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Report: Government Subsidizing Junk Food; The End Of The Political Cartoon?; Biggest "Big Three" Ever?; Wrong Carolina

Aired July 17, 2013 - 16:30   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

The Politics Lead: they both resigned in disgrace, but Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer are topping the polls in their comeback bids. Do voters just not care about sex scandals anymore?

The Money Lead: what are you really getting for the billions in farm subsidies doled out every year? Fresh oranges, carrots, tomatoes? Would you believe Twinkies? A watchdog group says the government is spending your tax dollars all wrong.

And the Pop Culture Lead: once a staple of editorial pages, political cartoons are dying out, along with the newspapers in which they appear. Is there any way to save one of our funniest means of deflating the hot air in Washington?


TAPPER: Hey everybody, welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Now time for the Politics Lead. Lust or greed, which is the deadlier sin for a politician? Well this week, a new poll this week rocked the headlines, putting New York's tabloid twins Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer ahead in their bids for office and redemption.

Two years after accidentally tweeting out a shot of the goods to the world, former congressman Weiner is suddenly at the front of the pack in the race for the Democratic mayoral nomination in New York City. And after a last-minute entry into the comptroller race, Spitzer is trouncing his rival for the Democratic nomination with a double-digit lead. The man the tabloids once dubbed "the love gov" says redemption is all about personal change.


ELIOT SPITZER, COMPTROLLER CANDIDATE: Whatever one's record may have been fall from grace, you need to show that you've changed in some way.


TAPPER: But is it Spitzer and Weiner who have changed or is it the public's tolerance for sex scandals? Let's bring in our political panel. D.C. bureau chief for John Stanton. And live from New York, Anna Sale, a political reporter for WNYC, Errol Louis, the host of New York's 1 "Inside City Hall. Thanks one and for all for being here.

John, I want to start with you. The same poll that puts the comeback kids in the lead also produced this interesting little factoid I learned from my friend, Chris Cilizza. "New Yorkers are about three times more concerned with financial fraud than with infidelity." So I guess the question, John,, is are these really changed men, or do New Yorkers just not care about sex scandals?

JOHN STANTON, D.C. BUREAU CHIEF, BUZZFEED.COM: I think increasingly it's about New Yorkers and Americans in general are really not caring as much about these kind of scandals anymore. You know, people are sort of used to it now. We have more and more of this kind of stuff out in the open in our personal lives, people we know. I think that helps a lot.

But also, the fact is these guys are not really running against people with big-name recognition or the kind of people that voters would look at and say, this guy is just much better than Eliot Spitzer or Weiner. And I think that is really helping them. That combination is sort of what they're riding right now.

TAPPER: Anna, the cover of "New York" magazine is treating these candidates as almost as one and the same. Cheaters looking for a second chance. But you say these men have to be looked at quite differently. Explain.

ANNA SALE, POLITICAL REPORTER, WNYC: For starters, one of the questions was, was Eliot Spitzer getting into the race last week going to hurt Anthony Weiner because now it's not just one person, it's two people that's created international headlines and embarrassed New York.

But in fact this poll that came out this week showed Anthony Weiner actually was doing better that he was just a few weeks before. So Eliot Spitzer's entry didn't hurt him at all.

And then you have to look at the ways they're running their campaigns. Anthony Weiner hits the street of New York, treated like a celebrity, just like Eliot Spitzer, but Anthony Weiner has been hitting the ground, going to town meetings, going to political club meetings, and running that sort of very local campaign, trying to talk about policy ideas.

Eliot Spitzer, on the other hand, he has on The Tonight Show. He's going on national media. So a very different strategy for how he wants to be redeemed by voters.

TAPPER: Errol, you know city hall so well. Do you think in the race for city hall that name recognition is really out just drowning out the sins of the past? People are just like oh, yes, I know that name and they almost forget why they know the name? ERROL LOUIS, HOST, NY1'S "INSIDE CITY HALL": That's exactly right. We're about 55 days out before the Democratic primary on September 10, and things like the cover of "New York" magazine actually help both those candidates because even if people don't know why they know them, it's a name that resonates with them. So if they're talking with a pollster, they'll say, oh yes, that guy.

And it sort of does a disservice, frankly, to the other candidates diligently working, going from forum to forum, putting in year after year of public service without scandal or even the taint of scandal. It's one of those peculiarities of human nature that the voters will probably change their minds about. I don't think either of them is going to win in a blowout between now and September 10, but for now, if you this far out this early, yes, people will know those names and will know those people.

TAPPER: Even though the scandals aren't necessarily even over, Anna, former congressman Weiner said in an interview with WNYC Radio that it's possible that more scandalous photos, emails, whatever could potentially come out. Take a listen.


ANTHONY WEINER (D), NYC MAYORAL CANDIDATE: May decide they want to come forward and say here's another e-mail I got or another photograph. But I'm certainly not going to do that.


TAPPER: Now do you really think that - I guess bottom like, what's your take? If something big comes up, could it knock him back down, or do you think this is all water under the bridge?

SALE: Well, I think that's an interesting question. Because New Yorkers do like their politicians brash, but they don't like to be embarrassed. They're used to Michael Bloomberg, who commands attention and respect across the country and internationally. And so if we have a mayoral candidate who all of a sudden, even if they're two years old - remember, this was only two years ago -- if new photos show up when Anthony Weiner is still asking New Yorkers to vote, that I think is a different question.

TAPPER: The same poll shows both men trailing with women, but not by as much as you would think. The gender gap among New York City Democrats is - there it is on the screen there. Women for Weiner, 21 percent, men 29 percent. Women for Spitzer, 44 percent, men 53 percent. Spitzer went so far as to call himself a feminist on MSNBC last night.


RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Do you consider yourself feminist?

SPITZER: Yes. I think -- look. I hate to hide behind the line that life is complicated, but what I say to voters, look at the totality of my record. (END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: So John, do you think these guys can win women over more than they're doing so right now? Or are they capping?

STANTON: I think they can, particularly in maybe sort of the general election, at least on the Democratic side. It is interesting, though, that Spitzer has been able to do as well as he has to pull this off, given the fact that prostitution is illegal, a lot of women look at it very unfavorably as not just sort of a sex scandal, but sort of a like sexual harassment kind of situation as opposed to Anthony Weiner sending pictures of himself randomly on the Internet. But I do think there will be at some point a cap on the number of women that are going to say yes, we can let this go.

TAPPER: All right. John, Anna, Errol, thank you so much. We've got 55 more days, we'll have you back on for another update.

Coming up next, is Eliot Spitzer really a changed man? I will ask him myself right here on THE LEAD. That's not next. That'll be tomorrow at 4 p.m. Eastern. And tonight, Piers Morgan will get his chance to talk to the former governor. That's at 9 p.m. Eastern.

Coming up next on THE LEAD, addicted to junk food? Blame the government! Why Washington is pumping money into food additives like corn syrup instead of healthy alternatives.

Plus, we're getting used to calling out politicians here on THE LEAD, but can I do it without saying a word? My hidden talent revealed in just a few minutes.


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

Now it's time for the Money Lead. Call it the Bernanke Bounce. No, it's not the latest dance craze sweeping the nation. It's what best describes perhaps how the stock market reacted to Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke's testimony on Capitol Hill. He told the House Financial Services committee that short-term interest rates will stay near zero for the foreseeable future. That's even with reductions to the Fed's $85 billion per month bond buying program.

Bernanke also doubled down on the pledge to keep interest rates low until the unemployment rate falls to 6.5 percent. And check out this odd exchange during the hearing that will almost assuredly find its way into a Charles Schwab commercial one day.


REP. BILL HUIZENGA (R), MICHIGAN: Now I would be reticent if I didn't pass along the question one of my friends had: should he refinance right now - that I think that's probably a question that a lot of people have. I know I did not that long ago. But you may answer if you would like.

BEN BERNANKE, FED CHAIRMAN: I'm not a qualified financial advisor. I didn't want to -


HUIZENGA: That might be part of the problem with Dodd-Frank. If you don't qualify, then nobody qualifies.


TAPPER: Bernanke's news was enough to balance the impact of a shaky housing report on Wall Street. The Dow and NASDAQ today both posted modest gains. That's despite a housing report that showed a sharp drop in new construction.

You may have heard that the U.S. is no longer the fattest country in the world. We're the second. Thanks, Mexico. But we've hardly licked the problem like so much barbecue sauce off our fingers. And now, a new report suggests that the federal government in a vicious circle is funding Americans' bulging waistlines with taxpayer money that you might think would be used to grow fresh fruit or veggies.

Our Athena Jones is following the story for us. So Athena, just as Twinkies are back on the shelves after that horrible period, this report comes out.

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jake, and it's perfect timing for folks who want see this subsidy system changed. We hear all the time about America's obesity epidemic. So the question becomes what is the government doing? Are they doing enough to help the producers of the healthy foods they say they want to see?


JONES: Twinkies. They're spongy, creamy, sweet, and since their second debut this week, devotees have been snapping them up and scarfing them down. A sign that people are jonesing for the junk food. And you might be surprised to learn how much the government subsidizes some of the ingredients that make junk foods like Twinkies so irresistible.

According to a new study by U.S. public research interest groups, since 1995, more than 19 billion tax dollars subsidized four common food additives: corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, cornstarch and soy oils. At just over $7 a taxpayer a year, that would buy each taxpayer 20 Twinkies a year. But taxpayers spend just under $700 million subsidizing apples, the only fresh fruit that gets significant federal support. At a cost of 26 cents per taxpayer per year that would buy less than half of one red delicious apple. It shouldn't be this way says Georgetown Professor Tom Sherman.

THOMAS SHERMAN, PROFESSOR, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER: The way that it should be set up is the U.S. government should say, what are our priorities? Do we want a healthy people? If that is a priority, how do you go about doing that? What you do is you promote, you encourage farmers to grow foods that are in the best interests of its citizens.

JONES: You won't find any Twinkies at this farmers market, but you will find small farmers who disagree with the way subsidies work. Oliver Keckler's family grows mostly fruits and vegetables in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. He says corn subsidies distort the market.

OLIVER KECKLER, PENNSYLANIA FARMER: We just do -- we raise too much corn in this country. We put it into everything and subsidies keep the price up. The government has it locked in.

JONES: That higher priced corn means more food additives and cheap junk food, Twinkies for everyone.


JONES: And so you just heard me say Twinkies for everyone, Jake. You look like a healthy eater, but I brought you some Twinkies, here's one.


JONES: Just in case you aren't always an eater of fruits and vegetables. In all seriousness, I've spoke to USDA officials and they told me that this underscores -- this study underscores the need for a new farm bill, one that would reform some of these programs and give more support to fruit and vegetable producers.

TAPPER: Athena Jones, thank you very much and my crew, who I never feed, here you go. There you go, very nice, enjoy. Enjoy.

They were the original means, political cartoons, a way to speak truth to power, but will they disappear along with the newspapers that once featured them? I'll talk to one of the legends of the genre.

And here's a life lesson, kids, you don't have to go along with everything that Twitter dares you to do, especially when it's going to embarrass your mom. What one all-star fan decided to do. That's ahead.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Now it's time for the "Pop Culture Lead." The slow death of the newspaper industry in this country also means the inevitable decline of a cherished aspect of print media, political cartoons. They've been immensely influential over the years. "The Washington Post's" Herb Locke made Nixon's enemies list.

And most recently, one member of Congress chose to use the work of cartoonist, Matt Boris, to score political points on the House floor in a debate over Obamacare, but even with that plug, there's no denying the field of political cartooning is regrettably fading away in this country. I recently spoke to Matt Bors, a man considered one of the best in the business, about how he's managed to evolve as the member of an endangered species.


TAPPER (voice-over): Armed with a ruler, an ink bottle, a coffee- stained sketchbook and sharp political mind, 29-year-old Matt Bors has mastered a dies craft. I sat down with him to see how he is trying to keep political cartooning alive.

MATT BORS, EDITORIAL CARTOONIST: Creatively it's flourishing and doing amazing. I think it will be permanently diminished just like a lot of journalism.

TAPPER: According to the association of American editorial cartoonists, there are fewer than 100 staff cartoonists in America compared to 280 thirty years ago.

BORS: The heyday of newspapers is never coming back so it's more of a freelancing position now, but there are still people out there willing to do it.

TAPPER: Bors is more than willing and certainly able. His liberal commentary on controversial issues has gained him national syndication and a spot on the short list for a Pulitzer Prize last year.

(on camera): When you were growing up, who were your political cartooning heroes?

BORS: I always wanted to draw X-Men. So I didn't really get into political cartooning under the run up to the Iraq war 10 years ago.

TAPPER (voice-over): "War Is Boring" that's the attention grabbing title of Bors' first graphic novel with war journalist David Ax that was published in 2010. That same year Bors took his sketch pad to Afghanistan to draw attention to the scenes there. Now he's incorporated those sketches into a book that's all his own.

(on camera): Life begins at incorporation, cartoons and essays by Matt Bors. Tell us about this. This is not just a collection of your cartoons. It is also a collection of your thoughts on news of the day, your trip to Afghanistan?

BORS: Yes, so it's basically all of my work from the last four years, divided into chapters based on things that cover a lot, the chapter on the economy, women's reproductive rights, gay rights, all the stuff that I tend to kind of focus on a lot.

TAPPER: So you know I am a failed cartoonist.

BORS: Yes, you failed to become a TV news anchor, so I --

TAPPER: I am a failed cartoonist. You are very good. I have to say. I do admire your draftsmanship. It is beautiful. But why don't we have a little cartoon-off, if you don't mind. OK, give me your best Obama. You always have a drone?

BORS: Yes, this little predator drone up there.

TAPPER: Well, mine's a bit more ridiculous. You forgot his mole.

BORS: That's that.

TAPPER: So pick a Republican. We can do Mitt Romney, John McCain. You want to go old school, George W. Bush? BORS: All right. George Bush would be good at this, too.

TAPPER: I have to say his painting was pretty good, I thought. I was kind of impressed. Was he wearing a sweater vest?

BORS: Yes. Bought it from --

TAPPER: All right, I see why you're a professional and I'm not.


TAPPER: If you want to see more of my cartoon-off with Matt Bors, go to You'll also find a link to Matt's web site where you can a copy of provocative political cartoon, his book.

State of confusion, Nike pulls the Carolina Panthers t-shirt. That's sure to become a collector's item. Can you spot what's wrong? The "Sports Lead" is next.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Now it's time for the "Sports Lead." It would be like having the new dream team play every night only in Laker gold. ESPN is reporting that the Lakers could go after Lebron James and the Knicks's Carmelo Anthony next off-season to play with Kobe Bryant when they both have the option with free agents. The Lakers are in a rare rebuilding year after losing Dwight Howard and with Kobe nursing a torn Achilles. The big question, are they ready for all those egos? Even in a town like Los Angeles?

Apparently "just do it" does not refer to proofreading. Take a look at this Carolina Panther's t-shirt from Nike, the logo with the letters "NC" printed over "SC." That's an outline of South Carolina. That's not North Carolina. Nike quickly realized the mistake they've yanked the tees from the shelves and apologized for the error. The panthers play their home game in Charlotte, North Carolina, although they are just referred to as the Carolina Panthers.

So if your friend told you to jump off a bridge, would you do it? Well, what if 1,000 people told you to run onto the field at an all- star game? That's exactly what one fan did after being egged on by Twitter, naughty Twitter. The 18-year-old Yankee fan said he would make a dash for the diamond if his tweet was re-tweeted a thousand times.

Well, he maybe a bozo, but he's a man of his word. Here's video from the stand as the security steered him around second break. The announcers referred to it, but the TV cameras cut away. It's major League policy not to show stuff like that. We don't know if he was arrested, but he may have wished for a night in jail. He also posted texts from his mom threatening to kill him when he got home.

Hashtag you're it, earlier in the show, we asked you to come up with the second part of the "Sharknado 2" sequel movie title. SharkNado 2: Chomped between the moon and New York City. It's nice, musical. At Rage for order tweeted, 2 Shark 2 Nado, and @hoodieblowfish sent in Sharknado 2, the HuManatee. Get it? The manatee?

That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. I turn you over to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM" -- Mr. Blitzer.