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Interview With Sarah Palin On Faith And Family; Frantic Search and Rescue Continues In Hard-Hit Philippines; "Let Them Keep What They've Got"; The World's Biggest Airline; Viral Video Spawns Children's Book

Aired November 12, 2013 - 16:30   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

And now, we continue with more of our interview with former Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin.

As children giddily count down to the holiday season and the stacks of presents that come with it, former Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin's out to fight back against what she sees as a war on Christmas waged by the ACLU and atheists. She's so inspired that she wrote a book about it, out today. It's titled "Good Tidings and Great Joy: Protecting the Heart of Christmas." And it explores the controversial aspects of publicly celebrating Christianity.

I asked Palin about the book and the message it sends to those who do not share her faith.


TAPPER: So "Good Tidings, Great Joy: Protecting the Heart of Christmas," a book that you wrote. It's one part love letter to Christmas and what the holiday has meant to you, and another part -- a treatise about what you think is going wrong with atheists and others, in your view, declaring war on Christmas.

PALIN: The Scrooges declaring war on Christmas, yes.

TAPPER: So, how is there a war on Christmas?

PALIN: You see the ACLU letters that get sent around to all the school districts now, warning them, you know, you'd better not acknowledge that Jesus is the reason for the season and don't -- heaven forbid you sing a song about Bethlehem or "Silent Night", because somebody may take offense.

TAPPER: About one in five Americans does not identify as a Christian.

Can you understand why somebody who is not a self-identified Christian would feel uncomfortable with a very religious Nativity scene or a demonstration of something from the -- from the Bible, from the New Testament, coming from the government, coming from a public school, because to them, that might feel like their government is picking a religion and it's not -- it's not theirs? PALIN: Well, there are things that we can do about that to, I guess, lessen that offense. We can do that in our personal lives. For instance, in -- in my family, we have the menorah out on -- through December on our kitchen table. I want to teach my children about the Jewish faith.

TAPPER: What do you make of Pope Francis? What do you think of him?

PALIN: I'm kind of trying to follow what his agenda is. You know, I'm surprised that he -- he came out with a -- a couple of things in the media -- but then again, I'm not one to trust the media's interpretation of somebody's message.

But having read through media outlets that he's had some statements that, to me, sound kind of liberal, it has taken me aback. It's kind of surprised me. But, there again, you know, unless I really dig deep into what his messaging is and do my own homework, I'm not -- I'm not going to just trust what I hear in the media.

TAPER: I said earlier I was surprised by your devotion of faith, how much you talked about it in the book, just because politicians don't talk about it very often. I still think of you as a politician, if you'll -- if you'll forgive me.

PALIN: Yes. Yes. That hurts. Oh, that hurts.

TAPPER: What church do you go to? What is your belief system?

PALIN: Go to a Bible-believing church up there in Wasilla that's non- denominational. I --

TAPPER: Are you born-again?

PALIN: Yes. Yes. I mean I -- when I was a young girl, I remember looking around the beauty of Alaska -- I remember one summer at a summer camp, looking around at our mountain ranges and the beautiful lakes and this creation and knowing, even as a kid, wow, there is something greater than self. And whomever it is that created this certainly must know better than I, how to -- how to direct my life.

I -- I put my life in God's hands at that time.

TAPPER: This was a moment, an actual --

PALIN: Yes, it was an actual moment.

TAPPER: How old -- how old were you?

PALIN: Um, I was about 12. Yes. And, uh, telling -- I mean I -- I remember calling out to God and saying, I believe you, because I see God in my surroundings up there in Alaska really, it -- it's hard to escape it. And, um, realizing, again, that my creator would have purpose for me, because there's purpose in everything.

And then just through these years, a progression toward stronger and stronger faith, that is what I have had to, thankfully, go back to so often, Jake. I find myself on my knees calling out to -- to God for assistance, for -- for help, for, um, encouragement.

TAPPER: What kinds of things have you been through that -- that have -- you've needed God for?

PALIN: Um, well, the -- about five-and-a-half years ago, when I was 12 weeks pregnant and my doctor said your child will be born with Down Syndrome, that was a moment of calling out to God, uh, saying, really?

Really, God?

I -- you promise in your word in the bible that you'll never give us something that we can't handle. And I don't think that I'm equipped to handle this.

It took me many months to -- to come around to the idea of, yes, he isn't going to give me something that I can't handle, meaning, I'll be able to handle this.

TAPPER: How is your -- how is that beautiful little boy?

How is he doing?

PALIN: He is the most precious perfect little rowdy boy. I mean he's like any other little 5-year-old. He's amazing. He's absolutely amazing. I wouldn't trade anything about him for the world. And to think, ah, five-and-a-half years ago, I don't know if I could have said that, you know, when I first heard what was coming, I didn't know if -- but today, no. I wouldn't changed anything about our boy.

TAPPER: You -- you write in the book, um, very candidly about when Bristol came to you.

PALIN: And, yes, at first blush, you know, my -- the impulse was, what? You're pregnant? Well, that's not supposed to happen, for one; and two, so when are you going to get married and take responsibility and raise your new family here, Bristol, and the guy -- the other guy?

Um, and Todd is the one, yes, who held back and said, no, no, no, not so fast. And we didn't agree right off the bat on -- on how things we thought should shake out for our daughter and our grandson.

But time has absolutely proven Todd right on that one.

TAPPER: You had some not super flattering comments to make about Levi the other day.

Has -- has this opened your eyes as to -- as to what single mothers go through in this country?

PALIN: Oh, absolutely.

TAPPER: Because a lot of them, obviously --

PALIN: It --

TAPPER: -- don't have the family that you -- PALIN: The big network --

TAPPER: -- (INAUDIBLE) provide and --

PALIN: Right.

TAPPER: -- and the -- and money.

PALIN: Right.

TAPPER: And a --

PALIN: Well, the comment that I made about, um, Trip's father was that, you know, deadbeat dads, you know, and that I -- I'm so tired of deadbeat dads being put on a pedestal. But, yes, again, a circumstance will -- a circumstance like that, less than ideal, has taught our family to keep eyes and hearts and minds open to what other people go.

Bristol is a great example of, yes, she appreciates so much the network of support that she has, but here she -- she goes to school. She works. She's raising this child on her own.

But it is, Jake, it is such a tough life. It is -- you know, it maybe sounds cliched, but it's so true. It's not something to strive for, that -- that single motherhood, because, um, like Bristol has always said, you know, that baby isn't just some accessory on your hip, a cute little thing to be carrying around. It -- your life has changed now. You're no longer living for yourself and at such a young age, it's hard to be ready for that.


TAPPER: Our thanks to former Governor Palin.

Coming up next, we'll return live to the Philippines, where rescue workers are still trying to get to some of the hardest hit areas as aid pours in. Is it getting to the people who need it the most?

Plus, she has not said she's running yet, but if Hillary Clinton does decide to pull the trigger in 2016, could her biggest threat come from within her own party? We'll talk about that with our political panel.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We will go back now to our world lead because the story in the Philippines is so horrific. A frantic search for survivors under the rubble, desperate pleas for food and water and very literally, the smell of death hanging in the air. That's the situation right now in the Philippines, where the storm has long passed but a bitter humanitarian crisis is now spiraling out of control. The United Nations estimates that 800,000 people have been displaced by the destruction.

I'm joined now on the phone by Tata Abella-Bolo. She's an Oxfam emergency team member on the ground near the northernmost tip of the Cebu mainland. Tata, thanks so much for joining us, and thanks for making time to speak to us in the middle of this horrific situation. The government is calling this a national state of calamity. Give us a state from on the ground where you are of the devastation that you're witnessing.

TATA ABELLA-BOLO, OXFAM EMERGENCY TEAM MEMBER (on the phone): Yes. Over in northern Cebu, it's really not as bad as you see in Tacloban in eastern (INAUDIBLE). But yes, definitely the devastation is there. Power lines are down, and so in the process they also have no water because their water is very much dependent on electricity. So, there are a lot of debris but as of yesterday, the roads have been cleared off. And so aid (INAUDIBLE) assistance can already have access to these areas.

But problems remain, there is a shortage of food and water and sanitation needs. So Oxfam is trying to address that.

TAPPER: We're hearing, Tata, that there's no electricity in the area where you are and no water. What are you doing for supplies?

ABELLA-BOLO: Actually, we are doing assessments, and we head back to the city because we also have to do some reports, so we need electricity to do that. So, what we do is we go in the morning really early, then we go right back up, head back to Cebu city, to -- yes, so that we are able to cope with the situation (ph).

TAPPER: We're hearing from the government of the Philippines that more than two million people are in need of food aid. What are people doing? How are they surviving?

ABELLA-BOLO: Yes. At the moment in northern Cebu, there are a lot of municipalities also down in the south that were not affected at all. And they have capability to help. So they are bringing food aid to the northern municipalities and the provincial government is helping as well.

But yes, it has only been five days. We don't know if the supplies will be coming in in the next few days.

TAPPER: Of course, one of the other big needs there are medical supplies. How many people are you seeing in need of attention? How do you as an aid worker, how do you cope with the next threats, the threats of disease?

ABELLA-BOLO: Yes. Actually, yesterday we went back to do the technical assessments. We looked at their water system because we're really trying to address that. As I said, there is no electricity and they have no water. So we're looking to how we can really help in that aspect, giving them water. So yes, that's what we did. We also visited the sick hospital there in the area and were surprised to learn that even they have no water. It's like -- it's really a situation that needed to be addressed real soon.

TAPPER: All right, Tata Abella-Bolo, thanks. The very best to you in this very difficult situation. And God bless the work you do. Our Anna Coren is in Cebu, the staging ground for aid. Anna, thanks so much for being here. The United Nations says 800,000 people have been run out of their homes by this storm. What are you witnessing there on the ground?

ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, we flew with the military yesterday Guyan (ph), which is an eastern province. This township is basically the first town hit by super typhoon Haiyan. As we flew over, absolutely everything was flattened. Every single structure had its roof blown off. Huge massive palm trees around the airfield that we flew into were snapped, every single one of them, which gives you an idea of the force of this storm.

We were on the ground for 20 minutes delivering aid, and the locals that had gathered at the air base desperate for those basic necessities, basically said they were all homeless. They had all lost their homes. They were staying in erected shelters from what they managed to salvage from their properties.

So these people are in desperate need of those basic necessities: food, fresh water, medical supplies. They have been going without them now for many, many days. And there really is a sense of desperation, Jake, on the ground.

The problem, of course, is logistics. It's getting that aid to those very remote places. As we know, the Philippines is made up -- it's an archipelago, made up of thousands of islands. The only way to get on the ground is by air or by boat. Boat is extremely slow. These people need aid right now. So these C-130 Hercules here at the Cebu airfield are flying in and out delivering aid drops. Helicopters as well. But this is a very, very slow process, and for the people on the ground, Jake, it really is a race against time.

TAPPER: All right. Anna Coren in Cebu, thank you so much.

Still to come, a former president who tried but failed to pass health care reform, offering some healthy advice to the one who tried and succeeded. Bill Clinton's tough medicine coming up next.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD now. More politics now, the criticism of Obamacare is coming from all sides, even from the president's own quote/unquote, "secretary of explaining stuff," former President Bill Clinton. Clinton said when it comes to people who want to hold on to their pre-Obamacare health care plans, quote, "let them keep what they've got."


BILL CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: So I personally believe even if it takes a change to the law, the president should honor the commitment the federal government made to those people and let them keep what they've got.

(END VIDEO CLIP) TAPPER: The president should honor the commitment made to those people. Let's bring in our panel, editor for the "New Republic," Frank Foer, CNN chief congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, and senior editor-at-large for "Breitbart News," Joe Pollak. Wow, that's not helpful. The White House said today they agreed with President Clinton and that's why they're attempting these fixes although the fixes really have nothing to do with the president's talking, which would really be a major change. What are you hearing from Democrats on the Hill?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what's fascinating is that we have a senior congressional Democratic source told me they set a deadline for Friday, Jake, because House Republicans have legislation that they are going to vote on, on Friday to effectively let people keep the plans. It's a pretty sweeping legislation.

TAPPER: Even junk plans? Even the plans that actually are --

BASH: Yes. Yes. Because it's up to people to decide and it shouldn't be the government and regulations and so forth. But when it comes to politics, I'm told that if the White House doesn't come up with an alternative by Friday, you will have a lot of Democrats in the House jumping ship, even though they don't like the idea because again, it is pretty sweeping.

Then in the Senate, I just interviewed Mary Landrieu, who is a Democrat up for re-election next year. She's got her own much more narrow bill and also has five Democratic senators on board. All of them are saying you see? Bill Clinton is saying it. So Bill Clinton has given Democrats who are already feeling the pressure from their constituents cover.

TAPPER: Absolutely. Frank, there's a new Quinnipiac poll out just moments ago saying that only 19 percent of American voters think that the quality of care they and their families receive will improve next year, 43 percent say it will get worse, 33 percent say unaffected. That's a pretty strong number indicating the nation has lost faith in Obamacare.

FRANKLIN FOER, EDITOR, "THE NEW REPUBLIC": Not great numbers. You could certainly use the explainer in chief weighing in on behalf of Obamacare. In fact, the rest of that interview, Clinton did a great job of explaining --

TAPPER: And defending.

FOER: -- and defending the plan. But this intervention is particularly unhelpful because he makes it sound like there's an easy fix for this very small group of people, but very poignantly, have had a great deal of uncertainty injected into their lives because their plans have been canceled or -- so there's no -- there's really no easy fix for this. I think Clinton by simplifying things as he did creates a very untenable situation for the Obama administration.

JOEL POLLAK, SENIOR EDITOR-AT-LARGE, "BREITBART NEWS": It's very helpful if you're Hillary Clinton thinking of running for president in 2016.

BASH: You don't really think that's what this is about.

POLLAK: It's possible. He was suggesting she could be a more pragmatic, more centrist, more experienced policy maker who would not go to the extremes that Obama had gone to and who would work with Republicans.

TAPPER: Do you think that's what he was doing?

POLLAK: He has nothing to gain by continuing to defend Obama. Obama has essentially got no more elections to run. There's nothing Clinton needs from him anymore. What he's trying to do I think in part is pave the way for Hillary to run on a more pragmatic type of platform.

TAPPER: You know what I heard a lot about today from Republicans are these ads from a group in Colorado pushing Obamacare. Here's one. Let's hope he's as easy to get as this birth control which you can now, thanks Obamacare. You can't see their faces for some strange reason.

In any case, the point is that there's these ads aimed at younger people. Maybe they're very effective. Girl, you're excited about -- it's Ryan Gosling, of course. The point is it's about selling Obama care to young people as a way to get birth control so they can have promiscuous sex with people they barely met or Ryan Gosling poster.

POLLAK: It works if you're selling the birth control aspect. It doesn't really work if you say, girl, he's got syphilis. No problem, it's covered under Obamacare, pre-existing conditions. You can still get insurance.

TAPPER: This is the same company that did the bro ads a few weeks ago.

POLLAK: You're trying to sell sex. It doesn't work if you do it the reverse way where a guy is looking at a girl and maybe I shouldn't, maybe I should but she's probably on birth control because she's covered by Obamacare. That would be creepy.

BASH: I just talked to Mary Landrieu and in one sentence she was saying we have to fix this, but she would not even take a breath before she finished that sentence by saying, but Obamacare, but this law is a really good thing. So that really is -- one of Bill Clinton's confidants said to me earlier Bill Clinton was sort of injecting a mend it, don't end it kind of idea like he did for affirmative action but it's a very tough thing for Democrats.

FOER: Always curious to know what Bill Clinton is thinking when it seems like he deliberately weighs in, in a way like this that causes all sorts of trouble for Obama, who perhaps not coincidentally last week in the double down book was last seen griping about Bill Clinton.

TAPPER: Saying he can only take him in doses. Joel, Frank, Dana, thank you all so much. The viral video already had a Fisher Price see 'n say quality to it. What does the fox say? It's coming to a children's book shelf near you. Could a 3D Imax movie be far behind? That's the Pop Culture Lead coming up.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Time for the Money Lead, soon you'll have even fewer choices to fly. The federal government today cleared the way for the creation of the merger of American Airlines and U.S. Airways. The Justice Department approved the plan provided the airlines take steps designed to help their low cost competitors. The new merged American Airlines will offer close to 7,000 flights each day to over 300 destinations in 56 countries.

Now it's time for the Pop Culture Lead, the viral video so big the internet alone is not enough. What does the fox say? That's the Fox. They are a pair of Norwegian comedian brothers. Their goofy video has gotten more than 200 million views on YouTube. It's not just viral, the video has spawned a children's book. The words and fun in the song are perfect for reading aloud so you can hear your kids make high-pitched sounds over and over again and still call it reading. "What Does The Fox" say should be out by Christmas?

That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. I turn you over now to Wolf Blitzer next door in "THE SITUATION ROOM."