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2016 Presidential Race Already Started?; New Cease-Fire in Israel?; Four Young Palestinian Boys Killed in Shelling

Aired July 16, 2014 - 16:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news: the Israeli government agreeing to another cease-fire, but this one has a definite built-in expiration date.

I'm Jake Tapper. This is THE LEAD.

The world lead, just a day at the beach, but the beach is in Gaza, the lives of four Palestinian children, little boys, wiped away as they played on the sand, wiped away by an Israeli strike. A cease-fire now in the offing, but it's being described as a limited one.

The politics lead. She's got a book out. She's on tour and she insists she's not running for president. No, no, I'm not talking about Hillary Clinton, Senator Elizabeth Warren. She's just one of the names who could chip away at the Hillary juggernaut.

And the pop culture lead. Wasn't that song great the first 5,000 times you heard it? Help us, Weird Al. You're our only hope. The song spoofer extraordinaire joins us in a question to release eight new videos in eight days.

Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We're going to begin today with the politics lead. You may have missed the actual blast of the starter's pistol, but make no mistake. Democrats and Republicans alike are already exploding out of the box, maybe not officially running, granted, but certainly undeclared jogging for the White House?

Whether it's Democratic front-runner Hillary kissing the ring of progressive Comedy Central pundit/comedian Jon Stewart, Governor Rick Perry and Senator Rand Paul trying to out-Reagan one another in a brawl over the future of the Republican Party, Vice President Biden cozying up to liberals, while Senator Elizabeth Warren makes a play for the same piece of the progressive pie, or New Jersey Governor Chris Christie casting himself in a video as a big screen conservative action hero ready for the fight, the pretense that no potential candidate is thinking past the 2014 midterms, well, that is gone.

It is now game on for 2016, people, with everything on the line. We begin, of course, with Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton making a swing by "The Daily Show" last night, and she's not the only Democrat making the rounds.

Our senior political correspondent, Brianna Keilar, is here with the details.

Brianna, does anyone believe that this is still just about selling books and not Hillary Clinton trying to sell herself to the younger generation?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, no, I think it's both, both, and her publisher certainly wants her to sell books, right? Has to make up that reported $14 million advance that she got, but Hillary Clinton is no doubt positioning herself for a run.

Some in her own party, though, they're looking left of Hillary Clinton, trying to encourage Elizabeth Warren to get in the game.


KEILAR (voice-over): Even Hillary Clinton doesn't seem to believe Hillary Clinton isn't running for example president.

JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART": I have -- it's like a career aptitude test.

KEILAR: With "The Daily Show"'s Jon Stewart playing career counselor, she told him she prefers a home office over a commute.


STEWART: Would you like it to have corners or would you like it not to have corners?


HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: You know, I think that the world is so complicated, the fewer corners that you can have...


KEILAR: Funny. I will bet she knows just the place.

But not all Democrats are measuring the Oval Office drapes for Clinton. Some liberals want to draft Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, who got quite a reception from young progressives.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: You are people who can't wait for change. You are the ones who know we have to jump in and jump in now and make our own change. That's why I'm here today.


KEILAR: She's one of the most in-demand Democratic surrogates, taking her populist message to West Virginia Monday to campaign for Senate hopeful Natalie Tennant.

WARREN: The way I see this, Citibank, Goldman Sachs and all those other guys on Wall Street, they have got plenty of folks in the United States Senate who are willing to work on their side. We need some more people willing to work on the side of America's families.

KEILAR: Clinton is by far the Democratic front-runner. She has two super PACs backing her up, including Ready for Hillary, whose bus shadowed her on her book tour, but Ready for Warren just launched online, albeit more modestly, by activists trying to convince her to enter the race. There's just one issue.

WARREN: I think Hillary is terrific.

KEILAR: Warren, along with other Senate women, have signed a letter urging Clinton to run.

WARREN: I'm not running for president. I am working right now on the issues I talk about in this book.


KEILAR: Now, Joe Biden, not to be left out, also spoke at the Center for American Progress' Youth Summit today and he and Warren will be at Netroots Nation, a big gathering of liberal bloggers and activists, on Friday, and he was really making his case for his liberal credentials.

So, he's not -- he's kind of...

TAPPER: He suggested that what everybody thought was a gaffe, his saying that he was in favor on of same-sex marriage before Obama did, wasn't a gaffe.

KEILAR: Yes. And certainly that doesn't play poorly for him when you're talking to liberals that he came out with that opinion.

TAPPER: This was an interesting -- I just don't remember it that way. But, Brianna Keilar, thank you so much.

KEILAR: Good point.

TAPPER: Let's bring in CNN senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta, who just spoke with someone else in the potential running, Maryland governor Martin O'Malley, another Democrat with rumored Oval Office ambitions of his own.

He's not exactly being shy, Jim, about taking swings at the current administration, especially over the humanitarian crisis at the border.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jake. He's in a bit of a flare-up with the White House and that flare-up is a sign that the White House has had enough with Democrats breaking ranks with President Obama over the border crisis.

But Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley knows that all too well, but as the potential presidential contender told CNN, he is standing by his comments.


ACOSTA (voice-over): Appearing like a candidate running to the left of the White House for 2016, Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley slammed President Obama's plans to return thousands of undocumented children to Central America.

GOV. MARTIN O'MALLEY (D), MARYLAND: We are not a country that should turn children away and send them back to certain death.

ACOSTA: The president's top aides were furious. Just hours after his remarks last week, O'Malley took a call from White House adviser Cecilia Munoz. A source familiar with the conversation said O'Malley sounded like a hypocrite, telling Munoz, "Please don't send these kids to Western Maryland," a site in home state that was under consideration for housing the children.

(on camera): Was it hypocritical, though, for you to say to Cecilia Munoz, don't send them to the site in Western Maryland?

O'MALLEY: That's not what -- well, actually, I said that that wouldn't be the most inviting state in Maryland.

ACOSTA (voice-over): In an interview with CNN, O'Malley stressed he was only warning Munoz about sending the migrants to a conservative part of the state, pointing to graffiti found later the site, "No illegals here," the word illegals misspelled, "no undocumented Democrats."

O'Malley said he's not backing down.

(on camera): Do you feel like they threw you under the bus?

O'MALLEY: I really don't care. I'm far more concerned about children being penned up and cooped up in conditions that a lot look more like kennels. The bigger point is that we are Americans and we do not return refugee kids who find themselves on our doorstep back into war- torn or famine-racked places, where they will face certain death. So, I think we have to act like Americans.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The White House says that's what's happening.

JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It's the position of this administration, Jim, that our treatment of these individuals who have been apprehended at the border should be in line with our values as a country.

ACOSTA: While the administration grapples with state officials worried about a flood of children into their communities and Democrats criticizing the president...

REP. HENRY CUELLAR (D), TEXAS: With all due respect to the administration, they're one step behind. They should have seen this coming a long time ago.

ACOSTA: ... O'Malley is apparently making his own migration beyond the White House and on to 2016.

(END VIDEOTAPE) ACOSTA: Now, it should also be noted that O'Malley's take on this crisis also sets him apart from Hillary Clinton, who has said that the young migrants should be sent back as soon as possible.

As for the president, he will be meeting with congressional Democrats here at the White House this afternoon and many of them do not want the president to rush these children out of the country. They're sort of falling in line with O'Malley's take on this crisis, Jake.

TAPPER: Interesting. Jim Acosta at the White House, thank you so much.

Let's bring in our panel, CNN political commentator and Republican strategist Ana Navarro and co-host of CNN's "CROSSFIRE" and Democratic strategist Van Jones.

Van, let me start with you. Obama beat Clinton in 2008 by running to her left. There seems to be a lot of space there you hear, especially when it comes to this issue this crisis at the border. Take a listen to what Hillary Clinton had to say to Christiane Amanpour about this border crisis just a few weeks ago.


CLINTON: They should be sent back as soon as it can be determined who the responsible adults in their families are, because there are concerns whether all of them can be sent back, but I think all of them who can be should be reunited with their families.


TAPPER: I mean, away from the policy of what's right and what's wrong here in terms of the humanitarian border crisis, there is definitely room on the president's left and on Hillary Clinton's left on this issue and it sounds like O'Malley is sensing an opening.

VAN JONES, CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE": I think that's true. I also think he may be speaking from his heart. I think a lot of Democrats have been concerned that we are being looking at these kids as if they're some kind of infestation and the first thing we go do is get rid of these kids as opposed to making sure that they're safe here and if they do go back home that they're treated safely.

But I think the this idea of O'Malley is just this purely Machiavellian guy...

TAPPER: I'm not saying that. I'm not suggesting he doesn't believe it. I'm just saying that -- but you don't have to speak up about every single thing you disagree with the administration on.

JONES: Look, here's what I think is going on.

Hillary Clinton is a global superstar. Elizabeth Warren, her star is rising. It will be Beatlemania for Elizabeth Warren at Netroots Nation this weekend. And O'Malley has got to distinguish himself, because right now he's the guy that nobody's ever heard of. So, I think for him to come out and speak passionately on Democratic

Party values is good and appropriate, but I don't think that will be a pathway for him by himself. He's got to come up with a much bigger way to identify himself to the public. Right now he's a guy nobody's heard of.

TAPPER: Ana, the Latino vote out there, obviously it's not one uniform bloc, everybody feels differently.

But you would think a lot of the progressive Latinos are happy to hear someone like Martin O'Malley say that. And I just got word that Nancy Pelosi just said something about this bill that would rescind the 2008 order that John Cornyn in the Senate, Republican, and Henry Cuellar from Texas, a Democrat, had brought forward to get rid of that, so it would be easier to send these kids back to Central America.

Speaker -- Minority Leader Pelosi just announced that she will oppose it.

ANA NAVARRO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I'm sure President Obama will hear the same thing from some of the members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus today. I think he's hearing the same thing from Senator Menendez.

There is this feeling out there that there needs to be some compassion shown to these kids. I don't think it's just progressive Latinos. And I can tell you when Hillary Clinton said that to Christiane Amanpour, she was probably the first Democrat to go out there and say these kids need to be sent back.

And the reaction amongst my Latino friends, some of whom are leaders of national organizations and are big Democrats, was a big cringe and eye roll, wondering who in the roll is advising Hillary Clinton? Because what her answer lacked was any of the empathy and compassion towards these kids, showing some heart.

You can wrestle with this decision of what to do with the kids and there's a lot of Hispanic and non-Hispanic Americans that are wrestling with what to do with these kids, because we understand they're being taken advantage of by criminal organizations in Central America.

TAPPER: Right.

NAVARRO: Misrepresenting U.S. policy, and at the same time, you are talking about 7-, 8-, 12-, 13-year-olds who have gone through harrowing journeys to get here who are, you know, sheltered in places, conditions that are hard and whose parents have cobbled together maybe all of the money that they could and who will get sent immediately back.

Of course, it's a very difficult thing to reconcile your conscience with.

JONES: Absolutely. Frankly, we have refugee populations here in New Orleans. You have a

huge Vietnamese population. America is better because they're here. In Miami, you have a huge Cuban refugee population. America is better because they're here.

And let's not forget -- and I'm glad O'Malley is fighting back on this. We sent back Jews in the middle of World War II who wound up in ovens because we did not take refugee crises seriously two generations ago. Our grandparents learned that lesson. They said never again and we're going to be a refuge for the world. And O'Malley to stick up for that principle I think is good for him.

NAVARRO: Also don't forget that O'Malley is in a way sticking up for his own constituents, where there are a lot of Central American people living in the tristate area, Washington, D.C., Virginia and Maryland.

And he represents a lot of the people that have a personal stake in this issue.

TAPPER: I just -- I know you weren't comparing what's going on in Central America to the Holocaust.


JONES: But American values of this is the place where refugees can come, that that is something that we learned the hard way in World War II, and we shouldn't throw those values away easily now. Our grandparents learned those lessons for us.

TAPPER: Very quickly, let's touch in with Joe Biden trying this go- left strategy a little bit, bringing up the marriage equality act and the marriage equality movement at this gathering of Generation Progress.


JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm proud to say that I think the country's moved further and faster toward full marriage equality than anyone ever thought it was possible, although I thought it was possible.

I believe and spent -- no, I really did. I really did because you know what? I have been hanging around long enough to know the American people are usually way ahead of their leaders.


TAPPER: Is he suggesting, Van, that his famous gaffe was not such a gaffe?

JONES: I think he's trying to remind people that he was out ahead of our leader, the president, and I think that's a kind of subtle thing that he's doing, but you know what?

TAPPER: Subtle.

JONES: I mean, subtle for Joe.


JONES: Subtle for Vice President Biden, but, listen, he was out front.

The Democratic Party has been out front, and I'm glad to see the vice president is still out there stumping for votes. But I'll tell you what. Beatlemania today at the Center for American Progress, not for Joe Biden. It was for Elizabeth Warren.


NAVARRO: I will tell you what. Joe Biden has spent the last few months doing a lot of reminding, reminding people he has got less money than Hillary Clinton, and reminding people he drives a car, reminding people where he was on marriage equality.

TAPPER: Not so subtle when you accumulate it like that.


NAVARRO: There's a lot of room to the left of Hillary.

TAPPER: Thank you so much.

Coming up next, four boys, four boys being boys, four boys playing soccer on the beach, that is, until the Israeli military opened, fire killing them all. How is Israel explaining today's attack?

Plus, Republicans taking on the White House again, demanding to know if one of the president's Cabinet secretaries broke the law. The White House response, take a hike. But will a newly leaked audiotape prove Republicans right?


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

Some breaking news in the word lead. Israel has agreed to a limited cease-fire to allow humanitarian supplies into Gaza according to Israeli officials. This news, of course, comes too late for four boys on the beach earlier today.

A warning, what you're about to see may upset you. Their names are Ismail (ph), Mohammed, Zwakara (ph) and Ahid (ph). They were 9 years old, 10 years old, 10 years old, 11 years old. One moment, they were playing soccer on the beach and the next moment, they were dead.

Now, forget for a moment what you think of Hamas. Forget what you think of the Netanyahu government. Forget the questions you have about tactics or the prospects of peace long term, just think for one second if you would about four little boys going to the beach to play soccer and four little boys being killed -- killed by the Israeli military as part of its campaign which they say is targeting Hamas, an organization that the United States considers a terrorist organization, one that continues to fire rockets into Israel indiscriminately.

And while you're thinking of these four Palestinian boy, these four innocent victims, maybe also take a moment to think about the Israeli children killed by Palestinian terrorists in this conflict, say for instance, the kidnapped three teenage boys, one of them with American citizenship. Is there room in your heart for all seven of these boys? Jewish and Palestinian?

Right now, we're not talking about the history of the occupation or the history of terrorism. We're not discussing who is to blame for these conditions. We're not making moral equivalencies. We're just talking about seven dead kids and whether any of them, any of these deaths serve anyone's interest?

Joining me right now on the phone is Nick Casey, foreign correspondent for "The Wall Street Journal", who was there and witnessed what happened to these four little boys in Gaza.

Nick, you were in your hotel. You're just feet from the beach when this happened. What did you hear? What did you see?

NICHOLAS CASEY, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL (via telephone): Yes. I was on the phone with my translator when I heard a really big explosion that was bigger than anything I'd heard since I got here, so I knew it was really close. I went downstairs to see some smoke rising up in the area and for a while I had to stay away from it because sometimes the Israeli airstrikes or artillery fire that comes in from the sea because we're right on the sea takes a while and they'll do several.

So, we finally went ahead and saw them pulling out the bodies of several people, one of them was a boy who was probably 9 or 10. There was a 9-year-old and a 10-year-old there and he looked like at that point he was dead. His body was fairly mutilated and he was burned, his leg was twisted and the building that they pulled him out of was a small building, a small hut that was near the harbor that was also in flames and sort of in tatters, and beside the hut was a larger building that was also looking like it got hit by the strike as well.

TAPPER: Nick, is there any legitimate target on that beach where these kids were killed?

CASEY: I don't know. I haven't seen anything there. I've been at this hotel for a while. There certainly haven't been any rockets that I've seen come out of here. In fact, people have said during the last wars that Hamas has made sure that no one launches any rockets because this is where the journalists are and they don't want the Israelis attacking back with the rockets going the wrong way.

And I have seen a couple of people ask me whether it was anybody on the beach, I've seen some people out on the beach and some kids play on the beach, you know, during these days even though most people are staying indoors. There's not really that much to do in Gaza right now. It's Ramadan. There's also a war on and most people are unemployed, so a lot of people are sort of milling about if they venture out at all.

TAPPER: Have you seen these kids before? Nick, have you seen --

CASEY: Hello?

TAPPER: Nick, have you seen these kids before?

CASEY: No. I hadn't seen any of them before. They weren't people that were known to me, but I have seen other cases where it's very difficult to say why Israel attacked where it did.

I was looking a couple of days ago into the case of a pharmacist whose apartment was hit by an apache helicopter, a hellfire missile according to people who saw it, according to his wife who was in the kitchen when this happened. She survived. The kids survived, but he was out close to the window because the first rocket had had hit below and he was trying to figure out what happened when the second one came and killed him.

So, it's very hard to say at this point who the people are exactly that are getting killed and the IDF is saying they're investigating that right now, but as a reporter wandering around, trying to have a look at who some of the victims are of these aerial strikes, they're for Hamas, it's clear that not all of them are Hamas. It's clear that some of them are civilians that are being hit here and --

TAPPER: Hey, Nick Casey, thank you so much for joining us and stay safe, my friend.

CASEY: Thanks so much.

TAPPER: I want to bring in Wolf Blitzer who joins us live from Jerusalem now. Wolf, these kids killed playing on a Gaza beach clearly by Israeli shelling. What is the reaction of the Israeli government to this?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR, THE SITUATION ROOM: Well, the Israelis make it clear they think these little four boys would have been alive right now if Hamas would have accepted the cease-fire that the Israelis accepted the Egyptian-sponsored cease-fire yesterday. Israel had stopped its airstrikes for six hours. Hamas continued launching rockets into Israel. Israel then resumed its air strikes, and we see what the results were today and tragedy in Gaza.

I did speak with one of the Israeli cabinet members, member of the inner security cabinet, Naftali Bennett. He spoke with me earlier and he's a very hard liner. He voted against Benjamin Netanyahu in accepting that initial ceasefire proposal.

Listen to what he told me.


NAFTALI BENNETT, ISRAELI ECONOMY MINISTER: I think it's terrible that Hamas is butchering their own children. I would never take my children and place them next to missile launchers.

BLITZER: These are little children. They're just playing on the beach and, clearly, you were -- the Israeli military was aiming for some sort of target, but in the process, there -- what they used to call at the Pentagon, collateral damage. These are human beings that were killed.

BENNETT: Israel never targets civilians deliberately, period.


BLITZER: So he's got strong views, obviously, and he disagreed with Prime Minister Netanyahu.

We're going to get the official reaction from Prime Minister Netanyahu's spokesman Mark Regev. He will join us at the top of the hour. The Israelis have accepted this U.N. temporary truce, as you point out.

We'll also get the first official reaction from Hamas. The spokesman, Osama Hamdan. He's going to join us as well.

We'll speak to other Palestinians and we'll get reaction from the Israeli Defense Forces.

So, a lot coming up on "THE SITUATION ROOM" at the top of the hour as we continue our special report.

TAPPER: Wolf, very quickly, how significant do you think this limited cease-fire is. I know it's just so humanitarian aid can get through. Is it more than that at all, potentially?

BLITZER: It potentially could be an opening and I think it gives Hamas an opportunity right now to accept it. If Hamas accepts it and tomorrow from 10:00 a.m. local time here in Israel and in Gaza until 4:00 p.m. local time, if there was a humanitarian truce, if there is no shelling, no rockets and no Israeli air strikes, if everything is quiet and supplies come in and Palestinians in Gaza can go back to their homes and deal with some of the issues they want to deal with free.

If that happens, it might be an opportunity for Egypt and the Palestinian authority and some of the others involved to prolong it and hopefully they can because as you correctly point out, you've got to stop the fighting over here. It's brutal on both sides, people are traumatized, they want to see a cease-fire.

TAPPER: Wolf Blitzer in Jerusalem, thank you so much. We'll see you again at the top of the hour.

Coming up next, he called himself a regular person who liked hockey and fishing, and then he gave up his normal life to fight with jihadists in the Middle East. How his story is inspiring others.

Plus, deadly viruses sitting in random refrigerators. Anthrax in zip lock bags and that's not all. So, how is the Centers for Disease Control now explaining these alarming series of failures?