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Can Sanders Translate Crowds To Votes?; Clinton Flips, Opposes Obama Trade Deal; U.S. Officials: Russian Missiles Crash In Iran; Murdoch Sparks Outrage With Obama Tweet. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired October 8, 2015 - 16:30   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: President Obama obviously is concerned that the United States would be drawn into a quagmire in Syria.

[16:30:07] You don't share that concern at all?

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The concern I share, Jake, is you're watching the entire Middle East go on fire. And this is because of the absence of American leadership and intervention and the timidity of this administration and Hillary Clinton and her leadership as secretary of state along with the failed secretary of state time of John Kerry.

This is a failed, failed foreign policy. You can see it. Iraq's on fire, Libya's on fire, Syria's on fire, Yemen's on fire. This president has been an absolute failure. He believes American inaction brings more peace and prosperity and security to the world. What's the rest of the world think about that now?

Do we think that we're a more peaceful country than we were when he became president? I'd say we're not. We need American strength and leadership in that region. And we're absolutely giving it away to Russia and Iran, two countries that mean us real harm.

TAPPER: Let's say that you won the oval office and you put a no-fly zone in place over Syria as you have called for, and a Russian jet violates that no-fly zone, runs a bombing mission. What would President Christie do?

CHRISTIE: I wouldn't wait until then, Jake. I would set out clear rules of engagement. I would omit those very clear to President Putin before we set up a no-fly zone. So that if he decided to take that action, he would know and the world would know it's an act of war.

Part of the problem is that the president doesn't make clear what American priorities are and what the limits of American patience are. So before I set up a no-fly zone, there would be a very clear conversation between President Putin and I as to what we are going to do and how we would react to any reaction that he might give to that.

You need to communicate with each other clear, direct, unadulterated communication prevents conflict. It doesn't cause it.

TAPPER: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, thank you so much for joining us. CHRISTIE: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: On the other side of the political aisle, Hillary Clinton is leaning a bit more leftward and towards the Bernie Sanders wing of the Democratic Party. So how's the Vermont senator prepping for his showdown with Clinton? What he won't do at Tuesday night's debate here on CNN. That story next.



TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Let's continue with our Politics Lead. Size matters. Enthusiasm is sometimes hard to measure, but when you look at row after row of swag wearing supporters chanting your name, that's a pretty good eye test for a candidate.

And when it comes to crowd size, Senator Bernie Sanders is far and away beating Hillary Clinton. But if Sanders fails to measure up to Clinton on the Las Vegas debate stage right here on CNN, well, those crowds might not matter.

Let's get right to Sunlen Serfaty. Sunlin, you caught up with Senator Sanders. What's his strategy going into Tuesday night's debate?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The strategy does seem to be let Bernie be Bernie. The campaign at the same time, though, they're very aware that this is the first time many voters will see him up on a national stage facing off against Hillary Clinton. So his goal for the debate is to show that he can be a viable general election candidate.


SERFATY (voice-over): Bernie Sanders faces the biggest test of his campaign so far.

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you. Thank you. Boston, thank you!

SERFATY: To funnel the energy that has defined his insurgent candidacy into the next phase as a real contender.

SANDERS: Don't be surprised if we do well with a number of Republicans.

SERFATY: Ground zero, Tuesday's debate.

SANDERS: I look forward to a vigorous debate on the most important issues facing this country.

SERFATY: The sanders campaign casting it as a pivotal moment for him as a candidate. But he's not preparing in the traditional way. Unlike other candidates, he's not had mock debates, no practice podium, no stand-ins for anyone playing Hillary Clinton yet. He is quietly studying up instead requesting briefing books from his strategists, holding calls with policy experts and taking pains to avoid getting personal.

SANDERS: You're looking at a candidate who does not go about attacking people personally. What I think debates are about is in fact differentiating the differences of opinions that we have.

SERFATY: It comes as Clinton is trying to collapse some of those differences moving to the left on several policy issues. Today, rolling out her plan to take on big banks and this week reversing course on the TPP trade deal, a deal she once embraced and Sanders has long been against.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: As of today I am not in favor of what I have learned about it. I don't believe it's going to meet the high bar I have set.

SERFATY: Recalibrations made in part as a response to Sanders' surge.

SANDERS: I'm glad she reached that reached that conclusion. This is the conclusion that I reached from day one.


SERFATY: And that's an argument we'll likely see Sanders bring to the debate stage that he believes Clinton has been late to the party so to speak on several issues like TPP, Wall Street reform, the Keystone pipeline.

So this, Jake, could potentially set up a flash point on the debate stage. Now, the sanders campaign for their part they say if Clinton comes out and attacks him, he is ready to fight.

TAPPER: All right, I guess we'll see. Sunlen Serafaty, thanks so much. Let's talk now with CNN senior political commentator and former senior adviser to President Obama, David Axelrod. Mr. Axelrod, thanks for coming on today. We always appreciate it.


TAPPER: A lot of Obama administration officials shaking their heads when Hillary Clinton first started intimating she might vote against this trade deal that as you know she really helped push when she was secretary of state. Are you surprised?

AXELROD: No, not really. Look, I think this is kind of a classic political decision that you can flip-flop if you flop over to the popular side of an issue. I think that's the calculation she made. The great risk though is that her great liability in this race so far has been the sense that she's inauthentic.

[16:40:08] And that's of course, Bernie Sanders strength or one of his strengths. So this lurch on this issue opens her up to another charge of inauthenticity. I think you may hear some of that on the stage on Tuesday. TAPPER: Let's talk about that and what we're going to hear on Tuesday. Sanders suggests that he won't necessarily criticize Clinton or other opponents in Tuesday's debate unless they come after him first.

Is it in some ways his rise motivated by anger at Washington and establishment figures? In some ways doesn't he need to spell out differences to this big audience he's going to have bringing forward that passion?

AXELROD: Well, I think that those differences will be implicit in many of the things he says. I kind of agree with you strategists as they've laid it out I would not mess with who Bernie is. Authenticity really is his strength.

He has not been frontal on his assaults on Hillary Clinton or anyone else in the Democratic Party in this election. I think what this is, is more than anything a chance for him to lay out his positions before a much larger audience than he's ever had before.

And there's an audience for those positions in the Democratic Party. I don't think he'll be going out of his way to attack Hillary Clinton. I think it's much more likely that Governor O'Malley of Maryland or former Governor O'Malley of Maryland will be the one throwing the sharpest punches here because he's been eclipsed by Bernie Sanders and he's trying to get into the discussion.

TAPPER: "The Washington Post" reporting today that one of Hillary Clinton's former speech writers says she needs to go off-script more. Of course the people around Hillary Clinton say when she does go off script that's when she says things that the press and Republicans attack her for.

With a candidate like that you've worked with many, many candidates over the years, how do you get them to be comfortable going off script and being authentic?

AXELROD: Well, of course I think that she did do that in 2008 after she lost the Iowa caucus. It was the Chris Kristopherson, freedom is when you have nothing else to lose. Then she was much more visceral and connecting.

I agree with that analysis. I think caution is her greatest liability here. The notion that everything gets filtered through the sort of seven-second political delay that people sense. And she needs to be more connecting more authentic, more visceral.

We've seen instances in this campaign such as when she confronted the folk from Black Lives Matter and had a very spirited discussion about the way forward. She looked very good there. She didn't think she was on television.

And she was really very much reacting in the moment. I think she needs more of that and in this debate she needs to be more organic in her answers, a little less calculation and more visceral reaction.

TAPPER: All right, David Axelrod, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

AXELROD: Good to see you.

TAPPER: A reminder you can watch the first Democratic presidential debate right here on CNN. It's Tuesday, October 13th. Coverage starting at 8:30 p.m. Anderson cooper will be moderating.

Also in the World Lead today, a possible Russian misfire. Sources now telling CNN Moscow may have a new problem after its missiles didn't hit their intended targets in Syria.

Plus, he suggested Ben Carson would be the real black president to address the racial divide. One opinionated voice will join me to weigh in as critics blast media mogul Rupert Murdoch.



TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Our World Lead now, today Syrian military officials announced that the Assad regime has launched a, quote, "wide scale offensive" against ISIS and those whom Assad generals deem to be other terrorist groups within their country.

This comes after days of heavy bombing by Russia teaming up with Syria for an assault by land, by sea and by air. Well, some ISIS targets have been hit. Russia has mostly been targeting anti-Assad forces including some thought to be supported by the U.S. according to the U.S. government.

Now we're learning from U.S. officials that some missiles launch from Russian ships crashed in Iran. I want to get right to CNN's Barbara Starr. Barbara, what do we know about these missiles crashing in Iran?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Russia says it didn't happen. But I have to tell you, Jake, several U.S. officials say the intelligence is solid that four of Russia's cruise missiles launched from ships some 900 miles away in the Caspian Sea did not make it all the way to Syria.

They crashed in Iran, believed to be in a rural area. There is some concern that some Iranian civilians have been hurt in this. People who live in this area, these missiles have 1,000-pound warheads. They can do a good deal of damage. Again, Russia saying it didn't happen.

Iran is saying nothing about it. Today, Defense Secretary Ash Carter speaking at NATO said he was furious with the Russians. He expressed some fury. Let me say, because the Russians are not even notifying anybody when they launch these missile attacks.

What if this had gone into a heavily populated area? What if it had gone possibly even into an Iranian nuclear facility -- Jake.

TAPPER: Barbara, separately we're also hearing that Russian jets may have had a couple encounters with U.S. drones?

STARR: Yes. You know, the U.S. besides its fighter jet operations the United States for some weeks now has been running drone patrols over the Turkish border try to help the Turks keep an eye out for foreign fighters crossing weapons, that sort of thing.

Well, now they are reporting that on at least two occasions, maybe even three, they are being shadowed by Russian fighter jets over that border. Pretty hairy stuff potentially because the Russians have already according to the Turks sent their jets, those Russian jets, on an incursion into Turkish air space twice.

Turkish air space is NATO air space. Turkey of course is a member of NATO. So the uncertainty about what the Russians may try next is only growing -- Jake.

[16:50:11] TAPPER: Barbara Starr, thank you so much. Ben Carson told CNN that media mogul, Rupert Murdoch, is not a racist just because he tweeted the GOP candidate would be a real black president. We'll ask one man with a lot to say about race in America what he thinks of this controversy.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Also today media mogul sparking outrage for taking a shot at President Obama, Rupert Murdoch, the owner of Fox News Corporation, among many other media properties, tweeting last night, quote, "Ben and Candy Carson, terrific. What about a real black president who can properly address the racial divide and much else?"

Murdoch hasn't apologized saying, quote, "No offense meant, personally find both men charming," presumably talking about President Obama as well as Dr. Carson.

[16:55:00] But Murdoch's comments are yet again igniting a major debate over race in this country. Joining me to talk about all of this is Ta-Nehisi Coates, the author of the book "Between the World and Me."

Also out with the cover story in the October issue of "The Atlantic" magazine titled "The black family and the age of mass incarceration." Congratulations on everything. You've had quite the year.

TA-NEHISI COATES, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, "THE ATLANTIC": Thank you. That means everything I say here will be correct because I am a genius.

TAPPER: You're a genius. I'll leave and you can just talk.

COATES: I'll take over the show.

TAPPER: Let me ask you about this, about what Murdoch had to say about a real black president, but what do you make of all of that?

COATES: Well, I don't know what makes Rupert Murdoch or frankly anybody else -- at least about Rupert Murdoch a judge of what is really black and what isn't really black.

This is a troop that's been deployed. We saw Herman Cain actually deploy it four years ago when he said he was going to show what a real black man would be. It's very, very interesting because if Obama were to use to describe himself, all heck would break loose.

I don't know why there's a need to appropriate. Ben Carson is somebody I actually know from as a child in West Baltimore when he would come around and give these great talks. I was actually deeply, deeply committed to the community in Baltimore.

I don't know what level of support he would garner right now in the African-American community. Even if he would garner 50 percent, 60 percent, 80 percent, I don't know why that makes him any more real than anybody else.

TAPPER: Do you think that one of the things about Dr. Carson people on the right side of the aisle, the Republicans, find inspiring there isn't this sense of grievance, there isn't this sense of let's talk about historical injustices, reparations, he doesn't want to talk about that.

COATES: Yes. I think also when you have a black man who is as far as give a voice to bigotry in terms of his comments around Muslim Americans in this country. It puts a sheen of diversity over it. It makes it a little bit more palatable.

Certainly not more palatable to the Muslims on the other end of that in terms of how people look we're diverse. But that doesn't settle the absolute question of bigotry, which is still there. I think folks look at that.

TAPPER: You write in your book, which is very beautiful and I recommend it to everybody watching, "Between the World And Me" which is a letter to your 15-year-old son who I've met and is great.

You write, quote, "Here is what I would like you to know. In America it is traditional to destroy the black body. It is heritage." Do you really believe that?

Obviously you know much more about history than the average person. We've come so far as a nation. But you still think the destruction of the black body is an imperative in society today.

COATES: Well, it's a tradition in heritage. And I don't -- like that to me sounds like a factual argument. We had 250 years of enslavement in this country. We did not follow that 250 years up with a hundred years of saying, OK, be merry, go out and pursue happiness.

We followed it up with an era of lynching, with an era of domestic terrorism, with an era of having Senate candidates take to the congressional floor and actually endorse that terrorism. We followed it up --

TAPPER: What do you mean by that? Who are you talking about?

COATES: I mean actual senators going to the floor going to the Senate floor and defending --

TAPPER: Right, lynching and that.

COATES: Yes, yes.

TAPPER: I thought you meant like last week.

COATES: No, no, not last week. That's part of that a hundred-year period. And the only way we got out of that was for African-Americans like Martin Luther King, like those four little girls in Birmingham being, willing and not even really being asked but effectively giving up their bodies.

That was the only way we actually got any sort of legislation. Now as I write in "The Atlantic," we follow that up with catastrophic rise in incarceration in this country. That's a fairly consistent pattern. How do you feel about that one way or the other, I don't know, that strikes me as heritage and tradition?

TAPPER: One thing you talk about a lot in your book and in your work is red lining.


TAPPER: Which I think a lot of Americans don't know what that is.

COATES: Well, one of the more depressing things about this country is even for folks who are, you know, fragrantly liberal and tend to be on the Democratic side like me, when you look at the history of what our policy has been, folks for instance hold up the new deal as an example of the kind of progressive legislation that we need.

You see that that actually was cut on racist grounds itself. They need to be a peace made with southern white supremacist, this goes for the G.I. bill, the initial iteration of unemployment, the only way that was passed was by cutting African-Americans out.

TAPPER: Ta-Nehisi, not an issue we're going to settle here in our four and a half minutes. I recommend your book to everyone. Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter @jaketapper.

That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Turning you over now to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM."