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North Korea Fires Ballistic Missile to the East; Pope Francis' Visit to Myanmar; Democrats Skip Budget Meeting; 2018 Grammy Awards; Young Nail Artists Make a Difference. Aired 12-1a ET
Aired November 29, 2017 - 00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[00:00:20] JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: This is CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. Ahead this hour --
ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: Kim Jong-Un launches his most advanced missile yet. The U.S. says North Korea now has the ability to hit anywhere in the world.
VAUSE: In Myanmar, Pope Francis preaches forgiveness, peace and respect at a public mass but avoids sparking a backlash and does not mention the Rohingya by name.
SESAY: And standing up to President Trump, top Democrats ditched his meeting and he simply couldn't resist the empty seats social wall (ph).
VAUSE: Hello and welcome to our viewers all around the world. Great to have you with us. I'm John Vause.
SESAY: And I'm Isha Sesay. NEWSROOM L.A. starts right now.
VAUSE: North Korea has launched another ICBM but this appears to be the most advance missile the regime has ever made. Seventy-four days had passed since Pyongyang's last missile test. Many believe that alone may have been a sign leader Kim Jong-Un was open to diplomatic talks -- but not now.
The missile was in the air for almost an hour before landing within Japan's economic exclusion zone. And experts say the concern is not the trajectory but rather the potential range.
SESAY: Analyses suggest this missile could hit just about anywhere including the East Coast of the United States. North Korean state media agreed with that assessment as it proudly announced the successful test and showed Leader Kim Jong-Un signing the order.
All the same President Trump is offering reassurances.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As you've probably have heard and some of you have reported, a missile was launched a little while ago from North Korea. I will only tell you that we will take care of it. We have General Mattis in the room with us and we've had a long
discussion on it. It is a situation that we will handle.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Paula Newton is Seoul, South Korea and Paul Carroll, senior adviser at the nuclear disarmament initiative N-Square standing by in San Francisco, California.
Paula -- first to you, what more is known about this missile in terms of its range, the flight time, and crucially the payload that it was carrying?
PAULA NEWTON, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Yes. That is especially crucial -- John. I mean let's quote the North Koreans on this. They say that that warhead is what they call a super heavy warhead. And what that means is that they are intimating that at any point when they want to make that a nuclear-tipped warhead they can.
As we heard from Secretary Mattis, let's face the facts. This this went into the air further and was in the air longer than many were expecting and certainly to the delight of the Kim regime. Having said that, what is key here again is the fact that they are coming closer and closer to what they're saying is nuclear completion.
You know, we had some talks with officials of the South Korean government here yesterday and they openly admitted that experts have said it would take two or three years to get to what you call nuclear completion.
That's not on the table any more. They fully expect that North Korea will have this nuclear completion phase perhaps as early as next year -- John.
VAUSE: And Paul -- to you, I guess so much of that theory that this recent lull in missile test was a sign that Pyongyang was open to negotiations -- we last spoke about two weeks ago. You said this lull was more likely to be because of a seasonal pause. It wasn't a strategic one.
It seems the North Koreans are working on their own timetable and then making some steady progress.
PAUL CARROLL, N-SQUARE: That's absolutely right. I mean is that a surprise? I don't think anyone was surprised about the fact that North Korea tested another missile. I think the surprise comes in how successful, how technically sophisticated and successful it was.
I mean think just about a year ago when they tested missiles over the course of 2015 and '16. And I was on this program and we were talking about the failures and we were sort of almost laughing at them about how unsophisticated and technically weak they were.
Well, those days are far behind us now. And as your correspondent said we need to be talking about how to manage a North Korean state that has nuclear capacity, has nuclear skills that essentially not those (ph) of other nations.
VAUSE: A few hours after the missile launch U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, he explained exactly what President Trump meant by "we'll take care of it". Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: The President is not going to allow North Korea to have nuclear weapons in their hands that can hit America with an ICBM that can make it to the United States.
[00:05:01] And if we have to go to war to stop this, we will and if there's a war with North Korea because North Korea brought it on itself. And we're headed toward a war if things don't change.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: So Paula -- Senator Graham added that the U.S. would go it alone, so where does that leave American allies in the region like Japan and especially South Korea? And how would military action be seen by Beijing?
NEWTON: Well, a military action is a nonstarter --
NEWTON: -- as far as Beijing is concerned. Having said that, they're getting more and more impatient with seeing the fact that North Korea really won't play ball with them on any level. I will say that South Korea seems to be edging towards a time where they are going to basically admit that North Korea is a nuclear-armed state and that they would like to see North Korea at the table, even with that reality and negotiate with them in that sense without having to negotiate with them and get them to actually give up their nuclear weapons.
Because right, we are so close, John, it seems not feasible what the United States is demanding because they are so close to being able to complete that nuclear phase. And that's the problem here.
I can tell you South Koreans would rather some diplomacy at work here even though that they say that they are ready to defend themselves and we should point out they had what you call a precision -- certainly a precision reaction in terms of launching their own military event, their own missile -- simulated missile strikes.
Just as that missile was being launched from North Korea they were in action within minutes in order to send a message to North Korea that they can and will defend themselves.
VAUSE: And Paul Carroll to you -- earlier this month in a tweet the President Trump made note that "China is sending an envoy and a delegation to North Korea -- a big move. We'll see what happens."
Well, it seems what happened was a middle finger Kim Jong-Un to both Beijing and Washington. CARROLL: I think that's right. I think Senator Graham's statement is
actually quite disturbing to me. I mean he explicitly said we're willing to go to war to solve North Korea. I mean these statements about we won't accept and we won't allow North Korea to have a nuclear weapon. Well, it does.
They have demonstrated six times with underground nuclear tests; this most recent one clearly a thermonuclear device and the ability to deliver them. So I think this mythology of talking about we won't allow it, it needs to be put aside to deal with North Korea as former Secretary of Defense Bill Perry said, as it is not as we want it to be.
Now with respect to China's envoy recently, there was some, you know, faint hope that that discussion that trip may open some doors or shed some light on possible discussions. I don't think North Korea's having any of it. They have decided that nuclear weapons and the ability to deliver them and that will ensure their security.
I'm not saying we need to like it. But we need to accept it and decide how to engage with them and how to manage any outbreak of war by accident. I mean these words, the rhetoric and the exercises that happen year in and year out are the times and the places that keep me up at night.
VAUSE: Yes. And Paula -- just to finish up with you, CNN's Will Ripley, he's spent a lot of time reporting from Pyongyang. He's spoken with a North Korean official who has warned that a seventh nuclear test is on its way. Any indication, any intelligence coming out of the North that would indicate that that is coming any time soon?
NEWTON: No, not so far -- nothing concrete. But again I go to the words of the South Koreans just yesterday saying that look, they expect it very soon, as early as next year. I think that having the Olympics happening here in the next couple of months in South Korea, they're really hoping that there's more of a delay in that but they are certainly expecting it and alluded to it.
And I can't say enough, John, that we should weigh Paul's words there quite carefully. The South Koreans are coming very close to understanding that they will go to the table with the state of how things are. And that is North Korea as a nuclear state despite what the Trump administration or the senator says.
VAUSE: Ok. Paula Newton there in Seoul, South Korea and Paul Carroll in San Francisco -- thanks to you both.
SESAY: Now Pope Francis is back in Yangon after a visit to Myanmar's capital and a meeting with the country's de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi. Hundreds of thousands of worshipers joined him as he celebrated mass just a few hours ago.
VAUSE: A day earlier both the Pope and Suu Kyi gave public remarks. The Holy Father calls for unity and respect of Myanmar's ethnic groups. But he did not mention the Rohingya by name or the ongoing humanitarian crisis they're facing.
SESAY: All right. Let's bring in CNN Vatican correspondent Delia Gallagher. She's traveling with the Pope in Myanmar. Delia -- thanks for being with us.
So Pope Francis is set to meet with Buddhist leaders in the coming hours. Given the allegations of Buddhist monks participating in some of the violence against the Rohingya in northern Rakhine state, do we know what the Pope's message will be to Buddhist leaders?
[00:10:08] DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Isha -- it's a really important meeting that the Pope is going to have with the Supreme Council of Buddhist monks in the predominantly Buddhist country. And the Pope's aim here is to bring on board religious leaders, to tell them as he did yesterday with a whole host of religious leaders including Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Christian and Jewish, to say you are responsible for showing the example of tolerance.
Because the Pope knows that if there is to be a stable democracy in this country it is not going to come just from the laws. It has to come from the social fabric of society. And in this country, the leaders in that are the religious leaders.
So this is an effort on the part of Pope Francis to sort of work the other angle for a long-term stability in this country and try to bring on board the religious leaders and most importantly, of course, the Buddhist leaders here to speak about tolerance and unity and let that trickle down to their communities -- Isha.
SESAY: Delia -- the Pope did not use word Rohingya which many people had been looking to him to do in his office as the great moral authority, given the space that he occupies.
What is the Vatican's sense? I don't know if they've spoken to this but in terms of how that message will be received by Myanmar authorities, whether there's any concern that that gives them cover, if you will, for the actions that they have perpetrated against the Rohingya.
GALLAGHER: Look Isha -- going into this, the Vatican knew that Myanmar authorities are well aware of where the Pope stands on the Rohingya crisis. He has spoken about it from the Vatican. And in their mind it is very clear where he stands.
The gamble was for the Pope to mention the Rohingyas in a public speech in front of Aung San Suu Kyi and government leaders and risk shutting down the dialogue that he has come here to establish.
So that was likely the reason that the Pope sort of went soft on that in the public limelight. He did meet with her privately. He'd met with her twice before at the Vatican. As I said, they know where he stands on the issue.
But there is a longer-term objective here which is yes, to solve the issue for the Rohingyas but it has to be in the context of solving it for all ethnic minorities, for all human rights in Myanmar. And in order to do that the Vatican wants to lend its support to Aung San Suu Kyi and to initiatives for democracies.
So they've got a longer term vision which they didn't want to risk by saying the word Rohingya which the Pope they felt had already expressed his views on -- Isha.
SESAY: Delia -- I want to be absolutely clear here because this trip was on the Pope's schedule before this campaign of ethnic cleansing. And that's what it's being called by the U.N. and the U.S. -- this campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya began.
So just so we're clear, what was the goal of the Pope or what is the primary mission of this trip? Is it about the Rohingya or is it about securing growth of freedoms and growth of the Catholic Church in Myanmar?
GALLAGHER: Well, I think both of those go together. I mean we're talking about religious and ethnic minorities. There are Christian minorities here. There is the Muslim minority here. And so clearly it is a long term and large picture. Obviously the most urgent one is the situation of the Rohingya crisis. But that, according to the Vatican needs to also be resolved in the larger picture.
So I think it's kind of both. They have got to work on, yes, an immediate solution to the Rohingya crisis but they've also got to look at the larger picture because they've got to have stability all the way around in this country for ethnic minorities.
SESAY: Delia Gallagher, traveling with the Pope, speaking to us there from Myanmar. Appreciate it. Thank you very much.
Well, Maung Zarni joins us now on the phone in Bangladesh's capital, Dhaka. He's a non-resident fellow at the Cambodia Genocide Documentation Center. Thank you so much for being with us Maung. Let me ask you, how surprised are you that the Pope who has this moral authority did not use the word "Rohingya" in his public statements on Tuesday?
Maung -- can you hear me?
MAUNG ZARNI, NON-RESIDENT FELLOW, CAMBODIA GENOCIDE DOCUMENTATION CENTER (via telephone): Hello.
SESAY: Hi there -- Maung, can you hear me?
ZARNI: Can you repeat the question? Please. I can hear you but it's a bit poor. Can you repeat it please?
SESAY: Ok. I'm going to repeat the question. And if you don't hear me then we will have to re-establish contact again and try calling again.
But how surprised are you that the Pope with his moral authority did not use the word "Rohingya" when he spoke publicly on Tuesday?
[00:15:04] ZARNI: Hello. I cannot hear you at all.
SESAY: Ok. So don't -- we are going to try and re-establish a better line with Maung. And clearly he's having trouble hearing us -- a problem with the line. So we're going to work to re-establish contact and get his perspective. So we'll work on that and come back to you.
SESAY: IN the meantime, we will take a short break.
When we come back here we go again. The U.S. government facing a December shutdown and an argument befitting a schoolyard -- meaning the President and Democrat leaders, they're not talking.
VAUSE: Well, the U.S. government will run out of funding a week from Friday and efforts to avoid a shutdown went off the rails on Tuesday after this tweet from President Trump. "Meeting with Chuck and Nancy today about keeping government open and working. Problem is they want illegal immigrants flooding into our country unchecked, weak on crime, and want to substantially raise taxes. I don't see a deal."
SESAY: Well, Democratic leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi skipped that meeting saying they'll work with Republicans in Congress to strike a deal.
But the President left empty chairs, and as you see, the place cards there for them anyway.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi did not show up for our meeting today. I'm not really that surprised. We have a lot of differences. They're weak on crime. They're weak on illegal immigration. They want the illegal folks that come pouring in to our border and a lot of problems are being caused although we've stopped it to a large extent, as much as you can without the wall which we're going to get.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Of course, the President didn't just talk about the two Democrat leaders being weak on crime and, you know, obviously being weak on immigration. He tried to link this to the recent missile launch by North Korea and saying that they need to fund the military. If they didn't fund the military, then obviously these problems with North Korea will continue.
So, you know, linking Chuck Schumer who is the leader of the Democrats in the lower House and Nancy Pelosi -- sorry --
VAUSE: -- and also the former speaker of the House. Essentially, you know, with national security.
SESAY: But their argument has been, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, they can do a deal but with Republicans on Capitol Hill. And just might work.
VAUSE: And that's why they have a leverage.
VAUSE: Ok. For more on that, let's bring in Democratic strategist Caroline Heldman and conservative commentator Joe Messina. Thank you, guys for being with us.
Joe -- welcome. Just to start with you -- look at the visuals here. It's the empty chairs and the name cards -- Chuck and Nancy -- just shame the two Democrat leaders -- do you think it worked?
Because, you know, if you take a real close look at that photograph to bring it up, isn't he kind of all alone, a little bit sad all by himself, no friends? What do you think?
JOE MESSINA, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR: I don't' get that at all.
VAUSE: Ok. What have you got?
MESSINA: Would you expect a different answer? No, I mean it. You look at him sitting there with the empty seats -- you know, really they're not doing what they were called to do. They're not doing what they were voted to do. Whether you think you're going to lose or not, you go and you fight.
[00:20:05] You're not fighting when you sit at a podium in a different room and start telling people why you're not going there to play because you don't think you can win.
I mean come on -- give me a break. It's really not what it's all about. Back in September they put up a fight and they got what they were looking for, didn't they?
When Nancy and Chuck showed up with the President, now whether he did it to prove a point to Republican, it doesn't mean much of anything. They got what they wanted or most of what they wanted.
VAUSE: And that's why he's in this situation right now. You know, Caroline, you can blame the Democrats for playing games and not turning up. You can blame the President for giving them the excuse to play games and not turn up. But at the end of the day, the Democrats have the leverage here. So explain why the President needs the Democrats more than they need him right now?
CAROLINE HELDMAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, he needs the Democrats more than because he needs eight of them in order to avert a government shutdown on the December 8th. And if the government shuts down on that date there is no doubt in my mind given the fact that the Republicans control all branches of government that they would be blamed.
And so, I think Donald Trump was pretty smart in staging this today because, you know, Nancy and Chuck, as he puts it are really showing him and taking a strong stance against him dismissing them. I mean let's remember that he initially tweeted, right, that nothing -- I don't expect to get a deal today.
HELDMAN: So he was trying to provide some leverage in their negotiations and it backfired and he had to respond in such a fashion because he does need to be worried about the government shutdown being pinned on Republicans.
VAUSE: Ok. It's true they control the White House, you know, congress - it would seem that they would be the ones to be blamed.
We mentioned this. The President tweeting a few hours ago, "After the North Korean missile launch, it's more important than ever to fund our government and military. Dems shouldn't hold troop funding hostage for amnesty and illegal immigration. I ran on stooping illegal immigration and won big. They can't now threaten a shutdown to get their demands."
But Joe -- is defending the U.S. from a rogue nation and an illicit nuclear program -- is that something that you can make a partisan issue out of?
MESSINA: I do. Well, not a partisan issue. I mean if we're all Americans, it doesn't matter whether you're a Dem or Republican in California (INAUDIBLE) state -- you should be willing to fund our military.
And I'm tired of hearing this argument that we have the highest percentage towards our military. You know, we protect many other nations as well. We have agreements to protect many other nations as well. We can't send our men and women out there to fight and not give them what they need to fight with.
So if you want to hold us hostage and to give money to illegal immigrants, to give money -- I have a different -- a little different spin on DACA but to give money straight out to illegal immigration or illegal immigrants, that's just wrong especially when you have vets dying in the streets. We have 22 vets dying a day. Why are we giving money to people that are here illegally?
HELDMAN: Well, I would counter that by saying that people who are here illegally pay over the course of their lives $80,000 in tax benefits that they never receive back. And so we actually -- it's not a matter of funding our military and having a humanitarian policy for immigration, that is not the calculus at all.
I think we can agree that we need to fund the military to a certain extent. That fact that we spend on average about 11 times more than other countries I think is a little exorbitant and ties into this military industrial complex that Eisenhower warned us about.
But again, the calculus, is not either/or, we can have good policies on both sides.
MESSINA: You say $80,000 though -- come on sales tax, most of it. And that's what it is. They're not filing -- what illegals are actually filing legitimate tax returns?
HELDMAN: I'm not saying they are. I'm saying that we as American taxpayers are making money off of them. So let's debunk the myth that somehow they're siphoning funds from the system. They're not.
VAUSE: Let's go to the -- what is being sort of seen as a win for President Trump. Because there haven't been a lot of wins for this administration in the last four months when it comes, you know, legislation.
Tax cut passed the Senate Budget Committee by one vote along party lines. It still has to get through the Senate.
Joe -- there were some Republicans who were on the fence -- Bob Corker, Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins -- sounding a lot more positive now than they were just a few days ago.
MESSINA: Well, I think Rand Paul kind of brought some of that to the table for them. But I find it really interesting that all of a sudden, forgive me -- but all of a sudden the Democrats figured out what a budget is, right.
MESSINA: We've got $10 trillion -- we've doubled our deficit, all right. $10 trillion over the last eight years or so and we're screaming about $1.4 trillion. That's what the deficit is going to go up by $1.4 trillion. And we're having a heart attack over this.
I don't yet know what the benefits are. The CBO has come up plenty of times. It's always said we were going to come up short and we didn't. We're told we were going to be fine and we weren't.
VAUSE: Ok. I guess, you know, the Republicans could be deficit hawks for eight years during in the Obama administration but deficits are ok now?
HELDMAN: Well, and let's look at what happened under the Obama administration that was really about the liquidity crisis right, which was primarily caused by both the Democratic and Republican President relaxing regulations on Wall Street.
[00:24:57] So I don't think the last 10 years is actually a good point of comparison. And the tax plan that we have in front of us is the same debunked trickle-down economic theory that Reagan put into place that tripled the deficit.
So I think $1.4 million is probably a pretty conservative estimate. As to what it will add -- and Republicans, you know, have always been concerned about this so I think it's a little hypocrisy now that that's a flip. VAUSE: Ok. Well, can we move on? Because I want to get to former
Arkansas Governor, the Fox News host-wannabe Mike Huckabee. He ventured into the Pocahontas controversy. The President used that as a slur while honoring Native Americans at the White House on Monday. Huckabee had this to say for the President. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE HUCKABEE, FORMER GOVERNOR OF ARKANSAS: One of the people asking that question is employed by ABC which owns Disney or may Disney owns ABC. They've made a billion dollars off the Pocahontas franchise.
And let me ask you something. Is that racist? Have they made money off racism? Because if so, then they need to apologize and they need to discontinue all of their merchandise and all of their movies regarding Pocahontas.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Joe, that argument is beyond moronic.
MESSINA: You know, I don't know where he's going with that. I like Mike Huckabee but I don't know where he was going with that.
But I will say is can you really tell me sitting here that you think that the President planned out going in there using the word "Pocahontas" to be racist? Do you really believe that?
VAUSE: I don't think it matters what he believes. I think he needs to be aware of how others feel. And I think he's the President of the United States in the White House in front of a portrait of Andrew Jackson. You need to be aware of your audience.
And he stopped and thought about it and said it. And I think that could be seen as a big problem.
MESSINA: Yes. I really got a kick out of this. We've got a guy lobbing missiles in North Korea and we're talking about him using the word Pocahontas. And as far as the racist charge goes I believe that we have gotten to the point when racist and bigot almost means nothing anymore because it's a word we throw around to try to scare somebody into being quiet.
VAUSE: Ok. I've got to move on very quickly because this concerns CNN International. This is the real world consequences from the President's tweet, in particular that tweet over the weekend which labels CNN International as fake news.
Last week, one of our best reporters ever, Nima Elbagir she filed this incredibly powerful story about human slave auctions in Libya. Here's a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A man addressing an unseen crowd. Big strong voice (INAUDIBLE) he called -- 400, 700, 700, 800. The numbers roll in. These men are sold for 1,200 Libyan pounds -- $400 apiece.
You are watching an auction of human beings.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Ok. Well, now, a media outlet in Libya, among many there, using the President's tweet to question the credibility of that story with an article which is titled Trump says CNN lies. What about this slavery report from Libya?
Joe -- do you think that was the outcome the President intended with his tweet?
MESSINA: You know, when you say what happened directly because of his tweet --
VAUSE: No, no.
MESSINA: -- places now are questioning --
VAUSE: There are now multiple news organizations within Libya which are questioning the credibility of that report. And that report was rock solid.
MESSINA: You know, again, not knowing enough about it, I really didn't get a chance to dig into it. But I've got to tell you something. With what we've seen in the past with some of the stories that are coming across along this -- slavery is a bad thing to begin with, we know that. Sex slavery is even worse.
So when we see this happening across the country, across the Middle East and over in Europe, we should be reporting this crime. I have no problem with somebody reporting on it. Who else has picked it up though? What more corroboration do we have? I used Nancy Pelosi's line.
VAUSE: Well, it sparked outrage around the world. And others have followed up the reporting. The Libyan government said they were going to look into it.
But now we've got this situation where the credibility of the reporter is in question and a human rights investigation may not go ahead.
HELDMAN: Well, and I would add to that reports that have come out in recent weeks that reporters have faced threats, those being detained in war zones. There was an exchange between a Playboy reporter and Sarah Huckabee Sanders about this.
So it is not just that stories are being discredited in the Libyan government as you noted, it's now investigating this as a way of dismissing it. His basic totalitarian tactic of trying to silence the free press is having serious implications for reporters globally and some even in the United States who are facing violence and threats.
VAUSE: We'll leave it there. Joe -- good to see you. Thank you very much.
VAUSE: Caroline as well -- thank you.
HELDMAN: Thank you.
Well, CNN's exclusive reporting on the slave auctions in Libya is getting a lot of attention around the world with protests in New York, London and Paris. Be sure to catch our CNN special coming up noon in London. That's 4:00 p.m. in Abu Dhabi.
SESAY: All right. We're going to take a very quick break here now.
And switching gears -- Grammy nominations are in. Who's in, who's not and why this year's nominees are very different than in previous years. We will explain after the break.
VAUSE (voice-over): Welcome back, everybody. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause.
SESAY(voice-over): And I'm Isha Sesay. The headlines this hour.
SESAY: The stage is set for music's biggest night. The Grammy nominations were announced Tuesday. And unlike many awards shows, this one is straight up to verse. Jay Z, Kendrick Lamar and Bruno Mars lead the way with the most nominations.
And this year's runaway hit, you know what I'm talking about, "Despacito" is up for the solo of the year. If it wins, it would be the first Spanish language song to do so. Feel free to bounce.
SESAY: The music writer Bob Lefsetz joins me now.
I did not see you bouncing to "Despacito."
BOB LEFSETZ, MUSIC WRITER: I love "Despacito."
LEFSETZ: I'm here on television. I have to stay in one place so the picture is clear.
SESAY: All right. Well, as you well know, Bob, the Grammys in recent years haven't had a stellar track record when it comes to embracing or recognizing diverse artists and genres.
Do they make up for it this year?
[00:35:00] LEFSETZ: They've never gotten it right. This is the first year they've ever gotten it right, which is just staggering. Normally you would complain about the Grammys, say they're out of touch, they're behind the times. Now who wins the award might be --
LEFSETZ: Now if Jay Z wins as opposed to "Despacito" -- that would be a great disappointment. But one cannot argue with the nominations.
SESAY: How did they get here?
LEFSETZ: It's a very interesting question because it's a black box. After a number of failed nominations like Jethro Tull in the metal category, they have a layer of people, committee, who look and massage the nominations to make sure they reflect the truth.
So one doesn't know in this particular case whether it was a general Grammy voting base or whether that committee, Neil Pornow (ph) did reference that committee in the "L.A. Times," or whether there has been a complete turnover in the voting bloc.
It's just astounding. It has never been this accurate, never mind diverse, in that, if you go on Spotify or you go on Apple Music -- with Spotify the statistics are available to all -- this is what people are actually listening to.
SESAY: -- now reflecting the actual culture, what people are listening to.
SESAY: You mentioned Jay Z leading the pack with eight nominations, he has been nominated 74 times and he's won 21 times. He's up for Song of the Year, Record of the Year, Album of the year, all for his album, "4:44," his (INAUDIBLE) album, as you know, do you think this is his year to win the biggie, Album of the Year?
LEFSETZ: I think this is the year for him to win it but I don't think he deserves it.
SESAY: Oh, interesting.
LEFSETZ: This is a legacy -- you know, Jay Z has been around for 20- odd years, OK. So people think when Steely Dan won at the turn of the century and Herbie Hancock won, it is Jay Z's year. It's just like getting an Oscar for your worst movie. It's like -- (CROSSTALK)
SESAY: -- Denzel Washington not getting it for "Glory," right?
SESAY: -- "Training Day."
LEFSETZ: So I think, based on his history, that Jay Z will win because of name recognition, not that he's bad; most people consider this not to be his best album. But at the same time there are kinds of crazy nominations, because there's 81 categories of people non- deserving. The Arcade Fire is on tour, doing a horrible business. Everybody hates their record and it was nominated.
SESAY: I want to put up a graphic showing who is up for Record of the Year. Let's put that up and see all the people there, "Childish Gambino," Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee featuring Justin Bieber for "Despacito," Jay Z, Kendrick Lamar, Bruno Mars.
Again, when you look at all of those people up there for Record of the Year, proof that R&B and hip-hop is this nation's --
LEFSETZ: We live in a hip-hop nation. It's so funny because at the end of the MTV or right before the turn of the century, we saw hip-hop there; we thought it was dying. But now that we have an actual representation of what the people listen to, they like hip-hop.
Hip-hop is honest and there's a culture, there's a crosspollination we don't see in any other medium, except for maybe country, which has been completely ostracized because country is bigger than ever. And certainly, arguably it's the largest radio format. They always massage the statistics but usually it is. And it's been completely closed out.
By the same token, they just had the CMA Awards, which was a better TV show than the Grammys have --
SESAY: It's always a good show.
LEFSETZ: -- yes, because the Grammys are squeezing everything in.
Having said that, these are the tracks that people are listening to.
SESAY: Let's put up Song of the Year. Let's put that category and take a look at what is up for that. Again, "Despacito," Jay Z is up there, Julia Michaels, Logic featuring Alessia Cara and Khalid and Bruno Mars.
Worth pointing out and I want to get your thoughts on this, no Ed Sheeran. He's considered to be a snub --
(CROSSTALK) LEFSETZ: -- huge underserved backlash about Ed Sheeran. Now this is something that's gone on in U.K. forever. They build you up and then they tear you down. Historically, it has not happened in the U.S. So when everybody decided that it's thumbs down on Ed Sheeran, I don't get it, because it's not -- it's not just -- this is a guy who has written songs, not only for himself but in other, in hip-hop, et cetera.
But he's so successful that people have turned against him. But his public will still adore him. But this is vastly unjust. In the Album of the Year, they have Lorde, whose record was a complete stiff, there's not a single. And they don't have Ed Sheeran? This is going too far.
SESAY: So are you expecting the deserving to win depending upon -- ?
LEFSETZ: No, as I say, I don't expect the deserving -- this is all about second-guessing.
SESAY: Will Bruno Mars beat Jay Z?
LEFSETZ: I don't expect the deserving to win because, historically, the voting Grammy members skew very old and in categories they're unaware of -- they vote on name recognition. So therefore, to what degree are they aware of the fact, how big "Despacito" is, because we don't live in a monoculture anymore. Used to be in the era of MTV, everybody knew what the hits were.
In the '60s everybody knew what the hits were. Today, you can have a giant hit and most of the public doesn't know, including the Grammy members.
SESAY: And we've got to wrap this for this. And we will have you back next hour. But now your curate your hit. You decide what you want to listen to.
LEFSETZ: Yes, but by the same token, it's very confusing for the audience. And now, more than ever, the Grammys represent what people are listening to --
[00:40:00] LEFSETZ: -- and will lead people to new tracks. This is a incredible dividing line, the (INAUDIBLE) are dead. Rock is dead. It's a younger culture and it's hip-hop.
SESAY: Long live hip-hop and R&B, I say. Appreciate it. We will continue the conversation next hour, especially about new artists.
LEFSETZ: OK --
(CROSSTALK) LEFSETZ: -- that's one of the most confusing categories there is.
SESAY: (INAUDIBLE) confused. Thank you, Bob.
LEFSETZ: You bet.
VAUSE: OK. Still to come here, we'll have an inspiring story about a teenager helping thousands of young girls, who spend their days in hospitals.
VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody.
Sometimes a little pampering can go a very long way, especially when you don't feel great.
VAUSE: -- spending a lot of time in hospital.
SESAY: With that in mind, one teenager has taken some nail polish, some smiles and a few volunteers to spread a lot of happiness and joy.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're getting a chance to feel like typical girls. And it's really taking their mind off the hospital and being in the hospital and whatever their problem is.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's one thing to be polished by an adult. But when its peers that are the same age as you, it means a little bit more.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know that some of these kids are living in the hospital because they're so sick, so they're there all the time. So, for once a month, coming and visiting them when they may not have as many visitors as some patients, it means the world to them.
SESAY: That is so beautiful.
VAUSE: You know what it says?
Do whatever you can. SESAY: Do whatever you can wherever you are. You can make a difference.
VAUSE: Our thanks to Alexandra Meeks (ph) for producing that piece.
SESAY: -- beautiful piece, thank you, Alex.
Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm Isha Sesay.
[00:45:00] VAUSE: I'm John Vause. Stay with us, "WORLD SPORT" is up next. You're watching CNN.