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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Schumer Warns Dems Against "Circular Firing Squads"; Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) is Interviewed About Her President Run and Her Attack on Biden's Record on Working Women; President Trump Holds Ohio Rally. Aired on 8-9p ET
Aired August 1, 2019 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[20:00:18] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.
Democratic presidential candidates Marianne Williamson and Kirsten Gillibrand join us tonight.
We begin, though, with growing concerns among Democrats and some Never Trump Republicans in the wake of the CNN debates in Detroit. The candidates they say are risking their general election chances by taking on one another and tarnishing Barack Obama's legacy instead of focusing on defeating President Trump. President Obama is after all, an ex-president with 95 among Democrats, according to Gallup, and 65 percent among independents.
Now, again, this is not us giving Democrats advice. This is Democrats and some Republicans giving Democrats advice, echoing President Obama who warned about this before the campaign even got going at a town hall in Berlin earlier this year.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: One of the things I do worry about sometimes among progressives in the United States, maybe it's true here as well, is a certain kind of rigidity where we say, ah, I'm sorry, this is how it's going to be. And then we start sometimes creating what's called a circular firing squad, where you start shooting at your allies because one of them is straying from purity on the issues.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, that sentiment is being echoed now.
Here's CNN political commentator and Democratic strategist Paul Begala earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: This is my problem with the debate is I believe many of these candidates seeking to win the nomination are setting themselves up to lose the presidency to Donald Trump.
(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: Paul Begala arguing that in the effort to win the primaries, Democratic candidates are moving so far left they won't be able to win in a general election.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer also weighed in, calling Democratic squabbling over health care policy, quote, a trap that we shouldn't fall into. No circular firing squads, he added.
Eric Holder, who served as attorney general under President Obama, tweeted this: To my fellow Democrats, be wary of attacking the Obama record. Build on it. Expand it. But there is little to be gained by you or the party by attacking successful and still popular Democratic president.
Now, other Democrats will say that hammering out policy differences are part and parcel of any primary in either party and there are real policy differences between Democrats. Differences that candidates want to make clear so they can distinguish themselves in what is a very crowded field. The question is, can Democrats figure out a way to pick a nominee without debasing the eventual nominee or harming the credibility of the still popular former standard bearer? That remains to be seen.
Some of the key moments from Detroit, especially on health care and immigration policies show how difficult that can be.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Vice President Biden, I didn't hear your response when the issue came up with all those deportations. You were vice president of the United States. I didn't hear whether you tried to stop them or not, using your power, your influence in the White House --
JULIAN CASTRO (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: First of all, Mr. Vice- President, it looks like one of us has learned the lessons of the past and one of us hasn't.
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have tried the solution of Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance, and what have the private insurance companies done? They've sucked billions of dollars out of our health care system.
DE BLASIO: I'm confused. I asked the vice president point blank, did he use his power to stop those deportations. He went right around the question --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, Joe Biden was quick to defend President Obama today, once again highlighting his connection to the former president and critiquing some of what he heard last night at the debate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The world has changed since Obama, and here's the deal. He changed the dialogue. He changed the whole question. He changed what was going on. And the idea that somehow it's comparable to what this guy is doing is absolutely bizarre.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, this guy he's referring to, of course, is President Trump.
When Democrat's bizarre circular firing squad is now there's a critical crucible from which the strongest Democratic candidate will emerge.
Joining us right now is Democratic presidential candidate, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.
Senator, thanks so much for being with us.
CNN has new reporting that President Obama is privately questioning the wisdom of the Democratic presidential candidates attacking his record. Probably doesn't surprise anybody that he would be concerned about that. But he does have this 95 percent approval rating among Democrats.
Is there a danger in going down this road?
SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, President Obama was a great president, and I think for a lot of us we're looking to figure out how to build on his accomplishments and build on his records.
So, what we're trying to do with Obamacare specifically is, how do we get to universal coverage that's affordable, and that's why a lot of people like Medicare for all. I like the buy-in. I think it's exciting. I think it's an opportunity.
But I think for all of us, the purpose of a presidential primary is to share with the American people your vision for the country.
[20:05:01] And I do think there's a false debate going on right now that you either need a progressive who inspires the base or you need a moderate who wins back those Obama/Obama-Trump voters.
I think you need both. And that's who I am. I am somebody who wins in the red and purple places. I just won back a bunch of the places Trump won in the last election, my election. And I also bring people together to get stuff done, big stuff and small stuff. So, I think we need someone who is going to bring the party back together and the country back together and really heal this divide that President Trump has created.
COOPER: But as you know, what Senator Warren or Senator Sanders will say, is that, are saying, small steps, that's not going to excite huge numbers of people. Senator Sanders constantly talks about not only needing a revolution, but needing huge turnout among young voters, African-American voters. That is what it's going to take. Not just to get the White House back, but also Congress.
GILLIBRAND: Anderson, the issue with health care is people can't afford it. It's still too expensive.
You know, I met a family that the husband was diagnosed with cancer and the price of the medicine that he had to take was $5,000 a month. They only had $60,000 in savings. Because they were on fixed income, the husband decided not to take the medicine because he didn't want to leave his wife penniless. Fair enough, he didn't take the medicine. He died.
Those are the real issues that families are debating all across America. And I think it's a great sign that Democrats are just trying to come up with a better way to get universal coverage that covers the basic treatments and medicines and procedures that people need that's affordable.
And the Republicans and Trump, they are determined to take away people's health care, telling insurers they can drop anybody with a preexisting condition.
COOPER: But critics of Medicare-for-All, among Democrats, will say the message you just said, that President Trump is trying to take away your health care, that's a message Democrats can run on.
COOPER: The message, we Democrats are going to take away your private insurance for something that we say is better down the road, that's suddenly a message of Democrats taking something away from people, no?
GILLIBRAND: Yes. You don't need to because the truth is if you offer Medicare as something people can buy into at a price they can afford, it's going to create competition.
And I don't think a lot of those private insurance companies are even going to try to compete. They don't lower their rates. They raise their rates. They're for-profit companies. They have obligations to shareholders and to quarterly profits and they pay their CEOs millions of dollars.
So, God bless them if they want to compete. I don't think they will. And that's how you ultimately get more people to choose Medicare. And once you get a good amount of buy-in, you're stuck to universal coverage. Single payer is very short.
Ultimately, you want to make it an earned benefit like you have with Social Security.
COOPER: Last night, you went after Vice President Biden's record, bringing up an op-ed from 1981 that he wrote. In it, you said that Biden said, women working outside the home would lead to the deterioration of family.
We read the op-ed. That's not what he wrote. It's an op-ed about high income families receiving tax credits for child care. Isn't it fair --
GILLIBRAND: Anderson, did you read it?
GILLIBRAND: It said literally that he would not vote for making it easier for middle class families to get access to affordable day care because it would, quote, lead to the deterioration of the family. He said that he felt parents were, quote, avoiding their responsibilities.
My grandmother, my grandmother worked outside the home. She had help because she wanted to provide for her kids. She wanted to have an impact in her community. She organized women for two generations to get involved in politics.
My mother, she was only one of three women in her law school class. She was able to get affordable day care and have child care when she was a young mother, so she could be a lawyer.
She helped young gay couples --
GILLIBRAND: -- be able to buy a home together, leave wills to each other. She had an impact on her community.
Myself, I had access to affordable day care for both my children. The second child Henry who was in the audience last night --
COOPER: But the question is, were you accurately portraying what the vice president --
GILLIBRAND: Yes, yes.
COOPER: -- because "The Washington Post", according to "The Washington Post," Biden said himself in 1981 to "The Indianapolis News" regarding the topic of child care, quote, I do not care whether in a modern marriage, you want the man or the woman to take away that responsibility --
GILLIBRAND: Anderson, give me a break. Anderson, give me a break.
COOPER: I'm just quoting here.
GILLIBRAND: Are you kidding me? In the 1980s, how many, if you had two working parents, how many of the men stayed at home while the women went to work? It was something like less than 4 percent.
[20:10:00] GILLIBRAND: Even today, do you know what the number is? It's less than 5 percent. So, the implication of what he was saying is that if women choose to
work out side the home, they are, quote, deteriorating the family. So my question, a legitimate question for someone who is running for president -- because not only do we need a standard bearer who is going to fight for women, we need a champion.
I will be that champion for women because I've been leading the charge on affordable day care, universal pre-K, having a national leave pay --
COOPER: What the president said to you in response essentially was you have worked with the vice president for many times. You traveled with him apparently, and --
COOPER: -- you never raised this. If this was such a burning concern of yours that his belief, why not bring it up to him at some point earlier than when you're running for president on a debate stage?
GILLIBRAND: Frankly, I'm as shocked as you are that he authored that op-ed. I was shocked to read it. I just read it like literally weeks ago.
COOPER: So, you don't think it really represents what he thinks?
GILLIBRAND: I don't know. That's why I gave him an opportunity to tell the American people and Democrats and women who are on fire in this election what he meant. And I very directly asked him what did you mean when you said, making it possible for more middle class families to work out side the home would lead to, quote, the deterioration of the family.
And I asked him, do you still believe that? And these are his words, his op-ed, citing what he said in context. That is exactly the kind of issues you should be able to debate when you're running for president of the United States.
And we need a champion in the White House and a champion as our nominee who will fight for women, who will fight for paid leave, affordable day care, and those are things I have been championing not only my whole career, but the first presidential candidate to put out a Family Bill of Rights to do exactly that.
COOPER: Yes. Senator Gillibrand, I appreciate your time. Thank you.
GILLIBRAND: Thanks, Anderson.
COOPER: A reminder, candidate Marianne Williamson joins us as well on the broadcast tonight. That's just ahead.
As well as a conversation about anyone on the debate stage the past two nights has what it takes to stand toe to toe with President Trump. Observations and insight from someone who did. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
[20:16:24] COOPER: Before the break, you heard Democratic presidential candidate defend her performance on the debate stage last night and addressing the notion that Democrats are doing what even some fellow Democrats say they do all too well, namely go after other Democrats.
And as we mentioned at the top, there is new reporting on President Obama's take on all this. CNN's Jeff Zeleny citing people close to him who discussed this with him. Although he is not bothered by the progressive shift among Democrats, he has expressed exasperation to some policy proposals and promises that he believes are unrealistic.
I want to talk about it now, "USA Today" columnist and CNN political analyst, Kirsten Powers, joins us. Democratic strategist Aisha Moodie-Mills, and CNN senior political analyst, David Gergen, who has seen more campaigning from the inside than any of us.
Kirsten, is this fair game in your mind for Democrats, or does it risk fracturing the party?
KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICLA ANALYST: Well, it's fair game. It's not out of bounds. I'm just not sure it's productive.
So, certainly, President Obama, when he was running for office, he was, you know -- and he was running against Hillary Clinton in the primary, he had no problem criticizing things that happened in the Clinton administration. And I think that it's fine to have some criticisms.
But I would do it in a different way. I would treat it -- I think the Democrats would be well served to say, we want to build on the successes that Obama had versus saying -- sort of treating it as though these successes didn't occur. And even the way they've portrayed his immigration policy, which I had a lot of criticism for at the time, you still have to recognize what he was dealing with, right? That he had a Republican Congress, for example, that he actually did do some good things such as the Dreamers Act.
So instead, you know, you have Bill de Blasio sort of painting this picture he was the deporter in chief and there was nothing else. But that's Joe Biden's job really to push back against that kind of stuff.
COOPER: Yes. Aisha, is it smart for particularly candidates on the left, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, they're trying to have a huge turnout, they're trying to get excitement going in parts of the country that weren't excited the last time around.
AISHA MOODIE-MILLS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yes, I mean, I think that's exactly the point, right? We're having the wrong conversation.
I think Mayor Pete said it best on the stage last night. He said we can't actually move forward and have progress if we keep recycling the old politicians and old politics of the past. I think that's a real fundamental conversation that we need to be having within the party. I don't think we should be desecrating president Obama's legacy at
all. Of course, it was some of the greatest years for the Democrats.
COOPER: Who has 95 percent approval rating among Democrats.
MOODIE-MILLS: Obama -- and the things he achieved, Obamacare, was great. That doesn't mean, though, that eight years later, six years later we shouldn't be growing and evolving. And I think that there is a part of the party and frankly who I consider to be the movable middle for the Democrats are really those young people, and those progressives who sometimes sit home and don't actually participate because they're not feeling moved and not excited.
COOPER: Wait, you're saying progressives -- you're saying young people -- you're saying young people and progressives are the middle of the party?
MOODIE-MILLS: I'm saying that when I say movable middle, I mean people we need to move to the polls. They're not the most reliable voters all the time because sometimes young people show up, sometimes they show up less, right?
I believe that we need to do is we need to focus on how do we get the base out in mass to beat Donald Trump, and I think that that's not about desecrating Obama, but it's absolutely about being aspirational. And there's nothing wrong with all those candidates on the stage saying, this was great. And here's where we actually need to go next.
COOPER: David Gergen, I've only been reporting on politics since the mid '90s. It seems every election cycle they talk about getting young people out to vote.
[20:20:01] And, you know, it does raise up some years are better than others. But is that what the Democrats should be focused on? Because you hear that a lot from Bernie Sanders about mobilizing young people.
GERGEN: Oh, absolutely. The millennial generation is the biggest generation in American history. And so far, it's moved mostly to the left. The Republicans are losing these people. If you can get the young people out to vote, along with the two other groups in the Democratic coalition, the Obama coalition, you get women out to vote, and you have people of color out to vote, of course, there's overlap in those groups, you win the election.
COOPER: Does talking about Obama the way he was talked about last night, does that hurt -- does that send a message to the Obama coalition?
GERGEN: Yes, I think it's a mistake. I think it's a serious mistake.
Listen, when Bill Clinton left office, he had a very substantial economic record. It was a positive record. But the Democrats that year, Gore and others, ran away from the Clinton record and economics. They abandoned that argument and they lost the White House.
And now here comes Obama. The Democrats have a chance to make a very powerful argument. They should not completely cede economic growth and give all the credit to Trump.
The argument could be, listen, when President Obama got -- inherited the White House from the Republicans, we were in a near catastrophe, we were near depression, one-third chance of having a depression. By the time Obama left, the economy was in the beginning of the longest growth period in American history. That's what Obama left us.
And now, we're facing -- if you want to go forward and have a diverse society, inclusive society, go for the kind of economic growth and build on what Obama had.
Yes, you can criticize, but the other thing -- one other lesson, when you criticize, criticize their record, criticize the ideas. Don't make it personal. And what was happening last night in the debate was too often you had a sense, it was getting very personal.
MOODIE-MILLS: Yes, I just want to say, I want to go back to something I believe that Democratic voters in the general are going to stay home because someone on the debate stage called into question whether Obama could have done something differently with immigration. I think that that's a false narrative and I think we should stop using Republican talking points.
I do believe, though, that Democrats can get more people out, that we can get out more people of color and more women just like when 2018, resist, and get more people animated, young people in particular, when you're talking about issues and ideas that are aspirational. And that's what the progressives are trying to do.
COOPER: When did Republican talking points become Democratic talking points? Because it seems like all of a sudden, overnight, this phrase -- it's become -- it's the Republican version of calling something fake news. I mean --
MOODIE-MILLS: I think it's because Elizabeth Warren was brilliant and she said it, right?
MOODIE-MILLS: But the truth is that time and time and time again, you do have Democrats who call themselves moderates. I don't even know what that means any more, but who really try to regurgitate what they think a mythical group of people who are somewhat in the middle want and believe. And I think that's a false choice.
POWERS: Can I say something about that?
COOPER: Go ahead, Kirsten.
POWERS: Yes. I mean, I think that -- look, let's put names to who is saying these kinds of things. Rahm Emanuel, you know, I don't think he's a mythical figure, right? I think he's somebody who actually knows a lot about politics. You can disagree with him and I am not necessarily aligned with him on a lot of things. But I don't think Rahm Emanuel or Nancy Pelosi, for example, are
regurgitating Republican talking points, nor are they afraid of anybody. I think that they are being pragmatic and there are people who have won races and looking at it and saying, look, the entire country isn't progressive.
So I think that there is good faith and that we should at least treat everybody's arguments as good faith even if you don't agree with it. You know, I think that -- you know, I'm not necessarily aligned with where Rahm Emanuel is, but I think he is acting in good faith.
COOPER: We have to leave it there. I appreciate you all. Thank you very much.
Up next, President Trump's rally in Ohio, the first since that ugly moment when the crowd chanted send her back. We'll get a live report on what the crowd is saying this time and what the president is saying.
[20:28:01] COOPER: President Trump is in Cincinnati, Ohio, tonight for a campaign rally. His last one turned especially ugly. After the president attacked Congresswoman Ilhan Omar by name, the crowd chanted "send her back". And for 13 seconds, the president took it all in and basked in it.
Tonight, a new venue.
CNN chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta is there. He joins us now.
So, Jim, earlier today the president said he didn't know if he could stop the crowd from chanting "send her back" in reference to the congresswoman. What's happened tonight?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, so far, that chant has not been heard in this crowd here in Cincinnati, Ohio. The president did say at one point that he could talk about certain members of Congress on the Democratic side, but he's not going to do that. He's not going to mention them by name because he said he doesn't want to cause any controversy.
But, Anderson, I think the interesting thing we saw almost at the very beginning of the speech from the president was when he came out and he celebrated essentially what happened over the last two nights during the Democratic debates. He said the Democrats spent more time attacking Barack Obama than they have Donald Trump. That was essentially a sign that the president felt that Democrats were doing his work on his behalf.
Now, I will say the president went on to attack some of the Democrats in the field. He went after Elizabeth Warren at one point, but he also attacked Joe Biden, Vice President Joe Biden, suggesting that the vice-president has lost a step mentally. He said at one point during the remarks at this rally that future President Biden could have his advisors around him and put any paper in front of him and that he would sign it. That's almost a direct quote. So the president going further than I've heard before and really attacking Joe Biden's mental acuity.
Anderson, the other thing we should point is that there was some ugliness that broke out in the crowd earlier this evening. You were asking whether or not the crowd was chanting "send her back", they didn't do that, but that hot button of immigration could certainly be felt as a protester what holding up a sign saying "immigrants built America". Trump supporters tried to rip that sign out of that protester's hands and a brief scuffle did break out here at this rally in Cincinnati -- Anderson.
COOPER: All right. Jim Acosta, thanks very much.
Joining me now former presidential candidate and former --
[20:30:00] Joining me now is former Republican president -- presidential candidate and former Ohio Governor, John Kasich. He's a CNN Senior Political Commentator. With us as well is former Democratic presidential candidate and former governor of Vermont, Howard Dean. Appreciate both of you being with us.
Governor Kasich, as someone who has stood toe-to-toe on a debate stage with President Trump, who from this group of Democrats do you see or do you see anyone who actually could stand toe-to-toe on a debate stage and take the President on? Because as you know, and all Republicans ran against him know, he presents a lot of unique challenges.
JOHN KASICH, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, Anderson, first of all, let's let this campaign kind of develop. You know, I felt that Joe Biden, because he's more of the centrist there, because I think the country's fundamentally either center right or center left, I think could be on the stage and could handle himself well.
But for anybody that ultimately will face him, you know, you don't want to take the bait. I mean, he's going to try to get you to go to his level. He's going to say things that are going to be outrageous toward you. He may name call. If you try to get into that and you try to get down at that level, you're making a very big mistake.
I think you have to constantly correct the record, because he'll try to distort your record. You have to constantly correct it. But then obviously have something positive to say about what you want to do. But if you go down in the rabbit hole, you're going to find that is a losing proposition.
And when you think about the Republicans that tried to do that, he smashed them. I never did that. I didn't think it was worth getting into the mud with him or lowering myself to those kinds of name calling, just don't do that.
So, but it will be tough because he'll be very basic and he will really paint you as something that you're not. You better be prepared to correct him. COOPER: Governor Dean, do you -- would you agree with that advice sort of -- just on a debate stage kind of advice?
HOWARD DEAN (D) FORMER VERMONT GOVERNOR: I agree with most of it and John's been there and I have fortunately not been facing President Trump. I think -- but I do think you have to smack him. I do think you have to smack him. I think the opening remark is putting him back in his place, humiliating him and then going to the positivity.
We're not going to win if all we do is talk about Trump, which is he's very good at doing. That's all he cares about. But we have to talk about our program, but I do think you can't ignore him. I think, you know, figuratively belt him in the chops and then move on.
You know, you can -- I agree with name calling, but you can talk to him about Russia. You can talk to him about his corrupt hotel dealings and all that stuff. Just hit them and then go on.
COOPER: Governor Dean, did you see anybody on the debate stage on either night who you think at this stage, again it's very early, could do that?
DEAN: It's very, very early. I thought the person initially who did it well at her announcement was Amy Klobuchar. I think now looking at more of what's going on, I agree with John that Biden is so experienced and I think he could. But, you know, I think should Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren get the nomination, I think they're more than capable of it.
You know, there are a fair number of people up there who could do that. I thought Bennet and the governor of -- Steve Bullock had a good night. But, you know, they don't have a lot of exposure so it's going to be less likely they'll get the nomination.
COOPER: Governor Kasich, I mean, you like many of the Democrats running now certainly have a long political resume. President Trump is not -- I mean, this is the most obvious statement in the world, your not your typical politician, but he has mastered a way to level personal attacks and stay away from really any policy details, like certainly nobody I've ever seen before.
Is that the biggest challenge ahead for anyone facing him? Because, I mean, you're arguing against somebody who isn't arguing with a set of facts that are agreed upon, and who is even not even really arguing policy that much.
KASICH: Well, just remember, Anderson, he said that he was going to balance the budget by eliminating waste, fraud and abuse and the deficit is going through the roof, but he's very effective at doing it.
Look, what he's able to do is to take pieces of something that people can relate to and then go from there. It's not like everything he says, you know, you're going to kind of agree with. There's pieces of it that you might agree with, but that's why you don't want to get hung up on that. And when he makes a statement that's false, I agree with Howard on this, of course, you have to correct him. You have to set the record straight. But my concern is if you go down there and you become negative, you've got two guys mud wrestling, and to me, you really almost -- you want to speak to the American people. And if you get too hung up on fighting Trump, you're not going to get your message to the folks out there and that's who you need to get your message to.
The other thing that I think is interesting is -- Howard, one of the things I want to say, because Howard was good at this really, you know, early on in his campaign. The debates in some ways will not be as critical as the ground game that people have.
[20:35:03] I mean, Hillary Clinton didn't win or lose because of debates. Barack Obama didn't win or lose because of debates, same with George Bush. They won because they had an excellent ground game. That's where these elections are won. They get won in the field, not necessarily standing on a debate stage.
COOPER: Governor Dean?
DEAN: That's really -- A, that is true. And B, what John said reminded me of a fantastic saying by Lyndon Johnson, which is if you get in a mud wrestling match with a pig, you both get dirty and the pig likes it. And every Democrat should remember that.
COOPER: Governor Dean, thank you. Governor Kasich, we'll end on that note. Thank you so much.
KASICH: Lyndon Johnson.
COOPER: A lot to think about on that one. She had quite a night on Tuesday. Marianne Williamson was the most searched candidate online after debate, Tuesday night. She's getting more attention, more scrutiny. We'll talk with her in a moment.
COOPER: After her debate performance here on CNN on Tuesday night, the self-help author and presidential candidate Marianne Williamson was the most searched person on Google in 49 out of 50 states. There's a lot more interest in her, also of course, that comes many more scrutiny of her positions and the push to make it into the next debate. Marianne Williamson joins me now. Thanks you so much for being with us. Appreciate it.
MARIANNE WILLIAMSON (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you so much for having me.
COOPER: You're definitely getting more scrutiny now and obviously that's just part of the process. And so I want to ask you about some of the statements that you've made about vaccinations and antidepressants, because that's been coming out.
[20:40:05] WILLIAMSON: OK. COOPER: You've often brought up very legitimate concerns about doctors overprescribing antidepressants and other drugs. You've brought up concerns about which are legitimate about aggressive marketing by big pharmaceutical companies and possible harmful side effects of antidepressant drugs. To me those all seem very legitimate concerns to raise. I've never heard you express the real concern for the stigma surrounding depression.
And I know there are some people who would say that you're actually contributing to that stigma by repeatedly saying that antidepressant drugs, you've used the word numb or mask you. That-- isn't it the fact here is that depression numbs you and masks you and that while some drugs have dangers (INAUDIBLE) and side effects, not all drugs numb you or mask you and telling a seriously depressed person if they take an antidepressant they're going to be numbed, isn't that not a good message?
WILLIAMSON: I think that would be a not good message and I've never given that message. That's just never the way I have spoken and it's a complete mischaracterization of my commentary.
What I have talked about is a normal spectrum of human despair, normal human despair, which traditionally was seen as the purview of spirituality and religion, that which gave people comfort and gave people hope and inspiration in their times of pain.
And with the advent of modern psychotherapy, a lot of the batons sort of passed from religion and spirituality to modern psychotherapy, which was an interesting transition. And then over the last few years, very, very quickly, the baton was passed again to psychopharmacology.
And so a nuance conversation was lost regarding the nature of human despair, regarding the real phenomenon of human despair. This is what I have spoken about. And I have spoken --
COOPER: But you have used the word numb many times and mask.
COOPER: You said, in fact, "Feds say 1 in 10 Americans on antidepressants. Not a good sign. This is not a time in American history for any of us to be numbing our pain." If you're on an antidepressant, you're not numbing your pain, you're actually trying to feel again, no?
WILLIAMSON: Well, some people would argue that and some people not. But the issue here for me is the difference between normal human despair. And if you are going through something like grief, for instance --
COOPER: Right, that's normal -- there's -- you write very eloquently about --
WILLIAMSON: And about that --
COOPER: -- normal universal sadness.
COOPER: But do you acknowledge -- you have raised questions, though, about clinical depression in the past. I know in our podcast with Russell Brand, I think you called clinical depression such a scam.
33And then you backtracked with "The New York Times" saying you regretted saying that, but you went on to say, "It's not always such a scam at all." It does seem like, again, you're suggesting that clinical depression is a scam.
WILLIAMSON: No. Do you want to let me like tell you what I think?
WILLIAMSON: Because I'll be glad to do that. What I believe is that when we go through these issues of normal human despair, when we go through a divorce, when we have a pain over a breakup, when someone that we love has died, when we have been through a financial loss or failure, there is value sometimes in feeling the sadness, feeling that dark night of the soul.
COOPER: I agree with you.
WILLIAMSON: We have over -- well, then let me explain how I feel about that in relationship to antidepressants, if I may. We have over the last few years taken this kind of cheap yellow smiley face, put it over all of human emotion, like happy, happy, happy. We have lost our sense that there are times when sadness is part of life.
There is one of my favorite lines from the poet Rilke (ph) where he says, let me not squander the hours of my pain. And so what I speak to is not serious -- what is today called clinical depression, although I have questioned sometimes how that is looked at. You know, Anderson, how many women --
COOPER: You said it was a scam.
WILLIAMSON: No. And I have said when I made that comment, oh, that's a scam too, in a podcast with Russell Brand, that was a glib comment. And you're right, Anderson, I have said that was wrong of me to say.
This is very important that we -- do you know how many women in America are prescribed their antidepressants by their gynecologists? Do you know how many people are prescribed to antidepressants after having talked to, even if it is a mental health professional by -- for 10 minutes?
COOPER: Right. But you also know that suicides among women have gone up dramatically. You know that suicides nationwide among men and women have gone up 30 percent over the last 10 or so years. I mean this is --
WILLIAMSON: Yes. And also what I know, Anderson, is that the use of antidepressants if you look at the statistics about the suicide rate and the use of antidepressants, there's no real argument there that necessarily the use of antidepressants statistically across the board has helped with the suicide.
COOPER: No, I agree. There's -- I mean, it's -- mental health is in its infancy in terms of doctors understanding how to deal with clinical chemical depression. But it does seem like there are many people helped by antidepressants and --
WILLIAMSON: And that's a good thing.
[20:45:00] COOPER: Right. But you --
WILLIAMSON: I have never --
COOPER: But you -- I mean you -- a few months after Robin Williams died by suicide, you posted -- I think I'm putting on the screen, implying that antidepressants were the cause of William's death. And you wrote, "The truth about antidepressants, helpful for some, harmful for others." And then you lean to this article that was clearly suggesting antidepressants played a role in his death.
Do you know who wrote that article? That was by an organization funded by the Church of Scientology, which doesn't even believe in psychiatry, doesn't believe in any psychiatric medicine, even for very serious mental illness. They even have a museum in Hollywood called Psychiatry: An Industry of Death.
WILLIAMSON: Anderson, if somebody is helped by an antidepressant, I'm happy for them. And I have never argued that anybody who is on an antidepressant should get off an antidepressant.
And not only that, I have always made it very clear, always made it very clear that if anything in my conversation makes people think twice about it, if, in fact they are on it, that the last thing they should ever do is throw it away, because getting off them must -- people must get off them -- if they get off them, very, very carefully. So this ides that I, like I'm some Tom Cruise about antidepressants, I'm not and I never have been.
COOPER: But if somebody is depressed and they are reading your tweets or reading your books, they're not hearing you speak in a nuance way, in a seminar --
WILLIAMSON: No. Have you read my book "Tears to Triumph" about this?
COOPER: Yes, I have. I mean, I enjoyed your writing. And, you know, I find it really fascinating.
WILLIAMSON: Thank you.
COOPER: But it does worry me that you seemed to be sending a message by raising such concerns about antidepressants in such a blanket way or clinical depression. It just doesn't seem like -- you're saying you're happy for somebody if it helps them. I don't hear you saying, I encourage you, everybody, to talk with a medical provider and see if this is just a regular sadness that's understandable or -- WILLIAMSON: Well, but I -- what I would say, I'm sorry. I believe that a medical professional -- talking to someone about their sadness, I believe that someone who is clergy, someone who is a psychotherapist who is not coming from a psychopharmacological perspective --
COOPER: I agree with you.
WILLIAMSON: -- someone who is a spiritual person is just as qualified an expert to talk about issues of deep sadness, even depression. It is only been in the last few years that this idea of the medicalization of depression has come up.
Why are we pretending what we all know is not true? We are living in a society now where somebody is going through just a normal breakup and somebody said, do you think you should be on something? Once, again, let's talk about how many times it's the -- gynecologist, this is not a mental health professional. And how many times people say that the doctor who gave it to them --
COOPER: But you're relying on the Church of Scientology for factual background to your argument and that's really not -- I mean, would you point that someone from the Church of Scientology to be head of your CDC if you were president?
WILLIAMSON: No, I would not. No, I would not. Also, I had my one glib comment that I have said I was sorry about. It was a podcast with Russell Brand where I talked about something being a scam and that was a mistake about that --
COOPER: Yes, but you also -- I mean, with due respect, when Kate Spade died, you tweeted out, how many public personalities have to hang themselves before the FDA does -- or excuse me, "How many public personalities on antidepressants have to hang themselves before the FDA does something, Big Pharma cops to what it know, and the average person stops falling for this? The tragedies keep compounding. The awakening should begin."
You do seem to be implying, A, that Kate Spade was on antidepressants, which we -- I don't think we have any knowledge of, and nor is it anybody's business. But you seem to be linking, again, famous people with antidepressants and suicide. And many people who are on under that antidepressants have had suicidal ideation long before they were taking antidepressants.
WILLIAMSON: And the FDA, there is a black box warning --
COOPER: Sure, yes.
WILLIAMSON: -- on antidepressants that for people 25 years old and younger the risk of suicidal ideation is increased rather than decreased. Do you know how many teenagers and young people --
COOPER: Right, but not for people over 24.
WILLIAMSON: -- excuse me. You know what Anderson -- COOPER: And, but not for people over 25. And, again, just putting out a blanket tweet when in the wake -- you know, on the day somebody has died, implying that they were on antidepressants and that's what caused their suicide, that just seems irresponsible.
WILLIAMSON: Well, Anderson, I could say the same thing to you given how many pharmaceutical companies advertised on your show. So, you know, when you say to me --
COOPER: I don't know. I've never seen the ads on my show, so I don't know what pharmaceutical companies.
WILLIAMSON: Well, you might want to look at it.
COOPER: But I got to be telling you, I'm not impacted.
WILLIAMSON: You might want to look at it. So when you say to me --
COOPER: I'm not impacted by who advertises on my show. I don't even know who advertises on my show. It's not any interest to me. I'm sure it is to people in this company, but I don't care.
What I care about is people who are dying and there's a stigma for people actually seeking medical help for something that could save their life and, you know, that can save my life. And I think it's important that, you know, when I read people saying, well, all these drugs cause suicide, I mean, that's just not true.
[20:50:00] WILLIAMSON: I don't say that. And, Anderson, I'm sorry, you said some --
WILLIAMSON: You have not -- on this program, I'm sorry, you said to me a few minutes ago, with all due respect, I felt very little respect here. I thought very little opportunity to say what I believe and I feel the person who's had some blank statements said about them on this program is me. I have simply never had the blanket conversation that you are now suggesting that I've had.
And when it comes to people who are suicidal, I have a 35-year career working with people in despair. I have had a 35-year career working with people in crisis. I've had a 35-year career working with people in pain. I have people whose psychiatrists send to me to have worked with them. I have been up close and personal with people in their pain and in their despair for decades. And the idea that I am glib about that conversation --
COOPER: No, I never said that you were glib.
WILLIAMSON: -- is a complete mischaracterization and misrepresentation of my career. And I'm sorry that you would choose to --
COOPER: I'm not casting aspersions on your career or saying you're glib in any way. You are deadly serious about this and you have very strong beliefs and I'm discussing it with you.
WILLIAMSON: But I am not saying --
COOPER: I just don't understand some of your public statements and you've addressed them.
WILLIAMSON: Then let me speak. Anderson, let me speak. This is not a conversation that we're having.
COOPER: Well, I think it is. I just -- I need to, you know, try to -- you say you didn't say stuff and then I read you quotes and -- I mean, this is a conversation.
WILLIAMSON: But you don't let me explain. When people are taking antidepressants who have had serious, serious pain and serious depression in their lives, and they are helped by them, I'm happy for them.
COOPER: OK. Yes, I agree with that.
WILLIAMSON: I am happy for them. When I meet young people, and I meet them all the time, once again, I'm the one here who has had a lot of experience with people in pain. When I meet --
COOPER: But I just don't think telling people that it's going to numb them is a good idea.
WILLIAMSON: Oh, well, that's your belief.
WILLIAMSON: I believe that to tell a person under the age -- may I speak? When I believe that a person under 25, and I meet them all the time --
COOPER: Well, you're not specifying this in your comments. You're saying one in 10 are on antidepressant is not a good sign, not a time in American history for us to be numbing our pain. Tell me if a person is depressed and he's 40 years old and thinking about suicide that it they're taking antidepressant that it's going to numb them, that's not --
WILLIAMSON: I'm not talking about people -- excuse me, I'm not -- may I please speak? I'm not talking about people who are suicidal. I'm talking about people who are depressed about the world today, given the fact that the world is depressing.
COOPER: OK. I'm talking about clinically depressed people or not depressed just because the world is depressing, they have a chemical imbalance.
WILLIAMSON: But, excuse me, where -- but you are the one making some blanket statements here that there is no particular scientific evidence to prove. You are talking about clinical depression as though there is a blood test.
COOPER: No, there's not.
WILLIAMSON: Now, you can talk about chemical imbalance but you can also talk about chemical changes that come about through yoga.
COOPER: I agree.
WILLIAMSON: Chemical balance that's come about through prayer.
COOPER: Right, I agree.
WILLIAMSON: Chemical changes that come about through sugar and that come about through nutrition.
COOPER: I'm with you on that.
WILLIAMSON: Given that what my conversation has been, particularly that I am very concerned about is teenagers and people in their early 20s, that underage, who are told, and I meet them all the time. And they go and they go and some young woman. You know, the 20s are hard. They're not a mental illness. Divorce is hard. It's not a mental illness. Losing someone that you love is hard. It's not a mental illness.
COOPER: We're on the same page --
WILLIAMSON: A bankruptcy is hard. It's not a mental illness.
COOPER: We're on the same page about over prescription of drugs and, you know, aggressive marketing campaigns by big pharmaceutical companies and that people, especially young people, should know dangerous side effects of some of these very powerful drugs. I think we're on the same page about that.
And, you know, I think you have expressed your opinion tonight. You know, some of the language you've used, it has raised concerns and I think it's fair that I ask those questions and I think you've addressed them very well. So --
WILLIAMSON: Well, I don't -- I think it would also be fair for me to have a little more opportunity to answer them. But perhaps at some point you'll --
COOPER: I would love that. I would like the conversation to continue.
WILLIAMSON: Thank you.
COOPER: And I don't mean to make you feel disrespected, because that's really honestly not my intention. Marianne Williamson, I appreciate it. We'll be right back.
WILLIAMSON: Thank you.
[20:57:26] COOPER: I spoke before the break with presidential candidate Marianne Williamson, I think for than 12 minutes or maybe its 14 minutes. We're joined now by Chris Cuomo. Hey, how you doing?
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: How you doing, Coop? Long time, no see. 12 minutes, that's nothing on this show. Listen, you had to do it. You had to do it. Because -- and look, you and I have lived this in ways that a lot of other people haven't, but we're very sensitive to mental health and challenges. Depression is not sadness. You know this.
CUOMO: In no way do I mean to --
COOPER: And she makes that point, too. I mean, that is her thing that --
COOPER: -- that people who are just sad are being pushed into getting drugs.
CUOMO: Yes. But there was some conflation with, you know, with no respect intended. There was conflation from Marianne Williamson about this. I've read two of her books. I think there's a lot of good stuff in there about how to turn pain into personal empowerment, but not all pain is fixable. Chemical imbalance is real. Depression is real. It is diagnosable. Sure, there is not a blood test. There is not a blood test for a lot of --
COOPER: There severity has (INAUDIBLE).
CUOMO: We have to be very careful, very careful to not mitigate the significance of this. You do a brilliant job. You do it in human way. You do it in the right way. I know she didn't like the questions.
CUOMO: That's too bad.
COOPER: But, also, you're running for president. She's on a different level than she's been before and she's doing, you know -- she's making an impact. It's fair to, you know, her comments are --
CUOMO: It's not fair. It's required. It's a must. The Church of Scientology can have no place in a discussion about clinical depression.
CUOMO: I wear on my wrist a bracelet. This is not a coincidence. I didn't do this for tonight. This is about the Columbia protocol to let people learn how they can help people who are in mental health distress. We need to do more, not less. Thank you for doing the interview.
COOPER: Chris, we'll come to you in about a minute for your show. We'll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)