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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Even The Bravest Must Deal With PTSD; Former Disney Star Shocks At VMAs

Aired August 26, 2013 - 16:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN GUEST HOST: A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner tells CNN that the president has not reached out to their office, at least yet, about any potential military action in Syria. And wrote, quote, "If U.S. action is imminent, it is our hope that the president doesn't forget his obligations to Congress but also to speak directly to the American people."

The White House press secretary just said minutes ago that the State Department and the White House have been consulting members of Congress but he would not give any names. I want to bring in our panel to talk about all of this and the political implications of action in Syria.

Marc Thiessen is a columnist for "The Washington Post" and a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. Hillary Rosen is a CNN political contributor and a Democratic strategist, and Gloria Borger is awesome -

(LAUGHTER)

BERMAN: -- and also CNN's chief political analyst. Gloria, I want to start with you here. First of all, how interesting was it that these words, the toughest we've heard yet, were coming not from the mouth of President Obama but from Secretary of State John Kerry. What does that mean?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think what you see -- what you are seeing is a roll-out. In effect, as we call it in political terms, in that Kerry has become the spokesman for the president in this particular case. When Jay Carney, the president's press secretary, was asked about Kerry's strong words, he said, well, Kerry is speaking on behalf of the president.

So, I think this is -- there is no mistaking what Kerry was saying. I think you have to assume at this point that the United States along with allies is going to do some kind of military activity, whether it's launching a cruise missile at a surgical strike, as Senator Corker said. But I think they're preparing the American public, and in the end you may and should hear from the president himself.

BERMAN: Let me ask you this. More than half of the Americans we talked to said they don't want to get bogged down in another conflict in Syria. If, as Gloria says, the president is trying to prepare the American people, Hillary, are the American people prepared? HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: No, the American people are not prepared. But the president has the bully pulpit to get us prepared. And I think as long as the president sort of describes a mission that has a beginning, a middle and an end, my guess is that the American people are going to be with him.

But, after all, this is a president who inherited two wars. He doesn't want to get mired and bogged down in a place where we don't have firm goals and an exit strategy. But there are going to be a lot of people who are not going to be happy about this, and the president is going to be up against a tough road for many people.

BERMAN: A lot of people maybe in his own party. Mark, the other party, he's also been getting criticism from Republicans for a year or more on Syria. The phrase you keep hearing now is "boxed in." The president is boxed in. Explain.

MARC THIESSEN, COLUMNIST, WASHINGTON POST: Well, because he's been dithering in Syria for two years. I mean, right now, he has no good options because he's been basically we've been ignoring the conflict over there and not doing anything while 100,000 people were massacred. I find it fascinating that Secretary Kerry says it's a moral obscenity to use chemical weapons to kill 366 people with chemical weapons -- but 100,000 people have been killed with guns and mortars, and that's not a moral obscenity. This has been going on for two years.

And so what's happened is is that because we haven't been there, because we haven't engaged and helped the Free Syrian Army, the moderate secular opposition, al Qaeda has moved in. And Islamic fighters are pouring in and Islamic fighters are pouring in and taking over the opposition. And so what's happening is now is that you have a situation where the Syrians hate us because we've done nothing while 100,000 people have been massacred; al Qaeda is dominating the opposition. And so if Assad falls right now, then you have the possibility of an al Qaeda-backed government coming to power, controlling the - their two strategic goals: control the nation state and getting your hands on chemical weapons.

BORGER: I think there's a political reason domestically that he's boxed in, as you put it, and that is because of the red line. The president drew a red line and said the use of chemical weapons is a red line. That happened last spring when we verified the use of chemical weapons. Now it's happened on a larger scale now. So, you can't draw a red line on the world stage and suddenly back away from it because what does that say to Iran? What does that say to Korea? So you either draw the line or you don't draw the line.

ROSEN: Let's be clear how that happened. I mean, there's a small faction of conservatives that wanted much more active engagement and much more intervention a longer time ago. But consistently, the majority opinion from Republicans and Democrats on this has been to proceed with caution, to not move in. There was not international coalition and a consensus as one of your earlier guests, Richard Haas talked about pretty eloquently. That's really come about much more recently. THIESSEN: But the way you get consensus is by leading. I mean, this is the problem. Again, we're leading from behind, which is (INAUDIBLE) --

BORGER: But isn't he leading now and getting this coalition together?

THIESSEN: No, he's not! We don't even know what the strategy is. What is his strategy? I mean, what we've got here -- my worry is what's going to happen is we're going to have a cruise missile strike and do, as my former boss once said, use a million-dollar missile to blow up an empty tent and hit a camel in the butt as opposed to doing something serious about affecting the outcome in Syria.

What we need is not just a cruise missile strike, something sort of to show that America is doing something. We need a major shift in policy, a strategy to isolate al Qaeda, to marginalize al Qaeda, to strengthen the moderate forces in Syria who are trying to overthrow the Assad regime, and make sure Assad falls and is replaced --

BORGER: But we're not sure the rebels are ready to take over. In fact, generals have been saying the rebels are not ready to take over.

(CROSSTALK)

ROSEN: Hasn't been an option. And I think - and I'm glad, and I think most people are glad that President Obama has not been goaded into military action the way we just heard.

BERMAN: Let me ask you all this because you're not going to agree on that point there. I want to leave that one there.

What do as this do now to the president's agenda? This is the last week of August. We're almost in September. I assume he wanted to be talking about the economy, immigration, not to mention the debt ceiling, other things coming up here. Is Syria now going to dominate the president's schedule over the next month?

Look, he goes to Russia next week. He'll be sitting next to Vladimir Putin at the G-8 summit. That's going to be uncomfortable.

ROSEN: Right. But he'll be sitting among other world leaders who -- more world leaders who support him and are opposed to Putin on this.

You know, I mean, every presidential term is fraught with interim - you know, intermittent foreign policy crises. You just never know when it's going to happen and whether it's going to disrupt a domestic agenda,. But I think Congress has a job to do when they get back. They know that the American people are still focused on jobs, still want to see immigration, still want a budget deal. You know, I think the president can do both things at the same time.

BERMAN: That's going to have to be our last word there, guys. Thank you so much, Hilary Rosen, Marc Theissen, Gloria Borger --

THIESSEN: Thank you.

BORGER: The awesome Gloria Borger.

BERMAN: The awesome Gloria Borger.

(LAUGHTER)

BERMAN: So great to have you all here. Really appreciate it.

Coming up next in the Money Lead, after two failed rounds of redesign, the new hundred dollar bill is ready to go. So why is the Fed holding $3 billion worth of these freshly printed bills? They're just holding on to them.

And just hours ago, he was awarded the Medal of Honor for his bravery in battle. But it's Staff Seargent Ty Carter's new mission that had President Obama calling him inspirational, and he is inspirational. We'll explain why, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Welcome back to THE LEAD, everyone.

Literally the Money Lead. He has graced the face of the $100 bill for decades, but when it came time to give old Ben Franklin a few much- needed nips and tucks, the makeover did not go as smoothly as the Treasury Department had planned. A recent redesign of the $100 bill led to an embarrassing snafu which not only delayed how long it would take for the new bills to reach the market, but it almost meant that some of them had to be printed all over again.

THE LEAD's Erin McPike is here with the latest. And Erin, is it safe to say this story is in fact all about the Benjamins?

ERIN MCPIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is. Now the snafu itself was very small, just too much ink on less than one percent of the new bills. But that small mistake is going to cost millions of dollars.

Imagine having $3 billion in cash sitting in front of you, teasing you, that you couldn't use. That's what happened to the Federal Reserve this year because the country's money factory messed up. One of America's most familiar exports, the $100 bill.

BEN BERNANKE, FED CHAIRMAN: (AUDIO GAP) $100 notes circulate outside the United States.

MCPIKE: According to currency expert Ben Mazzotta --

BENJAMINE MAZZOTTA, THE FLETCHER SCHOOL, TUFTS UNIVERSITY: It's one of the most valuable bills to counterfeit.

MCPIKE: The mint was supposed to print a new design back in 2011, but they keep botching the bill. The first batch ended up with a blank spot. And the second round lifted by thieves on their way to the Federal Reserve. Now, excess ink.

MAZZOTTA: Ironically it appears not to be any of those advanced security features themselves which are causing the problem. It's the way the paper that they're using for this generation of printing is responding to the weight of the printing press.

MCPIKE: The error could cost taxpayers about $4 million because the current bill costs 7.8 cents to produce compared to 12.6 for the new one.

Look at this blue stripe that's woven into the center of the bill. It contains 100s and liberty bells that alternate when you move it. And down here is a copper ink well that contains a green liberty bell, and that only shows up when you move it.

MAZZOTTA: If you're in the business of counterfeiting, every year they don't release this is a year can you pass your old fashioned $100 bills that much easier.

MCPIKE: The government says crisp new bills should be ready to change hands by October 8th, then the arms race against counterfeiters begins again.

BERNANKE: We continually monitor the counterfeiting threats for each denomination and make redesign decisions based on those threats.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MCPIKE: Now, there is a printing center in Fort Worth, Texas and they did not mess up. So there is still sufficient supply of new $100 bills that will be in circulation on October 8th. So run to the ATM then.

BERMAN: It's amazing, first of all, that these mistakes could cost $4 million. Also amazing that counterfeiters are benefiting by the fact there's this.

MCPIKE: And they have been for two years.

BERMAN: Amazing. All right, Erin McPike, thank you so much.

So, if those endless baby photos and posts about the VMAs are not enough to convince you to scroll down and click unfriend on Facebook, this might do it. Turns out the company you keep online could actually affect your credit score. Some tech startups are using social media data to decide whether to give you a loan. They look at things like whether your Facebook friends were late paying back their own loans and how much you interact with them. So, if you're like me and you have a bunch deadbeats and doofuses on your friends list, it might be time for a purge. Wow.

All right, the bravest of the brave, showing his strength in a whole different way as he receives the Medal of Honor. Staff Sergeant Ty Carter looks to shift the spotlight off him and on to all troops battling PTSD. That story next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Welcome back to THE LEAD, everyone. The Buried Lead, those stories we think are not getting enough attention. They were outnumbered, outgunned, pinned down by the Taliban at Combat Outpost Keating in Afghanistan but on that day, October 3rd, 2009, Staff Sergeant Ty Carter showed bravery that really few could ever unmatched, killing the enemy, running ammunition to his fellow troops and rushing to save an injured comrade in the line of fire.

Sergeant Carter today received the Medal of Honor from President Obama. In one of the most remarkable moments in the president's speech touched on one of the most remarkable aspects about Carter himself, his honest, open discussion about his ordeal with post traumatic stress and his urge to help fellow troops seek help as he did.

THE LEAD's regular anchor, Jake Tapper, who has written extensively about Combat Outpost Keating, has this story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): When President Obama presented the Medal of Honor to Staff Sergeant Ty Carter, he not only heralded Carter's heroism on the battlefield at Combat Outpost Keating during one of the deadliest attacks in Afghanistan --

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: It was chaos, the blizzard of bullets and steel into which Ty ran not once or twice or even a few times, but perhaps ten times. In doing so, he displayed the essence of true heroism.

TAPPER: He pointed out that Carter has made his mission to de- stigmatize the post traumatic stress that hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops and veterans are dealing with.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Ty has spoken openly with honesty and extraordinary eloquence about his struggle with post traumatic stress.

TAPPER: Carter was once a skeptic of what he calls PTS. He doesn't want the D. He said it's not a disorder.

STAFF SERGEANT TY CARTER, U.S. ARMY, MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENT: I didn't believe it was real until I experienced it. I thought it was just an excuse to get out of duty or not do a job, but once it hit me and I realized it, I was blown away. How could I be so ignorant?

TAPPER: No longer. During the horrific battle at Outpost Keating, an enemy RPG explosion caused Carter to lose some hearing.

CARTER: Ever since that day, I've had high-pitched ringing in my ears.

TAPPER: In the dark, quiet moments, the constant ringing in his head brings him back to the battle. Since he left the outpost, Carter has been receiving regular treatment for post traumatic stress. It's a treatment that is allowing him to continue his career path in the army. Someone not so fortunate was one of Carter's battle buddies, Private Ed Faulkner Jr., who suffered from both post traumatic stress and a drug problem and was discharged from the Army a few months after battle at Combat Outpost Keating.

When Faulkner returned to his parent's home in Burlington, North Carolina, his post traumatic stress got severe. He would stay up late watching videos of the attack that insurgents posted online. Not even a year after the attack, Faulkner overdosed on Methadone and Xanax. There was no evidence of suicide, but either way friends felt his death was a result of the horror of his time in battle.

CARTER: I honestly believed that yes, he was the ninth victim at Combat Outpost Keating. I also believe he won't be the last.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Many of the troops and veterans were watching his struggling, look at this man, look at this soldier, this warrior. He's as tough as they come. If he can find the courage and strength to not only seek help, but also to speak out about it, to take care of himself and stay strong, then so can you.

TAPPER (on camera): Do you think the pentagon and our society, America, understand what a crisis this is for hundreds of thousands of troops?

CARTER: I think the Army understands. The problem is that getting help has to start with the soldier.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: A study in 2008 found that nearly 20 percent of U.S. military personnel returning from Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from PTSD or depression. Many troops think that is a conservative estimate, but even if it's not that would be 500,000 of the 2.5 million who have served in those war zones to the present day, serious, serious issue.

Meanwhile, we have a special treat right now. Wolf Blitzer is here with a preview of "THE SITUATION ROOM." Wolf, welcome back from a much-deserved vacation, Syria, big discussion --

WOLF BLITZER, HOST, CNN'S "THE SITUATION ROOM": We're going to go in depth in our 6:00 hour, looking what the Obama administration is now planning on doing to deal with this -- it's a crisis in Syria that's going on. We've got a lot of good guests and a lot of good analysis. I'm asking a key member of the Armed Services Committee has been briefed on the military options.

BERMAN: Wolf Blitzer, thank you so much. See you in "THE SITUATION ROOM" in just a few minutes. Up next here, Miley Cyrus, twerking away those innocent memories of Hannah Montana, the question is this, is all the supposed outrage over this a little bit sexist when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Welcome back to THE LEAD, everyone. In the Pop Lead, we would like to acknowledge a victory this afternoon. Miley Cyrus, you won. Your nearly naked assault on a foam finger on foam finger on national television is receiving the onslaught media attention that you most probably expected when you planned the nearly naked assault of a foam figure on national television.

But your victory will not be complete because we're taking a stand here on THE LEAD. Yes, we're going to discuss the performance and we're going to show it, but we will not use your name again. The question is why did she who shall not be named commit that act, which should not be done, and where does it rank among the eye popping moments that should not be forgotten?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN (voice-over): It wasn't the backup furies, it wasn't the trashy one-piece tribute to Chuckie Cheese. It wasn't even the twerking. All that can be expected at MTV's video music awards and all that is now part of she who shall not be named acts these days. It was this, the foam finger dance with Robin Thicke during the performance of "Blurred Lines" that probably should have had the man in the referee tuxedo throwing a flag and it definitely had a lot of people talking.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's just not a good look.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was not a good night for Miley Cyrus.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a measure of how crazy the Miley performance was when nobody's talking about Lady Gaga.

BERMAN: The artist formerly known as Hannah Montana is not the first Disney child star to go from rated G to rated whoa! The Mickey Mouse Club's Christina Aguilera devoted a whole album to being -- and fellow mouse alum Britney Spears French kissed Madonna. Enough said. It seems she who shall not be named is following a kind of post-kid star play book, one designed to have fans say, Hannah, we're not in Montana anymore.

BILL WERDE, EDITORIAL DIRECTOR, BILLBOAD MAGAZINE: She's grown into a different kind of entertainer that frankly, her fans and there are legions of them, still find incredibly entertaining. I think part of her brand is to be a white, hot mess and I think she delivered in a spectacular way last night.

BERMAN: She who shall not be named is having some success and just maybe there is a double standard amongst all the outraged gaping mouths out there. There was another performer involved in the finger folly, as one tweet noted, why isn't Robin Thicke a slut?

WERDE: For one of the first times in a big pop cultural moment, the female is the aggressor. We don't know for a fact that Robin Thicke was in on this, but it was very clear that Miley Cyrus wanted to be humping and nuzzling.

BERMAN: And what about Justin Timberlake? Janet Jackson's Super Bowl breast breakout and while he didn't bare his breast, on "Saturday Night Live," he did put his -- well, OK, that was clearly a joke, but that line might not matter when it comes to celebrity these days. Even if she shall not be named, she shall be seen and heard again and again and again. (END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: So whatever you know who is up to, it does seem to have worked. Hours after the performance her songs shot to number five and number two on the iTunes charts and 10 million people watched last night, up 66 percent from last year's show. Who knew?

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

BLITZER: John, thanks very much.