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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

On the Next Episode of The Lead

The latest on the crisis in Ukraine, plus why a 700-page book on economic theory is a best seller.

The latest on the crisis in Ukraine, plus why a 700-page book on economic theory is a best seller.

national lead

September 11th, 2013
11:57 PM ET

Wagging the dog: The tale of Elizabeth O'Bagy

"Wag the Dog" was a dark comedy about a fake war sold to the American people by public relations professionals and a Hollywood producer.

"We aren't going to have a war. We're going to have the "appearance" of a war," said character Conrad Brean, played by actor Robert De Niro.

The movie "Thank You for Smoking" was another attempt to pull back the curtain on how Washington, D.C. really works.

"These guys realized quick if they were going to claim that cigarettes were not addictive, they better have proof. This is the man they rely on," said character Nick Naylor, played by actor Aaron Eckhart. "He's been testing the link between nicotine and lung cancer for 30 years and hasn't found any conclusive results. The man's a genius. He could disprove gravity."

Those two films and their somewhat exaggerated takes on Washington, D.C. came to mind Wednesday.

When the history of this odd moment in time is written – this period in either a build up to a military strike against Syria or whatever comes next – some attention may be paid to Elizabeth O'Bagy.
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world lead

September 11th, 2013
11:44 PM ET

Sen. Menendez reacts to Putin's op-ed: I wanted to vomit

The night before a high stakes diplomatic meeting in Geneva, where Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart will talk over a plan for stripping Syria of chemical weapons, The New York Times published an op-ed by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In it, Putin says that there is "every reason to believe" it was the rebels, not regime forces, who used poison gas.

In his final paragraph, he referenced President Barack Obama's speech on Syria Tuesday night.

"I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States' policy is "what makes America different. It's what makes us exceptional." It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation," Putin wrote.

Democratic Senator Robert Menendez, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said he first heard of and read Putin's op-ed while he was at dinner. He had a visceral reaction.

"I almost wanted to vomit," said Menendez. "I worry when someone who came up through the KGB tells us what is in our national interests, and what is not. It really raises the question of how serious the Russian proposal is."

Menendez would not go so far as to say Kerry, en route to Russia to discuss the diplomatic solution, is on a fool's errand.

"It would be foolish to slam the door on diplomacy," said Menendez. The validity and sincerity of the Russia proposal is questionable, "but we have to test it."

For more of this discussion with Senator Bob Menendez, click on the video above.

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White House responds to Putin's NYT op-ed

national lead

September 11th, 2013
10:42 PM ET

White House responds to Putin's NYT op-ed

By CNN Chief Washington Correspondent Jake Tapper

On the eve of an all-important pow-wow in Geneva, where Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart will talk over a plan for stripping Syria of chemical weapons, The New York Times published a stern, and at times standoffish op-ed from their brand new contributor: Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Putin is now fully invested in Syria’s CW (chemical weapons) disarmament,” a senior White House official told CNN's Jake Tapper, when asked to respond to Putin’s op-ed.

In that opinion piece, Putin speaks directly to the American people and says, among many things, that there is "every reason to believe" it was the rebels, not regime forces, who used poison gas.

And in his final paragraph, Putin references President Barack Obama's speech on Syria Tuesday night, and slams the president’s assertion of American exceptionalism.

"I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States' policy is "what makes America different. It's what makes us exceptional." It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation," Putin wrote.

“That’s all irrelevant,” the White House official said in response. “He put this proposal forward and he’s now invested in it. That’s good. That’s the best possible reaction. He’s fully invested in Syria’s CW disarmament and that’s potentially better than a military strike – which would deter and degrade but wouldn’t get rid of all the chemical weapons. He now owns this. He has fully asserted ownership of it and he needs to deliver.”

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politics lead

September 11th, 2013
07:02 PM ET

Colorado lawmakers recalled over gun legislation

An historic and first-ever recall vote in Colorado pitted citizen against citizen, as well as two of the nation's most powerful gun lobby groups against each other – Mayor Michael Bloomberg's "Mayors Against Illegal Guns" versus The National Rifle Association. Both groups are spending millions to sway voters.

Ultimately Colorado voters sent a stern message to two state senators, both Democrats, who supported the unpopular new gun laws: You're fired.

State Senator Angela Giron, who represented a mainly Democratic district, and Colorado State Senate President John Morse were both booted.
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world lead

September 11th, 2013
06:57 PM ET

Mother of Benghazi victim: I am afraid of a President Hillary Clinton

Wednesday marks the first anniversary of the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. One woman still looking for answers about that deadly night is Pat Smith. Her son Sean Smith, a State Department information officer, was one of four Americans killed during the attack.

"I was hoping to have relief by now but, so far it hasn't happened," said Smith.

Asked what it is she is looking for, Smith said she wants answers, and she wants someone to take responsibility for the attacks, namely former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

"I am so afraid that nobody has come up to take responsibility for what Hillary did, that she will become president, and more of our people will be murdered and thrown to the dogs because nothing has happened," said Smith.

For more of our interview with Pat Smith, click on the video above.

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