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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Flight 370 Search; Republican Debate; Interview with Martin O'Malley. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired August 6, 2015 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:07]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Wondering if Rubio or Walker might have downloaded the past five seasons of "The Apprentice," you know, as debate prep.

I'm Jake Tapper. This is THE LEAD.

The politics lead. In the red corner, Donald Trump, and then there's the other red corner, where the other nine candidates are trying to steal his number one spot. The wait is almost over. Who will come out punching in tonight's first Republican debate? And who might leave stumbling?

The national lead, a hero police officer speaking just moments ago about how he took down a transient who terrorized moviegoers, also why the suspect's mother went to the police about him just two days ago.

And the world lead, maybe, maybe a few more pieces in what seems like a 10,000-piece puzzle. We're told there are window parts and seat cushions, new plane debris found on the very island where that piece of the wing from missing Flight 370 washed up last week.

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

Our politics lead. You hear that? The clearing of throats. The practice buzzers, yes, and that CNN election music, the sweet sounds of debate day. Republican candidates are in Cleveland, Ohio, this afternoon for the first fight night of the primary. The contenders have finished cramming, presumably. The country has its popcorn ready.

The fact-checkers have that Google machine fired up. It's a night that promises high drama. Will they simply paw at each others with rhetorical jabs or will the candidates heave haymakers? Who will be the first Republican to throw a proverbial low blow? Also of course who dares to poke the bear, the undisputed front-runner and pound-for- pound Republican heavyweight king of the early campaign, one Mr. Donald J. Trump?

Our Dana Bash is ringside in Cleveland with the Republican contenders.

Dana, you have talked to the campaigns. How are they preparing and how are they managing expectations for tonight? DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, of course,

they're trying to lower them, even the man who claims he's not a politician, Donald Trump, who I should say is not even here yet. It's one of the many benefits of having your own jet.

He's going to arrive just hours before the debate. He insists he's not really preparing. I learned today, Jake, that Jeb Bush as part of his preparation, he has been watching clips of his opponents trashing him, to get a sense of what they're saying about him, which probably isn't very fun.

But the sense here, even among the most grizzled veterans, is that tonight matters a lot.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (voice-over): How are the candidates really prepping?

JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Before a debate, I normally call my mom to get advice. Hey, mom, I can't say that on television.

BASH: These presidential contenders played it cool, or at least tried to, in this new IJReview video.

MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: What is Megyn Kelly going to ask at the FOX debate?

COMPUTER VOICE: Let me check on that.

BASH: One candidate won't head to debate-land until after a nod to his constituents at the Wisconsin State Fair.

GOV. SCOTT WALKER (R-WI), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's great to be here. A lot of people are wondering why you are not in Cleveland? Because I love to come to the state fair.

BASH: Very playful rituals with a serious common goal. Use the highly watched debate platform to introduce their records and give compelling reasons for conservative primary voters to make them the 2016 GOP nominee.

The need to a appeal to conservatives now is exactly why Jeb Bush started the day playing up with war of words with political enemy number one for the GOP base, Hillary Clinton, and his call to cut Planned Parenthood funding. As for the Trump factor...

SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't think we should just sort of succumb to, oh, you can just say anything and, you know, all of a sudden we're in some sort of reality TV show.

BASH: Candidates standing towards the edges of the 10-person stage with the least to lose are signaling they may take aim at the Donald. Rand Paul has seen his over Washington outsider status tumble as Trump has taken over.

PAUL: I like to mix it up. My staff is al saying oh, no, we need to be cautious, and I'm like, I like to mix it up. So, I plan on getting into it with the other candidates.

BASH: At least he's one of the 10 in prime time. Seven others performing lowest in national polls are relegated to an earlier so- called happy hour debate.

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Game on.

BASH: Even the one who won the Iowa caucuses last time around.

SANTORUM: We have over a dozen candidates who are clearly, you know, very qualified, competent leaders. The fact that we're arbitrarily limiting that debate is I just think a disservice to the American public.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: Now, candidates who are relegated to the so-called happy hour debate, which starts at the top of the hour, are hoping to get some buzz with some one-liners. I have talked to a couple of campaigns who say that they have some planned, hoping to get something out there.

[16:05:00]

But the other thing that's really interesting, Jake, is that the man who is going to be in the center podium at that first debate is Rick Perry. He has been studying about twice a week for two-and-a-half years to try to overcome his now infamous oops moment back in 2012.

He will not be able to do that at the main debate, but he's going to at least have kind of a moment in the next hour when he starts that debate.

TAPPER: Dana Bash in Cleveland, Ohio, thanks.

I want to preview tonight's debate with former policy director for Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign, Neera Tanden, and the former senior adviser to Mitt Romney's presidential campaign, Eric Fehrnstrom.

Thanks to you both.

Eric, you helped Romney prepare for the debates. Neera, you helped Hillary Clinton.

Eric, how do you prepare? Do you start by anticipating lines of attack against you and preparing defenses? What do you do?

ERIC FEHRNSTROM, FORMER SENIOR ROMNEY CAMPAIGN ADVISER: Look, with 10 people up on stage in a two-hour debate, you can probably count on eight to 10 minutes of talk time. So the question is, if your last name isn't Trump, how do you want to use that time to introduce yourself to the American people?

So, I would find the issue that you feel most passionately about, and talk about it. I would talk about what motivated you to run for president in the first place. I would talk politely how you differentiate yourself from what is a very large field of candidates.

For Donald Trump, I think his challenge is to come across as a plausible candidate for president. Right now, he's connected with the Republican base on some key issues like trade and immigration. He's at the top of the polls, and people are trying to imagine what it would be like to have Donald Trump in the Oval Office.

And he needs to convince people that he can command the respect that the office of the president deserves and he's not going to be running around giving out Putin's cell phone number.

TAPPER: Neera, the candidates, when they are preparing, do they show up at debate like this with a couple zingers in their pocket? Or is that risky, because then you just seem like you're inauthentically delivering the line?

NEERA TANDEN, FORMER CLINTON POLICY DIRECTOR: Yes, failed zinger is worse than no zinger at all. That's a basic rule.

I think it makes sense to kind of have a sense of what the questions are going to be, political questions and policy questions. The most important thing is to be comfortable. But having an inauthentic zinger or launching an attack that you don't feel comfortable in a back and forth, people lose in debates a lot more than they win.

So it's important to be -- it's important to think that way. It's important to think that Rick Perry is a perfect example, very much had a negative impact that he was not able to sort of handle basic questions. So you want your candidate to be as comfortable as possible.

It's much better to feel strong in your answers than to get like a perfect line across.

TAPPER: Eric, if you were advising Donald Trump, you would advise him to be more statesmanlike? Is that what I gather from your last answer, to be calmer?

FEHRNSTROM: Yes, well, I think he's at an important -- yes, he's at an important crossroads right now. He's shown a little durability in the polls. We will see if it lasts beyond this summer.

Usually, what's hot in the summer cools down by February, when the first voting takes place, but stylistically it's very important for him to come across as a plausible president. If I were advising him, I would tell him to be a little bit more like Ronald Reagan, a little bit less like Morton Downey Jr.

(LAUGHTER)

TAPPER: Neera, what would you advise Jeb Bush to do? We should note the last debate Jeb Bush participated in was in October 2002.

TANDEN: Yes.

I think the hard thing for Jeb is -- the kind of easy answer is to be cautious, wait for Donald Trump to collapse, wait for other people, be the person who stands in his place. I think there's a downside to caution right now. I think the strength of Donald Trump is that people want an authentic political leader, and particularly on the Republican side.

It's hard to explain Donald Trump other than as an anti-politician. I think that's a big challenge for Jeb, is to seem like a real person who's ready to get into the back and forth, and not to give a 10-part answer to a question, which people just really want to see your voice in these things.

TAPPER: We only have about a minute left, but I did want to ask you both for like some insider information.

IJReview gave us a sneak peek at how candidates prep for debate, with jogging, and Jeb Bush calling his mom and the like.

Eric, what was Governor Romney's debate superstition? And, Neera, did Secretary Clinton have one? Eric, I will start with you.

FEHRNSTROM: Mitt always used to complain when you're standing on the stage under the bright spotlight looking into the cameras, your brain suffers a little bit of hypoxia, and you're not operating at full thinking capacity.

So I think the challenge is to develop goals-based messaging, as opposed to trying to script or rehearse your answers. So what is your goal going into the debate? And since it's the first one and the American people don't really know these candidates, except for Jeb Bush or Donald Trump, I would use this opportunity to just introduce yourself.

[16:10:19]

I wouldn't try to score a home run. I think a double would be nice. With so many candidates up on stage, and with Donald expected to dominate the conversation, I mean, let's face it, he's why people are tuning in. I would just focus on my long game and build my campaign by laying those foundational bricks.

TAPPER: Neera, did Secretary Clinton any pre-debate superstitions?

TANDEN: No, not really.

Honestly, I think the most important thing, she did prep and she kind of went back and forth over Q&A, but the most important thing is really feeling like you're in the comfort zone. I think that's the most -- when you're on a staff, the thing the staff is working on really is to ensure that the candidate feels most comfortable to answer any question.

If you feel uncomfortable up there, that is worse than any bad answer, because you're just going to stumble, and people are really looking for you to be able to handle the back and forth of this, because being a president is a tough job.

TAPPER: Neera Tanden, Eric Fehrnstrom, thanks to both of you.

On the other side of the presidential campaign, Democrats announcing their debate schedule today. They are only going to have six debates for front-runner Hillary Clinton and her competitors. And one of her Democratic rivals is calling out the DNC, saying it's rigging the process in Hillary Clinton's favor.

And he will join me next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:15:50] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We've got another politics lead for you good folks. Cleveland will be rocking tonight. The entire Republican band will try to shine during their respective solos. The likely subject of their songs? Well, the Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton.

Clinton herself will get her turn to debate her challengers in October.

CNN and the Democratic National Committee announced hours ago that CNN will moderate the first Democratic debate in Nevada on October 13th.

There were more than 20 Democratic debates in 2007-2008, but this election cycle, the DNC is limiting it to only six and if candidates participate in any other debates, they won't get to come to the six official DNC debates.

That news has Clinton Democratic rivals are quite upset, especially Martin O'Malley, the former governor Maryland and mayor of Baltimore, who says that he thinks the DNC, is protecting Clinton and paving her a path to the nomination.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: Governor O'Malley, thanks so much for being here.

Some very strong words from your campaign today about the DNC debates. Your senior strategist saying in a press release that the DNC rules mandating only six debates and banning candidates who participate in any other non-officials debates makes the process less democratic, your campaign says? Seems geared toward limiting debate and facilitating a, quote, "coronation," presumably of Hillary Clinton, with the appearance of rigging the process and stacking the deck in favor of a chosen candidate? That's all the language from your campaign.

Governor, you think the DNC is rigging the process and stacking the deck for Hillary Clinton?

MARTIN O'MALLEY (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes, I do, and I think that the country and our party would be much better served by a full schedule of debate. Tonight, we're going to hear the Republican candidates have their

debate. We have yet to have any debates until today that were even scheduled in our party.

So, look, we are going to be best served as a country and as a party by a robust discussion of the issues and the actions we need to take in order to make our economy work again for all of us, to get wages to go up rather than down. The good news is our party actually has ideas. Our party actually has solutions. Their party does not.

And I think we're hurting yourselves if we try to circle the wagons and limit debate. I mean, what is this, the World Wrestling Federation? This is the Democratic Party, and we need to have democratic debates about the solutions that will actually serve America's families, on affordable college, getting wages to go up, climate change and all the rest.

TAPPER: With all due respect, Governor, in our latest CNN poll, Clinton is at 56 percent, Sanders at 19, Biden, 15, he's not even running, Webb at 1 percent, you're polling at less than 1 percent nationally. You're not doing much better in Iowa or New Hampshire.

What would you say to critics who say your complaints are just sour grapes?

O'MALLEY: Well, actually we are doing much better in Iowa. When I announced 60 days ago, we were at 1 percent and now, in both of those, we're up to 5 percent. And it's those early states that determine this campaign and how the dynamic unfolds and the rest of it.

So, we have good stuff on the ground in Iowa, and we have a good organization we're building in Iowa and New Hampshire. But voters can't be informed by a limited debate process.

So, let's ask the people if they think it's right that party bosses limit the number of debates for a vote that we cast that's personal as president of the United States.

This process has shown time and time again the candidates that the rest of the country perhaps had never heard of emerge in those early states. Why? Because that's the place -- those are the places where the voters had the opportunity to see the candidates exchange ideas, to stay where they stand on issues like Wall Street reform, or these bad trail deals that we keep entering into that send jobs abroad. These are issues that candidates need to stand up and be accounted to and for the people about where they stand on the issues.

So, I'm encouraged in these early states, and we're going to keep going.

TAPPER: Let's talk about one of those issues that you would like to stand to be accounted for. You are opposed to the Keystone XL Pipeline.

[16:20:02] Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has really avoided answering the question. She was asked for her position. She said she was involved in the process, therefore she doesn't think it was appropriate. If it's undecided when she becomes president, she'll answer the question.

Is that an acceptable answer?

O'MALLEY: I don't believe it is. Look, I believe we should state where we stand on important issues like climate change. I'm in favor of new renewable energy, moving our country to a 100 percent clean grid, create 5 million jobs, building much more important infrastructure that employs a lot more people than a Keystone pipeline that pipes in dirty oil from Canada that does a lot more damage to the environment than the oil that we produce here at home.

So, I'm opposed to the Keystone pipeline. I don't know where the other candidates are on some of these issues. But the people all have a right to hear where we stand in debates.

It's easy not to take a position if the party limits the number of debates, isn't it? Once you're in the debate and you're on stage, then the whole public sees whether you're triangulating, avoiding issues or not taking a stand.

That's not what leadership is about. Leadership is about being clear about forging a new consensus, not about putting your finger to the wind and following polls or ducking and not taking stands on issues. That's why we need debates.

We actually have solutions that will move or country forward. The other guys tonight in their debate will sound like the greatest hits of the '80s and '90s. I bet you won't hear one of them admit that it was their policies that led to this inequality, that led to worst recession since the Great Depression. Our party has solutions, and it's a mistake for us to try to hide them under a bushel basket and not talk about the ideas that serve our country.

TAPPER: What do you make -- as long as we're talking about the Republican debate, what do you make of the front-runner status of Donald Trump? Why do you think he has shot to the top of the polls on the Republican side?

O'MALLEY: I think it's a function of two things. I think in times when people are worried about their own paycheck and let's be honest, while our country is doing better, we're creating jobs every month more than we lose, 70 percent of us losing the same or less than we did ten years ago. That's the first time that's happened this side of World War II.

So, there are many people in the Republican Party who fall victim, if you will, to leaders who want to blame other people. Donald Trump's racist rants against all Mexican immigrants being the latest example of that.

And then you also have a party where no one is putting forward the new ideas that would move our country forward, get wages to go up rather than down, making it easier for women to participate fully in our workforce. So, in the absence of any ideas, the candidate that is scapegoating others and blaming others for these failed Republican policies is actually experiencing a great deal of uplift.

He is connecting to the anger and the fear, but anger and fear never built a great country. Great countries are built by compassionate people coming around the ideas that serve our common good.

TAPPER: Governor Martin O'Malley in Des Moines, Iowa, thank you so much for joining us today.

O'MALLEY: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: And a reminder CNN will host the first Democratic debate. That will be Tuesday, October 13th, live from Nevada.

Long before that, of course, I will be moderating the second Republicans in debate, and that will be September 16th at the Reagan Library.

Our national lead, the hero police officer who shot dead an attacker at a movie theater, just minutes ago, he told his story about the horrifying incident. We'll bring that to you next.

Plus, potential new clues in the disappearance of Flight 370. Malaysia says more pieces of debris possibly connected to the plane have been found. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:28:19] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Topping our national lead today, it is a little bit more than 24 hours since an allegedly mentally disturbed transient terrorized people in yet another dark movie theater, we're hearing from the hero cop, whose quick thinking helped take the suspect down.

We're also learning more today about that attacker, Vincente David Montano, the man who came to the showing of "Mad Max" with what looked like a real semiautomatic pistol was not, along with very real pepper spray and the hatchet and the fake bombs.

CNN's Nick Valencia is live for us in Nashville, Tennessee.

Nick, we just heard from that officer being heralded as a hero. What did he have to say?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we certainly learned a lot about that officer's humility, no stranger to difficult situations. He was a serviceman who was deployed overseas and says that he's been in these types of scenarios before, Jake. Also at that press conference a short time ago, we learned according to police that that suspect had several opportunities and chances to surrender, but continued to engage the officers. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JONATHAH FRITH, NASHVILLE POLICE DEPARTMENT: Immediately upon entering the theater, I was engaged with what I perceived to be small arms fire from a small caliber handgun.

VALENCIA (voice-over): The policeman, six-years veteran Jonathan Frith ran inside the theater yesterday afternoon after 29-year-old Vincente Montano burst into a movie theater in Nashville, and doused moviegoers with pepper spray.

Neighborhood residents like Cina Thomas are relieved the response was so quick. She was on her way back from the banks when they heard the shots.

CINA THOMAS, WITNESS: I was very proud. They were here literally within a minute or two. This place was covered with SWAT, police dogs. It was covered. It was definitely very, very fast.

VALENCIA: Called it luck, serendipity or a blessing, two police officers were working a car crash right in front of the theater and were able to race to the scene.