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James Gandolfini Dies; Dow Drops; Friends, Fans Remember Gandolfini; "Stop Hillary 2016"

Aired June 20, 2013 - 16:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: The closing bell on Wall Street, and not a moment too soon to stop that ugly bleeding.

I'm Jake Tapper, and this is THE LEAD.

Breaking news in the money lead. Do yourself a favor. Do not check your 401(k) right now. Whether or not you know what taper means or a Bernanke, they're affecting you as the Dow is heading toward the center of the earth. What should you be doing about it?

The pop culture lead. He portrayed one of the most iconic TV characters of all time, James Gandolfini, the late actor who brought vivid life to Tony Soprano. How would he want you to remember him? You will meet some people who knew a special side of him you probably didn't know about.

And the politics lead. They're into the waiting for her to get bored with being a lady of leisure. They want to stop Hillary Clinton now before she can even decide on 2016. An exclusive on the new Web site uniting the Hillary haters.

Good afternoon. I'm Jake Tapper. Welcome to THE LEAD.

We will begin of course with the money lead, breaking news, Wall Street's worst day of 2013, a real meltdown. The closing bell just moments ago could not come soon enough, the Dow taking a swan dive, dropping a queasy 352 points. And this was after the Dow already dropped 200-plus points yesterday, all this after Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke merely hinted that the government was going to slow down the gravy train by tapering off the stimulus it pumps into the economy some time in the near future.

He hasn't even announced it yet.

I want to get right to Felicia Taylor at the New York Stock Exchange.

Felicia, explain what happened there to trigger this second day of sell-offs.

FELICIA TAYLOR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, what is basically going on now is the debate has begun as to when that tapering, that slight pullback, and I do mean slight, because it's going to be a slow pullback -- he's not taking all of the stimulus out of the marketplace at once. You can see just by the conversation beginning traders and investors discussing whether or not it's going to happen in the next six months or possibly in 2014, what that does to the market. We were down about 380 points before the closing bell. So we have come back a little bit. And that is a good sign.

But some traders that I speak to say that these kind of sell-offs could continue because obviously the debate is going to continue. But what we have really got to focus on is the economy. Are we seeing enough positive signs in the economy? And so far it's a very mixed picture for the Federal Reserve to actually feel confident enough to begin that slow tapering off.

And the answer right now is not really. They need to see at least three monies of positive economic news for him to really begin that stimulus pullback -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Felicia Taylor, thank you so much.

So what do the markets mean for you? We're joined now by my friend Erin Burnett, economic expert and anchor of "OUTFRONT" here on CNN. And Andy Serwer, he's the managing editor of "Fortune" magazine. They both join me now.

Erin, I will start with you.

This market drop, how big of a deal do you think it is?

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Well, you know what, Jake? What's interesting obviously when you look at it just numerically, it's the biggest two-day combined drop I believe since we have seen in November, that number calculated just before the close.

But when you look, Jake, at what's happened since this so-called quantitative easing, basically the Fed just pumping free money into the economy, started a couple years ago, every time the market thought that was going to stop, stocks started to sell off. And then when the Fed said, oh, don't worry, don't worry, we're going to give you more money, the market would go back up.

So stocks have really become addicted, for lack of a better term, to this free money that Ben Bernanke has been pumping into the system. But truth of it is, is that it's just he like said yesterday, that signs -- I just -- to quote him exactly -- "Generally speaking, financial conditions are improving. If things are getting better, that's good news."

But right now, perversely, you may see the market sell off because of that good news. But the whole goal was to take these training wheels off, right, not need this extra money. The question is are we really ready for that in terms of the economy, as Felicia just referred to?

TAPPER: Andy, for our viewers at home, for those who have investments, how concerned should they be about the markets right now?

ANDY SERWER, MANAGING EDITOR, "FORTUNE": Well, it's obviously something you can't avoid watching right know.

But -- and a lot of times people tell you to sit tight and it's very hard to do, but I really think this is a sit-tight moment. And if you sort of take a step back, what we're talking about here is the chairman of the Federal Reserve saying he thinks he sees signs that the economy is healthy enough to go out on its own, as Erin said, get rid of the training wheels.

That is a huge positive. The other thing to remember, both stocks and bonds, interest rates are spiking right now too. That's another thing going on. Both the stock market and the bond market very overvalued, you could argue, especially the bond market, interest rates way too low, stocks a little bit overvalued. So, speculators are kind of blowing out of these markets right now.

And I would just sit tight and watch that happen. If the economy is back on strong footing, as Ben Bernanke is suggesting, then we will be in good shape with the stock market over the coming months and especially years.

TAPPER: Erin, do you think the market is going to stabilize?

BURNETT: That's the big question. You have one of the biggest bond investors in the world, so obviously he has a vested interest on the bond side of things, but Bill Gross saying, look, I think the Fed is too confident. They think they can just wheel all of this back and there will be a pause and all the sudden things will just keep moving ahead.

What the Fed has been doing over the past few years, Jake, is unprecedented. They have never tried this sort of thing before. And because they have never done this before, they have never actually had to unravel it and pull it back before.

So, there are real question marks about what the market will do. But I think Andy said it right. If the economy really is on solid footing, ultimately, the market will go back to doing what it always does, which is track the economy, because corporate profits are so linked to the economy.

But just one other thing, Jake. As Andy said, interest rates are spiking. You have seen that in mortgages. This is a time where for people at home if you have a mortgage or you're looking at buying a home and you're able to do that refinancing, you want to seize the moment before interest rates do really start to move sharply higher.

TAPPER: Andy, as Erin just pointed out, interest rates are up. What do you make of the fact? And also what do you make of the fact that the price of gold has plummeted?

SERWER: Yes, well, you have to look at yesterday really as a turning point, and we have been waiting for this for years.

Basically, the Fed has been injecting $2.5 trillion cumulatively into the market since 2008, five years. And we kept waiting. At some point, they're going to turn and they're say, OK, go on your own, we will take the training wheels off and you guys can do it on your own.

At that point, we knew interest rates were going to turn. They were going to start to go up, the stock market perhaps overvalued and go down. Gold, people were speculating that this was a safe harbor. Now that the U.S. economy perhaps is doing better, selling off gold, the dollar is rising. There's all sorts of turmoil in the markets right now. But, of course, the stock market and interest rates are the two big ones for people watching at home.

TAPPER: And, lastly, Erin, what's the best advice you would give to my viewers and your viewers later today on what they should be doing with their money right now?

BURNETT: You know, it's a tough one.

I would say don't react too quickly. And I only say that, Jake, because we have known this is coming. The Fed has already said very clearly when we start to see things getting better, we're going to wheel this back. And we want to wheel it back starting at the end of this year. And we're not going to actually move interest rates themselves that the Fed controls until 2015.

None of that has changed. All the Fed has done has done is come out and said, yes, guess what? Things are getting a little bit better and we're going to do what we said we were going to do. So, you're going to get a sharp reaction on the markets. But to go and change your entire investment strategy based on that probably doesn't make sense, although I would say, if you have been one of those people that have thrown all your money into bonds over the past few years, it may be time to think about that again and get some advice on whether you should change that.

TAPPER: Andy, last word?

SERWER: Yes, the bond market, long bonds not a good place to be. The housing market still probably has some room to climb to the upside, I think.

TAPPER: All right, Andy Serwer of "Fortune" magazine and our own Erin Burnett, her show, "OUTFRONT," is on at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

Thank you both so much.

SERWER: Thanks.

TAPPER: Coming up in the pop lead, as Tony Soprano used to say, those who want respect give respect. And today we will pay our respect to James Gandolfini.

When we come back, a side of the actor you have never seen before.

And later, in our world lead, we don't negotiate with terrorists, right? Well, maybe not, why the U.S. might be willing to bend the rules to save the life of an American soldier.


Now it's time for our pop culture lead. Last night, America lost an icon and a family lost a father. Actor James Gandolfini, famous for his starring role as mob boss Tony Soprano on the much-loved HBO series "The Sopranos," collapsed while on vacation in Italy. The cause of death is thought to be a heart attack, but will be confirmed by an autopsy mandated by Italian officials.

Of course, Gandolfini's work runs deeper than the portrayal of television's most lovable psychopath. As an actor, he made a name for himself from Broadway to the silver screen. But he also had another passion, working with soldiers, those facing the fight overseas and also those facing the fight here at home.


JAMES GANDOLFINI, ACTOR: Once you enter the family, there's no getting out.

TAPPER (voice-over): And, today, the family is mourning one of their own.

GANDOLFINI: Because family comes before everything else.

TAPPER: For most Americans, James Gandolfini is remembered as the tough, yet tender Tony Soprano.

GANDOLFINI: So, when my little girl comes down the stairs, you're going to say how nice it was to meet me.

TAPPER: Or Winston Baldry.

GANDOLFINI: Now I always check.

TAPPER: Or a wild thing named Carol.

GANDOLFINI: I like the way you destroy stuff. Good technique. There's a spark to your work that can't be taught.

TAPPER: But for those Americans who have faced the true fear and real drama of war, Gandolfini was an inspired listener.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have got to take them off the battlefield. We have got to get them the help that they need.

GANDOLFINI: There's a lot of confusion about post-traumatic stress. What are some of the physical manifestations?

TAPPER: In his HBO documentaries "Wartorn" and "Alive Day Memories: Home from Iraq," the three-time Emmy winner sat down with American troops to learn their stories.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They tell you you're alive, but you feel empty. You feel like you lost.

GANDOLFINI: Give it time.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's hard. I thought my life was over because of everything that happened.

TAPPER: Army veteran Dexter Pitts was wounded in Baghdad in 2005 and interviewed by Gandolfini shortly afterwards.

DEXTER PITTS, FORMER U.S. SOLDIER: I was just an infantryman. That's all I was. And he took me and just my story and just gave me the spotlight. And that's something a lot of people, a lot of soldiers don't get the opportunity to do. And he just made it all about us.

TAPPER: And the actor continued to lend an ear off-camera as well.

PITTS: He gave me his personal cell phone number and he told me, hey, man, if you ever want to talk, give me a call.

TAPPER: The former "Sopranos" star was eager to learn and share the issues facing wounded warriors. He volunteered extensively with the Namesake Organization, as well as with the USO.

Gandolfini made several trips overseas, including to Afghanistan just last year.

GANDOLFINI: I always like coming out here to the bases. I think it's a good change of pace for the guys and the ladies.

TAPPER: And, unfortunately, for those who already see so much loss, today, they must grieve another friend gone.

PITTS: It still hurts to hear the news. I didn't want to believe it when I heard it. But it seems like it always the good ones that go.



GANDOLFINI: Thank you.


TAPPER: Hashtag you're it. What's your favorite Gandolfini moment on TV, on the film or otherwise? Mine was his fight to the death with Patricia Arquette in the film "True Romance."

Tweet us @THELEADCNN. Use the hashtag Badabing.

But joining me now is director Matthew O'Neill. He collaborated with Gandolfini on his veterans documentaries for HBO, a sister company of CNN.

Matthew, you and I coincidentally were e-mailing yesterday about a different project and almost as soon as we finished our conversation, you heard this horrible news. You told me that Gandolfini was this incredibly warm person, nothing like the gruff, tough guy he so often played. Tell me about him.

MATTHEW O'NEILL, DIRECTOR, HBO DOCUMENTARIES: So many people are remembering him as Tony Soprano. I'm always going to remember him as the man of such goodness who wanted to bring attention to the soldiers and airmen and Marines that you see in the "Alive Day Memories", and in "War Torn". You know, he had gone on some USO tours and heard the stories of the men and women serving overseas, and he listened to them and he wanted to bring those stories back to more Americans.

So many more people were paying attention to him as an actor and I think it was really telling that in these programs, he was working to bring attention to the men and women that serve overseas.

TAPPER: And, Matthew, where did this fashion for veterans issues come from?

O'NEILL: He had done a number of USO tours. And very specifically, he went on a visit to Walter Reed Hospital with Sheila Nevins, the head of HBO Documentaries. And that was really the catalyst for "Alive Day Memories." He wanted the stories that people were telling him from their bedsides, that the people were telling him on the USO tours to reach an American audience. He wanted people to stand up and pay attention. And he wanted to put his fame and his passion to good use and make sure those stories were heard.

TAPPER: And you could see his warmth with the soldiers in the clips from these movies that you directed, Matthew. Was that what he was like in real life? Was he a warm, embracing person?

O'NEILL: Jim connected to the people around him in such an intense and emotional way. He was interested in what people had to say. He listened. I think it's what made him a great actor. I think it's what made him great producer. It's what made him want to tell these stories.

When he was speaking to you, if you were a documentary filmmaker, any other collaborator or if you were a soldier or if you were the guy next to him on the subway or drive in the car, he listened intently, he paid attention, he worked to understand you, he wanted to see the world from your perspective. He was an incredibly warm and generous person. That's why you such, I think, you see such love from his friends, from his family, from his colleagues, and from the community at large. We all connected with something wonderful and good in him.

And I know that you were working on a third documentary with him about the relationship between learning disabilities and incarceration rates, not exactly a project an actor takes on to get reach and famous. We wish you the best of luck with that and thank you so much for coming on the show, Matthew.

O'NEILL: Thanks, Jake. Thanks for remembering Jim.

TAPPER: Coming up next, she's not even running yet, at least not officially. But we have some breaking news on the Hillary Clinton 2016 front. That's our "Politics Lead" coming up next. And later in sports, in New England, the Patriots are like royalty. But that does not mean they are above the law. Which NFL star is being questioned in a murder investigation?

Stay with us.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

And we're breaking some news in our "Politics Lead" right now. She's not even officially running yet but Republicans are already rising up to stop Hillary Clinton from trying to take the White House in 2016.

Erin McPike joins me now.

Secretary Clinton hasn't even made any serious moves to launch a presidential campaign. But Republicans are already raising money to try to stop her in her tracks?

ERIN MCPIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are. And we have a CNN exclusive on this today, Jake.

Well, just as support starts piling up for a second Hillary Clinton presidential campaign, well, naturally, the opposition forces are marshalling their resources to keep up. It may sound early, but Republicans are concerned about a Clinton coronation in 2016, and with good reason. Just this week, two high profile senators, both Claire McCaskill and Kirsten Gillibrand, already threw support to Clinton.

Here's McCaskill this morning.


SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI: She's by par the strongest, most capable, most qualified candidate for president of the United States and I am part of a lot of group of people, big, huge group of people, that really wants her to run. And it seems like coming up publicly and stating the obvious that we all want her to run was an important thing to do right now.


MCPIKE: McCaskill said Clinton called her after she announced her support, but McCaskill wouldn't discuss the conversation. She said the former secretary of state is, of course, still in the process of making the decision.

Now, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is also on that decision to be a yes, and here's what she said.


SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D), NEW YORK: I am personally urging Secretary Clinton to run in 2016.


And I told her I'd plan to support her in every way. So, that's my next big ambition.


MCPIKE: So, cue the Republicans. Opposition to another Clinton campaign is building, too. This is, a Web site that the pro-Republican super PAC America Rising has built as a one- stop shop for the Hillary haters.

And take a look at these. These are the fund-raising e-mails the PAC is sending out to a randomized group of donors today. So, this is what we call in the inside baseball of politics, message testing. They want to see which Hillary attack sticks by which raises them the most money.

So, one of those is a personal note from Mark Rhodes. He's in charge of the PAC and he ran Mitt Romney's campaign last year. So, he said that he learned that the Romney campaign started way too late, so he's tugging a GOP donor's heart strings by getting them to cough up cash now so they're not flat footed by Hillary later.

And the second one is your standard "Hillary is no good" e-mail. It raises Vice President Biden and Elizabeth Warren and stokes Republican fears about liberalism and big government. It says, "The Clinton machine section extremely powerful and we've seen it in action time and time again. We need to stop it before it is too late."

And, Jake, the third one of these emails is about the Clinton scandal up to Benghazi, of course. They think that might raise them some money, too, at least all of the Clinton scandal that we know of. We also learned there will be some Google ads on top of this already in 2013.

TAPPER: And knowing what you know about Secretary Clinton, do you think this will have the effect of dissuading her in any way or the opposite?

MCPIKE: That's kind of a joke, don't you think? I mean, we know that she already has the fire in the belly. I would think this would make that fire crackle some more.

I mean, you're talking about the Clintons. Don't expect this kind of thing to go unanswered for too long. And on that note, Jake, keep watching this space because we're going to have more news on this very soon.

TAPPER: And very interesting that Romney's former campaign manager in charge of this because he was attack very early and they didn't respond. He's trying to do the same thing that happened to them.

MCPIKE: That's right.

TAPPER: Erin McPike, great work. Thank you very much. The battle over a new immigration law is getting heated in Washington but is it too late? When we come back, the last-minute run for the border.

And I'll talk to one Republican senator who is trying to stop a backlash in his own party.