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Clinton Faces Republican Blowback Over Potential Health Issues; An Eye Toward Midterm Races; "Godzilla" Gives Military Starring Role; Supreme Court Allows "Raging Bull" Lawsuit

Aired May 19, 2014 - 16:30   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Now it's time for the Politics Lead.

Suddenly everyone just wants to make sure Hillary Clinton is feeling all right. It's really sweet. This weekend, more Republicans glommed on to the script first crafted by Republican strategist Karl Rove. The questions about Hillary Clinton's age and the blood clot she suffered in 2012 will be fair game if she decides to run for president in 2016. But some key Democrats had her back.


KARL ROVE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: She'll be 69 at the time of the 2016 election. If she gets elected and serves two terms, she'll be 77.

SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI: I think Karl Rove is struggling to be relevant.

REINCE PREIBUS, RNC CHAIRMAN: Health and age is fair game. It was fair game for Ronald Reagan, it's fair game for John McCain --

REP. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: In my view, she's in the prime of her political life.

DICK CHENEY, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: Any presidential candidate or vice presidential candidate is going to have to answer questions about their health.


TAPPER: So what does this back and forth mean for Hillary Clinton? Let's bring in the editor-in-chief of Roll Call, Christina Bellantoni and CNN national political reporter Peter.

Christina, let me start with you. Last week, one Clinton aide responded to the original Rove allegations by saying, quote, "There are no words for this level of lying." But former president Bill Clinton noted, "It's only going to get worse." It doesn't sound like they're just going to sit back and take this.

CHRISTINA BELLANTONI, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, ROLL CALL: No, definitely not. You'll going to see the Clinton camp, if you will. They're not officially a campaign but really, they're acting like a campaign. (INAUDIBLE) they'll push back on this. But also just in general, questions of her competency, questions of how she served President Obama. You're seeing this really ramp up.

But what is really interesting, in the last week, you've seen a lot of the people that love Hillary Clinton come to her defense really, really vociferously. People hate Karl Rove among the fierce liberal Democrats. They like to have him as the boogeyman (INAUDIBLE) energy.

PETER HAMBY, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, and I think Karl Rove - and I talked to some Republicans and they probably agree - that he overstepped. The issue of a candidate's health and their age is absolutely fair game. It has to be approached a bit carefully with Hillary Clinton. I think political people think this because she's a woman. That's tough --

TAPPER: Why? Why does it have to be approached differently?

HAMBY: Because they can easily, I think, turn it around. I mean, don't you think that people can turn around questions and say they're under attack because of gender?

TAPPER: Yes, sure. But the question is, would a man be facing the same questions? Clearly Karl Rove said things in the original change that were not true. He had said she'd spent a month in the hospital.

HAMBY: Look at the Obama -- that gets to my point. This took what is a legitimate issue and pushes it into conspiracy territory. And you saw with Bill Clinton the other day, speaking -- he said he used this to his advantage. He wanted to talk about it. He belittled Karl Rove in this way. I mean, this is something -- the Clintons are good when they're under attack.

TAPPER: Christina, listen to this. It was written for, Republican strategist Alex Castellanos. He wrote, quote, "Was Karl Rove's assault on Hillary Clinton's brain a political master stroke that will make her presidential campaign more difficult, or a ham- fisted attack that will contribute to the persistent unpopularity of the Republican Party? The answer, to many a Republican's regret, is both."

BELLANTONI: Yes, that sounds about right to me. Because you've seen they do want to raise this issue. They want to start calling everything into question. You've seen the special investigations into the attacks on Benghazi. That has a lot to do with Hillary Clinton.

TAPPER: Yeah, they said they want to bring her before the committee.

BELLANTONI: Yes, and so that's part of it. But it is also something that Democrats want to get out there and talk about her, show her competence, show her record.

What I'm watching for are a few things. Does she feel like she needs to release any sort of doctor's statement? John McCain waited very, very late in the 2008 campaign to do that when questions of his age were raised and his competency. Does she do that? Does she feel the need to do that?

And what does Barack Obama say about her? I mean, he's never really resisted an opportunity to take a swipe at Karl Rove, but he hasn't been out there necessarily vociferously defending her and her competency in his administration. Now this is going to start happening as she gets closer to deciding if she's running.

TAPPER: Let's turn to another possible 2016 presidential hopeful. Speaking Saturday at Grove City College in northwestern Pennsylvania, Jeb Bush, former Florida governor and possible 2016 presidential candidate had this to say.


JEB BUSH, FORMER GOVERNOR OF FLORIDA: If you feel inspired to serve your fellow citizens, don't let the ugliness of politics keep you from pursuing public office.


TAPPER: Well, we're going to be parsing everything these people say from now until they declare or announce that they're not running. Am I to read something there? He said, "If you inspire to serve your fellow citizens, don't let the ugliness of publics keep you from pursuing public office."

HAMBY: I think Jeb Bush is being pretty consistent when he sounds out how he's going through this process and thinking about whether to run. He, I think, it weighs heavily on him, how difficult the presidential process would be. You know, the day to day, Twitter, back and forth. How sort of petty and negative a presidential campaign is for a guy who hasn't really run for office since 2002.

But I mean, I talked to someone who was recently at a fundraiser with him. And he is saying the same things in private and public. He really wants to approach this in a really earnest way and say if I can do this in a not negative, not too poisonous or toxic way, if he thinks he can get through it, then he's going to jump in.

BELLANTONI: And when I heard this, it made me wonder if it was a little bit of a message to his family, as well. Because we keep reading these stories where people are saying well, the big concern about this is whether it will it be too harsh on his wife, his children? What kind of family impact will that have? You've heard what Barbara Bush has had to say, his mother, about whether or not he should run. So is this a message of saying, well, it doesn't have to be so ugly. We can have a good time. And I will say, I have talked to a lot of Democrats who very much liked what he had to say about immigration and being an active love of bringing your child to the United States illegally. And that's something that has some Democrats scared if he does actually run.

TAPPER: And it has some Republicans opposing him. Very excited to oppose him.

HAMBY: No, that's absolutely the case. And again, he deeply cares about education, immigration. Common Core and immigration are not things that really jibe with the Republican base at this point. So again, I think as he looks at this, he's being very smart and deliberate and saying, can I get through the process and still have what I believe in intact for a general election?

TAPPER: It's - obviously this is a midterm here. Tomorrow is a big primary day in six different states from Oregon to Pennsylvania. Peter, what are you looking for tomorrow? What races are you watching?

HAMBY: Well, I just got back from a week in Kentucky. I think everyone agrees that Mitch McConnell will sail to victory -


HAMBY: Senate minority leader in Kentucky over his Republican challenger, Matt Bevin, Tea Party-backed. He's flamed out. He's run kind of a ham-fisted campaign.

But the real race tomorrow is the race for the Georgia Senate runoff. The top two finishes in a five-way race.

TAPPER: For the Republican nomination.

HAMBY: For the Republican Senate nomination in Georgia to take on Democrat Michelle Nunn, David Pardue, self (INAUDIBLE) businessman as the front-runner. Everyone agrees with that. But the race for second place is what people are looking at. Congressman Jack Kingston of Georgia, former Georgia secretary of state Karen Handle are really vying for that spot. It's a real jump ball heading into tomorrow.

TAPPER: I don't want to overstate the case because the Tea Party has had a tremendous effect on the Republican Party and without question has moved the center of the Republican Party to the right. But it does seem as though the establishment is really beating back a lot of these Tea Party candidates.

BELLANTONI: Yes, absolutely. But you're right. It's moved them to the right, so the establishment has become more and more conservative over just the last four or six years. So one of the things I'm looking at in Kentucky is how much does Mitch McConnell calibrate his message at all for a general election.

We have a story coming out in Roll Call tomorrow looking at how the general election there has really already started there. He's been running against Allison Lundergren Rimes, the Democratic candidate there that Democrats are very excited about.

Another one I'm watching is actually in Pennsylvania where you have two different races where Democrats looked like the front-runner in a few cases. Allyson Schwartz was running for governor; she is not doing very well in that primary to run against Tom Corbett, the governor, the Republican governor. And in a House race to replace her, we have Chelsea Clinton's mother-in-law --

TAPPER: Marjorie Margolies. BELLANTONI: Exactly. She was the frontrunner for a long time. It's looking like she's not doing very well there, either. So it's going to be interesting what happens.

HAMBY: Yes, a Clinton-backed candidate could lose that Democratic House primary right outside of Philadelphia, which would be sort of an interesting dynamic.

TAPPER: That's ground zero for electoral politics in Pennsylvania. As you know.

HAMBY: As I know very well.


TAPPER: We can talk about that some other time. Peter Hamby, Christina Bellatoni, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Also in politics news, a federal judge today struck out Oregon's constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman. The judge ruled that the amendment, passed by voters back in 2004, violates the Constitution. Today's ruling means same-sex couples can now marry in 18 states. Another seven states have issued decisions siding with the right to marry. But those are still making their way through the appeals process.

Moltnoma County, the state's largest, which includes Portland, has already started issuing marriage licenses for same-sex couples. The ruling is, of course, expected to be appealed.

Wolf Blitzer is in New York. He has a preview of THE SITUATION ROOM. Wolf, I miss you here. But tell us what do you have on the show? You've got the latest on the Donald Sterling saga. What's that about?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, THE SITUATION ROOM: The NBA for the first time formally going forward with charges against the L.A. Clippers' owner. They stipulate points one, two, three, and four. They have a hearing that's now been scheduled. The NBA is moving quickly to try to get rid of him as owner of the L.A. Clippers because of his racist rant. We'll go in depth on that, talk a little bit about what's going on with Jeff Toobin, Don Lemon, Suzanne Malveaux. They'll be joining me. So that's an important subject.

We're also going to get into Ukraine because there's new developments in Ukraine. Putin saying he's going to remove those 40,000, 30,000 troops from the border. The U.S. officials saying they haven't seen it yet. They'd be happy if he does, but he's made these promises before.

There's an outspoken U.S. ambassador, the OSCE, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Daniel Bair. He'll join us live. The Americans, as you know, the U.S., the international community getting ready to send a whole bunch of monitors over to cover these elections this coming weekend in Ukraine. So we've got a lot to discuss.

TAPPER: All right. Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM that starts in 15 minutes. Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you.

TAPPER: Coming up, a Hollywood blockbuster with a huge opening weekend. And although Godzilla is purportedly the star, it's really the U.S. military that's hoping to reap some of the rewards. We'll explain why next.

Plus, the Triple Crown. With one of the rarest achievements in sports within reach, why were the owners of California Chrome threatening to pull the horse from the final race?


TAPPER: The "Money Lead" now. The competition could feel him breathing his atomic breath down their backs. Gobbling up an estimated $93.2 million in ticket sales. "Godzilla" was a towering number one at the Box Office this weekend. But the giant lizard was not the only star of this blockbuster. Some might say the United States military was cast as the hero of this film.

In fact, according to "The Washington Post," the Pentagon actually provided the film makers access to several naval aircraft carriers along with expert guidance to make sure that what the audiences got to see on the big screen actually matched up with reality. That kind of help, well, it's part of a pattern.


TAPPER (voice-over): Whether it's launching a coordinated attack on Godzilla. Using precision aim to take out pirates in "Captain Phillips" or killing Osama Bin Laden in "Zero Dark Thirty." America's favorite blockbuster hero is, America. From the patriotism of World War II to the special effects of modern day, the U.S. military has long had a symbiotic relationship with Hollywood. In many of these films, the Pentagon offers its expertise equipment and locations in exchange for some oversight as to its big screen portrayal.

HELENA ANDREWS, "THE WASHINGTON POST": When it comes to the movie industry, they want authenticity. It's much cheaper for Hollywood to go through the military than to stage something like that completely on their own.

TAPPER: By glamorizing the armed forces in this theatre, the Department of Defense hopes to bolster its ranks in the military theatre while boosting moral for those already enlisted.

ANDREWS: It's about portraying the military in a positive light. We talk about retention, it is making people in the military proud of what they do. It's almost like a campaign video.

TAPPER: The practice of using the military for film cameo is not without its critics, such as former Navy SEAL, Harry Humphries.

HARRY HUMPHRIES, RETIRED NAVY SEAL: It's out of hand. Too much is being discussed about a community that lives on the fact that it's a -- a group of folks that thrive on the concept called silent pride.

TAPPER: After all, movies like "Godzilla" may glorify enlistment for young fans, but obviously it's far from the true gore of real battle. Still, after more than ten years at war, the line between America's movie stars and war heroes continues to blur. In 2012's "Act of Valor" real Navy SEALs portrayed themselves. While last year's "Lone Survivor" paired actor, Mark Wahlberg with Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell to tell the story of Luttrell's real brush with death in Afghanistan.

(on camera): How close is it to what happened?

MARCUS LUTTRELL, RETIRED NAVY SEAL: As close as not having to kill somebody on the mountain.

MARK WAHLBERG, ACTOR: I have never been so proud. You don't get the same kind of impact. Understanding of what these guys do for us.

TAPPER: Whether the film industry helps or hurts that understanding, one thing is certain the villains in these films do not stand a chance.


TAPPER: Here are some good news for you millions of "Godzilla" fans out there. I'm guessing. Today, deadline confirmed that a "Godzilla" sequel is already in the works. It is coproduced by Warner Brothers, a corporate cousin of ours in the "Time Warner" family.

It's the most shocking decision involving the film "Raging Bull" since "Ordinary People" beat it out for best picture. The Supreme Court today ruled that a copyright lawsuit against the 1980 classics starring Robert Deniro can proceed, can go forward, even though the suit was filed almost 30 years after the movie came out.

It was filed by the daughter of man who worked with Lamotta on a book and two screen plays, which inspired the Scorsese film. The 6-3 ruling that split the justices along unusual lines could expose Hollywood to more claims from people seeking a piece of their profits.

Coming up next, he was invited to give a speech meant to inspire new graduates as they head off into the real world except instead he used the opportunity to call the students arrogant and immature. What set this speaker off?


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Now to our "Buried Lead." Legions of parents got to see their $100,000 investment pay off and watch their newly graduated kids get their degrees. Graduation speakers are support to be a beautiful footnotes with celebrating four years of hard work, but for every person to accept one of these speaking gigs, this year it seems like there have been even more people ready to find a reason to tell them to stay away.

Rutgers University, for example, held its commencement Sunday without its announced speaker, Condoleezza Rice, who stepped down after students and professors balked at her selection due to her role in the war in Iraq. IMF Chief Christine Laguard withdrew from Smith Colleges ceremony when students there took issue with her approach to foreign aid.

William Bowen was subbing in for Haverford after the original choice to speak to its graduates, former UC Berkeley chancellor, Robert Virginow also vowed out following protest, but where the speakers normally deliver addresses filled with aspirational platitudes, Bowen instead used his turn to deliver one last lecture.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Encouraged to come and engage in a serious discussion. Not to come, tail between his legs, to respond to an indictment that a self-chosen jury had reached without hearing counterarguments.


TAPPER: Bowen also called some of the students sitting before him immature and arrogant. Happy graduation. The Sports Lead -- he's a colt that won six races in a row including the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness. But California Chrome keeps his filly up all night with his snoring. Now, New York racing officials have decided the 3-year- old colt can continue to wear a nasal strip during next month's Belmont stakes. The horse has worn that strip for the six straight victories. California Chrome is trying to end the longest drought in Triple Crown history, which now stands at 36 years.

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

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Jake.