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Talking Turkey And Shutdowns; Valerie Plame's Thriller "Blowback"; A Look At "Linsanity"

Aired October 4, 2013 - 16:30   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper on Capitol Hill. In politics, he ordered turkey and provolone, hold the negotiations. After picking up lunch at a local D.C. sandwich shop that's offering shutdown specials of 10 percent off for furloughed workers, President Obama today vented some more of his frustrations with the Republican House leadership.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, are you any closer to getting a deal to reopen the government?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Very simple way to do it. Call the vote.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you going to speak to Speaker Boehner today?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Nothing's firmly planned but I'm always happy to talk to him, tell him call the vote.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How long you think it will last?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: It could end in about half an hour if they call the vote.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's for lunch?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: It's turkey and provolone.


TAPPER: Let's talk turkey now with our panel, national political reporter for "The Atlantic," Molly Ball, former chief speech writer to President Obama, Jon Favreau and editor of the "Weekly Standard," William Kristel. Molly, you wrote an interesting column about give the Tea Party credit. They are doing through activism, what any activist group would want to accomplish.

MOLLY BALL, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE ATLANTIC": I wrote this because a couple reasons. First of all, I think there's been a lot of -- it's Ted Cruz who is pushing everybody in this direction or it's just Michele Bachmann and her 29 friends. This is coming from the grassroots. This is coming from the Tea Party grassroots and they have a political organization that's very effective. It's tactical.

They know where the pressure points are and they know how to push them and that's what we saw them do during the August recess. Let's not forget, everyone said this couldn't be done before the August recess, this defund Obamacare idea was going nowhere. Of course, it's still going nowhere, but it has shutdown the government. That's a partial victory for them.

I think that's part of the reason they're not giving up now, because they feel they have already overcome the naysayers and come this far. That's why they still believe they can go all the way.

TAPPER: Jon, you're familiar, having worked for the Obama campaign, with getting the grassroots excited about a cause, no matter what the establishment wants them to do. The establishment was at one point Hillary Clinton. What do you think?

JON FAVREAU, FORMER SPEECHWRITER FOR PRESIDENT OBAMA: I certainly give them credit for achieving something but they are -- it remains true they are way out of line with the public on this. The public does not want to shut the government down and does not want to defund Obamacare. To the extent that Republicans align themselves with the Tea Party's aims, which the entire party has done at this point, they risk being extremely out of step with the general public.

TAPPER: I heard from a lot of Republicans off the record as I'm sure you have, they don't want this to be going on. They don't want the debt ceiling thing to be going on either. Do they want to defund Obamacare, absolutely, but they don't like this. What are you hearing? You have better Republican sources than I do.

WILLIAM KRISTOL, EDITOR, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": A lot of those Republicans are the same Republicans who thought Mitt Romney ran a brilliant campaign and you don't need to actually fight and every fight you get into is going to be a replay of 1996, where Republicans lost. I think to pick up on what Molly said, the reason the Republicans have hung tough, have stood pat and are going to.

They will continue passing these small pieces of legislation funding parts of the government, is that everyone a week ago, everyone said disaster for the Republican, stock market will probably crash, the country will be up in arms, the polls will be skewing wildly against the Republicans, every Republican congressman will be under intense pressure at home.

That's not what's happening. I'm not saying this is a brilliant strategy. I'm not saying I would have recommended going this way. Honestly, right now, the Republicans feel they're much better off than they were a week ago and they have created problems for the Democrats. The small funding bills they're passing, not so easy for Senator Reid to explain why you shouldn't fund NIH because he would like to fund everything all at once.

The administration also has made some mistakes with the closing down the World War II Memorial. Now they're not going to show the football and baseball games this weekend on Armed Forces Network. They're trying to make a point by showing how tough the shutdown is, but it makes the Obama administration seem petty.


FAVREAU: When you shut down the government, when Republicans choose to shut down the government, the government shuts down. The World War II Memorial shuts down and look --

KRISTOL: You've been to the memorial. What's to shut down? It is open. It is on the mall. They had to build a fence. You think that was the right thing to do, to build a fence to keep people out of it? It's a 24 hour open space.

FAVREAU: When you don't have security guards, when no one is picking up the trash. There are no bathrooms. You can't let elderly World War II vets go -- in '95 and '96 when there was a shutdown, people say they didn't shut down open air memorials then. There were pictures of barriers up over the Lincoln Memorial then. This happened before. Yet for some reason we have Republicans now being like this never happened when Clinton was president and there was a shutdown. Of course, it did. When you shut down the government, the government shuts down.

KRISTOL: He didn't take the position of President Obama that I'm not talking to anyone. I'm grateful that President Obama is in the White House and not President Clinton who I think would out maneuvering the Republicans at this moment. Luckily it's the B team of the Obama administration. If people like Axelrod and Gibbs and Emanuel were there, it would be different. Now they're dealing with the successes.

TAPPER: Do you think it's the White House team or a feistier House Republican caucus?

KRISTOL: Well, it's both but now it's a fight. Senator Reid has been very tough holding the Senate Democrats. Watch for the next two, three, four days, can he hold Senate Democrats refusing to vote on these small bills the House Republicans are passing. It's a tough thing to explain why they're not bringing up these mini funding bills.

FAVREAU: We're going to let House Republicans decide which parts of the government we fund and which we don't, so we're going to restore veterans funding but women and infants and children, we're just going to say no to them?

KRISTOL: They're passing that this afternoon.

FAVREAU: What about the Head Start?

KRISTOL: The stuff they're passing for children this afternoon? Look, it's not a way to govern ultimately but for a week, would it be better to have women, infant, children program functioning or not?

FAVREAU: We want the entire government open. We don't want piecemeal programs funded than have 300,000 kids on Head Start have nowhere to go. The government shuts down when the Republicans shut the government down. They can open it right now if Boehner holds the vote and that remains true. TAPPER: Molly, where do you see this going next?

BALL: Well, look, I think the conversation we just heard, if I can get a little meta. Part of the reason that Republicans, the only play Republicans have right now is try to change the politics of this. That's why you have some of the stuff bill is talking about, trying to turn around the politics of this because that's the only play they have. They don't have a way out.

TAPPER: To make it seem the Democrats don't want to fund --

BALL: This is the best they can hope for. At the same time, the Democrats have lost leverage now that Republicans have already taken the punishment. You hear even the moderate Republicans on the Hill now saying well, the shutdown has happened, it can't get any worse for us than this, so now we've got to stand strong because if we cave now, what was the point. We didn't stop the pain from happening.

TAPPER: We only have a minute left. I will give you each 30. How does this end?

FAVREAU: How this could end, is the Republicans, John Boehner holding the vote so the government opens and we raise the debt ceiling like we should be doing and then the -- that's the unicorn answer. The president has always been willing to negotiate around the budget. He's willing to talk about tax ref reform, entitlement reform. We can negotiate with the Republicans on all those issues, just not with the threat of a shutdown.

KRISTOL: Republicans keep playing the hand they're playing. Then it turns into a debt ceiling negotiation next week which has to happen and which has to be a negotiation. Guess what, Harry Reid does not have 54 Democratic votes in the Senate to lift the debt ceiling so it has to be negotiated between the two parties.

TAPPER: All right, great panel. Bill, John, Molly, thank you so much.

When we come back, she made her living keeping secrets and now former spy Valerie Plame is talking about the CIA. Why did she feel the need to write her latest book and it's fictional. I'll ask her next.

Plus, for a few weeks last year, he was the most talked about figure in sports. What happened to Jeremy Lin after the Linsanity died down? I'll talk to the NBA star coming up.


TAPPER: The glamour of bond movies, the intrigue of homeland, do you think you know what it's like to be a spy? My next guest does because she was one. Stay with us.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. In today's "Lead Read," it's a spy thriller written by someone who knows from spies, former CIA Officer Valerie Plame. She became a household name when in 2003 her cover was notoriously blown by a member of the Bush administration. She's put her cloak and dagger experience into this new book "Blowback" out this week about a junior female CIA officer on the hunt for a dangerous nuclear arms dealer.

Valerie Plame has been nice enough to join us on the congressional lawn. Thanks for being here.

VALERIE PLAME, FORMER CIA OFFICER: Thank you for having me.

TAPPER: So you wrote this in part because you're disappointed with how, in general, Hollywood and the publishing world have portrayed female CIA officers.=

PLAME: Absolutely. Female CIA officers are always portrayed in such a shallow fashion, I think.

TAPPER: They trade sex for intelligence.

PLAME: Sex and guns, which are good and fine, but if that's the only thing you trade on, I thought there was room to depict someone that was a little more realistic, but still entertaining. That was the genesis of that.

TAPPER: What do you think of Kerry Matheson, the character in "Homeland"? What do you think of the character? She's also trading in the sex a little bit.

PLAME: Yes, but it's not -- there's not a whole lot of feeling there because she really kind of lacks that, the character, anyway. I mean, she is mentally not well and the fact that she could somehow make her way through how many years of the CIA without someone noticing that --

TAPPER: Never happen.

PLAME: I hope not.

TAPPER: So your main character, Vanessa Pierson, she mirrors your career in the CIA. If your cover had not been blown in an alternative universe, would you still be working at the CIA right now?

PLAME: Absolutely. I loved my career. I thought that if I was lucky, I would retire as a senior intelligence officer, somewhere overseas working on something I care about very deeply, nuclear non- proliferation. But that obviously didn't happen and it's been a decade since my identity was betrayed, and we moved far away from Washington and rebuilt our personal lives and professional lives.

TAPPER: So I want to ask you a question about the book also, but just because you're here, you're somebody with a unique perspective. You had the government invade your privacy and your cover being blown, but you are also somebody who understands the importance of intelligence. What do you make of the NSA surveillance controversy?

PLAME: I'm watching it very closely, as the revelations keep unfolding. I welcome President Obama's statement that he said this really should begin a serious discussion, a debate, about the proper balance and dynamic between security and privacy.

TAPPER: Have we leaned too much towards security and too far away from privacy?

PLAME: I believe so. And what happens is I don't think the average American is really thinking of unintended consequences where the government is so invasive in our lives and in our privacy that what happens when there's an overzealous prosecutor or something Joe and I know about, little bit about, political chicanery. There are all kinds of examples. I understand that Senator Grassley just received a letter from the NSA where employees were, imagine this, using the technology available to them to check on former loves, current or former loves.

TAPPER: That's what I would be doing if I worked for the NSA, which is a good thing why I'm not. Let me ask -- not loves, but people I don't like. So the book, what was the most fun part of this? How true to life is it?

PLAME: It is very much informed by my experiences. It was a lot more fun to write than "Fair Game." It takes place, a lot of places where I've lived or worked or traveled, all over the world, as well as focusing on an Iran nuclear facility which of course is very much in the news today.

TAPPER: Very exciting. Well, we wish you the best of luck with it. Thank you.

PLAME: I appreciate it. Thank you.

TAPPER: Thanks for being here. The book is called "Blowback." Thanks again.

It's hard to believe it, but David Letterman has logged more late nights than his idol, Johnny Carson at this point. He's now the host with the most and he's not done yet. More on that coming up in the "Pop Culture Lead."


TAPPER: He leaves behind a wife and two kids and a thriving business that his customers just cannot get enough of. Why he will find a real looking obituary for a fake person in the Albuquerque Journal when THE LEAD returns.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper outside the capitol. In our Sports Lead, a new documentary in theatres today explores the rise of NBA player, Jeremy Lin, whose scoring frenzy with the New York Knicks launched the 2012 phenomenon known as Linsanity.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nobody thought he could play.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sleeping on a teammate's couch, Jeremy Lin came from nothing to greatness.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Linsanity takes New York by storm.


TAPPER: Earlier, I spoke to Jeremy Lin about the film and leaving all that Linsanity behind.


TAPPER: Jeremy Lin, thanks for joining us. So this documentary started before there even was this thing called Linsanity. It started when you were still at Harvard. How did it come about?

JEREMY LIN, NBA PLAYER: A group of guys approached me and asked if I would be willing to let them film a documentary. I said no for awhile, then eventually, I kind of warmed up to the idea and so we started filming and originally wasn't supposed to be a documentary, it was supposed to be a short web series, and then after Linsanity and everything, it turned into a bigger production.

TAPPER: They were there and really captured the somewhat rocky start to your NBA career, although of course, there was -- there were nicer moments later on. One of the film makers said they thought they were going to capture an un-dramatic end to your NBA career. Were there moments when you feared the same thing?

LIN: There were so many moments when I feared the same thing. I thought for sure, you know, my time was coming to an end as a basketball player in the NBA. You know, little did I know what was actually going to happen. I'm just glad that we had a crew there to be able to capture it all and now I kind of have this cool little piece that I'll be able to look back on and just remember the way everything happened.

TAPPER: How do you deal with all the attention you received? You don't seem always incredibly comfortable with it like some of your other fellow NBAers who seem to relish it.

LIN: Yes, definitely took a little getting used to. At first it was really scary and I kind of tried to run from it, but I think over time, I have become a lot more comfortable with it. I have learned to embrace it and learned to use it in the way that I think it should be used or in the way that I want it to be used. So whether it's sharing my faith, sharing my story, sharing my values, all those different things, I think I have such a unique opportunity to be able to do that right now.

TAPPER: The average NBA player lasts five years. You are starting year four now. How much longer can you and Linsanity continue?

LIN: I'm not sure and to be honest, I'm not so concerned about that anymore. I think if I were to draw it up, by the time my career is done, Linsanity would be more of an afterthought. Hopefully there would be a lot more other things that happen in between Linsanity and the end of my career that people will be talking about or that I can be remembered by in terms of basketball.

TAPPER: Jeremy Lin, thank you so much. Good luck with the film.

LIN: OK, thanks.


TAPPER: In our "Pop Culture Lead," stupid human tricks, top ten lists and that beautifully snarky sense of humor are not going anywhere any time soon. David Letterman just agreed to keep hosting his late night talk show through 2015. Letterman jokingly released a statement saying he needed a little more time to quote, "fully run his show into the ground."

The "Late Show With David Letterman," has been on CBS for 20 years, but Letterman's been a late night host since the 1980s, debuting originally on NBC, of course. He is now the longest running late night talk show in television -- talk show host in television history. Congratulations, Dave.

If you have been stumbling around with a blindfold on and your fingers in your ears for the past week trying to avoid any spoilers about the last episode of "Breaking Bad" then do not open today's "Albuquerque Journal." The real newspaper serving the community where Walter White's fake drug empire rose and fell, it looks exactly like a real obituary for one of the characters.

We're not going to show it to you because I don't want to invoke the high zen-berg like wrath of those who haven't seen the finale yet, but the obit does include the phrase "greatly missed," which if you ask staffers here on THE LEAD is a massive understatement.

Make sure to follow me on Twitter @jaketapper and also @theleadcnn. Check out our show page at for video, blogs, extras. That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. I now turn you over to Wolf Blitzer. He is in THE SITUATION ROOM -- Wolf.