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President Trump turning a traditional thanksgiving holiday call to US troops into a bit of a political moment; 15,000 people who had their lives turned upside down by those wildfires are getting a hot Thanksgiving meal right now thanks to a couple of celebrity chefs and hundreds of volunteer including the firefighters themselves. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired November 22, 2018 - 15:30   ET



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Have an incredible thanksgiving. We are taking good care of you. You know, the budget now is at $716 billion, Stephanie, right, so we're getting rid of some of that old equipment. You see what's going in, the best in the world, right. You see a big difference.


BROOKE BALDWIN, HOST, NEWSROOM: President Trump turning a traditional thanksgiving holiday call to US troops into a bit of a political moment. The President today criticized judges, migrants while also talking budgets, trade and China. There's a lot of tradition surrounding the Presidential call to our men and women in the military around the world. It's supposed to of course boost troop morale.

Today's call took a bit of a different path. So with me now, two ladies, political commentator Sally Kohn, the author of "The Opposite of Hate," and she's joining us from her in-laws' basement on this thanksgiving, and Republican strategist Alice Stewart in Washington there with her turkey prep under way. Ladies, it's so good to have you both on and Happy Thanksgiving.



BALDWIN: All right, so I have a bunch I want to get into with both of you. So Alice, first to you. Hearing from former military officials, as we've heard from - I talked to a retired admiral last hour.


BALDWIN: ... saying the fact that the President in calling these commanders, talking politics, talking judges, talking operational details put them in a really difficult position. And I wanted to ask you was that appropriate?

STEWART: No. Look, these calls, as you've mentioned, there's clear focus for these calls, to thanks troops, to boost the morale and to remind this country on this day we're all saying thanks to say thanks to our troops and their families that are sacrificing so much on these holidays. Those are the purposes of the call.

Unfortunately, this took a little turn and it got to be enough about you, let me tell you about me. It really shouldn't go that way. But hats off to those he talked to. We heard the folks on the other end of the call who managed to pivot back to the issue at hand. They did a tremendous job of reminding the President and all of those listening in, look, my troops are great, my troops are proud of the service they're doing. They're committed to the task at hand and keeping the focus where it should be, on our servicemen and women who are overseas serving and also reminding us to say a special thanks to their families back here who are keeping the home fires burning while they're away.

BALDWIN: True. Totally true. Sally, how did you see it?

KOHN: Seconding everything Alice said, and this is always a great opportunity to give my thanks for the men and women who are serving and for the sacrifices that their families make. I think whether you're red, blue or purple, maybe there are moments where Donald Trump, you know, blows some policy move, suffers some political defeat. If you're on the opposite side from him, you are happy about that, right? It's a political win for the other side, whatever.

But there are these moments where I don't care who you are, you want the President to do a good job. You want him Presidential when he's calling the troops on Thanksgiving, I want him as much as I oppose his presidency and most of what he stands for, on that moment I want him to be a good President. I want him to do his job and to respectfully, apolitically honor and thank those service members. And it honestly breaks my heart that he can't do it.

BALDWIN: Well, it is important to note also following up on that, he did take time after the call to go and visit those serving there --

STEWART: The Coast Guard.

BALDWIN: The Coast Guard and thank them for their service. So I want to make sure that doesn't get missed in the conversation. That was good he did go do that. And then he went golfing and then he's spending the evening with his family. That's what Jeff Zeleny was just reporting.

Looking ahead though, just switching gears to 2020, former President Obama, he sat down with David Axelrod, his former senior adviser and had this wide ranging conversation. A part of the conversation had to do with who could go up against Trump in 2020 and this discussion about who could be possible. Here he was.


DAVID AXELRODD, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO BARACK OBAMA: People say, well, you know, we can't have another candidate of color, we can't have a woman because -- BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, that kind

of stuff I don't buy. Generalizations that we draw about, well, a woman's not going to win this time, oh, this is an ideal time for a woman. You've had one black guy so you can't have another black guy.

AXELROD: But you know why - I mean, I'm not subscribing to that theory but you know why it comes up because --

OBAMA: Because I'm a black guy.



BALDWIN: Now, Sally, this is for you and I know you and I know of course, you'll agree with the President and say of course the Democrats should put a woman forward or another person of color, but as part of that, I do find it noteworthy that neither of those descriptions match his good friend Joe Biden who has been floated as a 2020 contender.

KOHN: Well, I hadn't heard the whole interview. I suspect if you asked President Obama that question, he would say, look, I am not saying, someone shouldn't run, if they're not a woman or a person of color. I think, listen as Democrats, we should elect the best candidate. But the idea that that best candidate cannot be a person of color or woman was what he was getting to and look, I he is largely right.

I think a lot has been made and misinterpreted about Trump's victory and it has pushed the Democrats back to this very fearful position of thinking that the only way to win elections in this country is to win working class white people in particular, especially in the rust belt.

And that is demographically today and certainly looking two years and more down the road not necessarily the case. And the fact is data has shown over and over again, this is included in Barack Obama's victories, that assembling a coalition of high turnout of voters of color, plus young voters and progressive white voters, you could win the country. And for those voters, either it doesn't matter if it's a candidate of color or a woman or that actually is extra motivating.

I think what's true is that what we should learn from Donald Trump's candidacy is that the idea ideology matters less and less.


KOHN: He's all over the place ideologically but what voters like is that he stands for something and what Democrats definitely need to do is nominate someone who stands for someone as opposed to a candidate who has their finger in the wind and is saying whatever they think is practical or popular as opposed to principled.

STEWART: I think an important point he made and I agree with him, these Presidential races are not about race and gender. They are about rules and geography. It's important for Republicans and Democrats, specifically Democrats, the rules of Presidential politics are electoral victories, not popular votes.

And Hillary Clinton won the popular vote but she didn't win by the Electoral College. They need to understand that. And geography. You have to go to the right places. President Trump was smart and wise to go to Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin. And going to the right states. So those were important things that need to play into it. What Obama did better than a lot of folks is connecting with the people. That is something you just cannot buy. But you have to have all those factors in line. It's not about race and gender. His ability to connect with people was a huge factor in his victory.

BALDWIN: Sure. Before the let the two of you go here, and Sally, I know you wanted to talk about this in particular. When you're talking about politics at the Thanksgiving table, do you remember there was a "Saturday Night Live" sketch, it was from a couple of Novembers ago, I made my team pull the clip. Let me just remind you all of this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am thankful that our governor is not going to let those refugees in here.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have a question for you, why is it that your friends keep antagonizing the police?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's a guest in our house.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hello, it's me I was wondering if after all these years you'd like to meet.


BALDWIN: I love this so much. It just made me laugh and I hope it made everyone watching laugh as well because listen, we have family members who we do not see eye to eye with on politics and shy of singing Adele, Sally Kohn, what is your suggestion?

KOHN: If you've got the voice, start there. Based on the book I wrote about how you actually have constructive conversations across political divides, I put a bunch of tips on my Instagram feed, illustrated by artist Brad Matthew, people can go find him, another specific, scientific, psychology proven strategies for how you have these conversations. But the gist is if you want to do it, you have a choice. You have to want to actually talk politics with your family.

If see this as an opportunity to engage people on the issues that you'd like, that you love them and you'd like to see them move on, then how you do it is almost as important as what you say. In particular, not screaming at anyone. Nobody has ever been hated into changing their mind. It begins with a lot of listening, a lot of understanding, compassion, even validating just where people are at. Not agreeing with them, but just hearing where they're at and

understanding it and having a real conversation where you listen to them just as much or more as they listen to you.

BALDWIN: I think the key word you just used, which I think we're losing sight of in this country of divisiveness, is listening. Just shut up and listen to somebody else's perspective. You may keep your own views, right, but just listen and pay that respect. Sally Kohn, Alice Stewart. Ladies, enjoy your turkeys. Thank you very much.

A quick programming note. We're just one day away from the $9 million showdown between two golf legends, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson playing each other in Las Vegas. Do not miss the match tomorrow, 3:00 Eastern on the Bleacher Report live in pay per view.

New warnings and mudslides and floods for the survivors of the deadly wild fires in California. Hear the new warning from the National Weather Service for them and 15,000 people who had their lives turned upside down by those wildfires are getting a hot Thanksgiving meal right now thanks to a couple of celebrity chefs and hundreds of volunteer including the firefighters themselves. We will take you live to California live next.


BALDWIN: Thousands of families leaving everything behind, their homes, their clothes, everything, as the flames in California destroyed their communities. But today, even if for an hour, many of them are sitting down for a Thanksgiving meal thanks to a team of volunteers and celebrity chef Jose Andres.

CNN's Nick Watt is in Chico, California, and Nick we were talking to the chef last hour, talk about - he was talking me about firefighter who had been busy rescuing people who are there now volunteering serving food.

NICK WATT, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: I know. It's ridiculous. Listen, this fire started a couple of weeks ago and it's still not over. We had some rain last night and we're told that that rain actually helped dampen down some of those spot fires, but there's more rain tonight. There could be mud slides, this is not over. So as you say, Brooke, this is a little bit of respite for the people of this area. Nearly 14,000 homes destroyed. And also, have been a respite for these firefighters. Look, these guys are serving up Thanksgiving dinner for the people of Northern California who have lost so much.

I'm going to now come over here. We're going to chat to Captain John Capen who has been out here at this incident 15 days, John?



WATT: How's it been?

CAPEN: We've done a lot of hard work. It's been arduous at times. It's been a long ordeal.

WATT: I mean, you're working 24 hour shifts in this smoke, in this heat, in this danger, I mean, how do you cope with that for such an extended period of time?

CAPEN: Well, we just manage. We make a career of this. This is our job and we deal with it. We manage.

WATT: And you have been doing this 25 years. How does this fire compare to all of the other fires you've seen during that 25 years?

CAPEN: So the level of destruction on this fire is unprecedented, I would say. I have never seen anything as destructive. I'm pretty sure statistically, this is the most destructive fire on record.

WATT: And how do you - you know, for this this is a job. These are people's homes, these are people's lives, do you try and kind of compartmentalize and take the emotion out of it so you can just do your job?

CAPEN: I think so. I think we have the mindset to where we are trained to do a specific job and we see it as an opportunity to perform those tasks that we train to do. So we prepare and when put in a situation, we try to maximize on our training and --

WATT: And lastly, how was dinner?

CAPEN: The dinner was magnificent.

WATT: Good, I'm glad. Well, thanks to you and Chief, thanks to you as well for all of your service. As you said, Brooke, a moment of respite here in Chico. Back to you.

BALDWIN: Best live shot live shot of the day, Nick Watt. Thank you and thank all of those firefighters for all they are doing and as you all were talking, there were a couple who stepped in front of the camera and smooched, so at least everyone has got a little turkey and a little love in Chico, California on this Thanksgiving. Nick, thank you very much.

Coming up next here on CNN, Cindy McCain sits for interviews for the first time since her husband's death. Why she says she can't forgive Trump and details on who in her family might run for public office.


BALDWIN: Senator John McCain's widow speaking out publicly for the first time since her husband's death in August from brain cancer. Cindy McCain did not hold back on President Trump for attacking her husband for being captured during the Vietnam War. This is what she told the BBC.


NANCY MCCAIN, WIDOW OF JOHN MCCAIN: I thought it was inappropriate and low, I really did. It hurt the family, too. He, you know, everyone - and he hurt the other men that served with John that were in prison as well. It wasn't just about John, it was all of the other people.

So I think that was a wrong thing to say and I don't know if I will ever get over it, I'll be honest. But I'm the wife. That's my prerogative. I don't have to.


BALDWIN: Cindy McCain also spoke to CBS News and at one point joking that her husband probably would have thought that his funeral lasted way too long. Also McCain, the mother saying she was so proud of her daughter, Meghan's fiery speech even though she didn't know what she would say ahead of time.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did the President or the First Lady reach out to you after the funeral?

MCCAIN: No. They didn't. But that's okay. That was not what I needed at the time. I needed my family and I had them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is your feeling about the President?

MCCAIN: Oh gosh, I think he is questioning himself right now as to where he goes, what he's doing. I think maybe the things that have occurred with this election may be take him back to basics. I'm hoping it does. I am hoping that - it is very humbling to lose. I hope he learns from it and realized that our country needs a strong leader, not a negative Nancy if I can put it in such a basic term.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After the Senator's death, a lot of people thought, well, Cindy McCain, she should take the seat. Did you ever talk about that with the Senator?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did anybody ever approach you and did you ever think about it seriously?

MCCAIN: No, I've been approached from a bunch of different directions, yes, I have. My job right now is to make sure my family is okay. And make sure that we are moving on in the right direction.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So if you're not going to run for office, there's Meghan, there's John, Jr. You've got a long list - does any of them have political aspirations?

MCCAIN: I think so. I think we'll see one, possibly two do it. There are two I know that won't, but there's two that I think will.


BALDWIN: And speaking of Meghan McCain, she just posted this message about her dad on Instagram. Let me just read what she wrote. "Today is your favorite holiday. Happy Thanksgiving, dad, wherever you are. I miss you terribly and to everyone else who this holiday is hard for you have not alone. I'm thinking of all of you." From Meghan McCain.

Thank you for spending part of your Thanksgiving Day with me. I'm off to spend time with my family this year and as we sit around the table and as we are thankful for those we love, we are also mindful of those we lost. So here now is Anthony Bordaine and a marathon of his amazing show, "Parts Unknown, a remarkable man and remarkable work.