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Lepage: The Media Is "All About Gossip"; Rebranding The Republican Party; Novelist Elmore Leonard Dead At 87; Tesla Crushes Competition In Safety Tests; Will The Next iPhone Be Gold?

Aired August 20, 2013 - 16:30   ET


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

Now, time for the sports lead: They are still the only NFL team in history to have a perfect season. The 1972 Miami Dolphins finally getting the moment they've been denied for 40 years. But a few of them said thanks but no thanks.

The politics lead: He once invited the NAACP to kiss him and I don't mean on the lips. Now, Maine's Republican governor is at the center of another racial controversy over something he allegedly said about President Obama.

And the pop culture lead: If you haven't read his books, you've probably seen a movie or TV show based on one. "Get Shorty," "Out of Sight", the list goes on and on. The world just will not be the same without author Elmore Leonard.

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

Time for the Sports Lead. For years, they've watched pro teams, college teams, even Little League teams get their days at the White House. Today, at last, the undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins got to take one last road trip together.


TAPPER: This is what perfection looks like. Meet the 1972 Miami Dolphins. Today, 41 years after they accomplished perfection, the only undefeated Super Bowl winning team in NFL history finally had their day at the White House.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know some of them a little harder to recognize these days.


OBAMA: You know, they don't have the afros or the mutton chops, the fu man chus.

TAPPER: Well, at least most of the team. A few former members of the championship squad refused to go because they disagree with the president's politics.

DON SHULA, HEAD COACH, 1972 MIAMI DOLPHINS: Even though you're a Bear fan, we understand you got to root for somebody.

TAPPER: But after four decades, many of them have remarkably remained a team, bonded by history.

OBAMA: Each and every time that perfect record has been chAllenged, team after team has fAllen short. But these Dolphins did not always get the credit they deserved.

TAPPER: It's a trip that may not have happened if not for the former Dolphins' tight end, Marv Fleming, who spent the past 15 years writing letters and talking to public officials, trying to get some presidential love for his old team.

MARV FLEMING, 1972 DOLPHINS' TIGHT END: I talked to Congress people, mayors, governors, I talked to everybody who was involved with the White House.

TAPPER: His battle cry, why not us? It's a good question. Why not the '72 Dolphins? In case you haven't heard, they're kind of a big deal. The team, coached by the legendary Don Shula, capped a 17-0 season with a win over the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl XII. It's a feat no other team has been able to accomplish since. The Dolphins famously, or some might say insufferably, break out a champagne toast when the last undefeated team loses their first game each season.

Still, until today, no respect from Washington, D.C. So, why weren't they honored after running the table in '72? Well, for one, President Nixon was jowls deep in the Watergate scandal at the time. But while back then, there was no annual tradition of always hosting winning teams at the White House, just two weeks before the Dolphins beat them at the Super Bowl, Nixon did invite Redskins coach George Allen to a ceremony in the Rose Garden. Legend has it that Nixon, a Redskins fan, even called a key play for the Redskins in 1971. Perhaps it was a trick play.

There's even a tape of Nixon and Allen talking football after the Redskins beat the Cowboys in the regular season that year.


RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: George, you were 13 points behind, you know, and when your offense just wouldn't do a thing, you know, I -- I thought you were dead.


TAPPER: But today, the present White House made good, settling a 40- year-old grudge, giving the perfect team a chance to finally be America's team.

OBAMA: Congratulations to the Miami Dolphins.


(END VIDEOTAPE) TAPPER: And let's bring in right now one of the most famous players from the undefeated 1972 Dolphins, Hall of Famer and fullback Larry Csonka. Mr. Csonka, it is an honor. Thanks for joining us.

LARRY CSONKA, 1972 MIAMI DOLPHIN: It's good to be here, Jake.

TAPPER: So, we're used to seeing teams coming through the White House all the time to celebrate with the president. You guys are kind of a big deal. Is this an important event to you?

CSONKA: I think so. any reason we have after some 40, 41 years to get together is always appreciated. The fact that we were called to the White House made it even more special.

TAPPER: What's a bigger deal, being inducted in the Hall of Fame or this? Which one is bigger?

CSONKA: Oh, that's a pretty tough comparison. I don't know if either's bigger. I think within the confines of the game, certainly the Hall of Fame is bigger. As far as the public is concerned and the following of the team and the notoriety of the team, certainly going to the White House is bigger in that respect. TAPPER: So, some of your former teammates -- Jim Langer, Manny Fernandez -- decided not to attend today because they really don't like President Obama's policies and politics. What's your take on that?

CSONKA: Well, that's a political issue. Some of the fellas -- this is a country where you have your freedom of speech, freedom to express your politics, freedom to do what you want to do. And I think that's exemplified by the fact that some of the team decided not to come. That's the political side of it.

On another note, the team side of it, the reason to get together was greatly appreciated by myself and the other fellas here. And we kind of got a hoot out of being asked to come to the White House and meet the president of the United States.

TAPPER: There's been a lot of talk about why President Nixon didn't invite you. Obviously, he was a huge Redskins fan. He had Coach Allen to the White House two weeks before the Super Bowl. What's your take on why Nixon didn't have you guys come?

CSONKA: I think President Nixon must certainly have had his own reasons. I don't know what they were. But I think that also was a time before it was really a regular thing to bring the Super Bowl champions to the White House. So while in some respect it is may seem we were neglected, I don't necessarily feel that way. I think it was even neater to be 40 or 41 years later, a unique situation that was even more unique after 40, 41 years then coming to the White House to celebrate the thing with a pretty unique president that we have right now.

TAPPER: And before you go, sir, one of my favorite things about the '72 Dolphins is you have a champagne toast when the last undefeated team loses. You came close a couple years ago. Before the Patriots lost the Super Bowl, they were undefeated. Do you think you will ever see another undefeated team?

CSONKA: I hope not. I hope not to see another undefeated team. But certainly if it happens, you have to recognize the fact. In '85, it was the Bears. A few years ago it was the New England Patriots. Seems like there's always someone knocking at the door trying to climb the mountain. But right now, we're still alone sitting on the peak.

TAPPER: Of course, in '85 the Bears would have been undefeated if it weren't for a certain team from Miami --

CSONKA: Coach Shula brought that up to the president when he was talking about being a Bears fan and how they only missed by one game. And Shula asked the president what team was that that beat the Bears that year.


CSONKA: He always had great timing.

TAPPER: It was, of course, the Miami Dolphins. Larry Csonka, thank you very much for your time. Congratulations 41 years later.

CSONKA: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: And when we come back, remember when Kanye West said George Bush doesn't care about black people? I know Mike Myers does. Has Kayne found his Obama-era equivalent in Maine's governor's mansion? That's our Politics Lead, next.

Plus, sure, prices might have dropped, but a home for the price of less than a soda? We'll tell you where houses are being sold for $1.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Now it's time for the Politics Lead. In just two short years in office, Maine's governor has managed to compare the IRS to Hitler's murderous Gestapo, he told the NAACP to kiss his tush, shall I say. And now Paul Lapage is dodging reports that he accused the president of, quote, "hating white people," unquote. That accusation comes from the "Portland Press-Herald," citing two unnamed state lawmakers who were in the room allegedly. Today Lepage denied the story.


GOV. PAUL LEPAGE (R), MAINE: No, I never said that and you guys are all about gossip.


TAPPER: Let's bring in today's political panel. Senior writer for "The Washington Examiner" Philip Klein. CNN political contributor and Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen, and Washington bureau chief for Time magazine, Michael Scherer.

So, Phillip, I don't know if he said this or not. He's denying it. There are two unnamed lawmakers. Obviously, I don't know who they are. But this does illustrate a problem I've heard some Republicans complain about, which is there are attempts to reach out beyond the Republican base, and then people like Steve King or this governor tends to ruin it with headlines that the media just devours like (INAUDIBLE).

PHILIP KLEIN, SENIOR WRITER, "THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER": Yes, I think that it's clear that obviously this is based on anonymous reports of people who have gone on the record, including other people who were there say he didn't say it, so we don't know.

But I think that the important thing is that any effort that Republicans are going to make for outreach are going to have to come not from the top down but from candidates. And I think that they're going to have to, you know, make their own outreach efforts and try to connect with minorities.

I think one thing that's interesting that hasn't really been explored that much is if you look at exit polls over the past few decades, while Democrats have always done a lot better among minorities, Obama exceeded the traditional Democratic model. And so I think one thing that's questionable is when Obama is no longer on the ballot, are Democrats still going to get in the high 90s in terms of the black vote?

TAPPER: Plus the turnout.

KLEIN: Plus the turnout. Or is it going to return to more typical Democratic models, dominant but not quite as super sized as what we saw with Obama?

TAPPER: Michael, let's talk a touch about Governor Lepage because the reason the story has gotten some legs is because it's not the first time he's said something -- or he's accused of saying it. He denies it. But it wouldn't be the first time he said something fairly crazy. This is his explanation of the dangers of BPAs in plastic bottles.


LEPAGE: The only thing I've heard is if you take a plastic bottle and put it in the microwave and you heat it up, it gives off a chemical similar to estrogen. And so, I mean, worst case is some women might have a little beard.



TAPPER: It's science. It's science, Michael.

MICHAEL SCHERER, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, TIME MAGAZINE: Actually, my favorite Lepage quote, which you haven't used and I won't repeat in detail, is he talks about one of his opponents not using Vaseline when he approaches the voters.

TAPPER: Right. Approaches the voters for an unnatural act. SCHERER: Unnatural act.

TAPPER: Or natural, I should say.

SCHERER: We know pretty well now that politicians who have sound bites like that can actually promote themselves pretty well because we all cover it. There have been a lot of people in Congress, Michele bachmann, others, who know how to deliver --

TAPPER: Is he a liability, though? I mean, this guys, he's starting to get a lot more attention.

SCHERER: Yes, I think he is. A few months ago, Jeb Bush went up there for a fundraiser and Jeb Bush got a lot of flak. I mean, Jeb Bush, the guy who could be a 2016 candidate running from the center of the party, was raising money for Paul Lepage who talks Hitler when he talks Obama. When you're comparing anybody who hasn't killed millions of people to Hitler, you're generally losing.

TAPPER: Right. But Hilary, of course, we're all complicated, complex individuals. The governor's spokesman is pointing to Devon Raymond. That's the young man from Jamaica, whom Lepage took into his home who he refers to, quote, "as his son." They say that's evidence that he is not racist.

HILARY ROSEN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You know, we've just seen this time and time again from too many times politicians when it comes to President Obama. Some racist thing comes out and they try to deny it and change the subject. And then Reince Priebus goes to the Republican convention and says, oh, we're actually going to make an extra special effort this year to reach out to blacks. I think that, you know, the problem that Republicans have -- yes, they've got a couple of racist governors --

TAPPER: Couple?

ROSEN: Well, who knows? At least one.

TAPPER: You're just spotting them a racist governor?


ROSEN: I'm adding in another one.

TAPPER: To be named later.

ROSEN: To be named later.

HILARY ROSEN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: -- you know, the problem that Republicans have, yes, they've got a couple of racist governors -- JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: A couple?

ROSEN: Well, who knows, at least one.

TAPPER: You're just spotting them a racist governor.

ROSEN: I'm adding another one.

TAPPER: To be named later.

ROSEN: To be named later. But really what they have is they have a numbers problem. They're not going to continue to win presidential campaigns if they don't reach out more, if they don't have a broader constituency. And but they almost talk about it in a kind of a sort of political inhuman way. And I think that that turns blacks and Hispanics off. They don't really talk about issues. They don't talk about wants and likes.

TAPPER: Of course, on the other hand, there are more Republican Latinos in the Senate than there are Democratic Latinos. People talk about Marco Rubio. They talk about Ted Cruz as potential presidential candidates.

ROSEN: And Republicans have done better. You know, George Bush got 45 percent of Latino votes. You know, this year, Mitt Romney got in the low 20s or something like that. So it can happen and I think Phil's right that it's about the individual politician but, you know, boy, this party stuff colors everything.

TAPPER: Phillip, I want to give you the last word here. People say -- conservatives complain that the media only covers when Republicans say crazy things, when Republicans say racist things and ignores when Democrats do the same thing. Do you agree with that?

PHILIP KLEIN, SENIOR WRITER, "WASHINGTON EXAMINER": I think there is a definite disproportionate amount of coverage in terms of focuses and trying to distort everything Republicans say. Typically also the way it happens is that if one Republican says something, typically what the media does is they approaches every other Republican and say do you condemn this remark? And it sort of blows up into a bigger story that then everyone has to comment on. And I think that that's what it is. It's part of the effort to try -- any individual, you know, when Todd Akin made his ridiculous comments --

TAPPER: Senate candidate in Missouri --

KLEIN: Suddenly everyone had to come out and comment on Todd Akin.

ROSEN: It's not really necessarily about the personal slurs. It's because the policies they're espousing connect with denigrating minorities and I think that's why Republicans get it more.

KLEIN: That's quite a statement --

ROSEN: No, it isn't. Look, whether it's stopping -- TAPPER: We have to end it here. We're out of time I'm sorry to say because that certainly deserves a rebuttal from Philip. We'll have you guys on again soon to talk about some of these issues. Hilary Rosen, Philip Klein, Michael Sierra, thank you so much for coming here.

Coming up, if it sounded like writing, he wrote it again. We'll be saying goodbye to the master of dead pan dialogue, Elmore Leonard.

And in money, sure, it's supposed to help save the planet, but we'll tell you how this electric car could save your life. Stay with us.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Now it's time for the Pop Culture Lead. To borrow the final line from perhaps his most famous book "Get Shorty," "endings, man, they're harder than they look." But somehow always made it look so easy. The master crime novelist died this morning from stroke complications at the age of 87. But thanks to his huge body of work readers will still be quoting his tough guy dialogue for generations to come.


TAPPER (voice-over): Be stingy with the exclamation points and never use any word other than "said" to describe people saying. Elmore Leonard gave us the rules to write by and he followed his own guide for more than 60 years as a published author. But the kinds of characters we know Elmore Leonard for never followed many rules at all. They were so compelling. They easily jumped to the screen.

ELMORE LEONARD: I got to shoot you. You don't tell me what I want to know. Where's my money?

TAPPER: From "Get Shorty" to "Be Cool," Leonard understood criminals.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You lost your mind?

TAPPER: As he told "The Daily Show" in 2002, his rules for writing sins successfully were as basic as his famously sharp dialogue.

LEONARD: I write a book to entertain myself. If I open a book anywhere and I start to smile, I know it works.

TAPPER: Leonard wrote gritty, violent stories for pure and simple joy, a theme reflected throughout his life.

LEONARD: You know that I have my fun being those people.

TAPPER: And the crooks, scumbags, stoners and schemers that were fun for the author often made for some of Hollywood's most memorable misfits. Think of the tangled relationship between George Clooney's thief and Jennifer Lopez's U.S. Marshall in the spectacular "Out of Sight."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Put the gun down. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not going back.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's why you came here, to kill me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn't come here to kill you.


TAPPER: Or Quentin Tarantino's "Jackie Brown" or the underappreciated "310 to Yuma" with Christian Bell as the rancher escorting outlaw Russell Crowe.

LEONARD: When I'm researching a character or a particular role, a bail bondsman or a cop, I never model my character after someone I meet. I make up my own.

TAPPER: Leonard's ideas flowed so freely from his pen. He began many of his 45 novels by writing them long form. Yes, for over half a century, the author stayed true to his low-tech technique, purchasing up to a thousand unlined legal pads each year for his fictional work, something he found much more enjoyable than scripting for the movie history.

LEONARD: The whole idea of writing fiction full time is you're on your own and you can write whatever you want. But then as soon as you become a screenwriter, you're writing on assignment, even if it's an original.

TAPPER: Leonard brought his story telling style to television in 2010 with the FX series "Justified," that earned the network record ratings last season. He famously once wrote "if it sounds like writing, I rewrite it." But we all know as long as it sounds like Elmore Leonard writing, we'll never forget it.


TAPPER: Overall he wrote 45 novels and was working on 46 when he died.

Coming up on THE LEAD, Apple's official iPhone announcement is not expected until September, but did the ultra secretive company accidentally give away the biggest, most shiny details? Our Money Lead is coming up.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. In money news, the only thing Tesla electric cars crushed in a recent round of safety tests was the competition. This report explains why the reports were so glowing. The tests were not conducted by the company. They were done by the government and the car got the highest safety score ever in American history.

Tesla says one of its biggest safety features is that the motor is in the back of the car, giving the front more room to absorb the impact of a crash. How does it make you feel to know you probably paid more for your lunch today than some people are about to spend to buy a home? In Gary, Indiana, the city is selling a bunch of home for, get this, one measly dollar.

Sure, some will need work but when you spend a buck on your home, you're probably not too upset to upgrade to grant it countertops. It's only open to those who don't own a home and plan to live there at least five years.

Apple is building huge, huge social media buzz with rumors that the next iPhone will be offered in black, white and gold. This is the first time the iPhone would be offered in any other color than black and white. According to the web site tech crunch, it would be offered in more of a champagny kind of thing. Apple is not commenting. We'll have to wait until the next iPhone is officially announced next month.

That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. I'll be back at 6 p.m. filling in for Mr. Wolf Blitzer on "THE SITUATION ROOM." But first let me turn it over to my colleague, Brianna Keilar. Ms. Keilar, take it away.