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Diane Blair's Files Revealed; Employer Mandate Partially Delayed; American Sent To North Korean Labor Camp

Aired February 10, 2014 - 16:30   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to the LEAD. Now, it is time to Politics LEAD.

To paraphrase Justin Timberlake, they are bringing sex scandals back. Republicans, that is, anticipating a possible presidential run by former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton. They are talking about the Lewinsky scandal, which some of you may have only read about in history books. In fact, Republican senator Rand Paul has been discussing the scandal. We will get to that in a second.

But first, let's talk about the reporting done by the "Washington Free Beacon," a conservative newspaper which went through some archived documents belonging to a deceased friend of the Clintons, one which the Beacon writes quote "paint a complex portrait of Hillary Clinton revealing her to be a loyal friend, devoted mother, and a cutthroat strategist who relish revenge against her adversaries and complained in private that nobody in the White House was tough and mean enough."


BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Indeed, I did have a relationship with Miss Lewinsky that was not appropriate.

TAPPER (voice-over): For the first time ever, we have what are said to be the uncensored unfettered thoughts of Hillary Clinton about Monica Lewinsky and they were not nice. The plaintiff's comments allegedly were made to one of her closest friends and they are providing a fresh look at the events in the 1990s that helped cheat (ph) the politician.

Long time confidant and adviser, Diane Blair kept extensive records of her conversations with the Clintons, including with then, first lady trying to explain why her husband strayed with Monica Lewinsky. She thinks she was not smart enough, not sensitive enough, not free enough of her own concerns and struggles to realize the price he was paying, Blair wrote. According to the note, Hillary asked Blair to keep the president's actions with the quote, "narcissistic loony toon in context."

Ever since he took office, they have been going through personal tragedy, Blair recalled her saying. And immediately, all the ugly forces started making up hateful things about them, pounding on them." Hillary allegedly told Blair that the sexual contact Monica had with her husband was not meaningful. After Blair passed away in 2000, her files were donated to the University of Arkansas where she thought Political Science. Other Clinton files caused controversy in 2008 when most were still under lock and key. There were earlier suggestions that the Blair files would be available prior to Clinton's the 2008 race. Those issues came up in an MSNBC debate that year.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have just gone thought one of the most secretive administrations in our history and not releasing, I think, these records at the same time Hillary has been making a claim that this is the basis for your experience I think is a problem.

TAPPER: Blair's collection at the University of Arkansas was quietly opened in 2010. The "Washington Free Beacon" was the first one to dive in and report on the documents this week. Among the paperwork are confidential memos from campaign advisers about the Clinton's image as they ready for the presidential race in 1992.

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and tea but what I decided to do is to fulfill my profession which I entered before my husband was in public life.

TAPPER: Hillary Clinton's strengths have made an impression. As one memo penned by Clinton pollster noted, voters generally liked Clinton's intelligence and tenacity but they are uncomfortable with these traits in a woman. She needs to project a softer side, some humor, some informality. Fast forward to the White House in 1993.

H. CLINTON: I actually baked made some of these.

TAPPER: But Clinton was not willing to make every compromise. On thanksgiving day 1996, Blair recalled a phone conversation she had with Clinton from Camp David. I'm a proud woman, Hillary Clinton has quoted as saying. I know how to compromise. I have compromised. I gave up my name, got contact lenses, but I'm not going to try to be somebody I'm not.


TAPPER: December 1993 diary entry, Blair recalls Hillary complaining about women who were upset about the sexual harassments scandals surrounding moderate Republican senator Bob Packwood whose helped Clinton was seeking and help their reform. Clinton wrote, Blair, was quote "tired of all of those whiny women, and she needs Packwood on health care, I told her I've been bonding with creeps; she said that was the story of her whole past year." And then she mentioned an incident where 1990s romance novel cover model Fabio lifted her off her feet. Ah, the '90s.

For more on this special episode of "I Love the '90s," I want to bring in Ryan Lizza, CNN political commentator and Washington correspondent for "the New Yorker," Liza Mundy, staff writer for the "Washington Post" and program director at the New America Foundation and CNN political reporter Peter Hamby. Ryan, these documents were hiding in plain sight for four years at the University of Arkansas. Are the flood gates now open? Do you think people are now booking tickets down to Arkansas?

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: They should be because I think there is probably a lot more interesting information in here than what the Free Beacon which, let's be honest, their approach to journalism is generally sort of opposition research kind of approach. I will say that this -- kudos to them for finding this.

I've been looking through them today, the 40 pages that the "Free Beacon" posted and I think most people come away with sort of (INAUDIBLE) test. Will it, you know, if you love Hillary and you love that she's a fighter and tenacious and, you know, fights her enemies and wants other Democrats to toughen up, you will find that in these documents. On the other hand, I think it will play into the stereotypes that the right has about her as well.

TAPPER: What did you think, Liza, when you listened to -- especially what struck me was Hillary kind of not justifying her husband's infidelity but trying to explain it to a good friend of hers.

LIZA MUNDI, STAFF WRITER, WASHINGTON POST: Right. I mean, it does sound like rationalization, I would say. And I would agree with you, Ryan, that she uses the phrase pain threshold and she talked about how people in Washington have a pain threshold that is too low. It sounds like hers is pretty high, actually. But the comments about Lewinsky do sound to me like rationalization.

TAPPER: And Peter, you spent some time with Rand Paul. Rand Paul has made -- has talked a lot about Hillary and Bill. Here he is this weekend on c-span.


SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: Anybody who wants to take money from Bill Clinton or have a fund-raiser has a lot of explaining to do. In fact, I think they should give the money back. If they want to take a position on women's rights, by all means do. But you can't do it and take it from a guy who is using his position of authority to take advantage of young women in the workplace.


TAPPER: Now, I think it was Bill Clinton from whom I first heard the expression, if you see a turtle on top of a fence post, it didn't get there on its own. Is this a coincidence that all of these conservative sources are talking about Lewinsky?

PETER HAMBY, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: I think, not necessarily. I think that Rand Paul has actually shown that it's a potent message for Republicans at the moment. I think that he has crept up in the polls a little bit in the Republican primary polling which is no accident.

Look, I think what it does, also, is that it highlight the folly, frankly, of the Clinton ally strategy of not really responding to these stories or attacks on a day-to-day basis. They kind of say, she's a private citizen. We are not going to engage. She is not yet a candidate. There are people like Rand Paul, like America Rise in the research group who are willing to flood the zone with negative Hillary Clinton stories on a daily basis and a lot of this take on this response to Rand Paul has been, this stuff is old news.

In our news cycle now, nothing is old news. I mean, everything in here is really consumed, all of our media attention, even though some of the stuff is --

LIZZA: And I think, you know, some of it is, by definition, news, right? I mean, the fact that this archive is only recently been available and nobody has gone through it. I think it suggests that if she runs for president, we're going to be revisiting that era a lot more because now we finally have some of the papers, some of the real historical documents to tell the stories of the Clinton years. IT just haven't been available before and here there is a very complicated presidential library records act that governs what can come out from the Clinton administration. More and more of that is going to be available as we approach 2016. So, I think we're going to be doing more and more investigative journalism about that eight years.

TAPPER: Go ahead.

HAMBY: (INAUDIBLE) little news nuggets, I think there is some mentioned some added takeaways here that are might be really resonate in 2016, including that memo from (INAUDIBLE) that says Americans are skeptical of this notion of co-presidency, getting two for one. I mean, this stuff flared a little bit in 20008, but I don't think that's going to go away.

MUNDI: Her frustration as first lady, I thought, they were interesting. I mean, she talks about the fact I'm just a cheerleader in this post. I can't do actual policy. I'm really frustrated. If I had my druthers, I'd be shut up in a little room doing policy because I love policy.

HAMBY: And the real kind of visceral anger toward the news media, Hillary slips through.

LIZZA: Nothing is shocking, though. I mean, the Hillary Clinton, sort of, I think most of us know and frankly, that she has written about it, is all here, well plus and minus.

TAPPER: Blair was going to write a book but she died, I believe, in the year 2000 and these papers are supposed to be originally, according to the University of Arkansas, were supposed to come out in 2005, 2006. It took a few years behind that. You know, I haven't gone into the documents but I would love to see papers about health care reform. I would love to see the stuff about when she went to China, she had the U.N. conference on women and she said some bold statements on there. The internal debates on that must have been fascinating. There is probably stuff in here that doesn't only dredge up the more seeming side of things, I would think. MUNDI: Right. Although, I think, one consequence of having been in the public eye for so long, is that there is going to be this paper trail now. I mean, she's been in the public eye for more than 20 years and it's interesting to see this achievable material. I mean, it does feel like it has. It feels like history now. But it is going to be fresh and relevant.

HAMBY: That's one thing that I think is, frankly, pretty sophisticated about what Rand Paul is doing and I think he's a completely underrated politician. He is really, you know, talking about Hillary Clinton and we're focusing on the Monica Lewinsky stuff. But he is just raising the specter of the past when presidential elections tend to be about the future. I mean, just look at the front page of right now. It looks like 1998 all over again. You said --

TAPPER: Websites didn't look like that back then.

LIZZA: You're right about this is sort of a gold mine for historians and obviously the sex scandals of the Clinton years are the most salacious thing that first it come out. But if you want to know what happened in the Clinton years, having a contemporaneous diary like this is very helpful.

TAPPER: Right. Peter, Ryan, Liza, thank you so much. We appreciate it.

Coming up, more changes to Obamacare. Some breaking news. The White House announces further delays to some of the rules for employers. We'll have all of the details coming up next.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. We have some breaking news now. The Obama administration announced a short time ago some major changes to Obamacare's controversial employer mandate including delaying a key for a second year. Let me bring in senior White House correspondent, Brianna Keilar. Brianna, so explain this delay.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. This is a delay, Jake, to a key part of the law, which is the employer mandate. You know, there's that individual mandate, which says to individual Americans you have to get insurance. This is the one that says to companies, you have to provide it.

So this was supposed to kick in this year and had already been delayed for a year and what we've just learned a short time ago is that now companies who have employees from about 50 to 99 employees that they now will have an extra year to put this in place. This puts that employer mandate for them kicking in, in 2016 and then for ever larger companies, who have 100 employees or more, they now have more time to get their employees covered.

They have to have 70 percent of their employees covered by next year, by 2015 and then by 2016, they have to have 95 percent covered. But the idea here, Jake, and we should also mention that 50 employees or less, of that size, they are exempt from this. So this is giving more time both to, I guess you could say, medium-sized companies and to these larger companies, it gives them a little more time, although they will still adhere to 2015 for most of their employees.

TAPPER: Brianna, I'm sure the cynics out there will point out that this delays the mandate until after the midterm elections. Do we have any idea whether employers were pressuring the White House for this or there were political considerations as well?

KEILAR: There certainly were political considerations. There were a lot of businesses who were saying that this was a requirement that is tough for them. So this -- it's kind of double-edge sword though I think for the White House because on one hand, this allows them to put off this requirement beyond this pivotal midterm election.

President Obama one of his major political goals right now is to ensure that Democrats retain control of the Senate. So this kind of takes out some of the gunpowder there I think the Republicans would have but it's also, Jake, another admission of the problems with the law. There have been a number of changes, delays, fumbles and this is yet another one of those.

TAPPER: Brianna Keilar at the White House, thank you so much.

Coming up next on THE LEAD, Dennis Rodman's visit didn't exactly help secure his release. So who is offering to head to North Korea now to help Kenneth Bae?


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. In other world news, North Korea has rescinded an invitation for a U.S. ambassador to visit to discuss the future of detained American Kenneth Bae who has been held there since November 2012. This is the second time that North Korea has canceled the visit by Washington's special envoy on North Korean human rights.

No reason was given, though it's worth noting that North Korea opposes the annual joint military exercises by the U.S. and South Korean forces, which will take place later this month. One American did get into North Korea today, former U.S. ambassador to South Korea, Donald Greg, arrived in Pyongyang earlier today although it's unclear the purpose of his trip.

All this comes after news broke over the weekend that Kenneth Bae had been moved from a prison hospital to a labor camp. In a video released by a pro-North Korean newspaper that's based in Japan, Bae speaks out about the difficulty of doing hard labor for eight hours a day, but he also had a message for his family.


KENNETH BAE: To my family, just let them know that even though I am here, but I am still continue on, I have not lost hope and have for the given up on anything.


TAPPER: Joining me is Kenneth Bae's sister, Terri Chung and also the Reverend Jesse Jackson who has been meeting with the Bae family and has offered to travel to North Korea on humanitarian mission to try to free Kenneth Bae. Thank you both for being here.

Terri, you just heard the message to you and the rest of your family. Hearing his voice and seeing him in this video, can you tell us what that is like? It must be horrific.

TERRI CHUNG, SISTER OF KENNETH BAE: It is. I am glad that he is holding strong, but I'm really concerned about his health and the fact that he's been moved to the labor camp. You know, we're really discouraged by that.

TAPPER: How does he look compared to previous times you've seen film of him?

CHUNG: I think that he was looking better in the hospital three weeks ago. So it's a concern. But I'm hoping that he can come home soon. We're holding out hope for that.

TAPPER: And the fact that he's now in this labor camp, do you have any sense that this is permanent or is possible that it's just temporary?

CHUNG: I certainly hope not, Jake. Every day we hold out hope that there is going to be some good dialogue between the two countries that will lead to Kenneth's release soon.

TAPPER: Reverend Jackson, you have done this before. You have worked to secure the release of Americans being held prisoner overseas. How did you get involved in this case?

JESSE JACKSON, PRESIDENT, RAINBOW PUSH COALITION: Well, when he was first sentenced, we wrote a letter at that time and we got no traction, but than in the Dennis Rodman episode, it illuminated North Korea in a very different way and Kenneth Bae so we then wrote to the North Korean government again.

Also contacted the Bae family because we need some communication with our own State Department making these risk ventures. So this time around the North Korean ambassador here in the U.S. said that they were processing my letter, though nothing had been a response. I held high hopes that Ambassador King would go and have some impact and that was canceled.

So I wrote another letter to the president of North Korea and I would like to meet with him face-to-face to make a humanitarian plea to him to seek to work out some mutual respect, some recognizing each other sovereignty, each other's will to peace. In the end, we must fight for family unification. I hope that can happen.

TAPPER: The State Department, Reverend Jackson, was asked about your offer to travel to try to save Kenneth Bae. Here's what the deputy spokeswoman of the State Department, Marie Harf, had to say. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARIE HARF, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: We support the efforts, of course, of the family, but also of Reverend Jackson to bring Kenneth Bae home.


TAPPER: Have you been in touch with the State Department about this trip? It sounds like they are supportive.

JACKSON: Well, I haven't because we want to be respectful of our government and the North Korean government. At this time we're recycling the attention. We do the exercise and they do the missile threat and we must break that cycle of terror and fear and irritation and go another way.

I have found that whenever there is a war between the U.S. and North Korea and South Korea, behind the walls is always ignorance and fear and hatred and violence so I would hope that through some faith mission, we would be able to break a hole in this wall and the beginning of Mr. Bae would be such a good thing because whenever prisoners are released, it opens up some window of communication and communication is a key to the kingdom.

TAPPER: And I normally might challenge you on some of the things you just said, Reverend Jackson, but I know that you are about to embark on a mission of reconciliation with the leaders of North Korea and I don't think that would be constructive. Terri, have you or the Reverend Jackson heard from any leaders of North Korea specifically?

CHUNG: We have not. We're thankful to Reverend Jackson for making the offer to go and take on this humanitarian mission. We're just waiting and hoping that there is a positive response with their approval that Reverend Jackson would be able to travel to seek his release.

TAPPER: And Terri, let's assume that Kim Jong-Un or some of his employees are watching right now. What is the message you want to say to them?

CHUNG: We plead for mercy. We understand that under DPRK laws that Kenneth Bae has committed a crime. He has made an apology. Our family has as well. He's served 15 months of his sentence. He's currently back in the labor camp. He has health problems and we just plead with you to let him go and come back to his family and grant him amnesty.

JACKSON: Jake, he has repented and has been contrite. Now we hope for forgiveness and that would be a key. And it's not a political mission. We've talked to the North Korean ambassador here, but it's trying to slide through that door where there may be some possibility of a humanitarian plea. Please, let Kenneth Bae come home. It could be an opportunity to break the cycle of fear.

TAPPER: Reverend Jackson, having dealt with leaders like Kim Jong-Un before in the past when you've tried to release Americans held in situations like this, what works? What message works?

JACKSON: Well, direct appeal, number one, and an attempt to appreciate the anxiety and what they want. Often they want recognition of some sort. I remember when we got out of Syria, and made the appeal at that time to President Assad. We brought him back to the White House and President Reagan said, "What can I do for you, Reverend Jackson?"

I said, "Call Mr. Assad and say thanks," which was not our policy.

He called him. He said thanks. They talked. They never stopped talking.

So sometimes just a breakthrough of releasing a prisoner can be that break that lends itself to peace.

TAPPER: All right, Reverend Jackson, Terry Chung, we wish you the best.

Thank you so much.

That's it for THE LEAD.

I'm Jake Tapper.

I now turn you over to Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.