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The "Suicide Caucus?"; "Grand Theft Auto V" Sales Set Record; Slashing Food Stamps?

Aired September 19, 2013 - 16:30   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Let's go to the green room right now. Kevin Madden, yesterday, Tea Party favorite Senator Ted Cruz was accused of essentially telling House Republicans they're on their own in trying to defund Obamacare in Friday's big budget vote.

Then this happened, according to this tweet from our own Dana Bash, Wow, House GOP leadership aide just told me quote, "Wendy Davis has more balls than Ted Cruz," unquote. Now, Cruz is saying he will do anything and everything to defund Obamacare.

First of all, there's such a high school feel to all of this. Do you think that insult to his manhood had anything to do with the about face?

KEVIN MADDEN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I don't know. You know what, tell you what, there's nothing as brave as a senate aide who was granted anonymity. Who has to answer for it is all the leaders on the record.

TAPPER: Stay with us for the Politics Lead right after this.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. The Politics Lead, it's a very complicated case, a lot of ins, lot of outs, lot of what have yous, I'm talking, of course, about the looming debt ceiling battle and I'm also talking about that sage slacker, the big Lebowski or El Duderino, if you're not into the brevity thing, hit it.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Really doesn't care about anything. He's a nihilist.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He believes in nothing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He believes in nothing, nothing.


TAPPER: So what, you might ask, is the connection between a blood-thirsty ferret into the bathtub and the debt ceiling. Well, writing in the "Washington Post" today, it was argued today that there's a strand of nihilism running through the public right now over the possibility of a default. They say crunch the numbers and you will find almost 6 in 10 people who say they don't want to raise the debt limit also believe not doing so will cause serious problems for the American economy.

Let's bring in our panel. CNN contributor and Washington correspondent for the "New Yorker," Ryan Lizza, columnist for "Bloomberg View," Margaret Carlson and CNN contributor and Republican strategist, Kevin Madden.

Kevin, nihilist? That's not my theory, it's Chris', but how can so many Americans think this is going to be bad for the country, let's do it?

MADDEN: Well, look, I actually disagree with the movie reference. I still think right now the way these battles are breaking down inside the Republican Party up on the Hill it's more like Miller's Crossing where you have different --

TAPPER: Keeping it Cohen brothers. I appreciate it.

MADDEN: And I think what the distraction is, it's so much about process here inside Washington, D.C. and the real message about why Republicans are fighting on the debt limit isn't breaking through. That becomes a big challenge going forward. How is it that they align themselves with a lot of the anxieties that the American public has about spending and deficits and a Washington that is sort of working in an inefficient manner and how do they get back to showing that they believe in governing, they can govern in an able way.

TAPPER: Margaret, writing yesterday, you said of the president if he's not a lame duck, he is certainly not roaring like a lion. Does he bear any of the responsibility for this cliff that we're all careening towards?

MARGARET CARLSON, COLUMNIST, "BLOOMBERG VIEW": You know, when you -- I was thinking that crying a little bit of wolf over the sequester and all the times we were going over the cliff and horrible things were going to happen, and then they don't, which is partly why you get these polls that have a certain nihilistic element to them where the public --

TAPPER: Just don't think it's going to be that bad.

CARLSON: And then there are those who say, well, let's have some short-term pain for the long-term gain that the anarchists are promising us. You know, before, what the gods would build they must first destroy so let's have it.

TAPPER: We are getting very philosophical.

CARLSON: I could do Fargo for you and say someone dies.

TAPPER: Ryan, you and I have talked about this, the people in the House Republican caucus and the power they wield. Let's play some sound from individuals talking about the move to defund Obamacare and if it's not defunded, then the government will be shut down.


REPRESENTATIVE JOHN BOEHNER (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: Republicans have no interest in defaulting on our debt. None. We just want to find a way to pay it off.

REPRESENTATIVE PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: We can't let the government shutdown. We can't be Kamikazes and we can't be General Custer.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, POLITICAL COLUMNIST: I think it's a suicide and I hope enough of them will realize that.


TAPPER: There are two things going on here, obviously, the funding of the government and also raising the limit of the debt ceiling. Tell us more about what Charles Krauthammer referred to as the kamikaze caucus. Are there people who don't understand that this money, that raising the debt ceiling, these are bills that we have already paid for -- haven't paid for. These are bills we already racked up. Things Congress has already passed, spending bills Congress has already passed.

RYAN LIZZA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, it seems that they have taken two issues. One issue, defunding Obamacare, which look, the polls show that Obamacare is not incredibly popular so --

TAPPER: That's one way to put it.

LIZZA: It's reasonable for Republicans to continue chipping away at that. Now they have tied it to something that is deeply unpopular and which every member of the Republican establishment to the extent that they still wield power. Agree is suicidal. That is using this to potentially shutdown the government, default on the debt. So it seems like they made a huge tactical error tying those things together.

But you know, to defend the sort of -- if you look at the 80 members of the House that forced Boehner to do this, these 80 Republicans, I was looking at the numbers today, Obama lost their districts by 22 points on average. These are deeply conservative districts in the south and Midwest that don't view the incentives of the national party the same way.

They are going to get re-elected, they represent extremely conservative people. They represent people who want them to do what they're doing right now. So Boehner's incentives and the bulk of his caucus incentives are just not aligned.

MADDEN: I think there's two tracks there tactically. I think the first part for Boehner, he has a choice whether he can just tell everybody this isn't going to work and it's suicide, or he can take the other track, which is give everybody the vote that they want, those 80 members, and demonstrate that this is something that we've tried and now let's look at other options.

I think in the long run, that is always where John's success has been, listening to his caucus, understanding, listening to his conference, understanding there are elements in there that demand a vote, giving it to them, and then working on trying to find a solution.

CARLSON: He's tried other ways, but now he's treating them like children, which is I'm going to let you have that second ice cream cone, then you're going to be sick and then you'll learn your lesson. But he's not leading them.

MADDEN: Having worked for John, this is his approach. He believes in the institution. He believes the house and the majority have to work their will.

LIZZA: I don't think it's that he believes it. I think that's the situation he has. He doesn't have earmarks anymore to buy off votes. You don't run the House the way you used to run the House.

TAPPER: When they got rid of pork, they got rid of a way to get people to vote for things.

MADDEN: That is a big problem. When I used to work for Tom Delay he called growing the vote and we started everything at around 190 votes and how is it that you grow the vote to 218 --

LIZZA: What did you do?

MADDEN: We did a lot of listening and a lot of times you work with swing districts and you had to address whether there was a hospital or a road and a lot of that's gone now, hard to buy the votes.

TAPPER: Kevin, Ryan, Margaret, thank you all so much.

When we come back, it's a game changer. Last time around, it took a whole year to sell the same number of copies that just sold in 24 hours. What makes "Grand Theft Auto V" such a must-buy game?

Plus, a cheating scandal of a different sort, an uptick in home runs leads to one baseball boss' resignation. This time it's because of the balls, not the players.


TAPPER: Go ahead and click like on the Facebook page for the insane clown posse, if you want. The federal appeals court has your back even if your boss doesn't. The Money Lead when we return.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Now it's time for the Money Lead. How big of a deal is Grand Theft Auto? Opening day sales for the fifth installment of the video game surpassed, wait for it, $800 million. That's more than the top four biggest Box Office opening weekends of all time combined. Doesn't exactly sound like child's play anymore, does it?

Of course, the cost of one game is about six times the cost of a movie ticket, but that still breaks down to about 13 million copies sold. You can't downplay the magnitude of such a successful launch. For a game that is supposed to only be targeted toward a small portion of the gaming audience.

Joining me now live from New York is Dan Ackerman. He is the senior editor of Dan, how on earth did they sell $800 million worth of games in a day? It's unfathomable.

DAN ACKERMAN, SECTION EDITOR, CNET.COM: I think they have really built up the fan base for this game over the years, all the different installments. That's how you get up to a fifth sequel for something like this. I think there's really been a dearth of big budget mainstream high quality games lately going into the holiday season. This is the first big holiday season hit.

TAPPER: We should mention of course, the game as all "Grand Theft Auto" games are, is incredibly bloody and violent, not appropriate for children. There are people out there, although we had an expert on yesterday who disagrees with this. People out there who think that playing these games actually has an adverse effect on individuals when it comes to violent thoughts and impulses, and still, they're just getting more and more popular. Is the fact that they're bloody and violent really just one of the reasons why it's so successful?

ACKERMAN: There is a cathartic effect to it. You have to say the $800 million number is even more impressive when you think it's what they call a mature rated game, kind of like an R-rated movie. It does cut your audience down. That's why so many big action movies try to get down to pg so they can sell more tickets. So far in the video game industry they haven't felt that same pressure.

TAPPER: The last "Call of Duty" game previously held the record for the largest opening day of sales with $500 million. How does this "Grand Theft Auto" launch change the game for developers moving forward?

ACKERMAN: You know, it's become such a hit-driven business. You have to have a really big opening day or opening weekend for anybody to take you seriously. When you have such a hit-driven business, people get sort of risk-averse and don't get as creative. That's why you have sequel after sequel after sequel. That's why everyone focuses on a couple tent poles and you don't see the creativity that you would maybe in an art house movie.

TAPPER: That's exactly what a concern might be, the same thing we're seeing in Hollywood where all the good actors are going to TV because the movies that Hollywood is putting out on craptastic and they can sell worldwide, but are really not very good. I'm not saying that's exactly what's going on with "Grand Theft Auto," but is some of the creativity in the gaming culture being harmed by this kind of scenario? ACKERMAN: I think a lot of the creative minds are actually moving into what they call Indy games, small teams where you can make a game for an iPhone or iPad. You don't have to spend $20 million or $30 million to make the game. You could just do it with a small group of friends and sell it for 99 cents or $2 or $5. I think that's where a lot of interesting stuff is going on right now.

TAPPER: Dan Ackerman, thank you so much. Liking something on Facebook just got a big thumbs up from a federal appeals court. I'm not talking about liking baby pictures or engagement announcements or tirades about people who post "Breaking Bad" spoilers. I'm talking about endorsements of a political candidate. They have been ruled protected free speech.

This all stems from a case in Hampton, Virginia where a sheriff fired his employees for liking a political opponent's campaign page. The U.S. Court of Appeals overturned a lower court opinion ruling that liking something on Facebook should get the same federal protection as putting up a political sign in your front yard.

A huge night of CNN prime time coverage begins in just a few hours. Here's a sneak peek.


ANNOUNCER: CNN Tonight, at 7:00, ERIN BURNETT "OUTFRONT," the Navy Yard massacre, how did a man with a history of mental issues pass a security review?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Eight disciplinary actions that were kind of swept under the rug, sounds a little familiar to me, I mean, the political correctness.

ANNOUNCER: And at 8:00 on "ANDERSON COOPER 360" were money and diamonds the real motivations behind televangelist Pat Robertson's work in Africa? Robertson denies it, but Anderson talks to the filmmakers behind the film "Mission Congo" about their explosive allegations.

At 9:00 on "PIERS MORGAN LIVE," the Billy Ray Cyrus interview, guns, America, Miley. It's all tonight on CNN starting with "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" at 7:00, "ANDERSON COOPER 360" at 8:00, and "PIERS MORGAN LIVE" at 9:00 tonight on CNN.


TAPPER: Now back to politics for a moment. In addition to that big fiscal debate Republicans in the House of Representatives today continued to push, $40 billion in cuts over ten years to the federal food stamps program. Republicans argue that the price of the program, which costs $78 billion last year has ballooned and that cutting food stamps will encourage poor Americans to become more self-sufficient.

Earlier today, Democratic Congresswoman Jackie Speier of California lambasted those Republican colleagues who want to cut food aid for the poor while they themselves, she said, rack up pricey meals during travel to foreign countries, meals that they bill to you and me.


REPRESENTATIVE JACKIE SPEIER (D), CALIFORNIA: One member was given a $127.41 a day for food on his trip to Argentina. He probably had a fair amount of steak. Another member was given $3,588 for food and lodging during a six-day trip to Russia. He probably drank a fair amount of vodka and probably even had some caviar. That particular member has 21,000 food stamp recipients in his district. One of those people who is on food stamps could live a year on what this congressman spent on food and lodging for six days.


TAPPER: Congressional decorum prevented Speier from naming names, but we are restrained by no such protocol. We researched the public records and discovered GOP Congressman Steve King of Iowa and Frank Lucas of Oklahoma. Representative King had no comment and as of now we have not heard back from Representative Lucas.

Coming up in the Pop Lead, the stars of the top-rated show on TV "Want More Bucks for Their Bang," we are talking final season of "Friends" kind of money here when we come back.


TAPPER: Here's some weird, wild stuff. Johnny Carson's coming back to NBC eight years after his death, but he might look a little different than you remember him. Our "Pop Culture Lead" when we return.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. The Sports Lead now, Japan's pro baseball commissioner is resigning over a juicing scandal, but it's not about the players juicing. It's over a juiced baseball. Ryozo Kato who is Japan's former U.S. ambassador has been under fire since a report in June, which said Japan secretly switched to a livelier ball with more bounce for the 2013 season. It didn't help him when earlier this week, an American broke the Japanese single season home run record set 49 years ago.

It's almost as bad as getting broken up with over a text. Trent Richardson, the former star running back for the Cleveland Browns, says he didn't learn he had been traded to the Indianapolis colts until he heard it on the radio. The surprise trade went down yesterday. According to the Radio Station 92.3 the fan in Cleveland, a friend called Richardson and asked him about the trade. That's when he turned on the radio and learned it was true. That means not the Browns, not the Colts, not even Richardson's agent clued him in. It will be interesting to see if his agent hears about being fired over, say, Twitter.

The Pop Culture Lead now, Hollywood executives are dealing with their own version of "Revenge of the Nerds." The cast of the wildly popular CBS comedy "The Big Bang Theory" is said to be gearing up for a battle for fatter paychecks as in "Friends" fatter, a whopping $1 million per episode. That's according to "TV Guide" magazine. Some of the stars have already secured higher salaries like Mayim Bialik. She will be earning $100,000 an episode under her new contract. The show has been a ratings winner in recent years, not to mention Emmy wins for lead star Jim Parsons.

Late night TV has just not been the same without him, but NBC may have found a way to give us old school Johnny Carson fans our fix. The network is planning to air a miniseries on the comedian's life based on the biography "Carson The Magnificent," which profiles all three decades of the "Tonight" show and will also include tidbits from his child into in Nebraska. No word on who will be cast as Carson or when the miniseries will air.

Make sure to follow me on Twitter @jaketapper. Check out our show page at That's it for THE LEAD today. I'm Jake Tapper. I now turn you over to Wolf Blitzer. He is right next door. He's not next door. He's in "THE SITUATION ROOM" regardless.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Jake, thanks very much. Happening now, Republicans in disarray over the threat of a government shutdown, with very sharp infighting exposed on social media and elsewhere.

Also, controversial some say creepy ads discouraging young people from getting insurance under Obamacare. Do they cross the line?

And from Facebook founder to high-powered lobbyist, Mark Zuckerberg, he is up on Capitol Hill. We take a closer look at the tech guru's politics. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in "THE SITUATION ROOM."

Federal government offices and programs closed, museums and parks shuttered, hundreds of thousands of federal workers furloughed without pay, that's the hard reality of a government shutdown and it's now potentially only 11 days away. House Republicans are poised to pass a bill tomorrow that funds the government while --