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Obama, GOP Governors at Odds; Block Poor from Voting?

Aired February 24, 2014 - 18:28   ET



ANNOUNCER: Tonight on CROSSFIRE, President Obama picks a fight with the Republican governors. Today they hit back.

GOV. BOBBY JINDAL (R), LOUISIANA: This is an administration that has not trusted the American people. We do trust the American people. We think they know better how to lead their lives.

ANNOUNCER: On the left, Van Jones. On the right, Newt Gingrich. In the CROSSFIRE, Jay Nixon, the Democratic governor of Missouri, and Pat McCrory, the Republican governor of North Carolina. Are Republican governors frustrating the president's agenda or saving their citizens from it? Tonight on CROSSFIRE.


VAN JONES, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE. I'm Van Jones on the left.

NEWT GINGRICH, CO-HOST: I'm Newt Gingrich on the right.

In the CROSSFIRE tonight, two governors who met with President Obama today. And moments after that meeting, a handful of governors rushed to the microphones for their own mini edition of CROSSFIRE.


JINDAL: This president in the White House seems to be waving the white flag of surrender after five -- more than five years now in this administration. The Obama economy is now the minimum wage economy.

GOV. DANNEL MALLOY (D), CONNECTICUT: I don't know what the heck was a reference to white flag when it comes to people making $404 a week. I mean, that's the most insane statement I've ever heard.


GINGRICH: So not satisfied with creating gridlock just in Washington, President Obama now is poisoning the traditionally nonpartisan Governors' Association meeting. And he started doing it Thursday when he told Democratic governors their Republican colleagues are, quote, "pursuing the same top-down failed economic policies that don't help Americans get ahead. They're paying for it by cutting investments in the middle class."

Van, I thought this was a chance for the president to prove how post- partisan he was.

JONES: Post-partisan doesn't mean post-factual. Post-factual, what he says is actually true. Some of these Republican policies are terrible. We'll talk about them tonight. You're going to once again prove how good our policies are.

In the CROSSFIRE we've got Democratic Governor Jay Nixon of Missouri and Republican Governor Pat McCrory of North Carolina. So the person he's speaking of, the reason I'm glad the president was speaking up for the truth here.

In your state, North Carolina, you actually cut almost more than almost any other state unemployment benefits, and it turned out to be a disaster. Didn't create more jobs. About 70,000 people just quit looking for work. How can you justify along with the rest of the Republican Party hurting unemployed Americans who are looking for work every day?

GOV. PAT MCCRORY (R), NORTH CAROLINA: Your speaking points are dead wrong.

JONES: Well, correct me.

MCCRORY: When I was elected last November and was sworn in on January 5, sworn at on January 6, our unemployment rate was the fifth highest in the nation, 9.4 percent. I had to take some immediate action to reduce unemployment. And that action resulted in the largest drop in unemployment in the country in North Carolina. We're now below 7 percent, 6.9 percent, the largest drop in unemployment. Now if you consider that to be a disaster --

JONES: Hold on a second now. I've looked behind these talking points. And your, talk about talking points.

MCCRORY: They're just facts. They're just facts. We were the fifth highest unemployment rate in the country, we're not even in the top 30 anymore.

JONES: The reason for that is not because so many people got jobs, but a lot of people quit looking. A lot of people don't understand when you're on unemployment you're getting paid to look for a job. And when you get that rug taken out from under you, people quit. Isn't it true that you have the biggest contraction in your labor force in your state's history because of your policies?

MCCRORY: No actually, our contraction is the same rate as the rest of the nation, in fact slight below the rest of the nation and you've got to look at the Baby Boomers. But the fact of the matter is, in the next month or two, we're going to have the first net increase in jobs in North Carolina in the past five years. I consider those very successful policies. This is a governor who's willing to make very tough decisions on unemployment, very similar to what the governor of Missouri had to do with unemployment just in 2011. He reduced the unemployment --

JONES: Are you applauding his strategy of devastating these unemployed workers?

GOV. JAY NIXON (D), MISSOURI: I'm not exactly sure what his strategy is. I know we're all working together as governors to try to create jobs and focus our attention on the best economic development tool there is, and that's education, whether it's preschool, high school, making college more affordable. Like -- we spend a lot of our time trying to make sure that people who want to get training get that training. We've got programs like shared work in Missouri so if you're unemployed you can get training at the same time. I think all of us, as governors, are trying to bring people together to improve themselves so we can work our way out.

MCCRORY: And I might add, the unemployment is just one idea. We also had to pay back $2.5 billion of debt that we owed the federal government, and one decision I had to make -- a very tough decision. These are not easy decisions by Republican or Democratic governors. We had to cut off the credit card that we owed to the federal government and start paying down the debt at the state level. And we think that's going to create jobs.

GINGRICH: Let me ask you, Governor Nixon, along those lines, because creating jobs is, I think, for most American, still central five years into a very, very long, slow recovery.

The best study by the Congressional Budget Office is that, if we raise the minimum wage, it will kill about a half million jobs. The average is between zero and a million. In that context, are you really comfortable advocating a higher minimum wage, even if it would kill jobs?

NIXON: Well, first of all, Missouri has the minimum wage that's already indexed to inflation. I support increasing the minimum wage, giving folks a raise. But bottom line, what we really support is getting people the education and the training they need to get a lot more than the minimum wage but to get a broader opportunity in our society. That's why we tripled our funding for preschool. That's why we've had more rigorous standards in high school and have the lowest increase in college tuition of any state in the country.

GINGRICH: But let me say something that actually surprised us when we found this out.

If you look at average unemployment in Europe, you're really testing different societies, the countries that have a minimum wage have 13.8 percent unemployment on average. The countries that don't have a minimum wage are at 6.3 percent. These countries, by the way, aren't cheap countries. This is Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden. There are a whole group of them.

Doesn't it raise the question, to your point, which is instead of fighting politically over the minimum wage, we ought to be maximizing apprenticeships, worker training, opportunities to invest to actually get people above the minimum wage by having a buoyant economy, not slowing it down?

NIXON: As I said before, while I support increasing the minimum wage, that's not my long-term economic plan. The long-term economic plan is exactly what you said, Mr. Speaker, and that's to make sure that everybody lives up to their God-given potential. That's why we focus so much attention. You talk about the European countries. One of the things we have, the Innovation Campus allows students in high school to get college credits, allows those students to graduate sooner and have high impact internships during the summer so that they are working when they get out of college.

JONES: Well, let's talk about that. He's talking about education.

MCCRORY: Absolutely.

JONES: You actually cut education, and you also did something else that I think is pretty -- is pretty shocking. You actually raised taxes on working families while you cut taxes on the rich. How do you morally justify that, being a good, you know, moral Christian man like yourself? How do you cut taxes for the rich and then raise taxes on working families?

MCCRORY: Again, your numbers are totally wrong. What we did was we lowered taxes for everyone, every working person in North Carolina. We lowered the income tax in North Carolina on fiscal income.

JONES: Sales tax. What about the sales tax.

MCCRORY: Sales tax like --

JONES: Which hits ordinary people pretty hard, right?

MCCRORY: First of all, we reduced it. It was the Democratic legislature that raised the sales tax before I came in and the Democratic governor before I. But the point is very similar to this. What I had to do was make our state more competitive for business.

When you're the fifth highest unemployment rate in the country, you don't want to keep -- you do not want to keep the same tax system in which South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia, your neighbors, are beating you for jobs. I want to create jobs just like Governor Nixon, and it's working.

JONES: But he's making a case, I think, that Newt's made many times, the importance of education.

MCCRORY: We agree.

JONES: Why, then, the cuts to education? If you're talking about building a long-term future for your state, how do you justify the kinds of cuts that you put through -- and you have cut taxes for wealthy people while you've --

MCCRORY: We've cut taxes for everyone, for everyone.

JONES: And -- are you going to --

MCCRORY: Corporate tax, we cut the -- we had the highest corporate tax and the highest income tax in the southeast, and we were losing jobs in North Carolina. My goal was to create jobs.

JONES: You did not -- you are going to say here on national television -- you're going to be fact checked on this, you know --

MCCRORY: The only sales tax we raised since I've been in my administration was the sales tax, for example, on movie tickets. When you go to a movie now, yes, everyone has to pay 50 cents more. I'm sorry.

JONES: You're hurting -- you're hurting --

MCCRORY: I'm sorry we hurt Hollywood. But you have to pay 50 cents more to go to the movies.

GINGRICH: Let me ask you --

MCCRORY: And they're going to help -- that money's going to help go pay for schools. That's what we want.

GINGRICH: Let me ask you a little bit about jobs. Your state has a very, very important role in terms of coal and fossil fuels. You have the largest coal company in the world, I think, is headquartered in your state. What's your reaction? You're a solid, moderate Democrat who is committed to the party, but what's your reaction to the degree to which the Environmental Protection Agency has been really waging war on coal and doing what it can to basically drive coal out of use, given the importance of coal to Missouri?

NIXON: Well, first of all we need to accept the science of climate change and understand we've got to change the world. And we all have a joined responsibility to do things to make that better.

But I should also note that the air in our state and our country is getting cleaner. The water is getting cleaner. Our focus is providing low-cost energy. And for a number of years we're still going to have to have coal, and consequently, we're looking for commonsense type of regulations as well as helping put in new scrubbers if we have to, make sure that we're doing what we can to make sure that air gets a little bit cleaner each year over the long haul.

JONES: Well, we're going to get back. I can't believe we've gotten halfway through the show, and we still haven't talked about the big protest movement that's been roiling the waters in your state. We're going to talk --

MCCRORY: These guys from Wisconsin are moving to --

JONES: Is that right?

MCCRORY: -- Scott Walker.

JONES: Well, some of those policies are moving down to North Carolina, too. Well, listen, I'm going to tell you, when we get back, why everybody is so upset they're actually marching against this governor. And when you hear why they're upset, you might want to march, too. When we get back.


JONES: Welcome back. In the CROSSFIRE tonight we've got two governors, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon and North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory.

North Carolina, who we've got represented here, has become a case study of what happens when the far right grabs power and uses it to ram through an extremist agenda. In fact, people of all colors are actually taking to the streets now in this protest movement they call Moral Mondays. Now why are they so upset?

Well, Governor McCrory actually promised he was not going to restrict abortion rights, but he didn't mean it, because now if your life's in danger -- unless your life is in danger or you can prove you were raped or an incest victim, his government says no abortion for you.

He also changed the voting laws; 318,000 registered voters can't vote because they don't have the kind of I.D.s he wants them to have. Plus, he cut taxes for the rich. We checked it. It's true. And raised them for working families.

So if Republicans spread these policies nationally, you might find yourself marching, too. Now back to you.

MCCRORY: I'm glad you're not with the Obama administration. The facts are just dead wrong. We have not added -- before you interrupt me, let me state your facts.

JONES: Please do.

MCCRORY: First of all we've not added one new regulation which restricts abortions. Not one. So you've got to quit reading the signs from the protesters.

No. 2, we do require voter I.D. starting in 2016, where people have three years to get a free I.D., the exact same I.D. that's required.

JONES: Let me ask you a question.

MCCRORY: Let me finish. Wait a minute. I gave you a chance.

JONES: But I want to ask you about that.

MCCRORY: The exact same picture ID you need to get Sudafed. That is just commonsense legislation.

And the vast majority (AUDIO GAP) of the people both Republicans and Democrats agree with that legislation.

JONES: Did you make it easier or harder for people to vote early?

MCCRORY: Actually, we now have the --

JONES: Did you or did you not restrict -- MCCRORY: The exact same number of hours are for vote early as before, the exact same number of hours.


JONES: I guess the reason they're out there protesting is you're not being fair to our audience by talking about the hours when you know that you actually made it harder for people to vote.

MCCRORY: No, we didn't. In fact, we made it easier. Now someone works until 8:00 or 9:00, we're going to have polls open until 8:00 or 9:00. That's good. That makes it easier for people to vote. Don't you agree with that?

JONES: Look --

MCCRORY: A lot of people work first, second and third shifts. That's to help those people vote.

JONES: That part is good, sir.

MCCRORY: Thank you. I got a compliment. Governor, I got a compliment from him.

GINGRICH: A historic moment.

JONES: Exactly.

Sir --

NIXON: I'm still trying to figure out how getting something that makes meth is part of voting, same thing to get pseudoephedrine is what you use to vote. But that -- I'll leave that to the others. I don't think voting should be that hard.

I think voting should be easy and we should all work to make it easy. I think part of our responsibility is to make sure people get the opportunity to --

MCCRORY: And make it accurate.

NIXON: It's constitutional. Oh, come on.

GINGRICH: Why do you say, oh, come on? I think 70 percent or 80 percent of the country actually thinks we should have some proof that the person who is voting is legally an American citizen and is legally allowed to vote.

JONES: And some proof, nobody -- and some proof nobody has a problem with. The problem now is you have 318,000 people that are disproportionately African-American, they're disproportionately low income people, disproportionately people who vote against you, and part of the problem we have with you is you got -- you rush through these crazy laws that hurt people and now you're rigging the system so that ordinary people have a hard time voting against you.

GINGRICH: Explain something, because Georgia --

MCCRORY: But in four months (ph), I ran on it.

GINGRICH: Georgia was a fore-runner in doing this.


GINGRICH: You get a free card, OK, let's start with that. It's free. In the case in North Carolina, you have three years.

My view is, if the people are so enthusiastically marching on Mondays spent every Monday getting people to get their cards, that would easily be done.

MCCRORY: Guess what the marchers' directions were? Bring a photo ID to the march. Isn't that ironic? They were voting -- they were marching against IDs --


MCCRORY: We have instructions from the unions were to bring your photo ID.

JONES: We've got a lot more stuff you to get through.

MCCRORY: You have to admit that's funny.

JONES: I would love honestly for us to have a whole show on this.

MCCRORY: I would. We welcome that.

JONES: This is a great talking point that you guys have, but in practice what we found is that over and over again people who are low income people, seniors and others do have the ability to prove in their precincts, they don't have that birth certificate, some people -- they don't have that birth certificate. Some people, they don't have the time to go do it. You should be making that easier for people to vote not harder.

I want you to be able to answer that question.

GINGRICH: Do you want to comment?

NIXON: Clearly, we need to help people to vote, make it easier. Saying you have to get some other ID and the same ID you have to get (INAUDIBLE) methamphetamines is not a movement forward --

MCCRORY: Sudafed? I think the vast majority of people are using Sudafed for legal reasons.

GINGRICH: We should do a show on the --

NIXON: The bottom line is I don't think that's a very good example.


MCCRORY: All right. Same ID you need to get food stamps.

JONES: I got other stuff I'm going to ask you about. We can go to the other stuff if you want to. Like for instance how cozy you are with Duke Energy.


GINGRICH: I think this is an important issue. And I don't think it's truly partisan. As you said, a vast majority of Democrats agree.

Governor, I mean, do you have zero worries about accurate voting and accurate counting that anybody who wants to randomly shows up and announces that they show -- you know, this is their first time, they're here and by the way, they might show up at five different precincts? I mean, there is some question about how to --

NIXON: I don't have zero worries about 100 percent on anything.

The bottom line is we need to get as many people voting as possible and saying that folks who have lived in the same home for 50 years, that what we're going to require them is to get some other ID before we let them do what they've been doing in their community for 50 years is just is not the right solution to a very, very small problem.

JONES: I agree with that. Can we talk about --

MCCRORY: We agree with both of it (ph).

GINGRICH: Let many ask about the voters, because I'm fascinating in Missouri, which is a very complicated state. You had 71 percent of your voters in a referendum say they did not want the Obama mandate. You had -- the Obamacare mandate. You had almost two-thirds of the voters saying another referendum that they did not want the state set up nay Web site in exchange with the government.

I mean, in a sense, as the leader of the state, isn't that a pretty strong mandate to be for helping change Obamacare rather than helping protect it?

NIXON: Well, clearly we want to change health care and make health care better. We've got a unique tool right now to do that. A hundred percent federal dollars for the next few years, CMS wide open for waivers, governors working together to try to open up to put personal responsibility in that situation.

Look at what's been going on in Iowa with being able to have pilot projects for non-emergency medical transportation. That's great. I mean, looking at having premiums in a Medicaid program and co-pays, all of those reforms are right within our grasp if we work together to move forward to use these resources so that working folks.

And the other thing, it's the right thing to do -- if you're working, you ought to have health care.

MCCRORY: I think the biggest issue for us is Washington passed the bill -- you can debate the policy one way or the other. The dilemma is Washington passed the bill in which they had no idea how to execute the bill, and the problem is the states are the ones who are having to execute the bill and we were not involved in the development of that bill. It was written by Nancy Pelosi and the White House and others and --

GINGRICH: Hold on, guys. Stay here.

We are about to talk presidential politics and we want you to participate. You have to hear what Jeb Bush said earlier today when he was asked about running for president in 2016. He recounted what an Obama supporter told him back in 2007.


JEB BUSH (R), FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: He looked at me and goes, "We had a Bush, then we had a Clinton, then we had a Bush, then we're going to have a Clinton?" And then he turned to me and he goes, "And then we're going to have a Bush?"

So I get the point. I get the point. And it's something that if I was to run, I would have to overcome that. And so will Hillary, by the way.


GINGRICH: So, we want a governor as well as you at home to weigh in on that in tonight's "Fireback" question, which last name carries more baggage in 2016? Tweet Bush or Clinton using #crossfire. We'll have the results after the break.

And I've already got the governors laughing about it.


JONES: Welcome back.

Now, it's time for "Outrages of the Day."

I am outraged about the Arizona -- the legislature there, their crazy bill that would let businesses to refuse to serve lesbian, gays, anybody who violates somebody's so-called religious freedom.

I'm a religious person. This is not religious freedom. It's just plain bigotry.

So here's my plea to Arizona Governor Jan Brewer. Please veto this bill. If you don't take my word for it, listen to both of your state's Republican senators, Jeff Flake and John McCain, also want you to veto this bill. This is the first time the three of us have agreed on anything.

So, Governor, please side with us, please side with quality and veto the bill.

Now, Governor, would you sign or veto this bill?

NIXON: Veto.

JONES: Would you sign or veto this bill?

MCCRORY: I would not sign this bill, I'm focusing on jobs. That's where -- we need to get the jobs and that's where we are concentrating our efforts.

GINGRICH: I'm going to talk about killing jobs.

I'm outraged because six weeks ago you could get a tax credit for buying a wood-burning stove. Now, the Environmental Protection Agency is proposing new pollution rule that is are so strict and so convoluted, they would make literally every wood-burning stove illegal.

This is a stunning example of stupid bureaucrats living in a fantasy world punishing every rural American, 13 million homes in this country have wood-burning stoves. As far as I'm concerned, up with wood stoves, down with the EPA.

JONES: Well --

MCCRORY: I would say they better not bring that law to North Carolina in the winter.

GINGRICH: Or large parts of rural Missouri.

MCCRORY: No doubt about it.

JONES: I'd tell you what, I say up with wood-burning stoves and up with EPA. I'm one of the green -- I'm in support of bio mass. That's one of the thing that this rule hasn't gotten in place yet, but hopefully it will. I'm for biomass. I bet you are, too.

MCCRORY: We are for all of the above, all of the above energy. And we need to become more energy independent. And I actually had a good meeting with the secretary of interior. We are going to start hopefully seismic testing off the coast to so we can start looking for natural gas and rebuild the economy.


JONES: If we can have you back --

MCCRORY: You are in favor of that, right?

JONES: We can figure about the fact (ph), the next time we have you back.

Listen, before we get out of here, let's check on our "Fireback" results. We asked the question -- which last name is going to carry more baggage in 2016? Right now, 74 percent of you say Bush, only 26 percent of you say Clinton.

Governors, what do you think about that?

NIXON: Bush has got way more baggage.


JONES: As simple as that.


GINGRICH: I mean, straight shot.

NIXON: I mean, you know -- well, 74 percent of the people agree. He's got the hard position to argue.

MCCRORY: I think they will be judged on their own merits. And Jeb Bush, I'll tell you, he's done a great job on education in Florida and we are using a lot of his stuff in North Carolina and Florida and making sure that when you are in third grade --

NIXON: It wasn't that Bush I was talking about.


MCCRORY: Jeb Bush. We want people to be able to read in third grade.


JONES: We agree on that.

Look, I want to thank both governors, Jay Nixon and Pat McCrory.

The debate is going to continue online at, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.

From the left, I'm Van Jones.

GINGRICH: From the right, I'm Newt Gingrich.

Join us tomorrow for another edition of CROSSFIRE.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.