Return to Transcripts main page


Iraq Divides Republicans; Clinton Out of Touch?

Aired June 23, 2014 - 18:28   ET


VAN JONES, CO-HOST: Hey, Wolf, it's a very special night. We have all four of the co-hosts tonight, and we've got a lot to talk about, including a prominent Republican who's finally making some actual sense. The debate will start right now.


ANNOUNCER: Tonight on CROSSFIRE, do voters care how much our political leaders are worth?

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Don't hold it against me that I don't own a single stock or bond.

ANNOUNCER: Biden plays poor as Hillary Clinton's wealth keeps causing her problems.

And America's role in Iraq divides the Republican Party.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: I'm not willing to send my son into that mess.

ANNOUNCER: On the left, Van Jones and Stephanie Cutter. On the right, Newt Gingrich and S.E. Cupp. Are Americans really turning into soccer fans? Plus the outrages of the day. Tonight on CROSSFIRE.


JONES: Welcome to a very special edition of CROSSFIRE. I'm Van Jones on the left. I'm actually joined by Stephanie Cutter. And on the right we have both Newt Gingrich and S.E. Cupp. In other words, the whole gang is here. So a hooray for us and an even bigger hooray for Rand Paul. That's right, I said it, Rand Paul.

Now, I never thought I'd be saying this, but this guy is talking common sense -- thank goodness -- especially about Iraq. Listen to this.


PAUL: Am I willing to send my son to retake back a city, Mosul, that they weren't willing to defend themselves? I'm not willing to send my son into that mess.

(END VIDEO CLIP) JONES: Well, hey, hallelujah. Rand Paul says he wouldn't send his kids to die in Iraq. I've got two boys. Neither would I. Probably neither would you.

Rand Paul is blaming also Dick Cheney for this whole mess. So do I.

And back here at home, Rand Paul says he wants to build a stronger American democracy right here by, among other things, restoring voting rights for some former prisoners.

Now, I love this. You stop trying to fix every other country and give more Americans a real stake in this country. I am loving this guy. So to you, Newt, what is wrong with what he's saying?

NEWT GINGRICH, CO-HOST: First of all, I'm just sitting here thinking about the Van Jones commercial in Iowa endorsing Rand Paul and the Republican Caucus. I mean, tonight Rand Paul is going to go home and think, "Finally, I've made a real breakthrough."

S.E. CUPP, CO-HOST: He's thrilled to have your endorsement. And somebody else is fund-raising off of it.

GINGRICH: And in fact, I think Rand Paul would say at one level he'd love to have your help, because I think he is in a sincere way trying to broaden the party.

But both Rand Paul and you are half right. That is, I don't think we should be sending Americans back to try to retake Mosul. But I think the president today inadvertently said something that puts this in a different context that all of us need to think about. Just take a look at what he said on CNN this morning.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Part of the task now is to see whether Iraqi leaders are prepared to rise above sectarian motivations, come together, compromise. If they can't, there's not going to be a military solution to this problem.


GINGRICH: And here's the challenge, and Bing West has a tremendous new book coming out called "A Million Steps," which is about the Marine battalion which took the most casualties in Afghanistan.

And the point that West, who himself was a Marine in Vietnam, makes is when you're up against an enemy like ISIS, the fact is, if you don't kill them, you're not going to win their hearts. They're not going to compromise. I just checked this afternoon. ISIS actually issues an annual report to their donors. This is -- think about this.

STEPHANIE CUTTER, CO-HOST: They're very well organized, absolutely. There are lessons there for everybody. But I think the point the president was making is if the Iraqi people don't want to fight for their country, there's not -- nothing that the U.S. military can do. It doesn't mean that you don't kill ISIS or push them back, but the

Iraqi people have to be part of that. And to do that, you need a functioning, unified government. Otherwise, why would we be...

CUPP: If there's nothing the military can do, why are we sending 300 advisers in?

CUTTER: To get -- to help the Iraqis fight for themselves.

CUPP: Well, I think you can't be -- you can't -- as is always the case with President Obama, you can't be half pregnant. We either need to take this threat incredibly seriously...


CUPP: ... and get some Special Forces on the ground to guide air strikes, get intelligence, regain the chemical weapons facilities is has taken, the oil refineries that they have taken, or we need to stay the heck out. The president doesn't know what he wants and he's got a base back at home he's trying to please, people abroad he's trying to please and we're going to get nothing out of this.

CUTTER: Well, I know you don't find it surprising that I disagree with you. But I think that there isn't a general out there that disagrees with the general. That unless you're going to get the people in Iraq to fight for themselves, there's nothing the U.S. military can do to keep that country intact.

GINGRICH: Listen, here's the problem, and it's not going to make either of you happy.

We may be up against enemies in Nigeria, in Iraq, in Syria, in Afghanistan who both hate us, are pretty well organized, are increasingly capable of doing things, and it may turn out that the people who are allies are really either incompetent, dishonest, corrupt, weak. You know, if we're not going to send troops in, I think given the current American mood, it would be impossible to sustain sending troops in. We had better figure out a radically different strategy.

This is not a partisan comment about Obama. Neither the Bush nor the Obama administrations have had a strategy capable of surviving reality.

JONES: Well, first of all, let me just say a couple things. I agree with you that we need a new strategy. The problem that we have right now is, if we're going to be honest and put aside the partisan stuff. Humpty Dumpty got broken. It wasn't broken by President Obama. It is impossible now to put this thing back together.

And we are now even going to have to manage the mess over there or we're going to have to take a bigger step back. The Republicans are consistently demagoguing and preventing the kind of rational discourse you're talking about. I think both sides should sit down and come up with a new strategy. You can't because...

CUPP: The Democrats won't stop talking about Bush.

JONES: Well, because...

CUPP: Let's talk about what's happening now. You want us to learn from Bush's mistakes, but we can't learn from President Obama's mistakes?

JONES: Happy to learn from President Obama's mistakes, but I'll ask you this. Bush ran in there with no -- with a plan to win the war, no plan to win the peace and no way to pay for it.

CUTTER: He didn't have a plan to win the war.

JONES: Well, I'm trying to be generous with these guys. How much money, since you're probably the most hawkish person here at this table, how much money are you willing to spend, and whose taxes are you willing to raise to pay for it? Because when you go into your whole boys and toys and we're going to do this and we're going to have people on ground, that type of stuff, it all costs money. How much money are you willing to spend to fix this mess that Bush created?

CUPP: Yes. That's a good question and a good point. How much money were we willing to spend when we sent boots on the ground in Libya, in Uganda, in Mali, in Chad, to harbor the Nigerian -- to help assuage the Nigerian issue?

JONES: Don't you think ISIS would have gotten bigger?

CUPP: You're exactly right, Van. It's a much bigger problem. And I'd like to break it to everyone at this table: we will have troops on the ground in Iraq, mark my words. Mark my words. And it's a shame that the president has tied his hands.

GINGRICH: I think you may be right, and I think they will fail. I think...

CUPP: They might fail.

GINGRICH: Nobody is going to -- there may be other ways to solve it. But troops on the ground are not going to defeat ISIS. They may protect Baghdad. They may push them back a little bit. But you look at the scale of what these guys now control and you look at how much money they now have, this is a really big problem.

CUPP: It is. It is. I'm sure we'll keep talking about this.

All right, next, the self-proclaimed poorest member of the Senate takes aim at Hillary Clinton. Not that he's in the Senate anymore nor exactly poor, which brings us to today's "CROSSFIRE Quiz." How much does the vice president make? Is it $95,000 a year, $174,000 a year or $231,000 a year? We'll have the answer when we get back.


CUPP: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. aAll four of us are here tonight, gang's all here. It was an interesting day at the Summit for Working Families. Vice

President Joe Biden took the curiously-timed opportunity to discuss his own working family's financial situation. Take a listen.


BIDEN: Don't hold it against me that I don't own -- that I don't own a single stock or bond. Don't hold it -- I have no savings account. But I've got a great pension, and I've got a good salary.

Sometimes we talk about this stuff about struggle. My struggle, my God, compared to where I grew up and the way people are trying to go through things now, but here's the point I want to make. I've been really, really fortunate.


CUPP: This comes just two weeks after Hillary Clinton's interview with Diane Sawyer in which she lamented being dead broke after leaving the White House and needing money for houses.

And it comes just two days after she said this in "The Guardian": "But they don't see me as part of the problem, because we pay ordinary income tax, unlike a lot of people who are truly well off, not to name names, and we've done it through the dint of hard work."

Now Hillary could learn a thing or two from Joe Biden when it comes to relating to actual working families, which brings us to the answer of today's "CROSSFIRE Quiz." Vice President Joe Biden makes just under $231,000 a year, and he gets a free house.

Stephanie, to me it seems like, for Hillary Clinton, this is obvious stuff. This is Campaigning 101. And -- and while it might be early in her presidential campaign, if there's to be one, it feels a little late in life to be learning just now how to be relatable. Is this something she can deal with?

CUTTER: Well, S.E., I don't think that she is coming late in life to -- in learning how to be relatable. She's been -- you know, like I understand what this debate is. We just went through a very similar debate in the 2012 presidential election where Mitt Romney was unrelatable. Not because of what he said. It's really because of what he fought for as a governor but also in the private sector. And not just that he was wealthy, but what he did with that money. Swiss bank accounts, paid less taxes than the middle class.

CUPP: Philanthropy.

CUTTER: Philanthropy, absolutely. He gave a lot of money this money -- he gave a lot of his money away.

But he also -- I think what matters most to people is that he didn't fight for opening up the doors of opportunity so that other people could do just as well, whether with the minimum wage, college opportunity. I lived in Massachusetts when he was governor and, you know, taxes went up for the middle class. CUPP: So, are you saying this makes Hillary Clinton sound relatable?

CUTTER: No, I'm saying that people are smarter than just watching those talking points. People are smarter -- they get a sense about people, even in the CNN poll just last week, 59 percent of people polled by CNN think that she would do a good job by the middle class. You know why? She's been doing it her entire life.

JONES: But, you know, I feel badly because I actually like her a lot. But I think she's blowing it. And I think she's actually emboldening -- if I were Elizabeth Warren or if I were Schweitzer, I would be sharpening my pencils and getting ready to go because I think she comes across badly.

I wonder, and you've been in public life and you know it's tough, I wonder if she tries to come back from some of these injuries, that there's not still a sense of aggrievement there that she sometimes creeps into her comments.

GINGRICH: Look, I think people misunderstand Hillary.

CUTTER: Uh-oh, here we go.

GINGRICH: You have to put in context her experience, her life experience. She and Bill go off to the Hamptons. They stay at mansions that are -- that make their houses look like starter homes. They are with people that are worth billions. They get on private planes to go anywhere in the world they want to. And they're surrounded by billionaires.

So, if your comparison in life is a billionaire, Hillary is barely --

CUTTER: You know what your comparison is? That these people -- and I work -- you know, full disclosure, I worked for Bill Clinton for eight years, I saw it up close. Minimum wage, health care reform, Family Medical Leave Act, college opportunity, all of the things that we could possibly do so that everybody has opportunity to be one of those billionaires that you mentioned in the Hamptons. And that's what matters in public life.

GINGRICH: OK. So, Hillary is going to campaign on vote for me and I'll help you become a billionaire.

CUTTER: Hillary is going to campaign on, look, what I've done with my life. I've opened up those doors of opportunity for average Americans.


JONES: Look, she's one of the smartest people in the world. She's one of the most accomplished people in the world. But I think that this comes down to -- when you get hurt in public life, we've all been there. You get hurt in public life, you've got to figure out how you're going to come back.

Bill Clinton gets hurt. He comes back almost like a hallelujah anyway type of a kind. It happened but I'm going to focus on my blessings.

It's starting to feel like what happened with Hillary Clinton, is that she still feels revictimized. What? Is that wrong?

GINGRICH: She has been --

CUTTER: Dr. Van.

GINGRICH: Dr. Van. She has been first lady of the United States for eight years.

JONES: Sure.

GINGRICH: Wait a second.

JONES: So has Bill Clinton.

GINGRICH: She has senator from New York. She has been the secretary of state for four years.

JONES: These are all great things.

GINGRICH: What is the demons here -- I mean --

JONES: You guys roughed her up pretty badly.

CUPP: In fact a number of Democrats have discussed recently in a "Washington Post" article that they are a little nervous about how Hillary is coming off.

The real question here that I have for this esteemed table is what is Joe Biden doing? Because it feels like a "Veep" episode, you know? I mean, I feel like he's giving Hillary sort of a tutorial in how to talk about this kind of stuff.

GINGRICH: You'd think he would deliberately sort of punch her?

CUPP: Oh, no.

GINGRICH: Thank you

CUTTER: Anybody whot's been around the vice president. And I know that, Newt, you know?

GINGRICH: I knew him as a senator.

CUTTER: What he said today was nothing new for Joe Biden. He talks about his life story all the time because he -- he counts himself as very fortunate. He comes from a very modest family.

CUPP: Is he running for president? That's the question.

CUTTER: I have no idea.

GINGRICH: Hold on, guys.


JONES: One more thing like that --

GINGRICH: Hold on, guys.

Stay here, we want you at home to weigh in on today's question which certainly fits this. Who better understands the middle class? Tweet Biden or Clinton using #Crossfire. We'll have the results after the break.

We also have the outrages of the day. A few of you are outraged about the World Cup, and we have a soccer competitor here who's going to comment on it.



GINGRICH: We're back.

Now, it's time for the outrage of the day.

I'm outraged personally by Washington's short-sighted solution to the Veterans Affairs scandal. You can reform the V.A. or fatten it up.

Congress seems to be deciding that fattening it up is easier. We've now learned that the top bureaucrats of the V.A. received high marks of their job performance the past four years, even though they were cooking the books all the while to deny veterans the high quality care they deserve.

So, with all these problems, what does the Senate propose? Doubling down on a failed system, although the Senate bill would expand a choice, which is a good thing, it does nothing to fix the broken system or cut massive waste at the agency, and it will cost taxpayers more than $50 billion a year.

CUTTER: Well, I think the question, reforms are needed. Some of those reforms are currently being put in place administratively. That if this is a matter of -- part of the problem with the V.A., and many of the people at the advocacy and at the V.A. will tell you that they didn't have enough money. So, these incentives worked against everybody.

I just don't want veterans to go without the care that they want. If more money is needed for that, I'm willing to put it there. I think if there are reforms to put in place administratively, in lo of this Senate bill, I think we should look at --

CUPP: In 2012, the V.A. itself reported $2 million were spent in waste and fraud. They can't manage the money they already have.

CUTTER: How would you feel, S.E. --

CUPP: Hard right turn.


CUTTER: How would you feel if your favorite football team was playing the biggest game of the year, and the referees ruled that the other team gets a touchdown just because they made it to the 20-yard line instead of the end zone? Or a baseball umpire said the other team's runner made it to third base, so, good enough, home run.

There's no difference between those unthinkable scenarios to what World Cup referees did yesterday. They arbitrarily added extra time to the U.S.-Portugal game under incredibly confusing concept known as stoppage time. Those few seconds allowed Portugal to tie the United States.

I'm outraged that we were robbed a victory, but I also think that those rules are slightly outrageous. Of course, they're nothing new.

I love soccer. I played it for years. Even though the U.S. women's soccer team is not about to call me up any time, soon, or ever in fact. I am a fierce competitor -- surprise, surprise, I know.

But I'd like to have rules in my sport. The actual rules.

CUPP: I think -- I love soccer, too. But I think you but just epitomized the frustration of every American tuning into the World Cup for the first time last night.

That game -- what just happened?


CUPP: It was really frustrating.

JONES: It was outrageous. I'm actually outraged about something else related to the World Cup. You know, everyone loves the shiny new stadiums, plural, that they've got over there. But here is the thing from me, from the fancy new stadiums, you can actually see some of the poorest slums in the world. Now, you got millions of Brazilians that lack access to clean water but somehow we can always find money for these big sport arenas.

Now, I'm not jumping on just the Brazilians. We have the same thing here in the United States. You've got a mayor who wants to build a stadium. Everybody applause at some kind of economic genius. If the same mayor wants to build housing for poor people, she's some kind of money-wasting communist.

Now, the Brazilians were pretty smart. A poll of them, 61 percent, said that hosting the World Cup would be a bad decision for their economy. Maybe they're not against soccer, maybe they'd just rather have a decent place to live.

GINGRICH: I actually with you. I think there's a huge problem here. South Africa had the same problem. You invest all this money, then it turns out you don't use most of the facilities after it's over. And you diverted from every other investment you could have made, every job creation you could have made. It's a big problem. (INAUDIBLE)

CUPP: OK. Well, at a picnic over the weekend, Joe Biden did the unthinkable. Bearing a large squirt gun, he aimed it journalists and said, anybody who writes a bad story about me is dead. Joe Biden is what's wrong with the violent gun culture this country.

Remember the dangerous threat out of Dennis Township, New Jersey, in 2000 when a 7-year-old drew a picture after stick figure with a water gun? Luckily for all of us, he was suspended.

For the 5-year-old in Pennsylvania who made a terrorist threat with a Hello Kitty automatic bubble blower -- don't worry, she too was suspended. And a psychiatric evaluation was ordered.

Or the Lewiston, Maine, 10th grader who was suspended for possession of a water gun.

The threat that school children with water guns, bubble guns and drawings, posed to our commune sits real. And if we truly have a zero tolerance policy, Vice President Biden should be suspended and I will leave the psychological evaluation.

How do you think that will go?

JONES: I'm not sure. I have two little boys. They love their water guns. But I would --

CUPP: Then you're part of the problem. You're part of the problem.


GINGRICH: I think that is actually brilliant. I think suspending Joe Biden would be exciting.


GINGRICH: He should be out in public and accountable.

Let's check on our "Fireback" results. Who better understands the middle class? The winner is -- neither Biden nor Clinton. Right, now, 50 percent of those who voted say Joe Biden, 43 percent say Hillary Clinton. But more people wanted neither and wish it had been one of the choices.

CUPP: Well, you wanted to take your tweet back, right?

GINGRICH: I know. I said Biden barely. I thought the average American was smarter than me. I wish I had said neither.

CUTTER: You know what? I wonder what the numbers would have been if it was Hillary Clinton versus Ted Cruz, or Joe Biden versus Marco Rubio. I think that either Hillary or Joe Biden would have won hands down.

GINGRICH: Well, we can test that one night. I have a hunch the country is sufficiently anti-Washington, that neither --

CUTTER: I totally agree with that either. However, I think that people do believe these are two fighters for the middle class --

GINGRICH: Well, but doesn't it concern you a little bit that Hillary Clinton has the number of missteps, you just think this is like spring training and she'll eventually get over this?

CUTTER: I think we are two years out from 2016. She hasn't even decided whether or not she's running for president. And we're already putting up points against her on the board.

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

Join all of us tomorrow for another edition of CROSSFIRE.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.