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2020 Presidential Campaign Analysis of Joe Biden, Donald Trump; Rockland County Bans Unvaccinated Minors in Public Following Measles Outbreak; Overnight Rocket Attack in Gaza Provokes Israeli Response; Betsy DeVos Cuts All Department of Education Special Olympics Funding. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired March 27, 2019 - 10:30   ET

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


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JOSEPH BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When Anita Hill came to testify, she faced a committee that didn't fully understand what the hell it was all about. To this day, I regret I couldn't come up with a way to get her the kind of hearing she deserved.

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JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: Careful words, notable words from the former vice president, Joe Biden, expressing regret over his handling of the Anita Hill hearing back in 1991. Notable because Biden says that his 2020 announcement will come, in his words, "in a little bit."

Joining me now, CNN's senior political writer an analyst Harry Enten, and former presidential advisor to Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Clinton, David Gergen.

David, let me begin with you. Because this is an issue that has been hanging over his head, particularly in light of more recent events, the Kavanaugh hearing, et cetera. When you play those sound bites of Joe Biden at the time, really dismissing Anita Hill's allegations of sexual assault by Clarence Thomas. Those look horrible today. He needed to say this, did he not?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Absolutely. And I think he feels genuine regret. I've talked to him about this before, and I think it goes deep within him. When he's out publicly now, he talks continually about empowering women, about protecting women from assault, protecting women so they're not dismissed in various kind of legal forums.

I think he's taken it to heart. But it's still a problem for him with some in the African-American community, and he's going to have to find a way in his campaign to build bridges into that community that are sturdier and stronger than what he has now. SCIUTTO: Harry Enten, Biden, he's been a little bit Hamlet-like on

this, waiting to give us a decision. But he does say the decision is coming. You speak to a lot of advisors, it does seem like it's in the offing here.

He ranks at the top of the field now, pretty strongly above Sanders and well above the other new entries. What do you expect to happen to those numbers when he enters? Do they (ph) go up?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SERNIOS POLITICAL WRITER AND ANALYST: I -- I think that's the big question, right? Does he get that sort of boost that Sanders got when he got in, or get that boost --

SCIUTTO: Or Harris.

ENTEN: -- or Harris got when she got in. And I think the big question for a lot of people like myself is, is his highest number going to be the day that he announces and all of a sudden, this deluge of attacks coming against him --

SCIUTTO: Yes.

ENTEN: -- on stuff like Anita Hill? Or is it the case that Democratic primary voters are willing to forgive him? I will point out his favorable numbers are quite strong. They are the highest in the field. And despite a lot of the negative press, perhaps, over the last month, his numbers have been holding steady.

SCIUTTO: David Gergen, of course Joe Biden has run before, not successfully. But he's running at a different time with a different Democratic Party. And beyond the Anita Hill comments, he went more broadly in terms of his comments about culture -- I want to play them -- talking about a white man's culture. Have a listen and then I want to get your reaction.

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BIDEN: "No man has a right to chastise his woman with a rod thicker than the circumference of his thumb." This is English jurisprudential culture. A white man's culture. That's got to change.

We all have an obligation to do nothing less than change the culture in this country.

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SCIUTTO: This is a message, clearly, directed at women voters, but also more broadly, young voters here. A necessary one from the former vice president?

GERGEN: I -- I -- listen, I think he needs to discuss this. This is out there for everybody to understand. The white majority in this country is rapidly disappearing. People under 30 in this country are majority minority. And by another 20 years, this whole country is going to be a majority minority. It is an important issue for us. It's one that's divisive. It's

under the -- it's under the radar screen and people talk about it in code. But I think it's important to have that conversation in this election period.

I don't think Joe Biden in that, calling this a "white man's culture" -- you know, he's got to be very careful not to offend whites either. It just -- you know, they deserve respect --

SCIUTTO: Yes.

GERGEN: -- as well. So I think he's going to have to be a bit more artful in the way he does it. I also feel, Jim, that he's debating (ph) this, I know. That he ought to declare -- he will be well-served by declaring for one term. He would seek for one -- he would seek one term and he would bring on a vice president he would help to groom as a potential candidate, four years down the road.

But I think he's got a real opportunity over the next four years, to help a lot of people advance in their careers, the Democratic Party, and build a really strong bench.

SCIUTTO: Yes. And that was an issue that came up, of course, with John McCain in 2008.

Harry Enten, big voting issue here. Likely there's no bigger issue, which is health care. And the president has just not grazed a political third rail here, he's embraced it, you might say --

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[10:35:06] ENTEN: Oh, I would say so. Oh my goodness.

SCIUTTO: -- by saying "wipe out," you know, Obamacare, which, despite what you hear in Washington, is popular in many red states among Republican voters. What are the political (ph) --

ENTEN: Yes, I don't really know what he's doing here, right? He gets off with the Mueller thing. I think that came out about as well as he could have hoped for. And then what does he do the next day? He says, "Oh, I want to get rid of the ACA," which actually polls quite well. It's favorable rating is well above its unfavorable rating.

And look at the course of the president's presidency, right? Look at the point at which he reached his lowest approval rating. It was right around the ACA debates back in the Senate, during the summer of 2017.

By embracing this repeal idea, I can just -- I just don't understand it. I'm like, I get it. You know, it may poll well with the Republican base but he's already doing well with the Republican base. He needs to reach out to the center of the electorate. And stuff like this just doesn't help his cause.

SCIUTTO: David Gergen, Senator Susan Collins, Republican of course -- just paraphrasing here -- she says that she is vehemently opposed to the administration seeking to invalidate the entire Affordable Care Act.

Here, you know, we often talk about the president's political radar. He's convinced that, you know, it's brilliant because he won in 2016 and, of course, he got a lot of things right.

But if you look at the midterm elections, his focus on immigration did not seem to work for him in a lot of those swing states. And health care certainly worked for Democrats in a lot of swing states. Did he just hand a weapon, a victory to Democrats as we approach 2020?

GERGEN: He certainly handed them a weapon. And you know, sometimes, Jim -- well, you and I are both seeing this. When a president gets a big victory, sometimes they have too large a sense of how it's transformed their power. That this is -- this is coming from a man, now, who thinks he has almost omnipotent power, having beaten back Mueller.

But the fact is, the polls. There have been two polls out in the last 24 hours. And they both have found that subsequent to Barr going public with this report and his letter, that subsequent to that, there's been virtually no change in Trump's approval ratings. It's down in the low 40s, high 30s.

And -- which means he did not get the leverage yet that he hoped for. And I think that makes this health care thing even more inexplicable.

SCIUTTO: Understood. No question. We're going to watch those polls, going forward. David Gergen, Harry Enten, great to have you both on.

Just a reminder, another candidate. CNN's town hall with Senator Corey Booker, tonight, hosted by my colleague Don Lemon. It'll be at 10:00 p.m. Eastern time, only here on CNN.

And a measles emergency in a New York country, prompting an extremely unusual step. Officials are banning unvaccinated minors -- children -- from all public places. We'll have more when we come back.

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[10:42:18] SCIUTTO: Starting today, unvaccinated minors, people under the age of 18, are banned from going to public places in all of Rockland County, New York. It's a big county just north of the city here.

Officials there are calling it an extremely unusual step, meant to finally put an end to the measles outbreak that began there back in October. Joining me now is Dr. Sanjay Gupta. He's CNN's chief medical correspondent.

So, Sanjay, this is a remarkable step to take --

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes.

SCIUTTO: -- but it's in response to a very real danger, as you see measles cases grow in a number of communities around the country. Was it a smart move? GUPTA: Yes. You know, look. I think that if you talk to public

health officials, they say this is a natural extension of basically trying to slow down and then stop a measles outbreak.

It's not without its controversy. And, you know, I've never heard of this sort of thing specifically, Jim, where you're basically saying, "If you are an unvaccinated person under the age of 18, you can't go to a public place," a placed defined as having 10 or more people. And that also means buses and things like that.

Difficult thing to enforce, as you might imagine. They're not going to be walking around and asking for people's vaccination records. But if someone subsequently gets measles, was found to have not been vaccinated, and in one of these public places, they could be fined. And that's really what's happening here.

TEXT: Vaccination rates for confirmed measles cases: 82.1 percent have had 0 MMRs; 4.0 percent have had 1 MMR; 4.0 percent have had 2 MMRs; 9.9 percent unknown status

GUPTA: They -- you know, take a look there. You know, we know that the measles vaccine is effective because the people who are getting measles are, for the most part, people who are not vaccinated. It's not 100 percent effective, but it's very effective.

The Rockland County executive that's sort of helping oversee this, he was describing the concern specifically. Take a listen.

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ED DAY, ROCKLAND COUNTY EXECUTIVE: Every new case is a roll of the dice that could bring on pneumonia, encephalitis -- a swelling of the brain -- or cause premature birth, which can even lead to (inaudible) complications and even death.

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GUPTA: Since October, there have been over 150 cases, Jim, 48 since the beginning of this year. And as you and I have talked about, this was a disease virtually eliminated back in 2000, so these are all needless cases.

SCIUTTO: Yes. No question. So you and I, we talk about this periodically. There are outbreaks in New York, California, Washington State. As you watch this, at what rate is it growing? What's the level of concern about how fast it is spreading?

GUPTA: Well, you know, in certain pockets, the growth, you know, continues. We talked a lot about Washington, what was happening in Washington along the border, there, with Oregon.

TEXT: Measles in the U.S., 2019: 314 cases as of March 21. Rockland County, NY: 153.

GUPTA: You know, you can take a look at the numbers, you can take a look at the states that are sort of most affected. And as you look at that, keep two things in mind. One is that we're talking about one of the most contagious infectious diseases we know. So for people who are not vaccinated, people who can't be vaccinated -- babies, people who have weakened immune systems -- they could be at real risk in these places.

[10:45:03] And again, I just keep repeating this point. That back in 2000, we had this eliminated. I mean, there's so many health care problems, Jim, that are big, that are difficult to solve. This one is one that we could have put in the "win" column. And here we are dealing with this again.

SCIUTTO: No question. I mean, asinine is a word I could think of. Dr. Gupta, thanks for staying on top of this story.

GUPTA: Yes. Thanks, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Just a reminder. Be sure to join Dr. Sanjay Gupta as he journeys across the world to find the secrets to living better. His all-new CNN original series, "CHASING LIFE," premieres Saturday, April 13th, at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. Only here on CNN.

Hopes for a ceasefire quickly dashed as fighting escalates between Israel and militants in Gaza. A live report coming up next from Jerusalem.

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[10:50:11] SCIUTTO: This morning, an end to a short period of calm as fighting intensifies now between Israel and militants in Gaza. Israeli fighter jets responded to an overnight rocket attack by hitting more Hamas targets in Gaza. Oren Liebermann has the latest from Jerusalem.

Where is this going, Oren?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's an excellent question right now, Jim, and a very, very difficult one to answer at this moment. There was renewed fighting overnight. But that broke a period of lull, essentially an uneasy calm that we'd seen hold for most of the day Tuesday.

Now, we're seeing that same uneasy calm holding for most of the day today. The last exchange of hostilities was early this morning. But we've been here before and we'll see if this ends and how quickly it ends.

The last period of calm was shattered by three rockets from Gaza into Israel, one at 8:00 p.m. local time, one at midnight, and one at 4:00 a.m. After the second of those rockets, Israel, as you pointed out, hit Hamas targets in Gaza, including a weapons manufacturing warehouse.

The question is, at what point does this proceed or at what point does this slow down and both sides back off? The assessment here is that neither Israel nor Hamas in (ph) Gaza want an all-out war. But it's a question of where does the -- where does the response come and who feels the need to respond at this point.

The last fire was a rocket from Gaza into Israel at 4:00 in the morning. Israel and the military here generally prefer to have the last say. They prefer to carry out the last strike, so there could very well be more action tonight. We shall see -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: OK. The politics here are involved. There's no question. You've got two weeks until elections there. You have a prime minister with a very hardline policy, under threat politically. How is this affecting that race? And what is the other side accusing the prime minister of here?

LIEBERMANN: Well, Netanyahu has come under a lot of attack from his critics for being too weak on Hamas. And if it appears that to the Israeli public that it's Hamas calling the shots here -- Hamas decides when the fighting starts and when it ends -- or that Hamas wasn't hit hard enough by the Israeli military, that could be very damaging to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who, let's not forget, also serves as the defense minister.

I would also say, Jim, that just important as the military exchange is, is how it's spun and how the narrative around it is controlled. And, Jim, there's no one better at controlling the narrative here than Netanyahu himself.

SCIUTTO: Oren Liebermann, on the ground. Thanks very much.

After a short break, backlash after the education secretary tried to save money by cutting federal funds for the Special Olympics. She says let donations take care of it.

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[10:56:56] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN, the most trusted name in news.

SCIUTTO: Even when Republicans controlled both houses of Congress, attempts by the Trump administration to slash the education budget went nowhere. Now, the administration is trying again. But Democrats, who of course control the House now, aren't having it.

Among the proposed cuts that a Democratic committee chair is calling both cruel and reckless? Complete elimination of federal support for the Special Olympics in schools. CNN's Lauren Fox is on Capitol Hill.

Is there a constituency for this?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, you know, this was a very heated exchange yesterday. And this is in a subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee. So, you know, Jim, this is just one of those areas where there is so much frustration with the administration.

And while this will never become part of the president's actual laws that he'll be able to sign -- it's just a preliminary budget -- it's set a lot of Democrats off. Here is the exchange between Mark Pocan and Betsy DeVos yesterday in the hearing. I want you to take a look at this.

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REP. MARK POCAN (D), WISCONSIN: The cuts to Special Olympics. Do you know how many kids are going to be affected by that cut, Madam Secretary?

BETSY DEVOS, SECRETARY OF EDUCATION: Mr. Pocan, let me just say again. We had -- we had to make some --

POCAN: OK.

DEVOS: -- difficult decisions with this budget --

POCAN: Again, this is a question of how many kids, not about the budget.

DEVOS: -- and -- I don't know the number of kids.

POCAN: OK. It's 272,000 kids.

DEVOS: I also (ph) know that I -- I think (ph) that (ph) --

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POCAN: That's all. Like, I'll answer it for you. That's OK. No problem. It's 272,000 kids --

DEVOS: Let me just say that I think Special Olympics --

POCAN: -- that are affected --

DEVOS: -- is an awesome organization, one that is well supported by the philanthropic sector.

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FOX: And that was not the only tough exchange yesterday. Rosa DeLauro, who's the chairwoman of that subcommittee, she told DeVos yesterday, quote, "I have to say -- and maybe it's offensive -- shame on you about some of these cuts." Not just those Special Olympics cuts, but other cuts as well that were proposed in this budget.

And I want to read you the Department of Education's statement, which said, quote, "The Special Olympics raises more than $100 million philanthropically every year. And while the secretary is personally supportive of their mission and work, the activities of Special Olympics are better supported with other state, local and private funds."

And again, Jim, this is never a budget that will be signed by the president, but it certainly shows what the administration's priorities actually are.

SCIUTTO: So chances of this -- and of course you have Democrats controlling one chamber of Congress -- the chances of this measure, or even the president's broader budget priorities, of getting through are zero to nil, right?

FOX: That's right. I mean, that is part of, you know, what these hearings are about, though. They are a statement of the priorities of the administration. These secretaries go up before these subcommittees, they go up before other committees and they have to defend their budgets.

We have seen this across Capitol Hill. Mnuchin went up before the Ways and Means Committee just a couple of weeks ago, to defend his budget. This is part of, you know, the discussion and negotiation up here on Capitol Hill. But nothing expected to become law -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Lauren Fox on the Hill. Thanks very much.

And thanks to you for joining me today. I'm Jim Sciutto in New York. "AT THIS HOUR WITH KATE BOLDUAN" starts.