Return to Transcripts main page


Trapped In North Korea; Kerry Optimistic As Talks Resume In Geneva; Should The U.S. Apologize To Afghanistan?; Is Insurance "Fix" Working?; Representative Radel Has Checked Into Rehab; Man Found With Nazi-looted Art Work Speaks Out; Double Crash Survivor Shoots For The Stars; Canseco Pulled Over With Goats In Diapers

Aired November 21, 2013 - 16:30   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Peter Hamby, thank you. We also just learned another ex-governor slipped into that exclusive luncheon today, former President George W. Bush, who has to go great lengths to stay out of politics since leaving office. We're told he took part in a two-hour Q & A session, telling the governors and told them, the best breeding ground for presidents are the governors.

When we come back, his son says it was the trip of a lifetime for his 85-year-old father, a tour of North Korea. So why was the Korean War veteran pulled off a plane minutes before he was set to leave and where is he now?

Plus, as the U.S. and Iran continue talks, the supreme leader of Iran takes a not so subtle dig at Israel saying Israeli officials aren't even human but animals. Stay with us.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Coming to you live from Capitol Hill. In the World Lead, North Korea is generally about as welcoming to Americans as Mordor is to Hobbits unless you're Dennis Rodman. So 85-year-old Merrill Newman of California must have been happy after his family says he got permission from North Korea's government to join an organized tour of the country.

Now Newman's vacation has become an indefinite stay. Newman who is a Korean War veteran and is being held by North Korea and it's not really clear why. His son tells CNN that Newman was pulled off a plane in Pyongyang that was bound for China that was on October 26th. Newman's family has not heard from him since. The U.S. State Department is trying to resolve the situation through North Korea's top ally, China.

In other world news, Secretary of State John Kerry says now is the best chance in more than a decade to roll back Iran's nuclear program, but we have been hearing a deal is close for two weeks and negotiations in Geneva, Switzerland seemed to stumble again today despite that optimism still no deal. What's the hang up?

Here to discuss, Robin Wright, Middle East analyst for the Woodrow Wilson Center and David Sanger, chief Washington correspondent for the "New York Times." David, we have a lot of negotiations going on in Geneva, but it's not just in Geneva, right?

DAVID SANGER, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, "NEW YORK TIMES": That's right. You have to think of this as three negotiations going on simultaneously. There is the European negotiation, European and United States and Russia and China with Iran. That's the one in Geneva. There is a debate inside Iran in which the moderates led by President Rouhani and the chief negotiator who is in Geneva are dealing with the hardliners, including the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

Then there's another debate going on and another deal will have to be brokered right back here between the White House and those in Congress who want to add on additional sanctions at a time that President Obama says hold up, let's let this process work out.

TAPPER: Robin, there were some really ugly words from the supreme leader of Iran today about Israel. We don't have to repeat them, but they weren't nice. You, on the other hand, you know the foreign minister. You've known him for awhile. How serious are the Iranians about wanting some sort of actual peace and to contain whatever nuclear weapon program they may have, and should we just ignore what's said? Is that just for domestic consumption?

ROBIN WRIGHT, MIDDLE EAST ANALYST, WOODROW WILSON CENTER: Well, he was referring actually to one specific Israeli official, the prime minister. That doesn't make it any less despicable, but the foreign minister actually is an interesting character because he went to the University of Denver and had many of the same professors as Condoleezza Rice did.

He is one who spans the cultures and I think understand this is a moment, and he has been the guiding force behind pushing for a deal. Iran needs a deal like never before. The value of its currency is gone, has been cut by over half. Its oil exports have also been cut by more than half. They have an enormous incentive. Everyone knew that today was going to be the tough day of negotiations.

The hope is that tomorrow, that you get the kind of breakthrough that will allow John Kerry to go back to Geneva, the foreign minister from the permanent members of the U.N. to come back, announce we finally have a deal with Iran that will open the way six months down the road to solve this problem. I would be surprised, I think, if we don't get a deal.

TAPPER: Really.


TAPPER: Another big story obviously is in Afghanistan right now, where it looks like there is a treaty of some sort that is finally taking shape. It still has to be voted on and approved by the Loya Jirga, right? That still has to happen. I just had to make sure it didn't happen in the last half hour.

SANGER: Well, if it has, I'm not aware. TAPPER: OK, what exactly is the U.S. talking about when it comes to forces? What forces are we still going to have in country after 2014?

SANGER: Well, after 2014, if the plan went live and there is supposed to be an Afghan election in between that could, of course, upend some of this, the thought is there would be 8,000, 10,000 American and NATO trainers and some other nations as well who would keep trying to get the afghan forces up to where they need to be. The interesting question is how long would the Americans stay beyond 2014.

The agreement as it is put together right now goes on until 2024 and beyond. But the white house has been pretty clear that they're not envisioning having American forces there through 2024, which the forces first entered Afghanistan right after 9/11. By 2024, they will have been there, if they stay that long, for 23 years, pretty remarkable.

TAPPER: Incredible. One part of the deal, there was all this back and forth, is Obama going to apologize to the Afghans for some of the actions that have taken place. Samantha Power, the U.N. -- the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, today was asked about this and said we have been very clear, we have nothing to apologize for. But here is Samantha Power in 2003 speaking more theoretically about the U.S. apologizing.


SAMANTHA POWER, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: It's the tendency of states as you could argue that on some level, it is also of individuals not to look back and not to reckon with what we've done wrong. We have to look at ourselves. Slavery would similarly probably be cathartic to apologize for. We have never done that. Only the Japanese-Americans got an apology.


TAPPER: Of course, Robin, what the American troops have done in Afghanistan cannot be compared, even the worst things that have happened by errant troops here and there, accidents that have happened, can't be compared to slavery or genocide. Still, I think there are observers and people who were fans of Ambassador Power in her previous life as an academic who heard her say we have nothing to apologize for and wondered what happened.

WRIGHT: Well, it reflects in some ways on the difference between being out of power and affiliated with a nongovernment organization and suddenly being thrust into being one of the primary faces and defenders of a foreign policy. I think officially, the U.S. position is clearly that after investing the lives of American troops, billions of dollars in aid and military equipment and so forth, that the U.S. has done all it can to help democratize, get rid of the Taliban, open up society, bring women back into the educational system and so forth.

On that level it has nothing to apologize for, that its actions are defensive but clearly the issue of what powers troops are allowed to have on the ground and what immunity they have has been an issue that haunts us everywhere we've been since World War II. It was the critical issue that forced us really out of Iraq. The Iraqis didn't want us. We couldn't come to an agreement. It is the issue in Iran that led to the revolution over the same issue.

TAPPER: Robin, David, thank you so much. Great discussion, really appreciate it.

Coming up, could punching the button on the nuclear option in the Senate have just launched a political cold war between Democrats and Republicans? We'll ask our political panel.

And he's asking for forgiveness after getting caught buying cocaine, but Democrats are accusing Congressman Radel of being less than sympathetic of other Americans dealing with substance abuse problems. Stay with us.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Coming to you live from Capitol Hill. In politics news, how many insurers have taken President Obama up on his rule change that will allow policies canceled under the affordable care act to be extended for a year? Remember when he did that a week ago because so many were angry that his, if you like your health plan, you can keep your health plan wasn't true, necessarily.

At least seven insurance companies say they plan to extend canceled policies although some are waiting for the final OK from the states they're in but some states, including New York and Massachusetts, they are refusing extensions. Twenty states have yet to make any decision about it at all, leaving many people wondering where that leaves them in all this.

OK, we know. Calling it the nuclear option may sound more than a little heavy-handed but while the rule change we just witnessed in the Senate is no cold war, a chill is now whipping through the halls of Congress, at least that's what Senator John McCain just told our Dana Bash.


SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: There's a chill on everything that requires bipartisanship.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They're not reaching out to the Democrats that you worked with --

MCCAIN: I reached out to them for the last two weeks. I've reached out to them. I spent an hour in Harry Reid's office. I've reached until my arm aches.


TAPPER: Let's bring in our panel, columnist for "Bloomberg View," Margaret Carlson, reporter for the "Weekly Standard" Michael Warren, and chief White House correspondent for "Politico," Mike Allen. Let's get a quick reaction from each of you about today's news. Bad decision by Harry Reid, understandable, what do you think?

MIKE ALLEN, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "POLITICO": Harry Reid's thinking was that whatever Republicans are going to do now cannot be worse than what they have been doing. The Republican view is one thing is a certainty. Everyone here will agree Republicans one day will be in the majority. In the meantime, they are talking about the slippery slope, saying that now Democrats might apply this to legislation. The House is saying if any legislation comes over that was passed with the simple majority it will be automatically dead on arrival.

TAPPER: Interesting. Mike, Republicans seem very frustrated that they, of course, like the Democrats had the exact opposite position eight years ago when they were in the majority.

MICHAEL WARREN, REPORTER, "WEEKLY STANDARD": That's right. You can always go back and forth, showing what they said back then and what they are saying now.

TAPPER: How do they defend it?

WARREN: I don't think they are going to. I don't think the plan is, if Mitch McConnell is majority leader in 2015, is to roll this back. This has changed things. I don't think the Democrats are going to regret this at all. I think if they can get some more liberal judicial nominees through because of this rule change, whatever happens with the politics of this, their agenda is more secure through the courts. So I don't think they will regret this at all if Republicans get back in power.

TAPPER: What do you think, Margaret? Is this a day the Democrats will come to rue or is this much ado about nothing?

MARGARET CARLSON, COLUMNIST, "BLOOMBERG VIEW": I would say more ado than we think with the word nuclear. If you want to keep your legislative filibuster, you keep your legislative filibuster. When people who aren't us look at this, they will think no big deal, just basically judges. That's not such a big thing. But the word describing it makes it sound bigger and you know, it's always where you're sitting. In 2005, Republicans wanted it. Now Democrats want it. But I don't think you can get much more dysfunctional than the senate and the congress is now. So John McCain complaining is no big deal.

TAPPER: Did you want to --

ALLEN: Just real quick, looking at your graphic, I like the big chill better. I think we should rebrand it right here.

TAPPER: You're looking at the map right there. OK, so let's turn to the other big story of the last 48 hours, Congressman Trey Radel, Republican of Florida, who was busted in Dupont Circle buying an eight-ball of cocaine. Mike, I understand he just checked himself into rehab. ALLEN: Yes, "Politico's" Jake Sherman is down there in Florida. He just posted a news alert saying that the congressman checked in for counseling. His people have told Congress they expect him to be away at least for the rest of the year, but Jake, as I talk to people up here, there's a lot of people up here that think he could well survive. I had thought you plead guilty to buying cocaine from a DEA agent, come on. What we're hearing at the capitol today is he's well liked, he's saying it's an addiction. If there's nothing else out there, if another shoe doesn't drop, amazingly, he's probably going to keep his office.

TAPPER: What about the hypocrisy angle? Is it just a fact that he supported a provision to require that people who receive food stamps be drug tested. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was recently asked about this, and this is what she had to say.


REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI (D), MINORITY LEADER: It's really interesting, right soon on the heels, that date on the heels of the Republicans voting to make sure that everybody who had access to food stamps was drug tested. It's like what?


CARLSON: Hypocrisy is rarely enough to do you in. Look at all the conservative Republicans who have done things against what they say.

TAPPER: You're talking about affairs.

CARLSON: Yes. Yes. Yes.

TAPPER: You can be more specific on this show.

CARLSON: Wait. This is not G-rated. I forgot. This is Jake Tapper.

TAPPER: This is cable news.

CARLSON: But it's out of the playbook of politicians. You check into rehab and you've really got a lot of room because people like that. It's the sort of Jim Baker thing where you get a lot of sympathy. It's now an addiction. He can fix it. He comes out clean slate.

TAPPER: Let me read this to you and get your reaction. This is his statement today. We all heard the press conference last night. "Today I checked myself into a facility to seek treatment and counseling. It is my hope through this process I will come out a better man, I will work hard to gain back the trust and support of my constituents, friends and most importantly, my family." How is he handling this post, you know, not pre-purchasing cocaine, but in the last 48 hours? How has he handled this in Washington crisis mode?

WARREN: I don't know. To me, it's entirely bizarre that he's still a congressman. Is there no shame anymore? CARLSON: No. There isn't.

WARREN: He's captured by a DEA agent. The hypocrisy thing is a little overblown. There is an ideological point, you know, for his position on that issue. It's a bit of a red herring for Nancy Pelosi to say he's a hypocrite for this. But thinking about he's got a young kid, got young kids, got a wife, and he's supposed to be up here upholding the law and he's breaking the law in such a terrible way.

CARLSON: We also have to see if the wife, you know, appears in pictures and sticks by him.

TAPPER: Just to answer your question about is there no shame, no. There is no shame. Just so you know.

CARLSON: You're so young, you wouldn't know.

WARREN: If he really has these problems, has a kid, a wife, the last thing he needs to do is be up here doing that job.

TAPPER: He should be with them. Interesting. OK, Margaret Carlson, Michael Warren, Mike Allen, thanks so much for being here. We appreciate it.

Coming up, what do a former model, two goats and a diaper have in common? We are not sure we want to know either, but they all just turned up together in Jose Canseco's car. Stay with us.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD, live on Capitol Hill. We want to catch you up on some other stories making news today. First in pop culture, finders keepers, losers weepers. Sure, that works if we're talking about two kids fighting over a ball at the playground, but when it comes to hundreds of Nazi-looted paintings, not so much. German investigators found more than 1400 works of art in the home of an 80-year-old during a tax investigation.

They think most of the artwork was stolen by the Nazis from Jewish art collectors, but he says he's not giving anything back voluntarily. He says the paintings were handed down to him by his father and so they belong to him. He insists his dad only took the works of art to keep them out of the hands of the Russians after World War II. German authorities decided to give in to international demands to release a list of the stolen paintings in the hopes of reconnecting them with their rightful owners.

Now for the Sports Lead. He survived not one but two plane crashes, both tragedies took away the very people he hoped to have by his side when he finally fulfilled his dreams of playing college basketball. Despite all that, not to mention years of emotional and physical recovery, Michigan basketball recruit, Austin Hatch, says his faith is stronger than ever. He learned that he will be a part of the 2014 recruit class for the prestigious college team.

The plane crashes he survived claimed the lives of his mother, father and two siblings. Hatch also had to relearn how to walk and talk. He says that although he may never be good enough to actually play for the team, he's excited just to be part of the Michigan basketball family.

He says Major League Baseball made him the scapegoat for steroids. Well, takes one to know one, Jose Canseco. The former slugger was pulled over by the cops yesterday with his girlfriend in a car full of goats. Canseco even tweeted this picture as proof. If you look closely, one of the goats is apparently wearing a diaper.

You thought Canseco couldn't top wearing a miniskirt in season five of "The Surreal Life." he says the animals are part of a fainting goat adventure documentary he's producing, of course, of course.

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