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An Agreement to Avoid Government Shutdown; Tax Cut Not Being Felt; Complaints About Tax Refunds; VA Gov. Northam Says He's Learned He was 'Born in White Privilege'; Kamala Harris Takes on Questions about Her 'Blackness.' Aired 11-12a ET
Aired February 11, 2019 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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[23:00:00] DON LEMON, CNN HOST: The word tonight from lead negotiators from both sides of the aisle, sources telling CNN the agreement includes $1.375 billion for a border barrier, $1.375 for a border barrier less than the $1.6 billion the president rejected last year.
Negotiators saying that they hope the White House will sign this agreement. No guarantee though.
President Trump held a campaign style rally in the Texas porter of El Paso tonight trying to whip up support for the wall. Outside that event, a march and a second rally, this one against a border wall and it featured former Congressman Beto O'Rourke who has been mentioned as a possible Democratic opponent to the president in 2020.
O'Rourke telling his supporters that El Paso is a safe city, not because of walls but in spite of them.
A lot to discuss. Joining me now is former Republican Congressman Charlie Dent and Susan Glasser of the New Yorker.
So good to have you on and it's only Monday and we have a week worth of news already. Good evening to both of you.
Congressman Dent, I'm going to start with you. We are told that this agreement would cover roughly 55 miles of new barrier. I don't know. So, he make it 55 miles of fencing for all of this?
CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: By the way, 55, Don, 55 miles pretty much complete the Secure Fence Act which authorized 700 miles of vehicular and pedestrian barriers on the southern border. They were at about 650 miles, so this completes it.
LEMON: And when was that?
DENT: In 2006.
LEMON: OK. DENT: I was a co-sponsor of that bill, 2006. And by the way, that 700 miles figure was arrived after exhausted consultation with experts. And that's how we came up with that number.
The bottom line is Donald Trump wants barrier, Democrats want fewer detention beds. So, Donald Trump wants to get but he's not willing to give. So, the Democrats apparently have dropped their demand to cap the number of detention beds at 34,000, we have 40,500 detention beds currently. So, they dropped that demand and they've given less barrier.
So that's the deal. I suspect that if the president signs this and I don't know if he will. But if he does sign it, I suspect he'll pocket whatever gains he gets and then go out and take some executive action or declare an emergency. That's what --
LEMON: You are skeptical?
DENT: That he can sign it?
DENT: Well, I think he's -- I think he'll be compelled to sign it but he's going complain about it. We've seen him do it before. He'll complain about it, and I am sure that Anne Coulter and others out there on the fringe are going to yell and scream and that's going to affect the president for few days. But I think he'll be force to sign in and then he -- you have to watch whether or not he'll declares an emergency going forward.
LEMON: Susan Glasser, here is what the president said tonight about this potential deal. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As I was walking up to the stage, they said that progress is being made with this committee. Just now, just now -- I said wait a minute -- I got to take care of my people from Texas, I got to go -- I don't want to hear about it. I don't want to hear it.
TRUMP: I got to go, I don't want to hear about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: I got to go, I don't want to hear about it. What kind of message does that send out, you know, out there just four days? He's out there four days to go to avoid another government shutdown. The president is holding this rally instead of focusing on getting a deal.
SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, I think the metaphor speaks for itself here, Don. Look, President Trump is not known for being immense in the details. This was a process that was set up for him not to be deeply engaged in details and now we'll find out whether that was a smart political decision or not.
Already you have seen allies of the president like Sean Hannity on Fox calling into question the deal wondering whether same Republicans would vote for it.
And you know, remember that in Congress, they reached a deal to avoid a shutdown back in December. And then the president blew it up the last minute which is why there was the longest in history of 35 days shutdown.
So, you know, until it actually happens, I am going to remain a little bit skeptical that President Trump is going to go for something that can so easily be portrayed as another defeat for him. It is as you pointed out, less of a deal in terms of funding for his border priority than the deal that he previously rejected.
This comes after the polls have shown of pretty much a resounding defeat in his decision and to press forward with the shutdown that neither Republicans nor Democrats on the hill really want it.
And so, I am not sure are that he will agree to it. But I think as former Congressman Dent suggested they clearly are still looking either declaring a national emergency or trying to take executive action to reprogram military fund to use for additional construction.
[23:05:07] That's where this controversy will continue to live on regardless of whether the government does or doesn't shut down by the Friday deadline.
LEMON: Interesting. But it wasn't Trump rallying supporters in El Paso tonight. Potential 2020 contender Beto O'Rourke hit back with an event on his own. I want you to take a listen to the president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Walls save lives -- walls save lives, walls save tremendous numbers of lives.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Beto O'Rourke here's what he said. He said, we know that walls do not save lives. Walls end lives. In the last 10 years more than 4,000 children, women, and men have died to come to this country to work jobs that no one will take to be a family member to flee horrific brutality and violence and death in their home countries."
A pretty clear difference. I mean, which message wins? Walls save lives or walls end lives? Susan, you first.
GLASSER: You know, Don, I think the thing that makes me so sad about this whole conversation is that there are two messages for two different parts of the country. I don't see this as a head to head clash of ideas as much as I see Donald Trump addressing his part of the country and Beto O'Rourke addressing a different audience entirely. And I think that's part of why we are in the crisis that we are having frankly.
LEMON: What do you think, Congressman?
DENT: Well, I think, look, I think that barriers are part of a border security solution. That's true. On the other hand, you know, Beto O'Rourke is right, that we need to deal with this problematic source at Guatemala, in El Salvador and Honduras. That's what we need to do.
I just want to follow up on something that Susan said, that the president is thinking about reprogramming military funds to pay for the wall. In order for that to happen, he would need the chair of the House appropriations committee, and the subcommittee chair of military construction to sign off. That would be Nita Lowey and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz.
They're not going to do it but he's going to try. And I just want to share that the bottom is you need -- you do need some barriers. You only need 2,000 miles worth but we do have to address this problem in Central America at the source because the migrants are going to keep coming.
LEMON: Congressman, there was a really odd moment when the president talked about German shepherds to work on the border to find drugs. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I wouldn't mind having one honestly but I don't have any time. I don't have. How would I look walking a dog at the White House lawn? would that be -- right? So, I did not -- I don't know. It doesn't -- I don't feel good. Feels a little phony to me. Yes, Obama had a dog. You're right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: A little phony to have a White House dog?
DENT: I don't know. You know, I walked my dog this morning and last night. I don't know -- I like dogs. I like dogs a lot actually. I think it's quite appropriate for presidents of the United States to have dogs or families have them. The Bush's had dogs too as I recall.
LEMON: I think the Reagan's had dogs.
GLASSER: Every president had a dog. I mean, I think that's what he was addressing, right?
GLASSER: Don't you think that he's aware of the criticism that he's like our only non-dog loving president.
LEMON: Yes. He says it would be phony.
GLASSER: It's weird.
LEMON: But wait, he said it would be phony. But Charlie got to say, that's your I like beer moment. I like dogs.
DENT: I like dogs.
LEMON: I mean, I walked my dog this morning. Did you walk your dog down there? Do you like dogs? But he said it would be phony, what does that mean, Susan?
GLASSER: It means that he knows that if he got a dog now everybody would say it was because he didn't really want a dog but he was criticized for it. So that was actually, I would say that was you know, if the fact checker was checking that, it would be kind of an honest remark. Right.
GLASSER: No Pinocchio's for that one.
LEMON: Yes. I like dogs too. I walk my dogs this morning and this afternoon too. So, thank you.
GLASSER: Well, I say hello to Ellie the dog.
LEMON: Is that your dog?
GLASSER: That's my dog.
LEMON: Ellie, all right. What's your dog's name, Congressman?
DENT: Yogi. It's my wife's dog. It's a Yorkshire Terrier, the pride and joy of her life and our lives.
LEMON: I'm boomer and Barkley and my little mutts, I love them. My rescue dogs. Thank you. I appreciate it.
GLASSER: Thank you.
LEMON: Freshman Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar apologizing today for her anti-Semitic tweet over the week, and I'm going ask one of her congressional colleagues -- is that enough?
[23:10:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Here's our breaking news tonight. Congressional negotiators say they have an agreement in principle to avoid another government shutdown. But the White House hasn't signed off on it, so of course, anything could happen.
Joining me now is Democratic Congressman Gerry Connolly of Virginia. Congressman, I really appreciate your time. Thank you so much.
REP. GERRY CONNOLLY, (D) VIRGINIA: My pleasure, Don. LEMON: Negotiators have gotten an agreement in principle they say.
But we had agreements before, do you think this one is going to stick?
CONNOLLY: I would put some money on this one. Because I think Trump got bloody in the last go around with the 35-day shutdown that was by the hour becoming more and more unpopular and endangering the American public. For example, we saw airports had to close because they were no longer safe.
That meant a lot to the American people and underline the gravity of a shutdown. So, the president who talked about we need a good government shutdown learned the hard way there is no such thing. I don't think there is any appetite for going back there again this week.
LEMON: Do you think the president is going to accept a border deal that doesn't give him all the money he wants for this wall?
CONNOLLY: I think he will. I think he's going to contrive with Mick Mulvaney, his acting chief of staff and former head of OMB to fine other pockets of money that maybe he can throw toward a wall.
[23:14:58] But I think he understands -- so long as Democrats have anything to say about it, he's not going to get $5.7 billion for, you know, a white elephant mainly a wall across the Mexican border.
LEMON: Let's talk about this controversy that's going on with Congresswoman Ilhan Omar. She says that she unequivocally apologized after tweeting this. "It's all about the Benjamins, baby." Suggesting that Republicans, including House Minority Kevin McCarthy supported Israel only for campaign donations. Omar says
that she was talking about AIPAC. Is her apology enough do you think?
CONNOLLY: You know, I make a huge distinction between Omar and say, Steve King who's been around for decades. Steve King has been saying horrible and racist things for a long time and, you know, there was cricket and total silence on the Republican side of the aisle about it until very recently. All of a sudden, they were shocked. He was talking about white supremacism.
Omar is a freshman, she's new here, and she's young. I think she has learned a painful lesson that the words you use through whatever medium can be painful and can be hurtful and it will have consequences.
CONNOLLY: So, hopefully moving forward, this is a valuable lesson that she has learned and she will seek counsel and be far more careful about how she expresses herself.
LEMON: Leader McCarthy was asked tonight if he was satisfied with Omar apologizing. His response was, is she still on the foreign affairs? When a reporter said yes, he added, then I'm not satisfied. Should she lose her committee assignments?
CONNOLLY: No, I don't think so. I think she represents a voice. She represents her community. This could be a learning experience that will actually help her becoming a more effective member.
I will say I think it's a bit much for Minority Leader McCarthy to be throwing stones from his own glass house. I mean, this is somebody that invoke the name of George Soros in tropes that are eerily reminiscent of some of the worst anti-Semitic remarks about George Soros.
LEMON: Let me put that up. Because this is what Leader McCarthy tweeted last October that Jewish billionaires, George Soros, Michael Bloomberg and Tome Steyer were trying to buy the midterm elections. The tweet was sent the day after the pipe bomb was sent to George Soros' house.
LEMON: McCarthy later deleted that tweet. Why wasn't he held to the same standard?
CONNOLLY: Well, that's a good question.
LEMON: He's setting out for her but not the same standard that he had for himself. He seemed to have gotten away with it.
CONNOLLY: That's exactly right. And that's why I say, you know, people live in glass houses should not throw stones. Leader McCarthy had his own anti-Semitic problem and I think he had to -- he ought to be a little more circumspect in judging others given his record.
LEMON: Also tonight, a top Putin adviser had this to say to those people who were concerned about Russian meddling in the elections. Here's what he says. "In reality, things are much more serious. Russia meddles with their brains and they don't know what to do with their own changed conscience."
So, what's your reaction to that comment. Does Russia have that kind of influence here in the U.S.?
CONNOLLY: You know, I saw that tweet too and it had a chilling effect on me. Like, so now we are talking about manipulating people's minds and imaginations. We're destroying facts deliberately to reorder how people see reality and perceive it?
You know even if a fraction of that is true, it really is chilling. And that's why getting to the bottom of Russian interference in the 2016 election is a civic duty. It's not something maybe we get around to. It is absolutely necessary if we are going to recapture American democracy for Americans.
LEMON: Congressman, thank you.
CONNOLLY: Don, my pleasure. Thank you for having me.
LEMON: A lot of people are angry about their smaller than usual tax refunds. We're going to tell you what's really going on and what the president's tax cuts have to do with all of this.
[23:20:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: So, a lot of people are complaining about their tax refunds this year. Did you notice that? According to the IRS refunds are down by 8.4 percent. I want you to take a look at this. During this period last year, the average tax refund was $2,035. OK? Now they're down to $1,865.
But what does the president's tax cuts? Do they have to do anything and do they have anything to do with this?
Joining me now to discuss Catherine Rampell and Stephen Moore, the author of "Trumponomics."
OK. Good evening. Let's talk about this. Stephen, because of the president's tax plan, some workers paychecks were a bit larger in 2018 but that means smaller year in refunds. How is that going to make working and middle-class Americans feel do you think?
STEPHEN MOORE, CNN SENIOR ECONOMIC ANALYST: Well, Don, you know, we've done a big analysis of the Trump tax cut at the Heritage Foundation and others who have done similar analysis. And the average family, the average person watching the show with a middle income saves about $2,000 a year around their taxes. That's a pretty nice tax cut if you are making 60, or 70, or $80,000 a year.
Now, what's interesting is we are still trying to figure out why these tax refunds are coming in lower this year than last year. And it looks like what happened is that people change, companies change withholding patterns so they gave the workers more of the tax cut, you know, week after week and so they got a small return.
[23:25:05] But that's actually a good deal for taxpayers. Because, Don, you'd rather have the money, you know, upfront than give the money interested for your loan and get the money at back end.
MOORE: So, I think that's the explanation. It's not that people didn't get the tax cut, it's that they got the tax cut each week out of their paycheck rather than a refund check.
CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, as Stephen says that most of the tax cuts was given out through lower withholding from week to week or month or month or however frequently people were paid.
The problem of course with that is it's much less salient. Your tax -- excuse me, your paycheck changes from week to week or month to month for lots of reason besides the tax cut. And Stephen mentioned that it was a $2,000 tax cut that does not reflect whatever another analysis that I've said, that I've seen says for the average American family.
But in any case, it was small enough from week to week that it was over shadowed by like changes and wages, changes in hours and changes in benefits. And so, people didn't notice it. And this was totally foreseeable, by the way. Obama people forget
actually cut taxes more both in terms of the number of families that were affected and the actual generosity of the tax cuts for the middle class and for lower income households as a result of the recovery act.
LEMON: I thought this was the largest tax cut in history.
RAMPELL: Alas, it was not. Both in terms of raw dollars for families as well as a share of their income. It was actually more generous under Obama but people didn't realize it for the exact same reason that it wasn't salient a year later when they pulled people, they did not realize that their taxes had gone down.
George W. Bush saw much the same thing. So, this was totally foreseeable, and in fact, part of the reason why we may have seen withholding go down so much last year relative to the tax cut is in fact Trump's own doing. There was reporting from Politico about a year ago that the Trump administration put pressure on the IRS to change the withholding rates so that you would have the stimulus going to the economy a little bit faster.
LEMON: To boost the economy.
LEMON: Before the midterm.
RAMPELL: Before the midterms.
LEMON: Before the midterms. Stephen, many people are taken to social media. I saw it on social media, I'm like what are people complaining about? A lot of people are complaining that they owe money, they aren't getting as a bigger refund as they expected this year. They're not happy about this.
I mean, could it end up backfiring for Trump and the GOP. If you don't feel it, right, if it's not enough to make you a difference in your life every single day and then you are not getting this big refund or at least what you are getting the last time, could it backfire?
MOORE: Well, no. Look, I think people are very happy with the direction of the economy, people like their paychecks. I mean, Catherine is right. It's one of the impacts of the tax cuts was not just to give people lower tax but also to revive the economy to create more jobs. You know, we have seven million more jobs and the economy --
RAMPELL: Sure. What short term sugar high, that's what I was saying.
MOORE: No, but what I'm saying is that it's -- well, the thing is it's not a sugar high, because these tax cuts don't expire for at least five or six years. And by the way, we should vote tomorrow to make the tax cuts permanent. So, there is no sugar high tax.
RAMPELL: Yes. But we are talking about rates and not levels here and that's what matters for growth if we are talking about growth.
RAMPELL: And you know this. And in fact, every single outside independent analyst has said that while the tax cuts would have a short term boost to economic growth in 2018 and to some extent in 2019, it would fade substantially thereafter. The IMF says this, the CBO says this --
MOORE: But that doesn't make -- Catherine it doesn't make any sense --
RAMPELL: The Feds says this.
MOORE: It doesn't make any sense because the tax cuts doesn't go away next year. It doesn't go away in '21, in '22, and '23. Those tax cuts don't expire for five more years. So why would that affect? In fact, I think that what we are seeing in the economy right now is a continuous growth.
RAMPELL: Because it's about --
MOORE: It's multiplied --
RAMPELL: -- the rate and not the level.
MOORE: Look at the wages.
RAMPELL: If we're talking about growth rate --
RAMPELL: Then it's the rate, then it's the rate that matters, the rate would change, not the level. If you have a permanent a one-time bump then you stay at that higher level, you are not going see a higher rate of growth the following year.
MOORE: I think we'll get 3 percent to 4 percent growth for the next --
RAMPELL: Nobody else does.
MOORE: -- several years.
RAMPELL: Nobody else does.
MOORE: Well, yes. But Catherine, you're right. But nobody says we can get a 3 percent growth in the first place. All the economist that you're talking about --
RAMPELL: No, that's false.
MOORE: People said there's no way we can get through it.
RAMPELL: That is false.
MOORE: Catherine, look at what people said during the campaign.
RAMPELL: The CBO and the IMF, the Fed and every single analyst on Wall Street --
MOORE: We could never get the 3 percent growth. Larry Summers is one of the most famous economists in the country said that there is no way with the U.S. economy can grow faster than 2 percent. And we got 3 percent growth.
RAMPELL: No, no, no.
MOORE: Yes, we did.
RAMPELL: No, no, no. You are completely misrepresenting every single forecast that has come out both about the tax cut and the long-term growth of the economy.
MOORE: Well, I did read "The Washington Post" that said --
RAMPELL: Everyone has said --
LEMON: One at a time. Let her --
RAMPELL: Please, Stephen, let me respond.
LEMON: Let her respond.
RAMPELL: Every single analyst has said that the long-term growth rate of the economy will fall back to about 1.9 percent.
[23:30:02] No one said that if you pumped $2 trillion into the economy even during an expansion that that would not have a short-term effect, stimulative effect, a sugar-high effect on the economy.
All of those outside independent analysts that I mentioned all predicted it last year, in fact, because of the short term temporary effect of the tax cuts. They all said that it would not have a permanent effect on the economy --
MOORE: Because -- RAMPELL: -- which is what you are alleging.
LEMON: Go ahead, Stephen.
MOORE: And that's because they don't understand the tax cut. The heart and soul of the tax cut --
RAMPELL: I don't understand. Which one is it? Which one is it?
MOORE: -- for businesses to encourage them to invest and to spend more money and plant (ph) equipment and hire more workers. That's exactly what we are seeing --
RAMPELL: So every single outsider analysts -- everyone that doesn't have a dog in the fight. You have a dog in this fight. You're trying to sell books saying that the Trump's tax cut is going to boost the economy --
RAMPELL: You advise the president. Every single outside analyst says otherwise.
LEMON: OK, Stephen, let me ask you this. Let me ask you this. You are saying that all these outside experts that she says and all of these really smart people who drew predictions in the economy every year in growth and --
RAMPELL: Who are independent.
LEMON: And they are independent and they use the -- they know what they are talking about, they somehow don't understand how to read --
RAMPELL: Only Stephen Moore has the secret.
LEMON: -- attacks plan now?
MOORE: Are you asking me?
MOORE: Oh, look, I worked on the campaign. I talked to economists all the time who said Donald Trump is lying to the American people. We can't get the three percent growth. Larry Summers (ph) very famous --
LEMON: She explained that. She said --
LEMON: Hold on, Stephen. Hold on, Stephen. Stephen. Hold on, Stephen.
RAMPELL: One year of three percent growth.
LEMON: Stephen, to the point -- listen --
RAMPELL: Two trillion dollars into the economy. LEMON: Hold on, Catherine. I want to be fair to you. I am trying to understand your logic here. I understand what Catherine is saying. If you are already in the growth and you are in expansion, and then you goose it, of course you are going to have higher growth during that time. And so what I'm trying to understand is why does everyone else not know what they are talking about except for the people who put together the Trump's tax plan?
MOORE: Because all of them said it wouldn't work. Obviously, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. We got the strongest economy in 20 years. We got the best labor force in 50 years. People feel very good about the direction of the economy. I don't think it happened by chance. When we took over, you know, the economy --
RAMPELL: Because we have a short-term sugar high.
MOORE: -- was growing at one and a half percent. Now it is going at three percent.
LEMON: You are proving her point.
LEMON: You are proving her point, though. OK, I got to go because we're out of time. We got a lot of show to get to. We will continue to discuss. All I know is -- listen, I don't know what is happening, but there are a lot of people I see out there who are --
MOORE: It is all good. It is all good.
LEMON: No, no, no. A lot of people out there -- I am not saying the economy is great. Don't get me wrong. A lot of people are upset with their tax returns. I am trying to figure out why and if that's going to have some sort of impact on how people support or not support this president or who they'll support in the presidential election. That's all I'm wondering. OK, we'll continue. Thank you both.
MOORE: Thanks, Don.
LEMON: Senator Kamala Harris clapping back at critics who say she is not black enough.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D), CALIFORNIA: But I'm black.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
HARRIS: And I'm proud to be black. And I was born black. I will die black.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: A lot more from the presidential candidate, next.
[23:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK) LEMON: Virginia Governor Ralph Northam says that he has now learned why his use of black face decades ago was so offensive, and he says that he has learned some big lessons when it comes to race.
I want to bring in now Adam Serwer and Scott Jennings, also April Ryan, the author of "Under Fire: Reporting from the Front Lines of the Trump White House."
Good evening. I am so glad we are having this conversation. So, let's try to come to some sort of understanding here. But I want to play what Northam said to Gayle King. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RALPH NORTHAM (D), VIRGINIA: I was born in white privilege and that has implications to it. It is much different the way a white person such as myself is treated in this country.
GAYLE KING, CBS ANCHOR: Did you not know that you were born into white privilege?
NORTHAM: I knew I was, Miss King, but I didn't realize really the powerful implications of that. Again, talking to a lot of friends, that has become crystal clear to me this week. I have also learned why the use of black face is so offensive. Yes, I knew it in the past, but reality has really set in.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So, Adam, he's talking about his own white privilege, his words. Better late than never, is that good?
ADAM SERWER, SENIOR EDITOR, "THE ATLANTIC": I think that it's a little hard to know how sincere the governor is being given that this awakening is coming at a time when he's being asked to resign or being told to resign by many of his allies and the Democratic Party because of past racist conduct.
It is not clear to me whether he is actually learning anything or is just trying to display public face of having learned something so that he can weather the controversy that has enveloped Virginia Democrats. I think it is a good conversation to have, but I think it's a little much to expect Virginia residents to be lectured by their governor on the history of racial discrimination in America after he has acknowledged knowing so little about it.
LEMON: So to that point, April, one in every five Virginians is black. Their governor is telling them that only now he has realized the power of white privilege. How do you think that is going to land with black voters?
[23:40:03] APRIL RYAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, you have some people in the state of Virginia who are black, who are saying now he is over, this is the time for us to get something. My question is, OK, you may get something now, but in 30 days he will go back to the same thing. And then you have others who say get him out. You know, Don, this year is 400 years for the descendants of slaves to be in this country.
This is 400 years since slaves were brought over those ships during the Middle Passage. We are having this conversation. I don't buy it from this man who is a medical doctor, who knows better. He said in that cut, he said, you know, I knew it but the reality set in. Well, if he knew it, when you knew better, you should have done better. I don't buy it.
You don't buy it. So, Scott, do you think he's doing himself any good by this media tour? What do you think about this?
SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, no, I think he has made a mistake every time he has tried to talk here. I mean, from the moment that he put out a statement admitting to having been in the photo and then retracting it and then giving that horrific press conference and then even in his interview, his ability to articulate certain basic issues with Miss King and then these comments today, following on by the way his disastrous comments on abortion issue which I realized is unrelated but was, you know, part of a long string of bad days for Northam, I get the feeling that he doesn't really understand the different groups of people in Virginia that he has deeply offended.
And so I agree with what Adam said. We do need to be having this conversation because Lord knows there are people in both political parties that are still speaking out of ignorance on these issues. We all have things to learn.
But Ralph Northam is in this conversation now because he has been really damn about all this, but he should not be leading it because clearly he doesn't have the depth of knowledge to lead us.
So, this conversation needs to take place, but Northam should not be conducting his orchestra. He needs to be doing a lot more listening than talking right now. I recognize there is a leadership crisis in Virginia, and I realize he's not going to step down. I think we need people to lead us better than him.
LEMON: Adam, another clip from that interview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NORTHAM: If you look at Virginia's history, we are now at 400-year anniversary. Just miles from here in 1619, the first indentured servants from Africa landed on our shores in old Point Comfort, what we call now Fort Monroe.
KING: Also known as slavery.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So, listen, Adam. He clarified these remarks later by saying that a historian had told him that indentured servant was a more accurate description. But isn't that just proved what Scott just said, that he is a little shaky here and he is probably not the one that should be leading this conversation?
SERWER: I think as a historical matter, there may have been black indentured servants who arrived prior to the -- the system of heritable race-based slavery that was set up in the America, but I think it is sort of beside the point. Even if he nailed it on the history, the fact remains is that he has been ignorant about this stuff for almost his entire life now.
I think it's a little strange for him to assume that he's going to lead the state in a conversation of race relations 101 by his own admission is just getting started.
LEMON: So, a question -- Scott, has anyone ever questioned whether you were white enough?
JENNINGS: Me? No. I think it is pretty well-established on the show how white I really am.
LEMON: That's why I ask this question.
JENNINGS: I appreciate so much you're allowing me to --
LEMON: I appreciate your honesty. I sort of question that many black folks, especially those who are in the political arena, sometimes have to answer whether or not they are black enough. I am talking about Kamala Harris. We will discuss on the other side of this break.
[23:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: So I'm back now with Adam Serwer, Scott Jennings, and April Ryan. By the way, Scott, you're a very good sport. That was funny as hell.
LEMON: I appreciate that. So April, listen, the only black woman in the 2020 campaign is filled in questions about race. I just want to play for you what Kamala Harris said to the Breakfast Club when she was asked about how people in social media are questioning if she is African-American.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Another meme says Kamala Harris is not African- American. Her parents were immigrant from India and Jamaica. She was raised in Canada, not the United States.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And it said fat. That's what the meme says.
HARRIS: I was born in Oakland -- (LAUGHTER)
HARRIS: -- and raised in the United States except for the years that I was in high school in Montreal, Canada. Look, this is the same thing they did to Barack.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
HARRIS: This is not new to us. And so I think that we know what they're trying to do. They're trying to do what has been happening over the last two years, which is powerful voices trying to sow hate and division among us. And so we need to recognize when we are being played.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: What do you make of her answer, April?
RYAN: Good for her. You know, there is a lot to unpack here. Number one, what does black enough mean? Can someone give me a definition of what black enough is? I don't want to go down the road of the stereotype when people say we are black. Number one, she is a black woman. She is a mixed race woman. When you see her, you see her blackness. She is also South Asian. Her mom is South Asian.
[23:50:00] And her dad is Jamaican.
LEMON: April, listen. More power to her. And I think it's great. That is -- that should be enough. It is enough that she is a black woman.
RYAN: We are not --
LEMON: No, no, no.
RYAN: They did the same thing --
LEMON: No, no, no. I think you're not hearing what people are saying.
RYAN: Go ahead.
LEMON: The people who are saying, is she black enough, that's bull. That's B.S. But to --
RYAN: I know what they're saying --
LEMON: -- want a distinction to say, is she African-American or is she black or she -- whatever. There's nothing wrong with that. There's a difference between being African-American and being black. Latino people are people of color, but they are not black. They are brown people, OK?
RYAN: She is a woman of color but she is a black woman.
LEMON: OK, that's fine. I agree with that. I agree with. But is she African-American? But is she African-American? That is the difference. There is nothing wrong with that. No one is trying to take anything away from here.
RYAN: Let's go down into lineage.
LEMON: I think you're falling into a trap with that. All she had to do was say, I am black, but I'm not African-American. That's it.
SERWER: Don, I think there's actually --
RYAN: I'm not falling into a trap. Let me finish. Hold on. I'm not falling into a trap. When she goes down her lineage, many Africans landed in Jamaica and all these other Caribbean islands. She could indeed be African-American mixed with other race.
LEMON: Jamaica is not America.
RYAN: But she is a black woman. She was born here in --
LEMON: Jamaica did not come out of Jim Crow. I am just saying.
RYAN: Let's go to Ted Cruz. Ted Cruz was born in Canada.
LEMON: I'm not talking about Ted Cruz.
RYAN: His father was Cuban.
LEMON: This is not about Ted Cruz. You've changed the subject.
RYAN: I know, but you know what, it was hypocrisy -- I am not changing the subject.
LEMON: Yes, you are changing the subject.
RYAN: She is a black woman. I don't know what --
LEMON: It has nothing to do with Ted Cruz.
SERWER: Can I just say something? I think there are two versions of this question. One is sort of based in racial stereotypes.
SERWER: You know, does this person act the way I think black people are supposed to act?
LEMON: That's not what I'm saying. That's not what I'm saying at all.
SERWER: I know. I understand that. I think there is another version of this question which is, you know, does Kamala Harris care about black people? And if black people give her their votes when she is in office, is she going to still care and still make sure to use her authority to make sure that black people get a fair shake in a country that has historically not given them one?
Now, you can talk about -- there are cultural distinctions between western (ph) immigrants and African-Americans, but the fact is that, you know, in America, those distinctions start to matter less because of white racism. Latinos come from many different countries, but the experience of being Latino in the United States is a kind of consolidator. I think --
LEMON: I agree with --
SERWER: Kamala Harris has -- she has actively worked to associate herself with African-American culture, particularly by going to Howard and in other ways. I think yes, it is not unfair to make the distinction between Jamaican and African-American, but I do think that question, is she black enough, is maybe not the right question for getting the information they were trying to get.
LEMON: But I think that people (INAUDIBLE) by saying that there is a distinction -- there is a difference between being Puerto Rican and being Mexican and being Costa Rican.
LEMON: All of them are from Latin America, and that is all fine, well and good. So what is wrong with asking someone who is off-color, black, are they African-American, are they Jamaican, whatever it is, but it is not saying --
RYAN: She is a black woman in America.
LEMON: We are saying that. No one is saying she is not black. We are asking if she is African-American. There is a distinction. There is nothing wrong with asking that question.
RYAN: All that stuff is out there.
LEMON: No, that's not what that is. You're getting the whole black enough thing.
RYAN: That's the kind of stuff the people --
LEMON: That's not. You're missing the point, April.
RYAN: That's where people are going.
LEMON: You're missing the point.
RYAN: Go ahead, Don.
LEMON: That's a whole different conversation. That's a whole different conversation. People are asking you if you are of an African-American, someone who came out of Jim Crow, out of American slavery. Are your descendants out of the --
RYAN: OK, there you go.
LEMON: That's all I'm saying. There is nothing wrong with saying yes, I am, or no, I'm not, but I'm still a black person.
RYAN: She feels the offense of being a black woman in America.
RYAN: She feels the effects of Jim Crow being a black person in America.
LEMON: I don't disagree with that. I don't disagree with that.
RYAN: All right.
LEMON: But there is nothing wrong -- remember, when people ask you if you're African-American or if you're other, if you're black, there's nothing wrong with distinguishing what your relationship to Africa and America is.
Just like there is nothing wrong for a person who is of Latino descent to say I am Puerto Rican, or someone to say I am from Costa Rica or I am from Cuba or I am Cuban. There is nothing wrong with making a distinction to say that you're a black person who comes out of the American tradition of being black or African-American. What is wrong with that?
[23:55:00] Absolutely nothing. All she has to do was say I am a black woman, my ancestors are not African-American, and then just move on. That's not a controversy. It should not be controversial at all. What do you have to say, Scott?
RYAN: There's a lot of other stuff lumped in it, though.
JENNINGS: You know what, actually, I don't agree with Kamala Harris's politics. However, I do think she is a shining example of the strength of this country, that our diversity is part of the backbone and our strength, and this nation allows people of all kinds of backgrounds and all kinds of diversities to rise up.
I was reminded in the commercial break of a quote from George H.W. Bush. "I take as my guide the hope of a saint: In crucial things, unity; in important things, diversity; in all things, generosity." The word "diversity" in that quote is what stood out to me.
So, to the extent, she is a reflection of the strength and diversity of this nation. I'm glad she's running. I think she's a good addition to the national discourse.
LEMON: I think we can all agree with that. There is nothing wrong with being African-American. I'm pointing that out. Thank you all. Thanks for watching.
Don't forget tomorrow night at 10:00, it's CNN's town hall with former Starbucks CEO and possible independent candidate for president, Howard Schultz. It's a live event with CNN's Poppy Harlow.
And a week from tonight, I'm going to be moderating our next presidential town hall with Senator Amy Klobuchar, live Monday, February 18, 10 p.m. Our coverage continues. Thanks for watching.