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Super Typhoon Strikes Philippines; Iran Nuclear Talks Continue; An "Administrative Fix"?; Will There Be A Deal with Iran?

Aired November 8, 2013 - 16:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: A typhoon bigger than the size of California before it made landfall, it's been blotting the Philippines off the radar for hours.

I'm Jake Tapper. And this is THE LEAD.

The world lead. They were calling it a super typhoon and we are only getting a sense of the damage done in the Philippines, perhaps the strongest storm in recorded history laying waste to the country. We have a live report from Manila in moments.

Also in world news, what's happening in Geneva could change the world as we know it, talk of a potential deal with Iran to stop or slow its suspected progress towards a nuke. Can Iran be trusted to keep up its end of any potential bargain?

And the politics lead. It's become President Obama's read my lips, perhaps. Now he's apologizing after telling Americans if you like your plan, you can keep your plan. Was he listening to advice from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie that he heard right here on THE LEAD?

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

We will begin with the world lead. Many times in the past, the media have been guilty of dipping way too far into hyperbole to describe the threat of a storm. This is not one of those times. Typhoon Haiyan, which has battered the Philippines for hours, is believed to be the strongest storm ever to hit the Earth in recorded history, and it's still packing a huge punch.

Winds have gotten as high as 195 miles per hour, which would be more than three times worse than Hurricane Katrina, with gusts that may have reached as much as 235 miles per hour. At least three people have been killed so far in the Philippines, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, and judging from the images we have seen, that number will likely only go up.

The sun is just about to rise in Manila, the capital city of the Philippines. Very soon, we could get a new look at the damage in the light of day.

I want to bring in Paula Hancocks, standing by live in Manila.

Paula, what are you seeing around you? PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, it's 5:00 a.m. here and the capital itself has actually escaped fairly unscathed, but certainly further down south, the devastation is going to become clear fairly soon.

We know the military helicopters are on standby and over the next hour as the sun rises, they will be able to get into the air and get an aerial view of exactly what has happened. They don't have a good sense yet of exactly how much damage has been done. Nobody does. Because this super typhoon covered such a vast area, you will really only see that devastation from the air. They want to find out where's been hit hardest, who has been hit the hardest and what do they need, food, water and medication, most likely.

But, of course, there is also the possibility they won't be able to land, if the landing strips, the helicopter pads are flooded and underwater. How will they get to the people who need their help? So everything is up in the air at this point. The pictures as you say that we have seen show us that we should expect some serious devastation.

The first towns that were taking the initial brunt of this storm on the east coast of the Philippines, we saw streets that were just rivers of water filled with debris. We saw the strong winds ripping roofs off buildings and also the storm surges swallowing up a couple of small houses on the seashore.

So, basically, what the hope is, is that people heeded the warnings. The warnings were there. The president went on television and said there is a real danger of this typhoon, and the hope is that people actually took notice of that and did evacuate. We know at least 700,000 people did. We're hoping those in low-lying areas and those close to the coastline got out of the way as well -- Jake.

TAPPER: Paula Hancocks in Manila, thank you so much. Stay safe.


TAPPER: I want to turn now to Joe Curry. He is currently on Bohol Island in the Philippines. He's with Catholic Relief Services. He has seen his share of typhoons in the past.

Joe, thanks so much for being with us. Storms and typhoons have ravaged this area before. How does this one compare?

JOE CURRY, CATHOLIC RELIEF SERVICES: This was incredibly intense and big.

The strength of this typhoon is just -- it's phenomenal and the way it moved across the Philippines is something of serious concern. It has hit multiple islands with full super typhoon force, 200-mile-per-hour winds, so this is a real concern for us. We don't have information coming yet from the most affected areas.

TAPPER: How are you with supplies and shelter? Are the aid centers there going to be able to handle the influx of people who need help? CURRY: Shelter will be one of the major needs. You might know that we just had an earthquake in Bohol Island, so a lot of the aid agencies and the government have been concentrating efforts here.

And now we're going to be pulled out to other parts of the Visayas region. There's going to be serious shelter needs. We can know that -- we know that because of past typhoons like this. Housing can be very fragile, and especially in rural areas that were hit today by the typhoon. So we can expect likely tens of thousands of houses destroyed and damaged.

TAPPER: Joe, we have heard that the storm has knocked out power and communications in many areas throughout the Philippines. How are things holding up where you are?

CURRY: Power is out. The cell phone coverage is restored. Roads are damaged, but are opening again. The concern in Bohol Island is mainly about the displaced families from the earthquake. There are about 350,000 people living outside in tents and temporary shelters. Those people have been moved to safer locations, but, again, it's a difficult situation for them.

TAPPER: What have you heard about fatalities and injuries where you are?

CURRY: Where we are, Bohol has not had fatalities from the typhoon. We don't know -- we don't have the full information yet at the end of the first day, but we do know that the areas that were impacted directly by the typhoon, those are the ones that will have the most loss.

TAPPER: And, lastly, Joe, were people prepared for this?

CURRY: In some ways, with this typhoon, we did have adequate prediction and we knew that the typhoon was coming. We had about four days to prepare. And the government made a big effort to get people into evacuation centers.

So we do think that there has been some success in moving people to safer locations. But, again, these are a lot of rural areas, a lot of small islands that are affected. We don't know how they can protect themselves from a typhoon of this strength.

TAPPER: All right, Joe Curry with Catholic Relief Services, thank you so much. And stay safe.

As day breaks in the Philippines, we are going to get a better picture of exactly how destructive this typhoon was and continues to be. And we will go back to the region when we get more.

But, first, it took awhile, but President Obama is now saying "I'm sorry" after plenty of Americans realize they can't really keep their health insurance plan, even if they do like it. But is sorry enough?


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

Now it's time for the politics lead.

Countless Americans have been told that even though they like their health plan, they can't keep their health plan, but, hey, at least they're finally getting an apology from the president, kind of, sort of. Take a look.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am sorry that they, you know, are finding themselves in this situation based on assurances they got from me. We have got to work hard to make sure that they know we hear them.


TAPPER: That bite's getting a lot of play across the media ,but what struck us about it here at the THE LEAD -- and, granted, we're a little solipsistic -- was that it seemed awfully similar to President Obama taking advice from the governor of New Jersey which the governor offered up to the president when I spoke to him on Tuesday. Take a listen.


GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Here's what my suggestion would be to him. Don't be so cute. And when you make a mistake, admit it. Listen, if it was a mistake in 2009, if he was mistaken in 2009-2010 on his understanding of how the law would operate, then just admit it to people.


TAPPER: For reaction, I want to bring in our panel, editor of "The Weekly Standard" Bill Kristol, president of the Center for American Progress Neera Tanden, and CNN political commentator and Washington correspondent for "The New Yorker" Ryan Lizza.

So, Ryan Lizza, I'm not suggesting the president watches THE LEAD.

RYAN LIZZA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I was going to suggest that. Obviously, that's where he got the idea. But he may have read about it in the paper.


TAPPER: He did seem -- well, there was some pickup for it.

And, Christie, who was the man of the week, he probably had a better week than anybody else in American politics this week, did suggest, say you're sorry, admit it. And we got something like that from the president a couple days later.

LIZZA: Well, not only has he said he's sorry, but now he's taking the next step, and he's -- it looks like there's going to be some policy change here, which could open a whole 'nother can of worms, because this -- this -- you change one part of this law, and it affects different parts.

But look, he's been completely burned by this promise and the White House is going to do something about it now, apparently.

TAPPER: You were in the Bush 41 White House when he violated the "read my lips, no new taxes." I know you weren't in the office, you were down the hall, but how tough is it when a president realizes that something he said, some big promise he made, that he wasn't going to be able to keep up, how difficult is it to come to terms with that fact?

WILLIAM KRISTOL, EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Well, it's difficult, especially in this case. The president has spent three years since the bill was passed pretending something was the case that wasn't the case.

I think broken promises hurt you, though, particularly when the policy doesn't work. I think voters will forgive a politician who misleads them perhaps when things turn out OK and they will forgive a politician who tells the truth if things don't turn out well but it was a good faith effort. When you both don't tell the truth and the thing's a fiasco, you have serious political problems.


KRISTOL: But, incidentally, I was glad that President Obama took the advice of a Republican governor, one of the most successful Republicans in the country. He should take the advice of Republicans more often.


KRISTOL: If they have to transmit it -- and they have to transmit it through you on THE LEAD. You are playing a very useful role here.


KRISTOL: Ted Cruz would like to come on Monday. He's got a couple of the things that the president could learn.

TAPPER: I'm sure he does.

NEERA TANDEN, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Maybe Ted Cruz could apologize for the government shutdown. That would be great. We have both on both ends.

TAPPER: Happy to be the conduit for any message.

TANDEN: I would recommend he do that. Take Bill Kristol's advice, come on TV and apologize.

TAPPER: What fix are we talking about possibly? Ryan was talking about it. Is it an administrative fix maybe, or is it more subsidies for people so that they can afford -- TANDEN: Look, I think they are looking at a series of options. I know Senator Landrieu has legislation to extend the grandfather clause itself which would allow people who had coverage to continue their coverage for those people in the individual market. So, there's talk of subsidies and other things.

You know, I think it's important for the president to be a reality based president. In this situation, people are angry about it. He should be honest about it. I'm glad he said something but I think it's really important to see what's going to happen here. I think the challenge also is the real measure of this will be if the Web site works and people are signing up and a lot of people benefit from the law, then I think a lot of these things will be forgiven in the long run. If they're not, if it doesn't work, that's going to be a big challenge, and it's going to be a substantive challenge.

TAPPER: The thing is, a lot of us who have been following health care for a long time, both in the '80s and '90s and also this law, knew that that promise was not going to be able to be kept as the president made it. And in fact, in 2010, you might remember President Obama had that big health care summit across the street from the White House, at Blair House, all the Republicans came, Democrats came, and here's an interesting exchange from 2010.


REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), MAJORITY LEADER: Between 8 million and 9 million people may very well lose the coverage that they have because of this, because of the construct of this bill. That's our concern.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The 8 million to 9 million people that you refer to that might have to change their coverage -- keep in mind, out of the 300 million Americans that we're talking about, would be folks who the CBO, the Congressional Budget Office, estimates would find the deal in the exchange better, would be a better deal.


TAPPER: That's what we're now talking about. Those 8 million or 9 million Americans who -- now, the question is whether or not the deal is better. The question is not -- the question is whether they can afford the deal with the subsidies that some of them are eligible for and also whether they can get on the Web site to see the deal. But this is not a real secret.

So, when President Obama, you know, came to the realization this week that, you know, it wasn't true, he knew it wasn't true back then.

KRISTOL: Also, will their choice of doctors and plans be more limited. But I think both of you actually indicated something that's important, which is the apology last night was fine. The apology itself isn't important but he is indicating I think that he is going to go for a fix in December.

They'll try to get the Web site up on November 30th, they'll claim it's working fine even if it's working semi-fine or at all, and I think the dynamic of this debate will change in a pretty radical way. What was the dynamic a month, six weeks ago? People like me were saying can't we delay parts of this thing for a year? No, absolutely not. This is the law of the land, Bill, get used to it, man. It was passed by Congress.

TAPPER: That's what Neera said.

KRISTOL: Ratified by the Supreme Court. The voters --

TANDEN: He also said the government shutdown was fine, if we're going to hold people accountable.

KRISTOL: I was going to say. The voters ratified it. That was not a bad talking point incidentally. If you're defending something, it's not bad to be able to say, hey, come on, get over it. Once he acknowledges there has to be fixes, whether more subsidies or whatever he wants, then we're in a genuine legislative debate. I think it's a very fluid moment.

I don't think it's necessarily -- I think it's wise of the president to go with this direction because I don't think he can stick to the talking point of six weeks ago anymore, which is you're a critic of the plan, be quiet. But I think it becomes a very fluid moment.


LIZZA: But aren't both sides -- both sides are now in the realm of reality, whereas before, the Republican position was we have to defund the whole thing and we're going to shut down the government to do it.

TAPPER: Right, which is never going to happen.

LIZZA: And the administration was absolutely no fixes, we're not changing one detail.


KRISTOL: -- it would have been terrible to delay the mandate.

TAPPER: We only have a couple of minutes left. Where do we end up now?

LIZZA: At least now you're in the realm of two sides looking at legitimate fixes for a flawed law. You know, that's probably a better place. I don't think -- but, Bill, I think if you think that that's going to lead to getting rid of the entire thing all together, it seems like --


KRISTOL: I think you could have much bigger modifications in the law two, three, four months from now than anyone thought possible, months from now.

TANDEN: Look, I think the big issue really is the health care Web site. I think actually Democrats have been arguing for small fixes here and there throughout this process.

The problem has always been Republicans have not even done small fixes. They've said we're going to take the whole bill down. That has been the strategy of House Republicans from the get-go.

If they come to the table and say let's deal with the grandfather clause, I think there will be an actual -- making sure people can keep their health insurance, I think there will be an actual negotiation around that. And that's fine. You know, I don't think the position should be there's no fixes to any law ever.

TAPPER: But I think Bill's point is that, all of a sudden, if you're changing what the requirements are for health care plans which is what Eric Cantor was talking about in that bill as to why people would lose their --

TANDEN: Right.

TAPPER: -- other things might enter the conversation.

TANDEN: Taking something like the individual mandate, for example, there's 150,000 people who signed up for health care now who get those premiums from the mandates. Switching something like that would raise people's premiums on the other side, too.

TAPPER: All right. Great panel. Neera, Bill, Ryan, thank you all so much. Have a meaningful Veterans Day on Monday.

Coming up, we could be on the edge of an agreement that could change the face of the Middle East and perhaps the world. So, why is one of the United States' closest allies so worried about this deal actually going through?

And in sports, the racially charged scandal rocking the Miami Dolphins -- well, it just got worse.

Stay with us.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

There are some other big world news stories. It feels like just yesterday, we were making deal or no deal jokes in Washington over when the government shutdown would end but now there's another potential deal on the table that has observers talking here and all over the world.

Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Geneva, Switzerland earlier today, along with diplomats from France, Germany and the U.K. in an attempt to close the deal with Iran on its nuclear program. Russia's foreign minister is expected to arrive tomorrow.

So, are they close? What's on the table?

Let's bring in our chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto. Jim, what's the latest you're hearing?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, you and I have covered enough of these to know that they can fall apart at the last minute. But you do have a flurry of diplomatic activity now. Secretary Kerry coming in, the British, the French, the Germans, now, Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, coming tomorrow. You get the sense they wouldn't be taking this political risk going there if they didn't think that the final disagreements were bridgeable.

That said, Secretary Kerry did say there were still some gaps and they have to bridge the gaps and the talks at least will extend tomorrow so we have to watch over the weekend.

TAPPER: That's a great point, because normally you wouldn't have heavy hitters come in to have a deal explode at the last second. What kind of deal are we talking about? What does it look like?

SCIUTTO: Well, they're calling this an interim deal. So, first step, over six months while they negotiate a longer term deal. And both sides are giving something up so the Iranians would suspend enrichment of uranium up to 20 percent. They'd still keep going at 3.5 percent but not 20 percent.

TAPPER: Three and a half percent would be for nuclear power.

SCIUTTO: Exactly, 20 percent is one step away from weaponized. They would agree not to activate their highest power centrifuges and also, the Iraq heavy water reactor which is plutonium, it's another path to a bomb. The U.S. would keep and the West would keep the most severe economic sanctions in place on oil, financial transactions, but they would allow access to international gold markets, key sources of foreign exchange for the Iranians and also unfreeze some assets.

So, both sides giving something up, not giving everything up, and they are calling it confidence building measures while they negotiate a bigger deal.

TAPPER: All right. Jim Sciutto, thank you so much.

Let's talk about the prospects of a deal and its impact with Richard Haass. He's president of the Council on Foreign Relations and former advisor to Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Richard, good to see you as always.

So, we have Secretary Kerry in Geneva, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency meeting with Iranian leaders on Monday. What do you think a deal would mean for all the players involved? How big of a deal would this be?

RICHARD HAASS, PRESIDENT, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Well, on one level, Jake, any deal is a big deal, given the last three decades plus of tension or open hostility between the United States and Iran. That said, any deal at most would be a kind of interim arrangement. We'd maybe have a specific time limit on it, six months or something like it, and it would simply be to buy some time to set the stage, if you will, for a much more ambitious agreement that would be negotiated during that time span.

TAPPER: Here's what President Obama said last night about the easing of sanctions and that being on the table.


OBAMA: There is the possibility of a phased agreement in which the first phase would be us halting any advances on their nuclear program, rolling some potential back and putting in place a way where we can provide them some very modest relief but keeping the sanctions' architecture in place, keeping the core sanctions in place.


TAPPER: Republican Senator Bob Corker is trying to limit the administration's abilities to waive or ease these sanctions. What do you think is the right move here?

HAASS: What the administration is trying to do is thread the proverbial needle. They've got to keep enough of the sanctions in place to keep the pressure on. Any relief needs to be reversible. On the other hand, they've got to give the Iranians enough in order so that they can go defend the deal in their political system.

I think the critical thing will be this question that anything relieved can be reversed, can be, if you will, reinstated, and that there's a degree of proportionality, that the reward, say the unfrozen assets that then become available to Iran, that the reward does not seem too big for whatever it is the Iranians are agreeing to.

TAPPER: It seems as though there already has been something of a reward, at least if you believe the report from "The Daily Beast's" Josh Rogin and Eli Lake.