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Capitol Hill Thaw?; Remembering Mandela; Mary Barra Makes Auto History; Biden Announces More Mental Health Funding

Aired December 10, 2013 - 16:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: While most of Washington, D.C., got a snow day today, there may be a thaw up on Capitol Hill.

I'm Jake Tapper. This is THE LEAD.

The national lead. After all your debt ceilings, your fiscal cliffs, your shutdown showdowns, are lawmakers finally closing in on a deal that could stick? Breaking details on the talks first this hour on THE LEAD.

The money lead. Lean in and perform the foot-in-mouth pose -- how the chairman of Lululemon got canned for in part suggesting the size of women's thighs were the real problem with his yoga pants.

And the pop culture lead. Where is the next Bing, Bowie, Band-Aid? Do today's artists know it's Christmastime at all? As Mariah might have said, all I want for Christmas is a new holiday hit.

Good afternoon, everyone. I'm Jake Tapper. Welcome to THE LEAD.

We begin with the politics lead. The expectations are low and the stakes are high. That usually translates in this town to pretty much nothing getting done, but in what you might call a Festivus miracle, it appears that Congress could possibly, possibly be on the verge of its first budget deal in two years.

It's not the president and Speaker Boehner dealing here. It's top Republican Congressman Paul Ryan and Democratic Senator Patty Murray behind this latest agreement. It would set government spending levels and replace the automatic cuts set to take effect next year. So what's notably missing? Well, major concessions from either side on issues like Medicare and Medicaid or unemployment benefits.

And yet there are still legitimate concerns that this not-so-grand bargain will not cut the mustard with hard-line members of both parties, and, as usual, time is running out. CNN chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash joins me with the very latest.

Dana, how soon would this have to be brought to the floor of the House or Senate to realistically actually have a chance of becoming law?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they will have to do it very soon. We are told from sources in both parties there could be a deal within the next few hours. Jake, the deadline technically is Friday, but they certainly have to go through a lot of important processes to get to that point. What's important to note is what you underscored. But we have to say it again. This is not a grand bargain. This is not about the big things that really are making the deficit and the debt so big. But it is small and anything small that is bipartisan these days will take, right?

They're still not done. And a couple things that are holding it up --


TAPPER: Yes. What are the sticking points?

BASH: -- are unemployment benefits. Long-term unemployment benefits are going to run out soon. Democrats in both chambers, but particularly in the House, are really holding out because they want either this to be part of the budget deal or to use it as leverage to make sure that they have a promise to extend these unemployment benefits.

Another thing that may seem a little parochial but is a big deal to some senior Democrats who represent Maryland suburbs of D.C., a lot of federal workers, is that part of the deal is -- would force federal workers to pay more for their pensions. That's something that Steny Hoyer, the number two Democrat and others, are saying they don't like. That probably won't hold it up as much.

Then you have the conservative side. They just don't like this to begin with because they don't like the idea that this would do away with the forced across-the-board spending cuts that they say are critical to keep spending down. Democrats, of course, say it's arbitrary and we need to be more smart about this, which is what both sides are saying this deal would be.

TAPPER: And we are expecting a possible press conference at any moment, but who knows.

BASH: Who knows. Possible, but they're still -- because we had these sticking points, you never know. But --


TAPPER: Ryan and Murray have paper. They are now being reviewed by --

BASH: Ryan and Murray have been meeting, are meeting, could be meeting as we speak. They are being very secretive about this because they want to make sure that their balloon is not popped before they have everything --


TAPPER: Because they don't get to just like come up with this deal and then present it. They have to get it signed off by the House and Senate Democratic and Republican leaders. BASH: Exactly.

And it's much more of an issue with House Republicans, as you can imagine. And so if and when they do have an agreement tonight, presumably they will present it to all House Republicans tomorrow morning, Wednesday morning, before they can go forward.


TAPPER: And to be clear, this would raise spending from the level it would be with these forced budget cuts, the so-called sequester, we hate to use that term, but whatever level that would be, this would be more spending than that.

BASH: Yes, two things. It would be more spending, but it also would be -- it would be less arbitrary. It wouldn't just be across the board. It would be targeted, which is what Democrats have been calling for and even some Republicans have been calling for, particularly when you are talking about defense cuts. So, you're right on both counts.

TAPPER: All right, Dana Bash, and you will keep us updated with this fast-moving story. Thank you so much.

In our world lead, nearly 100 world leaders and tens of thousands of people gathered in the Johannesburg FNB Stadium to pay respects to Nelson Mandela today. President Obama told the cheering crowd how the man they call Madiba motivated him years ago.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Over 30 years ago, while still a student, I learned of Nelson Mandela and the struggles taking place in this beautiful land, and it stirred something in me. It woke me up to my responsibilities to others and to myself, and it set me on an improbable journey that finds me here today. And while I will always fall short of Madiba's example, he makes me want to be a better man.



TAPPER: Let's bring in CNN chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour from Johannesburg. She was there for the memorial.

Christiane, good to see you, as always.

What was the atmosphere like there during the memorial? At, times it was almost hard to hear the president.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, actually, it was quite hard to hear a lot of people. The president actually made himself heard the best. He spoke very clearly and he got a massive applause from the crowd. Remember, this is the first black president of the United States memorializing and honoring the first black president of South Africa, and it was really quite electric at that moment.

It was a very, very, very long memorial, and people had lined up for hours and hours and hours before it even started. Of course, it was raining a lot, so it was slightly damper, the atmosphere, than one might have hoped for. But there was music and there was joy and there were all sorts of interesting moments and vignettes, but the president did actually deliver a very good speech here.

TAPPER: There used to be a saying in this country that politics should stop at the water's edge, but that no longer seems to be the case. There are a lot of people criticizing President Obama today, shaking hands with Cuban President Raul Castro.

Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio had this to say about it. Quote: "If the president was going to shake Castro's hand, he should have asked him about those basic freedoms Mandela was associated with that are denied in Cuba."

Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen called it a propaganda coup.

Of course, President Obama did mention in his speech that -- quote -- "There are too many leaders who claim solidarity with Madiba's struggle for freedom, but do not tolerate dissent from their own people," a clear reference to Castro, Mugabe, Assad perhaps.

What do you make of all this?

AMANPOUR: Well, I think he did. He made a very clear swipe at those who have been remembering Nelson Mandela, but, of course, people who actually do not by any stretch of the imagination follow in his footsteps at all.

I think the handshake in the full, you know, reflection of history, which might be in the next quarter of an hour, is going to be taken as a handshake. It was a diplomatic situation in which there were a number of leaders who had been appointed to speak. They were all on that dais, including Castro and the president of Brazil and other leaders, and President Obama came up to take his place at the podium, and in so doing, had to physically pass those leaders, even those with whom he had no relations.

And one of them was Fidel's brother, Raul Castro, and he shook his hand. He's a polite man. This was a diplomatic gathering. And then on he moved to Dilma Rousseff, the president of Brazil, and he kissed her on both cheeks, even though Dilma Rousseff canceled a state visit to Washington. Why? Because she was so cross about the NSA and the spying and the spying and the eavesdropping on her.

So, you know, you can have it all ways here. But the president did, as I said, take a swipe at those who did not allow freedom or dissent in their own countries. And, by the way, in the spirit of reconciliation, lots of different couplings were going on in terms of crossing party lines and ideology. There were all four living British prime ministers from across the two different aisles. There was four American presidents of different stripes.

There was Clinton and the Bushes. They all sat together. And there was President Obama and President Carter. There was a lot of that going on, including the former French president and the current French president. So it was one of those days, Jake. I think that's about as much as it amounts to.

TAPPER: And, of course, President Bush, George W. Bush, who was there with Clinton and Carter, as you mentioned, standing up and giving President Obama a standing ovation along with many others in the crowd after his speech.

His speech did seem to go over very well, as you point out, special relationship, being the first African-American president of the United States.

Christiane, before I let you go, any favorite moment from the day?

AMANPOUR: Well, you know, for me, I was just so struck by this amazing portrait of grief that was the face of Graca Machel, who is Nelson Mandela's widow.

She is such a beautiful woman. They married very late. He was 80 years old when they got married. She had been widowed. She had been previously married to the freedom fighter, the great liberator of Mozambique, who had cast off Portuguese colonialism and become the first black president there.

And to think of all that time she spent with Mandela in his last years, this beautiful face in this real grief was quite something to see.

TAPPER: Yes, of course, behind it all, a human being with loved ones.

Christiane Amanpour, thank you so much.

Coming up on THE LEAD next: He defended his company's sheer yoga pants by suggesting the women wearing them might be too fat. Now the founder of Lululemon is out of a job.

Plus, President Obama reaches into Bill Clinton's inner circle for a little help. Can a Democratic heavyweight turn things around after a rocky start to President Obama's second term? Coming back.


TAPPER: Welcome back to the lead. I'm Jake Tapper.

Our money lead is the woman who will be leading General Motors, Mary Barra. She will be making the leap from executive vice president to CEO in January. She will also be shattering a glass ceiling that has loomed over Detroit for decades. She will be the first woman to lead a major U.S. automaker, the Big Three boys club no more. Barra grew up with GM. Her father was a tool and die maker for the company and her career there began when she was 18. She's taking over at a decent time. The government has sold its last stake in the company, so there's no more of that bailout baggage. J.D. Power gave GM a top ranking in quality this year for the first time.

In other money news, if you love yoga, you are probably familiar with the company Lululemon, makers of athletic gear for what the company describes as sweaty pursuits.

Together -- today, rather, they announced a new CEO, Laurent Potdevin, former president for Toms Shoes. And while a new CEO had been expected, what was a surprise was the announcement that the founder and chairman Chip Wilson would be stepping down from his role next year.

The company's had some issues this year. They recalled some of their stretchy yoga pants. Stocks are down over 4 percent since last year.

And comments like these from Wilson just last month -- well, they didn't help.


CHIP WILSON, LULULEMON FOUNDER: Some women's bodies just actually don't work for it. It's really about the rubbing through the thighs, how much pressure is there I mean, over a period of time and how much they use it.


TAPPER: Wilson apologized for that comment but he also wrote in a blog post in 2009 that, quote, "Breast cancer also came into prominence in the 1990s (sic). I suggest this was due to the number of cigarette smoking power women who are on the pill, initial concentration of hormones were very high and taking on the stress previously left to men in the working world."

I want to bring in Leigh Gallagher, assistant managing editor for "Fortune" magazine and co-chair of the Fortune Most Powerful Summit.

Leigh, good to see you as always.

I want to get to the troubles of Lululemon in a second. But, first, how big of a deal is it that we now have the woman as head of the first major U.S. automaker?

LEIGH GALLAGHER, FORTUNE: It's a huge deal, Jake. I mean, this is huge news. She was considered a contender. So, it wasn't entirely unexpected, but this is a big deal. She now is the CEO, she runs the largest women-run company when she takes over.

G.M. is number seven on the Fortune 500 and previously, it was Meg Whitman who runs HP. There are a number of women who run these top corporations. We have Ginni Rometty running IBM. But this -- running a car company, just the meaning there, you know, that this is Detroit, this is the auto industry, and its place on the Fortune 500 -- I mean, this is very, very significant.

And it's in line with trends we have seen over the past few years.

TAPPER: Should we expect any big changes from her?

GALLAGHER: I don't think so. I mean, she's really -- she really tells it like it is. She's known for kind of no B.S. She's very, very experienced. She has almost the exact kind of background you would want for someone taking the reins of this company.

She started as an intern. She has an engineering background. She ran a plant. She ran H.R. And she was, you know, for example, when she ran human resources, one of the things she did was cut down the employees' dress code which was a 10-page part of a manager's document and made it just one sentence. Dress appropriately.

Her point was if you're running a division at G.M. and you're managing people, you don't need to be told what to wear. And so, that's the kind of manager she is. I think we can take a lot from that lesson.

TAPPER: Dress appropriately. I love it.

Back to Lululemon, speaking of dressing appropriately.

GALLAGHER: Yes, good segue.

TAPPER: Or not. I have seen Chip Wilson, the ousted, or soon-to-be ousted CEO, described as a loose cannon. Is that fair?

GALLAGHER: Oh, absolutely. I mean, he just gives us more fodder for headlines. You can almost, at this point, I was going to say he could be a "Saturday Night Live" skit. He is.

I mean, you know, we have seen this before in some executives, especially I think founders and entrepreneurs tend to be let's just say quirky sometimes. It's not uncommon.

But I think the right thing to do is move him out of the scenes and put in someone who can run this business. I mean, this company is big and it's important and it's nowhere near the size of the company when he founded it. So, he's long ago been behind the scenes but now this is really making it official.

I think it's important. I think that Lululemon's customers and shareholders need to see this happen.

TAPPER: When I first heard the comment he made about women's thighs and you need to have a certain kind of thigh, not a fat thigh, in order to be the right person for Lululemon yoga pants, I thought this guy really doesn't know who his consumers are.

GALLAGHER: Exactly. Look, I think this plus the Mary Barra story, I might be biased but I think this is why we need more women in CEO roles. I know they're not replacing him with a woman but it's just, you know, there are some tactical behavioral issues between men and women that you see in the CEO position.

TAPPER: Leigh Gallagher, as always, thank you so much. Great talking to you.

GALLAGHER: Thanks. You too, Jake.

TAPPER: Coming up next, as the one year anniversary of the Newtown shooting approaches, Vice President Biden vows to do everything he can to prevent another mass shooting from slipping through the cracks -- mass shooter of slipping through the cracks of our troubled mental health system. But will it be enough?

Plus, he railed against members of his own party during the government shutdown and now, he wants to take down the number two Republican in the Senate. That's coming up next.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

In national news, Vice President Joe Biden met with Newtown families and mental health advocates today and announced $100 million in federal funding to improve mental health services. This just four days before the one year anniversary of the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary.

I want to bring in chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta for more.

Sanjay, good to see you. Thanks for being with us.

So, $100 million. What specifically will that money be used for?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's interesting, Jake. Fifty million of it is coming from the executive branch, from the Department of Health and Human Services.

And that is specifically to help hire more mental health professionals, create community resource centers which could help free up some beds and address issues like substance abuse.

What is interesting is the other $50 million is in fact coming from USDA, through one of their services programs in the community, and the reason for that is that they want to make sure there's a focus on rural health as well, which gets even shorter shrift with regard to mental health in other areas of the country. So, they are going to focus on rural areas, building up some of the resources there, including again, the hiring of new staff. But also focusing on telemedicine -- this idea that people, mental health professionals in one community might be able to provide services to underrepresented, underserved communities as well.

So, $50 million HHS, $50 million USDA.

TAPPER: USDA, of course, standing for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Sanjay, what else is the administration doing on mental health? Because, obviously, today's announcement just one piece of a much larger puzzle and $100 million in the scheme of things, not actually all that much money.

GUPTA: Right. At the federal level, I agree, and you know, part of this has been as you know, Jake, has been a push overall coming out of the vice president's office looking at violence, gun violence specifically.

So, this is part of that broader mission or broader push from the vice president's office. But with regard to mental health, you remember back in 2008, there was a mental health parity bill that was passed which basically says let's think of mental health on par with physical health, everything from your co-pays and your deductibles, to the fact you would classify mental health as an essential health service in the way you would classify physical health. That didn't really get teeth until just a few weeks ago, November of this year.

So, almost five years later is when they actually said OK, these parity things are now going into effect. So that's a bigger push. There is also this idea that just like you can't discriminate against people based on pre-existing physical conditions, you can't discriminate against people based on pre-existing mental health conditions either. And we already sort of knew that, but that's also been part of what we're seeing with this Parity Act.

I will say that, look, when we talk about parity, none of it really works unless there's enough resources, enough staff, enough beds available, and we just don't have that right now in this country. Some of this will help in that area, although as you point out, a small amount. A significant amount is going towards research overall. A couple billion dollars is coming out of the Affordable Care Act dollars to actually target new potential treatments and even earlier diagnosis for mental health.

TAPPER: And speaking of beds not being available, we all remember a few weeks ago when former Virginia gubernatorial candidate Creigh Deeds, his son attacked him, then shot himself, his son having been turned away from a mental health facility. Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell today announcing some new mental health initiatives in the commonwealth of Virginia. His successor, Governor-elect Terry McAuliffe, applauding the efforts.

This is really where a lot of the real change is going to happen, right, at the state and local level. What can you expect to see, what are you expecting to see and hoping to see on the state and local level?

GUPTA: Let me give you an idea how big a turnaround this is, Jake. You know, between 2009 and 2012, it was -- mental health budgets at the state level were basically decimated, really gutted. More than $4 billion in cuts over that time period between 2009 and 2012.

So this is playing a little bit of catch-up but also represents a huge turnaround. You are absolutely right because again, you can talk about parity all you want, you can talk about initiatives to reduce stigma, but unless people can get service they need, the mental health professionals are available, none of that really makes a difference to people who are suffering right now, and at the state level and local level is where you're going to see that.

There were 37 states that actually increased their budgets for mental health overall, including Texas, actually the biggest, $259 million over the next two years. And remember, your audience will appreciate this, that's not because of Medicaid expansion in Texas. Texas is not expanding Medicaid. This is a decision by the states to do this, and again, a huge turnaround.

I think no question after Aurora, after Newtown, after a lot of what we've seen over the last year, it's caught everybody's attention and as much as we have talked about guns, mental health is something that people are focusing on as well now, thankfully, and even at the state level.

TAPPER: And we hope it will make a difference. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thank you so much.

GUPTA: You got it, Jake. Thank you.

TAPPER: Coming up next, another shot at the Republican establishment as one ore Tea Party candidate challenges a long-time Republican senator.

Plus, Christmas music, it's so 20 years ago. As in that's the last time a singer actually made a holiday song that became a hit. So, what's with the lack of new holiday classics? Coming up.