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What's Best for Party Politics: Pragmatism or Purity?; GOP Tearing Itself Apart?

Aired March 10, 2014 - 18:28   ET


MARC LAMONT HILL, CO-HOST: Wolf, Rick Santorum and Bernie Sanders disagree on just about everything.

S.E. CUPP, CO-HOST: Yes, but the fun part is they also have big differences with their party's establishment. The debate starts now.


ANNOUNCER: Tonight on CROSSFIRE Hillary Clinton ignores an attack from the progressive left as her grassroots army gears up.


GRAPHIC: Her voice. Her values. Our movement.

ANNOUNCER: Chris Christie at war with the Republican right.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: We don't get to govern if we don't win.

ANNOUNCER: On the left, Marc Lamont Hill. On the right, S.E. Cupp.

In the CROSSFIRE, two potential 2016 candidates, Senator Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent; and former Senator Rick Santorum, a Republican. What's better politics, pragmatism or purity? Tonight on CROSSFIRE.


HILL: Welcome to CROSSFIRE. I'm Marc Lamont Hill on the left.

CUPP: I'm S.E. Cupp on the right. In the CROSSFIRE tonight, two potential 2016 contenders.

Today the White House wants to make sure you know that the number of uninsured Americans is back to 2008 levels. That's according to a new Gallup poll. Not much to cheer about from my vantage point. Here's why: Many of these so-called enrollees aren't actually enrolled. They haven't paid yet. And there's still not nearly enough young people to actually make Obamacare work.

Republicans are not going to be afraid to hammer the president over his signature legislation.


SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: When Obamacare was debated in Congress we screamed from the rooftops that it just wouldn't work.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN: We now know that this law will discourage millions of people from working.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: If you think that Obamacare is hurting our economy, it is.


CUPP: Marc, the more Republicans keep laser-focused on Obamacare's failures, the worse it looks for the map for the Democrats in 2014.

HILL: That would make so much sense if it were, like, December 2013 or September 2013, but right now that's totally untrue. The number of unemployed -- actually, the number of low-income people who benefited about this is going up; their incomes are going to go up, according to the...

CUPP: At the expense of 80 percent of the rest of the country.

HILL: No, a minuscule numbers of a drop in the income for them. Most people will do just fine.

The other thing here is that people are enrolling. No, they haven't all paid yet, but many have, and the number keeps going up. I think if you keep beating this drum, there are going to be a lot of Democratic nominees who win.

CUPP: OK. Well, we'll take that bet in November.

In the CROSSFIRE tonight, Senator Bernie Sanders and former Senator Rick Santorum. Marc, since you're our guest host, I will give you the first question.

HILL: Well, let's pick up where S.E. and I were just talking about, Senator Santorum.

Obamacare is working. Gallup polls show that -- I know you already disagree, but people are signing up, and it seems much more successful than we thought before. If you want to continue on this path of beating up on Obamacare, not only are you -- is it counterfactual, but it seems to be going against what most Americans want.

RICK SANTORUM (R), FORMER PENNSYLVANIA SENATOR: Well, first off, it's not counterfactual. The bottom line is that people are signing up in greater numbers, you're right, but they're still way behind what their targets are, No. 1.

No. 2, who's signing up are older people, and the insurance pool is going to be so skewed as a result of that, premiums are going to skyrocket, because when you have older sicker people in the insurance pool and the younger people are opting out, it's not going to work. And if it was working that well, then why is the president continuing to delay the mandate? If this was such a great idea, he should put this in place for everybody right now. It's not a great idea; it's not working. And people aren't happy with being forced out of the plans that they like and being put in a plan that they have to pay for.

HILL: He's champing at the bit here. Go ahead.

REP. BERNIE SANDERS (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Let me just jump in. I voted for the Affordable Care Act. I think it makes some progress. As I think Rick may know, this was originally a Republican plan. A similar plan was put into effect in Massachusetts by Mitt Romney.

But here's my point. The United States today -- and this is something we should be profoundly embarrassed about -- remains the only country in the industrialized world that does not guarantee health care to all of our people. And yet, we are spending per capita almost twice as much as the people of any other country, and our health-care outcomes in many respects are worse.

So we have got to make a decision, as an issue (ph). Should all people have health care? How do we do it in the most cost-effective way? I believe in a Medicare-for-all single-payer system.

SANTORUM: I know Bernie does. And he's been -- you've been very consistent about that, Bernie. I give you a lot of credit for that over the years. But we do have guaranteed health care. What you're talking about is guaranteed health insurance. There's a difference between guaranteed health and guaranteed health care. We've had guaranteed health care in this country for a long time. Anybody that shows up, whether you're a citizen or not, you come to a hospital and you need care, you get health care. So don't -- don't say that people don't get health care.

HILL: That's disingenuous, right? Because Republicans talk about efficiency all the time. There's nothing more economically inefficient than a bunch of sick people showing up at an emergency room without having preventative care.

SANTORUM: Of course, as you know, the evidence has proven that, when you do provide a lot of this health care, in fact, health-care costs go up and it doesn't really change the behavior. A lot of the folks who have insurance now, particularly a lot of lower income folks, still end up at the emergency room, in fact in greater numbers than they did before.

SANDERS: Let me just jump in.

SANTORUM: All of this -- all of this, you know, positive what will happen when people have insurance hasn't proven to be the case.

SANDERS: Well, Rick is right. A lot of people do end up in insurance -- in emergency rooms, at ten times the cost...

SANTORUM: Right. SANDERS: ... as opposed to going to a community health center, for example. We are way behind the rest of the world in terms of primary health care. We are losing, according to a Harvard study -- incredible -- 45,000 people each year die, because by the time they get to a doctor, it is too late.

And it is also absurd that when people delay going to the doctor, what happens? They end up in the hospital at huge expense to the entire system.

We've got to make a decision. Health care for all. Do it in an affordable way. Join the rest of the world.

CUPP: Well, Senators, let me tie a couple things together here. Because income inequality is the issue that Democrats are running on this year and maybe even into 2016. We'll see.


CUPP: Yet labor unions, some of the most vocal Obama supporters, are now complaining that Obamacare will cause income inequality. Here's what they said in a letter they just delivered over the weekend to Capitol Hill: "Only in Washington could asking the bottom of the middle class to finance the health care for the poorest families be seen as reducing inequality."

How are Democrats going to do damage control over this?

SANDERS: Well, some of us wanted to address that issue. It is a legitimate issue that the unions have.

But in terms of income and wealth inequality, this is what we've got a record of. Top 1 percent today owns 38 percent of the wealth of America. You know what the bottom 60 percent owns? Two point three percent. We are moving toward an oligarchic form of society, where a handful of billionaires are controlling our economic and political life, and we have got to change that.

CUPP: Sure, but does Obamacare make that worse?

SANDERS: Obamacare -- look, I'm not here to defend every aspect of Obamacare. I believe in a Medicare-for-all single-payer system...

CUPP: Right.

SANDERS: ... which is the most efficient, cost-effective way of providing health care to all people. Do I think the Affordable Care Act has made -- done some good things? I do.

HILL: I mean, it's hard to argue for something where, again, the bottom two-fifths of the country has an income increase based on Obamacare, based on the Brookings study. And the top [SIC] 60 percent I know you're concerned about, they only have a 2.1 percent difference. So this raises the income levels for the poorest Americans.

CUPP: The poorest two-tenths at the expense of the rest of 80 percent of the country.

HILL: It's not at the expense of the 80...

CUPP: It is.


HILL: Not according to the study.

SANTORUM: As you know, Marc, the income gap has widened under the Obama administration. It's because we have a Federal Reserve that's pumping up Wall Street, pumping up stock prices and real-estate prices. And that's why this gap is getting wider, because you have a president whose economic policies are destroying small business, destroying the entrepreneurial spirit in this country, and destroying the jobs that, frankly, I'm really concerned about, which is the 70 percent of people in this country who don't have college degrees.

And they're not finding economic opportunities, because this president's policies are actually oriented toward the rich, not working individuals; not energy, not manufacturing, not those blue collar jobs that the president says he wants, but his policies say, "Stay away."

SANDERS: Look, the reality is that we have lost, in the last 13 years, 60,000 factories in America. Sixty thousand factories. Millions of decent-paying jobs.

One of the reasons for that is the disastrous trade policy, which by the way, has been supported by Democratic leadership and Republican leadership. Forcing American workers to compete against people in China or Vietnam, who are making pennies an hour.

We have also seen in many ways, not -- inadequate increase in the minimum wage, so that you've got most of the new jobs that have been created in America today are low-wage part-time jobs, often...

CUPP: You have to have a job, too, for a minimum-wage increase to actually be effective.

SANDERS: That's right.

CUPP: And unfortunately, a lot of people are out of work.

SANDERS: That's right.

CUPP: And that minimum wage increase won't affect them.

HILL: Well, it does long-term, because people spend more, which creates more demand for jobs.

CUPP: It results in less hiring.

SANTORUM: Look, the bottom line is for manufacturing. There was a study done by the National Association of Manufacturers, said if you set aside labor costs, don't include labor costs, we're still 20 percent more expensive to manufacture in this country than we are in our top five competitors. Why? Because our taxes, our corporate taxes are the highest in the world. Why? Because our regulatory environment with environmental policy and ridiculous and overly- regulated labor policy makes it hard for manufacturers to be able to locate here and pay workers a good salary.

So we need to have something done to create an environment where we cut taxes, cut the regulatory burden and bring manufacturing back. Those jobs will come back.

SANDERS: Let me respond to that. First of all, we don't pay the highest corporate taxes. Nominally we do. But as you know, the effective tax rate is not the nominal tax rate. In point of fact...

SANTORUM: I guess it all depends on the manufacturer, right?

SANDERS: It does. In fact, as I recall the effective tax rate is not 35 percent. It's about 12 percent.

Furthermore, one out of four, one out of four major corporations, one out of four major corporations pays zero in federal taxes. Because they're stashing that money in the Cayman Islands and elsewhere.

SANTORUM: You and I will agree on that. I think we do need to cut the -- cut the corporate tax. I suggested we cut it in half and we eliminate all of the loopholes.


HILL: I have a gift for you. Yes. An actual gift. The Republicans spent the whole weekend aiming at the wrong target. Next up, I will tell Rick Santorum who Democrats really need to be afraid of.


HILL: Welcome back. In the CROSSFIRE tonight, Senator Bernie Sanders and former presidential candidate Rick Santorum.

All right, here's my message to the GOP. Wake up! You are aiming at the wrong targets. OK, first you spent the weekend looking in the rearview mirror, bashing President Obama and Jimmy Carter.


DONALD TRUMP, CHAIRMAN, THE TRUMP ORGANIZATION: We're getting into Jimmy Carter territory, and I never thought I'd see anything like that again. I lived through that time. And it was not a good time.

GOV. BOBBY JINDAL (R), LOUISIANA: To President Carter, I want to issue a sincere apology. It is no longer fair to say he was the worst president of this great country in my lifetime. President Obama has proven me wrong.


HILL: Last time I checked -- and I could be wrong -- Jimmy Carter and President Obama are not going to be on the ballot in 2016.

CUPP: That's true.

HILL: That's very true, right? OK. So Republicans are making a mistake here, and they won't stop targeting each other.

Ted Cruz and Rand Paul spent today fighting about foreign policy. It was fun to watch. And then, senator Santorum, you were also one of the targets. I want you to listen to something that Chris Christie said, and I'll give you a chance to respond.


CHRISTIE: So please, let us come out here not only resolved to stand for our principles, but let's come out of this conference resolved to win elections again.


HILL: A big internal fight going on, and you seem to be right in the middle of it. What do you think of that?

SANTORUM: What I say to that, yes, I want to win, but we want to win to do things that are beneficial for America. I want America to win. And when you abandon the things that you believe are in the best interests for America to win, then who cares if you win? I mean, what do you win? You win something that's short of what you think is the best.

And so, I think if you look at the last few elections Republican nominees for president, they were folks who went out and by and large Americans knew they didn't believe what the party stood for. And they pretty much apologized for most of the things the party stood for.

We need someone to go out there and articulate a positive uplifting vision of what America can be for average Americans, working Americans. We still believe in work in the Republican Party.

So, we're going to talk about working Americans and what we can do to create a better picture for them in their lives.

HILL: People in the center of the party will probably say they want the same thing. Would it be affair assessment, your assessment, that Chris Christie is willing to compromise Republican values to win the election?

SANTORUM: I think we see a lot of establish Republicans who are willing to throw over things that we know are good. For example, I spent a lot time at CPAC this week talking about the importance of marriage. Not the definition of marriage --

HILL: Right.

SANTORUM: -- but the institution of marriage and how important it is for the economy. How important it is for men and women to raise children and to have dads in the neighborhood so they can -- maybe Ben Carson was on the program. It was on CPAC. And he talked about -- he was raised by a single family, single mom, but there were men in the neighborhood who helped him.

You got neighborhoods now in America where there are no dads. We have to do something to reclaim marriage as an institution so kids have a chance to get the nurturing they need to be successful.

CUPP: But do you think Chris Christie disagrees with you on that or he doesn't talk about it enough?

SANTORUM: He -- well, I don't see a lot of Republicans going out talking about marriage. I think they -- the point is they run from these issues. He may say I agree with it, but they'll never talk about it.

CUPP: Well, Senator Sanders, I want to acknowledge that there's also a rift in the Democratic Party and it doesn't get quite as much attention as the media likes to give the rift on the right but there is a rift between sort of progressive Democrats and maybe moderate Democrats.

In fact, here's what you had to say last week about Hillary Clinton: "It is important for leadership now to explain to them why they're hurting and how we can grow the middle class. I don't think that is the politics of Senator Clinton or the Democratic establishment."

Is Hillary Clinton not the right choice for the Democratic Party?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: I've known Hillary Clinton for many years, she's a friend. I like Hillary Clinton. The issue -- and I think Rick touched on this.

CUPP: Yes.

SANDERS: What we need to do is not attacking people, we need to be analyzing what the problems are in this country and coming up with real solutions. And I have to say the media very often doesn't help us in that.

The issue here is the collapse of the middle class and the fact that we have more people living in poverty than ever before.

CUPP: Right. So, the Goldman Sachs, Walmart candidate Hillary Clinton --


SANDERS: But it's not just -- it is not just Hillary Clinton. I mean, Goldman Sachs and Wall Street play an enormous role in terms of both political parties. Very little legislation will get through the Congress that is not approved by corporate America.

CUPP: I understand that Hillary Clinton is your leading candidate for president. Is he really the face of the values that you're talking about? SANDERS: I believe -- look, I'm not here to talk Hillary. What we need is a candidate who will stand up for the working class, take on the big money interests, tell Wall Street that they cannot continue to dominate the politics of this country. That is I think what the American people want.

Also what the American people want is to say we're not going to cut Social Security, we're not going to cut Medicare, we're not going to cut Medicaid, but we are going to ask the wealthiest people in this country to start paying their fair share of taxes. You know what else we're going to do? We're going to finally begin to deal with the very serious crisis of climate change and transform our energy --

CUPP: You and Elizabeth Warren than it does Hillary Clinton, I've got to say.

SANDERS: Well, the voters can decide that. But I think we need that debate. This country is in trouble.

HILL: Here's my worry, Senator. I worry that the voters have already decided. It seems like Hillary Clinton is sucking up the air in this presidential election.

I want you to see this ad and get your response to it. Check this out.


HILL: That is an ad from the Ready for Hillary super PAC that just came out yesterday.

CUPP: We're already sick of that song, right?

HILL: The song is driving me nuts, but the Hillary movement is also driving me nuts. We've coronated her it seems and there's no room for a progressive candidate. Or is there?

SANDERS: Well, I don't -- look, the voters have not talked. I mean, I think the media has determined that Hillary is supposed to be the candidate. I guess they decided Chris Christie was the candidate. He had a problem.

Let's talk to the voters. What do the voters want? And let's discuss the issues -- I think the American people now are tired of establishment politics which is dominated by big money interests. They want the working class to begin to get a break rather than just large corporations.

CUPP: Well, Senator Santorum, let me bring this back over to our party. Take a look at the results of the CPAC straw poll. Now, whatever you think of that or however indicative you think that is. Rand Paul is there at the top with a pretty sizable lead.

And I think in large part that's because Rand Paul connects with millenials, a pretty important voting demographic on issues like civil liberties, NSA spying program, for example. Are you worried about Republicans like you, maybe social conservatives, will have a difficult time reaching those millennial voters?

SANTORUM: No, I'm really not worried about that. I think it really goes back to -- I disagree with Bernie's solutions, but I agree with the fact that painting a positive picture and laying out what you're for as opposed to harping. That's one of the problems I have with CPAC. It's just his litany.

I mean, it's fun to beat up on Barack Obama, I like to do it. It is increasingly easy to do, but it's not a good election strategy in the end. What we have to paint the positive picture and paint it in a way so that when you're painting it, someone sitting there listening and says, he is talking about me.

That is the problem with Republicans. We don't talk about -- we talk about job creators all the time. It's always job creators, job creators. It's not about the job holder. It's not about the person --

CUPP: The wage earner.

SANTORUM: We have to have -- I know it's hard for us, but we have to be able to talk in terms where we talk about policy. And when -- it's not just about helping this person up here so someone down here gets help indirectly, but how we're going to tie those two policies together is really important.

HILL: What about this? Because I know you want the positive, affirming, warm and fuzzy message. But I keep hearing Republicans going hard against each other. Mitch McConnell said, "I think we are going to crush them everywhere. I don't think they're going to have a single nominee anywhere in the country." He wasn't talking about Democrats. He was talking about Tea Party-backed Republicans.

SANTORUM: Well, he's being -- you know, a Tea Party-backed Republican is running against him, so I'm sure he's feeling --

CUPP: Convenient theories for Mitch McConnell.


HILL: But he said, we're going to crush them everywhere, sir. That includes people like you, no?

SANTORUM: Well, look, I mean, these things come and go. And --

HILL: How would you respond to Mitch McConnell?

SANTORUM: I would respond that the Tea Party has been a very positive thing. We wouldn't have the majority in the House of Representatives if it wasn't for Tea Party in 2010. We wouldn't have the energy and the enthusiasm we wouldn't have gotten back to our principles that I think are important in the Constitution. So, Tea Party has been, on balance, a very positive thing to energize the Republican base. We just -- we've seen the establishment that I referred to. They don't like to be shaken up. I agree they are very much belonging to corporate interests. And we need to break away --

SANDERS: Let me say something if I can.

CUPP: Real quick.

SANDERS: The Tea Party, I think Rick is right in saying they have energized a whole lot of people. That's true. They got people involved. That's a good thing.

But I think once the Tea Party understands what the Koch brothers and their other funders really believe in terms of cutting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, in terms of unfettered trade, a lot of these Tea Parties are going to think twice about Republican leadership.

CUPP: OK, Bernie Sanders drops a bomb.

Stay here. We want you at home to weigh in on today's "Fireback" question. If Hillary Clinton runs will she get a significant primary challenge on the left? Tweet yes or no using #crossfire. We'll have the results after the break.

We also have the outrages of the day. I am outraged at adults who have turned a child into a jerk.


CUPP: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. It's time for "Outrages of the Day."

Here is what I'm outraged about. Take a look.


JUSTIN BIEBER, POP STAR: I don't have to listen to anything you have to say. Disciplined. What kind of question is that? Is he my son? Guess what? Guess what? I don't recall.


CUPP: That was Justin Bieber being deposed in the lawsuit accusing his bodyguard of beating up a photographer. How the lawyers in that room including his own didn't reach across that table and smack him sideways is an impressive demonstration of self-control.

Yes, Justin Bieber is a punk and probably a terrible person, but Justin Bieber did not solely create Justin Bieber. The reason he has no respect for adults is because the adults in his life, his parents, managers and handlers never taught him or demanded any better. Now at 20, Justin is responsible for his own behavior but shame on every adult in his life who only saw dollar signs and not a kid who needed limits, discipline and role models. HILL: I disagree 100 percent.

CUPP: What? How could you?

HILL: Fifty million people --

CUPP: With that punk?

HILL: I don't need those crazy fans against me. I'm just going to agree with --


HILL: They're going to Twitter and stalk you, I don't want to be, I love you J.B. I promise I do.

But I have a real outrage. I am outraged about the special guest at a Florida gun show this past weekend. Yes, George Zimmerman, he shook hands and he autographed photos of himself. And even though a handful of people showed up, it's still really sad that we live in a world where a child killer, I guess he's a child killer, is raised to the level of celebrity. Today, hundreds have assembled at the Florida state capitol to challenge "Stand Your Ground", a law that makes it easier for people to choose gun violence over common sense.

Now, I don't know if the timing was intentional or just unfortunate. But either way, George Zimmerman and his allies have found another way to thumb their nose at Trayvon Martin's family.

CUPP: Yes, I'd like George Zimmerman to kind of just go away, please?

Thanks to Senator Bernie Sanders and Rick Santorum.

The debate continues online at, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.

HILL: From the left, I'm Marc Lamont Hill.

CUPP: From the right, I'm S.E. Cupp.

Join us tomorrow for another edition of CROSSFIRE.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.