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Top 10 Dem Hopefuls Trade Barbs in Debate; Julian Castro (D), Presidential Candidate, is Interviewed about Remark on Joe Biden's Memory. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired September 13, 2019 - 07:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: -- individuals but for hardworking families, costs are going to go down.

[07:00:06]

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We saw really from the first time Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders a bit on the defensive.

MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I trust you to choose what makes the most sense for you. Not my way or the highway.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY, with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: All right. We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. And we're on extra early because of everything that happened last night.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: It's not as early as it was. I just want to make clear. OK.

CAMEROTA: No. Listen, the good news is, we've had two dress rehearsals before this. OK? So here we go.

The top ten Democratic candidates squared off on the same debate stage last night, many of them trading barbs with former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic frontrunner, coming out strong, holding his own. Those are basically the reviews this morning. And he also invoked Barack Obama repeatedly.

BERMAN: There was a moment that left many in the audience gasping. You could hear it. Former housing secretary Julian Castro directly questioned Joe Biden's memory in a discussion on health care. And some analysts -- and you'll hear from some this morning -- say that went too far. And when you look at the tape, it does seem to show that Castro misrepresented what Biden said. Biden didn't seem to forget.

And all that said this morning, at least one other major candidate is making the similar suggestion about Biden, worried that he is, quote, "fumbling." So has something shifted in the discussion about age this morning? Or

are some of the candidates saying the quiet part out loud? We're going to speak with Secretary Castro in just a few minutes, in addition to four of the other Democratic candidates who were on that stage last night.

Let's go straight to Houston. In the meantime, CNN's Athena Jones is there with a look at what was a really interesting three-hour debate, Athena.

ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, John. It was. It's the first time the top ten Democrats shared the stage, and there were some feisty moments in that three-hour event.

The big topics showed just how divided Democrats still are on issues like health care. Each candidate hoping to stand out from the crowded field.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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 that she's for Bernie. Well, I'm for Barack. I think the Obamacare worked.

JONES: Arranged 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), DEMOCRATIC 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 damned 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've 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. And 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: What you support, Vice President Biden, is that you require them to opt in, and I would not require them to opt in. They would automatically be enrolled. They wouldn't have to buy in. That's a big difference, because 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. You said they would have to buy in. Are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago? I'm fulfilling the legacy of Barack Obama and you're not.

BIDEN: That'll be a surprise to him.

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

ANDREW YANG (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 your -- your plan, my plan -- Look, we are --

CASTRO: Yes, that's called a 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: Yes, but a house -- a house divided cannot stand. And that is not how we're going to win this thing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look, we know we're on the same team here.

[07:05:04]

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.

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 our fellow Americans anymore.

JONES: Senator Kamala Harris kept her attacks aimed at President Trump. HARRIS: The bottom line is this. Donald Trump in office on trade

policy, you know, he reminds of that -- that guy in "The Wizard of Oz," you know, when you pull back the curtain, it's a really small dude.

JONES: Something Senator Cory Booker said 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 or demonize and degrade each other.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JONES: Although, after the debate, Senator Booker seemed to be taking a shot at Biden, telling CNN a lot of people are concerned about Biden fumbling and insisting that other candidates have legitimate concerns about the former vice president.

This is something that Booker didn't do on the debate stage, and so the question now is will we see other candidates follow suit -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: All right, Athena, thank you very much for all of that.

Joining us now to talk about it, we have Nia-Malika Henderson, CNN senior political reporter; David Gregory, CNN political analyst; and Paul Begala, CNN political commentator.

Paul, what jumped out at you? You've seen a million debates.

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I thought a bad night for Medicare for all. The first two debates, I thought both Elizabeth and Bernie really pushed that agenda.

But most Democrats don't want that. The polling's really clear. I'm sure Harry's told you that the majority of Democrats want to expand and improve on Obama, that they want a Medicare public option, perhaps, Medicare to buy in, but not canceling private insurance.

And for the first time, Bernie and Elizabeth were on their heels about it. And Joe took it to them. And I think that was -- that was a really important moment for Joe Biden. Because in the prior debates, I think he got the worst of it.

And people who are worried, and they should be -- can Joe Biden take on Donald Trump? -- he took on Bernie and Elizabeth at the same time, and they're both ten times smarter than Trump. So good night for Joe.

BERMAN: Good night for Joe. Because there are people looking at this saying, of the three debates, this was his strongest one.

BEGALA: I think, absolutely. He -- because he knew what he wanted to do. He wanted to dissect Medicare for all. And did you know that he used to work with Barack Obama? Boy, he wanted that Obama magic.

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: So "I'm with Barack." You know, "You were for Bernie. I was for Barack." And there's no question that, to me, nobody is going around talking about, you know, Medicare for all or can you keep your insurance?

I mean, not only when you were in the throes of that debate of the Affordable Care Act for months and months and months that did people actually digest this. And obviously, it matters a great deal.

But at this level, this was a debate about whether you want Obama plus or a more progressive vision. And I think I agree with Paul. I mean, I think what Biden was showing is, can he be steady? There's been some questions about his general steadiness.

And can he take the fight? And basically say to his -- to those on the progressive lane, "Look, what they're selling you is unrealistic." It's just not what we should be doing, and they're out of sync. "People may think I'm too old. Well, I think they're too liberal. And a lot of people are feeling that way." And he started to make that argument about it.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER: And I think, in some ways, you know, I went into the debate saying that I think Elizabeth Warren is probably the best debater on stage. She's won every other debate.

And I actually thought last night, even though I think she talked second to Biden in terms of her talk time, I think she sort of faded down the stretch a little bit.

And I think it's probably because Medicare for all is a problem for her. It's a problem for Bernie Sanders, but maybe less over Bernie Sanders. She doesn't really have a point. She signed on with Bernie. She couldn't really answer a lot of the questions about how to pay for it, what does it mean that all those folks are going to lose their private insurance.

So, yes, I mean, I don't know if eventually, she's going to have to come out with a plan of her own. Is she going to have to sort of pull a Kamala Harris and modify it a little bit, and what would that mean to her, if she's trying to be the big, bold progressive?

So, yes, you know, she's got to work on that. But I definitely think that Biden got the better end of her last night.

And this plan is a modification. She'd been in the Senate five or six years before she ever supported.

Bernie, God bless him, he has been for this since the day he showed up in the House 35 years ago. Senator Warren was against Medicare for all until 2017. And I was surprised Biden didn't raise that. I think it's a legitimate question. People change; they grow. But that was a modification.

GREGORY: There's another thing, Paul. I mean, there's way too much prose and not enough poetry here. I mean, Biden is going to be better on the poetry, which is, this is a fight for the soul of the country; and this is how we're going to take the fight to Donald Trump. And this is what this moment needs.

I don't think he's at his best, and he's not going to get better, despite some terrific people prepping him just constantly on defense, around policy, and trying to find his inner progressive voice. Because he doesn't have one. He can try to build on Obama. That's never going to be his strong suit.

[07:10:06]

And he seems to me to just be, you know, trying to jam in facts and figures. Because it's a policy debate, and he's not doing enough of what's the big picture here? Because I think what we're missing here and why there's dissatisfaction with the field, you're ultimately voting for the qualities of someone. You know, how this person makes you feel.

There are people who will vote on your Medicare for all position, but they want to get a sense of leadership. And I don't think that's what we're drilling down on yet.

HENDERSON: I think people feel that with Biden -- at least the folks I talk to. I feel like they feel a real connection with him.

GREGORY: Because he's so well known. They feel it from before.

HENDERSON: Right. They feel -- but they feel it now. They have a great deal of affection for him. They feel like he would make a good president. At least the folks I'm talking to, in states like South Carolina and throughout the south. And those are the places where he's going to likely to well with voters.

CAMEROTA: We should mention to everyone that we are waiting for Julian Castro to come up. You will be interviewing him and talking to him momentarily. As soon as he does, we'll, of course, pop that right up.

And that was the moment -- That was one of the moments that got the most attention last night. So when he made a not-at-all, I think, thinly-veiled attack or barb of Joe Biden about his age. So let's just watch that one more time.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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 just 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 that they don't have to buy in. You're forgetting that!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GREGORY: -- outside there.

CAMEROTA: What about that tactic that Julian Castro used?

BEGALA: He's -- Julian is an enormously accomplished person. He's really gifted. That was disgraceful. It was -- it was way too low.

You know, there's different standards. Democrats don't want to replicate Trump. We don't want to mock each other's hand size or insult a POW or a journalist's physical disabilities, OK? That's a Trump brand. Democrats don't like Donald Trump, Julian. And I thought that was so underneath him. And I think he'll one day, he'll regret it.

GREGORY: Oh, he'll regret it sooner rather than later.

BEGALA: See if he regrets it --

(CROSSTALK)

GREGORY: I mean, it's -- look, it's tough being that far on the outside. I thought he's had a pretty good campaign on substance.

BERMAN: He may have won the first debate. He did very well in the first debate.

GREGORY: He's still on the -- he's on the outside looking in. And he's trying to find a way in, and that was an unfortunate way to try to get attention.

CAMEROTA: One of the things that we -- I don't think we have analyzed enough is Biden's response to that. So far, when Biden has been on the receiving end of an attack, I think that he has sort of taken it on the chin. He has -- he has just stood there and maybe made a facial expression, but he hasn't escalated.

HENDERSON: Right.

CAMEROTA: He hasn't fought back with a nasty comment. And what do we think about his response?

HENDERSON: I thought his response was spot-on, right? He defended himself. He basically corrected Castro. And there was another exchange they had, you know, where Castro essentially said, "I'm the one who's carrying Obama's mantle," and Biden said, "Well, that would be a surprise to Barack Obama."

GREGORY: That was like George W. in a way, but I appreciate it. I think that's what he'd say.

HENDERSON: I mean, I thought it was really -- he was quick on his feet, and we hadn't seen that before.

We've seen a Biden who wasn't really prepared for any of these attacks. And I thought he was good in terms of being prepared.

GREGORY: And right, Biden didn't get angry. He gave that -- he flashed that huge Joe grin, which means, "I hate you."

BERMAN: So -- so Castro did it. You could hear the groans in the crowd. That was audible right there.

BEGALA: In his home state.

BERMAN: In his home state.

BEGALA: Right, where's he from?

GREGORY: Right.

BERMAN: You know what was interesting, which was after the debate, Cory Booker, who has portrayed himself as sunny and happy, the happy warrior, who chose on the debate stage not to say anything about Biden's age at all, afterwards, in an interview with CNN, seemed to go all in. So listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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.

And I think that Castro has some really legitimate concerns about can he be someone in a long, grueling campaign that can get the ball over the line? And he has every right to call that out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BEGALA: That's off-brand for Senator Booker. He was, I thought, terrific in the debate. The conscience and the wit of the debate. And it's hard to be both. I just thought he had a great night, and I think he squandered a lot of it.

CAMEROTA: But why aren't you allowed to say that? Since people are talking about that with Joe Biden, why is that verboten for the candidates to bring up?

HENDERSON: I don't think it is, but I think if your brand is all about love and bringing people together and appealing to our better angels, sort of Obamaesque in that way, then to go just after in the debate and you said, "We can't be demeaning people and talking about folks in degrading ways as Democrats, if the goal is to beat Trump. That's not going to get us anywhere."

Then to go after the debate and essentially say, "This guy is really old, and he's not going to get us across the finish line," I just think, it's -- as you said, it's off-brand. Off-putting, I think, for Cory to do it.

GREGORY: I think it's perfectly fine. I mean, I think it's part of a debate that everybody's having. I don't think that it's verboten, and I think, you know, maybe it will turn off some voters. We'll find out when people start voting.

But I think it's, you know -- these are candidates who are punching way above them, because they're so far behind and they're trying to bring up the generational argument.

And you're talking, again, Joe Biden has a lot of name recognition. He's got a lot -- he's the front-runner of the party. You would expect people to say, right, but do we want a guy who's so old? Who can't get past the end line? Which is, by the way, what is the end line?

BERMAN: It's mixing -- it's mixing soccer and football. Cory Booker did play college football, so I think --

(CROSSTALK)

HENDERSON: He didn't get in the end line much, either.

GREGORY: And I did not. That's what you were saying. That's what you were suggesting!

BERMAN: But you did not.

GREGORY: You're saying two minutes ago, you forgot that you didn't play football.

HENDERSON: Yes. Cory barely played college football, too. Sorry.

BERMAN: Didn't he catch a pass?

HENDERSON: Once. I think he made one touchdown.

BERMAN: All right. That's one more than David Gregory.

GREGORY: I watch a lot of football on TV, including TV-12 --

BERMAN: Here's the thing.

GREGORY: -- before you start, you know --

BERMAN: Julian Castro, the former secretary of housing and urban development, who was a big part of that debate last night, she joins us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:21:02]

BERMAN: He was in the middle of what is certainly the most talked- about moment in last night's Democratic debate. Former housing secretary, Julian Castro, questioning the memory of former Vice President Joe Biden. And joining me now is former Secretary Julian Castro.

Mr. Secretary, thank you so much for being with us. Good morning.

CASTRO: Good morning. Good to be with you.

BERMAN: So, Paul Begala, political adviser from your home state of Texas, just called that moment disgraceful. We heard from an Iowa voter earlier this morning who was watching, who said he wished you had laid off the personal attacks. You have had a night to reflect on this. How would you do it differently?

CASTRO: I wouldn't do it differently. That was not a personal attack. This was about a disagreement over what the vice president said regarding health care policy.

I'm glad, actually, that a lot of journalists overnight did the work of actually looking at the transcript. The vice president had said that he -- he didn't say the words "buy in" when he talked about his healthcare plan. He had, in fact said those words, but then he denied saying them. And I pointed out that he had just said that. And now he was denying it.

This is important, because it's not about personalities. It's about the fact that his plan would require you to buy in at certain times, which means --

BERMAN: At certain times.

CASTRO: -- that 10 million people would be left uncovered. And so I pointed out that my -- my approach would cover everybody, whereas his approach would leave 10 million people uncovered.

So, no, I pointed out this big difference in our approach and no, Americans need to know that.

BERMAN: I will talk --

CASTRO: They need to know --

BERMAN: I do want to ask you --

CASTRO: -- in this plan, 10 million people weren't covered.

BERMAN: I do want to ask you about the differences in the plans and exactly what you were speaking about and exactly what Joe Biden said about his plan in just a moment, but back to what you said, because you said it wasn't personal.

Not once, not twice, but three times, you asked him, "Are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago? Are you forgetting already," said, and then you said, "You are forgetting that." Why did you keep saying that?

CASTRO: No. 1, he couldn't hear me in the auditorium. If you look at what happened, the video.

Secondly, look, that's a question that I would ask any opponent on stage, if I'm asking them in a debate. Because he had just denied what he said two minutes before. So I was asking him, "Are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago, because you just said it?" And in fact, when you look at the transcript of the video, that's what he said. So John, so this --

BERMAN: Are you asking us to believe -- are you asking us to believe this morning that you weren't questioning Joe Biden's memory?

CASTRO: Oh, I was questioning why he was saying that he hadn't said the words "buy in," which is significant to health care policy, when he had just said that two minutes ago.

BERMAN: Are you questioning his memory?

CASTRO: I would ask that to -- I would ask that do another --

BERMAN: Are you questioning his memories -- do you have questions about Joe Biden's memory?

CASTRO: I was questioning -- I was -- look, this is the -- this is the game that the media like to play.

BERMAN: It isn't a game. Mr. Secretary -- Mr. Secretary -- Mr. Secretary, just to be clear --

CASTRO: No, no, no. Look, he had said the words "buy in."

BERMAN: You said this three times, and you are -- you are a very skillful politician who chooses your words very, very carefully.

CASTRO: -- because -- because he had said the words "buy in." Because he had said the words "buy in" two minutes before, and then he denied saying it. So of course, I asked him, "Look, you know, did you forget that you said 'buy in'?"

This is important, because it means the difference between covering 10 million people in this country and not covering 10 million people.

BERMAN: Let's talk -- let's talk about a policy, and then we'll come back -- then we'll come back to the memory issue. Just so people know what you're talking about.

CASTRO: It's a policy disagreement about -- not personalities.

BERMAN: Joe Biden said two things about his health care plan that get to this issue you're talking about.

CASTRO: A disagreement about health care policy.

BERMAN: Joe Biden said two things. Joe Biden said two things about his health care plan that get to this issue you're talking about. Let's play one of them. The first is S-23. Play that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[07:25:05]

BERMAN: All right. He said that, which automatically enrolls. There are people, under the Joe Biden plan, who will be automatically enrolled in Medicare for all when they sign up for things like SNAP and other federal assistance, especially if they're in states not covered by Medicaid expansion.

So there will be people. As you just said, some will be automatically enrolled. Then there are others who will have to buy in. Listen to what he said there.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: If you want Medicare, if you lose the job from your insurance -- from your employer, you automatically can buy into this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: So he does say that some people will be able to buy in with subsidies. PolitiFact says, of your statements about Biden, "The statement has an element of truth," they say of you, "but ignores critical facts that will give a different impression, so we rate it as mostly false." Your response?

CASTRO: Yes, actually, the last time they did a fact check about whether his plan would leave 10 million people uncovered, they said that it would leave millions of people uncovered.

And so what his plan does is it requires somebody, it requires certain people to buy into health insurance. What I pointed out last night was that my approach would not require an opt in or a buy-in like that. It's actually an opt-out. That's a big difference.

BERMAN: It is a big difference.

CASTRO: It leaves 10 million people uncovered in his plan. So that's what I pointed out last night.

And, you know, that's not a difference of personalities. That's an excellent difference in important health care policy that's going to affect millions of American families.

And, you know, we're up there to debate. And so I'm going to -- I'm going to continue to point out the differences. If we're not there to point out the differences to the American people about our policy, not our personalities, but our policy, then why are we there?

So, you know, I'm glad that we had the opportunity to have that exchange, because people need to know that under his approach, 10 million people would be uncovered, and under my approach, everyone would be covered. And that's a big difference.

BERMAN: There are those who will say, then have the discussion about the differences in the plans. And there are differences in your two plans. They're not as great as some differences in some of the other plans that were out there last night, but there are differences. Have that discussion is what some people looking at that this morning will say.

And I just ask you, again, to be clear, because you said it three times, "Are you forgetting?" And I think you do choose your words carefully. Do you feel as if questioning the memory of the former vice president is fair game? Do you think that's important in this election right now?

CASTRO: I think that whether that was the vice president or that was one of the other candidates on stage, if somebody said that to me, obviously, you read what he said or played what he said. If somebody said to me in that moment that people would have to buy into their plan and then two minutes later, they denied it, I don't care who you are on that debate stage. I'm going to ask you why you're forgetting that you said two minutes ago that people would have to buy in. And now you're explicitly denying that.

The vice president is -- you know, I mean, he's been around for a long time, OK? When we're up there, we're up there to debate. And I'm going to make the point.

And so it didn't matter that it was Joe Biden. If it had been another candidate that tried to deny what they just said two minutes ago, I would have asked them the same thing.

And you know, I'm going to continue to point out the differences in our health care policy, in our economic policy, our immigration policy. That's why we're there. That's what the American people want.

BERMAN: Mr. Secretary, Julian Castro, we appreciate you coming on this morning. Thank you very much.

CASTRO: Thank you.

BERMAN: Three debates down, more to go, sir. Thank you.

So, that was one of the candidates who made a splash last night.

CAMEROTA: Indeed.

BERMAN: Beto O'Rourke did also. He says he wants to take away -- take away -- assault weapons if he is president. That has a lot of people talking about that this morning. We're going to speak to Beto O'Rourke live, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:30:00]