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Dow Up 200 Points; Disconnect Between Polls and Politicians; Obama State Dinner for France's Hollande; Shaun White Fails to Medal; Christie Says He's Determined to Move Forward

Aired February 11, 2014 - 15:30   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: The new Fed chief today testified in Washington, D.C., and, as we see, some great green on the Big Board, the Dow up over 200 points, 30 more minutes of trading.

Zain Asher is live at the New York stock exchange. And what did Janet Yellen have to say that obviously fired some folks up?

ZAIN ASHER, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Brooke, well, actually, it was a combinations of factors.

First of all, her outlook on the U.S. economy was generally positive. She does expect the trends to continue improving, the economy to continue improving.

But she did also talk about the fact that even when the unemployment rate dropped below 6.5 percent -- remember it's at 6.6 percent right now -- but even when it drops below 6 .5 percent, she -- it doesn't necessarily mean the Fed is going to actually raise short-term interest rates. Investors certainly liked hearing that.

But also she addressed the jobs reports. Obviously, the last two jobs reports we have gotten, Brooke, have been relatively disappointing.

She said it's not necessarily a trend. Obviously cold weather may have been a factor in that, as well.

And then she addressed the turmoil in the emerging markets and also the recent volatility in the U.S. market. She said that that doesn't necessarily mean we're going downhill.

So, a lot of generally positive comments from Janet Yellen. That's why the market is down right now.

BALDWIN: Zain Asher, thank you.

You ever get the feeling no one is listening to you in Washington? Case in point, new poll, look at this with me.

Taken by the Atlantic Council think tank, finds that 56 percent of Americans favor normalizing relations, aka engaging more directly with Cuba.

That includes 62 percent of Latinos, and among all Floridians, supposedly the most anti-Castro state in this country, that over number rises to 63 percent.

But efforts to change Cuba policy go nowhere in D.C.

Polls have also shown American support gun rights, but also favor stricter background checks and those go nowhere in Congress.

What about immigration? Our recent poll found that a majority want a plan for illegal immigrants to become citizens, and that is a nonstarter right now, as well.

Sensing a theme? Americans are going one direction and Washington clearly going in another.

Michael Smerconish, he is the host of "The Michael Smerconish Program" on Sirius/XM radio, is joining the family, joining CNN as the host of a new weekly program on Saturday mornings from New York.

Welcome, sir. Nice to meet you, nice to have you on.

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Thank you, Brooke. Thank you for having me.

BALDWIN: So you heard all these items and issues I ticked off there. The public sees it one way. Washington sees these issues one way.

Aren't they supposed to listen to us? We put them in office, no?

SMERCONISH: They are supposed to listen to us, and I would point to two factors. One would be the intensity factor, and by that I mean you make reference to universal background checks.

Toomey/Manchin had support from 85 percent of Americans and yet it couldn't get 60 votes to get out of the U.S. Senate. Why? The 15 percent who weren't on board they vote religiously, the 85 percent less so.

So, that data, real interesting, but you need to know where does the passion lie? Because that is what the politicians respond to.

And the second factor, hyper-partisan districts, the gerrymandering that has resulted in so many safe seats.

Because you and I look at that data and we say, surely when those members of Congress go home they're going to have to face the music, but they don't, because they're -- right, they're representing such narrow constituencies that they're doing what many of those constituents want them to do.

So, it's real problematic, and it's hard to get out of this.

BALDWIN: OK. Let me totally pivot and just get to Monica Lewinsky, total change, non sequitur here. Forgive me for that. SMERCONISH: Right.

BALDWIN: But she's back in the news for a couple of reasons. You know, Rand Paul, of course, but also how Hillary Clinton had referenced her now that those papers have been dug out in Arkansas from a close friend of hers.

But I want you, Michael Smerconish, to take a look at this tweet. This is something we found that was kind of from a CNN political commentator, Ana Navarro. This is what she tweets.

"Not happy, 14-year-old niece who called to ask, Who is Monica Lewinsky? Really? One, it makes me feel old. And, two, I don't want to explain it to anyone."

And I was asking you in a commercial break. You said your four kids, 13 to 26, Michael, so that tells me they're all Millennials.

How do you explain the Monica Lewinsky incident?

SMERCONISH: First of all, I don't know that any of the four, including the 26-year-old, probably the 26-year-old, but certainly not the three boys, they would have no idea who she is.

And I would hate to have to explain it to them, although it's a story as old as time, and If I did explain it to them, they'd all get it in short order.

But I hear all this conversation now and Rand Paul continues to beat this drum again, I don't think it would play so well with my kids.

I don't think it would turn them against Hillary Clinton. I think it would make her more of a sympathetic figure, frankly, the way it does for adults.

BALDWIN: How to explain that to a 13-year-old? I don't know. Good luck if you have to do that my new friend.

Let me move along, because we play a little game on this show and we indoctrinate some of the newbies on CNN. So will you play word association with me?


BALDWIN: OK. Lets begin --

SMERCONISH: Nothing good comes from this.

BALDWIN: You got this, so let's begin with your home base. I want you to tell me the word that comes to your mind when I say Philadelphia?

SMERCONISH: Cheese steak.

BALDWIN: Michael Vick?

SMERCONISH: Dogs. BALDWIN: Justin Bieber?

SMERCONISH: Knucklehead.

BALDWIN: Best interview.


BALDWIN: I stumped him.

SMERCONISH: No one you would have ever have heard of.

No one you would have ever heard of, because nobody stops me and they say, you interviewed Barack Obama seven times, or you interviewed "W" or you interviewed Mitt Romney.

Those don't seem to be the ones that hang with people. It's that everyday person who finds themselves suddenly getting their 15 minutes of fame.

And I'm not sure who would be on the top of that list, but it would be that type of individual who one day is in the news.

BALDWIN: I agree. For me, it's ordinary folks in extraordinary circumstances, despite all of the interviews.

SMERCONISH: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Moving along. Parenthood, dad of four?

SMERCONISH: Parenthood? Steve Martin. Because I loved the movie.

BALDWIN: It was a great movie.

And then pick one -


BALDWIN: -- pick one, radio or TV, Michael?

SMERCONISH: Radio. Radio because nobody looks at me and sees how I look that day or any other day.

I can say "umm" and "ahh." I can cough. I like the nature of radio. But I'm going to try to adjust to CNN.

BALDWIN: The makeup and the hair stuff, or the makeup stuff ,can be annoying.

SMERCONISH: Oh, all the hair work, it gets to me.

BALDWIN: Finally, Michael, CNN?

SMERCONISH: Independent. Independent, that's an easy one. And that's why I'm here, because I'm really fed up with the polarization. I think it brings the country down, and I think too many of our elected officials, to go back to where we began, are taking their marching orders from the polarized media and it doesn't serve the country well.

BALDWIN: Amen, good answer.

Michael Smerconish, we'll watch for you on Saturday morning. Best of luck to you. Thanks for playing along.


BALDWIN: And now to this, it's complicated.

Not just a Facebook status update, you could also say it describes the White House state dinner tonight.

President Obama hosting the leader of France, we'll tell you what to expect.


BALDWIN: Just so we're all clear here, this is a state dinner tonight at the White House. State dinner not steak dinner, although steak is on the menu, rib eye to be precise, for French President Francois Hollande.

The White House chef trotting out the likes that include quail eggs from Pennsylvania, terrarium salad made with greens from the White House, rib eye steak from Colorado and, among the deserts, chocolate malt cake.

Jake Tapper, makes me hungry. Take me through this list. State dinner with the French, it's a big deal. Did you, Mr. Big Deal, get an invite?

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR, "THE LEAD": No. Of course not. I won't -- I can't imagine a White House that would ever invite the likes of me to a state dinner.

But these are very big deals, Brooke, huge, huge deals. This is only the seventh one that President Obama has had.

Previous presidents have had more. President Obama has been more selective in who he's had these for.

BALDWIN: We know that, you know, as you and I talked about yesterday, the quick changes behind the scenes because of the -- what would we call this? The tryst involving the leader of France, and who now will be sitting next to President Hollande? Do we even know?

TAPPER: We do not know yet. This is obviously an issue a protocol as you alluded to, thus making it necessary for me to explain, crassly, that Mr. Hollande, the president of France, parted ways with his longtime partner when it was revealed that he had a second girlfriend. And so the invitations that the White House had put together, which were engraved and embossed with a gold presidential seal, had to be destroyed because they mentioned the former first old lady, or whatever they call it.

BALDWIN: Former first old lady? Jake!

TAPPER: In the '70s, they called the wife that you didn't actually marry was an old lady.

Anyway -

BALDWIN: Anyway.

TAPPER: My point being that they had to destroy them, and now send out new invitations, and it's really unclear.

Normally, as we discussed yesterday, the first lady, Michelle Obama, does something with the first spouse, takes them to a school. They get to meet American schoolchildren. No such event because M. Hollande, President Hollande -

BALDWIN: Oh, oui.

TAPPER: -- came here "stag," as they say "en France."

These are big deals, though, Brooke. I want to get across.

The first state dinner that the president had was for the prime minister of India. It really signifies something important that the United States is trying to convey.

In fact, when it came out that the NSA was conducting surveillance on the Brazilians, the Brazilians canceled their state dinner that the president invited them to, and that was a very big deal.

They usually run between about $200,000 and $600,000, these events. And it's very elite to be invited to it, so I suspect --

BALDWIN: Elite, sans Mr. Tapper. I see. I see.

Note to you, by the way, the whole old-lady thing that was OK a couple decades ago, that is not OK with Mrs. Tapper. OK? OK?

TAPPER: Can I just -- you know where I got it from? You're too young to remember this, but there was a movie called "Americathon" -

BALDWIN: Would you stop doing that to me?

TAPPER: -- "Americathon" that starred John Ritter as the president of the United States. And he was the first president to have a first old lady.


TAPPER: So, that's where I got it from. BALDWIN: Glad that that's your sourcing.

TAPPER: In the banks of pop-culture nonsense.

BALDWIN: "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper, who would want to miss this guy in 13 minutes?

Sorry. I don't know where I'm going today with you. I'm going to go away. Jake Tapper, thank you very much.

TAPPER: Thanks, Brooke.

BALDWIN: He's one of the most popular American Olympians, earning the affectionate nickname "The Flying Tomato.

Shaun White and his red hair took to the slopes today, hoping to win a gold medal. We were all watching at our desks today.

Hear what happens, spoiler alert, next.

BALDWIN: Winter Games spoiler alert coming up. If you were hoping to catch the half pipe tonight, turn away, hit mute. Here I go.

The news is not so good. This picture, just look at this, and you know this story. This is Shaun White defeated. He's missed out on gold in the half pipe.

In fact, he didn't even medal, falling on his first run, not scoring high enough on his second. This would have been his third Winter Olympic gold. He didn't get it.

Joining me now is CNN correspondent Ian Lee in Sochi. I know hopes were high. He won the previous two golds in this. What happened?

IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brooke, there's no three-peat here. He wasn't able to make it.

He was actually in first place going into the final runs, but just had three, horrible runs and a lot of this is to be blamed on the weather conditions.

There was over 34 crashes, really unheard of amount at the half pipe today, a lot of the athletes saying that the conditions just weren't right for good, stellar performances.

We don't know if that is the cause of Shaun White's performance. We'll probably hear about that later, Brooke.

BALDWIN: I'm asked about what you're finding of shopping in Sochi. What's the answer?

LEE: Brooke, we went around Sochi to see what they had available. I went into a store and said, Show me the most expensive thing you have. What is the high-end thing?

They gave me this outfit. It's a bit ridiculous. BALDWIN: Oh, wow.

LEE: But the price is more ridiculous. The hat with the jacket, $1,700 for that ensemble.

Later, I went to a coin store and they took me upstairs away from everyone else, and they showed me a different coin. This is a three- kilogram, six-point-six-pound, solid gold coin.

And are you ready for this? It cost a whopping $200,000. I don't know who is going to have enough money for that. That even makes the czars green with envy.


BALDWIN: I've got to be honest, kind of like that hat. I like that hat. That's nice around there in Russia, although I hear Sochi is quite warm.

Coming up, Burger King, number two to McDonald's in the chain wars, but they are beating the Golden Arches in one category. That's next.


BALDWIN: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie talked about the bridge shutdown political scandal just a little while ago in Chicago.

This is actually one of the few times he's taken questions in public since the now-infamous lane closures.

You know the story. Political aides to the governor allegedly ordered lanes closed, leading to the nation's busiest bridge, the George Washington Bridge, causing the mother of all traffic jams leading into New York City, supposedly because the town's mayor refused to endorse Chris Christie's reelection.

Now, Governor Christie has denied knowing anything about the scheme, and at this appearance today in Chicago, Governor Christie says he's determined to move forward.


GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: We're in the midst of an internal review now, and whatever that internal review discloses, we're going to release to the public, and if there's more action that needs to be taken, I'll take it.

But I don't think that it will curtail for the long haul a second-term agenda, because I think the public of New Jersey won't tolerate it.

The fact is that they expect me and the legislature to do what we did in the first four years, which is to find solutions to New Jersey's problems and to get things done.

And, so, while the last six weeks haven't been the most enjoyable of my life, I can guarantee you, on the other hand, the fact is, we need to do our work.


BALDWIN: The state committee investigating the lane closures has issued more than a dozen new subpoenas in this case.

Meantime, Chris Christie is scheduled to hold a town meeting on Thursday in New Jersey.

And now to some of the hottest stories in a flash, we call it "Rapid Fire." Roll it.

At the White House, debates whether to -- they are debating whether to kill an American suspect with a drone. We now know that suspect is in Pakistan. We're told the individual is fighting with al Qaeda.

Pakistan, of course, a growing hot spot for terrorists. We have also learned some members of Congress are aware of the debate inside the White House, but that the final decision about whether to strike is up to the president.

Burger King is not beating McDonald's when it comes to sales, but it's trying to beat the Golden Arches when it comes to beef.

America's number two burger chain says its new sandwich weighs four ounces, which is more than the Big Mac. Burger King says, even though it's bigger, it won't cost you any more.

And Kraft Foods is removing a key ingredient from its popular American cheese singles. The company says it will remove artificial preservatives from some of its individually wrapped slices. The change affects only the American and White American varieties.

And the former Saturday night live comedian, Fred Armisen, will join Seth Myers on the new late night show that starts in two weeks. He has been named the new band leader.

Myers actually made the announcement on Twitter. This is the picture he actually tweeted out.

Fred had his own punk band, sometimes plays his own guitar, sings in his own skits, of course, on the TV show, if you're ever seen it, "Portlandia."

And, before I let you go, just a quick reminder, if you ever seen an interview on this show you'd like to re-watch or share, go to The Brooke Blog,

Be stay safe tonight, if you live in the South. Stay tuned to CNN with the latest weather updates.

I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thanks for watching.

"THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts now.