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Jake Tapper On Mark Sanford’s Chances In South Carolina, And What Obama Might Or Might Not Do In North Korea

Thursday, April 4, 2013
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HH: I’m playing that for my guest, Jake Tapper, because as he’s opened The Lead, he’s been relentlessly promoting the fact that he’s a Philies fan. Jake, I assume you grew up on Kalas then.

JT: I was, I lived and breathed the Phillies as a child, and was in Veterans Stadium here with Lefty Carlton and Mike Schmidt and Larry Bowa and Bob Boone. And the worst thing, I went through the pain of the ’93 Series, and then in 2008, I was too busy covering the presidential race, and totally missed the whole thing. And it is one of the biggest regrets of my life.

HH: Oh, dear.

JT: So not such a great beginning for the season, but you’ve gotta believe.

HH: Well, the reason I brought it up is because I was in Washington on Monday, and everyone is a Nats fan now. Now I’m an Indians fan, and I don’t put much stock in people who haven’t gone through 90 loss seasons whether or not they’re real baseball fans yet. But have you fallen into that trap? Or are you holding onto your Phillies loyalty?

JT: I’m a Phillies guy. I root for the teams. I root for the Phillies, I root for the Eagles, I root for the Sixers. And it’s nice that, I mean, I do think it’s nice that there are people who are embracing the Nationals. There’s something nice about it, people coming together, Democrats, Republicans, media, politicians, everybody in this town, all supporting this team, and they’re good. But I’m a Phillies fan, and that’s just how it’s going to be.

HH: All right, that was my human interest side. Now I want to go to the news. You had on [Mark] Sanford today to open The Lead, and I was watching the interview. And I am curious if you think that that’s going to work, or if he is ever going to escape the collapse of his marriage in spectacular style? He wants clearly to move on. Do you think it’s going to work?

JT: I think it could. I think it certainly could. I mean, the big question is Republican women, what are they going to do. That was a very, very unpleasant event for a lot of people in South Carolina. And as you know, he didn’t resign. He stayed there. It happened in 2009, I believe.

HH: Yeah.

JT: And he stayed there until his governorship ended in 2011. So it was an unpleasant thing. A lot of people sided with Jenny Sanford, the spurned woman, the mother of their four boys. And I should say I know Mark Sanford. I’ve known him and Jenny Sanford and their four boys, Marshall, Landon, Bobo and Blake since 1999. And for a lot of people who knew them, even though they’re not close friends of mine, but I know them, it’s unpleasant. So we’ll see. I think that ultimately, he is a skilled politician, and he’s playing the only card he can really play. And ultimately, if he convinces people, and it’s a conservative Republican district, if he convinces people that look, I care more about your pain, let’s stop talking about mine, and I think Elizabeth Colbert Busch is a tax and spend big government liberal, and Mark’s not, it could carry the day. But I also agree with some of the panelists we had on the show – Kevin Madden and Ron Brownstein, who think that no matter who wins in this special election in May, there will be a challenge coming down the pike, whether it’s the Democrat or Mark Sanford being challenged in the primary.

HH: Now Jake Tapper, when I watched the interview with Sanford and you earlier, I was immediately struck when he talked about the sermon that his pastor preached, and not wanting to be judged by the low point in his life, of the very famous interview between George Herbert Walker Bush and Dan Rather, when the President said to Dan Rather, then Vice President Bush said to him, you don’t want to be judged by walking off the set, do you, Dan? Did that cross through your mind at all when he brought up that line of reasoning?

JT: Yeah, yeah. No, definitely. I thought about that as well, because that was such a great moment in the history of politics and journalism, George H.W. Bush pushing back, I think it was on Iran-Contra.

HH: Yup.

JT: …questions about Iran-Contra. And it did occur to me. But look, I mean, I think it’s possible that people will get past it. I mean, if you look at politicians and, for want of a better term, sex scandals, although they’re all different, I mean, David Vitter is still in the Senate, Bill Clinton is thriving. He survived impeachment and is well-respected as an ex-president by a lot of people, including George H.W. Bush. I think that things, people can get past. I think there is something about the American people that they want to forgive. Maybe it’s because of the Christian tradition of this nation that we’re all sinners, that they want to forgive. But I think there has to be an acknowledgement that what was done was wrong and should not have happened. And I think he’s doing that. We’ll just see if voters have forgiven him.

HH: Now I want to switch to North Korea, Jake Tapper, because suddenly with the Hagel statement today, people are starting to pay attention, and the United States is dispatching the THAD system there. And the latest headlines are very, very alarming. Does the President have to come out and articulate, in your view, what he will do and what permissions he does or does not need in order to deter them from doing something on the supercrazy, as opposed to the merely crazy scale?

JT: I guess the question is whether that would do harm or good. I mean, the military is making it clear that there could be repercussions. Would President Obama making it clear that if North Korea takes action, that could well be the end of North Korea, does that escalate things, or does it defuse it? I’m certainly no policy expert, and I don’t know that anybody really can get inside the mind of Kim Jong Un. But we’ve been covering, obviously, the North Korean crisis on our show from the very beginning. We had former Defense secretary Cohen, who served for Bill Clinton as the Defense secretary, but was a Republican senator from Maine. He told me, I mean, the most likely thing is that North Korea would start shelling South Korea. That’s what I said to Cohen. Cohen said if that happened, that would be the end of North Korea, because South Korea would retaliate, the United States would get involved, and that would be it. I think it’s fairly clear what would happen. It’s just a question of how far is Kim Jong Un willing to take this.

HH: You know, Jake Tapper, the undersecretary over at Energy, a guy named Dan Poneman, is an old friend of mine. And he did the nuke negotiations in ’96 with the North Koreans. And he is widely known for saying, or relaying and confirming the estimate of casualties that Bill Clinton got if war had happened in ’96 over the nuclear program of the North Koreans. And it’s in the millions, instantly. When you say that would be the end of the North Korean regime, do you think that means conventional weapons only? Or does the President have to talk about the unthinkable, which is if they unleash this military barrage, this artillery barrage of a half million shells they allegedly have at the DMZ, then we go instantly to regime ending weapons?

JT: I don’t know. I think that President Obama is very reluctant to pull the trigger these days. I say that because of many, many conversations I’ve had with people close to him. I say that because of he being the only one in his administration among his top officials who does not want to provide more aid to the rebels. You probably saw this. Last week, Josh Rogin…

HH: Yup.

JT: …from Foreign Policy, came on our show and talked about a big scoop he had about how everybody from Kerry to Hagel to Donelyn, all the national security team recommended that the Obama administration start providing non-lethal but more serious assistance to Syria, and the President has not acted on it, which is effectively rejecting it. I think he’s reluctant to pull the trigger. So I don’t know. I would suspect he would not do, assuming you have a gamut of ten things in order of most destructive, I don’t think he would do the five most destructive.

HH: Interesting. We’ll keep watching The Lead to see how that conversation develops. Jake Tapper, thanks.

End of interview.

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