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1.3 Million Americans Lose Unemployment Benefits; Fight Over Benefits: More Than Words?; Shirley Maclaine's Award-Winning Career; Riding Into The Sunset?

Aired December 27, 2013 - 16:30   ET


JOE JOHNS, CNN GUEST ANCHOR: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Joe Johns filling in for Jake Tapper. In our Politics Lead, tomorrow's the day that unemployment benefits run out for over a million Americans, but what exactly does that mean?

Tom Foreman is here to bring us the details. Tom, who specifically is this going to affect and how much is it going to cost them?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is targeted, Joe, first at the people who are the long-term unemployed. This doesn't mean there are no unemployment benefits. There still are. If you become unemployed, you will collect benefits as you always would, but once you get past 26 weeks, you get into this area where the government has been providing extra benefits. That's what is going away at this point.

How much? The people who have been receiving those extra benefits as it's dragged on have received about $300 a week on average. Bear in mind, if you have a couple teenagers, a family of four, this amount would probably cover half to two-thirds of your food bill -- or your food would eat up half to two-thirds of that, then you don't have much left for other bills you might face.

Overall, this is 1.3 million people who will be immediately affected. Some of them may have been on this extended aid for months and months and months. Some may have been on for a week or two, but that's how many will be affected and it's not even around the country. If you look at this map, given to us by the focus at Pew, you can see the darker areas here up in New Jersey, New York, Florida, Illinois, Texas, and California.

These areas are hit very hard by this. Many more people in those areas will be affected simply because there are more people there who have been unemployed longer.

JOHNS: Tom, you talk to some people on Capitol Hill, they say this isn't just a fiscal matter, but also a practical and philosophical one. If the government finally stops helping some of these folks, the rationale is maybe they will actually find work. Is there evidence of that?

FOREMAN: Well, there's a really strong belief in this town among some people in the political circles, this is what they essentially say. Yes, the government will save about $25 billion, $26 billion in the coming year by doing this, and people may accept previously rejected jobs. People may say maybe I can't be paid as much but I do need to work. Maybe I think this job is not up to my skills but I do need to work. That is the theory that they believe in.

They would like to see some evidence of that if they get a chance to make it happen. This is the trick. Long-term unemployed workers are less likely to find work. They often have a compendium of problems that made them long-term unemployed and the last big question in all of this, if you take that money out of the system, what impact does this have on the economy. We don't know that. We'll have to find out how it plays out -- Joe.

JOHNS: Tom Foreman, thanks so much for that.

President Obama admonished Congress for not extending unemployment benefits before he left to go on vacation last week. Listen.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: When Congress comes back to work, their first order of business should be making this right. I know a bipartisan group is working on a three- month extension of this insurance. They should pass it. I'll sign it right away.


JOHNS: The White House today released a statement from the head of the National Economic Council lamenting the expiration of those benefits and pushing for an extension, but that frustration did not keep the president from signing the budget bill yesterday while on vacation in Hawaii. So is this the next grudge match in Congress when everyone gets back from break, or is it going to be put on the back burner?

Let's bring in our political panel. Doug Thornell, the senior vice president of the SKDKnickerbocker and a Democratic strategist, Susan Page is the Washington bureau chief for "USA Today," and Brad Dayspring is communications director for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

So Brad, you work with Senate Republicans, you used to work with Majority Leader Eric Cantor. I want to read you a statement from Nancy Pelosi. "For the Americans affected by this Republican inaction, there's no time to waste. The first item on Congress' agenda in the New Year must be an extension of unemployment insurance. That must be our priority on day one." She calls it Republican inaction. What do you call it? Do you think Republicans are actually going to be willing to talk about this?

BRAD DAYSPRING, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, NATIONAL REPUBLICAN SENATORIAL COMMITTEE: What I think is that the goal of unemployment insurance is to do one thing, get the long term unemployed back to work. I think Congress' first priority should be to look at creating jobs, which it hasn't done for far too long. The president came into office promising to create jobs. Statistics will show you a mixed bag on that but the truth is that there are still one million -- there are one million fewer jobs today than on the day the president took office.

There are still three times as many unemployed Americans as there are available jobs. So we can talk about unemployment insurance and get into the political debate, but the reality is we need to find ways to get people back to work and we need grow the economy. What are Nancy Pelosi and President Obama doing about that?

They're talking about raising the minimum wage, which won't help one person get back to work. They are stifling job growth with things like Obamacare, which hurts small business employers, which create jobs for people who are long term unemployed, and they are talking about failing to do things that can create jobs like the Keystone pipeline or like exploring for American energy. So if we want to have a real discussion about helping the unemployed, let's talk about creating jobs for them.

JOHNS: Brad, did the Democrats make a mistake, did they miscalculate by not fighting harder for this?

DOUG THORNELL, SENIOR V.P., SKDKNICKERBOCKER: Everything Brad said is fine and good, but it doesn't deal with the answer why won't Republicans do something to extend unemployment insurance. House Democrats brought it up before they left. It was blocked by House Republicans. This is an issue that polls very well with Republicans and Democrats. In fact, there was a poll in five Republican districts that showed 60 percent support for it even in John Boehner's district.

Economically, it is a good issue for jobs. In fact, the CBO said that if you extend it for three months, it would create about 200,000 jobs. So the idea that this isn't an economic issue is dead wrong. There's no economist out there that would tell you that -- we can talk about everything that Brad said, but the fact is we have a pending deadline which is tomorrow.

And not to mention that over the next six months, there's an additional 1.9 million Americans who will lose long-term unemployment insurance. We can talk about Keystone and all other that stuff, but it's not doing anything for these people who are going to be out of luck.

DAYSPRING: Of course, it's an economic issue. No one is debating that. I would actually argue it's a moral issue as well. Creating jobs for people who have been out of work a long time is a moral issue. I think it's one of the defining issues of our time. You have millions of Americans who are out of work, 11 million long term unemployed in this country. Extending unemployment is not going to help those people so extending --

THORNELL: All right, all right. I don't get that. It's a political whim of the day. If you want to solve the problem, look at is this working. No, it isn't. What can we do that will work?

JOHNS: Let's get to the good stuff. Susan, winners and losers, 2013, who is your winner?

SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "USA TODAY": My winner would be the marriage equality movement. We have seen such incredible momentum behind the effort to recognize and allow same sex marriage now permitted in 18 states, twice as many as at the beginning of the year.

JOHNS: Brad, who is your winner?

DAYSPRING: Politically, George W. Bush is a big winner in 2013. Had a great library built for him, welcomed a grandchild and has conducted probably one of the most classy post-presidencies that can be a lesson for any future president.

JOHNS: Doug Thornell?

THORNELL: Secretary of State John Kerry has persuaded the Syrians to give up their chemical weapons. He's worked to get the Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table and now he's worked on that agreement with the Iranians on nuclear weapons. He's had a really good year. He's been pretty much like the Energizer bunny since he started op out.

JOHNS: Quickly, Susan, losers, 2013.

PAGE: Immigration reform. That was the thing that was going to pass this year with the pathway to citizenship for the millions of people who are here as undocumented aliens and that has not happened. It's not really likely to happen in the next year, either.

JOHNS: Brad, your loser for 2013?

DAYSPRING: It's Senate Democrats who are going to be taking President Obama's baggage to the polls in 2014. Republicans are now tied or ahead in eight key battleground states within single digits or more.

JOHNS: Doug, 5 seconds, loser.

THORNELL: Loser? I would say the Republican rebrand. Remember that? It's not happened and Republicans still have problems with Hispanics, with women, with young voters, and this unemployment insurance is one of the reasons why they're still tanking in the polls.

JOHNS: Susan Page, Doug Thornell, Brad Dayspring, thanks so much.

When we come back, she's an Oscar-winning actress with a 60- year career in Hollywood, but is her role on the British hit show the one that got her the most attention now?


JOHNS: Welcome back to THE LEAD. In our Pop Lead, Shirley Maclaine will turn 80 next year, but age hasn't slowed down her career. She plays Ben Stiller's mother in the just released film "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" and has two other movies set for release next year.

She recently sat down with CNN chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, and she tells Gloria that in addition to palling around with legendary rat pack pals like Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, Jack Kennedy was also no stranger.


SHIRLEY MACLAINE, ACTRESS: I just remember sitting in the car with John Kennedy on top of Mulholland Drive talking about film and power and entertainment. That's all we did was talk.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: OK. You were backstage when Marilyn Monroe sang happy birthday at the Garden to Kennedy? What was that about?

MACLAINE: There's a back story to that. Marilyn wouldn't come out of her little dressing place because she, I don't know, didn't like the dress, or I don't know what was or wasn't happening and they asked me if I would sing. There I was an understudy again and they asked me if I would sing happy birthday to the president if indeed Miss Monroe didn't come out. Well, at the very last moment, she came out.

BORGER: She did.

MACLAINE: But I was right back there thinking I wonder if she'll finish the song. She finished him off.

BORGER (voice-over): Maclaine found her natural habitat with the rat pack, the notorious bad boys of Hollywood.

(on camera): I have to show you this picture we found of you with two of your favorite memories of the rat pack, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra.

MACLAINE: Is that Jack Carter?

BORGER: Yes, I think it is. So what was it like being the girl in the rat pack?

MACLAINE: I was the one who would pick up the crackers and the jelly beans and answer the door, and I always told them the truth. I really did. That's why I think they liked me.

BORGER: Did it ever get romantic?

MACLAINE: Never. No, no. I had a crush on Dean for about 15 minutes.

BORGER (voice-over): She liked Sinatra, too, and discovered how helpful he could be.

MACLAINE: A couple of times when I went on the road with my show and there was some union problems at whatever theatre we were playing, you know, you don't mess with the union when they've got -- I would call Frank. He would say yes, I've got people. Next thing I knew, there was no union problem.

BORGER: Maclaine looks back on her rat pack days as a time when Hollywood stars weren't so perfect.

MACLAINE: They were human beings who were so primitively talented on all levels, and they loved the mistakes of the moment.

BORGER (on camera): What do you mean by that?

MACLAINE: Well, they didn't like perfection. They didn't like to rehearse. They didn't like to be aware of what was happening so that they wouldn't look ridiculous. They loved looking ridiculous because they knew they were icons. They knew they were so especially talented that the audience couldn't relate to them because who was as talented, so when something happened on the stage or even in a movie and it was knocking them off their pedestal, they loved that. They were very aware of how smart that was.

BORGER: Does that happen in Hollywood now?

MACLAINE: In my opinion, no. Everybody wants perfection. Even if they're playing a disheveled idiot on the street, they want to know exactly what's going to happen.

BORGER: Do Washington and Hollywood have anything in common?

MACLAINE: Yes. They both want to be understood. They both want to entertain. They both want to learn the secrets of how to win an audience with comedy. They both want to look good. They both want high ratings. They both want the right wardrobe mistress. They both want -- they want to learn the secrets of exercising power without seeming dictatorial.

BORGER: What if Shirley Maclaine had gone into politics instead of show business?

MACLAINE: I don't think I was ever that nuts. They asked me -- how old was I? I guess I was in my 50s. A bunch of people with money came and asked me if I would run for the Senate from California. Not interested. I think I said sure, I'll do it, but if I win, I want at least eight weeks a year to play Vegas.

BORGER (voice-over): She needed a larger stage and her signature moment came in a movie.

(on camera): You have to go back to the Oscar, "Terms of Endearment" the famous scene. You the mother are frantic to get your dying daughter a painkiller and you scream.

MACLAINE: All she has to do is hold on until ten and it's past ten! Give her the shot, do you understand me? Get your dying daughter a painkiller and you scream. Give my daughter the shot! Thank you very much. One take.

BORGER: One take?

MACLAINE: One take.

BORGER (voice-over): Maclaine is convinced that real life isn't done in one take. She's a believer in reincarnation and other worlds.

(on camera): Some people say you're kooky. Are they right?

MACLAINE: Yes. I want to hear about the un-kooky part. Have I earned the right to have that, too? I'm really interested in that.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Shirley has been fearless and she has been honest and she's tackled complicated characters and she's revealed a grittier, deeper truth.

BORGER (voice-over): She's still doing it, as the visiting and formidable American mother on "Downtown Abbey."

MACLAINE: You think the British have a lock on Grande Dames?

BORGER (on camera): So you're having fun?

MACLAINE: Yes, yes.

BORGER (voice-over): For the first time, the Kennedy Center honor is a family affair. Warren Beatty got his in 2004.

(on camera): Your younger brother got it before you. So what's that like?

MACLAINE: We have a lot to talk about. He called me and said well, OK, what's next. I said you have to get it first. That guarantees I'll get it. Maybe the Nobel Peace Prize for understanding there are other realities. That's when he hung up.


JOHNS: Our thanks to Gloria Borger for that.

Coming up next, John Kerry made it a holiday party to remember for Snoop Lion. Not sure if there's a song in the works but the secretary of state and the dog father collaborated to make it some Instagram gold. That's coming up next.


JOHNS: Welcome back. Time now for today's Buried Lead. Horse-drawn carriages in New York could be about to go giddyup and go away. They have been a fixture in Central Park for years, but if some activists have their way, this part of the romantic past might be going the way of the cigarette.


JOHNS (voice-over): If you were hoping for a romantic horse-drawn carriage ride through New York's Central Park, you had better do it this week.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We just got married!

JOHNS: Those romantic rides like this one in "Barefoot in The Park" may be coming to an end. Michael Bloomberg hands over the reins of the city to Mayor-Elect Bill De Blasio on January 1st. He wants the carriages off the streets as he spelled out during his campaign in October.

BILL DE BLASIO, MAYOR ELECT, NEW YORK CITY: We are ending horse carriages in New York City. That would be my plan, my administration's plan.

ALLI FELDMAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NYCLASS (via telephone): No tourist comes to New York City just to ride on a horse carriage.

JOHNS: Alli Feldman is executive director of NYClass, an animal rights group that's leading the charge against the horse-drawn carriages because of accidents like these over the last two years.

FELDMAN: It's not a question of whether or not to stop horse carriages in New York City. It's just a matter of when.

JOHNS: Instead, NYClass is proposing replacing the horse-drawn carriages with these electric antique cars driven by the same handsome cab operators who drive the carriages.

STEPHEN MALONE, HORSE CARRIAGE DRIVER: The horses are the star. It's not the car, not the carriage, it's not me. He's the star. That's what people come for. You can't create that with an electric car. You will never create it. Kids can't pet fenders. They pet horses.

JOHNS: Stephen Malone and his horse, Tyson, have been taking tourists through Central Park for five years.

MALONE: We want to provide the service that we have been providing since the day the park opened in 1858.

JOHNS: He says accusations of mistreatment of the horses are false.

MALONE: All these horses, the only horses in this country that are regulated to get five weeks' vacation, which most Americans don't get.

JOHNS: Malone and the other carriage drivers don't plan on going away quietly. They are part of the powerful teamsters union. It will likely take a new law from city council to make any changes a reality. Things appear to be headed in that direction.

MALONE: The animal rights activists have won the day. The polls suggest that something like 70 percent to 80 percent of New Yorkers think that horse-drawn carriages in Central Park are a bad idea.

JOHNS: Errol Louis is a CNN political contributor.

ERROL LOUIS, ANCHOR, NY1: I'm not sure whether or not the council is going to find the strength and gumption to take a fresh look at this, look at the facts, notice things like the fact that only three horses have died in service over the last 30 years.

JOHNS: So if you planned on proposing to your fiancee in the back of a horse-drawn carriage in Central Park, you had better get moving, or start talking now about the romantic appeal of an electric antique car.


JOHNS: Just today, the mayor-elect's team reiterated his commitment to ban the horse carriages to CNN.

Thousands of people in Michigan, New England and Southeast Canada might have to wait another dark cold night to get their power back, thanks to the deadly ice storm. Michigan should warm up some tomorrow, but utility officials say melting ice could cause damage to power lines. The storm was one of the worst to hit Toronto in years. Mayor Rob Ford looking and sounding nothing like the guy we have seen over the past few weeks.


MAYOR ROB FORD, TORONTO: It wouldn't have helped. All it would have done is panic people. We don't want to panic people. We are moving ahead in a positive direction. You can see our numbers coming down dramatically. We are going to get through this. Folks, I hate to say it, it's going to take a few more days. We are down to 32,000. You do the math. It's getting slower and slower.


JOHNS: The ice storm is blamed for five deaths in Canada and 19 in the U.S. since Saturday.

We wanted to make sure you saw the moment when the Department of State met the Department of Snoop and no, we are not talking about the NSA. Snoop as in Snoop Dogg, the rapper posted a clip of the moment he and John Kerry met at the White House. They were at a party for the Kennedy Center Honors winners. They talked about Herbie Hancock. Kerry moves in for the fist bump and tells Snoop he gave good pound like the Elvis meets Nixon moment. You don't see stuff like this every day.

That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Joe Johns. Jake is back on Monday. I turn you over to Brianna Keilar, who is filling in for Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM."

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN GUEST ANCHOR: Thanks, Joe. Happening now, a federal judge rules it's legal for the NSA to collect data on almost every phone call made in the U.S. Will this now head to the Supreme Court?

And the economy may be bouncing back, but our poll shows most Americans don't feel it. Why some will soon feel even more pain.

And a story of a canine combat vet who used to sniff out roadside bombs in Afghanistan and now patrols the Pentagon. Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Brianna Keilar. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

A federal judge today ruled the massive collection of data on virtually every phone call in the United States is legal. That comes just a week after another federal judge said it's probably unconstitutional.