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Trump Deflects From Possible Recession; Fox News Released Unfavorable Poll Numbers For President Trump; Time To Switch Gear For Gov. John Hickenlooper (D-CO); Don's Take: President Trump Spends Lots Of Days At His Resorts Playing Golf, But Tries To Downplay It; Observing The 400th Anniversary Of The Beginning Of American Slavery; El Paso Widower Invites The Public To His Wife's Funeral. Aired 11p- 12a ET
Aired August 15, 2019 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[23:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.
The Democratic 2020 presidential hopefuls ramping up their attacks on President Trump over the economy and his divisive rhetoric.
In a new poll from Fox News has some good news for the top candidates in hypothetical matchups with the president. We're going to look at that in a moment. That as President Trump holds a campaign rally tonight in New Hampshire.
And despite warning signs of a possible recession and stock market turmoil sparked by the trade war with China, Trump told his supporters that everything is fine and that they have no choice but to vote for him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We are doing very well with China despite the fact that they want to have you believe to the contrary.
TRUMP: The United States right now has the hottest economy anywhere in the world. But you have no choice but to vote for me because your 401Ks down the tubes. Everything is going to be down the tubes. So, whether you love me or hate me, you got to vote for me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: But could growing concerns about the economy change the dynamics of the 2020 race?
Let's discuss now. Keith Boykin is here, Tara Setmayer, and former Congressman Charlie Dent.
Good evening. Very smart and lovely guests this evening. Charlie, I'm going to start with you. You know, Trump has tied his
presidency to the economy. He loves boasting about the stock market, low unemployment numbers. Without a strong economy, what happens to his chances of re-election?
CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, Don, if the economy slows down or perhaps move into recession in 2020, that certainly is going to damage the president's re-election prospects even more than they already are.
I've always said the president has a high floor and a low ceiling. On his worst day he's at about 35 percent. On his best day he's about 45 percent approval. I think that whole -- that whole -- that moves down. He moves below 35 and 45 comes down.
So, you know, the floor gets lower and the ceiling gets lower. So that's the president's fundamental problem, and his own behavior with respect to the trade war is really rattling markets, and it creates an uncertainty and instability that is frightening many business leaders despite their support of his tax and regulatory policies.
LEMON: Yes. Tara, he has slammed Democrats. He slammed Democrats tonight, but this latest Fox News poll for -- it shows that Trump -- we'll put it up -- losing hypothetical 2020 matchups against Biden, Warren, Sanders, Harris. Biden beats him by 12 points.
Keep this. I can -- you should see Keith in here. He had to put on his glasses. What did you do? Show them what you did. He's like.
KEITH BOYKIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't wear them on TV.
LEMON: You want to see that, right? I got to see this poll.
TARA SETMAYER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I did the same thing when I was like, wait. He's in the 30s now --
LEMON: He's not --
SETMAYER: -- on a Fox poll?
LEMON: He doesn't even go to -- he doesn't even reach 40.
LEMON: What do you make of these numbers, Tara?
SETMAYER: Well, obviously I think this is fantastic news that Donald Trump is polling so weakly. And --
LEMON: It's still early, though.
SETMAYER: I know. It's very early of course. But the fact that it's a Fox poll it just makes it even that much more satisfying. So, I'm just waiting for the countdown probably tomorrow morning where Trump is going to complain about fake Fox polls and what happened to Fox News, you know, because all the polls are fake if they don't support him.
But this is something else that was interesting. I read some of the cross tabs of that poll, and it also showed that Trump's support among non-college educated white women dramatically dropped. He's only plus two for him now, and a plus four with Biden, which is a dramatic decrease.
In 2016, he won that cohort by plus 20. So that shows a softening, and I'm curious -- I'd be curious to see what it is. Is it the racist language? Is it the turmoil that's going on? Are people just exhausted with the chaos every day because that's, you know, the stronghold of his support is non-college educated white folks, and 53 percent of those women voted for him last time around.
So, when you start losing women, he's got a problem, especially suburban women.
LEMON: Yes. Listen, we have a long way to go, you know, but I wonder, Keith, if this could be -- if Trump fatigue could be setting in. I watched a little bit of the rally tonight, and it seemed kind of stale, like it was just -- you know, he was going through the motions. The energy, the normal energy, wasn't there. It's like it's the same old thing. Do you think Trump fatigue is setting in?
[23:05:01] BOYKIN: Well, for a lot of us, it started four years ago, so I don't know what's taken everybody else so long to catch up to it. But I guess his core supporters don't care. We've never had this before because typically for presidents, I go back to the Clinton administration. I worked in campaigns before that time.
But typically, presidents try not to be on television every day because they don't want to be overexposed, and the public gets tired of seeing them. This guy likes to be on television every day. He likes to throw up shiny new objects to distract your attention every day so you don't focus on whatever scandal you were focused on the day before because you get so confused in all the chaos. But he thrives on the chaos.
And I don't think that his fans actually care about that. I mean he's a reality show president. They're tuning in each day for the next episode. So, yes, those of us who are serious about politics, who are serious about the direction of our country are fatigued. But his supporters are not, and I think that's troubling.
LEMON: Yes. Tara, let's talk about some of the 2020 candidates. One of them, Beto O'Rourke, is returning to the campaign trail with an impassioned speech, a new focus on Americans. And he says they're most harmed by the president's policies and rhetoric. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FMR. REP. BETO O'ROURKE (D-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When we allow this country to be defined along lines of race and ethnicity and religion, when we allow a commander-in-chief to not only welcome that, but the violence that follows, to defy our laws, our institutions, and any ethical or moral boundaries, the end of that road is the end of this idea of America.
I'm confident that if at this moment, we do not wake up to this threat, then we as a country will die in our sleep.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So, Tara, he has been trailing in the polls. You think this new focus is going to regenerate his campaign?
SETMAYER: I mean very little. I think it's going to be negligible. I applaud Beto for his message. I think he's 100 percent right. But it's more now about a crusade for him than it is about a presidential campaign.
He's not going to win the Democratic nomination with that message alone. He's not going to win -- that's not a message that's going to beat Trump nationally. The American people are looking for someone that can bring some normalcy and restore decency, that understands how the hell to run the government. That's what they want.
And I feel as though -- and I've said this -- that Joe Biden, that's why he is leading in the polls. People feel comfortable with him. He was the vice president. He knows what he's doing. He's a decent guy, and they feel comfortable with him.
I appreciate Beto's message, but I just don't -- it's a vanity candidacy at this point right now, and it's only going to go so far for him. But he's right about it, but I just think it's more of a crusade than a campaign.
LEMON: Charlie, let's talk a little bit more about that because, you know, he clearly found an emotional touch point with the shooting. I mean, that's where he's from. You know, he's making it a case that taking on President Trump's racist rhetoric is a winning strategy. But will that work, you think, in the primaries?
DENT: Well, many of the other candidates are presenting similar messages to Beto O'Rourke about the president's behavior. I think they're all pretty much aligned on that issue. So, I'm not sure he's going to distinguish himself.
And remember, too, Beto O'Rourke was able to run such an impressive campaign for the Senate in Texas because of who he was running against. He was running against Ted Cruz, and let's be honest. He was perhaps the most detested member of the Senate, and a lot of people just didn't like him. So Beto could contrast himself. I'm just being honest.
DENT: I mean, he --
SETMAYER: No, you're right, Charlie. That's why I'm laughing.
DENT: It's true.
DENT: And so Beto, you know, he could contrast. Yes, he's got that RFK look about him, and you know, he contrasted well, but he's now running against a lot of other Democrats who are impressive in their own rights. And I just think that Beto's campaign, as you said, Tara, is struggling. It's floundering a bit, and he just needs to figure out a way to break through.
So now he's kind of running this aspirational campaign. You called it a vanity campaign, and I think there's a certain truth to that. But at the end of the day, he's got a long way to go to get into the top tier because I think right now, he's down around 1 percent.
LEMON: Yes. You know, Keith, the former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper is going to end his bid for president. He's considering a run for Senate. Beto O'Rourke said he is taking the fight to Trump. No Senate run for him. You think that's a mistake?
BOYKIN: Well, I think a lot of Democrats would like to see him run for Senate against John Cornyn. They'd rather have him do that than run for president and the campaign that he has a little chance of winning at this point.
I mean, he has the right to run his campaign, but at some point if he realizes the poll numbers aren't moving, if he realizes that the campaign dollars aren't coming in, he's got to democracy a decision, and there are plenty of other people out there who can make the case against Donald Trump.
I think Joe Biden has maintained his entire campaign about making the case against Donald Trump. It's not like Beto O'Rourke has some unusual language or words that's going to convince the world that Donald Trump is a bad president. The Democratic Party already knows that, and the majority of the country already knows that.
[23:10:01] So I think Beto O'Rourke would be well suited, well served to reconsider the Senate campaign again, and I think he'd get a lot of support from the Democratic Party for doing so.
LEMON: You know, Tara, Jonathan Martin of "The New York Times" is out with an article titled many Democrats love Elizabeth Warren, they also worry about her. And here's what he says. He says a lot of Dem -- a lot of Democrats think that she's -- she may be too far left. They worry the country won't vote for a woman. Valid concerns? Just plain sexist? I guess it can be both.
SETMAYER: It could be both. I mean I don't know. I mean -- well, whether the country will vote for a woman or not, I'm still up in the air about. I think it depends on which woman. Clearly, they weren't trying to vote for Hillary Clinton.
Elizabeth Warren is interesting. She's surging right now in the polls. She -- and I think it's because -- but it's at the expense of Bernie Sanders, right? She puts a bit more of a palatable presentation on kind of the progressive agenda that I think people respond to her a little bit more.
She's got a fresher voice than Bernie Sanders. But I just don't know that some of her ideas being as grandiose as they are and how you're going to pay for all of that is something that the country wants.
I mean in that Fox poll, another thing that you saw was people -- they were asked, do you want to build on the Obama legacy or go in a new direction? And it was split 50-50 almost. It was like 48-47. But Joe Biden pretty much owns the lane of let's keep --
SETMAYER: -- you know, we want to build on the Obama legacy. He kind of owns that because people don't really want so much change now. They don't want that because of what we've dealt with this fiasco with Trump.
LEMON: I want to --
SETMAYER: So, I wonder with her electability in the mid -- you know, in the middle country, in the middle states that they need, I don't know that those folks want what she's selling.
LEMON: All right. Keith, I see you want to get in on this in the short time we have left. Let's put up one of the Fox polls she talked about. Elizabeth Warren firmly in second place. We haven't seen her debate Joe Biden yet. A strong performance by Warren, do you think that could erase fears as Tara was talking about, about electability?
BOYKIN: Well, I think she has a good case. She's run I think one of the best campaigns of the candidates out there. She started from the bottom down. She's on --
LEMON: As you're talking about -- can we put that poll back up because I want to look at it? But go on. Sorry, Keith.
BOYKIN: She started from the bottom. She started early and people kind of dismissed her because of all the attacks that Donald Trump was making against her. She's actually been very steady and making movement.
But, you know, here's the thing. I don't buy this electability argument about Elizabeth Warren. Hillary Clinton ran for president. She got three million more votes than Donald Trump did. She's a white woman just like Elizabeth Warren, and Elizabeth Warren doesn't have all the 20 or 30 years of baggage that Hillary Clinton does, so that gives her an advantage.
Plus, Elizabeth Warren also has the capacity to build on what Hillary Clinton did and get the progressive voters who didn't turn out in 2016. Remember, Hillary only lost by 77,000 votes because of three states, 10,000 votes -- 10,700 votes in Michigan, 22,000 votes in Wisconsin, 44,000 votes in Pennsylvania. I think a progressive candidate like Elizabeth Warren could easily
make up those 77,000 votes in those three states. That's all you need to win the electoral college.
SETMAYER: She's too far left -- too far left for those states. All Trump has got to do is paint her as a socialist.
SETMAYER: And that's going to be the end of it.
BOYKIN: Trump is going to paint any candidate who runs, including Joe Biden, as a socialist.
SETMAYER: Yes, but her policies are actually --
BOYKIN: She says very clearly, she is not a socialist.
LEMON: -- Pennsylvania and on this. Charlie, what do you think?
SETMAYER: Go, yes.
DENT: The biggest gift - the biggest gift to Donald Trump I think would be an Elizabeth Warren candidate -- candidacy.
DENT: Let's face it. I don't think the American public wants to replace a nativist, you know, I'll say maybe right-wing populist presidency in Donald Trump with an angry economic populist presidency in Elizabeth Warren. This would open up the center of the country.
Remember, in 2016, we had the largest number of people who did not vote for either of the two major party candidates. That would happen again. And, hey, say hello to Howard Schultz. He jumps in. The center right to center left constituency is going to be wide open because both parties will have failed to address that constituency, which I think is very substantial.
LEMON: All right.
BOYKIN: I disagree. Just leave it at that. I know we're out of time.
LEMON: I think we got it. Thank you all, I appreciate it.
SETMAYER: Stay tuned.
LEMON: Thank you. See you next time.
The president who claims to be a master of art of the deal doesn't seem to be having a lot of success lately. Whatever happened to the deal maker in chief? We'll discuss next.
[23:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK) LEMON: Throughout President Trump's first term, the economy has been his shield. But lately there are warning signs that a recession may be on the way, and the president's trade war with China could be to blame.
But you wouldn't know that if you looked at his Twitter feed since June. He has blamed the Federal Reserve and the chairman -- and Chairman Jerome Powell 14 times. And today he tried to blame another favorite target of his. You guessed it -- the media. But why hasn't the deal maker in chief been able to win his own trade war?
Let's discuss now. Michael D'Antonio is here. He's the author of "The Truth About Trump." David Cay Johnston is here as well. The author of "It's Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration is Doing to America."
Gentlemen, good evening to both of you.
MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Hi, Don.
LEMON: And here we go. Michael, I'm going to start with you. President Trump spoke with the trade negotiations with China at his rally in New Hampshire tonight. I want you to watch and then we'll discuss.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: By the way, I never said China was going to be easy. But it's not tough, and they want to make a deal. We just spoke to them yesterday. They want to make a deal. They want to make a deal. They have to make a deal. And you know what? It will be wonderful to make a deal. I don't think we're ready to make a deal.
We're taking in billions of dollars in tariffs. And, again, China is devaluing their currency. They're pouring out money. The prices haven't gone up, so that means we're taking in billions of dollars. We're not paying for it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: I should note that most of what the president said there was inaccurate, but how is the deal maker going with the deal maker in chief?
[23:20:05] D'ANTONIO: Boy, not very well because if you look at American exports to China, they're down 31 percent.
LEMON: And he blinked on the tariffs, but go on.
D'ANTONIO: He blinked on that, but our farmers are hurting. So, you can't take 31 percent of their exports out of the equation and expect them to support you forever.
You know, these were part of his base, these farmers, and now they're paying the price. Then you look at China's exports to the U.S. they're down slightly, but about 5 percent of what our exports are down. So, it's a bad deal. But he's not a deal maker. He's a bully. So, he's
a person who, when he has the upper hand, tries to crush you. He explained this to me directly. He said I don't believe in win/win. I believe in I win. And that doesn't work when other people have power.
LEMON: I mentioned, you know, he blinked on the China deal, but he's promised a great deal with China, a trade deal with China. He's threatened them. He's flattered them. He upped the ante with tariffs. And just this week now he backed off on the tariff threat. Why should China give him any concessions at this point?
D'ANTONIO: They shouldn't, and they're not stupid. I mean, they have studied him far more closely than I'm sure the president has studied anything in his life. That's the other part of this is I don't think he takes in information. I think it's a surprise to him when things don't work out, especially if he's been advised to do otherwise.
And I'm sure there are people in the administration who went to him and said, look, we can't have sky-high prices during the holidays. So, he backed off on the tariffs. I don't know if he'll reimpose them. I guess it all depends on his whim.
LEMON: David, let's bring you in now because CNN has been told by U.S. officials that trade negotiations are one of the reasons why the president has failed to publicly defend the democracy protesters in Hong Kong. Is he looking to trade silence for a good trade deal, you think?
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: You know, that's one I don't know, Don. I mean, we do know that he doesn't care about liberty, and he doesn't know what to do.
A competent president would know to get on the phone to President Xi and then get on the phone to other world leaders and make it clear that there will be a heavy price to be paid -- not war, but something seriously heavy if there's a massacre in Hong Kong.
And Trump doesn't know how to do that. And as Michael was pointing out about trade, you know, he doesn't understand anything about it. He doesn't understand that 80 percent of Chinese exports do not go to the United States and that when you devalue the yuan, they're going to get more exports as a result of that.
And being an autocratic society, a communistic dictatorship, they don't have to respond to voters like Donald Trump does. They can wait him out, and they clearly have thought this through very carefully and know exactly what they're doing. And Donald Trump has already lost his trade war.
LEMON: And does he -- OK. So, you said he doesn't know anything about trade, but isn't that why you hire people around you, good people who know about these things? Is it not just listen to everyone? Is it true that he thinks he knows better than even the generals, even the economists?
JOHNSTON: Right. Well, first of all, he's relied on Peter Navarro, whose views are just way out in space about trade. And, no, Donald doesn't take advice. Michael can tell you about this as well. Donald just does not take advice. His style in negotiations historically has been both the bully that Michael described, and then he was well known that he would pay people for information.
And when he would discover that you're about to close a deal with him but you have some other looming deadline elsewhere, a balloon payment or an obligation to be fulfilled, he would threaten to walk away at the last moment so that you would cave and give him what he wanted. Well, that works once. That's why he always has to move on to another mark. It doesn't work when you have to keep going back to the same well as with, say, President Xi and China.
LEMON: Yes. I'm going to move on to another -- that is a very good assessment there. Michael, listen, a good dealmaker would know who he is dealing with, right? And today the president did talk about Hong Kong, gave China's leader some advice. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I would be willing to bet that if he sat down with the protesters, a group of representative protesters, I'll bet he'd work it out in 15 minutes. I bet he'd work it out very quickly. I know it's not the kind of thing he does, but I think it wouldn't be a bad idea.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Does this president understand the history of the Chinese government? Or is he out of his depth here?
D'ANTONIO: He is completely out of his depth. Protesters in Hong Kong don't want to sit down with the Chinese. This is the issue.
LEMON: Isn't that the whole point?
D'ANTONIO: That is the whole point. And what America should be doing is standing behind them. They are the people pursuing --
LEMON: Right on. You're about that.
D'ANTONIO: -- as David said, liberty. They're pursuing their freedoms and their rights. This is what America should stand for. But we have a president who doesn't necessarily respect the rights of American citizens.
[23:25:01] We've seen this mess with Israel where he's meddling in the affairs of two members of Congress who have every right to travel abroad. So, this is a man who is not concerned about humanity. He's concerned about Donald Trump.
LEMON: I was just going to say about him and how he looks.
D'ANTONIO: Right. One human being me. Right. LEMON: When people are concerned with short term gain, he's not seeing the bigger picture in all of this, how it makes him look. Go ahead, David. Go ahead.
JOHNSTON: Don, one of the things you haven't seen Donald Trump do is sit down with any of his critics. I don't see him meeting with protesters around the country. I mean, what strange advice for Donald to give.
LEMON: Yes. Well, he thinks -- well, look, I stopped them from going, you know. He thinks it's a reflection of how good or big a guy he is when, really, the bigger picture, in the longer run, it would be better for him to be diplomatic and to allow them to go in because that's what America is about and that's what the office represents.
D'ANTONIO: And he put Netanyahu in the position of being his lap dog.
D'ANTONIO: So, he practically has his hand up him and is making him talk. It's pathetic.
D'ANTONIO: But this is what Trump does to everybody.
LEMON: Yes. David, it's always a pleasure. Michael --
JOHNSTON: And other authoritarian --
LEMON: Go ahead. Go ahead, David.
JOHNSTON: Other authoritarian regimes, Don, are going to look at what happened here with Netanyahu and Trump and say, why should we let critical Americans come in? Why should we let people or critics of our regime come in? This is long-term very bad that will extend beyond Donald Trump's term.
LEMON: Yes. Gentlemen, thank you. David, it's always a pleasure. Michael, you know. Kidding. We love you. Thank you, guys.
President Trump getting a different kind of tax break at his golf resort in Bedminster. How eight goats and a hay farm are giving him a write-off to the tunes of tens of thousands of dollars.
[23:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Despite holding a campaign rally in New Hampshire tonight, President Trump is on vacation this week at his golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey. However, he bristles at the word "vacation," so he's calling this week a working vacation. But let's not be fooled by the president's wordplay. He gets plenty of downtime at his properties, especially at his golf resorts. President trump has been in office 937 days, and he has spent 30 percent of those days at his properties, including more than 200 days at one of his golf clubs. Being president is a tough job. President Reagan spent a lot of time at his ranch in California, George W. Bush at his ranch in Texas, and the Clintons and the Obamas went to Martha's Vineyard.
So if President Trump enjoys a round of golf, he should play. Even Senator Lindsey Graham, the president's frequent golfing partner, joked about it today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): How many of you are glad that Donald Trump plays golf?
GRAHAM: Me, too. That's three or four hours where he can't tweet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: And yet Donald Trump, before he was president, really railed against President Barack Obama for relaxing on the golf course.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He played more golf last year than Tiger Woods.
Obama ought to get off the golf course and get down there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: And when Trump was running for president in 2016, he frequently said this to his supporters.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I'm not going to be playing much golf, believe me. If I win this, I'm not going to be playing much golf.
I'm going to be working for you. I'm not going to have time to go play golf.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Well, the numbers don't lie. And Like I said, he has spent more than 200 days of his presidency at one of his golf clubs, although we don't always know that he is playing golf. We can assume. But the White House typically won't confirm that the president hit the links, and they keep reporters away from him when he is at one of his clubs. But there's no two ways about it. He constantly criticized President Barack Obama for playing golf, yet he plays all the time, including with golfer John Daly at Bedminster on Monday. Those are nice shorts, by the way. Check that up. Look at that outfit.
Although, you know, when he is spending time on the grounds at Bedminster, maybe he is tending to his goats or baling hay. That's right. It's not mentioned often, but President Trump keeps eight goats on Bedminster property and a hay farm as well. But don't actually expect to see him in overalls. The commander-in-chief is not the goat herd in chief. Donald Trump is a businessman. And the goats and the hays, strictly business there, they're tax write-offs.
Their presence on the luxury property helps lower the resort's tax bill. Trump saves tens of thousands of dollars a year by farming goats and hay in Bedminster. That's according to an analysis of his Bedminster township property taxes by The Huffington Post. The Wall Street Journal has reported in the past that Trump is taking advantage of a New Jersey farmland law designed to prevent overdevelopment in the state.
But let's be clear here. Trump's Bedminster golf resort is located in wealthy horse country, hardly a part of the garden state that's under threat of overdevelopment. Yet it's all part of the same pattern that "The New York Times" exposed about Trump last fall. The Trump Organization has a history of lowering the value of its property as a way to lower the taxes it owes.
The Times also reported the Trump family has spent decades coming up with ways to dodge taxes in order to build their wealth. So, in case of Bedminster and the goats and the hay farm, the general public is basically subsidizing President Trump and his golf club members to play golf at a luxury resort.
[23:35:00] We'll be right back.
LEMON: This month marks a terrible milestone in American history. It was 400 years ago in August 1619 that the first African slaves were brought to America. Over the next 2-1/2 centuries, upwards of four million people were enslaved.
As Casey Gerald points out in New York magazine, the New York magazine article, "The black art of escape 400 years have passed. Where do we go from here?" He also is the author of "There Will Be No Miracles Here." Casey Gerald joins me now. I'm so happy to have you on.
CASEY GERALD, AUTHOR: I'm thrilled to be here.
LEMON: I am a huge fan.
[23:40:00] Listen, I was reading your piece in The New Yorker and kept saying, "I wish I could write like that. I wish I could write like that."
GERALD: You can.
LEMON: You're very talented. Congratulations. I'm very proud to be here with you and happy as well. Four hundred years since the first slave ships reached the colony of Virginia. How would you sum up the state of black America from then till now, right now?
GERALD: Well, we're still here, and I think that's what matters most. And that's why the question I ask is, where do we go from here? I wrote this piece to black people, one, to mark the anniversary of this event that not all of us want to remember but we must remember.
Two, to say thank you to all of the people that came after those first 20-some-odd negroes who arrived in Virginia, who paid such an enormous price for us to be here, for two free black men to be on national television on -- what's this, a Thursday night.
GERALD: Guitar tells Milkman dead. Wanna fly, you got to give up all that weighs you down. So I wanted to --
LEMON: Hold on.
LEMON: You did that in your piece --
LEMON: -- because you talked about --
LEMON: Revelations. I know. But we digress.
GERALD: We can talk about it.
LEMON: OK. But go on.
GERALD: So, you think about when Guitar tells Milkman dead. Wanna fly, you got to let go of all the stuff that weighs you down. So I think right now, when you say, "We are still here. Where we do we go from here?," I hope this piece and this conversation helps us let go of some all that stuff that weighs us down and realize that the most radical act we can commit as black people in America today is to be well.
LEMON: Mm-hmm. What are we missing in the conversation? Is that what it is, you think? Because everyone always says, you know, we got to -- we need to have a conversation. We need to have a conversation about race. There have been many, many conversations. Something is missing. We're not having the right conversation.
GERALD: Well, it depends on who is "we," right? I have no interest. We've been throwing generation after generation of black genius at the challenge of fighting white supremacy, and I tell folks all the time, black people fighting white supremacy is like Don Quixote tilting at windmills.
I would like to redirect some of our energy to this question of what it means to be free. I write about a story that I don't think anybody watching this program will forget, talk about our people who were enslaved, your folks in Louisiana, my folks in Texas.
And it's a story -- Miss Fannie Moore was a woman that the Federal Writers' Project went and spoke to in the 1940s, and I learned of this through a brilliant black artist, Ja'Tovia Gary, in her work, "An Ecstatic Experience."
So they go down and talk to Miss Fannie Moore's mother. And she tells a story -- she goes down and talks to Miss Fannie Moore. She tells the story of her mother. One day on the plantation, her mother gets happy, started singing and shouting.
Old Master Jim on the plantation comes down, he says, "What's all this going on in the field? I didn't send you out here to whoop and yell. I sent you to work and you better work or I'll put this cowhide across your black back."
Miss Fannie Moore's mother, she -- a smile comes across her face. She says, "Lord has showed me the way. I ain't going grieve no more. No matter how you all treat me and my children. The Lord has showed me the way. And someday, we ain't going never be slaves no more."
Old Master Jim takes that bull whip and he started lashing Miss Fannie Moore's mother's back. She didn't do nothing. She just goes off back to the field singing "I'm free! I'm free! I want my 14-year-old niece. I want my 7-year-old cousin. I want those two little black boys I saw on the A-train going uptown. I want them to know that no matter how this country treats them, you see, there is a resource of freedom on the inside --
GERALD: A freedom that the world can't (ph) give you and the world can't away, but you have to nurture it, you have to claim it --
LEMON: But in these times, in these times, people resent that freedom. That freedom is an affront to many people because when they see it, they smell it coming.
GERALD: That's right.
LEMON: And what do you do about that in this moment?
GERALD: Well, you keep on -- our people say keep on keeping on.
LEMON: Keeping on.
GERALD: That's right. Nothing -- I will say I am not dismissive of the strategies of respectability, politics. Everybody should read Evelyn Higginbotham's "Righteous Discontent." Teaches so much about how our people (INAUDIBLE) to live, nor am I dismissive of the strategies of protests which have been so important. Nothing I'm saying here absolves our responsibility to be citizens.
[23:45:02] LEMON: Mm-hmm.
GERALD: But white people get to be citizens as a hobby. Black people are supposed to be citizens as a full-time job plus overtime. And I have great friends who have dedicated their lives to fighting for injustice. I love and respect them for it, but I'd love and respect them even if they didn't do it because black freedom should not require a black death.
LEMON: OK. So, I got to ask you, because you write about it. I have all these questions prepared for you, and I didn't ask you one of them.
LEMON: I'm going to ask you, why did you disappear? You disappeared, and there were people saying your voice is needed, your voice is needed, your voice is needed. And then you came back. Was it a burden? What was it? Because I'm not sure I get it from this article. Why did you -- because you went away, and you went -- where did you go? Did you go to Texas?
GERALD: I went to Texas. Yeah. I mean --
LEMON: I have a short time left. I'm sorry.
GERALD: OK, that's fine. I went away because I had reached a dead end in my own life. And the story, the Africans that could fly, everybody should read Virginia Ham. I'm just pointing to everybody that the great black people --
LEMON: We came here and we forgot that we could fly.
GERALD: That's exactly right. They'd be out on the plantation and someday they'd say a secret word, "kum buba yali," and they get up on wings and they fly away. And some of them would fly away for good, but some of them would fly away for just a little while.
And I claimed that part of our tradition. I think many of us have to take whether it's three minutes or three years or three decades. You've got to take that moment to reclaim and restore and renew that inner freedom so that we can get back and do the work we've got to do.
LEMON: I have to go, but who do you think you are?
GERALD: Oh, well, I'm a product of Oak Cliff, Texas, and all the fantastic black people that raised me. Hopefully, I'm Casey Gerald for another --
LEMON: I love you, Casey Gerald. You are amazing. I would encourage everyone to read every single word that you write. Thank you so much.
GERALD: Thank you, Don.
LEMON: I really appreciate it.
GERALD: Thank you.
LEMON: We'll be right back.
[23:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Twenty-two innocent people died in the mass shooting in El Paso on August 3rd. One of them was Margie Reckard. She met her husband, Antonio Basco, 22 years ago. They were inseparable for all of those years. Now, he is preparing to lay her to rest. He has no other family. So he has invited the public to her funeral this weekend. And hundreds of people are expected to pay their respects. Gary Tuchman tells their story.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Don, for 61- year-old Tony Basco, life was all about his wife, Margie. He feels lost without her. Tomorrow night is her funeral service here in El Paso. And something is going to happen at the prayer service that has made her husband incredibly grateful.
(Voice-over): Tony Basco loved only one person in the world, and now she's gone.
She loved you a lot.
ANTONIO BASCO, WIFE KILLED IN WALMART SHOOTING: I don't know what she saw in me sometimes.
BASCO: We had wonderful years. The best years in my whole life.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): Tony has no other family. His wife, Margie Reckard, had just a few family members, but none in the El Paso area. Attendance at her funeral was expected to be minimal until the
internet took over. Tweets from journalists and media outlets sent out messages of support for Tony.
Then there was this Facebook post from the funeral home, reading, "Mr. Antonio Basco was married 22 years to his wife, Margie Reckard. He had no other family. He welcomes anyone to attend his wife's services." People from all over the United States have contacted the funeral home as well as Tony to say they plan to attend Margie's funeral.
TUCHMAN (on camera): There are going to be hundreds of people here probably from all around the country. How does that make you feel?
BASCO: I love it. It is nice to see people really caring about people. There is going to be a lot of people. I told you, you were important.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): They had been married for 22 years. Tony says his life had been very difficult prior to meeting her.
(On camera): What would you like people to know about Margie?
BASCO: She is a caring, loving, most beautiful person.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): Every day now, he goes to the memorial site next to the Walmart, taking exquisite care of Margie's memorial, making sure the flowers and wind chimes which she always loved so much look the best they can.
(On camera): Where did you meet her?
BASCO: Omaha, Nebraska, in a bar.
TUCHMAN (on camera): You were single? She was single? Was it love at first sight?
BASCO: Oh, man.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): Tony is still waking up each morning in disbelief that she is gone.
BASCO: I spend my day by looking at the front door. I've been waiting for her to walk in. I even tried calling her on this phone.
TUCHMAN (on camera): You have?
BASCO: I tried to.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): At the memorial site, Tony tells Margie that someday, he will meet her in heaven.
BASCO: So what you've been up to? What are you going to do up there? I wish you could tell me sometime.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): Tony is now beginning a new life alone. But for at least one day at Margie's funeral, he won't be.
BASCO: She made me the happiest man in the world and the luckiest. Nobody is luckier than me in this whole world.
TUCHMAN (on camera): Tony is spending a lot of time here at this memorial and it meant a lot to him. He spends hours a day here. People come up to him. They hug him. They shake his hand. They talk to him. It offered him great comfort as it has for family members of other victims who have come to this memorial also. Tony actually told me that last week, he slept here one night.
[23:55:00] He still wants to be as close as he can to his wife, Margie. Don?
LEMON: Gary Tuchman, thank you so much for bringing us that story. Thank you for watching. Our coverage continues.