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INSIDE POLITICS

Biden Makes Joke about Allegations; Pelosi on Medicare for All; Pelosi Redirects Party on Impeachment; March Jobs Report; Joe Biden Speaks in Washington. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired April 5, 2019 - 12:00   ET

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


[12:00:00] NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Before.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Yes.

HENDERSON: So I think this is what you can expect from Joe Biden.

HILL: All right, more to come. We'll see what else he has to say as this speech continues.

Nia-Malika, appreciate it, as always.

And thanks to all of you for joining us today. "INSIDE POLITICS" with John King starts right now.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Erica.

And welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thank you for sharing your day with us.

The economy roars back after a February slump, 196,000 new jobs in March and a decent jump in wages too. Good news for the American workers and for a president heading into re-election season.

Plus, Speaker Pelosi makes another big move to challenge her party's activist base. First it was back off on impeachment. Now Pelosi suggests fixing Obamacare is a much better strategy for Democrats than promising Medicare for all.

And Joe Biden back in the public eye after a week of controversy. A supportive union audience today part of a team Biden effort to prove he remains a 2020 force.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: Whoa. Thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Please -- thank you. This may go to my head.

When you retire, you deserve every damn penny you worked for, not a penny less. I mean it. I mean it. I'm tired of it.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: And we begin the hour right there with Joe Biden's attempt at a campaign reset, even though he isn't even an official 2020 candidate yet.

The former vice president, here in Washington today, speaking at a place he feels most welcome, a big union conference. Blue collar appeal, after all, is what Biden sees as his calling card, especially given President Trump's 2016 success across the industrial heartland.

But a week of controversy has Democrats wondering -- wondering more is probably the best way to say it -- about whether Biden is, yes, a good man, but perhaps a bad fit for the moment. Several reports this past week, quoting women, who say Biden has made them feel uncomfortable by touching them at events. He had a video out the other day saying he gets it and that he will be more respectful. Yet he thought this was funny after sharing an embrace with a union leader.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: I just want you to know, I had permission to hug Lani (ph). I mean -- I had permission. I -- I don't know, man.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: He did not otherwise address the controversy in his remarks to the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, focusing more on his argument against President Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: And how do you think we built a great middle class? I've been saying this for 45 years. Unions. Unions. That's a fact. Unions. Some politicians are afraid to use the word "union." Not me. Unions built this middle class!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: With me today to share their reporting and their insights, Eliana Johnson with "Politico," Tarini Parti with "BuzzFeed News," Jackie Kucinich with "The Daily Beast," and Rachael Bade with "The Washington Post."

You saw that right off the top. A video the other day saying, I get it. He embraced the union leader, makes what he considered to be a joking, and then after, I think we have it, the vice -- former vice president calling some children up on stage for hugs and handshakes, did it again.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: By the way, he gave me permission to touch him, all right.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: I get -- I've talked to a lot of people around the vice president. He doesn't think he's done anything wrong. He says he welcomes a character debate. But he says he gets it. He doesn't get it if he's not understanding that women think their space was violated, that they were disrespected. They're not going to find that funny.

JACKIE KUCINICH, "THE DAILY BEAST": You say the word "disrespect." So earlier in that speech he talked -- he was talking about how people treat blue collar workers, how they treat wait staff. He said, it matters how we treat people.

Exactly. It matters how these women feel. It matters if they feel like they were disrespected by the vice president, or the former vice president. That -- that's what matters here. And this -- what -- his jokes today run counter to that web video. And -- and there's no other way to see that.

KING: And there's the issue of respect and then there's another conversation Democrats often have about Joe Biden. Who can say, unlike anybody else in this campaign, I'm tested on the national stage. Unlike any other Democrat out here, I've been the vice president of the United States. I have the experience to go up against Trump. He can make that argument.

But then there's the argument, does he have to discipline? Does he have -- he had to know, walking onto that stage, the moment. And then he makes what he considers to be a joke, which I suspect a lot of other people, especially the women involved here, are going to find offensive.

ELIANA JOHNSON, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "POLITICO": Yes, John, I think you're getting at the fact that the -- the touching issue is far from Biden's only problem. He's run for president several times and hasn't been successful at it. Democrats generally don't run candidates who have run -- or don't nominate candidates who have run before. They haven't done that for a long time.

[12:05:00] It's very telling that Barack Obama is not backing his former vice president. Instead, his -- Obama and his former aides have been very warm towards Beto O'Rourke.

And, finally, the lack of discipline, I think. There's a time for jokes and there's a time for seriousness. And I think a year from now had Biden spent a year shaking people's hands and showing that he recognizes it's a new era where we don't hug everybody we meet or rub people's shoulders casually, I think you could make a joke about it. It would be -- it would be OK given that their -- I think there's a distinction between inappropriate shoulder rubbing and rape, which is some of what we've seen in the Me Too movement. Joking about it a year from now after modifying your behavior would be OK, but joking about it two days after you put out the video is -- seems a little too soon and political tone deaf.

TARINI PARTI, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "BUZZFEED NEWS": In terms of similarities with the president, I think, obviously, the lack of discipline is one thing we're seeing, but also the big question, whether or not Biden can go beyond his base. And that is, obviously, also a question we've seen come up with the president, can they go beyond the white sort of -- white male union worker voters that they're trying to court. And, you know, this type of joking might not get them there.

KING: On average, 60 percent of the voters in the Democratic primaries and caucuses, as we go state to state, on average, 60 percent of those voters will be women. In some states, it will be higher than that.

Biden's a beloved figure in the party, including among women. He leads among females now. If you look at -- if you look at the Democratic polling, he's the early front-runner.

The question is, to the point of, again, a campaign, has an early controversy. He's not even an official candidate yet. He put out this video the other day trying to convince everyone, I got it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: The social norms have begun to change. They're shifted. And the boundaries of protecting personal space have been reset. And I get it. I get it. I hear what they're saying. I understand it. And I'll be much more mindful. That's my responsibility. My responsibility. And I'll meet it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: And yet, in his first public event after that, again, he's in a friendly audience, he's with a union leader, then with the kids. He thinks nothing of it. But the point of that video was that, I'm going to get the other side. I'm going to understand the other side. He doesn't.

RACHAEL BADE, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Yes, no, if that video was one step forward for Biden in terms of making amends with women who he hurt or otherwise, you know, insulted or made them feel uncomfortable, then those jokes that he just made, very politically tone deaf, were three steps back. So he erased any, you know, good he might have done there.

You know, it's funny, the president, who has obviously launched onto this and grabbed a hold of this controversy to say, look -- and make fun of Joe Biden even when he has his own problems and controversies with women, he joked a couple of days ago at an NRCC dinner, a campaign dinner for Republicans, that the far left was doing this to try to hurt Joe Biden, that this was all being pushed by the far left. They were bringing up these controversies with women to hurt somebody that they -- they saw as a threat in the presidential campaign.

But this is a reminder that this is Joe Biden himself putting his foot in his mouth, just as he has before. I mean this has -- these comments, absolutely his own error on his own part, and not the far left. But he's got to figure out a way to get -- to move past this.

JOHNSON: Well, what we heard about Trump over and over again during the 2016 campaign and for the past two years is that people over the age of 70 generally don't change. And I think the same can be said of Biden. He's 76 years old. He is who he is and he's demonstrating that. It's very hard for those people to change in meaningful ways.

KING: And so one of the other thing we learned about Trump in 2016 is, a lot of the conversations that were a huge deal in Washington that people thought, that's it, he's done. You know, I'd prefer --

KUCINICH: Right.

KING: I prefer people who don't get captured, in the case of John McCain. The "Access Hollywood" tape. A lot of the things that were said he's done.

So, let's be careful and see. And, again, Joe Biden starts with a good reservoir of good will among Democrats out there. The question is, if one, two, and three for Democrats is, can we beat President Trump. Discipline, not just -- the specifics of this issue, does he get it? Does he get it, that times have changed and that he may be from another era and he needs to change? Then there's the bigger question of discipline.

Another thing that's interesting for Democrats is that you have President Trump, a dozen women have accused him of conduct far more egregious than anything that has been suggested about Joe Biden. He's on that "Access Hollywood" tape where, if true, what he's talking about on that tape would be felony sexual assault.

And yet -- and yet the president, no barriers, tweets a video yesterday mocking Joe Biden, in which you see Joe Biden delivering the message, I just get it, and behind the scenes -- it's a doctored video to show him being hugged. And you see it there. And then, this morning, the president of the United States asked, are you, sir, the best messenger for this?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think I'm a very good messenger. And people got a kick out of it.

He's going through a situation. Let's see what happens. But people have got to -- you've got to -- you've got to sort of smile a little bit.

I don't see Joe Biden as a threat. No. I don't see him as a threat. I think he's only a threat to himself.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Who gets a kick out of it?

KUCINICH: Well, I mean it -- I don't think it's any --

KING: It --

KUCINICH: Go ahead. KING: I just -- no, I -- it's -- people in the newsroom. When the

president first said it, you start to laugh because of how he does it, but then you think, what is this about? What is this about? And it's not funny. And people shouldn't get a kick out of it.

[12:10:06] KUCINICH: Well, I don't think anyone would disagree that the president kind of needs to sit this one out because he really doesn't have any high ground to come from. But he also doesn't really have any shame when it comes to this stuff. I mean look what he said about some of the women that accused him of all sorts of things.

That said, you know, if -- I've talked to Democrats this week that are worried that if you do have someone like Joe Biden on the top of your ticket and you have all these other candidates that don't have this problem, you don't take the issue off the table in the same way. And, yes, it is not the same thing. We've talked about that. It's not even close to what the president has been accused of. But, again, it's something. And it's something that doesn't necessary have to be on the table because you have all of these other candidates.

BADE: When it comes to women and any sort of assault they have experienced, or harassment --

KUCINICH: Yes.

BADE: The president has weaponized that and has made that incredibly political, not just with his own accusations against him, but, remember, he extended a hand to Roy Moore, who was accused of making unwanted advances on underage girls.

KING: He's nominated -- he says he's going to nominate Herman Cain for the Federal Reserve.

BADE: Yes.

KING: Someone who has another -- a lot of serious, credible allegations against him.

BADE: Right. Right. And also Brett Kavanaugh, during the Supreme Court fight, he was the first one there to say, you know, he was being harassed and he was -- he was suffering -- his family was suffering and basically empathizing with -- or empathizing with Kavanaugh. So, you know, what the president is doing, he latches on to an accusation if it's a Democratic opponent, and totally ignores it and turn a blind eye if it's a Republican ally or himself. And what that does, is that undercuts the movement and that undercuts Mt Too and women coming forward.

KING: One of the debates on team Biden was weather that video would be enough or whether he would have to do some interviews and some other conversations to try to deal with this. I think we now know the answer, that it will not be enough.

We'll continue to watch that.

The big focus on Joe Biden today. But, remember, other candidates actually in the race. A lot of them speaking today to the National Action Network Conference up in New York. Their focus, a man they'd like to beat.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have an administration that suggests we give a teacher a gun instead of giving them a raise. We know we're looking at injustice, not justice.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The birther movement, remember that? And how ugly was that?

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald Trump and the Republicans in Congress are doing everything within their power to normalize hatred, racism, and bigotry.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:16:34] KING: The speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, today again finds herself trying to steer her party away from the demands of its most vocal activists. Medicare for all is her topic this time. Her nudge to the liberal base came in an interview with "The Washington Post." And it's clear, just like her recent "don't' go there" message on impeachment, that Pelosi is worried about giving 2020 messaging gifts to President Trump and the Republicans. "They," meaning the president and Republicans, called Medicare for all socialism.

Well, here's Pelosi's take. Quote, I'm agnostic. Show me how you think you can get there. I think it's the Affordable Care Act. And if that leads to Medicare for all, that may be the path. You can't get to Medicare for all unless you have some of the resources of the Affordable Care Act.

Rachael Bade was part of that interview with the speaker.

Now, you can read that and just look at the words and it's more of an, oh, let's see. Or you can read that, as I read that, as, slow down, everybody. We're not doing -- we're not brining to the floor a big, sweeping, disruptive overhaul of the American health care system. That would be a gift to them. Let's just strengthen and fix Obamacare.

BADE: Yes, it's definitely the latter. And Pelosi has -- she's been doing some really interesting things in the House over the past few weeks in that she really is throwing up this caution sign to the entire party in the 2020 presidential field and saying, look, guys, you can't go too far to the left or that could potentially hurt us in taking out Trump, or upend their majority in 2020 in terms of keeping the House.

What she was saying about Medicare for all I thought was interesting because the word "agnostic" stands in stark contrast to, you know, the presidential candidates sort of tripping over themselves to try to say that they are the biggest proponent for Medicare for all. But she doesn't think that Medicare for all will actually help Americans in the same way that the Affordable Care Act.

And, remember, just a few weeks ago Pelosi sought -- brought in some big guns when she brought president -- former President Obama to talk to some of these new, high-profile freshmen who are supporting Medicare for all and his caution to them was, listen, you've got to look at the price tag. You've got to be honest with voters about how much this is going to cost. And you have to realize that even though you might have a liberal, bold idea, when you actually look at what it's going to cost to pay for something like that, you might not have support from the far left wing of the base.

KING: And so there's two ways to look at it. The policy perspective, if it's big and huge and disruptive, if you could do it -- number one, the Republicans still control the Senate, so Nancy Pelosi is kind of like Mitch McConnell in the Senate, don't make us vote on these things, Mr. President, because it's not going to happen anyway.

The other thing is, Nancy Pelosi lost her gavel and the Democrats lost the majority when they passed Obamacare. Ten years later, Obamacare is actually an asset for the Democrats if you look at the 2018 election results. Her point is, let's stick with what we just proved works.

JOHNSON: Yes, Nancy Pelosi lost over 60 House seats in 2010 over this issue. So she -- she has really sacrificed to get that legislation intact and to become a permanent feature of the health care system.

The other thing is, the Democrats can end -- Pelosi can already see how President Trump is using this issue in the early days of the campaign. He's saying the Democrats themselves think Obamacare is flawed. They want to replace it with Medicare for all, and that's socialist.

Meanwhile, the president has also stepped on it on health care and said, we're going to replace Obamacare, even though Republicans don't have a plan. So I hear Pelosi saying, let's keep the focus on Trump and the fact that he's calling to repeal Obamacare, even though Republicans can't themselves unite behind a plan without creating a distraction ourselves.

KING: And what she's also trying to say to the candidates and to her own members is, don't decide what do based on Twitter. Don't decide what to do based on how the activist base that is emailing you and calling you. Think about the entire country. Think about the big map. But look at the 2020 candidates. If you go to their websites, those who are all in on Medicare for all, Congresswoman Gabbard, Senator Gillibrand, Senator Harris, Senator Sanders, Senator Warren, Marianne Williamson, Andrew Yang. Supporting at least a version of Medicare for all, Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Castro, Inslee, O'Rourke. The three Democrats who say, no, no, it's too much, it's too liberal, or the country's not ready for it, Delaney, Hickenlooper and Senator Klobuchar.

[12:20:30] So you have seen this already playing out in the field. Pelosi's trying to put this train on a different track.

KUCINICH: She also knows who brought the majority back, and it's not at the liberal members, it's the members from these seats that are middle of the road. Trump -- seats Trump won in 2016. So -- and they're not going to go full on into Medicare for all. Actually, you heard them when this -- when these plans first started coming out and when you -- I think Kamala Harris was the first one to really make it explode into an issue, those members, those blue dog new Dem members were like, ah, I'm more ACA, let's slow down.

KING: And someone she's been, so far, she's been able to manage this. Rashida Tlaib still says I'm going to introduce my impeachment resolution. The speaker says, fine, it's not going to go anywhere. You can go on cable television and talk about if you want, you can introduce it, the committee's not going to act on it.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, listen to this exchange here. Here's the speaker on impeachment and one of her most prominent liberal members.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): They wanted me to impeach President Bush for the Iraq War. I didn't believe in it then. I don't believe it in now. It divides the country. Unless there's some conclusive evidence that takes us to that place.

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): I know a lot of members in the caucus have a different opinion, but that's why we caucus.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You have a different opinion?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: I -- I -- I happen to, yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We watched this play out when the Republicans were in charge and it was the Tea Party and the other conservative challenges to John Boehner and then to Paul Ryan. Is she managing in this better so far in the sense that she has many critics within the conference, but so far she seems to still be in charge. There are often questions about whether Boehner or Ryan were actually in charge.

PARTI: She does seem to have more control over her caucus than Paul Ryan ever did. But I think the problem for Pelosi here is that as the 2020 election cycle heats up for the Democratic primary there, it's a race to the left. As, you know, as you said, it's not really those far left seats that are going to be ever in trouble. It's the moderate candidates that she has to keep in mind. So just balancing what's going on, on a national stage, with what's happening on a district level, is something that's going to get harder and harder for her to imagine.

JOHNSON: The other thing that I think will be challenging for her is that whoever emerges as the Democratic nominee will inevitably become the party's chief messenger.

PARTI: Yes.

JOHNSON: And that could really drive the House Democratic caucus -- conference to the left.

KING: That might -- that might make it more interesting.

As we go to break, I just want to quickly -- John Delaney's a former congressman. He's running for president. I just want to show you this shirt. He says -- it's a t-shirt. This debate plays out on the front. It says, I'm not the socialist. On the back it says, I am the Democratic capitalist. So this is a -- this is an issue out on the campaign trail for the candidates well-known and not so well-known.

Up next, a good jobs report makes for a happy president, but does the president have a reason to worry about the economy as he heads into 2020?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:27:52] KING: To the economy now and a robust jobs report that proves last month's anemic numbers were just a seasonal blip. The Labor Department says the American economy added just shy of 200,000 jobs last month. And the national unemployment rate remains below 4 percent. Welcome news across the board and music to the ears of a president who will soon ask you for four more years.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The economic numbers just came out. They're very, very good. Our country's doing unbelievably well. A lot of companies will be announcing shortly they're moving back into the United States. They're all coming back. They want to be where the action is.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CNN's Christine Romans breaks down the new numbers.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: John, a strong month of job creation in March. In fact, bouncing back from what had been a pretty weak February. And February, that's now been revised, 33,000 net new jobs. We were worried about that. But then the bounce back in March, 196,000 net new jobs.

The unemployment rate is still at this generational low of 3.8 percent. And wages, 3.2 percent. That's -- that's in the right direction certainly.

When I look at sectors here, you can see business, information, office jobs that tend to have higher wages, those, again, 34,000 new jobs there. Health care, we've seen strong health care job performance for years now. But watch this manufacturing number, a decline of 6,000 jobs there. That could be troubling for a White House that's trying to fine-tune manufacturing policy in this country to really focus on job creation there. Watching construction and manufacturing jobs in the beginning of this year to see if they can continue to be robust.

But, again, this is a sign that corporate America is hiring despite whatever you hear about slowing global growth and concerns about GDP in this country at the end of last year, 2.2 percent. Companies are still hiring strongly.

John.

KING: Christine Romans, appreciate that.

(INAUDIBLE) -- oh, we have to go to Joe Biden speaking here in Washington.

Let's go live.

[12:29:43] JOE BIDEN, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: Uncomfortable in that regard. And -- and I hope it wasn't taken that way. But, you know, it was -- you know, I literally think it is incumbent upon me, and I think everybody else, to make sure that if you embrace someone, if you touch someone, it's with their consent.