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Key Pakistan Taliban Figure Killed; Rob Lowe: Back To The "West Wing"; Tough Business Of Casting Washington

Aired May 29, 2013 - 16:29   ET



DONNA REED, ACTRESS: That's what I keep asking myself.

ERIN MCPIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Donna Reed used to fry bacon. Now, Cheryl Sandberg preaches about bringing it home.

Americans are getting more comfortable with more moms in the work place. A new Pew poll shows the share of American households with kids led by breadwinning women has quadrupled over the past half century to 40 percent.

Part of the change is self-evident. These days, women make up about half of the workforce in the United States. But there are changing family dynamics at play. Single moms are running a quarter of all American homes with children, a share that has more than tripled since 1960. But they still make less money than their married counterparts.

Two-career households are also on the rise. And by 2011, 65 percent of married mothers with children also held a steady job. But increasingly, women are outearning their husbands. In 1960, just four percent of married women had the bigger paycheck. In 2011, it was 23 percent.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thanks. You're so good at it.

MCPIKE: Fewer housewives, more "Real Housewives" like Bethenny Frankel. The reality star turned millionaire entrepreneur who says she'd like to see her daughter as a top earner as well.

BETHENNY FRANKEL, TV PERSONALITY: I'm hoping that Bryn never wants to date anybody because she knows they are wealthy and that they can take care of her.

MCPIKE: Millionaires aside, the Great Recession may have pushed more women into the workforce and more men out of well-paying blue collar jobs.

It has also accelerated the shift about how people view women who ditch the apron for the briefcase. From 2007 to 2012, mothers who want to work full-time jumped from 20 percent to 32 percent.

But not everyone is thrilled about it. Just 21 percent of the people Pew surveyed last year said moms with young children working outside the home is a good thing for society. Nonetheless, as more people come around to moms earning more than dads, we might see more Mr. Moms.


MCPIKE: And there's one other finding here. And this is my favorite. Most people reject the idea that it is bad for a marriage if a wife outearns her husband. I'm not married, so I don't know. But I think that is a pretty good one, don't you?

TAPPER: Everything is changing quickly. Thank you, Erin McPike.

With women making up 40 percent of the primary breadwinners, should we be calling this a win for gender equality, or are we just left with bigger and more questions on how families are keeping things afloat? Let's break down these numbers with Liza Mundy. She's the author of "The Richer Sex: How The New Majority Of Female Breadwinners Is Transforming Sex, Love and Family."

Liza, thanks so much for being here. So this shift, when did it start and what created it? It can't just be the recession for the numbers to be so big.

LIZA MUNDY, AUTHOR: No. It started happening before the recession. The government has been tracking these numbers since the late 1980s, and the number of women who are outearning their husbands has been rising steadily since then. You saw a real jump up in the -- around 2000. You saw the numbers start to spike by about a percentage point every year.

Part of it is the recession, but it's also because women are the majority of college students. They're taking the majority of associate's degrees, bachelor's degrees, Ph.Ds, and master's degrees. They're half of students enrolled in law and medical schools, and the educational advantage is starting to show up in their paychecks.

TAPPER: And is that the reason why we see this other interesting finding from the Pew study, the total family income is higher when the mother and not the father is the breadwinner -- because of this, all these educational opportunities?

MUNDY: Right. I mean, wives now are more likely to be, if somebody in the marriage is more educated than the other, it is more likely to be the wife. In these dual-earner households, it is also the case that when the woman is the primary earner in a marriage, it's more likely both of them are working and she is outearning her husband. If the man is the primary earner, then a certain number of wives would be stay at home. And so, that's depressing the median earnings in those households where the man is the primary earner.

TAPPER: And we should be sure to not cloud over the fact this does not change the fact that there are still great income disparities when it comes to men and women in the same jobs.

MUNDY: Right. Correct. What you have is women who are primary earners in their households but they're not making as much as a man might in the workplace. So, you have women supporting households on less than a man might make. There used to be, and still is to a certain extent, a premium for husbands and a premium for fathers. They call it, you know, the husband premium, the marriage premium for men.

They would be, you know, earlier in the 20th century men would be paid more just because they were married, just because they were fathers and husbands. Women have traditionally been paid secondary, supplementary wages. And the workplace still hasn't quite woken up to the fact that women are supporting their house holds. This isn't pin money. It isn't supplementary money. It's the primary money that is going to run these households and raise children.

TAPPER: Fascinating. Liza Mundy, thank you so much. Good luck with your book.

Coming up, the first Republican campaign ad focusing on the IRS scandal is here. It's as long as a "Man of Steel" trailer and just as melodramatic, but the Obama administration itself provided a lot of the plot points.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. It's now time for the Politics Lead.

Republicans love to talk about president Ronald Reagan. President Nixon, they usually leave him out of the talking points. Unless of course they're comparing him to President Obama, which is exactly what Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell just did in his new TV ad slamming the White House.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: Again and again this administration and its allies have used the resources of the government itself to intimidate or silence those who question or oppose it.

RICHARD NIXON: When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.


TAPPER: Let's bring in our political panel to talk about it. Democratic strategist Doug Thornell, Rachel Smolkin from Politico, and Jim Geraghty from National Review Online.

Jim, usually Republicans are the ones who say people should be talking about jobs, how come the Democrats aren't talking about jobs? How come the president is not talking about jobs? That is not expressly about jobs, that ad.

JIM GERAGHTY, NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE: But to the conservative base, it is about IRS jobs. No. This is what the conservative base is up in arms about right now. If you're running for re-election, there is still a slight chance of a Tea Party challenge to Mitch McConnell. I don't think it is going to happen in this year's primary - or next year's primary, but slim possibility of that.

If you're Mitch McConnell, you want to be talking about what the base is talking about. This is something that has the base furious. Now, obviously some good portion of independents are kind of unnerved by this news. So for McConnell this is kind of, you know, beating up the red meat and serving it while it is hot.

TAPPER: This is an issue, Doug, I haven't heard very many Democrats -- Democratic officials I should say -- defending the IRS, defending what they did. That must mean that it is fairly resonant with voters.

DOUG THORNELL, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think both sides, you know, expressed outrage about it. I think with Mitch McConnell, I mean, clearly he has concerns about his right flank. You run an ad like that when you're worried about either an opponent from the right, or you're worried about mobilizing enough people to come out because he right now, his numbers are underwater. He's got a 32 percent, 33 percent approval rating, 62 percent disapproval rating. His favorable numbers aren't good. And he is staring at a Democratic opponent who might get in the race, the secretary of state who could give him a run for his money. So, he, I think right now is panicked and paranoid, which reminds me of Richard Nixon, actually.

TAPPER: You know, I hear this about McConnell every six years. He always just cleans the clock of the Democrat. How much trouble is Mitch McConnell actually in?

RACHEL SMOLKIN, DEPUTY MANAGING EDITOR, POLITICO: I don't think he is in that much trouble unless he is complacent, which he clearly is not going to do. I mean, that's when people in his position actually get into trouble if they don't make the early and aggressive moves to stave off any opposition and put themselves in a good spot for re-election.

So that is exactly what we're seeing Senator McConnell doing, and he is playing to the base with this ad but the IRS panel concerns a lot of Democrats and a lot independents as well. So it is not purely a base issue the way a Benghazi ad would be.

TAPPER: I have to say, though, Jim, on its face, using Nixon against President Obama, comparing him to a -- that is a -- I've never seen a Republican president do that, a Republican candidate do that.

GERAGHTY: I will beat my table colleagues to the joke that finally Republicans have acknowledged Nixon as a bad guy. That is the big news.

TAPPER: No, but seriously, that is a big thing for the Senate minority leader to run an ad in which Nixon is the bad guy.

GERAGHTY: Well, it's the first -- when you think of the really big presidential scandals, you notice you don't see a lot of ads referring to Lewinsky or even Iran Contra sort of lost to the winds of history. But Nixon had to leave. So, it must be a really big deal. Even if people are kind of -- there was a burglary. People are kind of fuzzy on the details of it, though.

Back to the point about McConnell's vulnerability, there are right now five Democrats who have been elected statewide in Kentucky who are all contemplating running for governor in 2015. If Mitch McConnell really is as vulnerable as the poll numbers indicate, you would think one of those five or maybe Ashley Judd would have jumped into this race. And none have. Rimes might get in there. But actually the lone Democratic congressman Yarmouth was actually saying, if she is going to get into it, it'd be good if she got into it. Kind of wondering what the delay is in announcing her bid.

THORNELL: Well, but that doesn't mean he's not vulnerable. I mean, his numbers aren't good. Whether he -- obviously he is missing an opponent, but his numbers are not good. I think that's why you do these ads. That's why he's doing this ad right now. Because he is trying to motivate his base, which is not happy with him right now. If you have a 62 percent disapproval rating in Kentucky, that means Republicans don't like you, either.

So I do think that, you know, I think that Democrats are high on Grimes. I think they're trying to get her into the race. They think she could give him a run for his money. He would be the favorite. But, I mean, this guy is not popular in his state. I think you don't run an ad on IRS if you could run an ad on your accomplishments, which I'm not sure he has any.

TAPPER: Very quickly, I just want to turn to one other person who might be taking a preemptive step, which is Rhode Island governor Lincoln Chafee. He's running for -- he is an independent. He used to be a Republican senator, now he's an independent governor. And he announced, two sources tell CNN, he is going to run as a Democrat. He's switching parties a second time from Republican to independent to Democrat. This is not a surprise in particular, but this is also about getting re-elected. Yes?

SMOLKIN: Of course it is. His numbers, we were just talking about low approval numbers. His are not great. My colleague Alex Burns reporting that his office is now confirming this as well, and President Obama has given him a warm welcome to the Democratic Party already. It remains to be seen whether Democrats in his own state will give him an equally warm welcome.


THORNWELL: Yes, I mean, Lincoln Chafee is one of the last remaining -- now he is a Democrat but one of those Rockefeller Republicans who was very moderate, and the party kind of left him. And he became an independent. Now he is moving to the Democrats. I think party switchers do have a tough time in races. We'll see if he can overcome that.

TAPPER: You have ten seconds.

GERAGHTY: Clearly he made this move fearing the vaunted juggernaut that is the Rhode Island Republican Party.


TAPPER: All right. Rachel Smolkin, Doug Thornell, Jim Geraghty, thank you so much.

Coming up on THE LEAD, another drone strike kills a key Taliban figure in Pakistan. But just how big of a threat was he to the American people?

And coming off his performance as a botox-filled plastic surgeon in "Behind The Candelabra," Rob Lowe has a brand new gig that could be an even bigger stretch for him. That's coming up next in our Pop Lead.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Now time for our "World Lead," you can't say President Obama kept us in suspense. Just six days after he laid out new guidelines for drone strikes the Pakistani Taliban's number two was killed by a drone strike.

His name was Wali-Ur Rehman Mehsud. He was wanted by the U.S. for possible involvement in a 2009 suicide bombing that killed seven CIA employees at a base in Afghanistan. The White House would not confirm his death. The first drone strike after the new national security plan is anything different.

Joining me now to talk about is Mark Mazzetti. He is a national security correspondent for the "New York Times." He is also the author of the book "The Way of the Knife, The CIA, a Secret Army and A War At The Ends Of The Earth." A book I've actually read and it is a great book and I recommend it.

So Mark, let's go through the president's speech last week. He released the standards, new standards for drone strikes. Here's what they are, one, a legal basis for using lethal force. Two, the target poses a continuing, imminent threat to U.S. persons. Three, near certainty that the target is present. Four, near certainty non- combatants will not be injured or killed.

Five, capture of target not an option. Six, target country cannot or will not address the threat themselves. Seven, the attack respects national sovereignty and international law. So does this meet that criteria the targeted killing of Pakistan Taliban's number two?

MARK MAZZETTI, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, it is unclear whether it even has to because all of the standards you laid out are for what the White House talks or describes as strikes outside areas of continuing hostilities. Now Pakistan they consider an area of continuing hostility because it is part of the Afghan, what they call the Afghan theatre. So what we --

TAPPER: Even though it's a different country. MAZZETTI: Even though it's a different country, they consider it part of the same theatre. So after the rhetoric of President Obama's speech last Thursday the more you dug into the speech and into the details it became clear that basically the rules in Pakistan are as they were, where the CIA is running the drone wars and where there are lower standards for the strikes than there are in other parts of the world.

TAPPER: So basically the idea is these are the standards except for where we are already doing drone strikes on a completely different set of standards?

MAZZETTI: On a bulk of drone strikes, right. The bulk of drone strikes, hundreds have taken place in Pakistan. It is still the sort of has been the epicenter of the drone wars. Other countries for instance Yemen will apply under these new standards. As President Obama said Thursday as long as there are American troops in Afghanistan, basically these old rules are going to continue.

So the point you raised about today's strike is what kind of threat did this individual pose? It should be pointed out that people think of the Taliban as that's who the United States is fighting in Afghanistan. This is the Pakistani Taliban, which is a different organization focused largely on attacks inside Pakistan and so there are different organizations although as you said the Obama administration has identified this figure with attacks on americans.

TAPPER: Right. Of course, the Pakistani Taliban also go into Afghanistan to kill U.S. troops, target U.S. troops and of course, the Afghan government. In your book "The Way Of The Knife," you write something very interesting that I want to read.

Quote, "The CIA had approval from the White House to carry out missile strikes in Pakistan even when the CIA targeters were not certain about exactly who it was they were killing. This is signature strikes. This is they come in. They see a bunch of, quote-unquote military age males with guns and think, OK, might as well just kill them.

MAZZETTI: Yes. So they basically do an analysis based on patterns of activity. If they think these people might be crossing the border into Afghanistan. There are various rules but they don't have to specifically know who it is on the ground that they're targeting. As you said, these are called signature strikes and have been very controversial.

It's become clear that again as long as American troops are in Afghanistan, President Obama is not going to do away with signature strikes or at least not for several more months. They'll review it after about six months. But these standards, these lower standards that exist in other parts of the world are going to continue.

TAPPER: Confusing and we'll have you on to talk about more of it. Good luck with the book. It's a great book, "The Way of the Knife." I recommend it highly. Thank you so much. Escaping North Korea is no easy task. One nearby country just made it harder. According to several reports for the first time ever Laos has handed over nine refugees to North Korean agents. Refugees often journey across China to Thailand or Laos where they then claim asylum.

Why not make that claim in China because China has diplomatic relations with North Korea and does not recognize defectors as asylum seekers. The group was forced to return Tuesday where they say they face imprisonment and severe punishment.

Coming up, an actor rumored to lean right portraying one of the patron saints of the Democratic Party. When the director yells action how hard is it for actors to leave their political views behind after all the media does it, right?


TAPPER: Time for the "Pop Culture Lead." It was a role as a top White House official that saved his career and now actor Rob Lowe is headed back to the west wing, but this time to portray former President John F. Kennedy. Lowe landed the role as JFK in the upcoming TV movie "Killing Kennedy,"

He joins a long list of actors who have taken on the difficult task of playing a popular historical figure. After all it cannot be easy portraying the biggest names in politics while checking one's own political views at the door.


GEORGE W. BUSH: He's smart. He's capable. He's witty.

TAPPER (voice-over): For every president there is an actor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wish you would have given me this written question before hand.

TAPPER: For every film that portrays the commander-in-chief --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shall we stop this bleeding?

TAPPER: There is someone who must choose the face of history, the next visage for our viewing pleasure? Rob Lowe. It was announced Tuesday that the man who recently played Liberace's plastic surgeon on HBO will now play John F. Kennedy for National Geographic and their version of Bill O'Reilly's "Killing Kennedy."

ELLEN LEWIS, CASTING DIRECTOR: What I have found in my casting experience that it is about the essence of the person.

TAPPER: Of course, JFK is the chameleon of Camelot having been portrayed by dozens of different actors with an equal number of Jackie Os beside him. Casting Director Ellen Lewis has been responsible for portraying historical figures in movies like "Hyde Park on Hudson" about FDR. "The Aviator." UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are a movie star nothing more.

TAPPER: And Forrest Gump.


TAPPER: So we asked her, what makes a good president?

LEWIS: I don't try to get an exact look alike. If you are able to hook into something within the actor, that connects them to who they're playing, whether the match is perfect or not, the audience will accept that person.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't want to sound like I haven't made no mistakes.

TAPPER: One thing is for certain. Aligning with the politician's views does not seem to matter especially when it comes to unflattering portrayals of Republicans. Left leaning Josh Brolin played Republican George W. Bush in Oliver Stone's 2008 biopick "W."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull? Lipstick.

TAPPER: Game changer Julianne Moore was outspoken against the woman she portrayed, Sarah Palin.

JULIANNE MOORE, ACTRESS: I think she was never a fan of the book "Game Change" and so I think in general, she was --

TAPPER: And now Hollywood is abuzz with rumors that Scarlet Johansson may play Hillary Clinton in the forthcoming feature "Rodham." Does it matter she backed Obama against Clinton in those bruising 2008 primaries?

HILLARY CLINTON: President Barack Obama!

LEWIS: It actually could be a bigger challenge for the actor if they have a different point of view than the person that they're portraying.

TAPPER: And for the actors the pressure is great. Just ask Daniel Day Lewis who won an Academy Award for his portrayal of Abraham Lincoln.

DANIEL DAY LEWIS, ACTOR: The last thing I wanted to do was go down in flames having desecrated the memory of the greatest president in the history of this country.

TAPPER: And just as in real politics, there will be critics and nay-sayers no matter who wins the role.


TAPPER: "Killing Kennedy" based on Bill O'Reilly's bestselling book will premiere on National Geographic TV Channel later this year to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination.

That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. I leave you now in the capable hands of Wolf Blitzer who is in "THE SITUATION ROOM" -- Mr. Blitzer.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: All right, Jake, thanks very much.