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Government Shutdown; Interview With Tim Pawlenty; Interview With Congressman James Lankford; Interview with Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal

Aired October 7, 2013 - 16:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: "Gravity" is the number one movie at a time when 97 percent of NASA is on furlough. I'm Jake Tapper. This is THE LEAD.

The national lead. Brand-new polls show most of you would like to launch our elected officials into space, George Clooney and Sandra Bullock style, while the White House offers to give an inch, but not on the partial shutdown.

The money lead, 10 days, that's all we have left before our nation hits its borrowing limit. We will talk to a Republican urging Congress to avoid even the whiff of default, former presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty.

And the pop culture lead. No aliens, "No beam me up, Scotty," in fact, the biggest piece of science fiction in "Gravity" is the notion that America launches space shuttles into outer space anymore.

Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We will begin, of course, with the national lead. There's a potentially huge, embarrassing failure of government on the horizon and I say that well aware that we're still in the middle of the last huge, embarrassing failure of government. Now Congress only has 10 days to raise the nation's $16.7 trillion debt ceiling, at which point the government would run out of cash to pay its bills.

But we're almost a full week into a partial government shutdown that has greatly damaged hopes of cooperation out of Washington. Right this minute, we're releasing these brand-new CNN/ORC poll numbers and they show the shutdown is weighing heavily on Americans; 18 percent say it's a crisis; 49 percent call it a major problem. Compare that to poll numbers from a few days into the last government shutdown that stretched 21 days from late '95 to early '96, there on the right column there that you can see that Americans already think this one is worse than the last one.

There's plenty of animosity to go around over it. If you add the very angry and somewhat angry rows together here, those are the top two, 63 percent make -- say -- 63 percent say they're angry or very angry at Republicans; 57 percent say they are angry or very angry at Democrats; 53 percent say they're angry or very angry at the president.

Take a look further down in this chart; 31 percent say they're not angry at all at the president; 22 percent say they're not angry at all at the Republican Party.

Sensing that he's got public opinion behind him for now at least, President Obama made another unannounced field trip today, visiting FEMA, which accounts for a fraction of the 800,000 government employees on furlough during this partial shutdown. House Speaker John Boehner hit back almost right away after the president called him out for refusing to bring a clean temporary spending bill to the floor without any strings attached dealing with funding for Obamacare.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's not a subject that I am not willing to engage in, work on, negotiate and come up with commonsense compromises on. What I have said is that I cannot do that under the threat that if Republicans don't get 100 percent of their way, they're either going to shut down the government or they are going to default on America's debt.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The American people expect when their leaders have differences, and we're in a time of crisis, that we will sit down and at least have a conversation. Really, Mr. President, it's time to have that conversation before our economy is put further at risk.


TAPPER: Now, there is one sliver of potential compromise, I am pleased to tell you about. President Obama today did say that if Congress raises the debt limit, he will leave it up to them to decide how long the increase will last.

But I want to back up for a minute because House Speaker John Boehner said this just seconds before the sound bite from him that we played a few minutes ago.


BOEHNER: This morning, a senior White House official said that the president would rather default than to sit down and negotiate.


TAPPER: Hmm. That's a pretty stubborn thing for a senior White House official to say, except we have since figured out that he was referring to something said this morning by Gene Sperling, the director of the White House National Economic Council, and that's not really what Sperling said.

Boehner appeared to be seizing on these comments after Sperling was asked, which was worse, the precedent of negotiating with the threat of the U.S. government defaulting on its debts or actual default?


GENE SPERLING, DIRECTOR, WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: Sanctioning negotiations with someone threatening default is not going to end the risk of default. It is likely to increase the chances that we as a country eventually default. If you sanction it, you will just increase the chances that it will happen on a regular basis.


TAPPER: I want to bring in Congressman James Lankford from Oklahoma. He's also chair of the House Republican Policy Committee.

Thanks so much for being here. We appreciate it.

REP. JAMES LANKFORD (R), OKLAHOMA: It's nice being with you.

TAPPER: So you heard Sperling's comments. He's not really saying that the president would rather default than to sit down and negotiate. He's just talking about -- I mean, he's kind of dodging the question really.

LANKFORD: No, I understand that. The president has also come back over and over again and said he doesn't want to negotiate, he doesn't want to talk about this.

This is one of those moments in our history that every time we come up against a large increase in our debt ceiling, we should actually talk about, how do we stop doing this? What do we have to do to get us back in balance, as if any business would get to a spot and say, you know what, we're going into debt here, let's see what we have to do to fix it.

TAPPER: I don't disagree with the notion that this is a decent time to deal with our nation's debt, but the threat of default I think is what alarms so many people. And we are going to hear from Tim Pawlenty, former Republican governor of Minnesota, in a minute, who is going to say the same thing.

That's what scares people, because this isn't -- you know, Al Gore put it very crassly, but he said that you guys sound like you're saying, nice global economy you have here, it would be a shame if anything happened to it.

This isn't yours to negotiate with.

LANKFORD: No, it's not.

And that's not all we're trying to say. And I think the speaker has been pretty clear over and over again.

TAPPER: You won't default?

LANKFORD: We don't want default.

TAPPER: You don't want to, or you won't?

LANKFORD: We don't want any kind of default. We don't want to have to get to that spot. If we have to get to a spot and say let's do a short-term, then we have to sit down and do a short-term. But the problem is that all this conversation to say we won't negotiate, we won't plan, we won't strategize, we want to sit down with the president and with the Senate and say what do we have to do to resolve an economy that we no longer have to do these large debt ceiling increases? How do we start getting us back on a pattern?

TAPPER: Here's a question I have for you. You see the poll numbers. You guys -- everyone has taken a hit, but Republicans are really taking a hit. What is it, a 17-seat majority? It's not...

LANKFORD: It's 17 seats in the House.

TAPPER: Seventeen seats. OK?


TAPPER: Are you not worried that you are actually going to put your party in a worse position and, ultimately, the Democrats are going to recapture the House, and then where are you going to be?

LANKFORD: We're in the same spot, though -- take this a year from now, five years from now, 10 years from now, when we get into really critical debt ceiling issues, and we have to ask the simple question. When people say what did you do to defend this, and if we say, well, we did nothing, we just continued to raise it year after year and never tried to stand in the way and never tried fix it, they would hold us to account then.

We're trying to look at this. And what's interesting is, there is this whole guessing game of how far along are we, how bad is it? It's kind of like you're playing a football game, and you're 21 points behind in a football game, but you can't decide if you're in the first quarter or in the last two minutes.

Well, a lot of Republicans feel like, you know what? We're really getting in a critical moment here. We're over 100 percent of debt to GDP right now, and our debt, we continue to accelerate and our deficits here. We have got to find some way to actually solve this and stabilize it.

If we feel like this is a critical moment, we need to resolve it, but yet there are some Democrats who say keep going, keep going, this is not an issue, this is not a problem, Harry Reid saying what was that a year ago when he said I'm not going to talk about Social Security for another two decades, it's not a problem for two decades -- we look at it and say it's better to solve it now and to have a longer window to be able to resolve it than it is wait until then.


TAPPER: Absolutely. But there was this grand bargain when President Obama and House Speaker Boehner were talking. And I think there was a question -- you can talk about who walked away from the table first, but I think it was a question about whether or not House Speaker Boehner would be able to deliver any sizable part of his caucus for any deal that includes included raising taxes at all, which is what President Obama needs to sell it to Democrats.

And if you guys have that completely off the table, then how is there ever going to be a deal?

LANKFORD: Well, if you look back in last December up to January 2, when the fiscal cliff deal was resolved, there was a big tax increase that was done in that. We look at that and say there's the president's tax increase that he asked for. That's done. It solidified that.

We have still got to deal with a lot of other cuts. And this is not some kind of draconian fast pace, let's cut everything now. We have got to look long-term at all the way entitlements and the way that we handle things. If we can't resolve a long-frame window like was done with Tip O'Neill and Ronald Reagan when they looked 30 years out to try to stabilize Social Security, if we can't do that, we're not going to be able to fix it a week out.

We're right now, in Social Security disability, we're two-and-a-half years from being insolvent right now from Social Security disability, and we're still nipping around the edges, when we know we're that close to insolvency.

TAPPER: All right, Congressman Lankford, thanks so much for coming in. We really appreciate it. Hope you come back.

Many counterterrorism officials say that Africa, not Pakistan or Afghanistan, Africa is now the central front in the U.S. military's war against al Qaeda and we saw that in two strikes over the weekend, two U.S. strikes. In Somalia, the target was Abdulkadir Mohamed Abdulkadir, called Ikrimah, the leader of Al-Shabab, the terrorist group behind the recent horrific terrorist attacks at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi.

In Libya, the U.S. attacked Abu Anas al-Libi. He's a member of al Qaeda indicted in the 1998 embassy attacks listed as one of the FBI's top 10 terrorists. Two terrorists, two different operations, two very different results.

The Somalia mission began before sunrise Friday from a commercial ship off the coast, an amphibious raid. U.S. Navy SEALs, some from SEAL Team 6, which took out Osama bin Laden, targeted a safe house in an Al-Shabab stronghold. Witnesses say they came under intense fire and retreated back to the beach, then back to their ship.

Sources tell me that the retreat was because this was a capture operation, that the SEALs could have liquidated the place and killed Ikrimah, but that would have almost certainly created civilian casualties.

Now, why go after Al-Shabab if it has not attacked the U.S. mainland? Well, former Pentagon Chief of Staff Jeremy Bash spoke to Candy Crowley on "STATE OF THE UNION."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JEREMY BASH, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO LEON PANETTA: They haven't sought to attack the United States mainland yet but, remember, they conducted an operation against our embassies or their predecessor elements conducted an operation against our embassies in 1998, 15 years ago. They will come after the United States if we don't go after them.


TAPPER: A more successful African mission came one day later, some 3,000 miles away in Tripoli, Libya.

Cars pulled up on the street to al-Libi, reportedly returning home from morning prayers, and 10 members of the elite Delta Force grabbed him. Not one shot was fired.

CNN's Jomana Karadesh visited al-Libi's home and spoke to his wife, Umm Abdul Rahman, who claimed her husband left al Qaeda in 1996.


UMM ABDUL RAHMAN, WIFE OF SUSPECT (through translator): We expected them to do anything. But they took us by surprise. This thing came all of a sudden. There was no longer any talk about him in the media. So he felt somewhat reassured.

He even stopped taking his weapon or his sons with him or hiring private security. He was living his life normally.


TAPPER: The Pentagon says al-Libi was taken to a U.S. Navy warship and he is being questioned by the U.S. government's high-value interrogation group.

It was called Operation Enduring Freedom, and they weren't kidding about the enduring part; 12 years ago today, U.S. troops invaded Afghanistan to dismantle al Qaeda and hunt down Osama bin Laden after the attacks of 9/11; 2,275 U.S. troops have been killed as part of Enduring Freedom and 19,334 have been wounded in action, a number that does not include the deep scarless wounds of PTSD, depression and other psychological issues.

This year has been another bloody year for U.S. troops there. By CNN's count, there have been 137 U.S. and coalition casualties in Afghanistan in 2013. That's more than in the first two full calendar years of the war. About 54,000 troops remain in Afghanistan. The Obama administration has said all American combat forces will be pulled out by the end of next year, but there is a strong possibility many combat forces will have to stay.

They just won't be called that. We here on THE LEAD want to thank you all for your service and stress that you are not forgotten.

Coming up on THE LEAD: He ran for president. Now he is in the business world. So, what does Tim Pawlenty think of the looming debt limit and what does it mean for the American economy? I will ask him live next.

And before you let your kid put on a football helmet, you are going to want to read this book. I will talk to the authors of "League of Denial" about the real dangers of the gridiron.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

Now, it's time for the money lead. It's been one week since the government shutdown began but apparently Wall Street just got the memo. Stocks took a noticeable tumble today with the Dow, NASDAQ and S&P all slipping but it may not be just shutdown jitters taking a toll. With the debt ceiling deadline creeping closer and no solution in sight, analysts are worried that investors could be on the verge of a sharp selloff over fears a deal will not get done in time.

One former Republican presidential candidate is among those sounding the alarm. Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, who is now the head of a major financial trade association, wrote a letter to Congress urging them to raise the debt ceiling and end the standoff. Pawlenty writes, quote, "It is critical for the U.S. government to not default on its fiscal obligations. It's time for our political leaders to come together to act in the country's best interests. We believe that our nation's economic future hinges upon the ability to reach an agreement."

Mr. Pawlenty is joining me now to talk about this more.

Welcome, Governor. It's good to see you again.


TAPPER: So you talked to Republicans on the Hill, imagine, quite a bit?

PAWLENTY: Talk to a lot of people on the Hill quite a bit.

TAPPER: OK. How concerned are you that we are going to hit this cliff? That we are not going to make this deadline?

PAWLENTY: Well, it's a real concern. If you look at Congress, unfortunately, it comes a Congress that only acts in a crisis so now we have a real deadline with potentially cataclysmic consequences if they don't act. So, when everybody's backs are up against the wall, we hope and believe they will act, but they are so dug in, there's some chance they could stumble into default. We don't want that and I hope that they'll find a solution.

TAPPER: Now, there are a number of conservatives out there who say this is a manufactured crisis, that the government will continue to take in money from revenue, from taxes, even after the deadline. Explain why they're wrong.

PAWLENTY: Well, I think they're arguing about sequencing payments, and the number of things that the Treasury says in response to that, we don't have the system set up to do it that way. In some cases, we don't have the legal authority to do it that way. And they are also saying eventually, even if you sequence the payments --

TAPPER: Payments to the debt, to pay down the debt.

PAWLENTY: Right, they are saying we wouldn't default on everything all at once. You can pay the most important things first, and then so on. But eventually there isn't enough money to pay all the bills.

And the United States of America shouldn't dine and dash. These are commitments that were made in the past. The bills are now due. You got to pay them.

And we should not be the leading nation in the world and say we can't pay all our bills.

TAPPER: Now, to be fair, when you ran for president in 2011, you said, quote, "That you hope and pray and believe Congress should not raise the debt ceiling." Where were you coming from there and why the change of mind?

PAWLENTY: Yes, when that statement was made, of course, the so-called extraordinary measures hadn't yet been taken. In other words, there was a number of things the Treasury could do administratively in advance of a default, buy time for further negotiations and discussions.

Secretary Lew is now saying all of those measures, those extraordinary measures, have been exhausted and the day of reckoning is now here.

TAPPER: So you're a Republican and I know you're a loyal Republican, but I have to say, it's House Republicans who are saying that they are demanding some concessions from the administration before they agree to raise the debt ceiling. Do you think that's responsible?

PAWLENTY: Well, if you look at the debt ceiling and the so-called continuing resolution, they are now merging in time into one negotiation, it seems. The president has said he will not negotiate on the debt ceiling, but since these both have merged, he could negotiate on the continuing resolution. And, by the way, there's an ample history for presidents and Congress doing that. It's not a new thing.

And there's enough bipartisan consensus on a few issues where you could probably cobble together a deal, Jake. For example, there's enough Republicans and some Democrats who would find putting Keystone in play attractive. There's enough who might find tax reform attractive, pro-growth for investment, et cetera (ph). There are some who might find the medical device tax --

TAPPER: Right.

PAWLENTY: -- reducing or eliminating, attractive.

So, those are the kind of things where reasonable people could say we will sweeten the pot and get the damn thing done.

TAPPER: I hear what you're saying but the president's position is we're talking about funding the government and we're talking about agreeing to pay the bills that Congress has already racked up. There's no Democratic concession being made here. This is just things -- these are just agreements, just measures to keep the United States functioning.

PAWLENTY: I think it's a fair point as it relates to the debt ceiling, which is the ceiling needs to be raised to address debt -- or excuse me, spending decisions that have been made in the past. In other words, you don't get to dine and dash.

But when it comes to the budget, the so-called continuing resolution, whether it should go up or down or stay the same or continue or not, that's the place where these two sides have a legitimate difference and legitimate fight. It's OK to compromise with respect to the C.R.

TAPPER: Perhaps the House should have sent conferees to work on the Senate budget that passed in March. We have no time to talk about that right now. Thank you so much, former Minnesota governor --

PAWLENTY: You're welcome.

TAPPER: -- Tim Pawlenty. Appreciate it.

PAWLENTY: You're welcome.

TAPPER: Coming up, the House Republicans have been flexing a lot of muscle in the shutdown showdown but how do current Republican governors feel about what's going on? I ask Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal about the war on the Hill.

And the pop culture lead, it's called "gravity" but shouldn't it be called "zero gravity"? I'll ask an actual astronaut if the science behind this weekend's blockbuster really flies.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

The politics lead now. Fratricide, brother killing brother, that's how Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal sees the infighting that has seized Republicans in Washington. I recently spoke with the chairman of the Republican Governors Association about the shutdown, the party and what Obamacare means for his state.


TAPPER: So, Governor, you said last year that Republicans have to, quote, "stop being the stupid party." Do you think this strategy on the shutdown, tying defunding of Obamacare to the shutdown, or to a government spending causing the shutdown, do you think that's smart?

GOV. BOBBY JINDAL (R), LOUISIANA: Well, look, a couple things. I don't want to engage in Republican fratricide. There are more than enough Republicans fighting each other, going after each other.

I do think that it makes sense to fight to repeal and replace Obamacare. I think it's bad policy. Forget the politics.

But we're also -- I'm the chairman of the Republican governors association. We're launching an initiative called the American comeback story. We think voters are rightfully disgusted with all the dysfunction in Washington, D.C.

Right now, it's the spending or the C.R. crisis, a couple of weeks from now, it will be the debt ceiling crisis. There will be another fiscal crisis. Nobody is talking about the root cause. Nobody is talking about it's the debt, not the debt ceiling. Nobody is talking about the spending. Nobody is talking about the existing entitlement programs.

So, what we're saying is governors are actually proving with results that conservative policies work. On the ground, we're doing education reform. On the ground, we're doing pension reform. On the ground, we're creating private sector jobs. On the ground, we're cutting government spending.

We want to take back the Republican brand from D.C. For too long we outsourced it to Washington. We've got 30 Republican governors doing a great job across the state capitals across the country. The important discussions aren't happening in D.C.

I would say the president hasn't shown real leadership. Where is the debate about the changes we all know need to happen in entitlement programs? Where is the debate about -- he hasn't even projected yet one budget where we stop spending more than we take in the short term, the medium term, the long term.

This isn't sustainable. All they do it seems is fight about the symptoms, not the root causes. Today, it's the fiscal debate. Tomorrow, it will be the fiscal cliff, the debt cliff. There will be another crisis tomorrow.

TAPPER: Governor, let's talk about health care for a second. About 20 percent of your state does not have health insurance. What's the solution there and why wouldn't you take Obamacare money to expand Medicaid to provide insurance for them?

JINDAL: Well, look, in our state, 3.5 percent of our children are uninsured. We have a 96.5 percent insured rate for our children through public and private programs. We're the only state in the country that's operated a unique system of hospitals, 10 hospitals. We've transformed those through public/private partnerships to provide a better safety net.

I think the president was right. There are real problems in health care. I think if you've got a pre-existing condition, if you're trying to buy an individual policy outside the group market, it can be too expensive, may not be available to you.

I think the wrong thing to do is to expand the government's role. In my own state, for example, for every uninsured person that would have been covered by a Medicaid expansion, more than one person who would have otherwise had private insurance would then be kicked out or lose that private insurance instead go into a government-run program. That makes no sense.

TAPPER: But still, 20 percent of your state doesn't have insurance. That means costs are passed on to people in your state like you who do have insurance. Those individuals will be less healthy because they don't have primary care physicians. They will use emergency rooms as if they are their doctor. Those costs are being paid by Louisianans.

JINDAL: Well, again, we do something different from any other state. We are the only state in the country that's got these state-operated hospitals. We have 10 of them. Now, we're in the process of transitioning those to public/private partnerships that provide a safety net.

We also subsidize out-patient clinics. They are innovative public/private partnerships, conservative solutions were applied that don't involve the government taking over health care, don't involve a one-size-fits-all approach from D.C. And that's the point.

I think governors would have loved to come to the table and say there's a lot of money wasted in Medicaid and DSH, which is another state federal program today.

TAPPER: Right.

JINDAL: We spent over $1 billion in Louisiana on our uninsured. There are better ways to spend those dollars than what we're doing today.

TAPPER: Lastly, sir, before you go, it's no secret that your name is being bandied about as a possible 2016 candidate. When are you going to make a decision and what are you looking at to figure out if you run?

JINDAL: Look, the answer is I don't know what I'm going to do in 2016. I'm head of the RGA. We are focused on 38 governors' races between now and the end --

TAPPER: I believe that you don't know but I also believe that you're looking at it and that you're trying to figure out if it makes sense.

JINDAL: Well, and I also -- look, I've got a responsibility, we are continuing our reforms in Louisiana. For me, as I think about that, it would have to be do I think I can make a difference? Do I think I've got something to offer that's not being -- that's not there. Do I think that there's a way that I could help improve and help lead the country and that's not being offered by a candidate that's in the race.

I do think the next president, I do believe, should come from the ranks of the governors. I do think governors unlike the folks in D.C. are actually implementing solutions. I think one of the criticisms we've had about this president is that President Obama had to have on the job training, never had run anything before he's elected president of the United States. We can't afford another four years of that.

So, for a Democrat or Republican, I would hope that our nominees would be governors.

TAPPER: A governor.

All right. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, thanks for stopping by. We appreciate it.

JINDAL: Thank you, Jake. Thanks for having me.


TAPPER: Let's check in on our political panel in the green room.

Dana Bash, a parenting question for you. If you took your son to the play ground this weekend and it was chained off because of the shutdown, would you let your child sneak in anyway like this young patriot recently did in D.C.'s Capitol Hill neighborhood? You see her act of civil disobedience.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I don't know. I don't know if I would. I think it would be sort of a game day decision. I don't think I would, though.

But I will say that I did take my 2-year-old to the park, D.C. park, this Saturday and it was open. So, I didn't have to make that decision.

TAPPER: All I know is every time we drive by the zoo, my daughter boos Congress. Boo!

Do all the closures pegged to the government shutdown make sense?

Stay with us for more of THE LEAD.