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Finger Pointing Over Border Crisis; "He Did Not Get The Care He Needed"; No Monkee-ing Around

Aired July 10, 2014 - 16:30   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: The Politics Lead now, the fate of more than 50,000 children hangs in the balance at the border. President Obama has made clear he wants to avoid any political theatre over this humanitarian crisis. You know, like say back and forth finger pointing with the Republican governor of Texas, Rick Perry, who might, just might be angling for a run at the oval office himself.


GOVERNOR RICK PERRY (R), TEXAS: Mr. President, take the action. Put the onus on Congress. But you first have to act, Mr. President. That's what leadership is all about.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As I indicated to Governor Perry, he suggested maybe you just need to go ahead and act. And I had to remind him I'm getting sued right now by Mr. Boehner, apparently, for going ahead and acting instead of going through Congress. Here is a good test case.


TAPPER: Let's bring in our panel. Neera Tanden, president of the Center of American Progress and Kevin Madden, CNN political commentator and Republican strategist. Kevin, this crisis has really brought Governor Perry back into the spotlight in a way that -- I mean, I knew he was thinking about possibly running for president again in 2016 and he likes to remind people that it took three times or two times for other candidates in the past, whether Reagan or whomever. How do you see this actually helping him, if it does?

KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I look back to the 2012 campaign when Governor Perry first got in. The reason he flourished and did so well and zoomed right to the top was that at that time, he was the candidate that was offering the most vocal opposition to President Obama and all of the policies coming out of Washington. He just represented a lot of the frustrations that so many voters had with the Obama administration and what they hated about Washington.

And in this sense right now, if you look at last two weeks, he is probably the most prominent counterpoint to President Obama's arguments about what's going down or any of his explanations about what's going taking place on the border. I think that's why he's in the 2016 discussion.

TAPPER: How do you think he's doing?

NEERA TANDEN, PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: I could make news by saying I would vote for him.

TAPPER: That would make a lot of news.

TANDEN: Other than the fact they had a friendly handshake, the president was trying to say how much he agreed with him on things. There was not so much disagreement. I mean, I could be crazy.

TAPPER: Agree that Obama should take executive actions apparently.

TANDEN: Look, I think my own view is that responsible leadership should actually -- may have more sway in the future. I'm not sure in the future. I'm not a constituent in the Republican Party, but like just bashing Obama may not have the same sway in the future. I'm hoping actually being responsible on the border will have more sway than just attacking.

MADDEN: He will be such a better candidate if he runs in 2016 than he was in 2012, because, you know, I think the first time around, he was winging it. This time, with that experience, you know, the game moves a little slower, kind of like when you've been in it. I think that will really help him. There won't be that many other candidates that, when standing on a debate stage can say I've been here before.

TAPPER: Let's go to Chris Christie, speaking of 2016. Last week, he vetoed a controversial gun control proposal in the state that would have limited the ammunition magazine from 15 to 10 rounds. Newtown parents, he refused to meet with Newtown parents. Two Newtown parents call this, his veto, a blow to the memories of our children.

Do you think this is wise of him? Do you think that this is exactly what he needs to do to win? Because he needs the support of the NRA and gun owners and gun rights people or do you think this really has nothing to do with that? It's just what he believes?

MADDEN: It's hard to tell. If you look at his overall record on the second amendment, he's got some votes or positions that will trouble people that support the second amendment.

TAPPER: I think he supported the assault weapons ban in 1994.

MADDEN: And then he's going to have some second amendment folks may be supportive of. The problem for him or the challenge, I should say, is that many primary voters in early primary states are going to be finding out about those positions all at the same time. So those people that are opposed to him, and many in the media, are going to see that as possibly a level of hypocrisy. His challenge as a national candidate will be to make sure that he tells that story about where he stands on those issues that matter to the voters before his opponents do.

TANDEN: The energy behind him, there's a lot less given the scandals of the last year. There have been more scandals increasing than decreasing. The problem for him, he has positioned himself as a person who can do well nationally because he's a maverick than to cow tow to the NRA, and a vote like that and be attacked from people he would have been sympathetic with before, just plays to a politics that I think takes away from the mavericks.

TAPPER: Secretary of State John Kerry just landed in Kabul, Afghanistan, on an unannounced visit. The country is facing turmoil over a disputed election. Kerry is also blowing up in social media in this video of him -- not exactly wailing on a guitar, playing in Beijing for a small group of diplomats. I want to show this. Look at that. Kevin, what did you think when you saw this video?

MADDEN: All I could think of was -- boy, that hurt my ear right there. That scene from "Animal House" where John Belushi comes in and grabs the guitar and smashes it back and forth.

TAPPER: There it is.

MADDEN: That's the first thing I thought.

TAPPER: You wanted to do that?

MADDEN: I wanted to.

TANDEN: I don't know. It looked a little different.

TAPPER: I think there's always an excuse for "Animal House" reference.

TANDEN: Pretty much. Pretty much.

TAPPER: Thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Coming up, he made it his life's work after coming home from war to fight for the mental help so many veterans need but it was not enough ultimately to save him. What led this promising Marine to take his own life? Is the VA at all to blame?

Plus it's television's highest honor, but could the biggest potential Emmy winners this year be a couple of shows that don't even air on TV?


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. In national news, U.S. Marine Clay Hunt was an American hero who not only served his country, but also tried to prevent so many other troops with posttraumatic stress from taking their own lives. But now he has also become a painful example of the price of dysfunction at the Veterans Administration.

Hunt served in both Afghanistan and Iraq. He was wounded in Fallujah, shot through the wrist by a sniper's bullet while on patrol. When he came home with post traumatic stress, he made humanitarianism part of his therapy traveling with other veterans to Haiti and Chile after the earthquakes to lend a hand. He went to Washington, D.C. to fight for veteran's rights and even had a brief appearance in a public service announcement about suicide prevention for vets. But then tragically, in 2011, this young man, with so much promise, took his own life.

Today the chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee is pointing to Hunt's story and others as examples of the horrible human cost of dysfunction at the VA because their emotional wounds were not adequately addressed.


REP. JEFF MILLER (R), FLORIDA: Each of these young men faced barrier after barrier in their struggle to get help. Each one of these young men eventually succumbed to suicide.


TAPPER: Clay's parents were among those sitting before the House Veterans Affairs Committee today, to push Congress to pass the suicide prevention for Americans Veterans Act and to pressure the VA to do better.

Susan Selke, the mother of Clay Hunt, is here with me now. It's an honor to have you here and first of all, obviously, I am so sorry for your loss and I thank you for the courage it must take to talk about it to help others. You've said that if Clay had better care, he might be alive today. Do you blame the VA?


TAPPER: Do you hold them at all responsible?

SELKE: Yes. He did not get the care that he need. Obviously, it ended in his death. Just the general protocol, I guess, seems to be medication. Mostly medication, or at that time. And just difficulties in navigating the VA system just made, you know, the road very difficult.

TAPPER: And you think he should have had therapy? You think he should have had inpatient treatment? What do you think could have made the difference that he didn't get?

SELKE: From what I understand -- and I'm not a doctor, but in addition to medication, you need to have some kind of therapy going along with it, to get the best results.

TAPPER: It's my understanding that five weeks after his death, the VA finally approved his appeal for increased disability benefits.

SELKE: That's right.

TAPPER: He had like 30 percent and wanted 100 percent. What would that difference possibly have made? SELKE: It would make a huge difference financially to him. When you separate from -- when he separated from the Marines, he was given disability ratings, 30 percent for post-traumatic stress, I think 10 percent for tinnitus, something else. I can't remember. But that summer he was working at a bike shop as a summer job before he started school. He was going back to school that fall.

And he was asked to leave the job because the panic attacks interfered so much. He would have to leave the premises and go outside and gather himself and then come back in. That was pretty devastating to him, to realize, wow, I really am having trouble holding a job in a bike shop. And at that point, he appealed that disability rating understanding that long term he really had no idea what he might be facing.

So he files that appeal and that would have been the fall of 2009 and somewhere, somehow, the file got lost. He had to re-create all his medical records.

TAPPER: I've heard so many stories like this.

SELKE: Send this back in. That was fall of 2009. Clay died March of 2011 and five weeks later, I get a letter, addressed to me, regarding his disability appeal, which is now complete and his PTS grading is 100 percent.

TAPPER: Do you see him as a casualty of war as surely as if he had been killed in Iraq by the enemy?

SELKE: Absolutely.

TAPPER: You do?

SELKE: Absolutely. I said that back in April of 2011 in an interview. Someone asked me, ironically, from CNN, same question. There's no doubt in my mind.

TAPPER: Because you knew him before he went to war.

SELKE: Absolutely.

TAPPER: And you knew him after war?

SELKE: His war experience is why he died. The lack of the right care, the correct combination of things that he need, psychologically to get over that hump with post-traumatic stress, panic attacks, going to a football with family or friends and the fireworks going off or just the loud noises. And he would go into a full-fledge panic attack. I mean, this is devastating. I have to live with a lot of conditions I didn't think I would really have to live with.

TAPPER: What is your message to people at home right now who are watching maybe some of them have PTS. Maybe some of them love somebody who has PTS. What is your message to them?

SELKE: I think my message would be what Clay would say and what he did. Tell somebody. Be open about it. Forget about the stigma. There is no stigma. You have an injury, a mental injury that needs to be treated and taken care of just as if you had a broken arm, broken leg or whatever. You need care. You need it now. Don't put it off. Delaying only makes it worse. As far as getting the right care, obviously -- and this is what happened with Clay.

In the mental help area, there just was not a seamless transition from active duty to VA. When he was active duty, he was injured and diagnosed in 2007. So for two years, he received care for post- traumatic stress while he was active duty. And that was -- seemed to be fairly good.

He seemed to be doing OK. It was when he got out and went to the VA, it all went downhill. He had to be such a proactive advocate for his own care. And it was exhausting to the point he just couldn't do it anymore.

TAPPER: Susan Selke, thank you for your courage. We are sorry for your loss. If you are watching at home, you have PTS or having a difficult time, there is love for you and there is help for you. We'll be right back.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. It's time for our Pop Culture Lead. I'm not sure you've heard of this band. It's kind of a weird name, kind of a big deal, though, the Beatles. You think I'm being sarcastic. There was a time when that was a legitimate statement.

Paul, Ringo, George, John, That's the fab four at their first press conference in 1964, having to introduce themselves to the press. Tonight's episode of "The Sixties" exploring the British invasion and the explosion of Beatlemania here in the United States.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's like aliens landed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look how they look, how they act and how they talk -- wow!


TAPPER: That's Micky Dolenz, you remember him. He was the drummer and singer for another '60s singing phenomenon, the Monkees. And he joins me now from Los Angeles. Mickey, great to see you.


TAPPER: You knew all the Beatles, especially Lennon and Ringo Starr. Would you rooting for them to succeed or fail?

DOLENZ: I'm not sure competition is the right word. You know, we were almost like the next generation. Our fans were typically the younger brothers and sisters of the Beatles, but I with his a huge, huge Beatle fan when I first met the Beatles, I met Paul. All I could do was stop, not ask for his autograph. We were all huge Beatles fans.

TAPPER: What was it like to be a professional musician during the time of Beatlemania?

DOLENZ: It was very exciting. It was the first time that young independent free agents, so to speak, really had a huge voice, you know. That whole era, that was the perfect storm, if you watch this episode tonight, you'll see. It was a combination of not just the music but the social implications. Post war, America post war, England. And the communications that were -- we were capable of at the time, which was fairly new.

International air travel, you know, was really only beginning to take off. And, you know, all the other aspects of communicating, like we're seeing today. Now with the internet, of course. Back then it was, as I say, this kind of perfect storm that just took the world by storm.

TAPPER: Did you feel at all like British bands were unfairly taking over the United States at that item? Was there any patriotic resentment of all these Brits? Obviously, Davey Jones notwithstanding?

DOLENZ: Absolutely not. You know, when you're young at that age, it almost -- it doesn't make any difference where anybody is from. You don't really have that great of a sense of worldliness anyway. When these guys -- when the Beatles hit and all the other British invasion bands, it really just struck a chord. And it sort of levelled the playing field. We were all part of that generation. And it didn't matter where you were from. I mean, up until that time, England was another planet. You might as well have been on another planet. And they brought that -- they made the world much, much smaller, of course, from a generation.

TAPPER: Did the Monkees hang out with other bands? You said you knew the Beatles. Were there a bunch of bands hanging out?

DOLENZ: The Monkees, we didn't hang out in Ashbury. It's a much longer story than we have time for. Remember, the Monkees was not a band originally. It was a television show about a band that wanted to be the Beatles. And in that sense, it's a little bit like glee is, which is a show about a glee club, and of course, in the case of the Monkees, we all could play and sing and we went on the road and started touring. So it's not quite the same.

You know, not quite the same scenario. But, yes, of course, we hung out. But we were pretty busy shooting the television show and rehearsing and recording for those two or three years. Genetics of the Monkees is considerably different. But that's another interview.

TAPPER: Micky Dolenz, thank you for talking with us. It was a blast. You can catch "The Sixties, The British Invasion" tonight at 9 p.m. Eastern on CNN, a great episode.

Somewhere the late comedian, George Carlin, is probably grinning at the irony today, "The New York Times" reports that a clerical error allowed a street in front of a Catholic Church to be named in honor of the legendary comic. He was a Roman Catholic, but drew many of his comedy from the church like this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is no god. In fact, I'm going to put it this way, if there is a God, may he strike this audience dead.


TAPPER: A stretch of 121st Street in New York City became George Carlin way yesterday. Due to that red tape mix-up it's one block longer than it used to be and includes the church's street. Priests there fought the plan for years, finding his anti-church humor offensive and say is he not worthy of the honor.

City officials say they will fix that mistake. In other pop culture news? We don't have time for another pop culture news. Follow me on Twitter @jaketapper and also @theleadcnn and check out our show page for video, blogs and extras. You can subscribe to our magazine on this thing called Flip board.

That's it for "THE LEAD." I'm Jake Tapper. I now turn you over to Wolf Blitzer.