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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Backlash To Cruz Post On Mandela; Reverend Jackson Remembers Mandela; Mandela Actors Mourn His Death, Honor His Life

Aired December 6, 2013 - 16:30   ET

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


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Now it's time for the "Politics Lead." It's the bathroom wall of the internet, the hovel of haters and trolls. I'm talking of course about the comments section of social media sites. Right now as tributes and condolences from politicians roll out online, so does some rather nasty replies.

Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, is one of politician in that situation right now. Yesterday, on the news of Nelson Mandela's death, the Texas Republican wrote of his respect and admiration for the anti-apartheid icon. Nelson Mandela, he wrote, will live in history as an inspiration for defenders of liberty around the globe. Lovely sentiments.

More than 5,000 people liked that comment but not all agree. He was a murderer and communist, why are you inspired by this, Ted?, wrote one. Another, what about the rampant white genocide because of South African's freedom, question mark, question mark, you get the point.

Another writes Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, Mao and FDR are also dead. They don't deserve a positive eulogy, either."

Let's bring in our panel, the president of the Center for American Progress, Neera Tanden, CNN political contributor and Republican strategist, Ana Navarro and CNN political contributor, Washington correspondent of the "New Yorker," Ryan Lizza.

Ana, we reach out to Cruz's office. They rightly point out that you can find hateful stuff on the White House's, Facebook page as well about Mandela. One writing, Mandela was a well-mannered demon in the flesh.

Cruz's comments got more likes on his page than Obama's got on that page. Is this something we should even be paying attention to or is this just the bathroom wall of the internet?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I think, frankly, we shouldn't be paying attention to it. Let's hold Ted Cruz, let's hold people on Facebook and Twitter accountable for what they say, not for what followers say. Also, keep in mind they're not all followers are friends. Some may be enemies. Look, you tweet, we all tweet. You can tweet the earth is round and get hateful trolls saying terrible things. So this is -- TAPPER: No, no, I'm not implying any way Ted Cruz is responsible at all for what people write on his Facebook page. I think what's interesting about it. If anything, is the fact that these are conservatives upset with Ted Cruz and that doesn't happen.

NAVARRO: How do you know they're conservatives? Maybe they are liberals pretending to be conservatives. You don't know on Twitter and Facebook? You don't know who that is.

NEERA TANDEN, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO HHS SECRETARY KATHLEEN SEBELIUS: If they were liberals I think they would feel really badly about attacking Nelson Mandela for whatever political purpose.

TAPPER: There are some nasty liberals out there.

TANDEN: I'm not saying there are no haters on either side. You know, I want to applaud Ted Cruz for what he said. There is a lot of bipartisan support. I think the larger issue versus these trolls versus non-trolls is really that it's not like Nelson Mandela wasn't controversial. He did get a lot of conservatives attacking him over the years and the anti-apartheid movement had its conservative critics in the '70s, '80s and '90s.

But what is important now is he is embraced by both sides and despite the extremism on the right, I think we should celebrate the fact that there are so many conservatives who are applauding his fight against apartheid now.

TAPPER: Ryan, I wonder if one of the problems is that when we do these funerals and obituaries, we canonize these people instead of acknowledging there were shameful moments in the ANC's past and Mandela said nice things about Fidel Castro and freedom in Cuba that are false and that maybe because we bend over so backwards to show respect that that creates an opening.

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: If there's anyone in modern history --

TAPPER: You disagree. I do, too. I'm just saying.

LIZZA: We all agree if there's anyone in modern or world history that deserves sort of to be put on a pedestal, it's Nelson Mandela.

TAPPER: Of course.

LIZZA: A few historical figures, right. But I think on both sides there is this danger of sort of writing out of history some of the controversial parts of his life that made him a great leader, made him able to end apartheid in that country. He took some very strong ideological stands that are controversial to this day. Conservatives were on the wrong side of history on a lot of these issues in the '70s and '80s. Ted Cruz doesn't have to worry about that. He's in his early 40s. He doesn't have to pay attention to that.

NAVARRO: What's extraordinary about Mandela is his life's evolution. He started off as a militant, then was a political prisoner, then he became the national leader that shepherded his country through reconciliation. And he only served one term.

TAPPER: Let me just --

TANDEN: These things are connected. It's not like he ended his militancy. He always fought hard for freedom.

NAVARRO: He was a pacifist by the time he left prison. It was extraordinary, that somebody treated that way had no --

TAPPER: I want to bring in --

NAVARRO: Go ahead, Jake. This is your show.

TAPPER: I appreciate it. There have been a couple interesting moments of punditry in the last 24 hours. Here's MSNBC's Chris Matthews talking about how the last apartheid president, F.W. De Klerk, worked with Mandela after his release from prison.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST, "HARDBALL": For him to recognize his role in history which was to be a patriot at that point is so different than the way Mitch McConnell handled the election of Obama.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Here is former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum comparing the fight against apartheid in South Africa to the battle over Obamacare.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICK SANTORUM, FORMER REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He was fighting against some great injustice. I would make the argument we have a great injustice going on right now in this country with an ever-increasing size of government that has taken over and is controlling people's lives and Obamacare is front and center in that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Ryan, what gives?

LIZZA: I think we have to add apartheid --

TAPPER: F.W. De Klerk, such a better person than Mitch McConnell.

LIZZA: We have to add apartheid to that list of issues you shouldn't compare in modern American politics --

TAPPER: Right, Nazism, slavery, apartheid.

LIZZA: There are issues that were unique historically and no matter how bad you think things are in American politics right now, comparisons are never going to be apt.

TANDEN: Nelson Mandela supported universal health care. I think the comparison, like the pope, I think the comparison is kind of --

NAVARRO: I would tell you this. I think neither side should be using the man, a dead man, deceased man we are honoring to make cheap political shots.

TAPPER: Amen to that. Ana, Ryan, Neera, you guys continue in the green room.

Coming up next on THE LEAD, Nelson Mandela is being remembered as an icon, but at one time in this country he was a polarizing figure. Next, Jesse Jackson shares his memories of the man who was once on the U.S. terror watch list.

Plus an arrest related to the car crash that killed actor, Paul Walker. Why an 18-year-old was taken into custody.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. In "World News," Mandela is being mourned as a hero, not just of South Africa but of the world, of the 20th Century. Amid all the global tributes and outpouring of heartfelt condolences it's easy to forget that at one time, Nelson Mandela was a deeply divisive figure called a terrorist and communist by some.

One man who supported him through the storm of controversy was the Reverend Jesse Jackson who was actually in South Africa the day that Mandela walked out of prison a free man after more than 27 years of confinement.

Reverend Jackson joins me now. Reverend Jackson, thank you so much. You will be leading a prayer vigil tonight in Chicago for Mandela, but before you tell me about that, tell me what it was like to look into Mandela's face the day he got out.

REV. JESSE JACKSON, PRESIDENT, RAINBOW PUSH COALITION: There had been such a great build up, such anticipation. We were very akin to the South African apartheid struggle because apartheid in the south of our own country. We coordinated our activities and we knew that his persecution was redemptive. He walked in that room and Jake, he recognized me, which really threw me off because he had seen the '84 and '88 campaigns, very much aware of what we were doing in the country. You could feel his presence and his being so present. You would think being out of the mix for 27 years he would be detached. He hit the ground running.

TAPPER: In the 1980s, as I don't need to remind you but many viewers may not be old enough to remember, President Reagan designated the African National Congress a terrorist group and vetoed a bill by Congress to push for Mandela's release. Congress later overrode the veto. What do you remember about that very divisive time, the '80s when apartheid was such a heated debate all over the country but especially on college campuses?

JACKSON: Well, the U.S. chose De Klerk and Botha and the apartheid regime as our ally. I can hear Kissinger saying now that Iran and the shah and Botha and De Klerk (inaudible) -- and therefore, the apartheid is an internal problem. It had no moral standing in the world so people began to rebel against it. But clearly, President Reagan and the U.S. policy was pro-white South Africa and really, Mr. Mandela was on the terrorist list until July 1st, 2008, taken off by President George Bush. Until 2008 he was still on the terrorist list.

TAPPER: He said some things that were very controversial. In 2002, Mandela said as the debate about the war in Iraq was beginning, but before the war had launched, he said quote, "If there's a country that has committed unspeakable atrocities in the world it is the United States of America. They don't care for human beings."

Now, obviously, there are lots of areas of American foreign policy that are ripe for criticism but to say the United States does not care about human beings does not seem to be a fair statement. How do you reconcile things like that that he said with the magnificence of his accomplishments and his forgiveness and everything great that he did?

JACKSON: You know, we should be very humble in our approach about this, Jake. You know, 246 years legal slavery, 100 years of legal Jim Crow in our own country. The apartheid laws in this country gave rise to apartheid laws in South Africa in 1948. Even to now, apartheid is no longer a racial matter and social issues but economic, health care, educational, job apartheid is present even today, and he was simply saying that going into Iraq was a pre-emptive strike, broke international law.

As a matter of fact, the biggest demonstration in the history of the world took place that day. People saying do not invade Iraq. Now we admit that 100,000 plus Iraqis have been killed, 6,000 plus Americans have been killed, 50,000 plus injured, we were wrong, had the wrong target. He was saying we were wrong. President Barack Obama said we were wrong. The fact is we were wrong.

TAPPER: What did Mandela think about the United States?

JACKSON: Had high hopes for America and had high regard for America. One of the first places he came when he was freed was America, because the fact is demonstrations here, since led by Randall Robertson and Eleanor Holmes Norton and Maxine Waters, for a year we demonstrated every day, going to jail to protest.

The U.S. Congress declared sanctions on South Africa and apartheid. I met with Mrs. Thatcher, Britain would not go that far. So he knew the big lever to change the course was America. He came and expressed an appreciation in tours over and over again. He had high regard and high hopes for America.

TAPPER: Young people both here and in South Africa, sadly, will know of Mandela only from history books. What is it your wish that they be told about him?

JACKSON: Well, he was a persecuted political prisoner, he was tough. He tried nonviolent demonstration that met with massacres. He tried the legal route. That was met with resistance. He finally became the commander of the U.K., the military arm of South African, the ANC troops. He was a freedom fighter fighting to end a system that lost all credibility in the world.

But also having come through the scars of exile, the scars of 27 years of jail, through all of that, he said we must get up from here and don't linger here, that we must choose at this point reconciliation over retaliation and revenge. That's a critical turning point.

He could have come out demanding revenge and there would have been a bloody mess in South Africa. Today, South Africa has the fastest growing economy in all of Africa because he chose reconciliation over retaliation and revenge.

TAPPER: Reverend Jesse Jackson, thank you so much. Good luck with your vigil this evening. I'm sure it will be very moving.

JACKSON: Thank you, sir.

TAPPER: Coming up in the next hour, Bill Clinton is in "THE SITUATION ROOM" with Wolf Blitzer to talk about the legacy of Nelson Mandela. When we come back, the Hollywood version of Nelson Mandela, what was it like to play legend on screen? Some of the 20 or so actors who have done it share their thoughts, next. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. The "Pop Culture Lead" now, his story was so powerful and moving, no wonder it took a roster of academy award winners and nominees to portray his life. Hollywood has been captivated by Nelson Mandela. For the actors who brought his story to the big and small screen, there is a shared sense of pride to have honored his legacy and an overwhelming grief that he is no longer with us. To be honest, Mandela's shoes were tough to fill even as mere props.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: Rebel, prisoner, icon, president, reformer, there are many roles to play for an actor assigned to the legendary part of Nelson Mandela. At least 20 men have attempted to embody the icon, despite the challenge of replicating his world altering scenes. As the red carpets rolled out for last night's London premiere of "Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom" the final act of the leader's life played out off screen.

PRESIDENT JACOB ZUMA, SOUTH AFRICA: The founding president of our Democratic nation has departed.

TAPPER: Mandela's two youngest daughters were at the premiere when they got the bad news.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We want equal political rights.

TAPPER: Idris Elba will be the final actor to have played the South African leader during his lifetime. But for all of who have played him, the opinion of Mandela and family looms large. IDRIS ELBA, ACTOR: They didn't want to see this sort of silver- haired fist pumping caricature of Mr. Mandela but wanted to see the man, the man behind the legend.

TAPPER: Producer Anant Singh began asking the future South African president for the film rights to his story before Mandela had even achieved some of his most iconic plot points.

ANANT SINGH, PRODUCER, "MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM": I was writing to him while he was in prison.

TAPPER: The famous inmate doubted his appeal.

SINGH: I have letters in his handwriting, you know, modestly saying well, will people actually want to see a film about my life story.

TAPPER: Audiences must now ask not if there's a Mandela film, but which they prefer to watch -- Morgan Freeman has played God in "Bruce Almighty," and the president in "Olympus Has Fallen," but Freeman says taking on Mandela for 2009's "Invictus" was the hardest.

MORGAN FREEMAN, ACTOR: The president is just a guy. Mandela is not just a guy.

TAPPER: The part of Mandela is not one that just any guy can play among the challenges, Mandela's unique cadence.

FREEMAN: The biggest challenge of course I had was getting the voice because he has a very distinctive sound.

TAPPER: And of course, what the former president said in that voice is what makes the delivery of his lines so important.

FREEMAN: You elected me your leader.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the choice. Either we submit or we fight.

TAPPER: In 1987, Danny Glover stepped into the part for the TV movie "Mandela." A decade later, Sidney Poitier brought the story to the small screen. But it was Director Spike Lee who got the best casting of all. In a brief scene at the end of 1992's "Malcolm X," a teacher speaks to his class, inspiring them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We declare our right on this earth --

TAPPER: That man really was a teacher. On every stage he played.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: Mandela movie, the new one, has already set records in its first week. It became the highest grossing film of all time in South Africa. No surprise. Police didn't exactly need Batman's help to crack the case involving stolen wreckage from Paul Walker's deadly crash. One suspect apparently posted a picture of the car part on Instagram. The actor died Saturday when the Porsche he was riding in crashed into a light pole. The driver was also killed.

An 18-year-old man is now in custody and could face felony charges for taking the car's roof panel, classy. Police say an Instagram post with the suspect's name says piece of Paul Walker's car, took it off a tow truck at a stop light followed by the hash tag, come up. A second suspect is also expected to turn himself in.

Thanks to NBC's live broadcast of "The Sound of Music" the hills are alive with the sound of ratings. More than 18 million people tuned in to last night's show starring Carrie Underwood. If you don't count sporting events that makes it the biggest Thursday night for NBC since the finale of "E.R." back in 2009. The ratings are the good news.

The bad reviews, not so much. Critics widely panned the production and some say Underwood was miscast as Maria. That includes a member of the real Von Trapp family the musical is based on Miles Von Trapp said his family wanted Anne Hathaway in the lead role.

A correction now, on Wednesday during a discussion on our roundtable about Vice President Biden, I tried to make the point that despite his substantive work, the media perhaps too often focuses on his gaffes. In doing so, I did him and you the exact same ill service by not providing the proper context for a quick sound bite we aired.

The vice president had been attending an event in Japan aimed at highlighting efforts to reduce the percentage of Japanese women currently at 60 percent, who quit their jobs after the birth of their first child. It's an important context for you to have known before we showed you the vice president asking some female workers there how their husbands like them working full-time.

Again, we were trying to make the point the VP perhaps deserved a more fair shake, but then I inadvertently, ironically, perhaps hypocritically, did the same thing. I regret the error and apologize to the vice president and to you, the viewer.

Make sure to follow me on Twitter @jaketapper and also @theleadcnn. Check our show page at cnn.com/thelead for video, blogs and extras. That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Catch me in two hours filling in for Erin Burnett on "OUTFRONT," 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

I now turn you over to Wolf Blitzer. He is right next door, right this very minute, in "THE SITUATION ROOM" -- Mr. Blitzer.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Jake, thanks very much. Happening now, South Africa and the world prepare for the funeral of Nelson Mandela. We're there live with new information.

Plus, Clinton honors Mandela. The former president shares very personal stories about his friend and his hero. He says the South African leader's advice helped him get through one of his darkest hours. Stand by for my one-on-one interview.

Plus, breaking news, a snow and ice emergency, a deadly winter storm is causing havoc on the roads and in the skies across America. We're tracking the danger as the deep freeze moves east and a new storm develops out west.

And a big jump in jobs, does President Obama deserve credit for improving the U.S. economy after a surprisingly strong employment report? I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

A 10-day mourning period is under way for one of the most influential leaders of our time. We're learning more about the final tributes to Nelson Mandela. Stand by for that, and for my special conversation with the former President Bill Clinton. He reveals a time when he and the South African president didn't see eye to eye --