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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

New CBO Report Predicts Dip In Amount Of Labor That Workers Choose To Supply; Interview With Florida Congressman John Mica On Marijuana Classification; Interview With Successful Jeopardy Contestant Arthur Chu

Aired February 4, 2014 - 16:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome back to THE LEAD. The Politics Lead now. It could cause 2.3 million people to drop out of the work force. That's the big headline out of a new report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office on the potential effects of the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, on the U.S. economy by the year 2021.

But if you bothered to actually read the report, you'll see the report states that the dip will come almost entirely from a net decline in the amount of labor that workers choose to supply. So, they are not being laid off, they are choosing to opt out. For example, some workers might choose to retire early since they will no longer have to rely on their employer for insurance. That's the positive spin.

Still, Republicans are seizing on the figure. In a tweet, Speaker John Boehner called the project - the projected impact "devastating." The White House, of course, kicking back hard on that story line.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GENE SPERLING, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: That's not costing jobs. That's giving typical, hardworking American families more choices and more options, and that's a positive thing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Of course, it's a little bit more complicated than that. But let's talk about it with Bill Burton, executive vice president and managing director at Global Strategy Group and former national press secretary for the Obama 2008 campaign. And Kevin Madden, CNN political commentator and Republican strategist.

OK, Bill, spin me. Why is this good news, Bill? 2.3 million Americans opting out of the workforce. Some of them because it's cheaper for them to work fewer hours and get a subsidy from the government. Some of them because they don't have to work to afford health care because the Medicaid expansion. Aren't we providing a disincentive?

BILL BURTON, EXEC. V.P./MANAGING DIRECTOR, GLOBAL STRATEGY GROUP: Here's the important point. This is of their own choosing. If you're older and you've got a chronic illness and you're only holding on to your job because you need health insurance and this affords you the opportunity to leave the workforce and work from home. If you're a young mom and you want to work from home or not work, it allows you more options.

And frankly, taking those 2 million people out of the workforce offers jobs to the 2 million - the millions of people who are looking for jobs out there. This is a good thing for the economy to shrink that workforce that doesn't have jobs and get more people to work.

TAPPER: Kevin, I imagine you see this very differently.

KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I mean, I think quite frankly that's a preposterous argument. And I think that the American public I think sees that. I think all the metrics that they see in their own community as it relates to Obamacare are very troubling for them.

I also think at the heart of a growing economy and a prosperous economy is productivity. So when you have people choosing to drop out of the workforce, that doesn't say much about the productivity of our economy.

Now, I think there are a number of other items that were included in the CBO report as it relates to the enrollment numbers and as it relates to the cost of government -- the cost to government on this, essentially the rising costs that are also problematic. And there's no doubt, 2014, that Obamacare is going to be the center of the universe when it comes to how we litigate these 2014 midterms. This is a big problem for the White House, it's a big problem for Democrats.

TAPPER: Bill?

BURTON: For starters, my argument is what is inside the report. It's not preposterous or otherwise, it's what's backed up by the facts. And if you've got a 59-year-old with a chronic illness, I'm guessing that if you replace that person, you're going to have a more productive workforce.

Second, inside the report, what it also says is the ACA is going to decrease the deficit by a trillion dollars over the course of the next two decades. And because of the shrinkage of the growth of healthcare costs, create between 250,000 and 400,000 jobs over the course of the next couple of years.

So, the CBO report is a good thing. Yes, can it be spun by Republicans into something it's not? It can. And when there's politics at play, you have to be worried about that. But at the end of the day, it's a positive thing.

TAPPER: I'll give you the final word, then we've got some other topics we want to go on.

MADDEN: Well, my final word is that when people look at Obamacare overall, they are seeing it impact their communities, and whether it's their own workplace or whether it's their own home budget, negatively. And that's why you are not seeing spin from Republicans. You're seeing Republicans embrace this issue. They are ready, willing, and able to litigate this in the context of a 2014 battle before voters. And I think they believe it's going to work to their advantage.

TAPPER: Speaking of 2014, let's skip ahead to 2016!

(LAUGHTER)

TAPPER: As long as we're doing it - well, you know if you want. I want to ask you about this report from Buzzfeed titled "Obama aides doubting Clinton's strategy." It quotes Joel Benenson, Obama's chief campaign pollster, and now the White House pollster on Hillary Clinton's quote-unquote "inevitability." It says, "She doesn't need this. If she decides to run for president, everybody knows she's going to be able to raise money, everybody knows she's going to be extremely formidable, that she's going to have a significant network of supporters around the country.

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So, what's the value of all of this in 2014?"

Now Bill, you used to be associated with Priorities USA, which is now a pro-Clinton group. It wasn't when you were affiliated with it. What's surprising about this story is people saying on the record "Hillary, you've got to stop this inevitability campaign. It didn't work for you in 2008." That's kind of surprising to me. Do you buy into that criticism from your friends, Ben LaBolt and Joel Benenson?

BURTON: They are not my friends.

(LAUGHTER)

BURTON: For starters, I would say a lot of this press is not of Secretary Clinton's choosing. She drives clicks. That's why Buzzfeed wrote that story, that's why people are talking about Hillary Clinton all over the country. It's because people are interested, so a lot of media is being created about her. And that's not of her choosing.

Was inevitability a problem in 2007 and 2008? Sure. Democrats don't like to coronate anybody. But there is so much enthusiasm around Secretary Clinton, historic amounts of enthusiasm for any frontrunner of any party at any point.

So I think that people are very excited about her candidacy and I think that should she decide to run, she'll be very formidable.

MADDEN: I think a lot of the attention being paid to 2016, particularly as it relates to Hillary Clinton, is the fact that a lot of people have tuned out this administration. I think that's troubling for the White House.

I do think -- I tend to agree with Joel Benenson here. He's a smart guy. He's saying this because he's looking at the data, but also because he's looking at it through the lens of his own experience, particularly having run against Hillary Clinton in 2008. The inevitability issue, the iDEA that she's going to be seen as a status quo candidate this far out and possibly a holder of the mantel of an Obama third term, you know, those are three troublesome things that I would not want right now if I was a 2016 Hillary supporter.

TAPPER: We'll have to leave it right there. We'll have you guys back. In fact, you make a cute couple.

(LAUGHTER)

TAPPER: We'll have you back. Bill Burton, Kevin Madden, thank you so much.

Coming up on THE LEAD, is it a dangerous drug or is it no worse than alcohol, as the president says? One Republican wants answers to what he calls President Obama's "schizophrenic pot policy." I'll talk to him next.

Plus, as we await the official autopsy results in the DEAth of Philip Seymour Hoffman, what happened on the day before he was found DEAd with 50 bags of heroin in his apartment? That's ahead.

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

In politics news, when I sat down exclusively with President Obama last week, I had to ask him about his statement to "The New Yorker" when he said he doesn't think marijuana is more dangerous than alcohol.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Are you considering not making marijuana a Schedule 1 narcotic?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, first of all, what is and isn't a Schedule 1 narcotic is a job for Congress.

TAPPER: I think it's the DEA.

OBAMA: It's not something by ourselves we start changing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Now, we did point out last week that the DEO's - DEA's own website states that the attorney general has the authority to change a drug's classification. So, is there some confusion even within the administration over its marijuana policy? The House Oversight subcommittee tried to find out by inviting the deputy director for the office of national drug control policy to testify.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL BOTTICELLI, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF NATIONAL DRUG CONTROL POLICY: The president has indicated that this is a public health challenge and that we need to deal with it as a public health challenge.

REP. JOHN MICA (R-FL), CHAIRMAN, GOVERNMENT OPERATIONS SUBCOMMITTEE : Well, again, the president may -- I mean, I didn't start this. The president made his comments, and now you have different agencies, including yourself, under the president saying something different.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: I want to bring in a lawmaker you just saw there, Congressman John Mica of Florida. He is the chairman of the House Government Operations subcommittee. Congressman, thanks for joining us. I want to begin actually with something that your Democratic colleague, Congressman Steve Cohen, said at your hearing today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. STEVE COHEN (D), TENNESSEE: It is ludicrous, absurd, crazy to have marijuana in the same level as heroin. Ask the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, if you could. Nobody dies from marijuana!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Congressman Mica, do you want to respond to Congressman Cohen's statement?

MICA: Well again, we are trying to sort through what the president has now said. And I was glad you played that tape about the president saying this is a job for Congress, but I think you also corrected it and I corrected our witness today that the president and the administration have the authority to put these drugs in different categories. So that's something that we're trying to sort out.

The president said it's no worse than alcohol. He said we're on a march to legalization. And it sounded like he favored that. The Office of Drug Control Policy is right under the president. That's where we said it, to report to the president. So I've got a witness who is in charge of that agency testifying that that is what the president said is not our policy.

This is a confusion. It's a schizophrenic policy as far as the federal government, along with state and local laws heading in opposite directions.

TAPPER: There's no doubt that there's some contradictory messages going on here. But what's your position? Do you think marijuana belongs as a Schedule 1 narcotic, or do you think that it should be -- it's not as serious as Congressman Cohen seems to suggests and shouldn't be as enforced as it's being?

MICA: Well, from the testimony I heard today -- and this is a first in probably a series of hearings. We want to hear from some of the experts. Is marijuana a gateway drug? Today we heard the president's own office of Drug Control Policy say that marijuana use and abuse has actually increased since 2007 after he took office among our adolescents. That's very troubling. No one on the panel thinks that we should allow, again, legalization for our adolescents.

So we're spending money for enforcement, we're spending money for education and prevention. But where are we going?

<16:45:00>

We have the president saying one thing. The DEA enforcement agent, one of the top people said that the president was headed in the wrong direction. So my job is to sort this all out as chairing this oversight and investigation committee. And then let's see where we go with the rational policy, but something that protects our youth and also has come coherence between state and federal policy. And how we are spending billions of dollars on enforcement and other programs.

TAPPER: Right. And you know, one of the points that the president made, both with "the New Yorker" writer David Remnick and with me is that his concern seems to primarily be focused on how the law is enforced.

Now, "The New York Times" -- well, let me just say, "the New York Times" in June reported that quote "black Americans were nearly as four times as likely as whites to be arrested on charges of marijuana possession in 2010, even though the two groups used the drug at similar rates. Does it concern you that there is a racial disparity when it comes to arrests for marijuana?

MICA: Well, that's another area in which I think the president should show some leadership. The African-American population I think is only 13 percent of our total population and 50 percent of our prisoners are African-American in the United States. So there are obvious problems in our society. Our highest dropout rate is African-Americans are in school, are imprisonment, some of the drug abuse statics that we heard here and now enforcement.

So, this has a damaging effect on our minorities. And we need to see, again, where are we going, what are we doing in we spent $40 billion was testified today on enforcement, education and prevention programs. But the situation is getting worse rather than better.

TAPPER: All right. Congressman John Mica, Republican of Florida, thank you so much for your time.

MICA: Good to be with you.

TAPPER: Attention Target shoppers, when it comes to that massive security breach that put your personal data in the hands of hackers, the company says, hey, my bad. The retail chain's chief financial officer testified before Senate committee today. John Mulligan apologized for the hack and guide to win back the trust of customers who had their credit card information and personal data stolen.

The breach could not have come at a worse time for Target and the shoppers. It happened at the height of last year's holiday shopping season. And the company says, it didn't have a clue it had been hacked until weeks after customer records have been stolen. Target says it is now looking into a better ways to protect consumer information such as chip-based credit card technology which is already being used by retailers outside the United States.

It was shaping up to be a real barn burner on Capitol Hill. But finally, after nearly a year of contentious debates, Congress passed a farm bill that will keep you from paying double for a gallon of milk. This bill calls for nearly a trillion dollars in spending over the next ten years. But also comes, with some cuts gone, is the $5 billion a year for crop subsidy program for farmers. That is essentially, a guaranteed payment farmers got that regardless of their harvest quality or crop prices.

Also, taking a hit, the food stamp program for poor people to the tune of about $8 billion. In total, the farm bill is expected to save the federal government about $23 billion over three years.

Of course, it wouldn't be a farm bill without a little pork in it. There is a provision that with the colleges grow tests pots of hemp for industrial use. It was pushed by Senator Mitch McConnell and will directly benefit his home state of Kentucky, what a shock. It also includes a plan that clears the way for $125 million over five years to fight a disease hitting citrus crops in Florida.

Now let's turn to Wolf Blitzer. He is just next door in the "SITUATION ROOM." Now, he is coming in. He is inside.

Wolf, we've been talking about this new report from CBO that says Obamacare could have an effect on millions of Americans workers. Republicans are pouncing on this one. Who do you have on your show?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, THE SITUATION ROOM: Rand Paul, the senator from Kentucky is going to be joining me live. He has some very strong views on this. You know, the Republicans think it's a real bonanza for them in their war against the affordable care act. The democrats see it a lot differently. We are going to go in depth ,take a look, that and a lot more coming up.

TAPPER: You have to ask him about that hemp provision in the farm bill.

BLITZER: And the pork.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: All thanks, Wolf. We will see you at the top of the hour.

When we come back, he is the latest jeopardy champ and some fans of the game show cannot wait for him to lose. I will ask this four-time winner about his unorthodox winning strategy, next.

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TAPPER: Welcome back to the LEAD. On the lighter side, a little pop culture lead for you now. Swag Lord, villain, mad genius, these sound more like words that would be used to describe a batman nemesis, not a "jeopardy" contestant. But, the latest four-time "Jeopardy" champ has fans practically bursting out of their lazy voice, not because he keeps winning, but because of how he keeps winning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is a wise champion that knows which categories are good for him. And that applies to Arthur Chu, our current champion.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After the White House 800. Is Shakespeare going to be allowed? I have the 1000. Month of annuals for 1,000. Double s for 1,000.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Arthur Chu is earning ire and admiration with his un-orthodox strategy which mainly consist of choosing the highest dollar amount in a category instead of starting at the smallest amount and working his way down the board. It's has already won him more than 100,000 bucks. Wait a minute. Haven't we seen this game plan before?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Alex, structural engineering for -- I'm going to go for it, for 1,000. In fact, give me every category for 1,000.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, that's what I call real jeopardy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Chu has been labeled as both a hero and villain on twitter. But he says he's just as surprised by the reaction as he is by the fact that few people have tried this tactic before.

And joining me now live now from Cleveland, where else, is the mad genius himself, Arthur Chu.

Arthur, thanks for joining us. Explain your strategy and where you picked it up from.

ARTHUR CHU, JEOPARDY CONTESTANT: Well, like I told people, the very first thing I did when I got the call to be on "Jeopardy" was I sat down in front of my computer and Google "Jeopardy" strategy. And I started reading what came up. And I didn't really have to do much work. "Jeopardy" has been around for 30 years. There is people at this Web site, the J-board who talk about "Jeopardy's" strategy.

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CHU: There is the J-archive where all the clues from all the past games have been compiled by fans. And Keith Williams does a blog, the final wager that I pretty much use as, you know, my tutorial for how to wager in final jeopardy.

So, the information is just -- it's all out there. It's just a matter of making use of it. And everything I have done by past champions. Roger Craig, David Madden, Chuck Forest, which is why jumping around the board is called the Forest bounce.

TAPPER: And you jump around the board because you're looking for daily doubles, is that right?

CHU: Yes, it's a couple of things. It's looking for daily doubles, trying to get always early on because those are very, very important. They can turn the course of the game around. Trying to get as much money as I can without leaving money on the board. You know, if they cut to a commercial, and there are still clues uncovered, that's money that you left on the table.

And yes, it's also to keep an edge over my opponents, keep them under toe instead of making myself predictability. That's one of the few choices you have in the game is what clues you pick and make yourself predictable, you give up a huge edge.

TAPPER: So, the strategy, obviously, only works if you know the answer to the question. Were you worried at all about that if there was a category that you knew nothing about?

CHU: Well, I think people didn't notice that when I buzzed it on a sports question, that was a daily double, that I -- that five bucks because I knew I was very unlikely to get that daily double and I wanted to keep it away from other players.

For the most part, though, you don't ever have to buzz in unless it's a daily double. So if you don't know, you just keep your mouth shut. The key is to know what categories are most likely to come up in jeopardy, which you can tell by watching the show, and if you're not as strong as you'd like to be on those, just study really hard. And that's the other thing I did in a month before the show, just study the things that I know are going to be on "Jeopardy."

TAPPER: What do you think when people call you a villain, when people root against? You seem like a nice kid to me.

CHU: I think some of it is in gist. A lot of it is in gist. And I don't mind, you know, being the heel as they call it in wrestling when it is someone to take me down. I think some people actually are offended and my response to them would just be it's a game and we're playing for real money. So, I understand if you find -- I understand if you find me an unpleasant person or unpleasant to watch. My feelings are a little bit hurt by that, but ultimately, you know, it's $10,000 or more every time you win a game in "Jeopardy." And my primary concern up there was taking home the money for me and my wife.

TAPPER: Arthur, you don't seem unpleasant at all to me.

But what do you say to people who say what you are doing is like counting cards at a black jack table or you're messing up the flow or even the integrity of the game, that there's a pure way to play.

CHU: Well, the thing I would say is that if you don't like hard counting at a black jack table, you can make it against the rules and casinos actually do. If you don't think something is sportsmanlike, ultimately you can make a rule against it.

What's weird to me is the first person to do this was Chuck Forest in 1985, which was season 2, the (INAUDIBLE). That's when I was 1-year- old. So, it's come up over and over again. Watson, the computer did it. And those were hardly obscured game or new stories all over the place about what Watson did. There were news stories about Roger Craig. Seems like people do it, and it generate some attention and then people forget about it again. It's one of those issues that keeps coming up.

Hopefully, you know, now that this is going viral for whatever reason, either more people will do it and it will change the way "Jeopardy" is played or if they don't really want "Jeopardy" to be played that way, they can change the rules and change the games, so.

TAPPER: Arthur Chu, we wish you the best of luck. Of course, you know, I mean, this has been done before, but the public has not the greatest memory in the world. We wish you the best of luck. Thanks for being on the show.

CHU: Thank you.

They made us squirm uncomfortably in our seats for three hours on the wolf of "Wall Street" and now Leonardo Dicaprio and Jonah hill are said to be teaming up on the big screen again, this time for a movie about the life of Richard Jewell. You may remember, Jewell, was originally labeled a suspect in the centennial Olympic park bombings at the '96 summer games in Atlanta. A media circus surrounded him until he was eventually cleared of any wrongdoing. Of course, he was actually the hero of the bombing. He had cleared out the area and saved maybe 100 lives. A representative for Jonah Hill confirms that he will portray ex-cop in the file. Leo Dicaprio will play a lawyer who Jewell knew casually.

The final hours in the life of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman included the trip to the ATM, dinner with friends and a stop at a coffee shop. It all sounds fairly mundane until you hear what those who encountered the actor has to say about his demeanor. Police are slowly piecing together the last 24-hours in Hoffman's life while they wait for autopsy results. The Oscar-winner died in his New York apartment of a suspected drug overdose over the weekend. The mother of Hoffman's three children says he seemed, quote, "high when she ran into him on Saturday afternoon and in a phone conversation later that night." Hoffman was also spotted withdrawing money from a supermarket ATM and walking off with two men wearing messenger bags. Law enforcements sources says 50 envelopes of heroin was found in his apartment along with used syringes.

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TAPPER: That's all it for the LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Tomorrow, I'll be talking to secretary of state, John Kerry, in an exclusive interview. I now turn you over to Wolf Blitzer in the SITUATION ROOM -- Wolf.