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Interview With Pennsylvania Congressman Tim Murphy; Mental Health in America; President Bush's Muse; Interview With Ernie Banks; Who Killed JFK?; George W. Bush Unveils His Latest Portrait

Aired November 20, 2013 - 16:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Are we as a society prepared to accept, "Sorry, there's no room at the inn" from mental health facilities?

I'm Jake Tapper. This is THE LEAD.

The national lead. A Virginia newspaper says he was turned away after a mental health evaluation on Monday. And, by Tuesday, he was dead. And police say the nearly took his politician father along with him. Were all the possibilities really explored to get Gus Deeds help? And what does it mean to you?

The politics lead. A congressman busted with cocaine, he says he's sorry and getting help. Wait until you hear how he got caught. And also in national news, a lot of us were surprised to learn that former President Bush is a painter, including his own family. But his latest portrait shows he's definitely putting the practice in. Are we witnessing the artistic flowering of our 43rd president?

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

We will begin with the national lead. We have been saying too long that the mental health system in America is not working and there's a body count as a result, victims in Aurora, Newtown, and at LAX. And it's happened again.

Virginia's former Democratic candidate for governor and current state Senator Creigh Deeds is now listed in good condition after he was stabbed repeatedly on Tuesday in the head and torso. His son, however, 24-year-old Austin Gus Deeds, is dead from a gunshot wound.

As the reports came in Tuesday, it was hard not to get that increasingly sinking feeling, which police later backed up with their own theory that Gus Deeds likely stabbed his own father and then shot himself.

"The Richmond Times-Dispatch" reports that on Monday, the Rockbridge Area Community Services Board in Lexington, Virginia, gave Gus Deeds a mental health evaluation under an emergency custody order, but a source tells the paper he was turned away because no psychiatric bed was available for him.

Today, however, "The Washington Post" says three hospitals had room within an hour's drive from where Gus Deeds was evaluated. Two of those hospitals told the paper they were never called. A third wasn't sure.

The Treatment Advocacy Center says the number of psychiatric beds decreased by 14 percent nationwide between 2005 and 2010. In Virginia, there are nearly 18 psychiatric beds for every 100,000 people. And that's actually above average, according to the Advocacy Center.

I want to bring in Congressman Republican Tim Murphy, Republican from Pennsylvania. He's also a psychologist who's calling for reforms to the national health care system.

Congressman, thanks so much for being here. We appreciate it.

You took to the House floor today, and while you didn't mention Gus Deeds by name, you seemed to allude to him in your remarks. Who is to blame for him not getting the help he needs? This all seems like it could have been avoided.

REP. TIM MURPHY (R), PENNSYLVANIA: We have a long list of blame here, and it goes from the federal, the state, the local level.

We have -- on the federal level, there's been a push from some agencies to actually reduce the number of hospital beds.

TAPPER: Reduce?

MURPHY: Reduce the number of hospital and reduce mandatory outpatient treatment as well, federal dollars actually paying agencies to advocate to reduce that.


TAPPER: Why, just to save money?

MURPHY: Well, back in the '50s, we had half-a-million hospital beds. Now we have 40,000.

And even though you listed Virginia as having around 20, 22, that is still listed in the serious area, because we need about 50 beds per 100,000 population.

When medications came out in the 1950s, we found a lot of people in hospitals really didn't need to be there. They could be successful outside in the community. That was fine. But what happened was, there was such a push to reduce them that now we have gone too far. States have also cut their budgets for the mentally ill, and local communities just have drastic shortages. They can't deal with this.

So what happens is, when someone has a mental illness and they're dangerous to themselves or someone else, that very important criteria, they can be tamed for a little bit in the hospital, but then usually a judge or a magistrate has to say, you need to give them care, if a bed is available in Virginia and some other states who have that same sort of caveat as well.

TAPPER: And there's no requirement that they call around? Because it seems to me the most difficult part of this whole process is getting somebody in the hospital because he or she is a threat to himself or herself or others, that that is the toughest part. Once you're in there, I would think that it would be -- it should at least be, OK, now he's here, we have him under surveillance, we're watching him, we're paying attention to him, we can put him in a hospital bed.

You're saying that's actually not necessarily the only hurdle.

MURPHY: Well, you're keying a very, very important point, and that is, what hospital personnel in any sense see.

Remember the story of Aaron Alexis, and what happened at the Navy Yard and the talk that they took him to a VA hospital or police saw him? The question in any one of these cases, you can go through the 60-plus major shootings that there have been by someone who was serious mentally ill, when they were brought to the hospital, did they -- did someone see them as a threat to themselves or other people?

We have heard many cases where a parent actually has to go to the hospital and lie. That is, they have to lie and say, my child tried to kill me or my child threatened to kill me. Without that danger, there's no reason that hospital personnel or a magistrate will hold them. They will say, look, he hasn't threatened anybody. I don't see evidence here of harm. You have to let him go.

And parents, many a times, can't even talk to the hospital. Another federal law, the HIPAA laws will say, doctors can't communicate with parents if the child is over 18 in most states, or, in Pennsylvania, over 14.

TAPPER: So you're suggesting we have bent over too much in the name of civil liberties and not enough in the name of care and being -- preserving a safe society?

MURPHY: That's right.

We have gone so far, we have forgot compassion to help those who are ill. Keep this in mind. Of the severely mentally ill, about half of them have something called anosognosia. They don't even recognize they have a problem.

Patients that I see now in my work that I do in the Navy, some of them are not even aware of their hallucinations or their psychosis or other problems, that they have a serious problem, or PTSD, which I know you're deeply concerned about too. So, therefore, that patient is not necessarily going to sign themselves into a hospital.

But what happens also is you can have a student who's at of school -- look at the Virginia Tech shooter and others -- where the school may say, gee, we recognize this young man or woman has a serious problem. They're not allowed to talk to the parent. And so the parent, who if they knew that could say, gee, we have put these pieces together with other things, we can get that person in care.

But what we don't know in what happened here in the Deeds case is, what were the other pieces that were left out?

TAPPER: And I know, Congressman, you're introducing legislation about this in a few weeks. We are going to have you back and talk about the legislation, what can be done.

Thank you so much, Congressman Murphy of Pennsylvania. We appreciate it.

MURPHY: Thank you.

TAPPER: In politics, it was a sting operation set up by the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration and the target was a United States congressman; 37-year-old Trey Radel was busted for buying 3.5 grams of cocaine from an undercover officer outside a restaurant three weeks ago.

He pleaded guilty to the charges and he was sentenced today to a year of probation. In a statement, the freshman lawmaker apologized to his family and constituents and admitted he has a problem. He writes -- quote -- "I struggle with the disease of alcoholism and this led to an extremely irresponsible choice. As the father of a young son and a husband to a loving wife, I need to get help, so I can be a better man for both of them."

Let's bring in CNN justice reporter Evan Perez, who has some new details on how this operation went down.

Evan, what have you learned about this sting investigation?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, this is an investigation that began several months ago. The DEA...

TAPPER: Just of this congressman?

PEREZ: No, this is a DA and an FBI investigation that began several months ago into a cocaine ring that apparently was supplying the D.C. area.


PEREZ: And in the course of the investigation, they talked to a dealer who, in trying to make trying to figure out how to get a leniency from the agents or from the investigators, said, well, I have a congressman who's a -- who is one of my customers. So they decided to set up a sting operation, which went down on October 29 in Dupont Circle, at this restaurant, well-known restaurant called Circa.

And at this restaurant, he meets with the dealer and with an undercover person from the investigation, who then take him to a car and they sell him 3.5 grams of cocaine, which is known as an eight- ball.

TAPPER: That's a good amount. This was a few weeks ago. How come we only learned about it yesterday?

PEREZ: The investigation was ongoing. Apparently, they took him back to his house. They confronted him. In between that time, they have been discussing this with the U.S. attorney's office to try to figure out a way to a deal. The attorney general, Eric Holder, we're told by a source, was briefed on the case, but he didn't do anything to interrupt it or anything like that, which is a very normal course in Justice Department investigations.

TAPPER: And the congressman blames his bad choices on alcoholism. How long had he had this relationship with this dealer who sold him the eight-ball?

PEREZ: Well, according to the DA and according to the U.S. attorney's office, this has been going on for a while. These are people who he knew and he's been seen by these people to be using cocaine.

TAPPER: So not just one bad choice one day?

PEREZ: He was buying it and sharing it with others, apparently.

TAPPER: Sharing it?

PEREZ: Correct.

TAPPER: Well, I guess that's what one does with an eight-ball, so I have read. Evan Perez, thank you so much. We appreciate it.

When we come back, did the Warren Commission ignore a trip Lee Harvey Oswald took a trip to Mexico weeks before the Kennedy assassination? You do not have to be an X-Files conspiracy theorist to think the truth is out there.

Plus, he wasn't just a pioneer on the baseball field. Ernie Banks might also be the nicest guy to ever play the game. And now he's a Medal of Freedom recipient, so what's this about a special present he gave to the president? I will ask him. He will be our guest, up ahead.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

Presidents Obama and Clinton spent much of the day today, and if you believe the White House, it was all President Obama's idea. So much for that anecdote that he once told an aide he can only take Clinton in small doses.

The day started with President Obama awarding former President Clinton the Presidential Medal of Freedom, a honor created by President Kennedy 50 years ago.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm grateful, Bill, as well for the advice and counsel that you have offered me on and off the golf course and, most importantly, for your lifesaving work around the world, which represents what is the very best in America. So, thank you so much, President Clinton.



TAPPER: Afterwards, they gathered along with their wives for a more solemn moment, paying tribute to JFK at Arlington National Cemetery, as we near the 50th anniversary of his assassination.

Fifty years later, that eternal flame still burns. And the questions surrounding Kennedy's death still nag. Now a new book by a former "New York Times" investigative reporter raises serious and credible questions about the Warren Commission and whether they got it right.


WALTER CRONKITE, NEWS ANCHOR: There will forever be questions of substance and detail raised by amateur detectives, professional skeptics, and serious students as well.

TAPPER (voice-over): Even Walter Cronkite in 1964 might not have predicted the level of debate that still surrounds JFK's assassination five decades later.

Today, forgotten memos, new interview transcripts, and renewed theories ensure that skepticism remains. Before he was president, then-Congressman Gerald Ford served on the Warren Commission.

GERALD FORD, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I firmly believe the Warren Commission conclusions were correct.

TAPPER: The commission consisted of six pillars of American politics, led by Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren. At the time, their dedication was publicly unquestioned by the establishment.

CRONKITE: No investigation could have been more painstaking than that carried out by this commission.

TAPPER: Commission members pored over evidence and heard testimony from 552 witnesses, including a gruesome firsthand account by the former first lady, one that only relatively recently came to light. In an interview with Warren, Jackie Kennedy described her last moments with her husband, saying, he, quote, "put his hand to his forehead and fell in my lap," as she was, quote, "trying to hold his hair on and his skull on."

The commission's final conclusion was that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone, but many respective experts looking back at the report find that flawed.

PHILIP SHENON, AUTHOR, "A CRUEL AND SHOCKING ACT": My big sort of takeaway is just how much of this story has never been told and how much evidence about the assassination has been destroyed over the years, you know, or covered up. TAPPER: In his new book, "A Cruel and Shocking Act," former "New York Times" reporter Philip Shenon tries to fill in the original Warren Commission reports gaping omissions.

SHENON: There is this whole missing chapter of the history of the Kennedy assassination, which is, what was Lee Harvey Oswald doing in Mexico City seven weeks before the assassination? And there's a lot of reason to believe that Oswald was meeting with people who might well have wanted to see President Kennedy dead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did you do in Russia?

TAPPER: So many questions remain.

SHENON: It is an astonishing memo that J. Edgar Hoover writes to the Warren Commission in June 1964, right in the middle of the Warren Commission investigation, in which he reveals that the FBI has learned that several weeks before the assassination, Oswald, in Mexico City, openly declared that he was going to kill President Kennedy. What happened to that memo is a big debate among the Warren Commission staffers, because they never saw it.

TAPPER: In the decade since the report was issued, Shenon and many others have been eager to measure the commission's sizable blind spots. At the time, the Warren Commission was considered beyond reproach, but critics complain nearly all of the members were inexperienced in investigations and many lacked security clearance.

So when, say, the CIA told them something, they sometimes just had to take the agency's word for it.

SHENON: It was a more innocent time. People didn't know that so much would be hidden by these agencies of government.

TAPPER: In 1976, post-Watergate, Congress re-investigated the Kennedy assassination. A select committee concluded that "the Warren Commission performed with varying degrees of competency," that the Warren Commission "failed to investigate adequately the possibility of a conspiracy to assassinate the president."

"Scientific acoustical evidence establishes a high probability that two gunmen fired" at JFK, the committee concluded. The committee believed, quote, "That President John F. Kennedy was probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy."

The 1976 committee study found that the Warren report, quote, "arrived at its conclusions in good faith," but the FBI failed to investigate any conspiracy and the CIA was, quote, "deficient in its collection and sharing of information."

But decades later, President Ford stuck by the committee's findings.

GERALD FORD, FORMER PRESIDENT: That Lee Harvey Oswald was the assassin and that the commission found no evidence of a conspiracy, foreign or domestic.


TAPPER: According to a recent Gallup poll, 61 percent of Americans believe Lee Harvey Oswald did not act alone in Dallas 50 years ago. So, all you conspiracy theorists, so-called, are in good company.

Coming up on THE LEAD, he took a lot of heat for those shower self- portraits, but it looks as though former President George W. Bush has learned a thing or two in the art department. So how much would you pay for a Bush original?

Plus, a pastor stands by his gay son by performing his marriage ceremony and then was found guilty of violating his church values. So, is he sticking with his church? I'll ask him, coming up.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

In national news, not to sound like a Fidelity commercial here, but what have you planned for retirement? Take former President George W. Bush, for example. There are only so many boat trips, so many rounds of golf, only so much brush a man can clear before he starts looking inward.

And while it may strike some as incongruous that the tough-talking cowboy-hat-wearing decider has become a late-in-life painter, our John Berman contends that maybe we should let history be the ultimate judge.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Da Vinci, Rembrandt, Picasso, Bush.

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT: I do take painting seriously. It's changed my life.

BERMAN (voice-over): The 43rd president of the United States presenting his latest canvas to Jay Leno.

JAY LENO, COMEDIAN: Did you paint that? Look at that! I can't make fun of him now.


BERMAN: A marked difference from early period W., which trended towards, bathroom self-portraits, which the world learned about through hacked e-mails to the president's sister, Dorothy. The critics raved that the paintings --

JERRY SALTZ, ART CRITIC: Border on the visionary, the absurd, the perverse, the frat boy.

BERMAN: OK, maybe rave wasn't exactly the right word, but everyone's a critic, including a fellow former occupant of the White House. WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT: I seriously considered calling you and asking you to do a portrait of me, until I saw the results of your sister's hacked e-mails. Those bathroom sketches are wonderful, but at my age, I think I should keep my suit.

BERMAN: Let it never be said that this man doesn't have a sense of humor. We weren't the only one surprised to find out about the former president's predilection for painting happy little trees.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now we just add some very, soft, quiet trees.

BERMAN: So was his brother, former Florida Governor Jed Bush, when our Jake Tapper asked him about it in March.

JED BUSH (R), FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: He's actually become a pretty good painter.

TAPPER: He is good.

BUSH: Yes, I'll just admit that this was a surprise to me when I found this out about a year ago and he's doing it with a vengeance.

BERMAN: But why painting, why this late-in-life get in touch with his artistic side? He discussed it with our own John King in April.

G.W. BUSH: This is a rough interview.


G.W. BUSH: A lot of things, John. I get to relax. I see colors differently. I am, I guess, tapping a part of the brain that, you know, certainly I never used when I was a teenager. And I get the satisfaction out of completing a project. And I paint people's pets.

BERMAN: Former first daughter Barbara Bush can attest to that. Her swanky New York town house, as seen in a recent "Vogue" spread, doubles as something of a gallery for her dad's cat period, not to be confused with his dog period.

LENO: Look at that, wow, look at that.

BERMAN: OK, so you may or may not be eager to hang an original W. over your mantel, but if you're not a fan, perhaps you're just too short sighted to see the genius in his oeuvre right now.

G.W. BUSH: It's going to take a while for history to judge whether the decisions I made are consequential or not.

LENO: Right.

G.W. BUSH: And therefore, I'm not too worried about it.

No, as I've read some biographies of Washington, my attitude is if they're still writing biographies of the first guy, the 43rd guy doesn't need to worry about it.



TAPPER: The former president has moved on to a new period, according to "The New York Times." He wants to paint 19 world leaders with whom he worked during his time in the White House, personally looking forward to the one of Merkel.

While the president's portraits have made him an instant punch line, it turns out that old W. might get the last laugh.

Joining me now live from New York is Gary Saltz. He's an art critic from "New York" magazine.

Jerry, we heard you in John Berman's piece. I want to read part of review you wrote earlier this year about the former president's paintings. You referred to ones of him in the shower as, quote, "simple and awkward, but in wonderful unselfconscious intense ways, they show someone doing the best he can with almost no natural gifts, except a desire to do this."

So you are something of a fan of the effort, if not the execution.

SALTZ: I love the way of an ex-president making paintings. I mean, imagine if we had seen Abe Lincoln paint himself naked in the bathtub. This is really unusual stuff.

And I loved the kind of oddity of it, the eccentricity, the feeling that this guy was just trying to paint this very private world. He painted in the weight room, he paints in the shower. It was kind of weird.

And I always thought of him as a gremlin on the wing of America, and then I went into shock, because I actually like some of these paintings.

TAPPER: And now -- and now, we have the ability to compare his growth, the works he did earlier, with the works he's doing now. How do you, when you look at some of the early ones, the shower period, which we'll call it, how do you compare that, for instance, with the portrait he did of Jay Leno, which really was not bad? What's the value of these paintings, even if just from a historical standpoint?

SALTZ: Well, first, about the value, I would buy one for a few hundred dollars and donate it to the Whitney Museum of American Art. Celebrity art sometimes costs in the realm of tens of thousands of dollars. Silver Stallone, Frank Sinatra, a lot of others.

I actually think, however, that the ex-president took a step backwards, honestly, in this work, where before he was painting things that the camera could not see the way a camera can't take a picture of heaven or hell. Now, he's just giving us a much more conventional photographic realism and there's kind of no insight. It's a very typical, generic, skill set.

And I really wish I could talk to him and say, look, we're not going to see eye to eye on anything, but I can help you. You're no Rembrandt, but now you're just becoming a hack, and I don't want any painter to be a hack, even George W. Bush.

TAPPER: You said you would pay a few hundred dollars, but certainly, he couldn't command much more than a few hundred dollars for one of his paintings?

SALTZ: Oh, I'm sure. I mean, as I said, celebrity art can cost a lot. Sylvester Stallone, as I said, has an exhibition up, a big one, in Russia right now.

So I don't think -- what the real issue is, honestly, is that any American museum would be well-served to have a paintings by an ex- president. Imagine that. Seeing into the mind of Thomas Jefferson or Martin Van Buren, for that matter.

TAPPER: But you can't anticipate that he would -- he would be welcomed warmly into the arms of the art world in New York City?

SALTZ: I would. If he continues making the better early work, I'd love to write about his work, if he would just keep making it. He said the thing that everybody in the art world agrees with. Art changed my life. I take painting seriously.

Again, I sort of went into shock when I heard him say it, but I agree with George W. Bush on those two things.

TAPPER: All right, Jerry Saltz, thank you so much for your perspective. We appreciate it.

SALTZ: Thank you.