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Both Ways With Obama; Democrats Test Biden's Strength; Winners and Losers of the Debate; Intelligence Chief Nominee's Qualifications Under Scrutiny. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired August 1, 2019 - 08:30   ET



[08:30:09] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: All right, many of the Democratic candidates took jabs at former Vice President Joe Biden last night. The result, well, criticisms of policies that were enacted under President Obama. Here's an example.


MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D-NYC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I asked the vice president point-blank, did he use his power to stop those deportations. He went right around the question.

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Mr. Vice President, you can't have it both ways. You invoke President Obama more than anybody in this campaign. You can't do it when it's convenient and then dodge it when it's not.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Your plan, by contrast, leaves out almost 10 million Americans. So I think that you should really think about what you're saying.

JULIAN CASTRO (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Mr. Vice President, it looks like one of us has learned the lessons of the past and one of us hasn't.


CAMEROTA: All right, joining us now we have Joe Lockhart, CNN political commentator and former Clinton White House press secretary, Karen Finney, CNN political commentator and former senior spokesperson for Hillary for America, Paul Begala, CNN political commentator and Democratic strategist, and Jennifer Psaki, CNN political commentator and former Obama White House communications director.

I guess I'll start with you, Jen.


CAMEROTA: Too much Obama talk? Was there too much Obama talk for you last night?

PSAKI: Was there too much? CAMEROTA: Yes.

PSAKI: Oh, I mean, there was too little I think.

CAMEROTA: But too much negative talk about the Obama policies?

PSAKI: You know, I think what they missed an opportunity to do is to build on Obama's legacy. I mean every election is about moving forward and I don't think we saw enough of that from any candidate who was on the debate stage either night last night or in the last two nights. But Barack Obama is at 95 percent approval rating among Democrats. And not just Democrats, independents love him, women in suburbs love him. He is still a beloved figure. And never mind his wife. We don't even have to talk about that. So that's a missed opportunity.

And, you know, I think if Barack Obama -- when -- when people did bring him up, they were criticizing him to your point. If that was the right strategy to make sure that Donald Trump wasn't in the White House, he would be leading the charge to say, attack me, get -- that's fine, attack me. I want one of you to be in the White House. It's not. And hopefully they will have learned the lesson that they can build on, they can give a forward looking vision, but they can also talk about the successes that they should move forward from. And, you know, I think that was a really missed opportunity the last two nights.

BERMAN: Paul, I have to say, you know, and we've been on TV for 14 hours -- a long time -- a long time this morning and we've talked to a lot of Democrats. And I get the sense there are some cranky Democratic debate watchers this morning.



BEGALA: Well, for the reason, first up, that Jen pointed out.

My party attacked the Democratic President Barack Obama's policies more than they attacked Donald Trump's. Like, what the hell people? You know, I can do the commercial for Obama. I thought Cory Booker did a great job just now in really defending and explaining why that legacy was great. But I don't feel like strategically, if I step back, after two days of this, do I feel it's more likely that we beat Donald Trump? No, I don't. No, I don't, because I think many of them are chasing -- almost all of them are chasing a fringe of the Democratic Party, not the center of the Democratic Party. And last night they seemed to be running away from a successful two-term president who all he did was save Detroit, save the auto industry, helped save the whole American economy, expand health care for more than --

PSAKI: Cover pre-existing conditions, which nobody talked about either.

BEGALA: More health care than anybody in 50 years.


BEGALA: Two outstanding women on the Supreme Court, the Paris climate accord. What the hell people?

CAMEROTA: Karen, what the hell?


CAMEROTA: What's the answer to that? What were they -- what were they doing?

FINNEY: Well, first of all, we're just trying to get on the stage in September. So let's -- if we take a step back, right, remember that these first two debates, a lot of this was about, I think, trying to get your punches in and show -- and I -- I know it makes Paul cranky. I'm just going to lay -- I just want to tell him how it is anyway.

But also, look, I mean, I loved President Obama, but the truth is, he has a mixed -- there is a mixed record. They did call him the deporter in chief. Whether or not you want to hear that on a debate stage or not. And you know that when it comes to a debate with Elizabeth Warren, we're going to hear that we didn't go far enough on the banks. So there's -- it's a -- if you're going to talk about Obama, which I actually thought -- I was proud of Joe Biden, he did talk about stimulus in Detroit and in Michigan and saving the auto industry, which I thought was smart. I mean he did try to sort of talk about the things that we were able to do under President Obama. I was proud that he took some credit where credit was due, obviously.

But it -- I agree with Paul, though. I -- let's talk about the future. I mean there were so many moments where I just felt like I just -- and I'll tell you the person I thought did the best, Michael Bennet, who Paul and I were just talking about, a former school chancellor in Colorado. When he went from, why are we talking about 50 years ago when schools are still segregated today and the direct line from slavery to red lining to what we see happening and what are we doing about it now when we've got this, you know, most racist in the -- in the White House? I thought that was probably the best answer and the best example of what I think we've all been talking about, which is, it's got to be about beating Donald Trump.

[08:35:07] BERMAN: And not unhelpful, that statement to Joe Biden perhaps.


BERMAN: And I agree with Paul, I think the two big questions this morning are, are Democrats in a better or worse positions to win this election? And the other big question for me, Joe Lockhart, is, again, because Joe Biden is a frontrunner right now, and pretty far ahead in all the polls --


BERMAN: Is he better or worse off than he was heading into these two debates?

LOCKHART: I think Biden is in a better place because when you're in -- when you're the frontrunner, when you have a lead the size of -- you need someone to change the dynamic of the race. And the dynamic of the race was not changed in the last two days. Where -- we are -- we are in roughly the same place. There's been -- there's going to be some movement underneath Biden. But it doesn't impact Biden, which means that's good news for Biden. So I -- while he didn't win the debate last night, he won the week because he comes out as a strong frontrunner.

I think, ironically, you know, all of these guys are going after Obama to tie Biden's (INAUDIBLE). They're going after really Biden. I think that helps Biden because, as Jen said, Obama's at 95 percent. And if you're sitting at home and you're cranky Paul Begala yelling at their TV --

BERMAN: It's not healthy.

LOCKHART: You're saying --

PSAKI: Get off my lawn.

LOCKHART: You're -- right. You're saying, hold on a second --

BEGALA: (INAUDIBLE) former president.

LOCKHART: I love Barack Obama and why is this candidate going after him and why is that candidate? So on the question is, and on the question of, are Democrats better off today than they were two days ago, I think they are because I think it's going to be a Biden-like candidate that can beat Trump that he -- that the moderates in the party came through this week, I think, stronger than, you know, what Paul calls the fringe of our party.

CAMEROTA: You know, Jen, there was a lot of question before last night's debate about whether or not Biden would have the stamina, whether or not he would be able to keep pace with the endurance that's needed. This is an athletic pursuit. I mean running for president, I don't know how they do it, OK --

PSAKI: Right.

CAMEROTA: The athleticism of it. It was actually harder than we anticipated for Biden. He was taking incoming for an hour and a half, two hours, whatever, from everywhere and he is where today?

PSAKI: I think for the Biden supporters who are kind of breathing into a paper bag for the week since the last debate, they feel pretty good. You know, he was good enough. And he had a solid opening. He really -- counter -- you know, counterpunched. It's an overused term, but he really deflected the attacks and did it in kind of like a happy warrior way and he didn't do it in a nasty way, I thought.

And the end of the -- he was clearly tired by the end. And it -- and I think if you're dissecting it, you know, it may have raised some questions about, does he have the stamina, to your point? You know, three hours into a debate. Now, I was watching it at a bar and I was tired (ph). So, you know, I kind of get it. But -- but, you know, there were moments where he flubbed a little bit, he slipped, he kind of lost his train of thought, he had the moment with the texting where he kind of missed the mark moment there, as we all saw. But that's not, you know, that's not fatal for his campaign. And, ultimately, as Joe said, I mean, he's still the only candidate beating Donald Trump in Ohio. I mean that's -- that's what they're going to go back to. And he's going to spend time in Iowa next week. So this is -- he is in a far better place now than he was a couple days ago in my view.

BEGALA: But he should have come back to that. You know, we've all done a lot of debate prep. And one of the things you do is I draw it on a piece of paper, this is your home base.


BEGALA: So every answer you find a way to get back to that home base. Joe Biden's home base should be the clearest, which is, that's why I'm the guy who can beat Trump. So you're asking me about immigration. Talk about immigration and say, and that's why I'm better on immigration than Trump, better on health care than Trump. He did not do a very good job of that last night, returning to his home base. It's hard with incoming from every side. And I think you're right, he came through it just fine, Jen. But I -- if I'm a Biden strategist, I still have to work on disciplining my candidate to bringing it back to a noun, a verb, and I can beat Trump.

FINNEY: And you tweeted that, by the way.

BEGALA: Yes, exactly.

BERMAN: Let me say one thing that's different about this week's debates than we saw a month ago, which is that a month ago there was the first night where Elizabeth Warren did well. Then there was the second night and then everyone forgot the first night because the Kamala Harris/Joe Biden moment was so electric.

I think this time around, Karen, you're still hearing about Elizabeth Warren. I think you continue to feel her presence and did on that stage throughout the second debate and even this morning. So what does that say?

FINNEY: I think that says that we're probably going to hear more from her. I mean she's going to have to figure out how she, and I suspect she'll probably try to engage Joe Biden at some point in the next -- over the next month or so on the economy. I mean that's, you know, where they have had disagreements before. It obviously says that she had a very strong performance on the first night that we're still talking about it.


FINNEY: It probably also says that she will -- has continued to probably pull people away from Bernie, because I expect we'll see her numbers going up. I expect we'll see her fundraising probably did quite well. So for her this was a great week, actually. I mean she came out. She

-- there were a couple of mentions of her on the -- on the second night, but she -- no incoming.

Now, that being said, she hasn't really been in the position in the last two debates to be on a stage and be attacked herself as a frontrunner.

[08:40:05] BERMAN: Not once. Not really.

LOCKHART: Interesting.

FINNEY: So that will be interesting to see. I guess we don't know how many people will be on the stage in September yet. That've still got a little time to qualify. But so that will be interesting. Can she -- what -- will she be able to take the incoming? I mean Kamala got some incoming too and she actually did it quite well.

CAMEROTA: Oh, for sure.


CAMEROTA: Guys, thank you very much. We really have appreciated your analysis being here in Detroit. It's been great to be with all of you.

BERMAN: We'll always have Detroit.

CAMEROTA: We will.

John thinks we're never leaving.



BEGALA: This city has been fantastic to us.

CAMEROTA: Yes, (INAUDIBLE). It has been wonderful. Absolutely.

BEGALA: Everybody should come to Detroit.


BEGALA: It's a great place. And we just had a ball here.


BEGALA: Thank you, Detroit.

CAMEROTA: All right, now we have a little bit of breaking news to tell you about because one person is dead after this massive explosion in Kentucky. So we'll bring you all of the breaking details as they come into our newsroom, next.


CAMEROTA: We do have some breaking news right now.

One person is dead and at least five others hurt after a gas explosion in Lincoln County, Kentucky. Authorities say the blast happened this morning when a regional pipeline ruptured. Flames shot up 300 feet in the air, as you can see on your screen. A local meteorologist says the fire was so huge, it could be seen on radar.

[08:45:08] BERMAN: First on CNN, another American citizen accused of being an ISIS fighter is being transported to the United States to face trial. U.S. officials familiar with the matter tells CNN he is a dual U.S.-Turkish national who is being held in Syria. The Justice Department has not responded to our requests for comment.

CAMEROTA: There are new questions this morning about the qualifications of President Trump's nominee, Congressman John Ratcliffe to be the next director of National Intelligence.

CNN's Alex Marquardt is live in Washington with more.

What's the latest?


We now have a nominee whose job it is to oversee 17 different intelligence agencies, including the CIA, who has repeatedly called for investigations into that very same intelligence community. Remember, John Ratcliffe is a three term congressman who most don't know and who has hardly any foreign policy or intelligence experience. So we here at CNN dug into what he has said behind closed doors, as well as on Fox News in his many appearances on that network, and his comments reveal someone who is a fierce defender of the presidents, extremely skeptical of the Mueller investigation, and of the intelligence community that he wants to lead. Take a listen.


REP. JOHN RATCLIFFE (R-TX): Think about that. A dossier funded by the Democrats, pedaled through the Obama intelligence community, falsely verified by the Obama Justice Department, then sold to the American people by those very same elected Democrats.

There's been so much focus on the FBI and the Department of Justice, Martha, but a lot of the questions that relate to the origins of this go to the CIA.


MARQUARDT: And all these past comments are coming to light as Ratcliffe is having to defend himself against accusations that he has padded his resume. Specifically one line of his bio on his congressional website which says that as a U.S. attorney in Texas, he put terrorists in prison.

Now, we've done a search of court records. We couldn't find any terrorism cases that he prosecuted. We then asked his office and they couldn't point us to any either. Instead saying that he opened, managed and supervised numerous domestic and international terrorism related cases. That is not the same thing.

So all of this is causing real worry on Capitol Hill, particularly among Democrats, that this is a highly partisan nominee for a job whose very essence is not political.


BERMAN: These will make for very, very serious confirmation hearings if we get to that point.

Alex Marquardt, thanks so much for being with us this morning.

So we're here in Detroit wrapping up days here for these very important, very revealing, very demanding Democratic debates. So what has changed this morning in the Democratic race? We get "The Bottom Line" from our political director, next.


[08:52:01] CAMEROTA: The debates in Detroit are officially over, though John Berman is reliving them as we speak. So, where does that leave Democrats? Who performed well enough to make the next round?

Let's get "The Bottom Line" with CNN political director David Chalian.

David, great to have you here.


CAMEROTA: So now that -- good work.

CHALIAN: Thanks.

CAMEROTA: I know you've been holding your breath until this moment. And now that the dust is settling, you know, there was some talk about how after debate -- after Detroit the deck would be reshuffled. Has it been?

CHALIAN: Well, it will be simply by the math, right, because the next round of debates, you know the threshold to get in goes up. And so I don't think -- I think we're done with the 20-candidate field. And I think it's probably a good thing, not just for us who cover it, but probably for the Democratic Party who, you know, the DNC is trying to move these thresholds to do some winnowing, but give everyone their fair shot to make their case.

I think it's very hard, 20 candidates across two nights, for voters to actually make an assessment of the people who may be the nominee.

BERMAN: Aside from the numbers game, what's different this morning than Monday?

CHALIAN: Well, let's be clear, what is different is, Joe Biden proved that he can stand on the stage and take a lot of incoming and survive the night.

BERMAN: It stings. It was clear it stung after a while, but --

CHALIAN: Without -- I was going to say, and also proved that, yes, he's a frontrunner in the polls but he has got such a long, hard slog ahead of him if he is going to emerge the nominee of his party. And I think both of those things were apparent on the stage last night. But he survived something he had to survive after Miami.

BERMAN: Can I see -- I don't know if you were up -- I can't remember when we had Andrew Yang on. It was in the 6:00 hour. Andrew Yang was here, who had a great night last night, but he pointed out -- political observer Andrew Yang pointed out laughing -- he was laughing. He goes, you know, after the first debate where everyone thought Biden did a terrible job, he bounced back right to where he was. What's going to happen now after a debate where largely people think he did just fine?

CHALIAN: Yes, well, I -- I don't know. I didn't think there was a ton of stuff that happened on the stage last night that will shift the polls a lot, but we'll see. We'll see what that is.

There's a long campaign ahead, right? And now I think what also happens is, these were the early skirmishes. Everybody sort of defined the battles that they're going to engage in with each other. But now the hard work of, you know, organizing in the early states, moving ahead, doing that fundraising in the fall to make sure you're funded all the way through, the mechanics of campaigning become very important now going forward.

CAMEROTA: We've had -- we've heard so many analysts this morning, many of whom have either been in the White House before or run campaigns before, and they felt that there was too much friendly fire. Do you think that it leaves any marks on the Democrats?

CHALIAN: You know, I -- it is not new for the Democratic Party to wring their hands of concern. I think we've seen this time and again.

I -- I think it's a little overdone, the hand-wringing. I think that these primary battles, they do get uncomfortable for the family members, right? I understand why a party gets concerned. But we are a year away from the conventions and turning to the general election. They need to sort this out and figure out the direction they're going in, the kind of candidate they think can inspire the country to try and defeat Donald Trump. That's what this is about. I would urge them to stop with the hand-wringing and let it play forward.

[08:55:11] BERMAN: And in terms of looking forward, there still is one super important thing we haven't seen, which is a Biden/Elizabeth Warren faceoff.

CHALIAN: I couldn't agree more. Listen, John, I think that's so important. We know there's a history there, but they are two heavy hitters in this race. They are the matchup we haven't seen yet. And that's why I think getting this down to one stage, for voters to be able to see all at one time, these are the most likely people, one of them, to emerge the nominee and let them make a decision there and let them draw their contrast. I think that will be -- I think it will help focus what is sometimes seen as an unruly process.

BERMAN: David Chalian, thank you for being with us. Thank you for all your work here.

CHALIAN: Sure. Thank you, guys.

BERMAN: Hope -- hope you get a chance to get some sleep.


BERMAN: So much more to discuss this morning. We're going to see some of those candidates as they go out through the day and campaign anew. The aftermath of the Democratic debate in Detroit continues right after this.