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The War On Lunch?; Measles Back With A Vengeance?; Bloomberg Rips Liberals In Speech; How 1960s TV Culture Changed America

Aired May 29, 2014 - 16:30   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. The Politics Lead now. Look around the Capitol Hill cafeterias and you'll see plenty of choices for lunch, but now has Republicans may have just taken salad off the menu at some schools across the country and as expected the GOP-controlled Appropriations Committee voted today for a one-year delay of new nutrition standards for school lunches.

Struggling schools can for now continue to serve pizza and French fries without worrying about the government asking for a side a fruit with that. Anticipated move drew the ire of First Lady Michelle Obama prompting her to write an op-ed in the "New York Times," the headline is "The campaign for junk food".

A new obesity study shows unsurprisingly that the U.S. is the fattest country in the world and our children keep getting heavier and heavier. CNN's Athena Jones has the skinny.


ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The first lady has been flexing her political muscles in a food fight over school lunches.

MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: We have to be willing to fight the hard fight now.

JONES: But today she lost round one with House Republicans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The amendment is not agreed to.

JONES: That means schools may get a one-year delay on a rule that would limit fat and salt in school meals and require healthier ingredients.

REPRESENTATIVE SAM FARR (D), CALIFORNIA: It gives schools an opt out saying you don't have to participate in school lunch program if it's hard. Well, we don't tell kids, look, you don't have to take math if it's hard or science if it's hard.

REPRESENTATIVE ROBERT ADERNOLT (R), ALABAMA: This is where the heavy hand of the government is coming down and trying to dictate to local school systems everything about even putting salt shakers on the table. So again, this is just buying time. JONES: Still Mrs. Obama won't be pulling her punches any time soon. The latest salvo in the battle for a better food, a "New York Times" op-ed, in which she writes about the Republican effort, "Our children deserve so much better than this." The first lady has often enlisted her celebrity friends to promote her "Let's Move" campaign to encourage kids to exercise. Today she went straight to a champ, tweeting this YouTube video, featuring Super Bowl star, Richard Sherman, as a chef.

OBAMA: Richard, take me through your final plate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are the best chefs in the game.

JONES: And Mrs. Obama herself as a sideline reporter.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whether you're an athlete or just a kid at school, you have to put the right fuel in your body in order to perform your best.

JONES: Sherman may be a winner, but no touchdown yet for the first lady.


JONES: And so Jake, the White House definitely sees this as a setback, but they say the fight isn't over. The next stop for this bill is the full house and Democrats there are going to keep fighting to shift this language, this waiver language out of the bill. It will probably be an uphill battle because it's the Republican-controlled House, but we'll be watching to see what happens.

TAPPER: Athena Jones, thank you so much.

When we come back, a dangerous outbreak like nothing we've seen in the past 20 years. Hundreds contracting measles even though the disease was thought to have been wiped out in this country. Are the anti-vaccers to blame?


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. In national news, it was supposed to be gone relocated to medical school lectures, but ever since the U.S. eradicated measles back in 2000, it has been popping up on diagnostic charts more and more across the country and now the Centers for Disease Control announced a record number of confirmed cases 288 easily the most in this millennium. Of course, it's only May.

So why is measles coming back with such a vengeance? Joining me now is the director for the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the CDC, Dr. Anne Schuchat. Dr. Schuchat, good to see you again. First of all, let's explain to viewers, how serious is measles? Would an outbreak kill a lot of people?

DR. ANNE SCHUCHAT, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL CENTER FOR IMMUNIZATION AND RESPIRATORY DISEASES: Measles is extremely infectious. So if you haven't already had measles or been vaccinated appropriately and you come in contact with this virus, you're going to get sick. Most people have mild illness with fever and rash, but this can be serious, 15 percent of the patients with measles in the U.S. this year have required hospitalization. About one or two in a 1,000 cases of measles will be fatal, but there are 122,000 children who died from measles around the world every year.

TAPPER: How much of this increase, this outbreak is because of the anti-vaccine crowd, the people who say that these life-saving vaccines and they say this and maybe perfectly clear there is no there is no evidence to back this up who say that these vaccines cause autism and spread this misinformation. How much of this outbreak is their fault?

SCHUCHAT: The MMR vaccine is safe and very effective. If you get vaccinated, you are unlikely to get measles. About 90 percent of the people who were unvaccinated in this outbreak had personal belief exemptions or philosophical exemptions. The vast majority of people who has gotten measles in the U.S. so far this year were not vaccinated or didn't know if they were vaccinated and the majority of them were exempting from vaccines because of personal beliefs.

There are a lot of different believes out there and so I wouldn't want to characterize those attitudes in terms of anti- vaccination. There are many complex attitudes, but I think it's really important for people to know that measles might be forgotten, but it's not gone. It's an airplane right away and if you're traveling this summer, please make sure you've gotten measles vaccine that you are protected and that your family is.

And if you're a parent who is thinking that this has gone and you don't have to worry about it and you don't need to get your children vaccinated, please get them vaccinated because the disease can be serious. An interesting thing this year is that about half of the cases are recurring in people over 20. A lot of people didn't even know if they were vaccinated or not and so we recommending if you're going to be traveling and you don't know if you've been vaccinated, get an MMR vaccine.

TAPPER: All right, Dr. Anne Schuchat with an important message from the CDC, thank you so much.

SCHUCHAT: Thank you.

TAPPER: In world news, he could have the golden ticket that everyone in al Qaeda desires, a U.S. passport. U.S. officials are not looking to claims on social media that an American fighting with Syria's rebels helped pull off an enormous suicide truck bombing at a government-controlled building over the weekend.

Al Nusra Front, a group with close ties to al Qaeda posted a photograph on Twitter of the explosion along with a photo of the bomber who they call Abu, "The American." An anti-government activist told the "New York Times" that the man is a U.S. citizen with a U.S. passport. This claim comes just a few days after U.S. intelligence warned that al Qaeda linked groups in Syria are trying to recruit Americans to train there and carry out attacks at home. In one fiery blow today, at least 14 people including a key Ukrainian general were killed when pro-Russian force blasted a Ukrainian military helicopter out of the sky. Ukrainian's acting president says the chopper, which was carrying soldiers for a troop rotation, was shot down using a Russian rocket propelled grenade launcher.

As the carnage intensifies in Eastern Ukraine, it's becoming harder and harder to deny Russia's hand in the bloodshed especially after news today from a spokesman from the separatists that 33 Russian citizens were among those killed on Monday at a battle at a Ukrainian airport.

When we come back, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg comparing what's going on in U.S. colleges to McCarthy-ism. Why he is using a speech at Harvard to take on liberals.

Plus it was a decade that changed our nation, "The Sixties" and Ben Stein had a unique front row seat for much of it. My interview with the actor and Nixon's former speechwriter is ahead.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Just to give you an idea of how quickly this Shinseki story is happening, just since we've been on air in the last 45 minutes, three more Senate Democrats have called for his resignation, Senators Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Tim Kaine of Virginia, bringing the total number of Senate Democrats who have called for Shinseki's resignation to 11. We will continue to monitor the story, of course.

In national news, he put limits on soda sizes, banned trans- fats and he leads a nationwide effort for stricter restrictions on gun ownership. When Michael Bloomberg was mayor of New York, conservatives disparaged of his pet causes as the worst kind of big government liberalism run amok.

But when Bloomberg spoke a short time ago at Harvard's commencement, he reminded everyone that there was once a Republican by casting liberalism as a repressive force on American college campuses.

Our Deborah Feyerick is at Harvard University in Massachusetts. Deb, liberals got an earful today from the former mayor.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They certainly did and at the end of the speech, Jake, Michael Bloomberg got a standing ovation. He told the audience it's not OK to suppress any idea because you don't agree with it.


FEYERICK (voice-over): Accusing universities of becoming less open- minded and less tolerant of diverse ideas, billionaire, Michael Bloomberg, lashed out at liberal colleges and faculties accusing them of, quote, "censorship and a modern day form of McCarthyism." MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, (I), FORMER NEW YORK MAYOR: It's liberals trying to repress conservative ideas, even as conservative faculty members are at risked of becoming an endangered species.

FEYERICK: Bloomberg accused Ivy Leagues like Harvard of becoming politically homogenous. He pointed to figures that he says show 96 percent of Harvard faculty and employees donated to Barack Obama's re- election campaign.

BLOOMBERG: Ninety six percent, there was more disagreement among the old Soviet parlboro than there is among Ivy League donors.

FEYERICK: Several high profile commencement speakers bowed out this year following student dissent. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice backed out at Rutgers University after student protests over U.S. policy in Iraq. And IMF Chief Christine Lagarde stepped down from speaking at Smith College after students there denounced policies they believed failed to support women in developing countries.

BLOOMBERG: But in politics, as it is on far too many college campuses, people don't listen to facts that run counter to their ideology.

FEYERICK: Some Harvard students criticized their school's choice of Bloomberg as the key speaker.

JON CHOSCHI, HARVARD GRADUATE: A number of us at the law school and across the campus I believe faculty, students, alumni alike and staff are concerned about Mayor Bloomberg's record on policing in New York, especially the stop and frisk program, which was basically racial profiling codified into a form of policing. Just proportionately stopped black, young black men.

FEYERICK: Jon Choschi, a 2014 Harvard law school grad started a last minute Twitter #harvardagainstbloomberg, which failed to gain much traction 24 hours before the speech.

(on camera): Why not give him his first amendment right to say what he wants and then really evaluate it?

KEYANNA WIGGLESNORTH, JUNIOR, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: This is detrimental to specific group of people and I was with the graduating class and the entire student body. I think we need to look at that.

FEYERICK (voice-over): Many students however praised Bloomberg's achievements.

ANTOINE ESKANDER, HARVARD GRADUATE: Bloomberg is awesome. In terms of the amount of money that he donated to public health and the initiatives he's taken on.


FEYERICK: Now, while Michael Bloomberg, Jake, attacked liberals, he also went after conservatives and he accused them of either denying evidence or tried to discredit it, specifically to studies on gun violence as well as evolution and climate change. Ultimately he urged the class of 2014 to stand up for the rights of all -- Jake.

TAPPER: Deborah Feyerick, thank you so much.

Coming up, he might be best known for his role in an '80s classic, but it was one of Ben Stein's first jobs that put him front and center to some of the biggest political stories of his generation. I'll talk to Ben Stein next about his memories of the '60s.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Time for our Pop Culture Lead. Remember the 1960s? Whether or not you remember that decade and in full disclosure, I don't, it's cultural and political and economic impact was epic with the status quo challenge by a subversiveness perhaps best exemplified by the Smothers brothers.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our government is asking us as citizens to refrain from traveling to foreign lands.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. All of guys in Vietnam, come on home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The times were changing so quickly in the '60s and we didn't change them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We just reflected them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are you doing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm getting ready to go to college.


TAPPER: That's from tonight's premier episode of the ten-part CNN series "The Sixties." So how else did the culture of the '60s change the course of America? Let's bring in the one and only Ben Stein. He grew up in the '60s, worked for Richard Nixon's 1968 campaign, served in his White House. He is an economist and writer and actor and if you don't remember the 1960s, you may know him best for this scene.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bueller, Bueller, Bueller --


TAPPER: That's of course, from Ferris Bueller's day off. Ben Stein, thanks so much for joining us. Let's travel back in time. This is you in 1969. Let's show a picture of that. Very cool. Very radical. What did the '60s mean to you?

BEN STEIN, ACTOR: A lot of sex, a lot of drugs. When I was -- when the '60s started, you were lucky to get a good night kiss from a girl if you went out on a date with her. When the '60s ended, it was very rare not to have sex. When the '60s began, none of us knew what marijuana looked like. When the '60s ended, we were all high at the time. It was a lot of fun unless you were being sent to Vietnam and getting killed. Then it was horrible. For those left behind, it was fun. And God did we have fun at the demonstrations. There was a lot of balling.

TAPPER: OK. So you heard this Smothers brothers doing what they call reflecting the changing times. In that instance they were talking about the war in Vietnam. Tonight's episode of series is about the age of television in the '60s. What role do you think television played in forming and reflecting the culture at that time?

STEIN: Well, television had two -- there were two kinds. There is entertainment television, which was predominantly showing very negative images of businessmen, the government, military, small towns, that was a kind of universal theme of entertainment and television and there was a universal negative theme about the war in Vietnam, about Nixon, about business. The news media went down as a partisan force in the '60s way beyond anything that has been dreamt up before that.

TAPPER: So you think it was partisan? You don't think, for instance, reporters taking a side in the civil rights battles, which you applauded a few seconds ago was reflecting the morality, the moral side of things?

STEIN: Absolutely, without question, no doubt about that and by the way, the newspapers in the south were making a very different point of view. It's interesting, we all know about the newspapers in the north and the newspapers in the south were very alarmed about integration. But I'm talking about the attacks on business, the attacks on Mr. Nixon, the attacks on the war in Vietnam.

And by the way, the attacks on the war in Vietnam were correct and quite justified. We shouldn't have been there. It was a meat grinder. My father served there and he said if you were a young man, you would be demonstrating against it, too. The media was right in that sense.

But they stopped any pretense of impartiality or neutrality in the '60s and became an extremely partisan force. As I say, anti- Republican, anti-war in Vietnam, anti-business. And it stayed that way with one obvious notable exception since then.

TAPPER: I assume you're talking about me. The show tonight also talks about the role of the famous first televised debate between Nixon and Kennedy in 1960.


TAPPER: How big of an impact do you think that had on the role of politics in television continuing from 1960 forward?

STEIN: A huge, huge impact because for those of us who were listening on the radio, it sure seemed as though Nixon won. Nixon looked so much worse than Kennedy, that made a huge impression. The visual really took over as opposed to the audio and Kennedy looked so great and sounded so cool and Nixon sounded so worried and didn't look like a person you'd want to be president. The television debate was incredibly important.

TAPPER: Lastly, sir, you were very close with Nixon. There's video of you tearing up during his resignation. How do you think --

STEIN: I still am. I still cry about it. I still cry about it.

TAPPER: And when you think about his role in the '60s, what do you think?

STEIN: I think he was the greatest peacemaker this country has ever known. I think he took a country that was at war with himself and a war overseas and set up a structure to last him a generation and he's very much missed and no matter what people say about him, I will never turn my back on a peacemaker. Never.

TAPPER: Ben Stein, thank you so much. Hope you enjoyed the series. You can watch the premier of the CNN series "The Sixties" tonight at 9:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific on CNN. That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. I now turn you over to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM."