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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER Rollout Delayed For Small Biz; "Nebraska" Tells Story Of Finding Hope In Hard Times

Aired November 27, 2013 - 16:30   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to THE LEAD, everyone.

In the national lead, CNN isn't just telling you what the travel situation is like out there. We're living it, sharing the pain. Three reporters left New York City at the same time just about five hours ago.

Nic Robertson by air from LaGuardia. Lisa Desjardins by train from Penn Station, and Brian Todd, poor Brian Todd, by car from Manhattan.

Their destination, "THE SITUATION ROOM" in Washington, D.C. -- try plugging that into your GPS.

The question, who would get there first? And would their trip look anything like the movie with Steve Martin and John Candy?

Our Tom Foreman is in CNN's Washington bureau lobby with our second place finisher.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Second place finisher, Lisa Desjardins.



FOREMAN: She's going to tag in over here. Right here.

DESJARDINS: Where is the button? Here? Nic, I'll say hi later. I've got important things to do here, bam.

FOREMAN: There you go. There's another stop.



DESJARDINS: Well done.

ROBERTSON: Well done you, too.

DESJARDINS: How did you pull that off? I'm still not sure.

ROBERTSON: It pulled back -- it pulled back a minute and a half earlier.

DESJARDINS: Unbelievable.

ROBERTSON: There are some people that said, he held the plane. He just got so lucky. I didn't believe it. And then when I'm sitting in my seat, I thought, I feel so sorry for you. I feel so sorry for you. And then I thought, no, no, let's go. Let's go.


DESJARDINS: Forget that. I felt that it was in my grasp. But as you might have seen in the videos I sent, my whole train car was really into it. And they had all these theories about what could happen and how you possibly might come in second.

ROBERTSON: I think -- I think I was living those in my head.



ROBERTSON: Like well, we'd get diverted because it was so bumpy.


ROBERTSON: They couldn't -- because of the storm, they couldn't serve the drinks. So -- and I keep thinking, they'll divert or something, we'll come out of the clouds and it won't be Washington.


FOREMAN: Let's take a look at your route here at your back.

DESJARDINS: Exactly. Absolutely.

FOREMAN: This number. We'll look at the time. This was Nic, just about three hours to get in here, coming by airplane. Lisa just tagged in here at about four and a half hours, and Brian Todd is still drifting along out there. We're going to get to Brian in just one minute.

Let's take a look at the map real quick, though, to see how all this shaped up. Everybody left New York City up here at about noon, right from the bureau where we all work. Nic had to get to the airport out here. He caught a big break as he pointed out. He came shooting right down here, very, very quick. Lisa, a few delays along the way, as you made your way down the yellow path here as the train. A few places -- a little bit slow, yes?

DESJARDINS: That's right. We actually had -- Amtrak says it was a 15-minute delay, it was a little bit more than that, I think, because I was counting the seconds. And so that delay really hurt us. If Nic had gone on the next flight and if I had gotten on my train on time -- I know that's a lot of ifs.

ROBERTSON: It would have been neck and neck. DESJARDINS: It would have been -- I would have been looking at those long legs and be worried about them.

ROBERTSON: Yes. To get from the security to the gate, they came in pretty handy. They're calling my name when I got there.

DESJARDINS: That's what I figured. Exactly.

FOREMAN: And then Brian. You know, John, you said poor Brian out there. Well, Brian has been slogging along in the car all day long here. He is now south of Baltimore. He's not far from here.

I believe, Brian, tell us where you are and why aren't you here? We've got the turkey in the oven.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, thanks, Tom, for rubbing it in. I'm halfway between Baltimore and D.C. You wanted John Candy and Steve Martin from "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles." You've got it in this car. Plus Chevy Chase from the "National Lampoons Vacation" movies.

That's me, my colleagues Tom Juric (ph) and Julianne Cummings (ph). We're just getting past the back here on -- been pretty steadily raining the whole time. And now we're opening up a little bit, so I'll show you. Just everything you're doing on the road, but you'll see it's moving at a crawl from our front camera here, but it's better than it was a few minutes ago. And yes, we're all very embittered that Nic and Lisa made it way.


ROBERTSON: We're waiting for you. But we're here. We're ready.

DESJARDINS: Exactly. We're here, you know.

FOREMAN: Let me ask you a question.


FOREMAN: Did you think you were going to win? Because a lot of people said, it's a no-brainer. He's getting on an airplane.

ROBERTSON: No. No. Never. Never.

FOREMAN: Why not?

ROBERTSON: Because the -- to get from the bureau to the -- to the airport was just going to be too long in the traffic. We took the elevator down. I just ran.

DESJARDINS: It was very -- yes.

ROBERTSON: I jumped in the road, I'm looking for taxis. I see that guy and he's hesitating so I go and grabbed his door and jumped in. And then we hit the traffic, and the upper west side, and 20 minutes to go, 10 minutes --

FOREMAN: Yes. The traffic getting out of Newark, and if you were later here, there would have been a lot of D.C. traffic.


FOREMAN: You thought you had a very good chance, yes?

DESJARDINS: I have to say, I thought -- I thought I was going to take it. I really did. And I -- and I know there were people in New York, I'm sorry for you, guys, who may have laid money on that. Perhaps I've lost that money now.

ROBERTSON: But don't say I didn't warn you.

DESJARDINS: Exactly. I really thought there was no way you'd make that flight, and I also thought, for sure it would get delayed today, didn't imagine I'd get the delay, but I will say this might be a lesson in karma, Tom. Because, as Nic was saying, as we were racing to the elevators, he got a jump on all of us.


DESJARDINS: He gets in the first elevator, and then I yelled, hold that elevator, he --


ROBERTSON: And the doors were closing in.

DESJARDINS: The doors were closing -- he knew it was me and he did in fact hold the elevator so --

FOREMAN: That was a nice thing. But when you talk about karma, the real karma right now is the one that Brian Todd is still riding in.


He had every second tick by.

BERMAN: Awful.

FOREMAN: And we're hoping, we're hoping he gets here before the last slice of pie is gone -- John.


BERMAN: All right, guys. We'll all be talking about this for years, including Nic Robertson brushing aside the accusations of malfeasance gracefully.


Do not miss "THE SITUATION ROOM" today. If all goes according to plan, the last of our brave racers will cross the finish line in Washington, D.C. Now and forever known as poor Brian Todd. That's at 5:00 p.m. Eastern. Make sure you're watching.

Coming up on THE LEAD, the rain and snow might be gone by tomorrow, but strong winds could spell disaster for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. The fate of those famous floats up in the air right now.

Plus, Hollywood stars lining up for a chance to help the homeless. So why are some shelters turning away celebrity volunteers?


BERMAN: Welcome back to THE LEAD, everyone.

In politics, another day, another problem with With just days to go before the White House's self-imposed deadline of having the Web site for the federal exchange 80 percent functional, the administration is delaying a key portion of the site that would have allowed small businesses to enroll online.

Republicans are pausing from turkey preparation to pounce. In a statement, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor says, "Once again, President Obama has unilaterally delayed another major portion of Obamacare, and once again, he has tried to bury bad news around a holiday hoping nobody will notice. These are hardly the actions of a transparent administration."

Perfect segue to bring in our panel right now, CNN political commentator, Republican strategist Kevin Madden. Democratic strategist and former senior adviser to the Hillary Clinton for President campaign, Kiki McLean, CNN senior political analyst and editorial director of "National Journal," Ron Brownstein.

Ron, let's start with you. Got the Brady bunch here.


BERMAN: Ron, how big of a deal is this delay?

BROWNSTEIN: You know, substantively, it is not the biggest problem they have faced. Really, it's going to mean that small businesses will continue to operate the way they have been, but I think it really shows the fundamental problem they have and how difficult it's going to be to establish any kind of momentum in this program that reverses the negative initial public perceptions.

I mean, they've actually had some relatively good news the last couple of weeks. Some of the blue states that are implementing this themselves are accelerating the phase of sign-ups. They appear to be on track to reach in their goal of having 50,000 people at a time, use -- be able to use the Web site by December 1st. But this is a kind of a reminder, there are many, many other landmines out there and they are going to -- I think no matter what the overall -- even if they can generate overall good news, a lot of them are going to explode in the weeks and months ahead.

BERMAN: Kiki, what about this image problem because you've had the delay in the employer mandate. Now you have the -- the delay in small business signup, which by the way, you know, a month and a half ago they promised would not happen. There's a serious, serious image problem here.


KIKI MCLEAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Here's the important thing, it's an image problem. The reality is, as Ron said, more and more people are getting coverage. This is big, big change. And with big change comes big challenges. There have been mistakes made. They're rectifying them and the reality is, the only thing that changes the image on this is that as more people become covered, things get better, the program works.

What I laugh about, the statement from the Republican leaders is, you know, they spent five years screaming they wanted to slow Obamacare down. So when there is a delay, they get all worked up about it. So there's a little bit of conflict there.

But what's important here is that we are making progress. It's slow progress, but it's steady and it's real, and there is good news. People are getting signed up, and by the way, on the small business piece, this is a delay, and small businesses can still sign up in the paper way, as I understand it. And so there's an opportunity for them here. And what's more important is that they're recognizing and acknowledging what's wrong so they can continue to work and fix it. And that's the most important thing.

BERMAN: Kevin, I know you want to get in here.


BERMAN: Before you -- before you respond, let me read you a statistic here.


BERMAN: Six in 10 Americans still say they oppose the health care law, but the reason continues to be, because some people don't think the law is liberal enough. So when you take that into consideration, more than half of Americans either still support the law or don't think it goes far enough. So take that into consideration here when you're responding.

MADDEN: Well, look, I think one of the big problems, and to disagree with Kiki, we don't want to delay it or slow it down. I think what we want to do is repeal it and we want to go back to a much more patient-centric approach.

One of the big problems that the administration is having and Democrats are having is that what you're seeing now with the public is an eroding sense of trust, an eroding sense of -- that the administration and government has any competence to actually implement this. This is a dramatic change in how the health insurance market works. A dramatic change in how people get their health care. It's essentially re-arranged one-sixth of the American economy. That's one of the big problems is that they've applied one federal standard to a marketplace that used to have 50 different marketplaces that were tailored for 50 unique health care populations across the country. So I think trust is going to continue to erode. Confidence -- the American people's confidence in the ability of the Obama administration and the government to actually implement this, it's only going to get worse as we see more and more delays.

There are several mileposts that are coming up again with the -- with the way the rates are going to be set for the next year, again, how small businesses continue to implement their plans, that are going to hurt how people get their health insurance. And I think that's going to continue to drive down the numbers as it relates to the popularity of this law, or the unpopularity, I should call it.

BROWNSTEIN: You know --

BERMAN: Ron, you know, Republicans like Kevin are predicting doom and gloom in some cases going forward.


BERMAN: But 56 percent of Americans still say they think it's too early to tell.


BERMAN: If the health care law will be a success.


BERMAN: Do you think that gives the White House hope that maybe the worse is over?

BROWNSTEIN: I don't know if the worst is over, but there has not be a majority for repeal in polling that we've done and other people have done. I mean, as I said, the problem they have -- in some ways, the story is going to get more -- likely will get more positive in the sense of signing up more people, especially through the states. And California is seeing a tremendous influx of people.

The problem, though, John, is that's never going to be the whole story. I mean, even as they get passed this initial -- if they can dissolve to some extent the bottleneck at the federal Web site, you've got the whole next set of problems about reporting information from the Web site to the insurers.

And there are a lot of people worried that if they get more people signed up on the federal site, they're only going to open up a new set of problems in terms of providing accurate information about who they are and whether they, you know, have the proper insurance. So they have a lot of untangling to do. It is really astonishing.


MADDEN: And also --

MCLEAN: But these all --

BROWNSTEIN: The government they say could not get better prepared.

MCLEAN: But these are the risks we have to take to get people insured.


MCLEAN: Look, Kevin is right when he talks about how big the change is to one sixth of the economy. What was there before wasn't working. And we're making big change, and the reality is the confidence comes back with every person who becomes insured, and everything that works right going to move us forward. This is not a short-term political ploy. This is for the long term, for real reform and real change.

MADDEN: It's hard to say that when they're having those cancellations though.

BERMAN: All right, last word in there. Kiki Mclean, Kevin Madden, Ron Brownstein, thank you so much. Happy Thanksgiving. I have a segue way here, it's meaner than it sounds. From hot air to hot air, for many people there is no other way to start the Thanksgiving holiday than flipping on the TV to watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade here in New York City.

But this year, high winds could force the famous balloons to stay grounded. They are arguably the most awesome part of the whole parade. On the other hand, nobody wants to run from a 44-foot-tall out of control Spongebob careening down 34th Street like some kind of deranged smiling Godzilla. Look at that.

Winds can be a serious danger during the parade. Remember, in 2005, the wind caught the M & M balloon which hit a light pole and injured two sisters. The same kind of thing happened in 1997.

I want to bring in our Jason Carroll, bravely standing by the parade start line in the upper west side of Manhattan. Jason, people are flocking there to see the balloons inflated. When do organizers make the call about whether they will actually be a part of the parade?

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's not going to come until tomorrow morning, just before the parade starts. In the meantime, the balloons are ready. You can see we have Sonic the Hedgehog, he is on the ground like the other balloons here. The question is going to they end up staying on the ground?

We have the people coming out, look at them, hundreds. In fact, by the end of the evening, it might be thousands coming out here in the wind and rain to see many of these iconic balloons. The question is, will they end up flying out of here tomorrow? Well, we spoke to the man just a little earlier -- this is the man who is going to make the ultimate decision as to whether or not tese balloons fly. Listen to what he had to say.


PATROL CHIEF JAMES HALL, NYPD: Tomorrow, before the event, we'll make a determination, the police department, the incident commander, whether the balloons will fly or not.

CARROLL: Based on the latest weather report, how is it looking so far for tomorrow?

HALL: It looks good. It looks very good. We have the National Weather Service will be in my incident command post communicating with me. Then we have monitors set up along the route, and there are, you know, gust numbers and wind numbers that we have locked into our head that allows us to fly or not to fly.


CARROLL: And what that chief is going to be looking at are the wind measurements, 23-mile-per-hour sustained winds or 34-mile-per- hour gusts means balloons like Sonic will have to remain on the ground, but you heard it right there. He's feeling optimistic that tomorrow the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons will end up flying as they should be -- John.

BERMAN: All right, Jason Carroll, on the streets of Manhattan keeping Sonic the Hedgehog Company. Thanks so much, Jason. We appreciate it.

When we come back, it's not just about overeating and arguing with your in-laws. The Thanksgiving season also comes with a huge platter of new movie releases. You'll get a sneak peek with "New York Times" film critic, Tony Scott. Stay with us.


BERMAN: Welcome back to THE LEAD, everyone. In the Pop Lead, every holiday season, movies vie to be the big blockbuster, the film everyone is talking about. As the small screen has grown more ambitious with cult follows and binge viewing for shows like "Breaking Bad" the movies carry the same magic.

"New York Times" film critic, A.O. Scott argues yes. In December's "New York Times" magazine movies issue, Scott says the big screen still offers something unique. He writes there are filmmakers determined to refine and reinvigorate the medium to recapture its newness and uniqueness and to figure out in a post-film platform- agnostic, digital-everything era, what the art of cinema might be.

Wonderfully written and Tony Scott joins me now. Lay it out for us right now, Tony, your favorite film of the holiday season.

A.O. SCOTT, FILM CRITIC, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": The one I really like, which is not the most cheerful one, is this movie "Nebraska" directed by Alexander Payne. It's a good holiday movie because it's about a family coming together in this little town in Nebraska, kind of reluctantly.

It's also a father-son story with a terrific performance by Bruce Stern as this guy starting to lose it a little bit, an aging Nebraskan who lives in Montana who thinks that he has won one of those sweepstakes. He got one of those letters that says you may have won a million dollars.

He persuades his son to drive him to Lincoln, Nebraska, to pick up the money, and they have to stop in his hometown along the way where all kinds of memories and faces from the past pop up.

BERMAN: We have a short of the clip of the film, where Bruce Stern is going to claim the money that he insists he won.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Listen to me, you didn't win anything. It's a complete scam. You have to stop this, OK?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm running out of time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don't even have a suitcase.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not staying there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dad, I can't let you go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's none of your business.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, it is. I'm your son.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Then why don't you take me?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't just drop everything and drive to Lincoln, Nebraska.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What else you got going on?


BERMAN: Now as you can see, this film is in black and white, which is unusual.

SCOTT: Very unusual.

BERMAN: In this day and age. So how does Nebraska and other films you seem to like like "Her" "Inside Llewellyn Davis" how do they illustrate your point about what films are offering right now?

SCOTT: Well, I think one of the things that they offer is smaller scale stories in a way. They can -- you can be taken into a very intimate world, and into the imagination of a filmmaker. I mean, all of the films you mentioned are the ones I like so much are -- they have a very individual stamp of a director thinking about how to tell the story.

Just even the fact that Nebraska is in black and white, you know, that it's using a lot of nonprofessional actors who live in this town in Nebraska, suggests that Alexander Payne has a kind of freedom working within this medium to tell the story in a very particular and idiosyncratic and individual way, the way that the Cohen Brothers and "Inside Llewellyn Davis" do or Spike Jones in "Her."

BERMAN: I mean, a lot of people argue that the one thing films can do is big. Big budget, action, blockbuster, super hero, this and that, but you're arguing almost in some ways the complete opposite. What films can still do is small.

SCOTT: I think so. I mean, it works both ways. Obviously, in terms of the movie business, the large scale action blockbuster spectacle is certainly a way of getting the audience out of the house. Something that's so big and amazing that you can only see it on the big screen, in 3D in I-max.

But there is something about the way that a feature film within, you know, 90 minutes or two hours, in the way the long form story has gone to televisions, to cable television, you know, you can watch. You can binge for 11 hours and watch all of "Breaking Bad" or all of "The Good Wife" or all of "Scandal" or whatever it is.

But if you really want to be swept up in this sort of intimate small-scale world, movies, I think, have a power to do that that television hasn't gotten to yet. The emphasis is still, and more even, more and more, on the visual.

BERMAN: So the only film that's being discussed in my house, largely because my house is dominated by two 6-year-old boys, is "Frozen," the new big Disney film.

SCOTT: Right.

BERMAN: What's your take on it?

SCOTT: I actually have not yet seen it. My kids are a little older, so the movie everybody is talking about in my house is "Catching Fire" the second --

BERMAN: Also a big one. The interesting thing about this, it's Disney animation as opposed to Pixar.

SCOTT: Well, and this keeps going back and forth, being proceed by a short that tells you the story, in a way, of Disney animation from the earliest days of the black and white hand-drawn Disney, Mickey Mouse animations to this new era of the computer generated three-dimensional animation. And Disney and Pixar, it's a very interesting kind of story and maybe push and pull within that company.

BERMAN: They both work for them. It's all success, though. All right, Tony Scott, great to see you. Happy Thanksgiving.

Got some other entertainment news, the hottest ticket in Tinsel Town this year, not a seat next to Jack Nicholson or Diane Canon at the Lakers game, no, it might be a spot serving Thanksgiving meals. It's almost as tough to get as an Oscar. Shelters in Los Angeles have been turning away volunteers for weeks because they say they have plenty.

The "L.A. Times" is reporting that celebrity chefs along with actors like Neil Patrick Harris and Dick Van Dyke will help out tomorrow. Van Dyke reportedly slated to rap a song from Mary Poppins. Times seem to be especially tough in Los Angeles. One mission expects to serve more meals this year than any year since the great depression.

And if this whole royalty thing doesn't work out for Prince William, he can always sing back up for an '80s hair band.

Wow, no matter what happens to me, I'll always know I sing better than a prince. He sang along with Bon Jovi and Taylor Swift last night in London. This is a benefit for a charity that helps homeless youth. Princess Diana worked with the charity. Now the Duke of Cambridge has made it one of his causes.

Honestly, we just wish we could have heard him sing "Purple Rain." All right, make sure to follow the show on Twitter @theleadcnn or you can follow me @johnberman. That's it all for THE LEAD today. I am John Berman sitting in for Jake Tapper. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. I turn you over now to Jim Sciutto in "THE SITUATION ROOM."