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Christie Position for 2016?; Reality Show on Mars?; Memories of the White House Butler

Aired August 15, 2013 - 16:30   ET


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

In politics news, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie going all Jersey on his potential rivals for the Oval Office in 2016. The fiery words the popular Republican had to say to his own party behind closed doors.

The "Buried Lead." Call it the final frontier of reality TV. If you thought things got tense when those "Real Housewives" started flipping tables, wait until the oxygen starts running low on the Mars version of "Big Brother."

And our "Pop Culture Lead." He had a front row seat for the inner workings of eight president administrations and now a -- new movie about his life is hitting theaters. We'll meet his son and we'll separate the fact from the fiction.

Hey, everyone. Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Now to "The Politics Lead."

Stop navel gazing. That's New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's advice to his fellow Republicans who for months have been talking about revamping the party's image. Today at a meeting of the RNC in Boston he also took veiled swings at two of his potential rivals for the 2016 Republican nomination and he told his party he's in it to win.

Let's bring in our political panel, CNN political contributor and former adviser to Mitt Romney's campaign, Kevin Madden, CNN political contributor and Democratic strategist Maria Cardona, and senior correspondent for "TIME" magazine, Michael Crowley.

Kevin, I want to start with this thing that everyone thinks was aimed at Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana. He said, quote, "I'm not going to be one of these people who goes and calls our party stupid."

Now of course Governor Jindal, who is also a potential 2016 presidential candidate once said that we have to stop being the stupid party. That seemed directly aimed at Jindal, yes?


MADDEN: I think we look too much into that trying to think that, you know, one candidate is already positioning himself against another, and it's too early for that right now. I think the point that Chris Christie was trying to make was that we have to be in a party that is about ideas. We have to describe what it is that we're for and describe where we stand on all the big issues that the American electorate cares about.

The challenge that Chris Christie is going to have here, though, is that he has to reconcile that with comments that he made that infuriated a lot of Republicans back when he was blaming John Boehner and congressional Republicans for what happened with the Sandy aid, Sandy aid that many folks believe was loaded up with pork from a lot of Democrats and a lot of special interests.

So he's saying that in Boston and got a really good line of applause for it, but there are many Republicans that still remember that. The question for him going forward to '16 is how far can he put those other comments in the past in the rear view mirror.

TAPPER: Maria, don't you think that he would be a fairly strong general election candidate? He has -- he's from a blue state. I mean, obviously, the question is can he -- can he get the nomination?


TAPPER: But don't you think that on its face he's a blue state Republican, has this kind of like appeal, straight talker?

CARDONA: Sure. Well, he certainly knows the formula of how to win in a purple state. And I think that's the point that he was trying to make.


TAPPER: That's not a purple state. That's a blue state.


CARDONA: Blue state. Right. So I think that's exactly the point that he was trying to make. But I actually think the Republicans need to do a whole lot more of navel gazing. I mean, look, after the whole review of what Republicans did wrong in 2012, they've gone back to do exactly the same thing and kind of dug in.

TAPPER: Like what?

CARDONA: These ridiculous comments about Latinos, the ridiculous comments about women when they talk about women's issues. They can't get past what they said in the 2012 race. They've come back to it. And so I actually think that they do need to do a whole lot more navel gazing.

But I think Chris Christie was smart in this. He's making this point now because what you said, Jake, is exactly right. He can be a strong general election candidate but he needs to get through the primary. And so he's making the point now. He's essentially planting the flag that if the Republican Party wants to really win, he's the guy to do it.

TAPPER: Michael?

MICHAEL CROWLEY, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT, TIME MAGAZINE: Well, I just have to chuckle particularly having dear Kevin here who worked for Governor Romney and to me it seems like a set-up for a Mitt Romney Redux. I know how to win, I was elected governor in a blue state, and I'm going to show my record of results in a state where I had antagonistic legislature.

And it's the same formula. And I think there are going to be a lot of Republicans who say, hey, we tried that and that didn't work out for us. So I will be very interested to see how successful he is. I also think it's somewhat ironic, you know, this is something people like about Governor Christie, and I don't mean it as an insult, but calling people stupid is the sort of thing that he does all the time. So it's a little bit funny to see him lecturing people on civility.

MADDEN: I agree with that. I think there's a lot to reconcile. The other thing, though, is where there's broad agreement here is to -- for Republicans is get off the focus on process, start talking about ideas. That's a big take away from this.

TAPPER: And -- well, this is another quote that he said today behind closed doors. He said, "I'm in it to win. I think that we have some folks who believe that our job is to be college professors." I think a lot of people thought that was aimed at Mr. Gingrich, or my CNN colleague now. "For our ideas to matter we have to win because if we don't win, we don't govern, and if we don't govern, all we do is shout into the wind."

How did you interpret these comments?

CROWLEY: Well, you know, I also think if you're looking for targets, I would think Rand Paul would be another obvious guess. You know, the Libertarian Party wing of the party which is ascending right now, has a lot of energy, possibly where the real energy in the Republican Party is, is derided by the moderates as being kind of theorists.

You know a lot of their ideas sort of in the abstract maybe sound good if you're -- if you're a true conservative. But for instance, remember how much trouble Rand Paul got into when he started talking about the Civil Rights Act and kind of taking libertarianism to its logical conclusion on that. And it was a huge fiasco.

So I think that the moderates say you're too doctrinaire, you're too ideological, and you're not about getting results, you're happy to vote no on a whole bunch of things.

TAPPER: Right.

CROWLEY: -- to prove your principles but no results and you can't get elected president that way.

MADDEN: Mike's on to something here. And I think a lot -- I'm getting a lot of questions from reporters and they asked me well, what do you make of this break between the establishment and grassroots, or the libertarians and the pragmatists? I think what it really does come to on what Christie is trying to get at is that it becomes -- if this is going to be a question about the doers and the talkers. And that many executives, governors that are out there, governing every single day, they're the doers and they're not interested in just talking about theory, about a policy, but how it actually affects people.

TAPPER: We have to cut it off right now. I'm sorry, Maria.

MADDEN: I'm sorry, Maria.


MADDEN: A good filibuster.

TAPPER: Coming up, Ziggy Stardust asks, is there really life on Mars? Well, four people could soon be taking a one-way trip to the Red Planet to potentially find out. Do you want to be one of them? We'll tell you how to apply.

Plus a new species was found on this planet and it is adorbs. Stay with us.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Now it's time for the "Buried Lead," these are stories we think should be getting more attention.

This is the true story of four strangers picked to live in a pod to be sent on a one-way mission to Mars to find out what happens when people stop being polite and start getting real?

Tens of thousands of people have sent in audition tapes to Dutch nonprofit in hopes of possibly becoming the first people on the red planet. A Mars mission funded in part by something that could make "Revenge of the Nerds" look like "Entourage."

Erin McPike is here with more.

This sounds wacky.

ERIN MCPIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, these have to like each other. It's not just a 10-year proposition. They have to train together for seven years first after they are selected. But then these four who are selected will live together for the rest of their lives on Mars.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mars One will establish human settlement on Mars in 2023.

MCPIKE (voice-over): What would it take to get to you leave earth forever to live on --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mars. From now on we won't just be visiting the planet. We'll be staying.

MCPIKE: That's right. Dutch foundation Mars One is trolling for pioneers to colonize the Red Planet. You just have to be at least 18 years old to apply.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You will be staying. The search for life on Mars begins on earth.

MCPIKE: Wait. You wouldn't leave behind your friends, hot pizza, cold drinks? No worries, there are at least 100,000 earthlings who say they would.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm curious. I'm willing to test my limits. And I'm determined to go to Mars.

MCPIKE: The mission will cost $6 billion. Mars One is considering turning the video application process into a -- you guessed it -- reality TV show in order to offset the costs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Since I was a little boy and watching the stars for the first time, I know that my place is there, between the stars.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Truth be told, I'm already a Martian. I'm just looking to make it official.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Leaving life to the chaos of the Cosmos. Colonizing Mars will make it clear that humanity is capable of great things.

BAS LANSDORP, MARS ONE: You are right. On Mars you will find the head of the settlement on the planets. But it's not finished yet. It's not your new home yet. So the first half year you will be doing a lot of construction.

MCPIKE: Bas Lansdorp is the CEO of Mars One. He dreamt up this voyage in 1997 and is dedicating his life to accomplishing the mission.

LANSDORP: Groups that we have in training will go out. We might think that a group is not qualified or someone in the group might be ill and no longer eligible to go, so we will be repeating the application process every year.

MCPIKE (on camera): Now if you want to apply, it will cost you about $38, which was about the average cost of a college application in the United States last year. But this will take you more than just your vitals and what interests you.

(Voice-over): You've also got to tell Mars One what stresses you out, what frightens you and situations that you've experienced interaction with cultures other than your own.

PROF. JOHN LOGSDON, GEORGIA WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: And it will be very tricky. Protecting people from radiation is going to be hard. Maintaining human health with kind of minimal facilities and producing food on the surface of Mars. So there are a lot of obstacles.

MCPIKE: Now, remember, once you go you can't go home again. But for some applicants, maybe that's a good thing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm a lawyer. For a lot of you that's enough to make you want to launch me into space already.


MCPIKE: Now if you really do want to apply, the deadline for this round is at the end of the month. But you'll have more chances because Mars One wants to recruit multiple groups in case of delays and obviously some drop-outs. But they want to have 100 human Martians within the next 40 years.

TAPPER: And you say that -- you say that they've raised about $6 million so far.

MCPIKE: Yes. So I'm thinking for me, retirement. I'll retire to Mars.

TAPPER: But -- I'm not an expert on math. But he still has almost $6 billion that he still needs to raise with the $6 million. It's 1/1,000th of the -- OK, well, no, no, it's interesting. I'm sure --

MCPIKE: You don't want to go?

TAPPER: I'm sure it's going to happen. I'm sure it's going to happen. Erin McPike, thank you very much.

Coming up next, he kept the secrets of eight different presidents. But is Hollywood's take on Eugene Allen's story realistic? Is it accurate? We're talking to the butler's family about what really went on behind closed doors at the White House.

Plus, a zoo is caught trying to dupe little kids and their parents into thinking this is a lion. It's a dog. What's their excuse?


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Now it's time for more buried news. It's being described as a cross between a teddy bear and a house cat. No, Sharknado fans, this isn't the sci-fi original movie aimed at the younger demo. The Smithsonian says that scientists discovered a new animal, the olinguito. Just chilling in the trees of Columbia and Ecuador.

It's in the raccoon family. It leaps from treetop to treetop but it turns out the National Zoo actually had one of these monkey-kitty- teddy raccoons for a year, but it was mistaken for another sister species.

Zoologists got suspicious when they tried to mate her with the wrong animal. Finally decided she wasn't just playing hard to get, it was more complicated as in it's not you, it's me, I'm an olinguito.

Zoo-goers in China also thought they were seeing a brand new species for the first time when the big cat in front of them barked. Now that zoo is in a little trouble for trying to pass of a dog as an African lion. Zoo officials said the dog Tibetan mastiff was put in a cage when the real lion was sent away to breed.

According to a Beijing paper his cover was blown by a mom who took her sons to the zoo specifically to show him the sounds different animals make. The lion says woof? Hope she didn't also have to explain where the real lion was at the time.

Also in buried, a guy you can't keep hidden away for very long. Eighty-one-year-old Regis Philbin returns to TV on Monday as the host of an afternoon sports talk show called "Crowd Goes Wild" on the new FOX Sports 1 Network. Anyone who has seen Regis on TV in the past six or seven decades knows he's a devoted fan of Notre Dame and the New York Yankees. Let's hope he can finally get those teams some much deserved media attention.

Still to come in the "Pop Lead," memories of the White House butler. His story hits the box office tonight. But we wanted something a little Hollywood, a little more real. We're hearing from the butler's son next.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Now it's time for today's "Pop Culture Lead."

How often can you say about anyone, "He served in the White House for 34 years." Well, no president could ever say that but the late Eugene Allen could. Allen served eight presidents and bore witness to some of the most powerful figures and tumultuous times in U.S. history. His unique and fascinating life inspired the movie "The Butler" which opens tonight.

CNN White House correspondent Dan Lothian visited Allen's son to learn more about this quiet man whose story is finally being told.


FOREST WHITAKER, PLAYS THE BUTLER: I'm Cecil Gaines. I'm the new butler.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's a Hollywood story built on the life of a humble man. Eugene Allen, the real butler, who lived and worked in two very different worlds.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You hear nothing, you see nothing.

LOTHIAN: Allen didn't just work but mingled with the rich and powerful, heard their stories, held their secrets. Like walking into an unlocked vault, his legacy lives on in this modest home a few miles from the White House, where Allen and his wife raised their only son Charles.

CHARLES ALLEN, EUGENE ALLEN'S SON: When the president, when they got to the point where they could talk comfortably around the state, you know, that's when you, you know, kind of like fit in and they would just talk around you. Because he wasn't going to divulge anything.

LOTHIAN: Not even to his wife of 65 years, played by Oprah Winfrey.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to get all the stories.

OPRAH WINFREY, PLAYS BUTLER'S WIFE: Well, I don't hear it because they done swore him to some kind of secret code.

LOTHIAN: But Allen's son, who says the butler who served eight presidents, from Truman to Reagan, was far from a silent witness to history.

ALLEN: They respected his opinion. He was a respected man.

WINFREY: That moment in the film where Cecil Gaines goes in and says, the white help is making more than the black help here, and I think that's not fair and we should, you know, get equal pay, that is his way of warring.

LOTHIAN: A proud black man who wasn't defined by a racial stereotype, the line between butler and friend could be blurred.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Most of the first ladies around Christmas would invite our wives and children down for a Christmas party. Miss Eisenhower used to give all the children a toy at Christmas.

LOTHIAN: Toys, ties, paintings.

ALLEN: These two paintings here were done by President Eisenhower. He'd be out there on the porch and Mr. Ford, Miss Ford would call and say, hey, Gene, the president wants to talk to you. You know. They were nice people.

LOTHIAN: Nancy Reagan and her tough as nails reputation seemed to have a soft spot for Allen, even if her personal attention sometimes rattled him.

ALLEN: She was looking for him and somebody said that --

LOTHIAN (on camera): She's looking for you.

ALLEN: Yes. Somebody said the first lady's looking for you. He's like --

LOTHIAN: I'm in trouble, right?

ALLEN: I'm in trouble.

JANE FONDA, PLAYS NANCY REAGAN: I'd like to invite you to the state dinner next week.

WHITAKER: I'm going to be there, Mrs. Reagan.

FONDA: Not as a -- not as a butler, Cecil. I'm inviting you as a guest.

LOTHIAN: He became emotionally attached to all the first families, but especially the Kennedys.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A proud banner is lowered.

LOTHIAN: John F. Kennedy's assassination rocked Allen to the core.

(On camera): That was the first time you saw your father cry?

ALLEN: The first time. The first time, yes.

LOTHIAN (voice-over): Following JFK's funeral, Allen was with Jackie as she celebrated her children's birthday. In times of mourning or in the midst of the nation's racial conflicts or a controversial war, Allen was just a step away from power, yet the butler never sought attention and years later shunned multiple offers to tell or sell his story, until his wife passed away.

ALLEN: I said you owe this to mom, man. I said this is not about you. The fact that my mother wanted my father recognized and this happened means everything to me.

LOTHIAN: Dan Lothian, CNN, reporting.


TAPPER: Long after he retired, Allen got the chance to vote for an African-American for president. He later was a VIP at President Obama's inaugural. The only inaugural he ever attended.

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