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Erin Burnett Outfront

Stocks Surge on Jobs Report; American Teacher Killed in Benghazi; Chicago Homicides Headed for Record Low; Remembering Nelson Mandela

Aired December 06, 2013 - 19:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Next, the Dow jumps on a blockbuster jobs report. Should Republicans give President Obama more credit for rescuing the American economy?

A deadly winter storm ravages states from Texas to Tennessee and beyond. The latest from Texas, where some parts, it's colder than it is in Alaska.

And the "Sound of Music Live" scores a ratings hit. So, why is the lead singer under such a vicious attack on social media?

This is ERIN BURNETT OUFRONT. I'm Jake Tapper.


TAPPER: Good evening. I'm Jake Tapper, in for Erin Burnett. As you know, she just had a little baby.

The lead story tonight coming up, the new jobs report today, a surprise drop in the unemployment sent the Dow soaring. Nearly 200 points today, wiping away most of the week's losses.

November's jobs report was much stronger than analysts expected. The economy added 203,000 jobs last month, 20,000 more than predicted. The unemployment rate fell to 7 percent. The lowest since November 2008, a long time ago. Sounds like a lot of good news. Is it really as good as it sounds?

Joining me now, Doug Holtz-Eakin, the former director of the Congressional Budget Office and an economist for President Bush, and Austan Goolsbee, the former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors for President Obama. Austan, before we tear apart this jobs report, go ahead, what's the good stuff here?

AUSTAN GOOLSBEE, FORMER CHAIRMAN, COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISORS FOR PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, I think, look. The unemployment rate went down, not because people dropped out of the labor force, but because they created a lot of jobs. It is the third or fourth month in a row that we've had better than expected and so it is coming in pretty solid. I wouldn't get too, too juiced up about it. I mean, it is better than it was expected but it is about average. It is in the range of 2 million to 2.5 million jobs a year which is pretty good but we want better than that. TAPPER: So Doug, I mean, Austan has a point. Unemployment is at a five-year low. The number and trends seem positive. This is good news, right? Is there a dark cloud behind that silver lining?

DOUG HOLTZ-EAKIN, FORMER DIRECTOR OF CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE: No. On the one hand, this is good news. It's a good month. It's a month where jobs went up. Unemployment went down and inside we saw wages grow and hours grow and part time work fall. All good. It is like having one of Austan's students, C after C after C. Second semester their junior year, they ace a quiz. Still a C student, we have a C student on our hands.

TAPPER: Is that really the case? Let's go into --

GOOLSBEE: I don't have any students like that.

TAPPER: All of your students are A students.

EAKIN: He teaches in Lake Woebegone.

TAPPER: Austan, does President Obama deserve the credit for the good numbers we're seeing or are these economic trends that have very little to do with Washington?

GOOLSBEE: Well, look, 95 percent of what happens in the economy has nothing to do with Washington. I would note that there are a lot of people if anything goes wrongs, they want to blame the president. If anything goes right, they say he had nothing to do with it. But I think broad trends are influenced by policy, but no one month's job numbers are really influenced by policy.

EAKIN: That is a very realistic view of things and I applaud Austan for saying it. If there were magic levers, we would have seen these kinds or better historically large job numbers. When they passed any of the things the administration did. That's not how it works and they going to get blamed for bad things and credit for good things and that's why the president is dancing today.

TAPPER: Austan, one of the issues with these job numbers is that the jobs being created are not the kinds of jobs that economists say they would like to be seen being created. They are low wage jobs, retail jobs. What is your thought about that?

GOOLSBEE: Well, I think two things. The first thing that I note is there was a time when there were people saying all the jobs being created were part-time jobs. And this has put the nail in the coffin of that argument. If you compare now to a year ago, the number of part-time jobs actually down.

All of the net increase in jobs has been a full time employment. It is true they've been in lower wage sectors. Though I do think there's a certain irony here. The seconders with the lower wage sector are the seconders most affected by the health plan.

So if you are a person emphasizing the lower wage jobs getting created, then I think you cannot simultaneously be saying that health care and fears over the health plan are the thing that are preventing more jobs from being created.

TAPPER: Doug, you and I were talking about this during the commercial. The question is, are we becoming society without a middle class. Are we really just increasing becoming very wealthy and lower income Americans? What does this jobs report say to you?

EAKIN: I'm very worried about this. There are a couple things going on. The first is, we talk a lot about the jobs every month. Most Americans have a job, it is very sad that something like 14 percent don't but the majority do. They haven't had a reasonable raise in real terms during the recovery. The median family income is declined.

It is the failure of the policies to generate income growth as much as anything else. That's why you see things like we want a higher minimum wage. That's not a great response, but it is a response to a real economic problem. They're feeling the pinch. The middle class is getting hurt by this. And we don't have as many jobs as we had before the recession.

So we might look at November and say this is great. We're nowhere close to where we need to be. Even at this pace, we're more than a year from being at 6 percent. That's if all the discouraged workers don't come back. They had a lot of problems left.

TAPPER: Austan, the American people don't seem to have the most confidence in the country. Look at this recent CNN poll. How things are going in the country today. Well, 41 percent, badly 59 percent. What makes it look is when you look at the trend, things are going badly in the country today. September was 53 percent. April 50 percent.

Increasingly people think things are going badly. I know that's a complex question. Not just about the economy and jobs. But that's really what it is about in a lot of ways whether or not people feel economically secure and their children going to have better lives than they do. What do you think about that?

GOOLSBEE: I think partly that is true. You have seen those numbers don't tend to be driven by the monthly job gyrations or things like that. The things that drive them in the immediate term are the insanity coming out of Washington. When we had the government shutdown, you saw the confidence plunging. Each time we have a debt ceiling, the same thing happens.

Look, I wish we could get some clarity over the dysfunction in Washington. If we could get that off the table, let's say Paul Ryan and Patty Murray are able to come to a miniscule agreement showing that there are some middle ground seekers in both parties. I think that would improve consumer confidence. It is not a great economy. We're still coming out of a deep downturn. The reason people don't feel that confidence is because we haven't had that much growth.

TAPPER: Doug, very briefly I want to give you the final word.

EAKIN: So where does the credit go for November? It goes to grid lock because whether you point fingers at shutdowns or regulations, it is what's going on in Washington. Every time they tie themselves in knots we get a chance at recovery.

TAPPER: Are you being facetious a little bit?

EAKIN: There is a lot of truth to that. We haven't seen any new bad news and the economy recovers. The private sector is very resilient.

TAPPER: All right, Doug Holtz-Eakin, now I get you. Doug Holtz- Eakin, Austan Goolsbee, thank you so much. Have a great weekend to both of you.

Next, an American teacher gunned down in Benghazi, Libya. What was he doing? We'll talk to a close friend. So, what has everyone so worked, but that the sound of music live?

Plus, a plane versus 50-mile-per-hour wind gusts.


TAPPER: Now we turn to the tragic story of the shooting death of a U.S. teacher in Benghazi, Libya. The 33-year-old Ronald Smith, a chemistry teacher at the international school in Benghazi, was gun down yesterday morning. Smith was in Libya living with his wife and young son.

Why he was killed is still unknown, but he is now the fifth American to be murdered in Benghazi in the last year or so after Ambassador Chris Stephens and three others were killed there in September 2012. Nic Robertson is following the story and has the latest.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ronnie Smith was shot down from a passing car as he was out jogging. He never stood a chance. A chemistry teacher at an international school in Libya's city of Benghazi, he knew the dangers. Tweeting this two months ago, "Libyan Islamists are threatening kidnappings."

But Smith wasn't afraid. The tweet continues, "As if they can fit kidnapping into a two-hour workday that already includes a nap. Losers." In this video made for his Texas church as he leaves for Libya with his wife 18 months ago, he explains why he can handle the dangers of Libya.

RONNIE SMITH: If there is any single person in the entire universe that you can take a chance on, it is God.

ROBERTSON: Back in Texas, he was a deacon at his church, posting his deep religious convictions on their web site. My vision for the Austin Stone is that we strive for and treasure Christ above all things.

In a recent letter to friends of the church, he asked them to keep sending him money to help with his work. The suggestions from our team back in the states were to use that money to be generous with others and that's what we've been able to do. A spokesman at his church said he doesn't know if Smith had been proselytizing. His killing, one of four reported in Benghazi Thursday, occurred not far from the former American consulate where U.S. Ambassador Chris Stephens and three others were murdered almost 15 months ago. Smith may have been in the wrong place at the wrong time, a victim of rising militia violence.

No one has claimed responsibility yet but only days earlier, al Qaeda's American spokesman told Libyans to attack American interests. Smith is already being missed by his students and friends alike. He had been due to fly home to his wife and young son in just a few days. Nic Robertson, CNN, New York.


TAPPER: A sad story. I want to bring in Fernando Velasco, a close personal friend of Ronnie Smith's. Thank you so much for joining us and I'm so sorry about the loss of your friend. In that video obtained by CBS, Ronnie spoke about the challenges of living in Benghazi. I want to play a little of it and get your reaction.


SMITH: It is intimidating to think that one day you could be spending your life here and that is not easy for me to consider. As I was driving around yesterday, I'm thinking to myself, how in the world can I live in a place like this with a culture so different from my own?


TAPPER: So the basic question, why was he in Benghazi? What was he doing in such a dangerous and foreign place?

ROBERTSON: Ronnie had the gift of just looking to better the world, to touch people's lives, to touch children and adults. And he just an incredible gift that he touched not only the folks here in Austin, but his goal was to go away from the comfort zone here in America into a strange and a place where hopefully his family nor his wife nor his child would be harmed. And it was a gift that he had.

TAPPER: In a news letter he sent in September, that you and others in the church received, he writes, quote, "Please be careful in what you include in e-mails or messages." Did you get the sense that Ronnie felt he was being watched? That he was a possible target because he was an American and also because he was such an outspoken Christian?

FERNANDO VELASCO, FRIEND OF AMERICAN KILLED IN BENGHAZI: Anyone that goes away into a strange area always has to be careful of the media and public and especially in the Muslim country where they could be persecuted and can be harmed. And I think it was always in our conversations on the phone, e-mails, and as far back as one month ago. We were very careful what we said on the telephone.

We always talked about what was happening in the tennis club, what was happening with the people, with our families, with our children, and looking forward. He was coming to Austin an spend a little time with the family and playing a lot of tennis and that was the extend of our conversations. We never got into politics. We were never concerned about the safety. It was very much light conversations that he needed to have when he contacted us over the phone and through e-mails.

TAPPER: You received a letter from Ronnie this month. He wrote, quote, "We are in the middle of a one-week recess due to fighting in the streets between Islamists and the army. There is no such thing as job stability here. When you read that how concerned were you about his safety? What went through your mind?

VELASCO: Very concerned. We were concerned from the first day they made a decision to go there. We know that god had given them reason to go there. There was calling that he and his family had. They could have gone anywhere else. They could have gone anywhere that was safer, that was more fun to go to. There are so many places that are needed to have folks like Ronnie that can have the education and provide the lifestyle that they need to have.

But he chose, god chose him to go to that country, to do something. From the comments that we received from the children, and the students and the people that knew him, his goal was accomplished. Did he touch people's lives? He did make life different for all the people that he touched. Not only here in America but also in Libya.

TAPPER: His family was already back in the U.S. when this happened. Do you know how they're doing?

VELASCO: I'm sure they're shocked and disbelief. I believe the church going to have a special service on Sunday where his wife and his son going to be present there at the church. It is to be very touching because we loved him. And he had the greatest hug, the biggest smile ever. And his life was like he played tennis. No matter he was 6-0. He would run people that played him against him. He was challenged and always come up the best that he could on the tennis court and off the tennis court. I think that's the life he led and the life he wanted to continue living. Even in a dangerous situation.

TAPPER: We feel so bad for his wife and his son, and of course, for his friends like you, Fernando, thank you for talking to us today.

VELASCO: Thank you so much. God bless you.

TAPPER: Still ahead, is Chicago really the murder capital of the United States or was there a political reason you were told that?

And is Dallas ready for a win blast? It dropped 50 degrees in two days.


TAPPER: A bit of good news, one year after the FBI named it the homicide capital of America, the city of Chicago is on track to have its lowest murder rate in nearly a half century. Already down 20 percent from 2012. What's behind this dramatic turn-around? Ted Rowlands is in Chicago and he has more.


TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Chicago has been associated with out of control violence for years.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At least 419 people were been killed this year.

ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, CNN'S "AC360": This month alone there had been at least 38 homicides. Thing are changing. Chicago is expecting to finish the year with its lowest murder rate since 1965.

SUPERINTENDENT GARRY MCCARTHY, CHICAGO POLICE DEPARTMENT: It is hard not to be pleased, but we're not satisfied.

ROWLANDS: He was brought in two years ago by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to overhaul the police department. That mental demoting ineffective commanders and change have the approach to fighting crime.

MCCARTHY: Moving cops from behind the desk out on to the street. Officers doing foot patrol. An interdiction strategy on gangs so there are no reprisal shootings.

ROWLANDS: The city has invested in the more afterschool programs and doubled the size of its summer jobs program. It is putting pressure on parents to keep better tabs on their kids.

MCCARTHY: It is all coming together in one monstrous thunder clap. The goal is to keep making it better.

ROWLANDS: The biggest problem is illegal guns and the lack of accountability for those caught with one. Change could save lives, he says, including inning victims like 15-year-old, an honor student shot near President obama's neighborhood of Hyde Park after taking a final exam.

MCCARTHY: Her alleged killer pled guilty to illegal possession of a firearm in November of 2012 and killed her in January of 2013.

ROWLANDS: Many people in Illinois are resistant to any gun laws. Listen to this exchange we had earlier with Richard Pearson of the National Rifle Association telling us he thinks Superintendent McCarthy is trying to erode the rights of gun owners.


ROWLANDS (on camera): That doesn't make sense, does it?

PEARSON: Yes, it does. You have to remember where he came from. He came from New York.

ROWLANDS: Superintendent McCarthy because he is from New York cannot be trusted?


ROWLANDS: That sounds a little bit paranoid.

PEARSON: I don't think it is paranoid. I think it is fact. We've watched this over the years.

ROWLANDS (voice-over): Despite the perception that violence is out of control, the murder rate in Chicago has fallen for five straight quarters. Most people on the south side of Chicago we talked to say they have noticed a difference.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It has slowed down.

ROWLANDS (on camera): Is it getting better in?


ROWLANDS (voice-over): I hope the people of Chicago. I owe them a level of safety so kids can play out on the streets. Parents can sit on their front stoops in the summer without fear of gun violence. That's what I am accountable for and that's what I going to deliver.

ROWLANDS: Ted Rowlands, CNN, Chicago.


TAPPER: Our thanks to Ted. Chicago has been called a tale of two cities. I recently interviewed Mayor Rahm Emanuel about that.


MAYOR RAHM EMANUEL, CHICAGO: One, overall homicides are down 20 percent this year. Overall crime is down 23 percent and shootings are down 24 percent. That's great trends. On the other hand, you know, I call every parent, God forbid something happens to their child in some capacity and throws the hardest calls to make. And I don't want to be any more, as I said. We can't be a tale of two cities as it comes to crime. We have to be one city with one future where every neighborhood is as safe as the other.


TAPPER: One way Mayor Rahm Emanuel says is to keep afterschool programs up and running.


TAPPER: Following the death of Nelson Mandela, Senator Cruz has a tweet and some of his followers went berserk.

Then is Carrie Underwood too tabloid to star in the "Sound of Music?


TAPPER: One of the biggest cities in America is essentially shut down tonight because of a massive winter storm that's affecting the entire Midwest. Major highways across the Dallas/Ft. Worth area have been closed until further notice. And with temperatures dipping into the 20s, which right now is colder than in Anchorage, Alaska, the Dallas marathon has been officially cancel for the first time in its 26-year history. Ed Lavandera is in Dallas, Texas. Ed, how much ice so far has fallen on that region?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, across the region depending on where you are. Anywhere, between one and four inches of ice or sleet has fallen. It's really been devastating. Well, it was supposed to be the beginning of the holiday season and a festive holiday weekend around here has turned into a silent night.


LAVANDERA (voice-over): It's a nightmare of ice, sleet, and wicked cold. This winter storm has inspired the most haunting description, "ice-polaypse" in north Texas ghost town left entombed in ice.

Trees encased by freezing rain are buckling under the sheer weight of the ice, bringing down power lines and leaving more than 250,000 homes without power across Dallas-Ft. Worth. Crews are trying to salvage the lines that are still working and the roadways are a hazardous mess.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go slowly. Watch out for the person in front of you and make sure that you are ready for the road conditions ahead of you.

LAVANDERA: There have been hundreds of accidents across the region -- cars slipping and sliding off roadways. Three people in Texas and Oklahoma killed in weather-related crashes.

On this lake north of Dallas, the ice crushed this marina, collapsing the roof on to boats floating underneath. And the winter storm has canceled about 2,000 flights across the region, including about 90 percent of the flights scheduled to depart Dallas-Ft. Worth Airport on Friday.

Just two days ago, this same area was basking in the glow of 80 degree weather. But it all disappeared in a matter of hours after the sun went down. The polar express arctic blast swooping in, leaving behind layers of ice and crunching sounds of slosh.

(on camera): So, right about now, you probably wish you could escape the frigid temperature by jumping into that back-to-the-future DeLorean, taking a trip back in time. You actually don't even need to go back that far. Just a few hours, like 3:52 on a Wednesday afternoon here in down Dallas -- a beautiful day for a walk in the park, sunglasses on. Not a cloud in the sky.

Ed Lavandera from the past is here to tell that you everything is going to be OK. You will be warm once again in the future, I hope.

(voice-over): Most schools and businesses shut down on Friday. The Dallas marathon and holiday parade were also canceled. The first time those events have been called off. But still, quite a few ventured outside. Better to slip and slide on a hillside than on a highway. It will take several days for the temperatures to rebound and for the ice to melt away. (END VIDEOTAPE)

LAVANDERA: And, you know, Jake, those freezing temperature are expected to last until Sunday. When we taped that little bit here in the park on Wednesday, I thought it was pretty funny. Now, looking back on it, I don't think it's that funny anymore.

TAPPER: It was funny, but we all know how serious bad weather can be. It's amazing that it happened so quickly.

Anyway, great work. Thank you, Ed Lavandera. We appreciate it.

LAVANDERA: All right.

TAPPER: The U.S. is not alone. In the U.K., strong winds, heavy rain and the worst coastal tidal surge in 60 years are wreaking havoc. Fifty-mile-per-hour wind gusts at Birmingham airport are the catalyst for terrifying scenes like this one.

Watch this. A plane approaching the runway gets blown sideways, its wheels nearly touching ground, and abandoning the landing at the last possible moment. After multiple attempts, the flight was ultimately diverted to an area more than 100 miles away.

Remembering an icon. Around the world, tributes are pouring in for Nelson Mandela who passed away yesterday at the age of 95.

President Obama and the first lady will head to South Africa next week to honor the South African leader. They'll be traveling with former President George W. Bush and former First Lady Laura Bush. Former President Bill Clinton, a long time friend of Mandela, is also planning a trip.

Wolf Blitzer talked with Clinton about the advice for Mandela that guided him through some very difficult times.


WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT: He was saying, if you're in public life and you have public responsibilities, you cannot be free and effective unless you have no personal feelings of anger. I remember one day, oh, about a month after that whole impeachment business was over, Henry Hyde who had run the whole show, unbelievably enough -- maybe it was a few months after, but it was shortly after -- asked for a meeting at the White House for something that he was really interested in, he brought a delegation and my staff said, I can't believe you're going to do this. I said, it's my job to do it. He is a member of Congress and a senior member.

And they came and left. And as far as they knew, I did not even remember what had happened. I was able to do that because of what Nelson Mandela did for me, the way he helped me.


TAPPER: Joining us now, Cornel West. He met in South Africa in 2005 after giving a Nelson Mandela lecture. The lecture is featured in the book, "The Meaning of Mandela."

Also with us, "The National Review's" Reihan Salam.

Gentlemen, thanks so much for being here.

Cornel, Peter Beinart from "The Daily Beast" writes, quote, "Nelson Mandela is being mourned across the ideological spectrum as a saint. But not long ago, in Washington's highest circles, he was considered an enemy of the United States."

Are we covering up some of the realities of how individuals regarded both the ANC and more specifically, Nelson Mandela in all these eulogies?

CORNEL WEST: think no doubt we are. Nelson Mandela's spiritual giant, moral titan, and political revolutionary, we are witnessing the Santa Clausification of Nelson Mandela. We turned the revolutionary into an old man, a huggable old man with toys in a bag, smile on his face, no threat to anybody, domesticated, tamed, and no longer really full of the fire.

But we know at 95, brother Nelson Mandela was still full of fire. He had that militant tenderness and subversive sweetness and radical gentleness, tied to refusing to be fearful or intimidated in the face of a vicious white supremacist apartheid regime.

TAPPER: Reihan, Ted Cruz, the senator from Texas, paid respect on Facebook. He's posted, quote, "Nelson Mandela will live in history as an inspiration for defenders of liberty around the globe."

And Cruz was slammed by many of his followers. Conservatives disappointed that he said, presumably. Someone said, quote, "He was a murderer and a communist." Another follower wrote, "Sad to see you feel this way, Ted. He was a terrorist. I guess you have only seen the Hollywood movies."

Getting away from what the comment section of the Internet generally is, let's talk about some of these specific charges -- communist, terrorist. Where do they come from?

REIHAN SALAM, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, the great source of Nelson Mandela's moral authority and the liberation movement was that he was a champion of armed insurrection. Now, that meant that he had a lot of bedfellows that are very discomforting. His chief benefactor was the Soviet Union.

But a key to understand is that during the critical period, between about 1989 and the end of the apartheid regime in 1994, Nelson Mandela chose the path of nonviolence. He rejected his earlier calls for armed insurrection when he felt he had a partner in the ruling party that was willing to move towards a kind of nonracial or multiracial democracy.

So, that was a real, impressive accomplishment and that was a way of distancing himself from certain elements of his past. But I think another thing to keep in mine is that Mandela's legacy is really not entirely unblemished. There are some serious problems with the party that he led and there are serious problems with the people that he chose as his successors.

TAPPER: Dr. West, Mandela wasn't always an ally to the United States government. He was a critique of many U.S. policies and ideology. Speaking of Iraq in 2003, he said, quote, "If there is a country that has committed unspeakable atrocities in the world, that is the United States of America. They don't care." That's from before the war in Iraq had been launched.

Mandela also hugged Fidel Castro and called him a sort of inspiration to all freedom-loving people. I don't know that you can really call Fidel Castro somebody who's on the side of freedom.

What's your take on where Mandela was when it came to some of his critiques of the United States, the harshest ones?

WEST: No --

TAPPER: And also, his embrace of some people that weren't so great?

WEST: No, no. I think Nelson Mandela was an honest man. He was a decent man. He was a revolutionary Christian, shaped by the Methodist Church, and went to Fort Hare University. He had exhausted all nonviolent possibilities. He didn't form that the spear of the nation until after the vicious attacks on South Africans in Sharpeville in 1960.

And then looked for friends, in the same way the United States worked with communists to overcome fascists in World War II, he look for friends. He got some friends from some of us -- Randall Robinson and Jesse Jackson. He looked for friends around the world. He got the Soviet Union, repressive, regimented, yes, he got Cuba, repressive in its own way. But they came through with significant support.

And, of course, we know quite explicitly, he said the South African revolution would not be complete unless Palestinians are free from Israeli occupation. He refused to even accept a major award from Turkey. I want my Kurdish brothers and sisters to be treated with dignity.

He had moral insight but also practical considerations as a freedom fighter. Keep in mind, though, Brother Jake, the CIA colluded with the apartheid regime to find Nelson Mandela when he was disguised as a chauffeur in 1961.

And, of course, we also knew, Reagan and the others, and Thatcher and others, with constructive engagement, can you imagine constructive engagement with the fascist regime? Constructive engagement with fascist regime? But we had constructive engagement.

He knew America was on the wrong side of history but he knew the American government at its worst did not speak for all Americans at our best. TAPPER: Reihan, how about what the Republican Party has been like in the wake of the sad news? There has been a complete embrace of Nelson Mandela. And I'm not exactly sure how old you are. You look younger than I am. But I am old enough to remember that the Republican Party was squarely on the side of the government of South Africa, the apartheid government of South Africa, as Dr. West just said.

Is there an attempt to rewrite history?

SALAM: I think there's a general embrace of Nelson Mandela now precisely because of what we talk about a moment ago. He made a series of choices between late 1980s and the mid 1990s that were incredibly critical for South Africa's future. So, it's quite possible for someone to both think that many of the things that Nelson Mandela believed in that earlier period of time were pretty problematic. But that the choices we made were heroic and all the more heroic because he came such a long distance from where he had been before to where he was later on.

Now, the problem and this is why I have a problem with the hagiographies about Nelson Mandela. I think what Peter Beinart said was very wise, trying to turn him into a saint or as Cornel West said, trying to turn him into Santa Claus is actually very foolish. Because the truth is that Nelson Mandela had a blindness about, for example, Thabo Mbeki, the man who was really the power behind the throne when he was president, and also about, some of his other successors.

You know, Steve Biko, a huge martyr in the anti-apartheid cause, his wife is now leading an opposition movement in South Africa against the African National Congress and what the African National Congress has become. COSATU, the trade union movement in that country, people on the left, they're also increasingly away from what the ANC has become. And what the ANC has become is a more authoritarian political movement.

I think that Nelson Mandela in some respect was a very noble figure. He was an important figurehead for reconciliation. But I think that he failed to see that that was a dangerous tendency, that in any democratic society you need to warn against. You need to be aware of.

So I think that, you know, Nelson Mandela was a great man by any standard but he was not perfect.

TAPPER: And I'm sure he would be the first to say it as he said many times.

WEST: Absolutely.

TAPPER: Dr. West, one question I keep asking guests who are more familiar with Nelson Mandela than I, is this capacity for forgiveness, that literally changed South Africa -- his willingness to forgive those who did him wrong, his willingness to put one of his jailers in the front row during his inauguration, his desire to keep the stand at the capitol even though they had been part of an evil racist regime, but it was all one South Africa, one democratic South Africa.

Where on Earth does a person get the capacity for that kind of forgiveness?

WEST: Yes. Well, one thing you is don't do it by yourself. You have to come out of a very rich tradition. And then you have to choose spiritual integrity, choose moral fortitude, choose political determination.

You see the same thing in Robert Sobukwe, see the same thing on Oliver Tambo, see the same thing in Albertina Sisulu, and Walter Sisulu. You see the same thing in so many, and Desmond Tutu, and Albert Lutuli.

This tradition in South Africa in some ways is unprecedented. The coming together of all people, all races to fight a crypto fascist white supremacist regime and still access the humanity of the oppressor, even as you hate oppression itself. It sounds like Martin King. He comes out of a similar tradition.

But keep in mind, it's the refusal to be intimidated, to be in fear. That's what Mandela was able to do even as he reached out to his jailers, reached out to his oppressors. Not reducing reconciliation to accommodation. He was not an accommodation as he accented reconciliation in the name of justice. Though I believe as a statesman he supported neoliberal policies that downplay the role of poor and working people. He got a little too cozy with the powers that be.


WEST: But as an older man, as a statesman, as a revolutionary, he was always focusing on poor and working people.

TAPPER: All right. Dr. Cornel West and Reihan Salam, thank you so much of your time. We appreciate the conversation.

Up next, one of the original actors from "The Sound of Music" is with us. She didn't particularly care for last night's version. What was her issue? Coming up next.


TAPPER: Tonight's money and power, "The Sound of Music Live" on NBC last night. Did you love it or hate it? NBC's three-hour live performance with the classic with Carrie Underwood as Maria drew a whopping 18.5 million viewers. That's as many that watched the series finale of "E.R."

In case you missed it, here is a glimpse.


TAPPER: And from those very first notes, social media was buzzing with reaction.

Joan Rivers tweeting, "Carrie Underwood's favorite thing should be people who haven't seen Julie Andrews in the original."

But some fans disagree, watching "Sound of Music," I'm in awe of Carrie Underwood. "What singing talent?", wrote one.

Actress Kym Karath who played Gretl Von Trapp in the original, "The Sound of Music" movie, joins me.

It's an honor to have you here. Let's just remind everyone on your character. You were five years when you started playing Gretl.

Here is the same scene from last night's special.


TAPPER: So, Kym, how did she do?

KYM KARATH, ACTRESS: She's adorable. I mean, the kids are great.

TAPPER: But you tweeted last night -- you tweeted last night, must admit some scenes are actually painful to watch. Let's exclude all those under the age of 18 from any of your comments, what was it about it that you didn't like?

KARATH: You know, personally, really was disappointed because I'm a huge Carrie Underwood fan, and I think she's so beautiful, and I love her voice, and I was -- I had very high expectations. You know, maybe part of it were -- was that my expectations were too high, but I actually was disappointed by the production values.

I thought sort of the gimmick of doing it live was sort of a disservice to the actors, honestly. I thought some line readings were off and would have benefitted from more takes, and -- I mean, I was surprised by some of the dialogue that had been added. Those -- I mean, I had issues.

TAPPER: A lot of people had issues, based on my Twitter feed.

I want to play another scene from the original movie followed by the same one from last night's show.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Captain Von Trapp, are you in love with him?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know. I don't know. I was, she said he was in love with me but I didn't want to believe it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maria, are you in love with Captain Von Trap?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know. I don't know.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tell me about it, child.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She said I was and that her father was in love with me, and then there he was, and they were looking at each other and I could hardly breathe.


TAPPER: It's even worse when you put them together like that. Do you think --

KARATH: You know what? It -- sorry, go ahead.

TAPPER: No, please, you.

KARATH: It is worse when you put them together, and it's -- in all fairness and despite how I actually felt, it's not really fair to put them together because one was a movie that, you know, we could do takes of and it had incredible production values. It was incredibly rich and one was sort of a hybrid. I mean, I don't understand the way they concocted that formula to tell you the truth.

And I mean, Julie Andrews is Julie Andrews and those are very, very big shoes to step into, big, because she's remarkable across the board.

Carrie Underwood is spectacular in her own way, but it's inevitable to have that comparison made. I think Carrie was brave to do it. But this was something I think someone with more stage experience might have an easier time with. Laura Benanti who played Baroness Schrader did a remarkable job.

TAPPER: Now, despite the fact that some say it looked like dinner theater compared to the original, this was a big hit for NBC and attracted 18.5 million viewers. Even if the critics say the special fell flat and even if you and I think, wow, that's not such a great thing they did there, at the end of the day, this was a win for them, I think.

KARATH: Listen, 18.5 million viewers, absolutely. And listen, I think that just shows that people love "The Sound of Music" in whatever form it is. I mean, the music is the music, no matter what.

Listen, the plays existed from the late '50s. It's been on Broadway. It's been done in dinner theater. It's been in community theater. It's been done internationally and it's a wonderful -- it's wonderful has a play --

TAPPER: Kym, I got to cut -- I'm sorry, I got to cut you off. But thanks you so much for your time. It's wonderful talking to you about this, Kym Karath.