Return to Transcripts main page


Shutdown's Impact On Vets; Piers Morgan's "Shooting Straight"

Aired October 15, 2013 - 16:30   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Coming up, what happens at the taco joint stays at the taco joint. At least that seems to be the reasoning behind the supposed secret meeting Senator Cruz and more than a dozen House Republicans reportedly had last night. That's coming up next.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD, live from Capitol Hill. Let's bring in today's political panel. Reporter for "The Nation" Zoe Carpenter, columnist for "The Washington Post" Michael Gerson and national correspondent for "Business Week" Joshua Green. Thank you one and all for joining me. Although it's not such a chore being out here today. I guess it's nicer than the studio.

Michael, let me start with you. Senator Reid is saying that extremist Republicans are trying to "torpedo," this is his language, the Senate bill. Minority leader Pelosi calls it "sabotage." You're somebody that traffics in words for a living. This kind of language, we're hearing a lot of it on the other side as well, ultimately irrelevant or is it harmful?

MICHAEL GERSON, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, "BUSINESS WEEK": Well, I think it's harmful for our discourse. But this is a case where Tea Party Republicans picked a fight they couldn't win, and their strategy is not just to blame the Democrats. It's to blame the rest of their party for not being pure enough in this debate.

The real division here is within the Republican Party, and that debate, which has been simmering a long time, has broken out into the open in ways that I think don't promise very well for the future of the party in the near term.

TAPPER: Josh, you had an interesting column the other day about the fact that Ted Cruz ultimately could hold up everything because of this thing in the Senate called unanimous consent. Explain.

JOSHUA GREEN, NATIONAL CORRSPONDENT "BUSINESS WEEK": So Cruz and a bunch of hard-line House Republicans were spotted in Tortilla Coast last night, the most interesting development I've heard in the last 24 hours, essentially plotting what their response was going to be to what all of them I think would consider a weak deal that's emerging between Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell.

One of the levers that Cruz has at his disposal as a senator is, if he decides to, can essentially slow down the process by refusing to go along long enough. Maybe even to breach the debt ceiling, but certainly to put pressure on the two parties to agree to something more along the lines of what he might want.

TAPPER: And Zoe, Congressman Joe Crowley, Democrat of New York, he made this prediction.


REP. JOE CROWLEY (D), NEW YORK: If they are able to pass it on the House with their votes, it will never pass the Senate.


TAPPER: That sounds a lot like dead on arrival. Crowley saying even if the Republicans pass this, the Senate won't pass it. Could that ultimately hurt the Democrats, the fact that we are getting so close and they are offering -- the House Republicans are offering things that won't affect most Americans when it comes to requiring Congress to go under Obamacare without subsidies?

ZOE CARPENTER, REPORTER, "THE NATION": I don't think it will affect the Democrats. I think it's pretty clear that what the House is offering is not a compromise. They are offering, you know, burning down something less significant than they were originally trying to burn down. And I think that the Democrats have all the leverage here, and I think that they will stay strong. They can't set a precedent for letting this kind of hostage taking continue.

TAPPER: Michael, you referred to Ted Cruz and individuals like him, like-minded individuals, of "romantic posturing," meaning it's not rooted in reality. Do you think that the Republican Party will ultimately pay for this?

GERSON: Well, it depends on how this moves forward. There's a difference between a believer and a true believer. A believer participates in picket's charge (ph). A true believer thinks they won. Ted Cruz, when he was at the Values Voter Summit, called this a model for engagement which is really demand to impossible things and then to blame your colleagues, including conservatives, because it doesn't happen.

That's not likely to be a good outcome for Republicans moving forward. This is a very tough moment for Republicans, because the party of Congress now is leaderless in many ways. Newt Gingrich made many mistakes in 1996, but he made the decisions. Now the Republican Party is backing into decisions, because no one is capable of making strategic long-term decisions, and that's I think a real problem.

TAPPER: All right.We have to leave it there. Josh, Michael, Zoe, thank you so much.

When we come back, she served two tours in Iraq, but now she can't pay her bills because of the government shutdown. One veteran who says the real battlefield is here in Washington, D.C.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. In other national news, back in 2009 in Afghanistan's Kunar Province, a unit of American Marines had walked into an ambush. Outgunned and outmanned, one man ran into enemy fire over and over again, determined to help the wounded and recover the bodies of his fallen comrades.

Today, former Army Captain Wayne Swenson was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in a ceremony at the White House. President Obama said it's men like Swenson who represent what our country should strive to be.


OBAMA: Americans like Will remind us of what our country can be at its best: a nation of citizens who look out for one another, who meet our obligations to one another, not just when it's easy but also when it's hard. Maybe especially when it's hard.


TAPPER: Swenson became the sixth living recipient of the Medal from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the nation's highest award for military service.

Coming up on THE LEAD, they served their country, and now they can't pay their bills. How the government shutdown is failing our veterans. That's coming up next.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Just how badly will veterans be hurt if the government stays partially shut down? We're nearly 800,000 disabled veterans and surviving military spouses and they may not be able to pay the bills for things like rent, medical costs, and school tuition.

Joining me now is Nedra Brantley. She is a disabled veteran who served two tours in Iraq and now relies on disability checks to pay for her and her son, Caleb. She is joined by Paul Rieckhoff, founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. Thank you both for joining us and of course, for your service.

Nedra, I want to start with you. You rely on these checks to survive, you and your son, Caleb. What happens if after November 1st the government is still partially shut down and it doesn't arrive? What do you do?

NEDRA BRANTLEY, RELIES ON G.I. BILL TO PROVIDE FOR FAMILY: We pray and pray hard. This is definitely a big thing for us. We depend on those checks, not just me and my son, my fiance as well, we're both veterans so if we don't have this disability to come in, we are pretty much out in the cold. That's something we definite do not want to happen.

TAPPER: What do you mean by out in the cold? You mean, literally out in the cold? BRANTLEY: Literally out in the cold because if we don't have the money to pay the rent then a lot of landlords are not as caring for some veterans. They will put you out on the street without a second thought. Some are caring, but you have to really, really pray that they understand.

TAPPER: Paul, if the government partial shutdown does not end soon, 5.1 million compensation checks won't go out November 1st, according to VA nearly 800,000 veterans and their families will be impacted. As a veteran, how does that make you feel?

PAUL RIECKHOFF, FOUNDER, IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN VETERANS OF AMERICA: Devastated. It makes us feel betrayed. This is the real human cost of the shutdown. We're hearing from thousands of our members across the country, who don't know if they're getting their next check. They don't know if their G.I. bill checks will be coming.

Many of them have had National Guard and reserve drills cancel so the impact here has been devastating across all generations of veterans and that's why we all stood together today at the World War II Memorial. The military coalition, over 33 national veterans groups stood together, unprecedented event, to send a message to Washington, end the shutdown. It's hurting our veterans, hurting our national security and needs to stop right now.

TAPPER: Your organization is not one that takes a political position in terms of one side is responsible or one part of one side is responsible for the government shutdown. But I'm wondering, there has been a back and forth, House Republicans say, we passed this one bill that just affected the VA, the Senate says we want a whole government funding bill, not just one part. Does it matter to you how it's funded or do you just want it to be funded?

BRANTLEY: I just want it to be funded. I just want them to stop the bickering and just stop the madness and just do something. It's not just me out there. There are tons of people out there. It's not just veterans that are hurting. It's everyone that's hurting. The veterans especially, we are hurting. We served this country. We raised our right hand and just like the members of Congress and the Senate raised their right hand, we swore to do a job and you're not doing your job. That's unacceptable.

TAPPER: All right, Nedra, I will leave it there. That's a beautiful way to end it. Thank you so much. Paul, appreciate it. Again, thank you both for your service from the bottom of my heart and I'm sure all of my viewers.

Next in "Pop Culture," he's giggled with Oprah, gone toe to toe with the NRA and admits to having one too many nights on the town with George Clooney. Our own Piers Morgan will tell us about an anchorman life that would make Ron Burgundy green with envy.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Time for our "Pop Culture Lead." Our own Piers Morgan is a loquacious fellow and he's put that skill to pen and paper with his new book "shooting Straight, Guns, Gays, God and George Clooney." It hits bookstores and the interwebs today. We pulled a few strings. We were able to book the host of "PIERS MORGAN LIVE" to talk about it for our lead read. Welcome, Piers. Good to have you on the show.

PIERS MORGAN, HOST, CNN'S "PIERS MORGAN LIVE": It's great to make my debut on THE LEAD.

TAPPER: So the book chronicles you entering and navigating the world of CNN and the style of writing is like a journal entry. It's very eminently readable that way. Why did you make that editorial choice?

MORGAN: Well, I spent a long time in the British newspaper industry. When I finally left that, I decided to write a book about that experience in diary format, journal format, and it proved pretty successful. I thought I would try and deploy the same technique with my experience replacing the great Larry King and being hit by some of the biggest news stories that America's seen in a very long time.

Whether it was the death of Osama Bin Laden or the Arab spring, the Japanese earthquake and tsunami right up to all the financial crises we've had. And of course, the terrible gun outrages and I think it makes for a pretty compelling way to read a book. You can dip in and out and people can live it in realtime and remember where they were when these things were happening.

TAPPER: Which one of these events that you just mentioned some of them, which of them has meant the most to you as a journalist? Has meant the most to you in terms of covering it? Is it Newtown?

MORGAN: It is. I'll tell you why. Because as I say in the book, when I was the editor in chief of "The Daily Mirror" newspaper, in the mid '90s we had our version of Newtown. A gun blain in Scotland, 16 young 5-year-old children were slaughtered by a maniac with a gun and we campaigned on the paper at the time for a complete ban not just on assault weapons but also hand guns, which was successful.

But also very pertinently I think to the debate in America, it was nonpartisan, non-political, left and right came together and said enough, this is the tipping point. We must stop this happening again. Since then, we've had no school shootings in Britain since 1996. But more pertinently again, we had about 35 murders a year from guns in Britain. In America, you have between 11,000 and 12,000. To me it's like an epidemic, this gun violence in America and there has to at some stage be a change in culture.

TAPPER: So on a lighter note, Piers, we only have about a minute left, you and I are both guilty of addiction to Twitter. You and I are both on occasion subjected to some pretty nasty tweets. I tend to just block people. You tend to get into scraps with them, but you also write in the book that you have been able to book some big guests off of Twitter. I didn't know you could do that.

MORGAN: Yes. It's very easy. If you can tweet them directly and then tell your followers to tweet them to say what a great idea it is, I booked everyone from Jessica Alba to Mike Tyson to Alec Baldwin, all sorts of people. What Twitter's brilliant out is it cuts out the middlemen. No agents, no lawyers, no managers. You can just have direct contact with celebrities.

I like that. I like that engagement. The public like it, too. I also quite like the trolls giving me a hard time because to be honest, we deserve it. We're pretty privileged people in our jobs. I think if I was at home feeling pretty angry about life, what better way than to tweet Jake Tapper and Piers Morgan and give them a bit of my mind.

TAPPER: All right, well, the book is again "Shooting Straight, Guns, Gays, Gods and George Clooney" and it's on shelves now and on the interweb, of course. Piers Morgan, thank you so much.

MORGAN: Jake, thanks for having me. Much appreciated.

TAPPER: That's it for me. I'm Jake Tapper. I will be back at 11:00 p.m. Eastern, 8:00 p.m. Pacific for a live CNN special "Shutdown Showdown." I now turn you over to Wolf Blitzer, who is in "THE SITUATION ROOM."