in which country?

BOURDAIN: That would be Libya.

TAPPER: Libya, that is correct.

BOURDAIN: Quite good.

TAPPER: Also good, does the Libyan colonel look anything like Moammar Gadhafi?


TAPPER: No, I didn't mean like that. That's dark. OK, here's question number three where can one find Joe Beef?

BOURDAIN: Joe Beef the magnificent restaurant and inspiration to us all in Montreal, in Quebec.

TAPPER: Quebec, that's right. It's the name of one of Canada's hottest restaurants.

BOURDAIN: Bring your cholesterol meds.

TAPPER: OK, here's the last question, I love my show's theme song. Yours isn't bad I like yours too. What famous rocker composed the theme for your new show "PARTS UNKNOWN?" BOURDAIN: It's Mark Lanigan and Josh Hami.

TAPPER: Josh Hami of the Indy rock band, "Queens of the Stone Age." Tell us briefly if you would about your show. What can viewers expect to see on Sunday night?

BOURDAIN: Well, I'll be looking at the world from a perspective of a long time chef and food person, but we're going to get a little darker, little scarier now and again. You know, one week, it will be pure food porn, the next a little harsher, a little more challenging.

TAPPER: All right, thank you so much. Congratulations on your perfect score on our quiz. The new show "PARTS UNKNOWN" debuts Sunday at 9 p.m. Eastern only on CNN and welcome aboard once again.

BOURDAIN: Thank you.

TAPPER: "Breaking Bad" fans, will you have a hard time giving up your addiction when the show ends this summer? So is AMC. But "Deadline Hollywood" is reporting that the network is considering a spinoff starring Bob Odonkirk's ethically flexible lawyer Saul Goodman.

Deadline says no deals are in place, but "Breaking Bad" creator is kicking around ideas that don't necessarily mean Saul will survive the final eight episodes of "Breaking Bad." His new show if it happens could always be a prequel.

One of the greatest mysteries in sports has been solved. How exactly does Arnold Palmer order his favorite drink the Arnold Palmer. Awesomely, of course, and that's next.


TAPPER: The "Sports Lead." Jackie Robinson whom my amazing son is named after broke the Major League color barrier 66 years ago this month. A new film is coming out about him on Friday "42" and next week, every baseball player will wear his number 42.

But at the same time baseball wants to know why fewer African- Americans are playing the game today? Commissioner Bud Selig today announced the creation of a task force to help reverse the decline of American-born black players in the big leagues.

A "USA Today" study found that 7.7 percent of Major Leaguers are black that number was around 20 percent in the '80s and '90s. It could be the other drug problem in Sports. Seattle's Sea Hawks' quarterback Richard Sherman says about half the league is on Adderall.

And the NFL should just allow it. Adderall is a precipitation medicine to combat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, helping people focus. It can also give you an energy boost. It's also a drug that is banned in the NFL unless you get special permission from the league.

Sherman successfully appealed a four-game suspension for it last season. The NFL told "Bleacher Report," our corporate cousin that Sherman's comments were inaccurate and irresponsible.

Try this today at happy hour. Go up waitresses and say give me a me and wink at her. See if it comes off as charming as when Arnold Palmer does it. We now know how the golf icon orders an Arnold Palmer, the drink that bears his name.

If you don't know what an Arnold Palmer is. It's ice tea mixed with lemonade. A waitress at the Masters told a reporter that Palmer leaned over and said I'll have a Mr. Palmer and he winked, classy. Ten years ago, the rights to the drink were sold to Arizona Beverage Company and sales topped $100 million in 2010.

That does it for THE LEAD today. Tune in tomorrow for our trip deep inside Pakistan for a look at whether the use of U.S. drones in that country is creating a new generation of terrorists. I'm Jake Tapper and I leave you now with Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM."