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STATE OF THE UNION

Interview With Former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley; Interview With Former Texas Governor Rick Perry; Interview With Kentucky Senator Rand Paul. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired December 20, 2015 - 09:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[09:00:18]

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Showdown. New rivalries.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Does Ted Cruz rule out ever legalizing people that are in this country now? Do you rule it out?

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have never supported legalization, and I do not intend to support legalization.

TAPPER: And new beefs.

JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald is great at the one-liners. But he's a chaos candidate. And he would be a chaos president.

TAPPER: But did the debate reshuffle the Republican deck? Candidate Rand Paul will be here live.

Plus, Sanders and Clinton playing nice on stage, while their campaigns behind the scenes do battle.

QUESTION: Does Secretary Clinton deserve an apology tonight?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (VT-I), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes, I apologize.

TAPPER: The Sanders campaign, accused of dirty tricks, fighting back by saying the system is rigged for Clinton. Will it divided the Dems?

And Trump lands Putin's endorsement. Other GOP endorsements may call the Russian president a gangster and a thug.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not afraid of a guy riding around on a horse without his shirt.

TAPPER: But Trump warmly embraces him. What the budding bromance means for world affairs and the race to the White House.

Plus, the top political minds will be here with insights from the campaign trail. Former candidate Rick Perry joins our roundtable.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: Hello. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington, D.C., where the state of our union is ready to rumble.

A new war of words between Republican front-runner Donald Trump and rival Jeb Bush. Trump called Bush dumb as a rock on Twitter this weekend. And take a listen to Governor Bush on the campaign trail yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: I got to get it off my chest. Donald Trump is a jerk.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

BUSH: I feel better now.

(APPLAUSE)

BUSH: I just -- I just -- I gave myself therapy there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Therapeutic, perhaps, but it does not seem to be moving the needle much on the polls, which show with Donald Trump with a commanding lead after Tuesday's debate, a FOX News poll showing Trump leading nationally with 39 percent.

His closest competitor is Senator Ted Cruz at 18 percent. But it's not all good news for Trump, who loses to Hillary Clinton by 11 points in a theoretical head-to-head matchup in the same poll.

Last night, at a Democratic debate, Clinton disparaged Trump's plan to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. And then she gave her Republican opponents some new fodder by painting a rosy scenario about the war against ISIS.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No. We now finally are where we need to be. We have a strategy and a commitment to go after ISIS, which is a danger to us, as well as the region.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Joining me now, Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul.

Senator Paul, thanks for joining us.

You just heard Hillary Clinton saying we're finally where we need to be. What do you think?

SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, I think the difficulty is actually trying to get a coalition on the ground that will fight ISIS, because I have said all along the only way to defeat them for the long term is to have Sunni Muslim boots on the ground. And that's easier said than done.

You know, I would like to Saudis, Kuwaitis, Jordanians all on the ground fighting ISIS. But most of them still want to fight from the air and not from the ground. Also, it's difficult if the battle isn't joined by the sectarian Shiite army in Baghdad. I just don't think that there will be a long-lasting victory if takes a Shiite or an Iranian army either.

So, really, no, I don't think we quite have -- I think that the concept is good. Yes, we need Sunni Muslims on the ground. But I don't think we quite have it in order yet.

TAPPER: Let's talk about some of the politics from this weekend, Jeb Bush saying Donald Trump is a jerk for disparaging women, Hispanics, disabled people. That's a quote. Jeb says it's deeply discouraging that Trump remains the front-runner.

Do you agree?

PAUL: Absolutely deeply disturbing that he's the front-runner. I think he will get wiped in a general election. It would be terrible for any of the ideas of limited government.

I'm still not sure that Donald Trump is for limited government, for balanced budgets. One of the biggest things that he's been for in his last several years is using eminent domain for the government to take private property from one property -- private property owner and give it to himself for his casinos and parking lots.

That's not a conservative notion. And, really, most of Donald Trump is nothing more than sort of bits of populism, but no consistent conservative philosophy.

TAPPER: Back in July, you told me that you thought Donald Trump's popularity represented a -- quote -- "temporary loss of sanity," I guess among voters. You said the party would come back to its senses.

(LAUGHTER)

TAPPER: It's now five days before Christmas. Trump is as strong as ever. Is it a temporary loss of sanity, or do you think that the problem might be more permanent?

PAUL: You know, I think that we have all let the polls consume us too much. I don't think the polls are very accurate.

[09:05:01]

PAUL: In Kentucky, a week before the governor's race, the polls were off by 13 points. That's when they're supposed to be accurate.

I think we have sort of "American Idol" type of polls right now, where one candidate is getting an enormous amount of time on TV, and people are saying, oh, yes, yes, I might vote for him. Well, these people don't get out and vote. About 10 percent of Republicans will vote in Iowa. So, you can be wildly off.

And I guess what disappoints some of us who aren't as high in the polls is that, if we skew all the coverage toward the polls, it's a self-fulfilling prophesy. So, I think we need to examine other things and try to distribute the coverage a little better, so we could have maybe a chance of getting a better president.

TAPPER: As you know, Senator Paul, we put you on TV all the time, so I know that that is not aimed at...

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

PAUL: Not complaining. Not complaining about CNN.

(LAUGHTER)

TAPPER: Listen to Donald -- I want you to take a listen to Donald Trump's spokeswoman talking about the nuclear triad this week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KATRINA PIERSON, TRUMP CAMPAIGN SPOKESPERSON: What good does it do to have a good nuclear triad if you're afraid to use it?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: The subject of the nuclear triad, it was raised at the debate. And after the debate, Jeb Bush told me on air that he didn't think Trump understand what the nuclear triad was.

What do you make of what you're hearing from the Trump team on this issue?

(LAUGHTER)

PAUL: Well, this is the worrisome thing.

During the debate, absolutely, Donald Trump had no clue what the nuclear triad is, and he'd been asked the question previously by Hugh Hewitt on the radio and had no idea what it was. And so now that they have discovered what it is, they're ready to use it?

No, I think this is what is very worrisome about not only Trump, but Christie and others on the stage who are really eager to have war, really eager to show how strong they are. And that gets away from the tradition we have of trying to limit power, trying to be reluctant to go to war. And it also gets to temperament. And that's why it very much

worries me to have someone like Donald Trump or a Chris Christie in charge of our nuclear arsenal.

TAPPER: On Monday, you're launching a new Web video. This one is focusing on Senator Ted Cruz. Let's take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: It sounded like you wanted the bill to pass.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: The bill -- the Web ad describes him as a flip-flopper. Now, Cruz obviously describes himself as a -- quote -- "courageous conservative."

This ad and some other attacks we have seen against Senator Cruz depict him as a craven politician. Now, you have worked alongside him for several years now. Is that how you see Ted Cruz, as a craven opportunist?

PAUL: I think, on several things, he wants to have it both ways.

On immigration, at the time, he supported an amendment that said, OK, we're not going to get citizenship, but we will allow illegal status. And he wanted the bill to pass. In fact, I was in the same category. I thought citizenship was too far, but the compromise would no citizenship, but give people a legal status. That's what Cruz was for.

He was -- he's been explicit about it. And now he says never and that he never did it. And so I think he should just admit that he changed his mind, that he used to be for legalization, but he's not anymore. But he's done the same thing.

He wrote an op-ed with Paul Ryan supporting Obama's trade authority, and now he's against that. He also said when he ran for office that he wouldn't support reauthorization of the Patriot Act, and then he voted to reauthorize the Patriot Act.

So, I think, on a number of issues, he wants to have it both ways, depending on which audience he's talking to.

TAPPER: Senator Marco Rubio had some tough words about you. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUBIO: He's the only person running that is trying -- that likes politics so much, he's running for two offices at the same time. I mean, he wants to be a senator and president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: This is a criticism you and I have discussed before, the idea that you're running for president and also at the same time running for reelection for the Senate seat in Kentucky. If you haven't performed in the top three positions in Iowa, New Hampshire, or South Carolina or Nevada, do you think at that point you might have to focus your attention at the -- on your Senate race?

PAUL: Well, you know, the difference between Marco Rubio and I is, I show up for work. He's missed about a third to a half of his votes this year.

And we had the biggest vote of the whole year, voting on a trillion dollars worth of spending, and he didn't show up. So, yes, I think he ought to resign or give his pay back to the taxpayer.

But, as far as I'm concerned, yes, I do need to do well in the early primaries. We're -- we're in it to win it. We're not in it just to mess around. I'm not in it to place in the lower tier. If we're in the lower tier, obviously, we will reassess.

But we don't plan to be. We have got a campaign that we think is going to shock people. And we're hoping that when we get done with this campaign and people see the votes happen, that we will begin discounting the pollsters, who, I think, have no clue as to what is going on in America.

TAPPER: All right, we will see.

Senator Rand Paul, a very merry Christmas to you and your family. Thanks for joining us.

[09:10:02]

PAUL: Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: Up next: Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, the campaigns -- their campaigns, in the middle of a nasty fight. But what happened when they met face to face last night? That when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.

Last night's Democratic presidential debate started off with some sparks, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders meeting face to face for the first time since their campaigns became embroiled in a nasty fight.

The Clinton camp says team Sanders breached their voter database, while the Sanders campaign claims the Democratic National Committee is favoring Clinton, in part by staging these debates on Saturday nights, all but guaranteeing less viewership.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANDERS: It bothers me very much that, rather than working on this issue to resolve it, it has become many press releases from the Clinton campaign later.

QUESTION: But, Senator, you do mention the DNC, the vender. But you said of your staff that they did the wrong thing.

SANDERS: Absolutely.

QUESTION: So, does Secretary Clinton deserve an apology tonight?

SANDERS: Yes. I apologize.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Sanders has fired one staffer and suspended two others for the data breach and actions taken during the data breach.

But he still managed to raise a million dollars off an e-mail accusing the Democratic National Committee of tilting the scales towards Clinton.

Joining me now is Democratic presidential candidate Martin O'Malley, who was on that stage last night making a very forceful advocacy for his campaign.

Governor O'Malley, thanks for joining us.

MARTIN O'MALLEY (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: Hillary Clinton accepted the apology of Bernie Sanders last night for the data breach.

[09:15:01]

I want to ask you about the role that the DNC is playing in this election, which Senator Sanders has focused on. Do you think the reason two of the three Democratic debates have been scheduled on Saturday night is because the DNC wants to limit the audience, and thereby, under this theory, help Hillary Clinton?

O'MALLEY: Yes.

In fact, that's also why, for the first time ever, they have limited the number of debates to just four. I think, at this same time eight years ago, they had had -- we had had 16 debates.

But, look, all of that bickering aside, there are issues that people want to hear us discuss, affordable college, how we make our economy work, how we combat ISIL, how we protect lives here in the homeland.

So, I thought last night's debate was actually a very good exchange of those ideas. And I hope we have more of them. I was able to make a case for a new generation of leadership, fresh approaches, new ideas to confront these challenges. And I was the only candidate on that stage with a record of accomplishments bringing people together. And that's what our nation is looking for.

TAPPER: Let's turn to the issue of guns. It was a hot topic at last night's debate.

Take a listen.

O'MALLEY: Yes, it sure was.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O'MALLEY: ISIL training videos are telling lone wolves the easiest way to buy a combat assault weapon in America is at a gun show.

And it's because of the flip-flopping political approach of Washington that both of my two colleagues on this stage have represented there for the last forty years.

SANDERS: Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa.

(LAUGHTER)

O'MALLEY: We need commonsense gun safety legislation.

SANDERS: Let's calm down a little bit, Martin.

CLINTON: Yes, let's get -- let's tell the -- let's tell the truth, Martin.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: You heard just there Hillary Clinton saying, "Let's tell the truth, Martin."

Were you telling the truth, or was Hillary Clinton telling the truth?

O'MALLEY: The fact of the matter is, Hillary Clinton has flip- flopped.

The truth is that Hillary Clinton was, in 2000, when she ran for office, in favor of licensing and a federal role and a national registry on handgun registration, and then she flip-flopped and she was opposed to it in 2008.

Jake, you remember her attacking President Obama during those campaigns and President Obama having to push back on that. So, Hillary Clinton flip-flops in the wind on this issue.

Senator Sanders supported the NRA, pushed through a bill to give the gun dealers and manufactures immunity, even voted against the research to -- into this huge public health challenge.

So, look, I got this done. As governor, after the slaughter of those kids in the classroom in Connecticut, I pulled our people together. We passed comprehensive gun safety legislation. We banned the sale of combat assault weapons. And you know what? We didn't interrupt anybody's hunting season because of it. That's real leadership. That's leadership that doesn't blow in

the wind. It's leadership about the principles that unite us, none more important than protecting lives here in the United States.

TAPPER: Earlier in this interview and last night on the stage, you made a not-so-subtle reference to fact that the leading contenders for the Democratic nomination are 68 -- that's Clinton -- and 74 -- that's Sanders.

You're 52. Take a listen to when you raised the argument last night. You got booed a little bit.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O'MALLEY: May I offer a different generation's perspective on this?

QUESTION: Governor O'Malley?

(BOOING)

O'MALLEY: During the Cold War -- during the Cold War, we got into a bad habit of always looking to see who was wearing the jersey of the communists and who was wearing the U.S. jersey.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Now, there is a serious issue here when it comes to this generational idea. If Hillary Clinton is nominated or Sanders, and the Republican nominee is either Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio, then there's going to be this generational thing at play, where, as you know, elections are about the future.

Do you think Clinton's or Sanders' age, if the Republican nominee is younger, could hurt them?

O'MALLEY: Look, I think that, as our challenges change, as the times change, that American people rightly believe that new leadership and new thinking is required.

We can't be this dissatisfied with our gridlock Washington sort of politics and think that a resort to divisive sort of partisan politics is going to move us forward.

In the very first debate, Jake, Hillary Clinton said that she's proudest of the fact that she considers all Republicans to be her enemies. That's not how you bring people together.

I do offer a new generational perspective on many of these issues. One of them that we didn't get to talk about last night was climate change. I'm the only candidate that has put forward a plan to move us to a 100 percent clean electric energy future by 2050.

Another issue is foreign policy. Another issue is national security. I led the efforts of the governors and the mayors on homeland security. I'm the first post-9/11 mayor and governor to run for president. I understand this issue from the ground up.

And I'm going to continue to speak to where our country is headed. The -- what is in the hearts of our young people, especially under 30, that's how you tell where a nation is headed. And that's what I have to offer.

[09:20:00]

Ultimately, it's up to the people to decide whether that same old thinking is going to serve us and move us forward or whether new leadership is required. I believe the people are looking for new leadership. And they're going to find it in one party or the other.

TAPPER: Well, the -- the people are going get to decide. And they are going to weigh in, in just a few weeks.

When you began this campaign, many pundits expected that you might be the leading alternative to Hillary Clinton. That role seems to have been taken by Sanders.

Do you think that you need to finish better than third place in Iowa or New Hampshire to be able to continue your campaign credibly?

O'MALLEY: Yes, I believe that, like other campaigns, whether it was Jimmy Carter or other candidates that were in the same place where I am in the polls, I need to beat expectations in those early contests.

We have great staff on the ground here in New Hampshire. We have terrific staff and a terrific organization also in Iowa. And I have now visited 55 of the 99 counties in Iowa. And, as you know from following presidential politics and covering it as you have, there's never been a time when the voters' decision on election night or caucus night looked anything like the polls in December.

So, we're going to continue to offer the ideas that serve our nation, that move us forward and that bring people together. And I think we're going surprise a lot of people in New Hampshire and also in Iowa.

TAPPER: All right, Governor O'Malley, merry Christmas to you and your family. Thanks for joining us.

O'MALLEY: Hey, thank you, Jake. Merry Christmas. Thanks.

TAPPER: Coming up: What happens if the guy who made his career by taking you on and insulting you becomes the president? The sticky situation shaping up between Ted Cruz and the GOP establishment, that's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:25:33]

TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper. Tea Party hero Ted Cruz is now leading the Republican race in

Iowa, according to some polls. The first-term Texas senator gained attention and the ire of some Republicans with his floor speeches bashing Republican Party insiders.

But he ratcheted up tensions even further when he called Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell a liar.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CRUZ: What we just saw today was an absolute demonstration that not only what he told every Republican senator, but what he told the press over and over and over again was a simple lie.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: If he becomes the Republican nominee, life inside the Senate chamber could get a little bit awkward.

Joining me now from Kentucky is the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, who has endorsed his fellow Kentuckian in the race for president, Rand Paul.

Leader McConnell, thanks so much for joining us.

I want to get to the accomplishments of the Senate in a second. But I do have to ask you. Senator Cruz has been campaigning against you and what he calls the Washington cartel, very critical of your leadership. What do you think of his leadership?

(LAUGHTER)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: Well, look, I have made it a point to stay out of the presidential race. It's pretty much dominating the news, as we have noticed by the program this morning.

What I want to do is concentrate on what we have done for the American people. The Senate is back to work. We're voting again and passing budgets again, major education, highways, cyber-security, trade promotion authority.

This has been an extraordinarily accomplished first year of the new Senate majority. And what I have tried to do, Jake, is just kind of tune out the presidential race and do the job that the American people elected the new majority to do.

TAPPER: Well, that's fair enough. And I certainly understand that, but there are so many outsiders winning and doing well in the Republican contest campaigning against Republicans like yourself.

Does that bother you? Is there a message you would like to tell those Republican voters who are excited to vote against you in some ways?

MCCONNELL: Look, we were elected to try to do the job for the American people. We know we have divided government. There are plenty of things we disagree with the president on.

But I just issued a few moments ago a litany of things that we have done this year where there were enough bipartisan support to make some progress for the American people.

Look, we have had an election every two years right on schedule since 1788. You can always say we can't do anything. It's either an election next year or an election this year. We would never make any progress if we took that approach.

So, I look for things to schedule in the Senate that had bipartisan support, that were not terribly contentious from a Republicans-vs.-Democrats point of view, and that make some progress for the country.

Now, we do have some pretty darn big differences with the president. We're in the process of putting Obamacare repeal on his desk. We have already put on his desk through the Congressional Review Act efforts to repeal some of his onerous regulations on existing power plants and new power plants, and this ridiculous regulation called Waters of the U.S. that would declare virtually every puddle in America subject to EPA regulation.

TAPPER: Yes.

MCCONNELL: So, the things that we differ on, we will talk about, but we want to make some progress in the meantime.

TAPPER: Let's talk about one of your differences with President Obama. You have been very critical of his handling of the war against ISIS.

What should be done? Do you support sending in combat U.S. ground troops into Iraq and Syria?

MCCONNELL: Well, it's pretty clear from what Hillary Clinton said last night that she thinks things are just fine.

I -- this illustrates that the election of Hillary Clinton would be a third term for Barack Obama's foreign policy. We know what the American people think of the president's foreign policy.

Let me quote Jimmy Carter early this summer. When asked about the president's foreign policy, he said he couldn't think of a single place in the world where we were better off now than we were when President Obama came to office.

TAPPER: Sure. But what should we do against ISIS?

MCCONNELL: That's Jimmy Carter.

TAPPER: I...

(CROSSTALK)

MCCONNELL: Well, I think you -- yes. OK. What I'm telling you is, his foreign policy has been a disaster.

TAPPER: But what would you do?

MCCONNELL: What needs to happen -- I'm about to tell you.

TAPPER: OK. Sorry about that.

MCCONNELL: What needs to happen is, you have to have some safe zones inside Syria to stop the refugee flow. Refugees are going to keep on coming if they think they're going to get killed in their own country. That obviously is going to take a stronger military component than currently has been made available.

Secondly, without American leadership nothing is going to happen. The president of the United States needs to step up and say, OK, here is the plan. We would like for the British to supply so many troops. The French to supply so many troops. And our (INAUDIBLE) Arab allies like the Saudis, the Jordanians, the Emiratis, the Egyptians rally together and provide the bulk of the ground forces to defeat ISIS.

It will never ever happen from the air only. And so it is going to take a more robust effort on the ground. Not necessarily with huge compliment to American troops. I don't know anybody advocating that but American leadership, Jake, is the indispensable component part of making this work.

TAPPER: One of the Republican frontrunner recently proposed on the subject of ISIS a temporary shutdown of all Muslims entering the United States. Now you called barring visitors based on religion -- quote -- completely inconsistent with American values.

If Trump wins the nomination and the presidency and then proposed this measure, would you block it in the Senate?

MCCONNELL: Well, look, I'm not going speculate about who is going to get elected president. Obviously I hope it's a Republican and a Republican to get elected to the White House is going to have to carry purple states. States that can go either way.

We're not going to follow that suggestion that this particular candidate made. It would prevent the president of Afghanistan from coming to the United States. The king of Jordan couldn't come to the United States. Obviously we're not going to do that.

TAPPER: House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said this week that the Republicans -- quote -- gave away the store on the spending bill that cleared Congress Friday.

Rush Limbaugh said -- quote -- it seems though Pelosi is still running the House and Harry Reid is still running the Senate. I'm guessing you disagree with the assessments?

MCCONNELL: Well, Republicans felt like we need in response to the foreign policy threat that we've just been talking about to spend more on defense. And so in order to achieve that we had to work with a Democratic president who wanted to spend more on the domestic side. If it had been left up to me, we wouldn't have added that much back but nobody is a dictator here. We can't do things one party only in a time of divided government.

But there were other important things done in the context of the overall bill. For example, we got rid of a 40-year-old relic of the past oil export ban. We were in an absurd position as a result of the president's deal with the Iranians. The Iranians could export oil but we couldn't. It makes no sense at all.

So, it was a big comprise. That's what you have to do when you have guided government.

TAPPER: All right. Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, Merry Christmas to you and your family. Thanks so much for joining us.

MCCONNELL: Merry Christmas to you, too, Jake. Thank you.

TAPPER: From Russian with love, Vladimir Putin giving his nod of approval to Donald Trump. Trump says, it's a good thing.

More on their blossoming friendship after this quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[09:37:09]

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: (INAUDIBLE) Putin called him brilliant. That's not good.

Well, you know, isn't it sort of nice, like, if countries are always fighting with maybe we get along and let them do -- right?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: That was Donald Trump defending Russian President Vladimir Putin who all but endorsed Trump this week. Some say Trump embraced him. His Republican rivals not quite so enthusiastic.

Ohio Governor John Kasich sending out this mock poster taunting (ph) a Trump-Putin ticket, "Make tyranny great again."

Joining me now are my comrades former Republican presidential candidate, Rick Perry, Neera Tanden, President for the Center for American Progress, Congresswoman Mia Love, and former White House deputy press secretary, Bill Burton. And we should note Governor Perry you and I are the only ones who are not supporting anybody you (ph) yet.

RICK PERRY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't know about you, Jake.

(LAUGHTER) TAPPER: I'm not. I'm not.

But you have endorsed -- you support Clinton -- you support Clinton and you have formally endorsed Marco Rubio.

REP. MIA LOVE (R), UTAH: Yes.

TAPPER: Just to get that all on the table. OK. So a Vladimir Putin endorsement? I mean --

PERRY: What is next? Fidel Castro. Seriously.

TAPPER: This is the frontrunner of the Republican Party. I would think that would be the kiss of death Vladimir Putin endorsing him.

PERRY: I thought there were a lot of kisses of death, but not so yet. And, you know, this is -- we were just discussing in the green room. This is one of the most bizarre political environments I've ever been involved with and certainly even observed.

TAPPER: Mia (ph)?

LOVE: Yes.

TAPPER: What do you make of it? Because, you know, you are a popular figure in the Republican electorate. You are -- I mean, do you understand what is going on with the Republican base right now?

LOVE: Well, I can tell you my mom who has been watching this and really involved in politics now has thought that this has been the most entertaining...

TAPPER: No doubt about that.

LOVE: ... exchange. I'm glad that he's making friends with Putin. I think it would be better off making friends with Americans so, you know.

NEERA TANDEN, PRESIDENT AND CEO, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: I mean, honestly, we can now joke about it. Every week there's something funny that Donald Trump says but, you know, this is a serious election, and Russia has invaded other countries. It does strike me just odd that we dismiss it as a joke when he could actually have his finger on the nuclear button.

BILL BURTON, FORMER DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I don't think anybody at this table is dismissing it as a joke.

TANDEN: No, no. Not here. No, no. But it's just -- it's like every week he says something even more outrageous. And then he raises the bar because it just seems like, oh, it's not that serious. He's entertaining and people find it funny. But at the end of the day it's a very serious job. And he's leading the Republican Party --

PERRY: I understand why the electorate out there. They are incredibly frustrated with Washington, D.C. Democrats and Republicans I would (INAUDIBLE).

[09:40:01]

And I think we need to really get focused on this is serious times and we need a serious individual who is going to be the president of the United States. I totally understand why these people are pulled to him from the standpoint they were so frustrated with Washington, D.C. When Bobby Jindal and Scott Walker and Jeb Bush and myself are basically discounted substantially because they are --

TAPPER: Because you are political people or because you are public servants.

PERRY: We've been involved with public service. Although I have got to make the argument, I think those are three pretty successful governors. But because they were seen as political insiders they've been cast aside, basically.

And I think Americans really need to think about is this the time in the history of this country that we need to have an individual who is so inconsistent in their thought (ph) and their proclamations, I mean, when six months ago this individual said that you need to be really -- you need to watch someone who would use inflammatory political rhetoric against Muslims. And six months later he says Muslims cannot be let into the country. Period.

TAPPER: Yes, I want to talk -- turn for one second to the other fight going on that does not involve Trump -- involve any Republican race which has to do with Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. They had extended back and forth on the subject of immigration at the debate on Tuesday night.

Take a quick listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Have a moment of simple clarity. I oppose amnesty. I oppose citizenship. I oppose legalization for illegal aliens. I always have and I always will.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: That's Ted Cruz trying to offer clarity after this back and forth during the debate.

Let's talk about the Latino vote. Can a Republican win the White House with the same percentage of the Latino vote? This isn't a matter of math that Mitt Romney got in 2012?

TANDEN: No. They can't.

And I think that you don't have to take it from me. You take it from the Republican National Committee that stated basically that the Republicans had to get more Latinos in the election. And this is the big challenge right now. This debate between Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. I mean, it probably wouldn't help him but I stood behind Marco

Rubio and then gang of eight -- during the gang of eight when he introduced the bill.=

TAPPER: It probably won't --

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: That's correct.

(CROSSTALK)

TANDEN: Probably would (ph) not (ph) happen (ph). But the point is, just to be clear, the point is Marco Rubio is trying to have it both ways right now. He (INAUDIBLE) for the bill. He's attacking Cruz but he is a champion.

TAPPER: Let me ask you about your fellow Texans, then I'm going to come to you, congresswoman, which is are you worried at all? Because you're somebody who actually took heat in 2012 for being too friendly to the Latino community. Aren't you worried about the language the fellow Texan is using right there? Couldn't that come to hurt your party in November?

PERRY: I think it's a long time until the November election. So, there's going to be a lot of conversations about who is best out there to create an environment where people get to keep more of what they work for. I mean, there's a long conversation that's going to go on out there.

I do think it's important for us to reach out, to be an inclusive party. To be a party that talks about taxes and regulations and educational opportunities. And I feel real comfortable that, you know, our nominee, you know, if it's Ted or if it's Marco is going to be able to do that. They'll be able to reach across and have this thoughtful conversation about the future of the Republican Party and the future of the Hispanic voter.

TAPPER: Congresswoman?

LOVE: What is unfortunate is that we are a country that is made up of immigrants and that should be something that unites us.

And for the past several years, it's been a wedge between all of us on both sides of the aisle and within the party. What immigration means to me and what it means to many other Americans are people like my parents who came here. Who they said the most wonderful day of their life was when they became U.S. citizens. They studied American history. They studied the constitution. They learned how to speak English. And when they pledged their allegiance to the American flag for the first time, they knew exactly what they were saying. They knew what it meant and they meant every word of it.

They weren't just willing to take on all of the benefits of being a U.S. citizen...

TAPPER: Right.

LOVE: ... but the responsibility that if we have not -- if people out there have not been to a naturalization ceremony, they should go. It's, again, this should be something that has to do with making sure that we -- that we secure the borders. That we do everything we can to keep Americans safe and really embrace who we are as a culture.

BURTON: You know, the problem is not one of the presidential candidates on the right is saying anything that sounds anything remotely like --

TAPPER: That was actually very beautiful.

(LAUGHTER)

BURTON: (INAUDIBLE) the thought leader in the Republican Party right now is Donald Trump whose main thrust is building this enormous wall, calling Mexicans rapists, and creating this level of intolerance in the rhetoric that is just going to shut off every independent- minded voter in this country.

[09:45:00]

But inside the Republican Party right now it's this race to the right to see who can have the toughest rhetoric, who can be the most anti-undocumented immigrant possible.

TAPPER: Don't go anywhere. We're going to take a very quick break.

Up next Hillary Clinton said last night Donald Trump is the best recruiter ISIS has. Is she right? We'll take a fact check on that when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[09:49:07]

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He is becoming ISIS' best recruiter. They are going to people showing videos of Donald Trump insulting Islam and Muslims in order to recruit.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Hillary Clinton attacking Donald Trump at the debate last night.

Quick fact check there's no evidence that ISIS has released any videos featuring Donald Trump. At least not yet.

With me here former Republican presidential candidate and Governor of Texas, Rick Perry, Former Hillary Clinton adviser, Neera Tanden, Republican Congresswoman Mia Love, and former White House deputy press secretary Bill Burton.

Does it matter that Hillary Clinton says he is the best recruiter that ISIS has. He's in videos and there's no evidence that --

PERRY: I think it matters. I think the real issue here is that ISIS doesn't need a lot of reason to be attacking us. That's a fact.

TAPPER: Yes.

[09:50:00]

PERRY: They're going to be doing that regardless, but I think Hillary does take this as a way to deflect away from the decisions that are made by this administration that have allowed for ISIS to become this very important terrorist group in the country today. And you hear Hillary actually going after the president, that he didn't do enough, that he did it wrong. And I thought that was one of the real interesting moments in the debate last night when Hillary basically took in after the president on not having done enough to attack ISIS.

TANDEN: Look, I should say I think Hillary had a very good debate and you have to take it from me, I think a lot of people (INAUDIBLE) that she did really well in the debate. So, I think that's an important point to make.

On the issue of ISIS I think the reality here is that we have national security experts who focus on social media who were saying that Donald Trump's rhetoric is exactly what ISIS wants, that they are using the rhetoric around recruitment. There's a (INAUDIBLE) the ultimate point is that our own national security experts think it helps ISIS to divide the United States as a country at war with Islam. And George W. Bush made this point himself when he said after 9/11 --

TAPPER: Sure, but, Bill, is it not fair to say, OK, Donald Trump's rhetoric notwithstanding, which do you think has created more terrorists, what Donald trump has said or Hillary Clinton's military actions in Libya, or the war in Iraq that Hillary Clinton voted for? Which do you think created more terrorism?

BURTON: Well, I don't think --

TAPPER: (INAUDIBLE) the question.

BURTON: Yes. I don't think that you could actually enumerate which one created more terrorism --

TAPPER: Yes, you probably could.

BURTON: But I mean --

TAPPER: You probably (INAUDIBLE).

BURTON: The notion that Donald Trump's rhetoric is dangerous is a fact. And whether or not they're making videos now or using the videos later, what he is saying is dangerous. He is a guy who should not be anywhere close to the button. But the whole point about Donald Trump is that it doesn't matter, right?.

Voters are so angry that he can say what he wants to about keeping Muslims out of the country, he can say what he wants to about Putin but his supporters are driven by their anger at a system that as the economy gets better, their life is actually getting worse. And you know -- but his words have consequences and I think that that's worth noting.

LOVE: It's hard when you can't run on the policies of the past 70 (ph) years to try and come up with new ideas. And the fact that when somebody says that we're right where we need to be like she said --

TAPPER: With ISIS, yes.

LOVE: That is very concerning because we're not where we need to be. I don't think there's an American that feels like ISIS is actually more contained. They're actually vulnerable. They feel vulnerable and they feel concerned. So, to say that actually means that you're not in touch with what people are feeling on the ground and that's a problem.

BURTON (ph): You know, in fairness --

TANDEN: Look, I think the national security debate -- actually I look forward to a national security debate. If you look at what Hillary Clinton --

TAPPER: In the general election?

TANDEN: In the general election.

And I think Hillary Clinton is very strong in the national security debate yesterday and answered these questions. She talked about where we are she was obviously referring to the U.N. resolution which is a step forward. Now, I realize that we would like to say that everything is a disaster.

If you listened to the Republican debate it is (INAUDIBLE) fear and hatred.

TAPPER: Yes.

TANDEN: And I think the issue is, you know, Hillary Clinton is talking about the resolve of the country and is addressing the finer points of national security and I think she'll be strong in the general election.

TAPPER: On the subject of national -- if she gets the nomination?

TANDEN: If she gets the nomination. (INAUDIBLE) for sure.

TAPPER: Governor Perry, now that you're out of public life there's a question I've always wanted to ask you, whenever -- when you were running for president and when you were governor, any time I asked you, you're a veteran, does that give you a special understanding of being commander-in-chief that the other candidates --

PERRY: Yes.

TAPPER: None of whom, with the exception of Lindsey Graham are veterans and you always say no. You're very modest about it. Now you can -- now you can be honest about it.

PERRY: Well, I think it does matter that you have the experience. I mean, experience in life is really important.

Well, I think, with these candidates that we're looking at today, who's going to bring in the experience? I think that's the real challenge for the nominee of the Republican side is who's going to bring in that experience.

Hillary's got a record. I mean, Hillary's got the record and she's going to have to stand up and defend what she said about ISIS last night. She's going to have to defend what she did in Benghazi. She's going to have to defend all of these decisions that she has made.

The Republican nominee, whoever that individual is going to be, is going to bring in a group of really capable men and women that I think reflect that knowledge about what veterans need. One of the great, great failures of this president has been on the veteran side of things. And I'm telling you, Barack Obama -- and I think the Democrat Party is going to have a lot of answers they're going to have to give to veterans.

TAPPER: Governor, congresswoman, Bill, Neera, thanks so much.

When we come back, the epic battles and heroic journeys aren't just for characters in a galaxy long ago and far, far away.

[09:55:00]

The empire's politics next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:58:43]

TAPPER: Welcome back.

For the first time since 1983 an excellent "Star Wars" movie is in the theaters and everyone is capitalizing on it from the Venti Han Solo Latte Chai to the rereleased remix of "I Did It All For the Wookie." The world is cashing including CNN in this week's "State of the Cartoonion."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER (voice-over): The "Star Wars" franchise full of politics and not just in the sense but every politician fancies him or herself part of the rebel forces and their opponents the evil empire. With every party searching for its own wise Yoda -- Improve your (INAUDIBLE) game in Iowa, you must.

And every political convention resembling that famous canteena scene. No, I mean, there is real politics in the "Star Wars" movies. Actual elected officials Jabba the Hutt wasn't just a gangster. He was a member of the Grant Hutt Council. Look it up.

And of course the very moment we meet Princess Leia in "Star Wars, A New Hope" she asserts herself as --

PRINCESS LEIA ORGANA, STAR WARS: I'm a member of the Imperial Senate on a diplomatic mission to Alderaan.

TAPPER: Ah, yes, the Imperial Senate. A step up one presumes from the galactic senate from those prequels where Leia's mother, Queen Padme Amidala notes --

[10:00:00]

QUEEN PADME AMIDALA, STAR WARS: I was not elected to watch my people suffer and die while you discuss this invasion in a committee.

TAPPER: People suffering and dying while politicians yak it up in a committee hearing. It doesn't really sound all that long, long ago or so far, far away.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: Thanks for watching.

"FAREED ZAKARIA, GPS" starts right now.