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Interview with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York; Powerful Solar Storm Headed to Earth; War Against ISIS; Ray Rice Controversy; Hillary's Next Move?

Aired September 12, 2014 - 16:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: A former CIA director compares airstrikes to casual sex, and he is not kidding. General Michael Hayden is here to explain.

I'm Jake Tapper. And this is THE LEAD.

The world lead, the United States trying to sell allies on dropping bombs on the Middle East again, as the CIA says ISIS may have doubled its numbers. But since more boots on the ground have been ruled out, is there any real way to stop them?

Also in world news, how can you stop an outbreak if you're turning patients away? A warning that health officials can no longer keep up with a spreading deadly disease.

And the pop culture lead, if you can make it here, you just might make it on your own show someday. A groundbreaking shuffle on "Saturday Night Live" brings a new face to the fake news.

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

We're going to begin with the world lead. The president said, we cannot stand by and do nothing while dangers gather. No, not President Obama this week, but President Bush on this day 12 years ago in front of the United Nations. Americans followed then. And now we're at it again, the United States on the verge of going back to a war in Iraq, a new president trying to build a new international coalition to stand with them, to seek and destroy an enemy that kills in medieval ways.

The terrorist group known as ISIS, which now controls large chunks of Iraq and Syria, despite a vow from nearly a dozen Arab states secured by Secretary of State John Kerry, the coalition of the kind of, sort of willing seems almost as dicey as it did then, even dicier, perhaps. France says it's in for Iraq, but not Syria. Germany and perhaps America's closest ally, the U.K., say they will not be dropping bombs on Syria.

Today, we're getting a clearer picture of what that coalition is up against in Iraq and Syria and how the ISIS movement is spreading like a virus across the Middle East. U.S. intelligence now says ISIS may be able to muster more than 31,000 fighters. That's a bigger force than some European nations have.

Our chief national correspondent, Jim Sciutto, joins us live from the Pentagon.

Jim, what's behind the jump in the number of ISIS fighters?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, I will tell you, the CIA says basically it's a product of ISIS' success as it has stormed across Syria and stormed across Iraq. There have been defections from other rebel groups to ISIS.

It's become even more of a magnet to foreign fighters. But also as it takes over this territory, it absorbs and recruits, sometimes forcibly, other young men to join the cause. The other point the CIA makes is that this previous figure of 10,000 was an old figure. They have been meaning to update it as ISIS has made these advances, and that's what they have done now.

TAPPER: What is the new number, more than 31,000 potentially? What does this mean for the possible length and intensity of this mission to degrade and destroy ISIS?

SCIUTTO: Well, you would think since the president has set that goal of destroying this fighting force, that, as the fighting force gets bigger, it lengthens the fight. What the Pentagon says, and I was speaking with Admiral Kirby today, they say, one, this is not entirely a military effort, that there are a lot of elements are involved, but, two, that from the beginning, they have known that they're in for a long fight.

Here's how Admiral Kirby answered the question earlier today.


SCIUTTO: Presumably, it's a longer fight if you have that many more fighters to degrade and destroy.

REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: We're not just simply on the degrading and destroying them, the individuals, the 20,000 to 30,000. It's about degrading and destroying their capabilities to attack targets, particularly Western targets. It's about destroying their ideology.


SCIUTTO: And they know that they need a lot of help from their foreign allies. But, as we know, Secretary Kerry in the region now, not exactly like the foreign allies in the region are champing at be bit to join this fight or it's give real military contributions to this fight.

TAPPER: All right, Jim Sciutto at the Pentagon, thank you so much.

Joining me now is retired Air Force General Michael Hayden, the former director of both the CIA and the National Security Agency. He's now principal at the Chertoff Group, a global security and risk management advisory firm.

General, let's get right to the quote of the day. You were quoted as saying that "The reliance on airpower in this fight has all of the attraction of casual sex." You went on from there.

So, why don't you go on and explain to our viewers what you mean by that.

GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN (RET.), FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Yes. first of all, I'm really in favor of using airpower in this problem.

And we're in a much better place strategically today than we were 96 hours ago before the president made his speech and made his commitment. Actually, the use of airpower, for want of a better term, was very gratifying.

But the president limited his commitment. He said an awful lot about the things we will not do, including American ground forces. An audience for that is the United States, the American people. It's almost a necessary mantra, no boots on the ground, although we have 1,500 pair there right now. But no boots on the ground, it may have been useful for the president domestically. But there are other audiences.

Our allies and our enemies view that as our limiting our commitment to this enterprise. And you're reporting today limited enthusiasm on the part of our allies to take up the role we said we would refuse to do.

TAPPER: And that's the point about comparing it to casual sex, is you're saying limiting it to airpower is all the gratification, none of the commitment.

HAYDEN: And other people read the lack of commitment.

Look, people don't question American power. What people need to be convinced of is American will.

TAPPER: And so what do you think should be done? It sounds to me like you're saying we should be sending U.S. ground troops.

HAYDEN: I don't think we should have arbitrary limits on how we use the forces we send there.

Look, no one is picturing U.S. brigade combat teams maneuvering in the western Iraqi desert. But we do need to have a presence on the ground. Right now, based upon official government statements, we will not have any Americans below the brigade headquarters level inside the Iraqi army.

I actually think we need to embed inside the Iraqi and the Kurdish forces. We will need tactical control parties forward. When we make these kind of arbitrary distinctions, we get in the way of our own success.

TAPPER: Let me ask you a philosophical question. There are Americans are out there who hear from people like you, people like Bill Kristol, people like Michael Chertoff and others from the Bush administration, who I have own my show all the time, and say, why are we listening to these guys? They messed up the last Iraq war.

What is your response to that?

HAYDEN: Well, look, I can talk about what we did or didn't do right while I was in government. And lord knows, there's a lot of debatable points.

But when we left Iraq, when I left government, rather, in 2009, Iraq was a fairly stable place. And I frankly think that we're all in agreement now that perhaps the right number of residual American forces in Iraq wasn't zero. We actually contributed to stability there.

We may have a bad situation had we left them, but I don't think it would be as bad as the one we currently find ourselves in. But all that said, right now, this is either a real problem or it's not.

TAPPER: And if it's a real problem -- yes.

HAYDEN: If it's a real problem, then you have got to be committed to dealing with the problem.

The good news, Jake, the president did not put a time limit on what it was we were going to do. He did put a limit, however, on some of our tools. And that's the part that I'm concerned about.

TAPPER: You have been critical of President Obama, you just were, saying no boots on the ground.

Let me read from an op-ed you had in "The Washington Times" regarding this "no boots on the ground" mantra, as you put it -- quote -- "That's not a strategy. That's a bumper sticker. The president has already directed more than 1,000 U.S. military personnel," now almost 2,000, "back to Iraq, they're armed, have body armor and are most certainly wearing boots."

Are you saying President Obama is being misleading with his language when he says that?

HAYDEN: Look, there's military talk and there's political talk. No boots on the ground is a codeword for no large American combat units maneuvering in combat.

But we have taken that no boots on the ground and in this case, I think we're self-limiting. I'm not calling for large combat units either. But the language we're using is politically limiting the options our military commanders have.

"The Washington Post" had a story a couple of days ago that the CENTCOM commander, General Austin, wanted to embed American forces down low into the Iraqi forces to advise, to make sure airstrikes when they were called in were accurate and appropriate. And he was refused permission to do that, according to the "Post" story. That's the kind of self-limiting I'm talking about.

TAPPER: With all due respect to the general and with all due respect to you, General, you know that a general's answer to everything is, more troops, more equipment, more military might. President Obama doesn't want to have another major ground war effort

in Iraq. And the American people agree with that. Now, they also want airstrikes. They also want something done about ISIS. But they don't want a ground war.

HAYDEN: Well, again, it either is or isn't a serious problem. We have got to deal with the problem in the best way that we can. And I fear that drawing this kind of line, which even by your own words, Jake, is drawn because of domestic political concerns...

TAPPER: Oh, of course.

HAYDEN: ... is going to make it more difficult for our armed forces to achieve the task the president's given them.

TAPPER: Well, except there's also the fact that there are, as you know better than I, unpredictable outcomes for sending in U.S. force.

You have -- for instance, there was no al Qaeda in Iraq until there was a war in Iraq. Then there was an al Qaeda in Iraq. Of course, you can argue that it grew in strength after the withdrawal. That's another issue. And then there's also the idea of are, we not inflaming the Muslim world when we send more U.S. troops abroad into Muslim countries?

HAYDEN: Well, from that point of view, in terms of inflaming the Muslim world, I don't think we're buying any advantage by stopping at airstrikes. I think they will provide all the cell phone video the Muslim world will need for some elements to try to inflame it.

Look, life's full of choices. Life is full of risks. One risk is that if you overstep, you put yourself on a slippery slope and you may put yourself in a position to make bad decisions in the future about how much you limit this. The other risk, though, Jake -- and I'm very concerned about this -- is, you don't give the forces the tools needed to do the job.

TAPPER: All right, General Michael Hayden, as always, thank you so much for coming here and answering our questions. Appreciate it.

When we come back, they are unlikely supporters of the man caught on tape knocking out his then-fiancee -- why some female fans say they are standing by Ray Rice, as female members of Congress push the NFL for tougher rules.

Plus, it will be the first time she stepped foot in the state since she losing to Barack Obama and to John Edwards in 2008. Hillary Clinton is headed to Iowa this weekend. What is she planning?


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

The politics lead now, despite outrage rising all the way to Capitol Hill, Ravens fans were out in force for Baltimore's hometown stomping of the Pittsburgh Steelers. And many of those fans, even female mans, were showing their support for the embattled Ray Rice by donning his number 27 jersey as the team went on to victory without him.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I believe that everybody deserves a second chance. This is a situation that is between his wife and himself. They're going to counseling. She married him for a reason.


TAPPER: This all comes as a new report from Don Van Natta at ESPN says that way back in June, rice had already admitted to commissioner Roger Goodell that he had punched his then-fiancee, now-wife inside an Atlantic City elevator, knocking her out cold as seen in this video obtained by TMZ.

Roger Goodell waited until this week to suspend Rice, explaining the delay like this to the media --


ROGER GOODELL, NFL COMMISSIONER: When we met with Ray Rice and his representatives, it was ambiguous about what actually happened.


TAPPER: Ambiguous.

So, what does all of this say about how professional sports and Americans in general deal with violence against women?

I want to bring in Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York. She is the author of this new book, "Off the Sidelines: Raise Your Voice, Change the World".

Senator, great to see you as always. It's a really good book.

SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D), NEW YORK: Great to be on the set.

TAPPER: It's a really good book, I want to say also. Like, this is -- unlike most political books, I actually found it very interesting and fun to read.


TAPPER: So, congratulations on that.

Let's -- let me start with this Ray Rice mess. You're one of 16 female senators who just wrote a letter to the NFL demanding a zero tolerance policy on domestic violence.

Knowing what we know now, should the NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell, do you think he should resign?

GILLIBRAND: Well, I think Roger should lead the reform and if he's lied, which has the most recent debate, about when he knew things, I think he has to be fired, he has to step down, because he won't have the legitimacy, he won't have the credibility to reform an organization that's desperately in need of reform. We have players who are playing who have been convicted of domestic violence. It's a huge problem.

And, you know, we have to value our women more. And it's a broader issue. It's about institutions protecting their star players, their golden boys.

And we see it not just in the NFL. We see it in the military. We see it in college campuses.

TAPPER: You -- you have a thick skin, I know. You say you credit your father who used to call you Foghorn Leghorn, and "the mouth" at one point. So, I know this isn't going to hurt your feelings too much.

But Rush Limbaugh criticized your letter and, in general, the way that politicians and the media have been talking about this story. This is what he said.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO HOST: We're feminizing this game and it's a man's game. If we keep feminizing this game, we're going to ruin it. If we keep chickifying this game, we're going to run it.


GILLIBRAND: Well, if he believes criminals should be playing in the National Football League, he's got a serious issue. These are criminal cases of assault and battery and sexual violence.

And our players are role models. We don't want young kids looking up to these folks who are beating their wives. It's not right. So we should have a zero tolerance policy and he's wrong.

TAPPER: Let's talk about your book which is about women and girls embracing ambition. Is that a fair characterization it?

GILLIBRAND: Yes, I have a chapter called, "Ambition is Not a Dirty Word." That I want women to aspire for what they want and not be afraid of it, and actually go for it.

TAPPER: Well, let me ask you the question, because the book first burst into the news a few weeks when "People" magazine excerpt noted the chapter in which you talk about how men in the Senate and the House, when you say "colleagues", I mean lawmakers from both the House and Senate, I guess, commented on your weight and your appearance and felt free to do so. You were pregnant. One of them called you porky. You were slimming down, one of them grabbed you from behind, grabbed your waist and said, "Don't get too thin because he likes his women chubby."

Now, I know you don't name these lawmakers because you say it's not about them, it's about the experience you've gone through. But you are calling for a courage, not just in this book but in your work. You're calling for women in the workplace to name their harassers. You're calling for women on college campuses to name those who assault them.

Shouldn't you in that spirit name these people, these men?

GILLIBRAND: Well, the reason I take the time and specifically include examples throughout my life from the time I was a young lawyer to my current career is so that women who experience this can at least know they're not alone. And I want to give women the courage to be heard on the issues they care about.

And the chapter an appearance is much more about challenges we face. A lot of the book is about the fact that having it all is an absurd debate and, in fact, women are doing it all. And when you're working and taking care of your kids, sometimes we need more support. And so, it's about these much broader issues to elevate the debate, so we have national conversations about women in the workplace and the challenges they face.

TAPPER: And you think naming people would not be elevating the debate?

GILLIBRAND: Absolutely not, because then it's about that guy and what he said. You want to talk about what are the real challenges.

For example, like this morning, I'm making my kids' breakfast, making their lunches, finding the soccer outfit, finding the taekwondo kit, getting to school on time. And that is a common experience for a lot of working moms, and even though my challenges might seem easy, and, frankly, I have a lot of flexibility in my job, it talks about the fact that we all have these challenges and we need to support women more.

Eight out of 10 moms are working today and four out of 10 moms are either primary or sole breadwinners. But we still don't have equal pay in this country. We don't have paid leave -- the only industrialized country in the world that doesn't have paid leave.

TAPPER: All right. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, "Off the Sidelines", we wish you the best of luck with the book. Thank you so much. Good to see you always.

GILLIBRAND: Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: When we come back, if you've lost -- if you are lost without your smartphone, you could be in trouble this weekend, because a solar storm heading for the Earth could disrupt everything from your GPS to your Wi-Fi.

Plus, running out of time, the World Health Organization begging for help in the fight against Ebola, as infected patients are being turned away.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. The national lead now -- they can be incredibly powerful and

absolutely breathtaking to watch, which is why it's not just weather geeks who are keeping an eye on the sky for this weekend's solar storm. These storms occur when the sun emits bursts of radiation. Looks pretty impressive, right?

Well, when the storms reach a certain intensity, they potentially can cause major disruptions here on earth, such as massive power outages and horror of horrors, problems with your GPS and perhaps even your Wi-Fi connections.

CNN chief meteorologist Chad Myers joins me now from the CNN weather center.

Chad, what could we be looking at this weekend?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I think we're going to be seeing beautiful aurora borealis. The northern lights are going to be all the way down to Pennsylvania, maybe Nebraska, and especially in the dark part. You got to get away from the city lights, no question about that. But all the way to Washington, Oregon, it's a coronal mass ejection.

I know when you were growing up, it was just called a solar flare. But there's a couple of different kind of thing. There is a solar flare, and there was one. But the coronal mass ejection is a kind of a puff of smoke from the sun. But it's not smoke. It's magnetic particles. It's protons and electrons and all this magnetic energy that's flying towards our earth.

And then it hits the magnetosphere, what is protecting us. Without that magnetosphere, we would all be dying right now. But it's not happening because we are protected. We also have the ozone protects us from the ozone. That's all the stuff and the reason why the Earth is a habitable planet.

So, all this energy is going to the poles right now. So, from the poles outward, all the way down especially to Minnesota, Edmonton, Calgary, Olive (ph), from Barrie all the way down probably even Toronto, an amazing display of those green, maybe orange, maybe red colors tonight. We did have the strong, almost to a strong today.

And that can happen if we go bigger than strong, all of a sudden, you start taking down those GPS satellites because the wind, solar power coming out is actually stronger than the satellite itself, Jake.

TAPPER: What's the best way for people -- for our viewers who are watching this, what's the best way for them to see any of this?

MYERS: Get in an airplane to Edmonton as soon as you can, because the farther you go to the north, the more impressive it's going to be. But if you can be anywhere, let's say Mason Dixon line, all the way across to northern California, in a very dark place and look to the north, these colors are 60 miles in the sky. So, they're not really low. They're going to be way above clouds. If you have clouds, just forget about it. Just go inside and watch TV. You're not going to see it.

But the best way would be in a dark place looking obviously to the north, in the northern hemisphere and there would be southern hemisphere ones as well, which you have to be probably southern Australia to see those.

This is not a big one. There was a big one in 1859, Jake, and it burned down telegraph buildings because the electricity charged those power lines, those telegraph lines and it burned the places down because of the sparks. This is not that type of an event, not a Carrington (ph) event. But it will make very pretty pictures.

TAPPER: Well, what's the worst-case scenario for one that really, really is bad.

MYERS: I know you were joking about GPS and how we won't be able to drive around.

But, you know what, these offshore oil rigs are there in the some place drilling down into the earth over the same spot because of that GPS, not because they're tied to the ground or the earth below. They're actually on motors. Those motors will keep that drilling rig in the same spot. So, those oil rigs lose GPS, all of a sudden, they're not over where they're supposed to be drilling, that could be a problem.

And so, if you charge the power lines -- we're getting free power right now in the power lines around us, and the electric companies have to actually turn down how much power they make to make sure that we don't get too much electricity and don't blow out all the transformers. That's certainly a possibility too with a big one. This is not that.

TAPPER: All right. Chad Myers, thanks. I'll be watching.

Coming up next, it is the first stop for every potential presidential candidate. You really ought to give Iowa a try. And this weekend, Hillary Clinton is headed there for the first time in six years. Will she get a hero's welcome from Iowa Democrats?

Plus, a first for "Saturday Night Live" in more ways than one. Comedian and relative newcomer Michael Che gets a chance at the weekend update anchor desk. Why the shake-up?