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2013 Proved To Be Rough Year Politically; What Lies Ahead For The Movers And Shakers Of Washington D.C.?; Pope Francis' First Christmas On The Job; At The Movies For Christmas

Aired December 24, 2013 - 16:30   ET



DANA BASH, CNN GUEST HOST: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Dana Bash in for Jake Tapper.

In our politics lead, 2013 was a rough year here in Washington for President Obama, defending his Obamacare legacy, for Republicans fighting with each other, and a government shutdown that lasted for weeks. Needless to say, a lot did not get done here this year. Like no one else can, our chief political correspondent Candy Crowley takes us through the top ten political moments of 2013.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was the year of living angrily.


UNIDENTIFIED CONGRESSMAN: Do you stand for your country? Or do you want to take it down?


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R), ARIZONA: I resoundingly reject that allegation.

CROWLEY: White hot rhetoric, icy cold relationships.


CROWLEY: That said, 2013 was started as inaugural years often do.

OBAMA: -- so help me God.

CROWLEY: Nicely enough.

OBAMA: My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment and we will seize it.

CROWLEY: He was a popular president with an ambitious agenda, revamping the tax code, reforming schools, better job training, a new energy policy and improve the voting process, immigration reform and gun control. None of it has happened. Turns out, January was the kindest month. The president ends the year with an approval rating that has gone south and focused on saving the health care reform he won in the first term.

OBAMA: There was a time when I was a young invincible.


After five years in this office, people don't call me that anymore.

CROWLEY: Another year like this and they will call him lame duck.

Paul, Cruz and Rubio, sons of the Tea Party, newbies on the block, 2016 rising.

This son of Cuban immigrants catapulted to star status pushing his reluctant party toward immigration reform.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO, (R), FLORIDA: And I simply wasn't going to leave it to Democrats alone to figure out how to fix it.

CROWLEY: Libertarian at heart, Republican by party, Rand Paul blocked a presidential nominee trying to get clarity on the administration's use of drones

SEN. RAND PAUL, (R), KENTUCKY: I will speak until I can no longer speak.

CROWLEY: And a one-off politician from the Lone Star state.

SEN. TED CRUZ, (R), TEXAS: Thank you very much.

CROWLEY: Ted Cruz staged an overnight faux fill buster to make the case against Obamacare, filling time with a bedtime story for his kids.

CRUZ: I do not like green eggs and ham. I do not like them, Sam I Am.



CROWLEY: In a moment all his own, another of the 2016s rising, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie wins a landslide re-election and sounds like he's opening a presidential campaign.

CHRISTIE: I know that if we can do this in Trenton, New Jersey, maybe the folks in Washington, d. c., should tune in their TVs right now. See how it's done.


CROWLEY: Also in a league all her own, the former first lady, former Senator, former secretary of state left Washington for, hmm, something else, but not without a few choice words. HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: The fact is, we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they would go kill Americans. What difference, at this point, does it make?

CROWLEY: Hillary Clinton's Benghazi moment. If she runs for president, expect Republicans to make it a TV ad moment.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I now declare you spouses for life.

CROWLEY: Number five, brought to you by the U.S. Supreme Court. Less a 2013 moment, than a page in history for gay rights.

Under the cover of boring, Senate Democrats blew up the status quo with the first major rules change in more than three decades, banning filibusters for all presidential nominees, except the Supreme Court and sending Republicans into orbit.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R-KY), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: And let's not forget about the raw power, the raw power at play here.

CROWLEY: The change will essentially give any president with a Senate majority the power to reshape the lean of federal courts. This 2013 moment, another one for the ages.

Coming in at number three.

UNIDENTIFIED CONGRESSMAN: Further proceedings on this motion will be postponed.

CROWLEY: The moments that didn't happen -- work left undone, mega problems unaddressed, gridlock. It's not just about traffic anymore.

UNIDENTIFIED CONGRESSMAN: Senate stands adjourned. CROWLEY: The first government shutdown. 17 years and people -- read that voters -- largely blamed Republicans, producing the Democratic talking point of the 2014 election, Republicans as obstructionists.

PELOSI: If we don't have our own way, we're going to shut government down. You and that attitude are a luxury this country cannot afford.

CROWLEY: By year's end, Republicans had a counter point, the president's Affordable Care Act. Obamacare got off to a troubled start with the website from hell.

OBAMA: If you like your health care plan --

CROWLEY: -- and his broken you can keep your insurance promise.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER, (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: When we get to January 1st, it will be clear that more Americans will have lost their health insurance than will sign up under the new Obamacare policies.

CROWLEY (on camera): As it happens, the final moments of 2013 are the tee up for the politics of 2014. Shutdown versus meltdown, let the midterm elections begin. Oh, and happy New Year.

Candy Crowley, CNN, Washington.


BASH: Thanks, Candy. Well as you can see, a lot to unpack from 2013.

Let's bring in our political panel. Hillary Rosen, CNN political commentator and Democratic strategist A.B. Stoddard, associate editor of The Hill and Ramesh Ponnuru, senior editor of "The National Review."

I want to start actually with some news about Obamacare. Some big numbers that we got yesterday and today. Two million site visits. The call center has received more than 250,000 calls. 129,000 provided their e-mail addresses. Now, this probably isn't that much, but considering how far down they were before, it's progress. What do you think, A.B.? Do you think if this continues to get better with regard to the website, that it's going to be a much better political issue for Democrats, or is it much deeper than the website?

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, THE HILL: Well, I think the website is not the only problem with Obamacare right now. There are other challenges the program faces. I think if this ends up being a success, it will be the legacy of this president, I think it will exonerate Democrats as well as President Obama. Right now, the problem with all the new traffic in the last few days on the Web site is that just because you become an enrollee doesn't mean that you are an insured person.

BASH: Right. You have to pay --

STODDARD: So, that is a real problem. No one's telling us that the insurance companies had to be paid for these policies. This will be another headache in January when people find out that they weren't actually insured.

BASH: How much is the White House preparing for that, for another sort of round of oh, my goodness, people think they have health care, they lost their health care which is why they rushed to sign up for January 1st and oops, didn't realize they had to pay or the government website didn't connect with the insurers and they don't even know they have the insurance?

HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, if you've signed up, you know you do have to pay. There are pretty clear instructions on this. And most people don't think they have something without paying for it. So, I think this is kind of a made-up problem.

My sense is this is -- we are still going to have, you know, back and forth over coverage over the next six months. But I do think that it's going to even out enough that it's not going to be much of a factor in the election, and it's obviously clear that it's going to take a year or two for people to really see the benefit of this law over the long term. But politics, I think, is going to move beyond this. BASH: That's what I want to ask you, Ramesh. Do you think that Republicans have put too many of their eggs -- frankly all of their eggs -- in the Obamacare basket. And what if it does get better, then what are you going to run on?

RAMESH PONNURU, SENIOR EDITOR, NATIONAL REVIEW: I don't think the Republicans are all that worried about the plan working out as promised. Look, the target was seven million enrollees in the exchanges. I don't think it is at all realistic to think that that is going to happen. I think they're going to fall far short of that. There is still going to be a lot of people who have higher premiums, there are going to be a lot of people as Boehner said in that clip that we saw, we could very well have a situation where we have fewer people with health insurance as a result of Obamacare.

ROSEN: This is what's going to happen, I think. You'll have the president come out, State of the Union, and over the next several weeks, really focus on the middle class, on raising the minimum wage, on income inequality. Those economic issues are going to start to take center stage for Democrats again.

And the entire Republican campaign for next year is going to be on trying to prevent people from getting health insurance. That is just not going to fly. I think ultimately -- what are you going to do for people -


ROSEN: What are you going to do for people? You don't do something for people, you're not going to win.

BASH: Let me look ahead to a fun subject for political junkies like all of us, which is 2016. I know we're just getting into 2014 next week, but go with it here. Republicans -- we have people who I cover in the Senate, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and so on. What is your sense of how people are really getting ready behind the scenes? Because it isn't too early.

STODDARD: They are getting ready behind the scenes. It's never too early. Hillary Clinton on the other side obviously is getting herself all prepared so she's in a position if she wants to run. And if you're not as famous as she is, you better have gotten started already.

I think this is the challenge to the Republican party. I think that Obamacare will be an issue in this election. I don't know that it's turned around politically by the heat of the election campaign in September of 2014. Lots of changes this year that will come, lots more shoes to drop. Republicans will have a great 2014. They will hold the House. They may pick up the Senate.

And they are going to look around as a party, having not unified, having not coalesced, having not repaired all the damage, the divide of their party, and they will say we have -- the Tea Party will say we had a great 2014 election. And they will want to really, really have a conservative nominee while the establishment will say that's not going to win the White House.

BASH: And Ramesh, you think they'll get one? I mean, Ted Cruz, does he have a better chance if Republicans do well or maybe not as well, his chances will be lower because the Republican establishment, so to speak, will be emboldened?

PONNURU: The party establishment does tend to win presidential nominated contests for the Republican Party. The question now is is there so much sort of inflammation on the conservative side that that changes. People say that, but they say it every cycle.

ROSEN: What's interesting about 2016 for Democrats is our candidates are not going to be blocking things in Congress. We're going to have nothing -- our folks are going to have nothing to do with Congress. All of Republican politics are going to be dictated in the Senate and the like by those candidates who are positioning themselves for 2016.

BASH: We'll be watching and I'll be walking the halls and I'll be reporting back to you on it. Ramesh, Hilary and A.B., thank you very, very much.

When we come back, Christmas festivities are already underway at the Vatican where Pope Francis will celebrate his first Christmas mass. We'll go live to Rome next.

Plus, a new study says some foods that have been considered dangerous for pregnant women might actually prevent food allergies for their children. That's ahead.


BASH: Welcome back to THE LEAD. The World Lead, his acts of compassion and his common touch have captivated the world over the last nine months. Today, during his first Christmas mass as Holy Father, Pope Francis is telling the faithful that Christmas is a season for giving, but that doesn't mean a wine chiller from Brook Stone. New CNN poll shows Americans are absolutely wild about this new pope. Among American Catholics, approval is at almost 90 percent, higher than at any time that Pope John Paul was in his last decade in power. He will soon be declared a saint.

CNN's Erin McLaughlin is live in Rome. So Erin, the pope's Christmas message, what is it and more importantly, how different is it and the feel there from years past?

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Dana. Well, I think the Catholic Church's message during the Christmas period in general is a liturgical one that Jesus was born on Christmas Eve, the savior of the world. We heard from the pope in his homily today, the message that Jesus was also born into poverty, that he is the light that brightens the darkness. He said throughout the past nine months of his papacy, Pope Francis has emphasized the impoverished, the disenfranchised, the less fortunate and his message on Christmas is no different.

On Saturday he addressed the governing body of the Roman Catholic Church there and emphasized the importance of the church's service, that he wants a governing body that gets out into the community and actually helps the people. Then he led by example, spent the next three hours at a local hospital visiting sick children, meeting with their doctors, bringing Christmas cheer. Then yesterday, there was this historic moment, the two popes met for the very first time to exchange Christmas greetings.

Francis spent 45 minutes with benedict, a sign that this is not your normal or usual papacy. Then also not normal, the role of the Vatican in reaching out really at a grassroots level to the poor, the pope's Christmas gifts this year, he gave 2,000 emigrants at a local shelter prepaid international phone cards so that they might be able to phone home during the festive season. Again, emphasizing this role of the church in helping the poor during the Christmas season -- Dana.

BASH: Erin, we're all watching from afar. You're there. You are in Rome in Vatican City. What do you see there maybe that we don't see that makes this pope so popular, even among atheists?

MCLAUGHLIN: I think it's just this idea that the pope is so inclusive. Last week was his 77th birthday. He invited four homeless men plus their dog into the Vatican for breakfast and to celebrate mass. I don't know many people that would do that, let alone the pope. So just this idea that he doesn't speak Vatican-ese, he speaks the language of the people. I think that really resonates with people around the world.

BASH: Very well put. He doesn't speak Vatican-ese. Thank you, Erin, and Merry Christmas.

Be sure to tune in for live our coverage of the pope's first Christmas mass. That special is tonight, 6:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

Coming up on THE LEAD, tomorrow isn't just Christmas Day. It's also one of the biggest movie days of the year. What's worth seeing? That's next.


BASH: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Time for our Pop Lead, Martin Scorse's film "The Wolf of Wall Street" hits theatres tomorrow, but you really have to make a time commitment if you want to see Jonah Hill wear false teeth because the movie is three hours long. That's right, three hours long. Ben stiller is the "Secret Life of Walter Mitty," also coming out tomorrow. Both films are getting a ton of promotion.

Not "Anchorman 2" level promotion but enough that you know they're hitting theatres. Which of these films should be on your must-see list this holiday season? Joining me now with his holiday pick is David Edelstein, chief film critic for "New York" magazine and for CBS Sunday Morning. Big movie day tomorrow, what are the top picks?

DAVID EDELSTEIN, CHIEF FILM CRITIC, "NEW YORK" MAGAZINE: Well, if you live in New York or L.A., you have to see my favorite film of the year which is "Her" which is Spike Jones' amazing love story about a man who falls in love with his operating system. It has a kind of dirty joke premise. It does get erotic, but it's actually the most romantic love story I think I have seen in years. It's beautiful. It's lyrical. It's funnyand it's fundamentally about humans trying to break through the barriers of our selfish souls.

BASH: What else? Anything else --

EDELSTEIN: Well, American hustle is everywhere, and this is a great rollicking comedy about a lot of con artists who try to remake themselves, you know, as the American dream says we can. It's loosely based on the Abscam scandal of the late '70s, which means the most outrageously tacky clothes and come-overs you have ever seen. It's fundamentally a serious movie about the government throwing over the little guy. The FBI comes off as a bunch of bums who aren't really concerned about the social welfare.

BASH: Amy Adams is in that movie. She's in "Her." Is this a new rule in Hollywood, she must be in every movie made?

EDELSTEIN: Amy Adams is wonderful in both films. In one, she's a sort of girl next door. In the other, she's photographed, in "American Hustle," as a bombshell. She has -- I won't even go into it. But David O. Russell, the great director, does begin many shots by kind of with the camera sort of on her feet and going up her legs, and it's very clear that he adores her and the camera adores her, too. She's wonderful.

BASH: This is an appropriate time to turn to family. What families should be going to see if they're sort of getting stir crazy tomorrow and want to go to a movie?

EDELSTEIN: I have to confess I have not seen "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty." I'm still really stuck on Disney's "Frozen," which manages to be both funny and romantic and deeply, deeply feminist even insofar as, you know, the princes don't come to the rescue. It's really sisters doing for sisters. It's really about how very close siblings are torn apart and how they come together in the end. That is the true magic of the film. The songs are lovely, the vocal performances, it's lovely.

BASH: What I've read is that they found a way to try to lure younger boys in to try to convince them this isn't a movie about princesses. Think that's accurate?

EDELSTEIN: Well, I think most of the Disney movies are machine tooled on one level. They try to hit all the demographic bases, parents, girls, or boys. Sure, there are plenty of men for them to identify with. But I think primarily it's a movie that reminds us all that one of the central relationships in this world, one of the magic relationships, can be between two sisters.

BASH: So what should people not waste their money on? Movies are not cheap these days.

EDELSTEIN: Well, the worst movie of the year I think is so hilariously bad that maybe people might want to see it. It's called "Labor Day" directed by Jason Wrightman from a film. It's the most daffy, romantic fantasy about an escaped murder who takes refuge with a mother and essentially fatherless boy, but he doesn't abuse them. He sits down and he makes chili and teaches them how to do a pie crust.

You want to use lard and butter. You want to make it hard, cut it in and use your hands. Then he helps, teaches the boy how to catch a baseball and fix leaks and makes love to the woman. He ties her up first because she has to be able to pass a polygraph test and say she was taken against her will. So you have bondage and how to make the perfect pie crust. It is so hilarious. I don't like laughing at Kate Winslet.

BASH: That actually makes me sad because she's such a beautiful actress.

EDELSTEIN: She is. She's one of my favorites.

BASH: This one is a miss?

EDELSTEIN: She does a lot of conviction here. There is something very beautiful about the performance. But it's also kind of a laugh riot, sadly, sadly a laugh riot, a sad laugh riot.

BASH: Listen, that's what the movies are all about, right?

EDELSTEIN: It is supposed to push -- conflicting emotions are good.

BASH: Absolutely. David Edelstein, thank you for all that, very important advice.

EDELSTEIN: Thank you.

BASH: Even Santa with his stealthy pixie dust smokescreens can't escape the NSA. OK, it's not the NSA. It's Nrad that's tracking him. Right now, it looks like he's somewhere over Africa. Norad provides updates on Facebook, Twitter and by e-mail. You can even call to get an update from a live elf.

In other buried news, peanut allergies are one of the most common and deadly and if you want your child to avoid them, start them early, really early like way early. A new study says mothers who started eating peanuts during pregnancy may build up a child's tolerance for them and the more women ate, up to five servings per week, the stronger the result. But don't stuff mom's stocking full of planters just yet.

That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Dana Bash. Merry Christmas, everyone. I turn you over to my friend, Brianna Keilar, who is filling in for Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.