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Top 10 Dem Hopefuls Debate Policy & Trade Barbs. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired September 13, 2019 - 05:00   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: And good extra early morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: It's a NEW DAY, and it's an early day.

CAMEROTA: It is, but it's an exciting day.

BERMAN: It's a great day. I mean, it just started. So, it could go south very quickly. But it's great so far. This last minute has been one of my favorites.

CAMEROTA: That's fantastic. Well, stay tuned, because anything is possible. It's September 13th, Friday the 13th. See what I'm saying? It's 5:00 in the East.

The top ten Democratic candidates were talking policy and trading barbs at last night's debate in Houston.

Former Vice President Joe Biden on the receiving end of many of those attacks, and repeatedly invoking Barack Obama. Biden facing his closest competitors, Senator Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, for the first time on the same debate stage. The ideological divide between the moderates and the progressives were on full display for voters.

BERMAN: All right. There are a lot of moments generating a lot of discussions this morning. Chief among them, former Housing Secretary Julian Castro directly questioned Joe Biden's memory on a discussion on health care. You'll hear analysts saying that went too far. You will also hear the tape that seems to show that Castro misrepresented what Biden said. Biden didn't seem to forget.

Now, all that said, this morning, at least one candidate is making similar suggestions about Biden, worried that he is, quote, fumbling. So, has something shifted in the discussion about age this morning? Or are some candidates saying the quiet part out loud now?

We have it all covered for you on this special, early edition of NEW DAY. Let's begin with Athena Jones up extra early in Houston.

It's a fascinating three hours to watch, Athena.


It really was. It's the first time the top ten Democrats shared the stage. And the gloves were off. The big topics show how divided Democrats still are on issues like health care. Each candidate hoping that their performance will separate them from the crowded field.


JONES (voice-over): Front-runner Joe Biden started Thursday night's debate with a new strategy.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I know that the senator says she is for Bernie. Well, I'm for Barack. I think that Obamacare worked.

JONES: Wedged between Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, the former vice president took the two progressives head-on, over the cost of Medicare-for-All.

BIDEN: My plan for health care costs a lot of money. It costs $740 billion. It doesn't cost $30 trillion, $3.4 trillion a year. How are we going to pay for it?

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: How do we pay for it? We pay for it, those at the very top, the richest individuals and the biggest corporations are going to pay more. And middle-class families are going to pay less.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Every study done shows that Medicare for all is the most cost-effective approach to providing health care to every man, woman and child in this country. I, who wrote the damn bill, if I may say so.

JONES: But, Biden, not relenting, jumping on the opportunity to paint Sanders as too left.

BIDEN: For a socialist, you got a lot more confidence in corporate America than I do.

JONES: More moderate candidates, like Senator Amy Klobuchar, joining in.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And while Bernie wrote the bill, I read the bill. It says that we will no longer have private insurance as we know it. That means that 149 million Americans will no longer be able to have their current insurance.

SANDERS: Medicare-for-All is comprehensive health care. It covers all basic needs. Moving to Medicare-for-All is the way to go.

JONES: Former Housing Secretary Julian Castro clashing with his fellow Obama administration colleague.

JULIAN CASTRO (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Barack Obama's vision was not to leave 10 million people uncovered. He wanted every, single person in this country covered. My plan would do that. Your plan would not.

BIDEN: They do not have to buy in. They do not have to buy in.

CASTRO: You just said that. You just said that two minutes ago. You just said two minutes ago that they would have to buy in.

BIDEN: You do not have to buy in if you can't afford it.

CASTRO: You said they would have to buy in.


BIDEN: If she qualifies for Medicaid, she would automatically --

CASTRO: Are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago?

I'm fulfilling the legacy of Barack Obama and you're not.

BIDEN: That would be a surprise to him.

JONES: After that heated exchange, the other Democrats on stage, quickly jumping in.

PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is why presidential debates are becoming unwatchable. This reminds everybody of what they cannot stand about Washington, scoring points against each other, poking at each other, and telling each other that you're -- my plan -- we all --

CASTRO: That's called the Democratic primary election. That's called an election. That's an election. You know? This is what we're here for. It's an election.

KLOBUCHAR: But a house divided cannot stand.

ANDREW YANG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We know we're on the same team here.

JONES: Many candidates praising Beto O'Rourke's response to the El Paso mass shooting. The former Texas congressman laying out his plan that goes further than his rivals, vowing to confiscate weapons of war.

BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hell yes, we're going to take your AR-15, your AK-47. We're not going to allow it to be used against fellow Americans anymore.


JONES: Senator Kamala Harris kept her attacks aimed at President Trump.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The bottom line is this -- Donald Trump in office, on trade policy, you know, he reminds me about that guy in "The Wizard of Oz" and when you pull back the curtain it's a really small dude. JONES: Something Senator Cory Booker should be a focus for 2020.

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We've got one shot to make Donald Trump a one-term president. And we cannot lose it by the way we talk about each other and demonize and degrade each other.


JONES: Though after the debate, Senator Cory Booker went there, as well, saying on CNN that a lot of people are concerned about Biden fumbling and insisting that other candidates have legitimate concerns about the former vice president, something Booker didn't do on the debate stage. The question, now, if we see other candidates follow suit -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: All right, Athena. Thank you very much for laying all that out for us.

Let's discuss it, and let's talk about the winners and losers of last night's debate, and some of the key moments with Joe Lockhart, CNN political commentator and former Clinton White House press secretary, Elaina Plott, CNN political analyst and White House correspondent for "The Atlantic", John Avlon, CNN senior political analyst, and Laura Coates, CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor.

Joe, what jumped out at your last night?

JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I thought Biden in the first hour and in the last stance was the best he's been and I think as we talk about yesterday, he needed to come and bring, you know, force, and be resolute, and he was. So, I think that's good.

The second thing is, for the first time, I think Warren and Sanders were put on the defensive. Medicare for All without a private insurance option is not a popular idea among Democrats.

There's a little myth out there among the pundit class that, you know, Biden is out of step. It is unpopular. There's a CNN poll that shows it's a 15-point difference, 55-40, over, you know, the Democratic Party wants this private insurance option. So, that was one (ph).

The third and maybe the most important thing is, you know, four of the second-tier candidates made a very good showing last night, which means they will be around for the next one and the next one. And it will take a while for this to settle out.

BERMAN: Let's keep going around the table. What stood out to you?

ELAINA PLOTT, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I completely agree with Joe. And where I think Joe Biden came out strongest is saying to Elizabeth Warren, OK, you want to tax the rich, maybe that gets you $3 billion. There's the rest of the $25 billion coming from?

That's the sort of thing that it didn't feel like he was cramming the night before with facts and trying to kind of sputter them out while he was there. This is something that I think he knows deeply. And I think when he speaks, he does show that he's not out of step, that this is something that sounds like a great, big bold proposal, but when it comes to legislating and making the law, this is -- you know, how do you get to $28 billion? It's unclear.

CAMEROTA: What stood out for you, John?

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think that candidates who have been down ticket, so to speak, a lot of them had really big nights. I think Cory Booker, Beto O'Rourke, Amy Klobuchar, Pete Buttigieg had some moments. They really shown being on the one stage.

I think Julian Castro had a bad night being the exemption. I think his attack on Biden came across badly. And even worse, it was inaccurate. And so, I think that backfired enormously.

I think Kamala Harris had a strong night, but not a breakout night.

Elizabeth Warren knows exactly who she is. She's confident. But I got to say, when she gives an answer like, we should withdraw our troops from Afghanistan without any kind of a deal, that's a real problem from a commander-in-chief standpoint. And I don't think she -- she and Bernie aren't winning over new converts necessarily with those kind of policies.

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I was struck by the two search presidents that were part of this debate. One was Barack Obama. The last debate, it was as if he was the enemy and the villain. And this time, it was overture after overture to explain, bending over backwards that perhaps they learned on the trail, you might want to go after President Barack Obama in this particular climate, at this particular time.

AVLON: I've heard he's popular.

COATES: I hear he's a big deal. That's why --

PLOTT: You could call them all --


COATES: I said, careful, my friends, remember who I am. That's number one.

The other one was the distinction between all of the candidates who wanted to essentially have this civility issue and wanted to talk about in the weeds on Medicare-for-All et cetera, and you had one candidate who kept wanting to remind people, no, no, this is all about President Trump, that was Senator Kamala Harris, who undisputedly kept trying to say and reframe the conversation away from, this all -- this discussion over here is fine. We have one goal here.

Cory Booker backed this up and said we have one shot to do this. It was about the idea that who was not there and who eventually need to be the person to beat. I was struck.


CAMEROTA: Speaking of the pundit class and the myth of the pundit class, there was all this talk beforehand, all eyes will be on Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden. They will be going head-to-head. This is the moment.

It didn't really materialize that way.

LOCKHART: No. And in fact the opening salvo did the Barack Obama -- answered the Barack Obama question.


I mean, I think Biden signaled he was going to say, you know, I'm with Obamacare, I'm with Obama. And Warren was ready for it. And they just left it there.

And I think Laura's right, that this was the debate where everybody had to say, you know, Obama is a popular president.

I think, you know, again, picking up on Laura's point, one of the most powerful if not the powerful answer came from Kamala Harris when she said, hey, hold a second. Let's stop arguing about this part of our proposal or that part of the proposal. The Republicans are trying to take away Obamacare. They're in court trying to take it away. And that was I think something that really will resonate with voters.

BERMAN: I want to go back to what was a holy cow moment for a lot of people watching and that was the Julian Castro exchange with Joe Biden, when he asked Joe Biden if he forgot.

Let's play it again, just so people can see this, what Castro said to Biden.


CASTRO: But the difference between what I support and what you support, Vice President Biden, is that you require them to opt in. And I would not require them to opt in.

BIDEN: They do not have to buy in. They do not have to buy in.

CASTRO: You just said that. You just said that two minutes ago. You said two minutes ago that they would have to buy in. Are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago? Are you forgetting already what you said just two minutes ago?

I mean, I can't believe that you said two minutes ago that they had to buy in and now, you're saying they don't have -- you're forgetting that.


BERMAN: Elaina, the groans in the room told you something about that.

AVLON: Yes. PLOTT: You know, think a few minutes later to Julian Castro tried to reframe it as, look, guys, we're in a primary debate. We're supposed to start punching at each other and, you know, have this field winnowed down.

There's a difference between that and taking legitimate shots and people for their positions and what not, and taking what was, really, a cringe-worthy cheap shot at somebody. And like John said, it wasn't even accurate.

If you're going to kind of play that card, at least know exactly what you're talking about because I think lots of people are around tables, hopefully not this early in the morning, but they're going to be thinking about that and then saying, but wait a second, that didn't really land because it wasn't true.

CAMEROTA: So, let's play that moment of what Biden said, so that everybody can hear for themselves. Listen to what the acrual -- acrual -- actual quote was.

BERMAN: Julian Castro is coming after you now.



BIDEN: Anyone who can't afford it, gets automatically enrolled in the Medicare-type option we have.


CAMEROTA: All right.

AVLON: I mean, look, again, this is a debate inside the party that's incredibly important. I think Biden framed it brilliantly at the beginning. She's with Bernie, I'm with Barack.

Think about the absurdity of Barack Obama being sort of the stodgy centrist of the Democratic Party. No, he is the center of the Democratic Party. Not a conservative figure for moderation conciliation.

Castro gave a cheap shot. He was wrong. He came out the worst of all last night. A lot of his cohorts on that down ticket had very strong nights. He did not, and that's why.

BERMAN: I found it very interesting that after debate, Amy Klobuchar criticized Julian Castro. She's going to be on later in the show.

But Senator Cory Booker who's not only Captain Sunshine --

AVLON: Captain Sunshine?

BERMAN: Captain Sunshine seemed to go all-in with what Castro said. Listen to what Cory Booker told CNN last night.


BOOKER: I think that we are at a tough point right now because there's a lot of people who are concerned about Joe Biden's ability to carry the ball all the way across the end line without fumbling. I think that Castro has some really legitimate concerns about, can he be someone in a long, grueling campaign that he can get the ball over the line? And he has every right to call that out.


BERMAN: You know, as Ryan Lizza wrote the other day, it seems like some candidates are now saying the quite part out loud, they are directly questioning Joe Biden's age and his memory.

And, look, Cory Booker I know played college football. And I love football metaphors as much as the next guy. But he chose the word "fumbling" there, Laura, seemed to be intentionally.

COATES: It absolutely was. And in my mind, it was cowardly to have the criticism of Julian Castro on the set for his comment. And do the magnanimous gesture of, you know, we have to stand together, this is not appropriate.

And the next second you have a camera in front of you, the next thing you do is do the exact thing, but you have a different tomato-tomato vibe about it. So, in my -- if you're going to -- I mean, by the way, every Democratic candidate right now, I don't know if they're aware, everybody has concerns about their ability to cross it over the finish line.


COATES: And to single out Biden in that way is odd. However, Biden is known for the gaffes. He is somebody who has made a number of missteps. He has made misstatements --

CAMEROTA: Right, is it fair to bring it up or not?

COATES: It is fair to bring up those, but not couch in a language of, as if he is feeble-minded in some way.

AVLON: Right.

COATES: It reminds me of the time when there was questions about Hillary Clinton and whether she had the stamina. These code words, the stamina, to me, the code words of being able to carry the line are a signal that it doesn't work if the person you're going against is around the same age as Joe Biden.


AVLON: Yes, exactly. You've got a lot of septuagenarians on that stage. It's worth asking whether someone is, quote/unquote, electable.

COATES: Yes. AVLON: If that's the pretext of the campaign.

But in terms of Joe Biden's gaffes, we're in a post-gaffe political universe right now, folks. I mean, let's be honest. And there are a lot of stuff --

CAMEROTA: Gaffe away.

LOCKHART: The other point, though, is you go after Joe Biden personally at your own risk.


LOCKHART: And no one has actually gained from going after -- Kamala Harris went down in the polls.

CAMEROTA: First, she went up, and then she went down.


AVLON: It's a boomerang.

LOCKHART: But there's an enormous reservoir of goodwill for Joe Biden in the Democratic Party among the electorate, even among people who probably won't vote for him.

But going after him personally, particularly when he's able to give that bio perspective of, you know, what has made him the man he is, the trials of his life, it comes across as very petty.

And, you know, you saw Kamala Harris, you know, after the last debate, decide, I'm going to be respectful of this vice president. And it worked for her.

PLOTT: But I think, to your word, cowardly. I think that's sort of -- if you're going to say the quiet part out loud, say it, own it. Don't try to and, you know, be as diplomatic as possible.

I mean, I think that's where Elizabeth Warren got in trouble last night immediately. There's a reason that we start every debate about health care. She can't just say that her plan would raise taxes on the middle class. You've got to own it.

BERMAN: Yes, Bernie Sanders has said it.

PLOTT: Uh-huh, exactly.

BERMAN: And Elizabeth Warren hasn't.

CAMEROTA: All right. Thank you, guys, all very much. Stick around.

Coming up on NEW DAY, we will speak with five of the candidates who were on the debate stage last night. Not four, John.


CAMEROTA: There's five there.

BERMAN: I'm going to name them for you if you can't tell on the screen. Beto O'Rourke, Cory Booker -- oh, wait now, we have --

CAMEROTA: Julian Castro.

BERMAN: Julian Castro, I was about to say Pete Buttigieg, but he's not with us.

So, Julian Castro -- we'll put him on. We have Beto O'Rourke, we have Amy Klobuchar, we have Julian Castro, we have Cory Booker and we have a mystery candidate, coming up on the show.

CAMEROTA: Wow, you all be surprised.

BERMAN: And coming up, who moved the needle in the debate? We'll discuss the breakout moments, next.




O'ROURKE: Hell yes, we're going to take your AR-15, your AK-47. We're not going to allow it to be used against fellow Americans anymore.


BERMAN: That was Beto O'Rourke, defending his proposal for mandatory buybacks of what are known by some people as assault weapons, going further than we've really heard before from any Democratic candidates, any candidates. Of course, this comes after the deadly mass shootings in Texas, including his hometown in El Paso.

Back with us, Joe Lockhart, John Avlon, Elaina Plott, and Laura Coates.

John, I heard you during --

AVLON: My audible Al Gore-esque side.


BERMAN: Audible Al Gore-esque side.


BERMAN: Now, preface what you were saying, with the acknowledgment that that got an enormous amount of applause in the room and among the Democratic base on Twitter, an enormous outpouring of support.

AVLON: Absolutely. Played really well in the room. He's already campaign. He's already printing t-shirts out saying, hell yes, we're going to confiscate. But there's major danger here. It's one thing to have buybacks. It's

one thing to say we should reinstate the assault weapons ban, because it was enormous effective. We had fewer mass shootings during that period, it never should have expired in the first place.

But for Beto O'Rourke and Democrats to say, we're going to come and confiscate your weapons of war, that has two big problems. First of all, it feeds into the narrative the NRA has tried to push for decades and fundraise off of, during the Obama era baselessly, that Democrats are into confiscation. They're going to be able to do that and say, see, we told you.

Second thing is the practicality of the proposals, and I know people running the Democratic primary right now, but you can't separate this stuff from governing. The idea of physically confiscating which is what people will hear is a recipe for disaster.

CAMEROTA: But what I heard, Laura, the luxury of not being the front- runner. The luxury of not being the front-runner, you can just peel off the muzzle and you don't have to go with the politically correct --

AVLON: Worry about being president, what you're running --


CAMEROTA: Yes, I mean, you can say that you're angry and say what you feel about it and say you're from Texas, and this is what really should happen. And you heard -- I -- what I heard in the applause were Democrats saying, finally, somebody is saying it, even if it won't work in the general.

COATES: You know, and I think that's just about that he said about that, because for the very soon that John is talking about the power of the NRA has forced many people to shake in their boots, even Democrats who don't want to go as far not to saying what everyone is obviously thinking, which is the idea of whatever is happening right now, is not to quote the 145 companies yesterday, is not acceptable behavior.

So, I think in many ways, it was removing the muzzle. The practicality of it is different. It will be used as a loop by the NRA. And, of course, Democrats are now going to have the second time in a week an ability to try to re-couch the language away from what was impeachment investigation. Now, it's about gun control and not gun confiscation, which they have fought so hard to have that be there.

But at the end of the day, the voters and the American public, and anybody who's fearful going into a Walmart, or a country night music club dance near a university, or a school, or anywhere else --

CAMEROTA: Or a grade school.

COATES: Or a grade school, they want to have somebody who is at least willing to say, look, I'm going to take away the things that kill people. If we have a whole president right now talking about vaping and the dangers of that, surely you must want to pursue an angle that says, we are going to take away what actually kills people, immediately, directly.

BERMAN: You know, Elaina, we talk about damning with faint praise, there was damning with lavish praise yesterday with Beto O'Rourke, where all the candidates were heaping praise on him for what he did after El Paso, which is nice.


Except if you think about it in a way, they wouldn't be saying such nice things about him if they thought he has a real shot.

PLOTT: No, it goes to the -- there's the luxury of not being the front-runner and you can kind of say whatever you want and not have to worry about governing.

There's also the downside, people are your best friends and they're willing to praise you for your ideas because you're not actually a threat anymore. But I will die on this hill of you've got own your bad takes. And to Beto O'Rourke's credit, he had t-shirts going the next day with this, you know, proposal that Democrats tried to say for years, this is not actually what we want to push forward.

And I do -- you know, I do think that people like Elizabeth Warren, like Bernie Sanders, were to come out and say, this is the reality -- the hard reality of what would happen with my health care proposal. But this would be the benefit, trust the American people to digest that and support you in spite of it. I do think that is -- you know, one thing that was instructive from what O'Rourke was doing last night.

CAMEROTA: He immediately got a threat via tweets from a state rep in Texas, that basically said, my AR is ready for you, Robert Francis. And I don't think he meant the mandatory buyback.

And then Beto O'Rourke said, this is a death threat, Representative. Clearly, you shouldn't own an AR-15 and neither should anyone else. And his team has said that they will be contacting the FBI about that threat.

LOCKHART: Yes, listen, I disagree with John on, everything has to be the way you're going to govern. Campaigns are supposed to be aspirational. And we're not going to have a single-payer system when this is over.

But the discussion about it may get us to the public option. And I think the discussion of being more aggressive on taking on the NRA and pushing for an assault weapons ban will get us at least background checks.


LOCKHART: We're not going to have confiscation. What I hope happens, is the NRA has this amazing power because the last time we did the assault weapons ban, the Democrats got creamed. And it's -- so there's a myth. Let's test the myth. And let's --

AVLON: And the NRA is dramatically weakened as an organization right now.

LOCKHART: I agree, and I think this is the time to push the envelope for Democrats because what happens is, politicians are predictable. If they are able to do something and there's no pushback, they will push further. And if they're in danger of losing their seat, they will retreat.

I think the politics of guns is very much to me like gay marriage was, you know, five years ago, which is, it happened and we almost didn't notice it. A sea change happened and that's what's going on.

And Beto who was off the map captured that last night. And it was big for him.

BERMAN: I want to play the moment. Laura Coates talking about it the last segment, Kamala Harris came out, in her very opening statement, the senator chose to direct all of her fire at the president. Let's listen to that.


HARRIS: And I plan on focusing on our common issues, our common hopes and desires, and in that way unifying our country, winning this election and turning the page for America. And now, President Trump, you can go back to watching Fox News.


BERMAN: OK. Maybe that wasn't exactly comedy improv. She had it scripted, Laura. But the point is --

CAMEROTA: It's still a good line.

BERMAN: -- taking on the president directly.

This is a different version of Senator Harris than we've seen on the debate stage and on the campaign. Trying something new, will it work?

COATES: You know, she's trying to now embrace the thing that people were criticizing her about, or reluctant to -- she's a prosecutor. And, look, I'm a black woman prosecutor myself. I understand the optics that she is always trying to guard against, about being somebody to be attacked whether you believe in social justice, or not, whether you're going to be too aggressive because you confront somebody on an issue. She was embracing that.

And it was a good idea for her to do so, to say, look, this is who I am. And, you know that I am the attorney general formerly of the biggest state in our Union, California. Hope it's the biggest of the Union, it is, California, because --

AVLON: What population?


COATES: Thank you. I know it.

So, you have the idea of her coming in and saying, this is who I am. And she has run a government, essentially, more so than President Trump had experience on. So, she's not going to embrace now, when will she?

Also, she pointed to the fact that Trump is always saying how he is not going to pay attention, he's not going to be weighing or watching. He was watching.

AVLON: He doesn't watch cable news. What?

COATES: I mean, I don't know why I had that impression at all.

AVLON: He's so busy.

BERMAN: Well, he was giving a speech last night.

PLOTT: To be fair, he wasn't watching TV last night.

BERMAN: He wasn't watching TV during that moment.

COATES: We have a thing called DVR.

AVLON: I hear he's a fan.


PLOTT: In the White House residence.


AVLON: Very old school.

PLOTT: His super TiVo.

CAMEROTA: Or as Joe Biden would say, record player.

PLOTT: Oh, God. I love that.

CAMEROTA: The phonograph.

AVLON: Brought it back around.


CAMEROTA: Very quickly on Kamala Harris, just style at the moment. Pundits thought there were rehearsed lines and that doesn't necessarily work. Do you have thoughts on that?

PLOTT: I mean, it's a primary debate.