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Exclusive interview with Charles Krauthammer; White House Promises Obamacare Web Site to Be Up on November 30th; "The Government Killed Pontiac"; New Policy: Take the Weekends Off; Inside "Mad" Magazine

Aired October 29, 2013 - 16:30   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN: But, first, I would love your reaction to some of today's news -- given this rare opportunity to have you on the show. You have called the issues with the Obamacare Web site a, quote, "practical reality check" on President Obama's ambitions.

What do you mean by that?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, I mean, the centerpiece of the liberal enterprise as portrayed by Obama, he is a very ideologically ambitious president. And he sees himself as sort of the anti-Ronald Reagan, beginning a new kind of liberalism and adding, you know, the most important element of social Democratic governance which is health care. And that's been his objective. This would be his legacy.

If he can't get the thing to work, and it collapses, I think it will jeopardize liberal enterprise, the expansion of the welfare state for a generation to come.

And what we heard today, the interview that you just had, with that lady in Chicago, is even worse. It isn't just technical issues. It is the fact that the government, as we heard, mass decided if you have your insurance and you like it, the government will decide that it is junk. The government will decide you have no idea how to decide on your own what you ought to do. A kind of crushing paternalism which I think is quite shocking and it is a symbol of this entire enterprise. Again, if that, if people rebel against that, they are upset of the breaking of the promise on the paternalistic imposition, that could really undermine the liberal enterprise.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: And Charles, what are you saying to Democrats who pushed back and say at least Obama's trying to do something about the tens of millions of uninsured and trying to improve care? The Republican Party hasn't really done anything along those lines.

KRAUTHAMMER: The problem with what Obama did is that he had a discreet problem, the underinsured and uninsured. And I believe a decent society ought to look after them and to find a way to do it.

But instead of discreetly attacking that problem, what he decided to do is to take advantage of that and to completely remake one-sixth of the American economy. There is no reason whatsoever that the woman you interviewed in Chicago would have to lose her insurance and change her plan because some experts in Washington have decided that there is a better way and what she decided when you are trying to insure the uninsured. It is an example of liberal overreach. Instead of addressing a problem discreetly, narrowly, they decided to review one- sixth of the economy that's what you are getting the pushback, generally from American people and specifically from conservatives whose warrant against this for 4 1/2 years.

TAPPER: Let's turn to your book which is a collection of articles and essays you published throughout your career from your early days. Believe it or not, for some viewers, the "New Republic," and then on to the "Time" magazine and then "the Washington Post," you coined the term, maybe a decade ago about, called Bush derangement syndrome, your psychiatrist, an acute onset of paranoia and otherwise normal people and reaction to the policies, the presidency. Name the existence of George W. Bush, you say. There is, without it seems to be, an Obama derangement syndrome as well. Do you think that one is any more acute than the other? Have you been to be able diagnose more cases the other?

KRAUTHAMMER: Well, to start with, it was largely tongue-in-cheek giving it a serious diagnosis. As you know, when you try ironing in journalism, also the iron is missed. I mean, I actually had a phrase. It came from Howard Dean and I write about it in the column. Howard Dean had been on a (INAUDIBLE) show and said that he was a little bit unsure as to whether Bush had known about 9/11 in advance which is weird and Dean is a serious guy. So I had a phrase in there that said that Dean was a little bit troubling to epidemiologists because Dean was the first example of such a syndrome happening in the very state.

Now, because he's from Vermont, so, that was obviously a clue that this was meant to be tongue-in-cheek. But on the serious issue, which is that there were people who were so opposed to anything that Bush had done, yes, it applies to Obama. Yes, it applied to Reagan. And I think it applied generally speaking to most presidents. And there are people who will not accept anything that a president has done.

I thought it was rather acute when the in the Bush years because especially because of the wars, and because of the expansion of the state which really handled a lot of conservatives. But I think the general issue is a president is always a target and oftentimes the target is really overused and over abused.

TAPPER: It is a great book of some of your most provocative and interesting essays. One final question, Charles, in 1994 you wrote a column about how voters loathe politicians. And I'm wondering now if almost 20 years after you wrote that column if you think things are the same, better, or worse.

KRAUTHAMMER: I think that the things are worse. The government -- the people are more divided ideologically and part of the reason I wrote the book and part of the reason I included a lot of the politics in there, I do originally intended writing about, you know, the wonderful elegant and beautiful things in life, poetry and music, all the columns on that. But in the end you have to get the politics right. And even though we despise and often despair about the state of the practice of politics and don't like the Congress, and don't like the process, in the end you have to get the politics right because if you don't, all the other things, things that matter will be swept away. And that's why we have to include in our own life, staying involved in politics even though it is a rather grubby and grasp occupation. And it is essential a homage to politics and all of its checkered elements.

TAPPER: All right. The book is called "things that matter, three decades of passions, past times and politics."

Charles Krauthammer, thank you so much. Congratulation and best of luck to the book.

KRAUTHAMMER: Thank you very much.

TAPPER: Let's check in with our political panel in the greenroom. Ana Navarro, a state lawmaker in Nevada assemblyman Jim Wheeler, he is now apologizing after saying he would hold his nose and vote to re- institutionalized slavery if that's what his constituents really wanted.

So, I guess there is such thing as being too responsive to voters, Ana.

ANA NAVARRO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, Jake, I think maybe he should do less holding of his nose and more holding of his tongue. You know, obviously this is a very stupid thing. I'm glad Ryan, the governor of Nevada, has condemned it strongly.

TAPPER: Stick around. More of the LEAD coming up.


TAPPER: Welcome back to the LEAD, continuing now the politics LEAD. Read any good articles lately, Mr. President? Former National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor gave us insight into his old boss' reading habits in an interview for


TOMMY VIETOR, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY SPOKESMAN: He reads John Borough and he reads Ezra (INAUDIBLE), and you know, all he is people that are sort of young up and comers.


TAPPER: So, you have to wonder if the president had a chance to "New York" magazine's Jonathon's latest piece this morning titled "if you like your plan you can keep it, well, not exactly." The piece corrects the president on his frequent promise that nothing would change under the Affordable Care Act, people who already have health insurance coverage budget. The White House has already backpedalling from.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: What is absolutely true is that if you had a plan before the Affordable Care Act that you liked on the individual market and your insurance company didn't take that away from you and offer you instead something else that you didn't purchase but they provided you the same plan this whole time, you can keep it and that's true.


TAPPER: Let's bring in the panel. CNN Political commentator and Republican strategist Ana Navarro, Washington bureau chief for "USA Today" Susan Page and columnist for "the Washington Post," Dana Milbank.

Dana, what we just heard, Mr. Carney say, doesn't quite fit into a bumper sticker.

DANA MILBANK, POLITICAL COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: No. I think even into a tweet, it would take a bit of effort to get that out each time. And that was the problem. So the president used shorthand earlier and now he is going to be paying the price for it. And you know, it could have explained, look, under the existing system, people lose their health care plan all the time and that nothing about this is going to change that, but it didn't. And now, this president and the Democrats own everything about health care and anything bad that happens to anybody anywhere at any hospital in this country is now going to be blamed on Obamacare.

TAPPER: Ana, Republican congressman Fred Upton of Michigan is introducing the keep your health plan act to push back on this. It would allow any insurance plans that weren't in effect on January 1st, 2013 to continue in 2014. But this has no chance of making it through the Senate, does it? Do you think this could become a law?

NAVARRO: You know, very little right now can become a law given the environment in Washington cake. But I think you are going to see a lot of backlash from the public, from the American people calling their congressmen and their senators, calling the White House angry at this. Because you have a lot of people, a lot of individuals like the woman you just interviewed, like our colleague, David Frum, who tweeted the other day about his plan being canceled. So, believe you and me, when a lot of people in the media starts getting their plans canceled, you are going hear about it a lot.

TAPPER: Susan, I think one of the issues here is that there was, as Dana suggested, there was a simplicity to how these things were explained. Obviously, as Dana says, I think (INAUDIBLE) said this to me weeks ago; people get dumped from their health care plans all the time. Insurance companies cancel plans all the time. The rate of turnover for individual plans is somewhere between 40 and 67 percent every year anyway. But there were promises made in selling this bill that the president is having trouble keeping a straight face when explaining were they didn't come to fruition.

SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, USA TODAY: Yes, that's true. It has been damaging to the perception of Obamacare. We continue to have a situation where most Americans say it was a bad idea to pass this through 3 1/2 years after it was sign in law. But I do think we are about to get to the point where realty will begin to matter so that if they get the Web site up and running by the end of November which they promise to do, they promise repeated on Capitol Hill today, and if it works so people can go on and see their options and see what their subsidy is, and it provides them with health care that they can afford, none of this is going to matter. It is going to be fine. People are going to support Obamacare.

But if it doesn't work and don't have the Web site up and running by November 30, the perception of Obamacare was a mistake, I think starts to gets set and starts to become very serious business.

NAVARRO: Look. You only have one chance to make a first impression in life. And the first impression of Obamacare is not a good one. What Susan just said may be true but there is a lot of ifs in the sentence that Susan just articulated. So if, if, if, if all those things happen, but in the meantime, for the next two months, you are going to hear all these stories of American people that are very angry with what's happening, whether it is the web cited or cancellation of plans, or losing jobs or being turned into part-time workers, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

TAPPER: Senator Lindsey Graham tweeted something. I just want to get a quick reaction from Dana on. He wrote, where are the Benghazi survivors? I'm going to block every appointment in the U.S. Senate until they are made available to Congress. Dana, do you think that's actually possible? Is he going to really be able to block every appointment until Benghazi survivors testify?

MILBANK: Well, look, Lindsey Graham has to say that because Lindsey Graham is going to face a primary challenge on the right and he has already seen as caving on the deal on the debt limit. So he has to start getting right with his base in South Carolina. I don't think it has lot do with Benghazi.

NAVARRO: I don't agree with this at all. This is a man that reached across the aisle and done things like go against the government shutdown, who was worked on immigration. He has shown no political courage. I think he is frustrated with Benghazi and he should be.

TAPPER: All right, that's music in your ear as if you are accepting an Oscar, accepting an Oscar. Ana Navarro, Susan Page, Dana Milbank, thank you so much for coming in. We appreciate it as always.

When we come back, if the government handed you $53 billion you would probably do what they want to do with that money, right? Why one automaker is saying it's bailout of death of an American institution.

Plus bottomless mimosas at Sunday brunch were a dream for young bankers working 24/7 in Manhattan, but all that about to change as Goldman Sachs reconsiders the notion of what is a weekend. That's ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Some "Money Leads" now, during the 2009 bailout, the Pontiac car line was sent to sleep with the fishes and we are now hearing it was the federal government who put out the hit. According to the former vice chair of General Motors killing Pontiac was the only way the company could get federal bailout money. Without that money the company could have gone under for good.

Former head honcho Bob Lutz says he wanted to keep Pontiac alive especially because the company was getting ready to launch new models. In the past, the Obama administration has denied playing a role in guiding the decisions of auto industry executives.

Top investment banking firm Goldman Sachs announce a new policy for workers at the bottom of the Wall Street food chain. According to "Bloomberg News," junior bankers now get to take the weekends off. That may not sound like a big deal to most of us, but these entry level employees are known for clocking as many as 100 hours a week.

Goldman Sachs is now discouraging long marathon work weeks as a way not only to keep good employees around, but to keep them from burning out before they turn 30. It turns out not everybody is working for the weekend, after all. The '80s rock group lover boy could not be reached for comment.

Coming up in the Pop Culture Lead, the original source for all things weird, stupid and dumb before the "Daily Show" or "SNL," there was "Mad" magazine. Next, a look back at some of the best moments of satire from "Mad" magazine.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Now it is time for the Pop Culture Lead. I was in first grade when I bought my first copy of "Mad" magazine in an ice cream shop, 50 cents. I read it until the cover came off. Today, the so-called usual gang of idiots is still cranking out the same self-deprecating, ironic and in-your-face humor that got me hooked all those years ago.

I got a lot of people hooked. "Mad" magazine is celebrating more than 60 years of getting all of us to question the powers that be with a new anthology featuring insights from some of the rags biggest celebrity fans.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kiss the Fonz for a buck. That's a bargain at my price.

TAPPER (voice-over): Flashback to December 1976, the Fonz from "Happy Days" was the coolest guy around. So for me at 7, seeing Fonz mocked on the cover of "Mad" magazine, well, that was something of a revelation. Number 187 was my first issue. The satire, of course, has continued, this is issue number 523. President Obama's on the cover being mocked for the NSA spy scandal. For 61 years, "Mad" magazine has sewn subversive seeds of distrust. JOHN FICARRA, EDITOR, "MAD" MAGAZINE: One of "Mad's" core reasons to exist is to question authority because as you get older you realize that basically everybody has an agenda and everybody is lying to you. "Mad" really doesn't make up anything. We just sort of look at what's going on in society and say, isn't this kind of weird or stupid or dumb?

TAPPER: Now long time editor, John Ficarra, has tapped the usual gang of idiots for "Inside Mad," a book that highlights the magazine's far reaching influence into the people who create today's pop culture.

FICARRA: I reached out and was overwhelmed by the amount of people who were very eager to write for the magazine. And tell about what it was like when they were reading it growing up and what it was like to see themselves parodied in the magazine.

TAPPER: As Art Spigelman explained in this 1993 "New Yorker" comic, "Mad" magazine was more important than pot and LSD in shaping the generation that protested the Vietnam War. The message, everyone is lying to you. A radical one for a child to learn and even if you have never read an issue, you likely heard of those who have used "Mad" as news. Filmmaker, John was actually upset that none of his celebrated characters like the "40-Year-Old Virgin" or "Anchorman" --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tonight's top story is --


TAPPER: Ever been parodied by man. So the editors obliged. Ken Burns is known for his heavy documentaries, but he credits the publication for teaching him how to spot fraud. Giving "Guns and Roses" guitarist, Slash, wrote in to say he has been a fan even longer than I have. But to keep new generations of fans laughing and subscribing, the magazine has had to try to grow with them.

FICARRA: What do you have to do to piss somebody off these days? I think politicians especially have gotten very smart at trying to co-op satirists. They will do things that will make them part of the joke. It has gotten much, much harder to spoof people as a result of that.

TAPPER: "Mad" has dabbled in television not once but twice attempted an ill-fated film called "Up the Academy" in 1980. More recently "Mad" has found that it is not only harder to spoof people, but also harder to hold the attention of an increasingly distracted audience.

FICARRA: Now "Mad" is much more visually driven with bullet-pointed jokes than a long, elaborate parody that could be brilliant, but would probably lose a lot of the readers early on.

TAPPER: So they have decided to keep it short and start a blog.

FICARRA: Now, this really makes its comedy first responders and we can get there very quickly and make fun of people, which is our basic mission in life.

TAPPER: The hope is the jokes aren't just funny but informative. (END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. I now turn you over to Wolf Blitzer. He is in "THE SITUATION ROOM" -- Mr. Blitzer.