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Washington Gov. & Presidential Candidate Jay Inslee (D) Discusses Debate, Climate Change & Auto Industry, Jobs, Medicare-for- All, Reparations. Immigration and Health Care; Advice from President Obama's Debate Coach; Reagan Made Racist Comment in Call to Then- President Nixon. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired July 31, 2019 - 14:30   ET


[14:30:00] JAY INSLEE, (D), WASHINGTON GOVERNOR & PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The reason is -- I'm glad to be here in Michigan. This is where my -- General Motors Volt was made with UAW union members. And we want those jobs to be right here in the United States.

So this technology is now appropriate. And don't tell me we can't do this this fast.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: So 10 years is your --

INSLEE: Ten years. Here's why. I'll give you an example. So in 1940, we made exactly 70 Jeeps in the entire United States. Then we had an existential threat of Fascism. By 1945, we had made 640,000 Jeeps. We are capable of providing Americans very, very clean cars. I think we need a requirement to do that. And when we've done that, the auto industry has responded.

BALDWIN: This super PAC Act Now on Climate supports your campaign. They'll be pushing out this TV ad attacking five of your opponents, arguing they have not made climate change a priority for them, being Biden, Harris, Warren, Buttigieg and Sanders. What is it you think that you get that they're missing?

INSLEE: Well, I think several things. Number one, I believe this has to be the first priority of the United States. The reason is, if it is not job one, it simply will not get done. We need a full mobilization of the United States to achieve a clean energy economy within the timeline set by science. To do that, we have to make it the number-one priority of the United States. I'm the only candidate who's saying that.

BALDWIN: Can I ask you, just jumping in. There are folks listening that really admire you, who are thinking that democracy in this country is being eroded by the man in the White House.


BALDWIN: While we all appreciate the globe, why should this really be priority number one?

INSLEE: It's priority one because our survival depends on it. Look, when your house is on fire, the first priority is the house on

fire. And our planet is on fire. Our nation is on fire. Our towns are burning down. Our fields are flooded. When I was in Miami -- we landed in Miami -- the Everglades were on fire. When your swamp is on fire, have you a problem.

So, look, we've done a lot of things I'd like to do as president. We have the first public health option in my state.


INSLEE: The first long-term care plan. The best teacher pay increase. The best gender pay equity. The best family medical leave. But we understand those things will be moot if we don't deal with this, that touches everything in our lives.

BALDWIN: You bring up health care. On Medicare-for-All, do you think the candidates who support Medicare-for-All, who say, I won't tax the middle class, are they being truthful?

INSLEE: Well, that's up to them. I'll let the voters decide. But I know what we've done.

BALDWIN: Do you think they're being truthful?

INSLEE: Listen, they're plans I haven't read in great detail.

But I'll tell you what we have done in the state of Washington. We've moved forward in the state of Washington. We adopted the first public option in United States history. That's important because it's a great step toward universal coverage.

We've also done something that we have not talked enough about, and that is long term care. We adopted the first long-term care plan for our seniors. We've had a huge wave of senior retirements. We have an epidemic of dementia coming our way.

So in two very important ways, we've had the most innovative way to keep drug prices down by dealing with the pharmaceutical industry. And we've moved forward on mental health. Those are all things that I think are unique, and a good template for the nation.

BALDWIN: What about on slavery reparations? This came up last night. Got a huge response from Marianne Williamson --


BALDWIN: -- who floated this notion of paying as much as $500 billion on slavery reparations. Would you support that?

INSLEE: I supported a bill that has that discussion take place. But I do not --

BALDWIN: At the dollar mark of $500 billion?

INSLEE: No, I didn't put any numbers or -- no, this is way premature to put numbers on any consideration. We need to have a consideration on this. But here's what I think --

BALDWIN: Do you think she was premature in saying $500 billion?

INSLEE: I'm not saying that. So, yes, anything that disagrees with me is premature. Let's put it that way.

BALDWIN: Got you.

INSLEE: But, listen, I think it's important. This environmental justice issue, the racial disparity we've had, we can deal with that at the same time we're fighting the climate crisis.

I was at one of the most polluted places in Michigan, zip code 48107, this morning. And this is a community. It's predominantly black community. It's next to a refinery. They're breathing this toxic material. Black Americans are breathing 50 percent more pollutants than other Americans. We have to attract -- we have to fight this racial disparity at the same time we're fighting the climate crisis.

I have a plan to do that, and I'm very proud of it, and I hope it will be implemented.

BALDWIN: How about, Governor Inslee, on immigration. We're watching Sanders and Warren last night saying they would legalize border crossings. And Sanders took it a step further saying, let's get health care to undocumented immigrants in this country. Do you think that goes too far?

INSLEE: Well, I think we need to have a border. And it needs to be a legal border. And we can use civil methods to make sure people are not illegally coming into the country.

I believe people have a right to health care who are in our nation, who are our neighbors, who are working. And we need comprehensive immigration reform so those folks can become citizens.


BALDWIN: But before becoming citizens, folks come over here legally --

INSLEE: We're providing --

BALDWIN: -- would you allow to provide them health care?

INSLEE: We're providing health care in our state in a variety of ways, in emergency rooms, in maternal care and for infants in that regard.


BALDWIN: But critics -- but critics would say, isn't that just encouraging more folks to come over illegally?

INSLEE: No. Not when they're citizens. You have to understand, the root of this problem is dysfunction in Washington, D.C. The root of this problem is not passing comprehensive immigration reform.

[14:35:07] When we do that and those people become citizens, there's no distinguishing factor between us and them. There is no other. We have to remove a man from the White House who continually talks about the other. When we do that, it's going to be a better country.

BALDWIN: I understand. But on the question, let me just ask it again. Does that go too far? Before someone even becomes a citizen, if someone crosses over, would you give them health care?

INSLEE: Well, listen

BALDWIN: As undocumented immigrants?

INSLEE: Today, that's the law of the United States. When a person comes into an emergency room, the laws of the United States, is they get treatment. If a person's having a heart attack, they don't wheel them out into the parking lot. That's the law today.


INSLEE: And I believe we now need a leader who will help unite us, rather than one who is a blatant racist, who, every time he turns around, tries to fan the flames of racism.

When we have a leader like that, and if we get rid of the filibuster -- this is an important point. I'm one of the unique candidates that says we have to take the filibuster away from Mitch McConnell so we can get major progress on immigration, on climate change, on health care. We need someone to say it's more important to save the planet than it is to preserve old, ancient rules of the U.S. Senate.

BALDWIN: Last question, Governor, and it is this. You said there's a lot of fine candidates on this stage, potentially vice presidents. If this is an Inslee ticket --

INSLEE: Right.

BALDWIN: -- who's your vice?

INSLEE: There's a lot of talent --

BALDWIN: Come on, Governor.

INSLEE: -- on the stage and not on the stage. The one thing I would say is, A, they're going to be a person ready to be president in five minutes notice, A. And, B --

BALDWIN: Like who?

INSLEE: There's a lot of people. I'm not going to go through the list.

BALDWIN: How about one?

INSLEE: But -- well, I'd pick Megan Rapinoe to be my secretary of state. So I can't nominate her for vice president.

BALDWIN: I support that.

INSLEE: But I believe diversity is important in our leadership.


INSLEE: My vice president is not going to look like me. We'll have diversity in the ticket. And I think that's important.

BALDWIN: Governor Inslee, good luck.

INSLEE: Thanks.

BALDWIN: We'll see you at 8:00.

INSLEE: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Thank you very much. I appreciate it.

INSLEE: Stay tuned.

BALDWIN: Coming up next on CNN, we'll talk to the man who coached President Barack Obama and Senator Cory Booker during the most important debates of their careers. What it takes to win both on style and substance.

We'll be right back.


[14:41:55] BALDWIN: We're back. Quick peak inside that historic Fox Theater. We spy Mayor Bill De Blasio getting walked around. He'll be shown his podium before this big debate.

So as we look at him, here in Detroit, we're expecting an intense showdown, specifically on racial issues and criminal justice between Democratic frontrunner, Joe Biden, who will be there center stage, and on either side of him, Senators Kamala Harris and Cory Booker.

What can tonight's Democratic hopefuls learn from last night's debate?

Mark Alexander is the former debate coach for President Obama and former adviser on Cory Booker's 2006 mayoral campaign.

So, Mark, thank you so much for being on with me.


BALDWIN: Before we look ahead to tonight, let's look back at last night. Who is the biggest winner on style and substance in your opinion?

ALEXANDER: I can't say there's only one winner. The American people got to see 10 candidates. Each had a chance to show off their own skills. There's a lot of one on one. They can compare people as debate and engage. Frankly, the viewers got to see a lot of what was going on. Each candidate had a chance to shine.

BALDWIN: Who's shown the most last night?

ALEXANDER: I've got to tell you, I don't think there's one person. I know it's very popular to say there's one winner.

BALDWIN: Really?

ALEXANDER: No, absolutely. I think each person had their moment. They showed their best stuff. I think you can get a sense for who they were.

BALDWIN: What was the most memorable moment?

ALEXANDER: The most?

BALDWIN: The most memorable moment for you?

ALEXANDER: I just think the cutting in, the back and forth was most memorable. I got to say, I think sometimes the one-liners are least impressive to me. I think it's how the candidates conduct themselves in the longer conversations and how they defend their positions. That, to me, is really impressive. Not any one line.

BALDWIN: How about tonight? You know, a lot of people will be looking at the center stage. The former vice president, flanked by folks on either side, he will certainly come prepared. He is the frontrunner. How would you advise him on style and substance?

ALEXANDER: I think that, for all of them, they need to be themselves. Being yourself is what carries you forward most impressively.

I think, certainly with Joe Biden, he has a track record. The reality is, he should own it. He was in the trenches for decades. He was Barack Obama's vice president. In the context of Obama being, in so many people's eyes, the only president they really know well, and still very popular among Democrats. I think he has to define himself for a great career and talk about the work he did to help President Obama.

BALDWIN: How about, she had a huge moment in Miami at the last debate, Senator Kamala Harris?

ALEXANDER: Yes, I think she did very well, obviously, in the first debate. I think she has a great ability, her background as a prosecutor and certainly now as a politician.

I think showing how she can be quick on her feet, be insightful, and show her own feelings, and also her own policy chops. I think she's going to continue to do that.

[14:45:03] BALDWIN: What about former Newark mayor, a man you know, Senator Cory Booker? This is the first time he's shared a stage with both former vice president and Senator Harris. What -- knowing him, what's his sweet spot and what's his challenge?

ALEXANDER: His sweet pot is he is genuine. He deeply cares about what he talks about. And the more he can speak about who he is and what he cares about, the stronger he will be. He is someone who does not need talking points or one-liners. When he is his genuine self, he is extraordinary compelling. And I think that's what he's got to do

The flip side of that, to your question, is, what he shouldn't do, is he shouldn't try to have a one-liner to try to impress the world. He is very bright, very talented. And I think can do a very good job being himself. He's trained for a very long time for this moment. And I think he just has to take the opportunity to show the world who he is.

BALDWIN: Finally, Mark, what about these lower-tier candidates? In order for them to survive, say, to September, they need a standout moment. Who will you be watching to really stand out?

ALEXANDER: I think the problem is for the candidates in the lower tier is it's going to be really hard to stand out. They may have a moment where they have a one-liner. But I think the problem for all of them is there is a field with very strong candidates at the top.

We're talking Harris and Biden and Booker tonight. We had Warren and Sanders. We have so many strong candidates who are well backed financially, Buttigieg, all these candidates.

I think there's not much room for one of the bottom half, so to speak, candidates to rise up. They may plan for a one-liner. In fact, they have to do that. They have to say, this is my essence in one line. But in reality, it will be hard for them to breakthrough into that top tier, no matter what they do.

BALDWIN: I hear your overall advice, be yourself.


BALDWIN: Mark Alexander, thank you very much. Good to have you on.

ALEXANDER: Thank you very much, Brooke. Thank you.

BALDWIN: Coming up next here on CNN, just released recordings of President Ronald Reagan making racist comments in a phone conversation with then-President Richard Nixon. What he had to say and why we're just now hearing it.


[14:51:48] BALDWIN: On the heels of President Trump using disparaging imagery to describe African nations, new tapes have been revealed by the National Archives that reveal similar language by the late Ronald Reagan.

Let me take you back to 1971. It was Reagan, by the way, who was the governor of California at the time. He was on the phone with then- President Richard Nixon.

During this conversation, Reagan referred to leaders of African nations as, quote, "monkeys," and then President Nixon gets in his own dig.

Here you go.


RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PREIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Last night I tell you, you watch that thing on television?


REAGAN: To see those African countries. They're still uncomfortable wearing shoes.


NIXON: And then the tail wags the dog there, doesn't it?


NIXON: The tail wags the dog.


BALDWIN: Tim Naftali is a CNN presidential historian and former director of the Nixon Presidential Library.

Tim, there's a lot to get through here. What's the back story? How did you get your hands on this tape?

TIM NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, the National Archives have been reviewing Nixon tapes since the 1980s. Richard Nixon sued the National Archives for control of his tapes. That lead to a court case. That led to a whole different review.

I became director of the Nixon Library in 2007. By that the point, the review had gotten to 1972. And by court order, we were supposed to go in chronological order.

The chronological review ended in 2013. National Archives then did -- I was no longer there. I had a sense of what was done.

The National Archives went to preservation work on the tapes. Digitized them. And then they started a review. They went back to the redactions, the withdrawn parts from the earliest tapes.

And I learned again, now, as a private researcher, that private researchers could request certain conversations. When I was at the National Archives, I heard there was a racist conversation between Ronald Reagan, which was a surprise, and Richard Nixon, which was not a surprise.

I didn't hear the conversation. It wasn't part of my job to go back and listen to it. But I made a point to find out if someone had requested it. No one had requested it.

And so I requested it. I didn't know exactly which one it would be. I requested the Ronald Reagan/Richard Nixon conversations last year, just after I heard that the National Archives was doing these reviews. And they released them this summer.

And they released them at a very interesting time. It's a coincidence, but given our national conversation about presidential racism, I think this conversation is really important for Americans to listen to. It raises uncomfortable questions.

BALDWIN: Among those uncomfortable questions, questions about this president's -- President Reagan's legacy.

I want to read this. This is from the Reagan Foundation. This is what they tweeted out today: "We can preserve the dream of America. We need all our people, men and women, young and old, individuals of every race to be happy, healthy and whole. And that is what our job is all about."

How do you think this will affect the legacy of Ronald Reagan?

[14:55:11] NAFTALI: I want to raise two points. It's very important that the Reagan Foundation endorses that view of this country.

What is troubling is, at some time, our political leaders privately do not believe their public rhetoric. I am not a Reagan specialist. I've written about him, largely on foreign policy. I leave it to the Reagan biographers to see whether this poison that we see in this conversation run throughout his career.

Why does it matter? I'm not interested in future Mount Rushmores. In other words, I'm looking to raise up certain leaders and bring others down. What I'm worried about is the poison of racism shaping American policy, shaping the way in which we deal with ourselves.

And given the concerns today about the not -- the racially tinged, some of it, but racist language, some of it, too, of our head of state, I think these are questions we have to ask.

Because in Nixon's time, he allowed his views of African-Americans to shape his policies at home and abroad. And that was bad for this country. And I worry that our current head of state is doing the same.

BALDWIN: We'll leave it, as you said, to the Reagan biographers. All those Americans, who have their own thoughts and admiration for this late president.

Tim Naftali, you have the tape. Thank you so much for coming on and sharing it.

NAFTALI: Thank you, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Ahead here, in Detroit, I will speak live with the candidate who got the most Google searches last night, Marianne Williamson. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)