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Can Clintons "Bury The Blue Dress?"; Life For The "Undrafted"

Aired May 8, 2014 - 16:30   ET


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: -- a self- declared (inaudible). I think I won't expect an endorsement of the decision. However, realistic how many people actually vote, the fear is what happens after that. They presumably want to get close to Russia. They are slightly confused by Putin's comments, but I think they still feel that they are on his side to some degree. The larger and unknown fact here is what will Kiev do and the Ukrainian military do? They are saying that they will eventually move in. Many people preparing defenses inside the town for that day. Real concern and loss of life. That does happen -- Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Nick Paton Walsh, thank you, my friend. Stay safe.

Coming up on THE LEAD, she's been the poster girl for sex and scandal in the modern era even the former first lady allegedly called her a narcissistic Looney Toon. But now Monica Lewinsky is opening up. In an essay in "Vanity Fair," can her revelations derail Hillary's 2016 aspirations or just the opposite?


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. The "Politics Lead," remember when M.C. Hammer was the biggest music star in the planet and M. Night Shyamalan still made good movies? I love the '90s? I may not have an encyclopedic knowledge of N'Sync songs, but because the rest of the media political world is now engaged in I love the '90s, let's refresh our memories, shall we? President Bill Clinton indignantly stepping to the microphone and pointing at the millions of Americans watching at home and saying this --


FORMER PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: I did not have sexual relations with that woman.


TAPPER: What a difference a month and a grand jury investigation can make?


CLINTON: Indeed I did have a relationship with Miss Lewinsky that was not appropriate.


TAPPER: I'm having flashbacks. Now in the new issue of "Vanity Fair," Monica Lewinsky is trying to bury that infamous blue dress in an essay detailing how the oval office dalliance splashed across the world's front pages, still colors and mars her life. Sixteen years later, the 40-year-old former presidential flame is again stirring up the political world and has some thinking it could hurt Hillary Clinton's 2016 ambitions and others say the opposite.

Joining me now to talk about this, national political reporter for "The New York Times" Aimee Chozick, and editor-in-chief of Buzzfeed, Ben Smith. Guys, great to see you, thanks so much. So Lewinsky writes in her essay, quote, "despite what some headlines will falsely report about this piece, this is not about me versus the Clintons." What's it about then, Ben?

BEN SMITH, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, BUZZFEED: I think it's about her trying to reset her image and live her life and I mean, seek the privacy that you get in the pages of "Vanity Fair."

TAPPER: Right, exactly.

SMITH: There's a bit of contradiction there, but I think that's fine.

TAPPER: I think she's legitimately had a rough go of it for the last 16 years and wants to try to clear the air and take back the life to a degree. But Amy, you're on the Hillary beat. What do you think this means, if anything, beyond more fodder for the likes of me to talk about?

AMY CHOZICK, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, I think it's interesting. You know, in 2008, we saw that the 1990s didn't really stick to Hillary Clinton whether it was her husband's indiscretions or his accomplishments. You know, there's a funny dynamic in that. She can't take too much credit for his accomplishments and at the same time, she's not really to blame for his transgressions. Her approval ratings were at some of their highest ever during the Monica Lewinsky scandal and voters sort of like when she seems vulnerable and like the victim.

SMITH: It is hard to blame her for that one.

TAPPER: Right. It's interesting -- she did blame herself and Monica writes about this in the essay, some of the notes from the Diane Blair, Diane Blair was an old friend of Hillary Clinton. The University of Arkansas had her notes and one of the things it said in addition to Hillary calling Monica a narcissistic Looney Toon was Hillary blaming herself for the affair to a degree, which Monica wrote, disappointed her.

CHOZICK: I mean, I think it's interesting when you see Hillary Clinton over and over every day talking about girls and women and issues, and that essay was so much about feminism and where women, you know, who claim to be feminist came down on Monica so hard. I do think it's interesting and whether it's something Hillary Clinton will feel the need to weigh in on, I doubt it. But it does spark kind of concern.

TAPPER: To hear conservatives tell it though, Lynne Cheney, the former wife -- the wife of the former vice president was on Fox News the other night and she saw a conspiracy in this and she said that she wondered if "Vanity Fair," because it's a Democratic publication, or left-leaning, to a degree, if they had a hand in it, if this was blessed by the Clintons to get it out of the way before the 2016 Hillary run.

SMITH: And I think reporters have been trying to get this essay out of Monica Lewinsky for 15 years. It seems fairly unsubstantiated and crazy. What strikes me about the whole thing is there's a whole generation of voters who have no idea of what this is about, have this vague sense that maybe Monica did something with Bill Clinton and that it's all fine. It's hard to blame her everything for it.

We don't quite know who these people are but we don't think they did anything wrong and maybe there were words that we learned from the television during these hearings and had awkward moments with our parents and that's kind of it.

CHOZICK: I would point out that "Vanity Fair" published the 2008 article that was scathing about Bill Clinton's indiscretions.

TAPPER: He went off on a receiving line during the campaign.


TAPPER: He hated it so much, Bill Clinton.

CHOZICK: He called him a scum bag or something and he was called the comeback id. I would point out that article.

TAPPER: Let me read this. Lewinsky taking issue with how Hillary Clinton treated her in the middle of the scandal. Yes, I get it. Hillary Clinton wanted it on the record that she was lashing out at her husband's mistress but I find her impulse to blame the woman, not only me, but herself, troubling. Monica had no allies. She really -- she did something very brave. She refused to turn and wear a wire and try to get Bill Clinton and others, as the FBI tried to get her to do with Ken Star. How do you think feminists look, looking back?

SMITH: I don't want to speak for people now. I think at that moment the gravitational pull of the White House and of Washington politics, just everybody who is in that orbit, their ideology just turns into service of whichever team they are on and this is a moment when you totally saw that at play. Whether it was libertarian-leaning conservatives who should have left this alone or people in other moments might have stood up for Monica.

TAPPER: And I want to ask you about this because one of the other things that Monica addresses is another Republican, another possible presidential candidate, Republican Senator Rand Paul who had called the former president, Bill Clinton, a sexual predator. Monica says, no, this was consensual. She basically removed that from Rand Paul's, you know, talking points. CHOZICK: She does say it's consensual, but she also say that her boss took advantage of her. She did say that it was kind of expletive that a president takes advantage of an intern.

SMITH: This was a less prudish moment. There's an openness with which people can talk about what happened and laugh at it. It seems like less shocking.

TAPPER: And honestly it feels like we're in a world where it's like we're talking about Atari. It feels very much like we're talking about -- let's talk about frogger next. Amy and Ben Smith, thank you so much.

Coming up in the "Money Lead," some will go on to NFL fortune and glory and others will watch as round after round goes by in tonight's NFL draft and they'll never hear their names. Has college prepared them for life off the grid iron?

And the "Buried Lead," just don't set on any toes on your way up to the podium, it's graduation season and open season on commencement speakers. Are all ideas really welcome in these bastions of free thinking? Stay with us.


TAPPER: Some breaking news now, if you are in Dallas County, Texas, it may be time to seek shelter ASAP. I want to get right to our meteorologist, Chad Myers in the Severe Weather Center. Chad, what is the threat?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Big storm just rolled through the metroplex and is moving over the Johnson Freeway towards the bush turnpike here on the east side of Dallas moving right through there. The circulation is very close to Garland. If you're in this area, you need to take cover now. There are not a lot of basements in this area. If you have one, get in it. If you don't have one, get inside as many walls as you can. Usually a bathroom or closet is the safest place.

If a tornado hits it, the inside of the walls are almost always still intact. This is not a maxi F4, F5 unsurvivable tornado. We have a couple reports of damage and some injuries, but we'll keep watching it for you. If it gets any bigger, it will quickly move away from the metroplex because it's moving away at the northeast at 50 miles per hour. Don't try to chase it or look for it -- Jake.

TAPPER: Chad Myers, thank you so much. We'll stay on top of that story, of course, a tornado warning in the Dallas area. Now let's turn to the "Money Lead." Draft day finally here. The day that every football fan hopes for. Let's not draw on that. For a college football star, the move from Saturday to Sunday could mean a signing bonus in the tens of millions of dollars.

Another pile of millions in endorsements and tens of millions of eyeballs for the NFL and its TV partners, but those who do not hear the commissioner call their names may be left with a degree that frankly isn't worth the paper on which it is printed if they graduated at all. Sara Ganim is reporting on the miseducation of student athletes has gotten the NCAA's attention and is digging deeper on this subject right now.


SARA GANIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Going pro is just a dream. Even for the talented ones, few will ever make it to draft day. Instead for all of their hard work on the field, they get the promise of a free education. But more and more it's becoming clear that in many cases their degrees are worthless.

Mike McAdoo chose to play football for the University of North Carolina. Not for its winning record, but for its academic reputation.

MIKE MCADOO, FORMER UNC FOOTBALL PLAYER: He was talking academics. I was saying, you know what, we cannot promise your son that he's going to go to the NFL, but one thing we can promise him is he will get a college degree.

GANIM (on camera): And that didn't happen?

MCADOO: It did not.

GANIM (voice-over): Soon he found himself pushed into so-called paper classes where athletes were getting easy As in courses they never actually attended.

MCADOO: To be honest, I think the NCAA is kind of crooked.

GANIM: When the academic corruption was exposed, the NCAA decided not to punish UNC instead it went after athletes like McAdoo who lost his spot on the team eventually dropping out.

BOB ORR, ATTORNEY FOR MCADOO: The individual players were singled out, literally thrown under the bus, in my opinion, by the way the enforcement process works.

GANIM: Bob Orr is McAdoo's attorney.

ORR: I think the university hoped and the NCAA is compliant in the sense of, OK, we punished the players. Let's move on.

GANIM (on camera): What did the NCAA miss? They go after players and they miss a bigger problem at UNC. Is that what you're saying?

ORR: I don't think they missed it. They ignored it.

GANIM (voice-over): California Congressman Tony Cardenas wants to know if that's true. He's writing a letter to the NCAA asking why the organization is not taking a closer look at what he describes as academic fraud at UNC.

REPRESENTATIVE TONY CARDENAS (D), CALIFORNIA: We have way too many examples where people were not investigated, where universities were not investigated and you had people who admit that they are illiterate or they didn't get an education while they were performing at a wonderful pace on the field, on the court.

GANIM (on camera): Cardenas' questions are not potentially just embarrassing to the NCAA, they could have a big impact because if the NCAA has to admit that athletes at UNC or at any school are not getting an education, then what are they getting. And is that a win for those who say that college athletes need to be paid.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If it's caught, I think it's very serious consequences for the NCAA.

GANIM (voice-over): That's Tom McMillan, the former athlete turned congressman who now sits on the University of Maryland Board of Regions.

TOM MCMULLEN, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND BOARD OF REGIONS: Athletes are not given a college education. They step out of the university and they may have a degree, but they don't have an education. And that's the sad thing about it.

GANIM: A 2012 internal report done by UNC found this. Despite what one might imagine, there is no evidence that the counselors or the students or the coaches had anything to do with perpetrating this abuse. Here's the university's athletic chairwoman last September.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think there's a student on this campus that doesn't look for easy classes to balance out their schedule.

GANIM: But McAdoo says it was university athletic counselors that put him in those paper classes.

(on camera): Do you feel like the paper class system was forced on you?

MCADOO: It was. The whole thing is like the university knew what was going on and they knew I was taking paper classes and they kind of like, kind of swept it under the rug.

GANIM: Whistleblower, Mary Willingham, a former reading specialist at UNC who worked with student athletes backs them up.

MARY WILLINGHAM, WHISTLEBLOWER: We talked about them as paper classes. It wasn't a secret.

GANIM: In response, the university system announced it hired another independent investigator to take another look. But the NCAA is still not investigating UNC. Instead, this year it will consider redefining what role, if any, it will have at policing academic fraud. Sara Ganim, CNN, Washington.


TAPPER: Coming up, graduation speakers, check the return policy on those caps and gowns. Colleges and student bodies are getting awfully fickle at the commencement. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. In the "Buried Lead," stories we think are not getting enough attention. If there's one thing that you want at your college graduation besides getting across the stage and tripping on your gown, it's a commencement speaker who can in part you with inspiring words. But increasingly, it seems the free thought promoted at many of our higher learning institutions does not extend to the person at the podium.


TAPPER (voice-over): It's that time of year again. The majesty of pomp and circumstances and potentially important advice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stay hungry. Stay foolish.

TAPPER: That is, if the commencement speaker is allowed to speak. They are invited to these institutions for debates and ideas that are being protested because some people don't like their ideas. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was selected to address graduates at Rutgers University, but her past involvement with the Iraq war caused some students to say no to Condo.

The Stanford professor decided to say no them writing on her Facebook page, quote, "Rutgers invitation to me to speak has become a distraction for the university community," but at least Rice was apparently able to make that decision on her own.

Brandeis University offered an honorary degree to the Somali Dutch critic of Islam, but students protested her view and Ali's honorary degree was rescinded. Pasadena City College chose Dustin Lance Black who won a screen writing Oscar for his film "Milk" in 2009 and then the school disinvited Black because he was once in a sex tape, but then they changed their minds and reinvited him.

It all makes you wonder who is running these schools and what exactly is being taught about free expression and debate? Howard University invited Sean P. Diddy Combs to speak this year. He dropped out of class there to pursue his own pursuits. But he was not the first to get his honorary degree before completing his college degree.

BILL GATES, FOUNDER, MICROSOFT: Dad, I always told you I'd come back and get my degree.

TAPPER: Controversy can strike even the least likely of invitees. In the 1990, then first lady, Barbara Bush, was deemed unsuitable by students graduating from Wellesley College. Her husband protested back.

FORMER GEORGE H.W. BUSH: I think that these young women can have a lot to learn from Barbara Bush and her selflessness.

TAPPER: President Obama had to defend himself in 2009 when Notre Dame students protested his stand on abortion rights. BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I also want to thank you for the honorary degree because I know it's not been without controversy.

TAPPER: Applauded or protested, this year's speakers will be addressing a very important group. The next generation of controversial invitees.


TAPPER: That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. I now turn you over to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM" -- Wolf.