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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Costas Doesn't Want Son Playing Football; "Ghost" Coming To The Small Screen?; "The Bully Pulpit"

Aired November 13, 2013 - 16:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Phil, I know you're on the other side of the aisle.

PHIL MUSSER, PRESIDENT, NEW FRONTIER STRATEGY: Yes.

TAPPER: But you're an American.

MUSSER: Sure.

TAPPER: And you want people to be insured.

This is the law of the land. What would you be telling the White House right now if they somehow turned you into a Democrat momentarily? Your strategy, what would it be?

MUSSER: Be authentic and be honest. I think if there's one thing that Americans want to see from their political leadership, it's authenticity and honesty. And honestly, this rollout today takes the net sum package of enrollees, state and federal, to very small number through healthcare.gov. And so I tell them just not try to be too cute with the figures because what will happen is this will ultimately be smelled out by the American people, the late night shows will get ahold of it and it will be trouble.

The second thing I'd tell them is I'd say, go to Silicon Valley, give them a $50 million RFP, and put it out there and say give me healthcare.gov in a month, Silicon Valley. And the entrepreneurial spirits of the American enterprise would probably come up with a better solution than this government-driven mistake that we're doing right now.

TAPPER: Mark, you sit in that room that I used to sit in, the White House briefing room. I don't want to say what's the mood over there? But are they worried? Are they distressed? Do they feel like this is just a blip -- in like two years we'll all be talking about how great Obamacare is?

MARK LANDLER, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": No. They don't think it's a blip. I think they recognize the magnitude of the problem they have.

But what's interesting, and you probably remember this from previous crises that you covered when you were over there, is this question of whether they panic enough at certain points. A colleague of mine wrote a story over the weekend quoting a lot of Democrats and others saying these people need to be in panic mode now. And yet when you talk to them, they're oddly not. They argue, well, president takes the long view. He still thinks that in the long run, this law will be a benefit and will prove itself as a benefit. But clearly at the moment it's not.

And if they're not panicking, Democrats are panicking on the Hill and are worried they will have to run next year not with a well- functioning law that would be a great selling point for them but with something Republicans can hang around their neck. So, that panic may make its way down the Hill to the White House.

TAPPER: In fact, it's making its way to the White House because all these Senate Democrats who are running for re-election are now introducing legislation. Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, foremost among them, saying if you like your plan, you can keep your plan. We're going to put that into law. The White House is going to have to pay attention to that.

PATTI SOLIS DOYLE, FORMER HILLARY CLINTON CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Absolutely. Look --

TAPPER: And your former boss's husband also said if he were president he would change it.

DOYLE: Yes. Before he said that, he said that the country is far better off with this law than without it, and he's right. This is a good law. This gives, you know, people with preexisting conditions quality, affordable health care. That's a big deal. That's a good thing. This gives the ability for young people to remain on their parents' insurance, that's a big deal. That's a big thing.

So I do believe that the country is better off. I think -- and I can't even call them glitches because it's a much bigger deal -- but the Web site needs to be fixed. Again, it's still very early. There's several months left for people to enroll. I think we need to see what happens on November 30th, once the Web site is working much better and see how enrollment goes after that.

TAPPER: You worked for George W. Bush, I recall. Obama now has poll numbers similar to what Bush had at this point in his presidency. The new Pew poll has the lowest approval rating for President Obama in that poll since he became president. Thirty-nine percent job approval, 54 percent disapproval. And for the first time, more American voters say Obama is not honest and trustworthy, 52 percent, than honest and trustworthy, 44 percent.

Devastating numbers. How do you get out of doldrums like that? How do you turn it around?

MUSSER: You know, that is a tough question. In the short term there's really not a problem that looms on the Obama agenda that is anywhere close to being fixed or is a likely win. I mean, on the foreign policy front, we've got questions and, frankly, challenges. The health care issue is not going to be fixed in the short term. The prospect for an immigration deal just went down the tubes. There's really not an opportunity to lay out a big win. So, I think if you're making me play the role of giving advice to the Democratic Party, I mean, I think the president has got to own this issue. He's got to be honest and forthright about its shortcomings. And I guess they've got to take the long haul through implementation because there really is no silver lining.

As Patti just rightfully noted, the five percent of Americans who are getting these notices vastly outweighs the number of people who have signed up on healthcare.gov. That five percent is going to be a very critical voting block in the 2014 elections, Jake. And five percent in American politics in narrowly divided swing states means a ton. He's going to lose a lot of Democrats in the next couple days, and once that happens - once you've lost the Bill Clinton stamp of approval in this country, it's a really sticky situation for the president.

TAPPER: Mark, quickly, I know that one of the things that Obama and his team are hoping for a victory is a deal with Iran. You just got back from Geneva with secretary of state John Kerry.

LANDLER: They're very close, by John Kerry's own assessment. But it's interesting, again, on domestic politics, he's up at the Senate today testifying behind closed doors to the Senate Banking Committee trying to persuade skeptical Democrats and Republicans to hold off on new sanctions. We just heard Eric Cantor make that case a few minutes ago on your show. I think that they've got to really these guys off, see whether they can get a deal, and then try to sell it to a very skeptical Congress and overseas to the Israelis and Arabs.

TAPPER: Maybe delay it for their -for its own sake.

LANDLER: Possibly.

TAPPER: Mark, Phil, Patti, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Coming up on THE LEAD, he's admitted to buying and smoking crack just a few times out of stupidity. And Mayor ford doesn't think he deserves a public flogging for it, but that's basically what he got when he faced his critics. And that's coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

The Buried Lead now. Yeah, sure, he smoked crack, and now he's even admitting he bought illegal drugs while in office. But in no uncertain terms, Mayor Rob Ford told the city of Toronto today he isn't going anywhere. Despite the fact that moments ago, the city council just asked him to take a leave of absence.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you purchased illegal drugs in the last two years?

ROB FORD, MAYOR OF TORONTO: Yes, I have.

I can assure you, I can assure you I am not an alcoholic, I am not a drug addict. Have I drank? Have I done drugs? Yes, I have.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you admitted all of your problems?

FORD: I have come -- I can't come out -- I don't know what else -- I don't know. I -- I don't know. There might be like a coat hanger left if my closet. I don't know. I am not leaving here -

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: CNN's Paula Newton has been following the story for us in Toronto, Ontario. Paula, does the city's vote have any teeth? Does he have to take a leave? And is there anything more Canadian than just asking politely if your mayor would depart?

PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it wasn't all that polite. It actually did get very ugly in there.

Answer to your first question, no, it's completely toothless. Talking to people here this morning, they told me, look, this is a moral stand. That's just not going to do it in terms of trying to take the life out of this controversy. Jake, he doesn't have to step down; he's telling everybody repeatedly he's not stepping down. I spoke to his brother this afternoon and had an interview with him and he said categorically his brother is not stepping down and he shouldn't, that he's doing his job as mayor.

What's going on now? The mayor is holed up in his office with his lawyer, just behind me. More information about his drug abuse and his alcohol abuse is coming out, being released in court documents. And this means, Jake, that this story will just go on and on, especially because the mayor says he's staying put.

TAPPER: And Paula, you just referenced the mayor's chief defender, his brother, Toronto councilman Doug Ford. He today called the mayor's detractors hypocrites. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DOUG FORD, TORONTO COUNCILMAN: The question is, have you ever smoked marijuana? Have you ever smoked marijuana?

(CROSSTALK)

Hold it. Have you ever smoked marijuana? It's a question.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, it's not (INAUDIBLE)--

DOUG FORD: It's a question. A simple yes or no, have you smoked marijuana --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The privilege --

DOUG FORD: The answer I guess is yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: All right. Well, how is the rest of the city of Toronto that is not related to the mayor, how are they reacting?

NEWTON: You know, obviously it depends on who you speak to. We had a protest of a few thousand people outside city hall today. They're adamant the mayor needs to step down for the good of the city. But Jake, there's a place not too far from here called the Ford Nation. It is the suburbs that skirt Toronto, still some pretty solid support there. And they're saying, look, he didn't steal from us, didn't steal from taxpayers. This is a personal problem; he needs to be left alone to deal with it. But we'll see if his poll numbers remain that resilient going forth.

The fact of the matter, Jake, it's unbelievable to many here you have a man who says point blank today in council he is not cooperating with the police investigation that involves him. That's the same police department, Jake, that he leads. He's in charge of their budget. He's saying I'm not cooperating. Stunning, and it just keeps going.

TAPPER: All right. Thank you so much, Paula Newton in Toronto. We appreciate it.

NEWTON: Coming up next on THE LEAD, he's covered the NFL more than 20 years. He loves the game. But would Bob Costas actually let his son suit up and take the field?

Plus, to devoted fans, Bruce Springsteen's lyrics fall just short of scripture. Now some students will have a chance to actually bow down to The Boss.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. The Sports Lead as the host of Sunday night football he's had a bully pulpit to weigh in on what's making news. He's also had a bird's eye view on head rattling hits on the grid iron. Now in a new interview with the slate.com podcast, Bob Costas is saying he would prefer if his son stayed far away from the field.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED CALLER: What would you say to a parent who asked your advice about whether they should let their son play football?

BOB COSTAS: I would tell them no. I would tell them no. Now that's -- I know that goes viral tomorrow, but let me put it this way, if it were my son, all right, and he was 13 years old, and had reasonable athletic ability, I would encourage him to play baseball or to play basketball or to play soccer, or something other than football.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Costas is not the only one wondering if football is worth it anymore because of things such as the dangers of repeated concussions. Some former and current NFL stars and even President Obama have also echoed that statement. Now for the Pop Culture Lead, he wasn't born in a maker, baby he was born to run. Springsteen fans make the pilgrimage to Ashbury Park each summer and now Rutgers University in New Jersey says it has plans to offer a theology class focused on the Boss' song writing. The freshman seminar will examine 40 years of his lyrics. It's not the first time Bruce All Mighty has been on the curriculum. The University of Rochester once offered a history course based on the Boss' stories of working class Americans.

Because Hollywood just can't resist the urge to leave well enough alone the classic '90s drama "Ghost" starring Demi Moore and the late Patrick Swayze, well, it could soon be a TV show. Paramount is apparently working on a pilot even though a network has yet to pick it up. It would be written by the same team behind the super natural Fox TV show "Fringe." "Ghost: not only inspired an interest in pottery making among men everywhere after its release in 1990, but it also inspired a musical, one that had a short run on Broadway.

Coming up, those that don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it. I'll ask celebrated historian Doris Kearns Goodwin what more President Obama can learn from some former presidents and residents of the White House. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: More in politics now, muck raker, that's the term President Teddy Roosevelt used for journalists back in his day and in that tumultuous booming era the turn of the 20th Century when the country was inundated with new technology and mass immigration, Washington gridlock and a gap between rich and poor, sound familiar?

Teddy Roosevelt called himself a progressive. How much has changed about the presidency, the country and journalism over the past 100 years?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: I'm joined now by Doris Kearns Goodwin, Pulitzer Prize winner and author of the new book "The Bully Pulpit Theodore Roosevelt William Howard Taft and the Golden Age of Journalism." Thank you so much for being here.

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN, AUTHOR, "THE BULLY PULPIT": Glad to be here.

TAPPER: Thanks for classing up the joint. So President Obama, a huge fan of your last book "Team of Rivals" obviously in the initial stages of his presidency. He had a lot of rivals, Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, he tried to get a Republican Senator Judd Gregg, et cetera, what lessons can he take from this book which is about how Teddy Roosevelt and William Howard Taft worked with journalists to create the progressive era?

GOODWIN: I think the most important thing is that what the term bully pulpit means, you've got the platform to mobilize the country, to put pressure on a Congress. Does he ever need to put pressure on a Congress, but you have to have a good relationship with the press to do it. Teddy had the most remarkable relationship. He let them in when he was having his shaving hour. The poor barber trying to talk to him when had he was shaving. They had lunch, dinner, breakfast with them. He was friends with the press.

TAPPER: He was the first one to give the White House press a room in the White House.

GOODWIN: Right. He saw that they were standing outside in the rain so he thought it would be nice to give them a press room inside.

TAPPER: Where does politicians and journalists uniting to get rid of injustice end and a politician using reporters begin?

GOODWIN: That's a good question. What made it work for him was that he was a fellow writer, so he really respected journalists and they respected him. They could criticize one another, though. They kept their integrity. They would write things mean or bad about him, not sensational things, but could criticize his remedies and he could criticize them and that's what made it work.

For example, one journalist wrote about his Rough Rider memoir and they said he was so egotistical as if he put himself in the center of every action. It should have been called alone in Cuba. He wrote I regret to tell you my family loved your review of the book. Now you owe me. It's a thick skin.

TAPPER: A lot of conservatives probably think President Obama has a bunch of reporters in his pocket already.

GOODWIN: I don't think the country would feel his way of dealing with the country has been eased by the press. I think the press is much more complicated today. I think ever since Watergate a more antagonistic view between the president and press. It's good to have the tension, but you need them as a channel.

If you can make your peace with the fact that you're not going to be happy with everything they write he. He should have press conferences a couple times a week. That's what FDR did. Maybe you don't want to have them around all that time and they're into your private lives the way they weren't this time but in the end in a democracy you can't get by without the press.

TAPPER: It's not an uncritical portrait of Teddy Roosevelt, but you love him, you loved writing about him, learning about him, you have a great respect for him.

GOODWIN: I'll tell you what, the only reason I choose the subject in the first place, I'm going to live with him so long, seven years with him, ten years with Lincoln, six years with FDR, I couldn't write about Hitler or Stalin. I start out with affection and liking. They disappoint you. You get mad at them but in the end I want to wake up with this guy every morning.

TAPPER: One of the things that this book does that other scholars haven't focused on is how much William Howard Taft, even though they had this huge falling out, how much Taft was a part of what Teddy Roosevelt was trying to do.

GOODWIN: Absolutely. I mean, they were friends from the time they were in their early 30s. More than I knew that they exchanged 400 letters between themselves. Teddy would say about Taft, my beloved friend, and more importantly when he was in the White House with Teddy he was acting president. Teddy would go off for weeks at a time in a bear hunt.

It's incredible to imagine. He was on train trips going around the country and Taft was running things. He depended on him. He also believed that government had a role to deal with these social and economic problems of the industrial age, which is what Teddy was standing for.

TAPPER: And yet when Taft became president himself, he didn't really measure up.

GOODWIN: He didn't know how to deal with the public. He really always wanted to be a judge and luckily the last years of his life he becomes Supreme Court chief justice. When you're a judge you don't have to explain things. You make a decision and the public will understand. He didn't like dealing with the press. He fell short.

The rupture in the Republican Party we think we've got a civil war now in the Republican Party, this was really deep between the progressives and that side of the conservatives and it was too deep maybe even for Teddy to handle.

TAPPER: Doris Kearns Goodwin, thank you so much.

GOODWIN: You're so welcome.

(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." That's right next door -- Mr. Blitzer.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Jake, thanks very much. Happening now, we're following breaking news, dismal numbers. The administration finally reveals just how many people have signed up for Obamacare. The figures raising the question, can the program survive such a poor initial response? I'll ask one of the architects who helped design the Affordable Care Act.

Plus, a growing number of Senate Democrats are calling for a rewrite of the law. Senator Mary Landrieu joins me live this hour to talk about her new plan. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.