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CNN SPECIAL REPORTS
Hollywood and Violence; America Still Most Powerful Nation on Earth?; Is Misogyny a Growing Concern?; Is America the World's Policeman?
Aired May 28, 2014 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.
Is Hollywood to blame? Is Elliot Rodger's deadly rampage somehow related to what we see at the movies? One film critic blasts what she calls a sexist movie monoculture. Tonight, we're going to debate with people on both sides of the question, including an '80s movie icon.
Plus, is America still the most powerful nation on earth? Does it even matter? Tonight, we want to know what you think. Make sure you tweet us using #AskDon.
But I want to begin tonight with a heated argument that is sweeping the country. Does Hollywood have a role in promoting the kind of misogyny that apparently drove Elliot Rodger to a murderous rampage? What one critic says -- that's what one critic is saying. And now Hollywood is fighting back.
Nischelle Turner has more on that now.
NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the bloody aftermath of the Santa Barbara mass killings, "Washington Post" film critic Ann Hornaday sees Elliot Rodger's video diatribe against society...
ELLIOT RODGER, ALLEGED KILLER: All you popular kids, you have never accepted me.
TURNER: ... and writes a column tying his murders to his life as a director's son growing up on the fringes of Hollywood.
In it she writes, "Rodger's rampage may be a function of his own profound distress, but it also shows how a sexist movie monoculture can be toxic for women and men alike."
ANN HORNADAY, FILM CRITIC, "THE WASHINGTON POST": He had created this video on YouTube that seemed to be such a product of the entertainment industry that he did grow up in, literally, and also just as a member of the culture.
TURNER: But her column specifically points to Seth Rogen's recent film "Neighbors" and other comedies made by writer/producer/director Judd Apatow, asking: HORNADAY: How many students watch outsized frat boy fantasies like "Neighbors" and feel as Rodger did unjustly shut out of college life that should be full of -- quote -- "sex and fun and pleasure."
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Are you talking to me?
TURNER: Those comments inspire a celebrity backlash on Twitter, with Rogen tweeting: "I find your article horribly insulting and misinformed. How dare you imply that me getting girls in movies caused a lunatic to go on a rampage?" while Apatow added, "She uses tragedy to promote herself with idiotic thoughts."
For her part, Hornaday says she didn't mean to single out or directly blame Apatow or "Neighbors."
HORNADAY: The movies that we watch that primarily created by men and primarily pivot around male fantasies of wish fulfillment and vigilante justice, how that might inform not just someone suffering under really terrible mental illness, but the culture at large.
TURNER: A culture still struggling to understand what could drive a young man to murder.
Nischelle Turner, CNN, New York.
LEMON: Nischelle Turner, thank you very much.
That was a nice story there.
Joining me now, the star of the iconic 1980s comedies "Three Men and a Baby" and "Police Academy." That's Steve Guttenberg, none other. And also Rachel Sklar is the founder of TheLi.st, a feminist organization. Talk radio host Michael Medved. Arthur Chu, you might remember him from the "Jeopardy" -- former "Jeopardy" champ. He wrote about misogyny, entitlement and nerds for The Daily Beast. And Nina Burleigh, who writes for the "Rolling Stone" and "The New York Observer." -- "Rolling Stone" and "New York Observer."
First, I want to start with you, Steve.
Thank you and everyone for joining us. But, Steve, I'm going to start with you.
Hollywood's taken quite a rap since this latest shooting. Just some of the titles that have been mentioned are "Neighbors," "40-Year-Old Virgin," "Revenge of the Nerds," "Weird Science," "Big Bang Theory," "Knocked Up," "Superbad," "Sixteen Candles," "Superman 2."
And Hollywood -- on and on and on. Is Hollywood really part of the problem, Steve?
STEVE GUTTENBERG, ACTOR: Well, first of all, my heart goes out to the families of the victims. And it's just a terrible tragedy. But the truth is that nobody makes somebody do this by watching a piece of art, whether it's going to the museum or watching a movie or a television show. This is a person who had a deranged mind. And we're going to have to figure out why he and many other people think like that and we have to get to the root of the problem.
LEMON: Since his father was the A.D., the assistant director on "The Hunger Games," because, you know, his YouTube video was shot in such a cinematic way, was blaming Hollywood you think just an obvious choice here? There were just too many factors that came together?
GUTTENBERG: You know, sometimes, everybody in the media is looking for a hook. And this seems like a reliable hook.
But films are inspirational. For the most part, people go to movies and feel great about them. They learn. There's movies like "12 Years a Slave" or "Dallas Buyers Club" or "Lincoln" or "Bridge Over the River Kwai." Those are movies that make people think and become better people.
This tragedy has nothing to do with Hollywood and it's a shame that it's come to that. And I wanted to put myself here to talk about the industry that I love and how I love movies, as most people do, because it makes them feel good.
LEMON: Michael Medved, to you. I want to talk about what started all this and that was Ann Hornaday's column in "The Washington Post."
And here's what she wrote. She said: "Movies may not reflect reality, but they powerfully condition what we desire, expect and feel we deserve from it. The myths that movies have been selling us become even more palatable at a time when spectators become their own auteurs and stars on YouTube, Instagram and Vine."
Does Ann have a point? Do we watch the same storylines over and over again to a point where we believe them to be true in our very own lives?
MICHAEL MEDVED, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: No, of course, there's no question at all. Of course movies influence reality.
I wrote a big book about that 20 years ago. But the point about this is that they're attacking the wrong movies. I wonder if anybody has really seen "Neighbors." Now, I wasn't a huge fan of the film, but the Seth Rogen character in "Neighbors" is very happily married.
And what is so striking about Elliot Rodger and his demented testament is that he isn't interested in relationships. He isn't interested in the nerd getting the girl. He's interested in sex. He keeps talking about that.
And, look, this is a fact of life. Most women are not interested in nerdy guys who don't want a relationship. And all of the movies she's attacking by Judd Apatow and Seth Rogen and the rest of us, and Steve Guttenberg, for that matter, yes, they're about nerdy guys who end up in loving relationships and they have a sweetness to them and a relationship emphasis.
LEMON: All right, that's enough of us guys talking.
Why don't we get a woman's point of view now?
Because, Rachel, was it fair, do you think, for Ann Hornaday to focus on Seth Rogen and Judd Apatow?
RACHEL SKLAR, FOUNDER, THELI.ST: I actually didn't really feel like she did focus on Seth Rogen. I feel like Seth Rogen focused on Seth Rogen, because he had been mentioned. "Neighbors" just happened to have been the most recent movie to come out that glorified frat culture.
But I tend to actually agree with Michael that I'm not even sure how many people saw it. I saw the ads for it, but I don't necessarily think it's films like "Neighbors" that are the culprit, but more generally...
LEMON: But she mentioned himself specifically though. Why wouldn't he respond? What do you mean she's not talking about...
SKLAR: Well, I think the focus on "Neighbors" as the demonic Hollywood film to blame is a red herring here.
I think you have to look at the totality of who is making films, whose voices are most usually heard and who is portrayed and how. You know, the other thing that Ann Hornaday mentioned was the Bechdel test, which essentially looks, are there -- is there -- are there women in the film? Do they talk to each other? Do they talk to each other about something other than a man?
And, invariably, a lot of films actually fail this test, which is indicative of male-centered stories and male-centered protagonists.
MEDVED: If I could just jump in...
LEMON: Let me just jump in here and then you can, Michael, because, listen, in normal life, I hear women talking about a lot of things, but most of the time, they're talking about men. And that may sound sexist, but they do in real life. Why wouldn't they talk about men in movies?
SKLAR: I think to the exclusion of all else.
I have many conversations with many women and many men, and, amazingly, we talk about a wide variety of things. But if you look at the dialogue that -- in these movies the Bechdel test, you will generally see that men are talking not only about their relationships and their romantic dreams, but also about, you know, how to blow up the asteroid or whatever it is.
LEMON: Go ahead. I will let you finish. Go ahead.
HORNADAY: I think the general point is that there is -- that there is a disproportionate emphasis in the culture on how men view things and what men want.
LEMON: OK. All right. Hold on.
I know you want to get in, Michael, but I have got to get Arthur in here. I just can't have him sitting there silently. And then you can get in.
You wrote a very powerful piece for The Daily Beast about the entertainment industry. And I want to read part of what you wrote here. You said: "Fixating on a woman from afar and then refusing to give up when she acts like she's not interested is generally something that ends badly for everybody involved, but it's a narrative that nerds and nerd media kept repeating."
You say that there is a consistent message that men get from Hollywood, especially nerdy men. Explain that, Arthur.
ARTHUR CHU, "JEOPARDY" CHAMPION: I mean, I'm not going to -- I don't think I would go so far as to say it's a monoculture, that it's always exactly the same story.
But when you have stories about -- when have you stories about underdog guys trying against all odds, there's usually a woman in the story who is there sort of as a reward, you know, that...
LEMON: Someone is having a conversation without us. Who is -- is someone having a conversation? OK.
Go ahead. Finish your thought, Arthur.
CHU: I mean, it's kind of undeniable.
And if you go past, you know, movies, you look at TV, video games, a lot of the things that influenced me growing up, influenced young guys like me, that this idea just that to be successful means to be, you know, in a relationship with a woman, and, usually, in movies, it's a conventionally attractive woman, that a beautiful girl is your reward for doing well in life, and that Elliot Rodger was one of many, many guys who felt like he wasn't doing well in life just because, from his perspective, he couldn't get this thing that he felt he deserved.
LEMON: OK. Michael, go ahead. (CROSSTALK)
MEDVED: That's true of Shakespeare. It's true of "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington." The underdog comes to Washington and he ends up with Jean Arthur.
For goodness' sake, that's the plot of a lot of our lives. There are a lot of us who are nerdy guys who were successful ultimately with women way above us. I am one of them. I plead guilty to that. And there's nothing wrong with it.
SKLAR: That's the plot of the male point of view again.
But you see, what you're -- here's the problem I have with what you said. And I understand, Rachel, what you're saying about the male point of view being predominant in movies. And I acknowledge that that's a problem.
But that has nothing to do with this hideous violence. What this violence -- if you want to take a look at one of the most prominent violent movies of our time that Elliot Rodger's father was actually involved with as a second-unit director, it is "Hunger Games." "Hunger Games" is wildly violent, but it passes the Bechdel test because it's all about a violent woman.
Nita, before your response, it seems, though, that after -- that every mass shooting, we have the same conversation, guns, mental health, culture. I mean, but this time, it was different because this guy clearly had some sort of hatred for women, some sort of -- you know, he was dispassionate about women for something. I don't know why, but it's impossible to ignore that. Tell me what you know about his misogyny online.
NINA BURLEIGH, AUTHOR, "THE FATAL GIFT OF BEAUTY": His manifesto, if you want to call it that, for the column that I wrote, and I feel that he's -- you know, I agree with Rachel and I agree with Arthur that, you know, while you can't say Hollywood is to blame, certainly, the stories that Hollywood repeats over and over again are from the male point of view.
They drive home the idea that men are entitled to female flesh. I mean, you haven't talked about pornography yet, but, you know, if you read this kid's manifesto, his first experience of sex was watching porn. And he starts -- he writes about how, you know, he thought from that moment on about sex and how he must have it, and he would never get it.
And, of course, porn, as it's produced in Hollywood, much of it is produced on the West Coast, is providing men with the idea that they could have sex without making women feel any pleasure whatsoever. LEMON: OK.
BURLEIGH: So, of course, entitlement, male entitlement is a part of this. And it is to blame. But, of course, virulent misogyny comes from a lot of places. It's not just Hollywood, but Hollywood has some role to play on that.
LEMON: Nina, hold that thought. Everyone, hold that thought, because I got to get to a break. Stay with me, everybody.
When we come right back, why hate-filled rants like Elliot Rodger's are nothing new in the nerd world.
And, later, we're going to talk about America, the powerful. Is this country still the world's policeman and is that what President Obama wants?
LEMON: We are now back.
And, remember, if you want to weigh in, you can use #AskDon. OK?
So, is warped hatred for women more a part of our culture than we think and what can we do to fight it, if anything?
Back me now is Steve Guttenberg, Rachel Sklar, Michael Medved, Arthur Chu, and Nina Burleigh.
OK, guys, Steve, I want to read another part from Arthur's piece and get your reaction to it. He says: "We are not the lovable nerdy protagonist who's lovable because he's the protagonist. We're not guaranteed to get laid by the hot chick of our dreams as long as we work hard enough at it. There isn't a team of writers or a studio audience pulling for us to triumph by getting the girl in the end."
First, Steve, isn't Hollywood's -- the biggest part of Hollywood's job is to sell a fantasy?
GUTTENBERG: But it's fiction.
That's what movies are, for the most part, unless it's "Lincoln" and a true story or "Dallas Buyers Club." They're fiction. And it's fun and that's why you go to the movies.
And, Arthur, that's what being a guy is all about. No matter if you look like Brad Pitt or you're supposedly whatever a nerd is, you always want to get the beautiful girl. You always want to get the popular girl. You want to be the football star.
SKLAR: And so do women. So do girls. There are lady nerds. Hasn't anyone seen "She's All That" with Rachael Leigh Cook? She transforms into the beautiful swan from the nerd. And that is a great movie, by the way. I think that this is missing the point. Art is great. Movies are great. I watch more TV than anyone that I know. I think the point is here this conversation is only relevant in the context of this tragedy that we are discussing. And what we're looking at is Elliot Rodger and what -- what influenced his point of view, his mania...
GUTTENBERG: There's something wrong with him. Movies have nothing to do with this.
LEMON: Hang on. Hang on. Hang on.
LEMON: Hang on, Rachel.
Go ahead, Steve.
And then, Rachel, I will let you finish.
GUTTENBERG: Rachel, movies have nothing to do with this. Neither does television or books or going to see Picasso's cubism.
This has to do with a deranged mind. And whether he does this or something else that's completely inappropriate, you know, it happens all the time. But it has nothing to do with art, and it has nothing to do with a male point of view or where Hollywood is coming from. It really doesn't. I can't believe this.
LEMON: Quickly, Rachel, respond. And then I will let the other guys get in.
SKLAR: I'm just drawing a distinction between like the small like category of art and the larger category of culture and how women are portrayed in culture.
He got his conception of what women owed him and at the same time that women who gave it up were sluts from somewhere. This doesn't just -- he didn't just invent that concept.
BURLEIGH: I think women -- you know, what we're missing -- Rachel, it's the culture. The culture is -- it's not just Hollywood. You're setting Hollywood up as the straw man here.
It's not just Hollywood. It's this sense of male entitlement that is behind, you know, what they're calling an epidemic of campus rapes, where, you know, girls are getting raped all over the place, all over the campuses of this country, because young men are taught to think that female flesh is their entitlement.
And, you know, whose fantasy are we talking about? When you say fantasy, yes, we love fantasy, but whose fantasy?
MEDVED: Here's the basic question.
Where in any motion picture or TV show is there a plot where a guy rapes a woman, and then she loves him for it, or where a guy throws hot, scalding coffee on beautiful women, as, by the way, Elliot Rodger did before he started shooting at them? There's nothing I can remember. And I see all these films.
SKLAR: I didn't see "The Fountainhead."
MEDVED: What's that?
CHU: "Gone With the Wind."
SKLAR: I didn't see the movie version of "The Fountainhead," but I do know that was a plot point.
MEDVED: OK. The movie version of "The Fountainhead" is 60 years ago, for God's sakes.
LEMON: Let's talk about this century, yes.
MEDVED: For contemporary movies, there are not movies where nerds attack women, throw coffee at them, insult them, threaten to kill them, and then they get the girl.
LEMON: We're discussing Arthur's article, so, Arthur, you should probably respond to a discussion on your own article.
CHU: Yes, yes.
OK, I'm going to jump in. This is one of the things where, as a guy, I have something to add to the conversation, in that one of the things I said in the article was that Rodger's manifesto, OK, it was over the top. It was, yes, insane, all right, by any definition of the word.
But it did not sound like it came out of the blue. When you say that his mental illness manufactured this attitude that he had, that it somehow came like of whole cloth out of nowhere, for no reason, he hated women, that doesn't make sense, because he's saying -- he's saying to a much more extreme degree, yes, to a far greater degree -- he's very unusual. No one is saying that we have a country full of people just like him.
MEDVED: Thank you.
CHU: But he was saying the same kind of thing that you hear guys say, that when guys -- you know, when you have a friend who gets drunk and he broke up with his girlfriend and he gets on a rant about women. Haven't we all been there?
MEDVED: Yes, and women say the same about men, but that doesn't mean you want to kill them and it doesn't mean you want to threaten them.
MEDVED: For goodness' sake, complaining about the opposite sex is an American right.
SKLAR: Practically speaking, when we're talking about the epidemic and the trend of these violent crimes, they historically and recently disproportionately are targeted at women. And they are disproportionately by men and even more so they are disproportionately...
MEDVED: Which violent crimes are you talking about?
BURLEIGH: Name them.
SKLAR: Ninety-eight percent of violent crimes...
MEDVED: Most of the murder victims in America, the overwhelming percentage are male, disproportionately African-American males.
MEDVED: That's your victims.
SKLAR: Eighty-five percent of murder/suicides have female victims; 95 percent are perpetrated by men. There are 66,000 domestic violence calls daily.
LEMON: OK, guys, all right, hold that thought.
SKLAR: I have the stats. This is an epidemic. It's real.
LEMON: Hold that thought.
Steve, listen, you know, you heard what Arthur said. I have heard my friends or whatever. But this is -- art imitates life, doesn't it?
GUTTENBERG: Of course. To an extent, it does.
But we're talking about something so violent and so, as Arthur said, insane, this doesn't come from any piece of fiction. This comes from a kid who has real problems. And what we need to deal with in this country and in this world is mental illness.
We need to put more money toward it. We need to try to figure out what's wrong with people. We need to figure out how to cure them, how to put them back into society, so they become productive people, as opposed to people who destroy society. This has nothing to do with any part of art. It has to do with...
LEMON: Last word.
LEMON: That's the last word. Thank you. I'm sorry. I wish I could. Thank you, guys.
Steve Guttenberg is currently working on a script for a feature film project and it's called "The Pride of San Quentin."
Steve, thank you very much for joining us.
Everybody else, I want you to stay with me.
Nina, you say that misogyny is a disease, and I want to talk about that next.
LEMON: Elliot Rodger's hate-filled YouTube rants against women have launched a viral hashtag, yesallwomen, and it has sparked a very heated debate.
And I'm back now with my guests. And we are discussing it.
Nina, beyond Hollywood, you write in your "New York Observer" article that misogyny is a subtle thread woven into society. How so?
BURLEIGH: Well, I mean, let's just start with gun rampages, OK?
You take the gender out of gun rampages when you don't point out that all of them are committed by men. When we talk about them as mental illness and having to do with gun culture, you forget that, you know, 50 percent of the population is female, 50 percent of the population -- female population has access to guns.
Women are -- suffer from mental illness in the same numbers as men. And yet it's all male. The gun rampages are all male. So, starting there, this is something that is gendered. And I'm taking this from a writer named Jackson Katz, who speaks on this. It's a gendered -- it's a gendered mental illness.
And I would argue that misogyny, the virulent misogyny that was -- that's reflected in this 140-page screed that this kid wrote very eloquently, is not just, you know, reflecting a certain sort of mental illness that can happen to anybody, but virulent misogyny is its own mental illness.
And, you know, the DSM should -- therapists should start addressing it. He was talking about it to his parents for a very long time. I mean, he had given them access to this Web site, this woman-hating Web site that he was enamored of. And they refused to look at it because misogyny is so much part of our life.
LEMON: His parents actually did look at it and call health professionals, and health professionals sent police over and -- but police did not go into the home.
I want to go to Michael now.
Michael, regardless of the role that misogyny played in this Elliot Rodger, whatever he did, there have been almost two million tweets since this rampage using this hashtag, yesallwomen.
Let me read a few before you respond.
It says: "Yesallwomen, because men still aren't taught not to rape women or -- not to rape. Women are just told to wear more concealing clothes."
"Yesallwomen deserve to walk down the street without being catcalled, hollered at or made to feel unsafe in their own neighborhood."
"Because I have already rehearsed. Take whatever you want. Just don't hurt me, #yesallwomen."
I mean, do you think that there is an undercurrent of misogyny in America and are women -- or are women being too -- being oversensitive here?
MEDVED: Well, I don't think it -- I don't think it has to do with this particular case.
And this is one of the problems that I'm hearing here. Is can we remind ourselves of something? There's a difference between fantasy and the real world. There's even a difference between Elliot Rodger's fantasies and the real world.
In the real world four out of his six victims, four of the six dead bodies, are males, including his roommate.
And, yes, does misogyny exist? Is it a problem in our society? I am the father of two beautiful daughters, and I feel that very profoundly. Of course, it's a problem. But it's always been a problem. I don't think there's an epidemic at work right now. The one area where I do want to agree with what I think Nina was saying before, I think pornography is a huge problem in this country. And it's vastly more available to people, and it's vastly more violent and more borderline crazy.
They just arrested 71 people for child porn in New York, including pillars of the community.
And I think we should attach an absolute stigma to porn addiction that is a disease, and that's a huge problem in America. And I think we can all agree on that.
LEMON: What we can all agree on is that no one should be the victim of violence. And, you know, Rachel, you went public with your own story about violence. Tell us about that.
SKLAR: So I was looking at this yesallwomen hashtag, and I disagree with Michael that it doesn't have anything to do with this. It was triggered by this, and it's still going as a response to this and, you know, recognizing the misogyny in it, where misogyny intersected with mental illness.
And so these tweets kept on coming, and I wanted to participate, but at the same time, it felt very important, like a very important moment of honesty of testimony. People were putting forth their testimony about, you know, one woman said she, you know, yesallwomen, because when she went to file a police report the police said that she hadn't done it early enough. Or yesallwomen because no one believed her. Yesallwomen because, you know, she had to graduate with her rapist.
LEMON: I think -- I think -- I don't think anyone disagrees, Rachel, the hashtag, I think that is very important and very legitimate, because women have legitimate concerns. And actually, I learned from reading them. But you -- that -- that prompted you to tell your own story.
SKLAR: Sure. So I -- yesallwomen, and I am one. I had an abusive boyfriend. It got out of hand. He attacked me. He was verbally abusive.
LEMON: He said you deserve to be punched in the face like no one has ever deserved to be punched in the face, and then eventually, he did attack you.
SKLAR: Yes, he said that and more and, you know this, is not to make it about me. It's quite the opposite, actually. It was to put forth my story and to say, "Hey, this can happen to anyone. And however -- whatever you think I should have done or how I should have engaged, or maybe I shouldn't have stayed for, you know, a day longer than as soon as I realized that he was also crazy or also had mental illness and had issues, but you know, whatever I did or did not do, his violence was not my fault."
LEMON: Right. SKLAR: And I think that that was what was important. and I've had so many women reach out to me and say, "Thank you for writing this. Thank you for bringing it forth and saying that this does happen. It happened to me. No one believed me. I'm afraid to speak up." I mean, and that is reflective of something real that is happening.
LEMON: And I think it's important that you are the one who can tell your own story, and no one can edit that for you, right? Someone else did something to you.
And Arthur, I think you have made a very good point when you said, "Hey, I'm a guy. I'm a young guy. I think I have something to say here." What do you -- what do you have to say to young guys out there quickly before I have to go to break?
CHU: I mean, I think -- well, when Michael said that, you know, we're forgetting that several of the victims were men. I'm trying not to...
MEDVED: Most of them. Two-thirds.
LEMON: Go ahead, Arthur, please.
CHU: Elliot Rodger hated men as much as he hated women.
CHU: One thing he hated as much as women who wouldn't sleep with him was the men they chose to be with instead, OK? So misogyny or patriarchy, whatever you want to call it, it's a system that pits men against each other and against women.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Exactly.
LEMON: Thank you. Thank you all.
CHU: It hurts everybody. And Elliot Rodger, I don't know how to help a guy like Elliot Rodger. Elliot Rodger was really far gone. But there's a lot of guys where I would say, you know, the first step is to -- this is what I said in my article, is to not think about getting laid as the prize. Getting a woman as the prize.
LEMON: I've got to go, Arthur.
CHU: Worth doesn't come from that.
LEMON: Thank you very much.
MEDVED: Thank you, Don.
LEMON: We appreciate all of you joining us, and to all of my guests -- and Nina Burleigh, please stick around. Because coming up, the president goes to West Point to talk about America's place in the world. Are we still the most powerful nation on earth? Should we be? That's next.
And tomorrow night at 9 Eastern, the CNN original series "The Sixties" premieres. Here's a Sixties minute for you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Touch on the power of one, please.
JOHN F. KENNEDY, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Hear me now. Speaking.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: By 1960, essentially every household in America had a television.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was no denying the shift in attitudes towards sex, towards race relation, towards politics. It was all televised.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Never has this dissent been as emotional, as intense.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When there was a huge thing that happened, it happened on TV.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 330 Americans were killed in combat last week in Vietnam but the number of wounded, 3,886.
DICK CAVETT, FORMER TALK SHOW HOST: People looked at television for answers, maybe.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are you doing?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm getting ready to go to college.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everybody was dropping out and doing God know what else and I wasn't.
EMILY NUSSBAUM: There was this really aggressive innocence to it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a place to escape to.
PHIL ROSENTHAL: Even if they tried to keep TV this homogeneous whole- milk product, the world found its way in.
ANNOUNCER: "The Sixties," series premiere tomorrow night at 9 on CNN.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Question for you, is America still the world's policeman? President Obama told cadets at West Point today he wants this country's policy to be might doing right but what exactly does that mean in the face of challenges and hot spots from Ukraine to Syria and beyond? Our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, has more now. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In his commencement speech at the West Point military academy, President Obama tells the graduates something striking.
OBAMA: You are the first class to graduate since 9/11 who may not be sent into combat in Iraq or Afghanistan.
ACOSTA: It's a generation that hardly knows what peace looks like.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Happy for our nation that we're pulling out. You know, for us, we were prepared to -- we came here prepared to go to war. So...
ACOSTA: From West Point...
ELAINE DEIHL, MOTHER OF WEST POINT GRADUATE: I have two sons serving in the military, and I don't want them to be in harm's way either.
ACOSTA: ... to Howard University in the nation's capital, where students feel the change in course after a decade of war.
ABDUL DEENSIE, HOWARD UNIVERSITY: The United States is not going to go into another war boots on the ground in another country with President Obama in power. It's not going to happen.
OBAMA: Just because we have the best hammer does not mean that every problem is a nail.
ACOSTA: In his speech, the president lays out what can only be described as the Obama Doctrine, a new balance between force...
OBAMA: The United States will use military force unilaterally if necessary when our core interests demand it.
ACOSTA: ... and caution.
OBAMA: Some of our most costly mistakes came not from our restraint but from our willingness to rush into military adventures without thinking through the consequences.
ACOSTA: It's a foreign policy mindset that stretches back to 2002 before Iraq.
OBAMA: I don't oppose war in all circumstances, and when I look out over this crowd today I know there is no shortage of patriots or patriotism. What I do oppose is a dumb war.
ACOSTA: The president made it his mission to end wars, not start them, but his aides quickly add he is also decisive.
OBAMA: I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden. ACOSTA: But the commander in chief is a reluctant warrior. Take Libya.
OBAMA: I also want to be clear about what we will not be doing. The United States is not going to deploy ground troops into Libya.
ACOSTA: And Syria.
OBAMA: A red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus.
ACOSTA: Opting against military action to enforce that red line infuriated Republicans.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: When he told the world that they had crossed a red line that the president had set and then didn't do it, it reverberated throughout the entire world.
ACOSTA: But the president insists there are tools besides military might, like the sanctions against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.
OBAMA: Our ability to shape world opinion helped isolate Russia right away.
ACOSTA: Perhaps most telling was when this war-weary president, his hair now gray, recalled how he came to West Point in 2009 to announce the surge in Afghanistan that later claimed the lives of four cadets in the audience that day.
OBAMA: I believe America's security demanded those deployments. But I am haunted by those deaths.
ACOSTA (on camera): After days of strong hints that the president is ready to authorize the training of Syrian rebels, the White House may not be so sure. All aides will say now is that U.S. assistance to those rebels will continue, and if the U.S. wants to arm them, the administration will have to go through Congress first.
Jim Acosta, CNN, the White House.
LEMON: Jim, thank you very much.
When we come right back, we're going to discuss the so-called Obama Doctrine. Plus, we have some breaking news on the future of Secretary Eric Shinseki and our experts are going to weigh in on that, coming up.
LEMON: President Obama argues America needs to use both a strong military and diplomacy to deal with the world's hot spots. Joining me now is Major General James "Spider" Marks, former commanding general of the U.S. Army Intelligence Center. Buck Sexton is a former CIA analyst who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He's now the national security editor for "The Blaze." And Daniel Kurtz-Phelan, former speechwriter for Hillary Clinton. And Nina Burleigh is back with me.
General Marks, I want to start with you, because we have some breaking news tonight that we want to tell you about. The White House sources are telling CNN that Secretary Shinseki's career is on thin ice while the president waits for the outcome of the investigation into the V.A. scandal that CNN has been reporting on.
A quick answer from you, General. Should he have already been fired, though?
MAJ. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS, FORMER COMMANDING GENERAL, U.S. ARMY INTELLIGENCE CENTER: I think General Shinseki probably should have gone to the president and said, "Look, I'm -- you're -- in military terms, you're burning far too much daylight on me. I need to go. I will be the source of too many discussions and too many editorials, and there needs to be a transformative figure that gets into the V.A. and can really shake things up."
General Shinseki's a magnificent leader, and our nation is grateful for guys like him.
LEMON: But coming -- but coming from the White House at this late hour, using the term "thin ice," are they foreshadowing, like, hey, this guy is going to go and soon?
MARKS: Well, it's a ridiculous comment to make. It's not a very -- very professional and mature comment to make. What they're saying clearly is, "Look, we've said all along we're going to wait for the results of this investigation. those results are imminent, and we are concerned with the future of the V.A. and Rick Shinseki's role in it."
MARKS: That I think has been made clear.
LEMON: OK. And quickly on that one, because I want to get the other panelists, what do you make of the so-called Obama Doctrine that Jim Acosta reported on?
MARKS: Don, you're talking to me?
MARKS: Yes, I thought -- I thought what the president said today was not necessarily the type of speech that a thousand cadets that are about to be second lieutenants want to hear.
Clearly, the message needs to be, "Look, all you young men and women are clearly going to be commissioned into a world that's still very uncertain, very unknown, and we need you to be prepared. And we need you to be focused. We need you to be able to do the nation's bidding." For the president to come out and talk about the right to self-defense and multilateralism, transparency and support for democracy and human rights, I would say, great, Mr. President, that's what you're supposed to do, and clearly, these young men and women get it. But what I would like to hear from you is help me define what our core interests are.
MARKS: What our national interests are, so as we move forward, we get a sense of how our preparedness is, in fact, going to fit into this unknown future.
BUCK SEXTON, NATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR, "THE BLAZE": Can I offer a less polite analysis of what...
SEXTON: It was a waste of everyone's time. It was waste of the American people's time. It was a waste of the cadets' time. There was no new policy really discussed. In fact, the president talked a lot about platitudes, things that you would learn in an International Relations 101 class.
When you actually break down what the purpose of this was, I can't really find it. He's basically saying he was wrong on Syria. Now he's going back on that. He's saying we're going to help counterterrorism operations around the world. We're already doing that.
And really, what seemed to me that they would just rather talk about their abysmal foreign policy instead of the absolutely deplorable conditions that we've seen now at the V.A., because that's better for them in this news cycle.
LEMON: Let me follow up a little bit on that question, because more help -- he pledged more help for the Syrian rebels today, a long, long time after the president's red line on chemical weapons was allegedly crossed.
Is the U.S. involvement timely, or is it too little, too late, do you think here?
SEXTON: It's too little; it's too late. It comes at a time when the president recognizes that his doctrine of indecision, which is I think the most polite way that you could describe it, isn't working. It's not helping. Syria is spiraling completely out of control: over 160,000 dead by the latest count. And even the Pentagon and the State Department under Hillary Clinton were saying, "We should do something here. We should give them arms, maybe even consider a no-fly zone." But the president didn't want to make that decision.
And again, what we see is that, over the course of years now, it's year six out of eight for his presidency. And now he wants to describe his foreign policy? Now he wants to tell us how he characterizes his decision-making around the world, America's role in the world? If you have to tell the American people that you believe in American exceptionalism, you probably don't as much as you want us to believe you do.
LEMON: Daniel, you want to respond to that, but also -- and also this, because the president said today, and I thought it was a good line -- I don't know if you agree with it -- "Just because we have the best hammer does not mean that every problem is a nail." I mean...
DANIEL KURTZ-PHELAN, FORMER HILLARY CLINTON SPEECHWRITER: Sure. Well, I would first of all note that there are some recent administrations that really could have benefited from International Relations 101, so I'm not sure everyone would take that as a slight, given some of our recent experiences with other foreign policy options.
This was first and foremost a commander in chief speaking to cadets, and I think Obama showed, as he has multiple times in the past six years, that he cares very deeply and thinks very seriously about these decisions to use force and when it is and is not right to put their lives at risk.
There was another speech embedded in that, though, which was this case for a new kind of American leadership. I don't think he hit all the points that he could have there, but there's a very strong record, and a lot of Obama's critics just don't understand what that model leadership means.
LEMON: But Nina, you know, the important point is, too, here, is that how will this speech go down in Moscow, in Tehran and Pyongyang?
BURLEIGH: Well, I mean, that's the conversation that, you know, the national -- the foreign policy experts want to have.
You know, I noticed that while Obama was speaking, "The Washington Post" foreign policy expert was tweeting, "You know, he's obviously directing this speech to the American electorate. He's not engaging in the foreign policy debate."
Well, you know, you say -- you say "the American electorate" like it's a bad thing. You know, the American electorate are the people, you know, they're the average Joes in Pennsylvania, where I was this afternoon, and these towns that have just been bled dry by this gigantic folly of the Iraq War, which we're still living in the ashes of, which is why they're having this conversation about the V.A. hospitals, because the V.A. hospitals are filled with people who are maimed, whose brains -- whose brains are damaged by IEDs, who didn't have to be sent over there, who are -- and by the way, the V.A. is always a mess.
BURLEIGH: It's always a mess. It's always a problem. And so, of course, they're going to throw Shinseki under the bus, because they've made this into a -- into a, you know, an issue now. But the only reason it's an issue is because there was this hideous folly of the Iraq War, which we should never... (CROSSTALK)
LEMON: OK. Quick, I have a very quick time left. Buck, go ahead. Quickly.
SEXTON: The problem is not -- it's not really Shinseki. The problem is that you have the government in charge of what is essentially a massive single-payer system.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's right.
SEXTON: That's a conversation I think we could have another time. But if we were to look at talking about putting people in dangerous places and what happens as a result of that, the president of the United States surged troops in Afghanistan.
LEMON: Quickly, Buck.
SEXTON: Why did he do that? He did it because he promised he would. He fired his commanding general. Why? Because he sort of embarrassed him based upon a "Rolling Stone" article.
When you look at the timetables that President Obama has set up in Afghanistan, he is playing partisan politics with our troops' lives in the theater of war.
SEXTON: That has been the overriding concern of every single strategic decision...
LEMON: I want...
SEXTON: ... he made in Afghanistan. It is a shame.
LEMON: I want General Marks to get in on this.
SEXTON: It's horrible, and people will call him out for it.
LEMON: General, I have ten seconds.
MARKS: Don, I need to tell you that the challenge with the war in Iraq and clearly our engagement in Afghanistan could be debated quite some time.
But I think it's inappropriate, Nina, for you describe the challenges in the V.A. as a result of a -- of a, quote, "folly" in Iraq.
MARKS: We have to have a V.A. that works, and I think we're -- hopefully, we're going to be able to turn the corner on this thing. There's a lot of work that needs to be done, but let's not throw the -- let's not throw General Shinseki under the bus. Clearly...
LEMON: That's the last word. MARKS: ... he's in charge. He has to be able to be held accountable.
LEMON: Daniel, please come back. We'll have you talk next time. Thank you, everyone.
When we come right back, the passing of a legendary poet and a personal inspiration to me and many around the world, Maya Angelou.
LEMON: Before we go tonight, some thoughts about Maya Angelou, who died at her North Carolina home today at the age of 86, Dr. Maya Angelou to so many. Though she never went to college, her life was like the ultimate graduate school.
She was a poet, a political activist and really so much more: the voice of more than one generation. She had been frail and suffering from heart problems, but her heart and her mind and her soul were on vivid display in what many may have -- may have been her greatest work, "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings."
We're going to leave you know with something that most of you will remember her by: Her poem for Bill Clinton's first inauguration, "On the Pulse of Morning."
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MAYA ANGELOU, POET/ACTIVIST: Today the Rock cries out to us, clearly, forcefully, / Come, you may stand upon my / Back and face your distant destiny, / But seek no haven in my shadow. / I will give you no hiding place down here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)