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Bomb Threats Put Spotlight on Heated Political Rhetoric; Personal Attacks Dominate Again the Florida Governor's Debate; McCaskill Ad: She's Not One of those Crazy Democrats. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired October 25, 2018 - 12:30   ET


[12:32:13] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Democrats and Trump critics targeted this time. Sixteen months ago, it was Republican lawmakers at baseball practice when gunfire broke out. Heinous politically motivated attacks. And then, the inevitable debate about whether as we were just discussing, our harsh political discourse is a factor.

As we discussed, it's a plain fact the president moved the boundaries of that discourse by calling critics evil and the media an enemy of the state. While it is not right or fair to chastise the president as I believe we should without making note of the more aggressive language from the left, including from two of the people targeted this week.


REP. MAXINE WATERS (D), CALIFORNIA: I am sitting here listening, watching, absorbing, thinking about Ali (ph) even though I never met him and with this kind of inspiration, I will go and take Trump out tonight.

If you see anybody from that cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, in a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd. And you push back on them and you tell them they are not welcome.


KING: About two weeks ago, Hillary Clinton said civility can wait.


HILLARY CLINTON (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: You cannot be civil with a political party that wants to destroy what you stand for, what you care about. That's why I believe if we are fortunate enough to win back the House and or the Senate, that's when civility can start again.


KING: Now she sounds a lot more conciliatory.


CLINTON: But it is a troubling time, isn't it? It's a time of deep divisions and we have to do everything we can to bring our country together.


KING: It is a conversation we've had many times before, sadly. We had it after the Gabby Giffords shooting in Tucson. We had it after the baseball shooting last year. Other Republicans targeted were having it again.

Maxine Waters, that striking language. Take out Trump. If you're on Trump side, you say that's a member of Congress saying hurt or worse to the president of the United States. Now, Maxine Waters doesn't mean take out Trump, but, again, we're asking the question, does that encourage? Does that lower the bar for violence? Or would it be just good common sense to find a better way to talk about these things?

MATT VISER, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Democrats have not figured out how to deal with President Trump. And they do this with their language, too. I mean, they -- president -- Michelle Obama talking about when they go high -- when they go low we go high. They have not lived up to that.

[12:35:01] I think that they are struggling and a lot of this will be sorted out in the midterms and in the 2020 campaigns about how to deal with President Trump rhetorically, and how to offer something that is different from him in a way that is not just antagonistic about him. And some candidates are doing that, but the candidates that we most often hear about such as Elizabeth Warren or Kamala Harris are really taking it to Trump angrily.

KING: And add to that, you just mentioned Michelle Obama saying they go low, we go high. Eric Holder, the former attorney general, someone who's also thinking about running for president, someone who had one of these packages directed at him, he says this.


ERIC HOLDER, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: Michelle says that, you know, when they go low, we go high. No. No. When they go low, we kick them. That's what this new Democratic Party is about.


KING: That's what the new Democratic Party is about. And again, Eric Holder is not saying people should go out and be violent, the question is, we had so many of these episodes where violence does happen. Should the politicians find a way -- sometimes it's impulse, sometimes it's reflex on live television everyday. You make mistakes, you say things you wish you could take back. But should there be a conversation about, I'm going to train myself to use different language?

RACHAEL BADE, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, POLITICO: What is one of the first things your parents taught you when you were like three or four years old, two wrongs don't make a right, you know. In this case, people on the left are angry, they want to push back on the president and there is sort of the sense that you have to fight fire with fire. But again, if they really want to sort of bring down the temperature and create a more of a civil discourse, this is not going to help. And in fact it could very well blow back on them. You know, Republicans are out there on the campaign trail right now saying mob this, mob that. Democratic mob. And, you know, some people are listening to that and they don't feel perhaps that Democrats are any better than Republicans (INAUDIBLE).

KING: And so you made the point smartly, and there are a lot of people out there listening, saying come on. Come on. Wait a minute. Somebody uses tough language, that doesn't -- that's not an invitation or doesn't cause somebody to go mail bombs or to go out and shoot somebody.

This is the perspective. David French (INAUDIBLE) conservative right from the National Review. "Vicious and angry rhetoric can have a malignant effect on troubled souls, granting them a level of moral permission to act beyond the law. Few things grant that permission more thoroughly than the belief that the other side wants you dead. We live in a political culture that magnifies the other side's violence even as it minimizes our own team's misconduct as marginal and rare. Can we not see where that leads?"

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You know, in sense of structure in politics right now is all wrong for this. I think people and politicians are increasingly incentivized to go further and further and further to the fringes. They get re-tweets and they get likes and they get people showing up at their rallies and buying their books and they kept booked on cable television. And we are not as a society incentivizing people to appeal to the higher angels of the American public.

I'm not trying to be sort of cliche about this, but the reality is that if no one thinks that's it's in their -- necessarily in their best interest politically to tone down the rhetoric. If you go on social media toning up the rhetoric is what gets people attention. And until that incentive structure changes on the left and on the right, it's going to be a problem. Democrats are going to have for example, a really hard time managing their base in this next election just like Republicans are going to have a hard time managing the president and how he appeals to his base.

KING: And we're about to have a midterm election that could, if everything that holds firm today hold, you could have a dividing government. Democrats narrowly take the House, what's left to the Republicans if it plays out that way will be more conservatives so you're going to have more tension there as well. Naive question probably, but is there -- what would be the circuit breaker just for the climate of disrespect here in Washington?

VISER: I think that politicians have to see a market for that. And that has to come from the American public. And you talk to voters out on the midterm campaign trail and there is a craving for fixing this.

I mean, I think there's a quiet group of people who don't get traction a lot of times who do want some more civility. And you have to have that in a big national debate and maybe the presidential campaign is a venue for that for somebody who can offer that vision that's a counter balance to what we have now. But it may be naive.

KING: A crowded Democratic field like a crowded Republican field last time. I would not put -- sadly put your money today on a polite and civil conversation.

MARY KATHARINE HAM, SENIOR WRITER, THE FEDERALIST: I think it is totally transactional and people see through that and it's opportunistic and there's two folds. One is that, my rhetoric gets to be up here and I can say whatever I want and you guys should shut up because you're causing the problems. And it happens that way on both sides. The American people can see through it and I do think there is a market for it, but it is much quieter than the other two ends of the market. And that's a problem that we face.

KING: That's a good point.

Up next for us, shift to other politics. Race, personal attacks front and center in a big high stakes Florida governor's debate.


[12:44:32] KING: Topping the political radar today, the defense secretary James Mattis is expected to sign deployment orders as soon as today to send at least 800 troops to the U.S.-Mexico border. Their mission according to administration officials is to assist border patrol authorities in preventing that caravan of migrants from Central America from entering the United States. Officials say the troops would mainly be used for technical supports such as providing fencing and wall materials. The caravan could still be some weeks away from reaching the border.

[12:45:01] CIA Director Gina Haspel is just back from Turkey briefing President Trump today on the Jamal Khashoggi investigation. The Washington Post reports Haspel was able to listen to what Turkey says is audio of the interrogation and death at the Saudi consulate. The Saudis are now calling the journalist killing premedicated with the Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman labeling it a heinous crime.

Market news now, the DOW bouncing back today rising 200 points at the open up more than 400 in late morning trading, 313. You see it there right now. Trying to make up for yesterday's enormous slide of more than 600 points that wiped out all of this year's gains. Right now, you see the DOW up for more than 300.

Racial issues and highly personal attacks once again dominating the debate between the two men who want to be Florida's next governor. Andrew Gillum, the Democrat stopping short of calling Republican Ron DeSantis an outright racist in their second debate last night when he pointed out though DeSantis appeared to guest at a known anti-Muslim conservative activist.


MAYOR ANDREW GILLUM (D), FLORIDA GOVERNOR CANDIDATE: I'm not calling Mr. DeSantis a racist, I'm simply saying the racists believe he's a racist.

REP. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA GOVERNOR CANDIDATE: I'm not going to sit here and take this nonsense from a guy like Andrew Gillum who always plays the victim.


KING: Gillum is the Tallahassee mayor, if elected, he would be Florida's first African-American governor. DeSantis, a three-term congressman trailing Gillum in recent polls to the end. This one has been personal. That's pretty high stakes stuff.

You showed up at this conference. The people there are racist so therefore guilt by association or fair charge?

PHILLIP: And also the nasty robocall that have been going out in that state. I mean, it has become a really nasty campaign and race is such a central part of it. It was interesting to see Andrew Gillum address that head on and do it in a way that I think a lot of people thought was fairly skillful. Him laying out the case about what was -- what he thought Ron DeSantis didn't do to distance himself and then saying, well, if these people think you're a racist, then, you know, then there is something to be said for having that conversation.

And that moment has kind of gone viral. And I think it's interesting to see how someone like him, a rising star in the Democratic Party deals with that issue, the sort of guilt by association type of thing that is going to have ripple effects in other races.

KING: And an election of enormous consequence. All these big governors' races. But when you talk about 2020 and whether you have a Democrat or Republican governor to help in the presidential race, the (INAUDIBLE) sense is redistricting Florida among the biggest prizes.

VISER: Yes. And as Abby allude to, I mean, keeping -- making a viral moment out of these debates is increasingly important and that became the moment. And has kind of taken away a little bit from the Hamilton tickets and sort of the controversy that Andrew Gillum has to deal with. You know, we're talking about his forceful response on race instead and I think that's a credit to him and a win for him.

KING: (INAUDIBLE) next question about him. We'll see how that one plays out. Again, 12 days.

Up next, the Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill wraps up her tough campaign with what you might say is a somewhat unique closing argument


[12:52:23] KING: This news just in to CNN. Fallout if you will from the Supreme Court confirmation of now Justice Brett Kavanaugh. The Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley referring to the FBI and the Justice Department. He wants an investigation into Julie Swetnick and Michael Avenatti. You might remember during the confirmation process, Ms. Swetnick came forward and made allegations about Judge Kavanaugh. Michael Avenatti was her lawyer. Chuck Grassley says he wants the Justice Department to look into whether these were, quote, materially false statements made to the committee during the course of the committee's investigation.

We'll continue to track that. That reporting from Manu Raju and Ariane de Vogue. We thanked them for that.

Back to politics now, other politics. Twelve days to the midterm election and Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill wants you to know she is not crazy. Well, sort of.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I don't always agree with Claire McCaskill but she works hard fighting against those tariffs. Doing all those town halls. And Claire is not afraid to stand up against her own party.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. And Claire is not one of those crazy Democrats. She works right in the middle and finds compromise.


KING: Interesting closing argument. McCaskill, one of the most vulnerable Democratic senators locked in a tight race in a state of course that President Trump won big.

She's not crazy. That's what you expect in the final days of a campaign. Vote for me. I'm not one of the crazy Democrats.

BADE: She's clearly targeting Trump voters right there in here state, right. I mean, the commercial had two sort of middle-aged men who were clearly skeptical of Democrats saying, oh, she goes up against her own party. Look, there could be backlash on this. I mean, there's already Democrats in the state, local Democratic officials who are saying who are these crazy Democrats she's saying she is not a part of. Is she talking about a certain, you know, LGBT crowd? Is she talking about black Democrats. Who is she talking about.

And they -- so they are making this more of a problem for her than she was obviously thinking it was going to be.

KING: Right. Question is the math. If you get a Trump voter for that, how many Democrats do you lose. If you get more than you lose clearly (INAUDIBLE) response.

Josh Hawley, the state attorney general as her Republican opponent. That I'm not a crazy Democrat, meaning I'm not way out there liberal from Missouri is a response to this from Josh Hawley.


JOSH HAWLEY (R), MISSOURI SENATE CANDIDATE: Our country is divided and our election has (INAUDIBLE). Democrats need Claire McCaskill to take back control of the Senate. Then they'll block conservative judges to open our borders, try to impeach the president. That's the Democrat agenda and it's up to Missouri to stop it.


KING: He's all in on Trump.

HAM: Yes. Well -- and McCaskill has benefitted in the past from running against very bad Republican candidates. And in this case, Josh Hawley is not entirely obliging her on that front. But she's dealing with a real reality which is that this is a red or leaning state that certainly Trump -- for Trump and self (INAUDIBLE) can help.

[12:55:02] It's like those dominos commercials where there were like, remember when our pizza was bad, it's better now. If you can just kind of acknowledge the problem, sometimes people appreciate that and there's a real problem for her.

PHILLIP: Democrats should be blamed to let her do what she needs to do to win the race. I mean, they used to say just let them do what you need to do in that district. This time around, they're not having it.

KING: National Democrats will forgive her if she wins the race. Missouri Democrats to Rachael's point may have a different take.

Thanks for joining us in the INSIDE POLITICS today. See you back here this time tomorrow. Wolf picks up our coverage after a quick break. Have a great day.