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Boehner: "I Got Overrun"; Cook Report: Shutdown Puts GOP Seats In Play; "The Everything Store"; Oscar Contender Hits Box Office

Aired October 18, 2013 - 16:30   ET


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

So, Ross Douthat from "The New York Times", unlike Ringo Starr, Senator Ted Cruz apparently does not need help from his friends. He spoke to my friend Jon Karl of ABC News about it.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: You know, I'm not serving in office because I desperately need 99 new friends in the U.S. Senate.


TAPPER: Ross, does the senator have any new friends after this crisis?

ROSS DOUTHAT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: He has plenty of friends. He has Harry Reid. He has Chuck Schumer. He has most of the Democratic caucus. I don't know -- I don't know why -- he also has plenty of friends outside the Senate, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and so on.

So I'm not going to worry about how many friends Ted Cruz has. I think he's doing fine.

TAPPER: Plenty of muffin baskets coming to Ted Cruz. All right, stay tuned, friends, the Politics Lead is next.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Now it's time for the Politics Lead. It's quite an image, the way "Politico" tells it. The speaker of the House taking a drag on a cigarette and explaining to the president off the record that he had been quote, "overrun" by a faction of his own party. But is that really what happened? And with less than three months to go to the next fiscal fight, what can we expect from Speaker Boehner now?

Let's bring in our panel, columnist for "New York Times" Ross Douthat, associate editor for "The Hill," A.B. Stoddard and columnist for "Bloomberg View," Margaret Carlson. Ross, I want to read something from your blog that I found interesting, from your blog.

A lot of smart conservatives with deep knowledge of previous eras in our politics and experience in fields with the behavior of the House caucus simply wouldn't fly are projecting their knowledge, their smarts and experience on to a situation that's a lot more out of control than they realize or are willing to admit. You think that this is chaos and it's going to be with us for awhile.

DOUTHAT: I actually don't know if it's going to be with us for awhile. I think that the absolute best case you can make for John Boehner's leadership over the last few weeks, and I'm not making a strong case for John Boehner's leadership, but the best case is basically he gave the faction that overran him enough rope to hang themselves with.

And let them run through the shutdown and get it out of their system and now maybe things are going to be a little saner. So that's I think the best case scenario for why he allowed things to go as far as they did. Better to have a shutdown now than to have a sort of succession of smaller crises over the next year.

MARGARET CARLSON, COLUMNIST, "BLOOMBERG VIEW": I think Ross is optimistic about the future in that they could be addicted, you know, this tiny caucus, addicted to, like vampires. They tasted and they need more.

DOUTHAT: Technically, vampires aren't addicted to blood. They just need it to survive.

TAPPER: I appreciate the clarification. A vampire fact check, I appreciate it.

CARLSON: Thank you. "Time" magazine. Thank you. There's a need for it, whether it's to live or just to go on in this kind of political atmosphere. We have no drama Obama and then we have a caucus that poor John Boehner has to lead where this was not something they didn't want to happen. They were itching for it and each time something came up like maybe we can get rid of the medical device tax, no. Representative Stutzman said we don't want to be disrespected, but on the other hand we don't know what we want.

DOUTHAT: The counterargument for optimism is that Boehner can't be overrun by 20 members. He can only be overrun if those 20 members have another 100 members who are scared to sort of cross them, right. So again, the argument isn't that, sure, in a few months there will still be 20 members who are happy to shut down the government. The question is for the other 100, will they be able to say OK, guys, we played it your way last time, but we're not going to do that again?

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, "THE HILL": I think that's the point. If you look -- John Boehner told them all along we're not going to default so everyone knew that by October 17th he was going to fold and go over Steny Hoyer, the House whip on the Democratic side and do a vote with Democrats that was going --

TAPPER: As a "Hill" reporter, you were 100 percent sure that was going to happen?

STODDARD: Boehner and McConnell don't default. They voted for TARP, and then their various campaign arms took ads out against Democrats saying they voted for TARP, but the leadership was always at the table doing that. They're not going to do that. That, they knew all along.

OK, he gets 87 Republicans the other night. If he had done it just in the first couple hours of the shutdown he would have had 30 Republicans. So he grew his vote and assured as Ross said, a huge number of people beyond the leadership table that he gave this a chance and it was a loser.

DOUTHAT: None of this changes the fact that the last three weeks have been stupid and insane.


DOUTHAT: For the Republican Party. It's just understanding Boehner's strategy in dealing with a House caucus that didn't know what it wanted and was sort of scared to compromise and so on. It's not an excuse for the overall trajectory.

TAPPER: One thing that I know you heard covering the Hill and I heard covering the Hill is that early on, people in republican leadership were saying sometimes a kid has to touch a pot on a stove to realize that it's hot and you'll get burned. And I said when we were coming to the end of this all I said have they learned that.

And this source said well, the 20 or so have not and they may never, but everyone else in the Republican caucus has. But your point is salient. It wasn't 20 people saying if you don't do this, John Boehner, we're not going to vote for you for speaker in January 2015. It was a House caucus that had been swayed by the arguments of these 20 or 30 people.

DOUTHAT: Or was afraid to be perceived as crossing them, as sort of not being willing to touch the pot.

CARLSON: Some primaries from not the left, but say the moderate Republicans against people like Justin Amosh of Michigan might change that a little bit which is being called a squish or rhino by the 20 or more like the 40 is not as much of a threat as has been in the past, where you're so afraid of being primaried from your right, you can't risk being called names.

DOUTHAT: Yes, although so far, really, the Michigan case aside, the number of primary challenges is almost all from the right.

TAPPER: Let's talk about going forward now. The cook political report has moved 14 seats in the Democrats' direction. That's not to say they are now Democratic seats, Republican seats, but they are not as solid as they once were. Do you think this will have any far- reaching effects on control of the House?

STODDARD: No, count me out among the people who think this is going to be a long-lasting benefit to the Democrats and that a wave is going to build throughout '14 that's going to help them in Obama's sixth year in office with defending Obamacare, which is now live online with so many problems for the third election in a row in a fragile economic recovery. I just don't see that there are enough competitive seats and enough for the makings of a wave for them. I think Republicans will have a good midterm election. All of their base is going to be excited about this and turn out for those people in the red districts and everywhere else. There are a couple seats in play, not many, 12, 17.

So I think the lesson that is going to be learned from that is really worrying what you call the establishment or old guard or old Republican Party, that that will produce a terrible '16 for them. A '15 where the party goes to the right, picks a nominee that's way too far to the right, because they think they had a great midterm in '14 like '10 and that's what the --

TAPPER: Your soothsaying abilities are --

STODDARD: That's not what I'm worried about.

CARLSON: Ross is moving on to 2020.

TAPPER: We were talking about this during the break. You think now that the focus is back on Obamacare and these web sites having problems, things might return, there might be a little more balance when it comes to the bad three weeks --

DOUTHAT: I think in the aggregate, the political impact of a totally failed Obamacare rollout is going to be bigger than the political impact of the shutdown. Now, you know, we're still only a few weeks in. There's time for the White House to sort of, you know, get their arms around the problem or around the keyboard or whatever metaphor you want.

But the reality is, this has been, you know, I'm a conservative, I have been skeptical of Obamacare. The one thing you assume about the Obama White House is they know how to build a web site. This is what they do.

TAPPER: Unfortunately, that's all the time we have. A.B. Stoddard, Ross Douthat, Margaret Carlson, thank you so much. Have a great weekend one in all.

Coming up on THE LEAD, he abandoned his son when the boy was just 3 years old. Decades later, that boy is now a billionaire, the improbable and inspiring rise of Amazon's founder, Jeff Bezos.

And it's being called almost too powerful to watch. Could "12 Years of Slave" win Brad Pitt his first Oscar? Stay with us for the Pop Culture Lead.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Our Money Lead, it's now your source for one click shopping for everything, from running shoes to movies to groceries to, yes, inflatable unicorn horns for cats, a steal at just $5.89. But while famously began as just an online bookstore, its mastermind and CEO Jeff Bezos always planned on the site evolving into much more than that, it's the subject of the new book "The Everything Store, Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon."

Brad Stone, senior writer for "Bloomberg Business Week," joins me now. Brad, thanks for being here. The book just came out. Congratulations. So you take us through the rise of Bezos, through everything he's been through from being a precocious 12-year-old to a Wall Street whiz kid to one of the world's most influential titans. He told you that his story isn't ready to tell yet. What does that suggest that even after this phenomenal success, he thinks his story is not done?

BRAD STONE, AUTHOR, "THE EVERYTHING STORE": In a way it reflects an answer to an intrusive media question, it's too early to tell the Amazon story. In a way it's a brush-off, but it does speak to his incredible ambition. He says it is day one for Amazon. Considering that they built a company that's going to generate $75 billion this year, it's remarkable. But he really imagines Amazon as something akin to Wal-Mart, many times larger than it is today.

TAPPER: So the real question in this town and among journalists is what is he going to do with "The Washington Post?" He bought it in August for $250 million. This isn't like a little hobby, Charles Foster Kane, I would like to buy a newspaper. He wants to do something with it.

STONE: He staked his reputation in large part to the success of this very public franchise. We found out this week that the eBay founder was also bidding so there was a competitive situation there. I think Jeff believes that his long-term orientation and his, you know, innovative tendencies, his operating discipline can really help turn it around. I expect he will invest in the newspaper, they will experiment a lot on tablets and who knows, maybe one day we will see "Washington Post" subscriptions going to Amazon prime members.

TAPPER: One of the most interesting stories in this book is you track down his biological father. Tell us that story.

STONE: I just thought it was a missing piece of the story, the guy who left his life when he was 3. I don't know if it had anything to do with the man that he became, but clearly, Jeff is so driven, so relentless. I thought well, what's the story. I found him, he was running a bike shop outside of Phoenix and the amazing thing was that he actually didn't know --

TAPPER: You told him.

STONE: I told him.

TAPPER: Your son is this multibillionaire.

STONE: I was actually sort of quite sad because he had wondered his whole life what had become of this boy, and now he knows.

TAPPER: Have they had any contact?

STONE: There has been a little bit of contact, some e-mails back and forth. I don't know if it will go any further than that. TAPPER: It's so interesting how many of these incredibly successful men have these absent fathers, whether it's President Obama or President Clinton --

STONE: Steve Jobs.

TAPPER: Steve Jobs, of course.

STONE: Not a recipe for good parenting but an interesting coincidence.

TAPPER: Do you think that's all it is? You think there is this drive to prove himself to this absent father at all? I'm sure he didn't let you put him on the couch but what do you think?

STONE: It's hard to say. I'm sure it's an ingredient. He's a singular business figure, up on par with Steve Jobs. I think the circumstances of his early childhood are relevant to the man he's become.

TAPPER: He's a huge part of my life, my wife's life. The book is "The Everything Stone, Jeff Bezos and The Age of Amazon" by Brad Stone. It came out this week. Best of luck with it, fascinating read.

Coming up in the Pop Culture Lead, you might have to mentally prepare to watch it. "12 years of Slaves" details the true story of a free man sold into slavery. It's not what you would call a crowd pleaser. But is it the year's best movie? That's next. Stay with us.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Now it's time for the Pop Culture Lead. We reached that sweet spot in the year when Hollywood starts rolling out all of its Oscar buzz-worthy movies. No, I'm not talking about the over the top thriller "Big Ass Spider," which might pull off a sweep at the Razzies this year.

Opening in theatres, today is the much anticipated drama "12 Years of Slave." It tells the incredible true story of Solomon Northrop. Critics are calling the film everything from unflinching to unforgettable.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Days ago I was with my family in my home. Now you tell me all is lost.

TAPPER (voice-over): It was a trap. A business deal gone bad that cost Solomon Northrop 12 years of his life. Northrop, a free black man living in New York in 1941 was duped to taking a trip to Washington, D.C. for a job and ended up sold to a plantation in Louisiana. For 12 years, he was separated from his wife and children. After his harrowing trip back to freedom, he penned a best-selling memoir while the nation was on the brink of civil war. His chilling account of slavery would help change a nation. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For me in some ways it was sort of a restoration process. I tried to approach it with an invisible hand.

TAPPER: Screenwriter, John Ridley, transformed Northrop's memoir from 1853 for the silver screen.

JOHN RIDLEY, SCREENWRITER: There is an immediacy with the story that is unmatched. You have to remember, at that time, for people of color, if they could read or write, they would be killed. So the amount of these personal narratives that could come out of the south was actually very, very small.

GREGORY CARR, PROFESSOR, HOWARD UNIVERSITY: He sold about 30,000 copies, after it was published. It really gives a day-to-day account of what slavery was like.

TAPPER: Gregory Carr is the chair of the Afro-American Studies Program at Howard University.

(on camera): How successful was the memoir in bringing focus and popular culture to slavery?

CARR: I think you could safely say that it contributed to the end of slavery because it did galvanize a lot of popular attention. I think Solomon's narrative certainly humanized enslavement, brought the dangers and the traumas of enslavement to a wider public and certainly could give in that sense political support and popular support to the politics of the time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you want to survive, do and say as little as possible.

TAPPER (voice-over): The film is garnering critical praise for its unflinching portrayal of one of the most horrific chapters in American history.

(on camera): Do you think Hollywood has been successful in telling the story of slavery?

CARR: There has been nothing in my estimation since "Roots," since 1977, that has come close. When you see people you recognize in other contexts playing people who had their humanity attacked, it has a powerful effect on a popular audience. I think this film. This film may have a shot at helping us really open up another kind of national dialogue about what that institution was and what its implications are even to this day.

TAPPER (voice-over): A lot has changed in the decades since that time Solomon Northrop was sold into slavery in the shadow of the U.S. capitol.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you prepared to take the oath, Senator?


RIDLEY: For me to be in a space where I am just removed by generations from the actual facts of this story, where I can sit and write about this, I can be one of the producers on this film, I can sit my two sons down and I can have them watch their history, that's what's changed. That's what's changed.


TAPPER: "12 Years of Slave" comes in an unprecedented year for African-American films. About a dozen African-American themed films will have been released in 2013, including "The Butler."

He's an American icon. A civil rights hero and although his life was cut short more than 40 years ago, his legacy is still very much alive. It is not a surprise that a Hollywood heavyweight was asked to take on the challenge of portraying Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in an upcoming biopic.

The film's director, Oliver Stone tells the "Wall Street Journal" that Academy-award winner Jamie Foxx has snagged the role as Martin Luther King Jr. Foxx is no stranger to portraying larger than life icons. He won an Oscar in 2005 for his role as the late Ray Charles.

Two of the most powerful forces in New York are colliding in court, culture and real estate. A group of graffiti artists are suing the owner of a Long Island building where their work is displayed because he plans to tear the building down. They say the landlord had given them permission to spray paint their work on the building since the early '90s and since then it has attracted graffiti artists from all over the world, but now the owner wants to turn the building into a luxury apartment building. That means the walls and artwork will have to be destroyed. The demolition has been put on hold until the court weighs in.

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

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Jake, thanks very much.