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Battling Over Summers; Zimmerman Pulled Over By Police; "Our Nixon"; Big Screen Here, Commercials Abroad; Clooney Ads Fund Spy Program In Sudan; O.J. Gets Parole, But Not Freedom

Aired July 31, 2013 - 16:30   ET


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

Now, it's time for the world lead. So, after 5,000 years, John Kerry says give me nine months and we'll fix the Middle East. OK, I'm overstating it a bit. Nine months isn't the deadline, the State Department says, it's a timeline. The involved parties have committed to as a way to make progress, it's a goal that Kerry announced yesterday as he pushed a new round of talks between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators, with all the core issues -- refugees, settlers, borders, terrorism, Jerusalem, all of it on the table.

But with Syria and Egypt spilling into chaos, why is Kerry focusing on this stuff now? Our Nick Paton Walsh has the story.


JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Our objective will be to achieve a final status agreement over the course of the next nine months.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The clock is ticking, but the bomb (INAUDIBLE) eclipsed by turmoil in Syria, Iraq, Egypt and Libya, nightmares swallowing and tranforming a region. The Israeli-Palestinian crisis out of the spotlight. So is Kerry's focus on again trying to forge a peace wise?

YARON EZRACHI, THE HEBREW UNIVERSITY, JERUSALEM: Given the conditions in the neighborhood, this is the only potentially promising path for America to succeed.

NADIM KOTEICH, POLITICAL ANALYST, BEIRUT: If it's not broken, don't fix it. Now the whole region is broken. And the Palestinian issue is calm in certain ways. So the funny thing is the fire is somewhere else.

AARON DAVID MILLER, THE WOODROW WILSON CENTER: Can Kerry, a Boston Netanyahu, use the time that is given them, this quiet period, as the rest of the region burns?

WALSH: And it burns. Syria's war has killed 100,000. The U.N.'s top investigators saying Monday the world is now used to its, quote, "unthinkable brutality." It's merged into Iraq's violence (INAUDIBLE) death toll, the worst since America's darkest days there. And now Egypt, where an elected Islamist America didn't like has been opposed by a heavy-handed army it can't embrace. Would a Palestinian peace slow the flames at all?

KOTEICH: The Middle East is writing a new chapter of history while Washington is reading an old book. The events unfolding in the Middle East are completely disconnected from the so-called major issue in the Arab mind, which is Palestine.

MILLER: The United States is stuck in a region that it cannot leave and yet it cannot fix. It's not going to get into the middle of a Syrian civil war. We are really going to be hard-pressed to help the Egyptians in a significant way, fashion a democratic polity.

The Israeli/Palestinian problem is the one area where in effect, America has interests, it has influence, and it has a demonstrated track record when it does smart diplomacy, it does actually succeeds.

KERRY: The parties have agreed here today --

PATON: This is simply something America can live with trying again at, and then failing again in.

MILLER: If this proves to be a (INAUDIBLE) empty room, it's going to be a huge blow to American credibility, and frankly another nail in the coffin of the process that many people think is unimaginable.

EZRACHI: Even a moderate success would be considered a great compensation for American foreign policy failures in other areas of this region.

KOTEICH: If he succeeded, it would be great news for Obama. If he does not succeed, it will be the normal outcome of the unsolvable issue.


TAPPER: And Nick Paton Walsh joins me now live from Beirut. Nick, how much do you think this decision to proceed with these peace talks, is about self-interest for the United States?

WALSH: Well, as you heard, it's perhaps the safest area in which John Kerry can use his considerable diplomatic energy and skills. There are some that say the main objectives to a healthy peace process, Iran, Syria, Hamas and Hezbollah, are tied up elsewhere in the flames engulfing much of the region. Hezbollah fighting in Syria and Hamas, they're having issues with, of course, one of its main backers, the Muslim Brotherhood. But its back is against the wall in Egypt right now.

But there are those critics who say much more simply, that the other issues in the Middle East, America simply doesn't want to get involved. Syria, no interest. Iraq, little traction. Egypt, they're trying to remain on both sides of the fence if possible. So really by involving themselves in this particular age-old issue of the peace process, they're still trying to extend influence, show interest in the region, too, and suggest they're not entirely disengaging. While also accepting if they do fail, they've been there before. Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Nick Paton Walsh, thank you so much. For more on this, I'm joined by Bloomberg View columnist Jeffrey Goldberg. Jeffrey, you wrote a column that was very skeptical of Secretary Kerry's efforts here. Seven reasons why -- I think you used the world "delusional." This attempt is delusional. Give us your top two. What are the top two reasons why you think it's doomed to fail?

JEFFREY GOLDBERG, COLUMNIST, BLOOMBERG VIEW: Look, it's not delusional so much as Pollyanna-ish. Top two, Jerusalem. The most contested city on the globe, right? The most holy city for Judiasm, third most holy for Islam. Muslim holy sites are built atop Jewish holy sites.

In order to have a final settlement to this problem, you have to divide Jerusalem. You have to figure out a way for these parties to share it and be separate at the same time. That's impossible, nearly impossible. It's why the Camp David process 13 years ago failed. It failed on -


GOLDBERG: -- on Jerusalem, yes.

Then you have another set of issues have had to do with the descendants of the Palestinian refugees. What you're doing, what you're saying, if you believe that this can come to a final conclusion, what you're going to be doing is telling five million Palestinians who have been (INAUDIBLE) refugees that you're not going home or to the place that you think of as home. You're going to have to find another solution to your problem --

TAPPER: Well, unless there's some sort of compromise where some of them can find homes -

GOLDBERG: Israel will only take a token number, 10,000. Fifteen thousand. It's not happening. It's going to have to require such a seismic shift in the way people think about the problem. And it's very, very hard for a Palestinian leader to tell these five million people, look, sorry, I'm not representing you anymore. We're talking about the West Bank.

One more problem, by the way, Abbas, the head of the Palestinian Authority, doesn't even control the Gaza Strip. That's under the control of -

TAPPER: We talked about that yesterday. Hamas controls it. They're not part of these negotiations at all.

GOLDBERG: Right, right. So if you're looking to, as John Kerry says, by next April he'll have the final status figured out. But Hamas has to agree or else they'll try to subvert the peace process.

TAPPER: Well, their answer I guess would be well, we need to try. We at least need to try. We need to do something. But you think it could make things worse?

GOLDBERG: Look, there's nothing wrong with trying, but after we failed the last big time, the last big attempt in 2000. Bill Clinton, Camp David, Yasser Arafat -- what came after that failure? A huge violent Palestinian uprising. Thousands of people died. Bus bombings, mass killings.

In other words, if you raise hopes and if you dash those hopes, you're dealing with a possible consequence of greater violence. The good thing here is that I think very few Israelis and Palestinians actually believe the U.S. will achieve this, so their hopes are not that high to begin with. So maybe there won't be that crushing sense of defeat and oh, we have to turn to violence now to solve our problems.

TAPPER: What do you think of Nick's theory that he shared that some critics say the U.S. is doing this to show at least they're engaged in a region because they don't want to get involved in Egypt or Syria or Iraq or Iran?

GOLDBERG: Well, look, John Kerry's focus does call into question his priorities and the Obama administrations priorities. Syria, 100,000 people dead. Turning into a regional conflagration. It's bringing in Iraq. Egypt is falling apart, and they're working on a problem that is not a crisis, so it does raise the question of why.

TAPPER: Jeffrey Goldberg, thank you so much. We appreciate it.

Syrian president Bashar al Assad is officially on Instagram. Between waging a civil war and doing little to help starving refugees, you're probably thinking how does he find the time? The account, which appears to be a carefully crafted propaganda machine, features pictures of the Syrian president flanked by supporters or comforting burn victims at their bedsides. They are in stark contrast, of course, to images like these, which were released earlier this week, showing government forces patrolling a ravaged neighborhood and homes. It was once a stronghold for rebel forces.

Coming up, George Zimmerman has met with the police once again. We'll tell you why, next.

And later, ever wonder what Hollywood stars spend those enormous paychecks on? Sports cars, villas, Botox? Well, George Clooney says he's using his to try to stop genocide with a spy satellite. Stay with us.


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

Now it's time for the Politics Lead. In two days, Congress will be cranking up the Alice Cooper classic "School's Out For Summer" and sliding down the banisters of the Capitol's steps. Giggling perhaps, shoving one another as they skip off joyfully of five weeks of well- earned vacation time.

OK, I'm exaggerating a little bit. But the president swung by today to wish his Democratic colleagues well for the August recess, and to hold closed-door meetings over the laundry list of stuff they've barely even begun to address. Immigration reform, gun safety, and a plan for the economy among them. According to what some Democrats in the room told our Capitol Hill reporter, Dana Bash, the president's visit did not go super smoothly, though of course the White House disputes that.

Let's toss it to our panel. CNN contributor and Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, columnist for "The New York Times" Ross Douthat, and chief Washington correspondent for Yahoo! News Olivier Knox. Bonjour, Monsieur Knox.

Olivier, House Democrats who participated in the private meeting say there was pushback from one congressman Ed Hurlmutter (ph) about the idea of nominating Larry Summers, the next chair of the Federal Reserve. What is the tension going on here?

OLIVIER KNOX, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, YAHOO! NEWS: Well, the tension is between liberals who blame Larry Summers for some of the deregulation of the economy under Bill Clinton, who say he wasn't aggressive enough in pushing stimulus in the early era of the - first term of Obama. And they're saying basically, as Mr. Hurlmutter (ph) told the president, apparently, Larry Summers, bad choice.

TAPPER: Bad choice. And the president said stop reading "The Huffington Post" apparently, according to some --

KNOX: Yes, apparently he got pretty specific about which outlets were -


ROSS DOUTHAT, COLUMNIST, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": As long as it wasn't Yahoo! News, you're probably OK.


TAPPER: There is a big push by a lot of women to nominate the first female chair of the Federal Reserve, Janet Yellin. What is your instinct in terms of where the president will go on this?

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, first of all, it was a wide ranging meeting. He had a good time talking about immigration reform, and of course he told the House Democrats I'm going to miss you while you're gone.

But there's no question that Janet Yellin is very competent. She's the vice chair of the Board of Governors. She's been right on all the decisions on the Fed for the last 20 years. It would be a great choice if he decides, but Larry Summers is someone that the president will also seriously consider. He has a great reputation in this town for being tough, but you know what? He's very smart. He understands the crisis that we have faced in the economy. He would be a great choice as well.

I don't have a pick, but I do know that Janet Yellin is somebody that many women and men would like to see in that job as well.


DOUTHAT: Well, there's a really interesting -- insofar as anyone is interested in the Federal Reserve.

TAPPER: Everybody is! That's why we're talking about it on television! The ratings are going through the roof!


DOUTHAT: But there's a really interesting policy question here, right? Which is that people have a strong sense of where Yellin stands on quantitative easing, on the whole --

TAPPER: Essentially with Bernanke --

DOUTHAT: And with Summers, it's a little more ambiguous. He's made comments at various points about expressing some doubts about the Fed's role in goosing the economy and so on. And it's a little bit unclear -- I guess I'll speak for liberals that I know here -- what the specific appeal of Summers really is.

TAPPER: Known quantity. Known quantity, I think -

DOUTHAT: Known quantity in the sense - I think with Summers, what tends to happen is because he's so smart -- and he really is smart. One of the smartest men in the room in any room he's in -

KNOX: (INAUDIBLE) beautiful man, a handsome man -

DOUTHAT: No, he's no Jake Tapper, but the lure is always with Summers, you're getting those -- you know, you're getting brains, but as my own alma mater, God help us, Harvard found out, sometimes brains when you're managing a lot of difficult egos isn't the only thing you need.

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You need experience in a crisis as well.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: We have to go, but I want to get your predictions on who he goes with. I won't penalize you.

DOUTHAT: No one knows the answer. We're not going to know until the fall, but I predict it would be a panel of bloggers because that's who's weighing in the most.

TAPPER: I'll let you guys off the hook with that. Donna Brazile, Ross Douthat and Olivia Knox, thank you so much.

Ahead on THE LEAD, this super eight movies aren't of family vacations or first steps, they are off President Nixon like you've never seen him before. We'll get a sneak peek at a fascinating new CNN film. Stay with us.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. This just in -- once again George Zimmerman got some unwanted attention from police. According to a report from police in North Texas, Zimmerman was pulled over for a traffic violation outside Dallas this past week. No ticket, he was given a verbal warning and sent on his way. Zimmerman, of course, was acquitted for the killing of Trayvon Martin earlier this month. He's mostly been laying low since then.

In the "Buried Lead," footage that no one has seen in decades, it stands as one of the most controversial and secretive administrations in presidential history. I'm of course, talking about the Nixon White House, no other White House that you might thinking of. The new documentary, "Our Nixon" airs tomorrow night right here on CNN.

The film is made up of super-eight home movies shot by three of President Nixon's closest aides, H.R. Haldeman, John Ehrlichman and Dwight Chapin. It gives an intimate look at a complex time and a complex man. Director Penny Lane joins us now with more. Nixon was known as an obsessive documentarian himself. Penny, tell me how these materials came to life?

PENNY LANE, DIRECTOR/CO-PRODUCER, "OUR NIXON": Well, yes, thanks for having me, Jake. The home movies were confiscated by the FBI during the Watergate investigation and then later they were placed at the national archives in the public domain for anyone to see and use and analyze at will. The way I found them, which is that I heard about them, it's not that interesting of a story. I heard about them, went and got them, and made the film.

TAPPER: I want to look at one of the more surreal moments in the film. This is Nixon talking about he doesn't understand who he's talking about, but it's the TV show "All in the Family." Let's take a listen.


RICHARD NIXON: They had two magnificent handsome guys and a stupid old fellow in it. They were glorifying homosexuality.


NIXON: Archie is the guy's name. I do not think that you glorify on public television homosexuality. You know what happened to the Greeks. Homosexuality destroyed them.


TAPPER: Now, I saw the movie. I enjoyed it very much. This was certainly one of the odder moments in the film. The tapes come from the Nixon tape, the archive, not from the home movies, right?

LANE: Yes, exactly, almost 4,000 hours of audio recordings from that archive, yes.

TAPPER: And do you think that Nixon would have wanted us to have seen these moments coming to know him as you do now?

LANE: No, certainly not. I mean, these were tapes made for his personal use, to look back on and listen to when he was writing his memoirs, and things like that. These weren't made for people like me to come through and find nuggets of embarrassing Nixon stuff.

TAPPER: The man on the screen right there on the left, that's Dwight Chapin. He's the one surviving member of the three who shot these home movies. He's pushing back on the documentary as you know. He gave us a statement that you can read in full. He says that you are talented and calls the documentary humorous, and sometimes touching, but calls it inaccurate and distorted.

He says, quote, "While the film expressed desires that highlights the stories of the three Nixon staffers by use of our movies, the film in my opinion barely explores our years together and doesn't even come close to presenting our Nixon it seems to me. Of course, I cannot speak for my deceased colleagues and friends. But this film is more about using our personal videos as a cloak angle for a particular and predictable pre-existing view of President Nixon. They're my movies, but it's not my view." What's your response?

LANE: Well, I could say a couple different things. I mean, we didn't make the film that Dwight Chapin would have liked us to make, which would be a film about how Nixon was the greatest president that ever lived. That wasn't my interest or the point of the view of the film. But you know, I can understand his point of view as well. I mean, I would get pretty weird out if someone came along in 40 years and made a film about me using my home movies.

That's weird, right, like you wouldn't like it, either so I understand that point of view completely. I'm also waiting for him to explain exactly what it is that he thinks is so inaccurate. He's never said it or he says the film is one-sided, but I don't know what side he thinks it is taking. It strikes me that that's just a confused argument.

TAPPER: All right, well, the film premieres tomorrow night on CNN, 9:00 p.m. Eastern and of course on Pacific, only on CNN. Penny Lane, thanks so much for joining us.

LANE: Thanks for having me.

TAPPER: Coming up next, A-list celebrities are about as proud to admit they do commercials overseas as us regular folks are admitting we search under the sofa cushions for loose change, but George Clooney may have a reason to pop his chest out. How his Italian coffee ads are helping him take on a brutal regime. That's next.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Now time for the "Pop Culture Lead," it's long been the dirty little secret of A-list celebrities who want to make some extra cash without looking like sell outs, they appear in commercials in faraway places, with fingers crossed that ads like these won't tarnish their reputations here in the U.S. as Hollywood cool kids.

In case you missed it, those were two Oscar nominees and a rap star. Another A-lister, George Clooney, well, he says he has a good reason for appearing in these ads for an espresso, and it's not just the free coffee.

Clooney recently revealed he's using most of the money from those commercials to pay for a spy satellite that he helped installed to look over Sudan. He's been a vocal activist against Sudanese war crimes for years. Back in 2010, I spoke with Clooney on ABC's "This Week" about why he thinks the spy satellite program is so important.


GEORGE CLOONEY, ACTOR/ACTIVIST: These things have been happens in the dark for a long time. What happens with that is that the other Arab communities, the Chinese, they all have the ability to deny it, to say it didn't happen. We're going to be able to, you know, not show it afterwards, but show it beforehand that there were plans, there are tanks lined up, that there are helicopters online that are about to commit atrocities.


TAPPER: The Satellite Sentinel project tracks the movements of Sudan's army and tries to warn civilians about the threat of an attack.

In national news, O.J. Simpson just got one step closer to freedom, the Nevada Parole Board granted him parole on some of the charges related to his 2008 armed robbery convictions, but once his parole takes effect in October, he'll still have to serve at least four more years in prison, so no new Hertz commercials for now. Four years is a far cry from the 33-year sentence he originally got in 2008 for barging into a Vegas hotel room and demanding sports memorabilia that he claimed was his so four more years before O.J. can get back to looking for the real killers.

Make sure to follow me on Twitter @jaketapper and also @theleadcnn and check out our show page at for video, blogs and extras. That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. I will now turn you over into the able hands of one Mr. Wolf Blitzer. He's right next door in "THE SITUATION ROOM" -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Jake, thanks very much.