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The Parenting Problem Amidst Changing Attitudes About Pot; 41st Anniversary Of Roe v. Wade Decision; GOP Turning Focus To Anti- Abortion Stance?; NFL Star Takes On Rant Critics

Aired January 22, 2014 - 16:30   ET



In national news: It's a decades-old parenting problem neatly outlined by a classic PSA from the 1980s.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Who taught you how to do this stuff?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: You, all right! I learned it by watching you!


TAPPER: How do you tell your children not to use drugs if you have tried them yourself? It's problem our own president faces.

As he recently told the "New Yorker's" magazine David Remnick -- quote -- "As has been well-documented, I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life. I don't think it is more dangerous than alcohol. It's not something I encourage. And I have told my daughters I think it's a bad idea, a waste of time, not very healthy."

The president's comments are certainly a sea change from former first lady Nancy Reagan's iconic war on drugs and battle cries of just say no. Still, the president is not alone in his past indulgences. According to an August Gallup poll, 38 percent of Americans have smoked marijuana. That's 5 percent more than back in 1985.

Joining me now is a man who dedicated years of his wife to the war on drugs. From December 2001 to January 2009, John Walters was director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy for the Bush administration, shorthanded as drug czar.

Mr. Walters, thank you so much for being here.

What the president said, as has been pointed out, is contradicted by his drug czar. If you look at the Web site of the drug czar, which is part of the White House Web site, the fact that the president thinks that the -- what he called experiments in Washington State and Colorado, legalization of marijuana for recreational use, not medicinal use, should go forward, the White House Web site says -- quote -- "The administration steadfastly opposes legalization of marijuana and other drugs, because legalization would increase the availability and use of illicit drugs and pose significant health and safety risks to all Americans, particularly young people."

Why do you think there's a disconnect like that?

JOHN WALTERS, FORMER DIRECTOR, WHITE HOUSE OFFICE OF NATIONAL DRUG CONTROL POLICY: I think, like many people his age, baby boomers and post baby boomers, the president hasn't kept up with what's going on here.

And I think the science over the last 50 years has shown us this is more dangerous, not less dangerous. He knows some of this. If you read his autobiography, you can see when he does talk about using marijuana, he basically says what we have known. Marijuana makes you stupid.

He says he was stupid when he was doing it. The problem is, and for those of us who lived through this, we had a lot of friends who got stuck, had their lives derailed, maybe they got stuck longer.

Now we have research that says that sustained use from an adolescent onward can cause you to lose I.Q. points permanently. They cause other kinds of health problems. Marijuana has become more potent, more dangerous. Other nations who have tried this, like the Netherlands, are trying to reel back.

The president is kind of living in a recollection that people his age have, which has not kept up with the facts and kind of romanticizes youth.

TAPPER: Well, two things I want to ask you about. One is, first of all, the marijuana that he presumably smoked I guess in the '70s is different from the marijuana on the streets today. Right? What's available today is much, much more potent.

WALTERS: Yes. The federal government actually tracks this, not that he's reading it. But it was about 3 percent THC, the psychoactive ingredient. It's now over 10 percent.

And you buy varieties of high-potency marijuana with THC up to 20 percent. We know this is more addictive, it's more damaging, it can cause more psychosis even and both worsen it for people who have mental illness or trigger mental illness. That's all research that is relatively new. When he and I were young boys, that wasn't known, and people could say, it's just harmless fun. You can't say that anymore.

TAPPER: One criticism I have heard of you is that you tend to blur marijuana use and marijuana abuse.

Are you talking about abuse now when you talk about psychosis and severe mental health problems and I.Q.? You're not talking about somebody who smokes a joint once a month or something like that?

WALTERS: Well, the problem is, once you start using, the tendency is for a significant portion of the people who start to go on and become more heavy users.

Now, some of them do stop. The president says he used quite heavily for a while and then stopped. Some people have that. But some people don't. Some people go on and use other things. One they start getting high, getting high becomes a kind of habit.

And so the anecdotal example of somebody who "I once used drugs and I didn't have a problem now" doesn't negate the fact that we have over 50 percent of the people who need treatment for illegal drug use and abuse in this country--

TAPPER: Are marijuana--

WALTERS: -- are marijuana users. It's more important than all other drugs combined.

TAPPER: Let's talk about the reason why President Obama wanted these experiments to go forward in Washington State and Colorado.

He said -- quote -- "Middle-class kids don't get locked up for smoking pot and poor kids do. And African-American kids and Latino kids are more likely to be poor and less likely to have the resources and the support to avoid unduly harsh policies. We should not be locking up kids or individual users for long stretches of jail time, when some of the folks who are writing those laws have probably done the same thing."

Fair criticism?

WALTERS: We don't lock up kids, and we haven't locked up kids for a long time for--


TAPPER: Well, let's presume he meant 18- and 19-year-olds when he said kids, just for sake of argument.

WALTERS: Well, I'm saying we don't lock up people for that.

What he hasn't kept up with, the fact that the criminal justice system is now the single biggest source of referral to treatment of any institution in our country, including the health care system. So, we take people now and sort them with drug courts and diversion programs who have problems, who get into the criminal justice system because their lives are out of control.

Nobody is frisking people on the street and finding a baggy of marijuana. Most people who end up getting charged and deferred are involved in prostitution, theft, robbery, sometimes violent crime.

TAPPER: Bigger crimes than just possession--


WALTERS: When you're violent and you need to be incarcerated to not victimize others, that happens. But most what happens now is people are deferred into treatment and drug courts, and that has been a great increase both under Democrat and Republican administrations.

TAPPER: Former drug czar John Walters, thanks so much for coming in, braving the snow today. We appreciate it. We will let you go back and play with your kids.

Thank you so much.

Coming up next on THE LEAD: It's been the law of the land for more than four decades, but still thousands descended on Washington today in protest. And, this time, they have changed things up a little bit.

Plus, this cautionary note to any actors vying for a spot in the next Quentin Tarantino movie. Don't tell anyone about it -- what the legendary director is doing in retaliation after someone leaked his latest script.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

In the politics lead now: On this day 41 years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down the Roe v. Wade decision that paved the way for legalized abortion nationwide.

During her confirmation hearings, Justice Sonia Sotomayor called Roe v. Wade settled law, but you will find few agreeing with her amongst the thousands of anti-abortion activists who converged on the National Mall today for the annual March for Life, among them, a new president of the March for Life organization, one who seems to be trying a new approach and a new tone about an issue that is one of the most controversial and contentious in American discourse today.


TAPPER (voice-over): Since the case was decided in 1973, anti- abortion activists have come to Washington each January to protest on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade.

Today, tens of thousands of protesters marched through the snow and ice hoping to change minds on an issue that has divided the country for decades.

(on camera): What's your theme this year?

JEANNE MONAHAN, PRESIDENT, THE MARCH FOR LIFE: Our theme this year is adoption, and especially that adoption is a noble decision for a birth mother.

TAPPER (voice-over): Jeanne Monahan is the newly installed president of the March for Life. This year, she says, they're focusing as much on creating adoptions as on preventing abortions.

MONAHAN: We're trying to do whatever we can to encourage women who are facing an unexpected pregnancy to choose life.

TAPPER: Under Monahan's leadership, the tone here at the rally seems to have changed. There seem to be fewer of the incendiary images that are often the hallmark of anti-abortion rallies.

Adoption organizers are hoping the new tone can help change deeply entrenched ideas and opinions about abortion.

RYAN BOMBERGER, RADIANCE FOUNDATION: It really is just a natural component of fighting for the human dignity of all human life.

TAPPER: Ryan Bomberger is an outspoken adoption advocate in the anti- abortion movement.

BOMBERGER: We see a far smaller percentage of women who face unplanned pregnancies placing their children for adoption or making a loving adoption plan. It should be of concern.

TAPPER: Some critics say Monahan is trying to put a benign face on a very harsh and intrusive policy about the most difficult of decisions.

JON O'BRIEN, CATHOLICS FOR CHOICE: It's an opportunity for the anti- abortion movement to really show that they can put boots on the ground, that they actually have support out there.

TAPPER: But Jon O'Brien, the president of Catholics for Choice, says despite the crowds every year at the march, his opponents are falling well short of their goals.

O'BRIEN: Forty-one years later, and they have not overturned Roe v. Wade. The reality is that support for choice remains solid.

TAPPER: Anti-abortion activists point to laws changing in their favor in 23 states in 2013 as evidence of a changing tide on the subject.

MONAHAN: The majority of Americans are 100 percent pro-life. Pro- life is the new normal. And we're so excited. As you can see, there are hundreds of thousands of people here marching. They want to go to the Capitol, they want to go to the Supreme Court to tell them that we believe in life.

TAPPER: According to a CNN/ORC poll from last May, 36 percent of Americans said abortion should be legal in all or most circumstances; 42 percent said it should be legal in few circumstances; 20 percent said it should never be legal.

(on camera): But it's a minority of Americans who have the position of no abortion in any case.

MONAHAN: The majority of Americans strongly favor some restrictions on abortion, and Roe vs. Wade is essentially abortion without restriction.

TAPPER (voice-over): March for life does not support legal abortion in any cases, not rape, not incest, not when the life of the mother is at stake. MONAHAN: So we are 100 percent pro-life.

TAPPER: Monahan is hoping to change the march into a year-round operation. She says they have brought on a full-time Washington lobbyist to take their fight not only to the Supreme Court, but to Congress.


TAPPER: President Obama today issued a statement on the 41st anniversary of Roe v. Wade, saying -- quote -- "We recommit ourselves to the decision's guiding principle that every woman should be able to make her own choices about her body and her health. We reaffirm our steadfast commitment to protecting a woman's access to safe, affordable health care and her constitutional right to privacy, including the right to reproductive freedom" -- unquote.

Meanwhile, the Republican National Committee is holding its winter meeting here in Washington, D.C., which they have called Building to Victory. And as a hint as to what issues they may be building on in 2014, they left the schedule open for members to attend the March for Life.

And our Peter Hamby reported first on CNN that a resolution supported by 16 RNC members will be introduced at the meeting to -- quote -- "support Republican pro-life candidates who fight back against Democratic deceptive war on women rhetoric by pointing out the extreme positions on abortion held by Democratic opponents."

Is this a move to keep social issues a major component of the Republican Party, or is it about keeping women in the fold? And with midterm elections this year, what else is on the agenda for Republicans?

Well, with more on the meeting, let's bring in CNN national political reporter Peter Hamby and CNN chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash.

Peter, you reported on this resolution. Why now? Why focus on anti- abortion efforts this year?

PETER HAMBY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think, in the wake of Ken Cuccinelli's race last year in Virginia where he got absolutely drubbed by millions of dollars of ads on this war on women subject and he didn't articulate a forceful response and so, now I think you see rare agreement between grassroots conservatives and sort of party officials, establishment pragmatists who are really want to arm candidates with ways to talk about this issue that don't frankly offend women and swing voters.

So that's what this resolution is about. It's almost a messaging memo, advice to candidates about how to talk about issues citing polling data like you mentioned in your piece, like the ways in which the public supports some abortion regulations, how they oppose late term abortions, support parental consent, things like that. The problem of course is that they're kind of rolling the dice here because for a lot of Republican candidates this isn't about tactics. This is about principles. These are things that people believe in. So there might not necessarily be on message when they're talking about this issue this year.

TAPPER: Dana, you spoke with the RNC chairman and talked about him about the focus on this issue, abortion. What did he have to say?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A lot of what Peter just said specifically about the fact there are Republican candidates out there who are getting pummeled by Democrats because of this war on women focus which Democrats think is a winning focus for them and that Republicans do need statistics to be armed -- to fight back especially on issues that do poll pretty poorly for Democrats on some abortion- related issues. I asked him about that.


BASH: Isn't there a danger in Republicans being too aggressive on an issue that is divisive when it comes to the very people you are trying to attract, which are women?

REINCE PRIEBUS, REPUBLICAN PARTY CHAIRMAN: It's not divisive, 80 percent of the people in this country don't believe that after being five months pregnant that we ought to legalize abortion. Women don't agree with it. It's false.

BASH: That may be true, but once some of your candidates go down that road they risk stepping in a big political pothole.

PRIEBUS: Our candidates risk being silent and getting punched in the face on a bogus war on women. And I think they ought to fight back.


TAPPER: You know, it's interesting, one of the things that I've been hearing a lot this week during this anniversary is why aren't you talking about President Obama's record on abortion? When he was a state senator he voted for this extreme measure and when he was -- you know, he's the extremist, not Republican candidates and that seems to be what we're going to hear a lot more of in 2014.

BASH: I think so too. I think to sort of take it back a notch, you know, what Republicans are doing and they have been for the last year, talking about how to make sure 2012 doesn't happen again or gets worse, that they're narrowly getting the electorate of white guys. Before that, we have 2014. And the RNC chairman admitted this to me.

This is going to be a base election meaning they have to in a midterm election get out the core Republican voters and it is especially true talking about the Republicans' quest to take over the Senate because a lot of the key races are in states where President Obama lost to Mitt Romney. So those are actually -- it's fertile ground for getting these conservatives out. TAPPER: Peter, I want to fast forward to 2016 and put up a new Quinnipiac poll, the overall mixed numbers from some of the big Republican names, Christie, 12 percent, this is about who should get the nomination, Christie 12 percent, Paul 13 percent, Cruz 9 percent, Bush 11 percent, that's Jeb Bush, Paul Ryan 13 percent. There's not really a front-runner at all. They're all kind of huddling in the nowhere zone.

HAMBY: Yes, absolutely. I was actually just over at the RNC meeting talking to members about this. I was talking to a lot of them about Chris Christie and the swirling issues. Republicans still like Chris Christie. You know, they think he's frankly under attack by the media, the left, the liberal media, and wondering why we're asking such tough questions about him and not President Obama. That's their words.

I was in Iowa a couple weeks ago. I mean, every name comes up, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Paul Ryan. It's completely a wide-open field here. So I think frankly the Republican party's focus when you talk to, you know, party chairman or whatever, is on this year. I think that's a genuine sentiment. They want to apply a lot of the lessons of 2012 to this election cycle.

BASH: Don't forget what happens in this year, in November of 2014. It's going to determine a lot of what happens in 2016 with regard to who votes, if the Republicans get the Senate, and also how Republican candidates are going to see where their electorate is and what they have to do to get there.

TAPPER: Two of the best in the business, Dana Bash, Peter Hamby, thank you so much.

Coming up next, he says his rant was immature, but Seattle Seahawk Richard Sherman thinks it's the media who should be embarrassed. That's our Sports Lead and it's next.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Now it's time for the Sports Lead. He's been a cornerback most of his career, but this may be the first week Seattle Seahawks player Richard Sherman learned what it's truly like to play defense off the field. He's been making the media rounds taking on critics of this rant after his team's NFC championship win against the 49ers.


RICHARD SHERMAN, CORNERBACK, SEATTLE SEAHAWKS: I'm the best coroner the game! When you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that's the result you're going to get! Don't you ever talk about me!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who was talking about you?

SHERMAN: Crabtree. Don't you open your mouth about the best, or I'm going to shut it for you real quick.


TAPPER: Once again, I apologize to Mr. Sherman, but we're going to talk about him. The outspoken athlete hasn't shied away from the attention he's received, both positive and negative following the outburst. He's since apologized for verbally attacking another player, the aforementioned Mr. Crabtree, but he's also expressed disappointment at some of the reaction which included people tossing racial slurs at him on twitter and elsewhere.

He told CNN's Rachel Nichols that there's more to him than what people see on the field. In a news conference about an hour ago, he said some of the people who attacked him are the ones who should really be embarrassed.


SHERMAN: We're talking about football here and a lot of people took it a little further than football. I guess some people showed, you know, how far we've really come in this day and age. I was on a football field, you know, showing passion. You know, maybe it was misdirected, maybe things may have been immature, things could have been worded better, but this is on a football field.

I wasn't committing any crimes, you know, doing anything illegal. I was showing passion after a football game. You know, I didn't have time to sit there and contemplate what am I going to say. The people behind computer screens typing had all the time in the world to contemplate everything they were going to say and articulate it exactly how they wanted to. Some of it I'm sure they're pretty embarrassed about.


TAPPER: Joining me now is "Washington Post" sports columnist, Mike Wise. Mike, he brings up a decent point. We in the media and fans always complain about, you know, the boring interviews that athletes give, the Bull Durham thing about I'm just going to go out there and do my best and hope that God blesses me. He comes out right after winning the game, obviously very excited and we are judging him on this 15 seconds.

MIKE WISE, SPORTS COLUMNIST, "THE WASHINGTON POST": I'm not going to completely be his apologist, and I did think it was bad timing because his team did win the Super Bowl and he apologized for that. But all we want now is somebody that's not Bill Belichick in front of a microphone. We want authenticity. As a reporter and a watching American audience, we're tired of the vanilla stuff. We want authenticity.

Richard Sherman in that moment was very authentic and he spoke his truth. Yes, it was a little arresting and Erin Andrews didn't really know what to do with it, but nonetheless he was who he was in that moment.

TAPPER: Right, he wasn't humble. But then again, I don't know what kind of humility we expect these guys to display after winning a game like that in the manner it was won. He said something very interesting. Obviously race is a big part of this too as it is in so many debates in America today. This is what he had to say about being called a thug.


SHERMAN: This seems like it's the accepted way of calling somebody the "n" word nowadays. It's like everybody else says the "n" word and then thug, that's fine. What's the definition of a thug, really? Can a guy on a football field just talking to people, you know -- maybe I'm talking loudly and doing something, you know, talking like I'm not supposed to, but I'm not -- you know, there's a hockey game where they didn't even play hockey. They just threw the puck aside and started fighting. I saw that and I said, man, I'm the thug? What? What's going on here?


TAPPER: He has a point there too. He didn't curse. He didn't say anything really -- it was the manner, which he said it more than what he exactly said.

WISE: The greatest crime in American sports for an African-American athlete now, Jake, is arrogance. You could be a shoplifter and taking computers in college. You can be an actual criminal and be thought of more reverentially than you were if you were arrogant. I think it's wrong. There's something about it that bothers me.

It says a lot about us. When I was doing Shaquille O'Neal's autobiography several years ago, he said when David Robinson uses the saxophone -- and he goes off on these intellectual pursuits -- everybody says, David Robinson, great off the court interest. When I make a dumb movie and a bad rap album, they say Shaquille O'Neal, thug. There's a complete double standard there.

TAPPER: They were some bad movies, but I agree.

WISE: They were.

TAPPER: But he shouldn't be called a thug. He also shouldn't be called an actor.

WISE: It's almost covert racism. Richard Sherman is exactly right. When we see a hockey guy swapping fists with another hockey guy who happens to be white, all of a sudden those two people are enforcers.

TAPPER: I grew up a couple miles away from the Philadelphia Flyers. Those guys were thugs.

WISE: Right.

TAPPER: That's what they were.

WISE: Goons.

TAPPER: We loved them. Mike Wise, thank you so much for coming in. We appreciate it. CNN will air a full interview with Richard Sherman this Friday night on Rachel Nichols' show. Don't miss "UNGUARDED" with Rachel Nichols at 10:30 Eastern. Mike Wise, thanks again for being here.

Turning to the Pop Culture Lead, the same guys who throw folks in Gitmo can apparently come after you for wearing your Google Glass to the movies. An Ohio man got hauled out of a movie screening over the weekend after he was spotted wearing the high-tech device and suspected of trying to illegally record the film. He wasn't just questioned by local police or the mall cops, but by agents from the Department of Homeland Security.

Managers at the theater reached out to the Motion Picture Association of America when they suspected the guy of piracy and the MPAA sent in Homeland Security to investigate. Turns out the guy had his glasses on because they're prescribed. There was no evidence he tried to record anything on them. AMC Theaters apologized for the mishap and of course, offered him four free movie passes.

It was supposed to stay a secret as the contents of the briefcase in "Pulp Fiction," but the script for Quentin Tarantino's next movie is leaked and now the director tells "Deadline," he's so angry about it he's shelving the project. It is -- or was a western called "The Hateful Eight."

Q.T. isn't sure which inglorious bastard leaked it. He only gave the script to six people including actors Michael Madison, Bruce Stern and Tim Raw. He thinks one of them let an agent read it and then it was all over town. He tells deadline he'll publish the script and maybe return to the project in a few years.

Make sure to follow me on Twitter @jaketapper, all one word, and also @theleadCNN. Check out our show page for video, blogs, and extras. That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. I now turn you over to Mr. Wolf Blitzer. He is right next door "THE SITUATION ROOM" -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Jake, thanks very much. Happening now, breaking news. Israel says it's spoiled an al Qaeda- linked plot to attack the United States embassy and other key targets.

Syrian peace talks begin with a war of words and a tough warning from the United States.