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Top Democratic Presidential Candidates Debate; Julian Castro's Criticism of Joe Biden Draws Criticism; Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) Interviewed about Her Presidential Debate Performance. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired September 13, 2019 - 08:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: So I asked Secretary Castro moment ago about that moment, whether he had any regrets or would do it differently. He said no. And not only did he say no, he may have gone even further. Listen.


JULIAN CASTRO, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I wouldn't do it differently. That was not a personal attack.

The vice president is, he's been around for a long time, OK? When we're up there, we're up there to debate.


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Hmm. All right, we will also get analysis on what that means, because the top 10 Democratic candidates, they squared off on the very same debate stage last night. Many of them traded barbs with primarily the former vice president. So Biden this morning, the reviews are that he came out strong, he held his own, and he invoked Barack Obama's name repeatedly.

BERMAN: Repeatedly may be an understatement.

Joining us now, Bianna Golodyrga, CNN contributor, David Axelrod, CNN senior political commentator and host of "The Axe Files" on CNN, and Mitch Landrieu, former Democratic mayor of New Orleans and a CNN political commentator. And Axe, I want to start with you. Dan Balz, the dean of political reporters in America, writes this morning that Joe Biden had the kind of debate that supporters have been waiting for.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I think that's half true. I think for the first hour, he was very, very strong. And he was more engaged than he had been. The first debate was a disaster. The second was better. I think this was even better than that. He did flag at the end of the debate.

And what I would say about presidential politics is, it never gets easier. It only gets harder as you move along. And so the performance he gave last night was more than adequate for what he needed to do. He's going to have to do better as time goes on and the field shrinks and he comes under even greater scrutiny.

CAMEROTA: Bianna, what did you see last night that jumped out?

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I agreed with you on Joe Biden. What's interesting is the man who sits so well still among African- American voters seems to still not have a particularly well defined answer when it comes to race relations questions. You talk about his fumble with bringing up vinyl and records, what have you. Remember that question came about reparations, and his response sort of mangled on and he didn't know where he was going with it.

He has the benefit of still holding the majority of African-American support right now, and he feels comfortable in that zone, yet we haven't seen a well-defined response from him when it comes to the issue of African-Americans and race relations in this country in particular.

I also thought it was a very good night for Barack Obama as opposed to the first two debates. And I think that the candidates did what they needed to do to embrace Barack Obama's legacy, obviously, the most important and most respected and popular Democrat in the party right now. So I think going forward, we're going to have to hear more from some of the more moderate candidates. I thought Amy Klobuchar had a very good night. I thought Beto O'Rourke had a very good night. And Pete Buttigieg had some good moments as well.

BERMAN: Axelrod reflexively gets happy when you say Obama had a good night, thinking that he may have a chance in Iowa.


AXELROD: I think he would do very well. Before you get to Mitch, let me just say on this issue of Biden and African-Americans, there is a reason why he invokes Barack Obama's name repeatedly. And when you talk to African-Americans, I've seen focus groups about him, particularly older African-Americans, his partnership with Obama is a certification that says everything they need to hear. That's the reason why he is sitting at close to 50 percent with African- Americans. That's the core of his support in this race.

BERMAN: So that was one message he was able to convey last night, I think he set out to convey. And it was the other message, Mayor, that he was setting out to convey I think was that I'm different than Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders on a lot of things, particularly health care. So just listen to how he distinguished himself on that.


JOE BIDEN, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I know that the senator says she's for Bernie. I'm for Barack. I think Obamacare worked. I think the way we add to it, replace everything that's been cut, add a public option, guarantee that everyone will be able to have affordable insurance.


BERMAN: Is that an important distinction for him to make?

MITCH LANDRIEU, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I do. I thought last night overall was a really good performance by all of the candidates on the stage. It was a good night for the Democrats, juxtaposed to the speech that the president gave yesterday in Baltimore which was just all over the place.

And I think the vice president showed up last night. I thought he was strong. I agree with the panel that he flagged really in the last hour. But what he's doing now is separating himself from the progressive wing of the party and saying, listen, it's great to think big, bold ideas, but you have to have a bridge to the future and actually have one. And invoking President Obama's name is not only a good name, but he was his vice president, and for the people that support him, they like him a lot for that. And I think he reminded people well of that last night.

AXELROD: We should mention, though, that Elizabeth Warren had a very strong night as well. She didn't dominate the debate, but she didn't get hit. And she slipped, I thought she slipped the punch on health care pretty effectively and went right to the experience of everyday people.


Never answered the question exactly about taxes, she's going to have to do that in the future. But she has been the steady performer throughout and she was a steady performer again last night.

LANDRIEU: I agree with that. But on the issue of health care, they're going to have to address the issue of insurance and taxes, which neither one -- not Bernie Sanders nor Elizabeth have addressed directly. But they did a really good job last night of articulating both sides of that debate, and I think it came into clearer focus.

GOLODRYGA: And remember why the Democrats did so well in the midterms, because you had Republicans campaigning on taking away Obamacare, right. So if you want to talk about health care going forward, I'm not sure that saying you're going to blow up the system right now where one can agree, regardless how you feel about Obamacare, it was not given a fair shot. So whether you're going to take Obamacare as Vice President Biden said and redefine it and grow from it as opposed to blowing the system up and now questioning whether 150 million Americans will be taken off of private insurance, I'm not sure that's a direction that Democrats, any Democratic voters want to go.

LANDRIEU: The polls indicate where people are. Most people really want to expand Obamacare as opposed to try something that they don't --

AXELROD: But Bernie Sanders says this is what people want. That's really not what people want.

LANDRIEU: It's not what they say.

BERMAN: Let's talk about the Julian Castro moment with Joe Biden. We had Secretary Castro on earlier today. He said he regretted nothing and then seemed to actually raise more questions about the vice president's age, Axe. How did that land at the moment, and what's the lingering impact?

AXELROD: I thought it was a bad moment for him. I think it was so ungracious and so gratuitous, and it wasn't even true. The fact is that Biden didn't say what he claimed that Biden had said. But Julian Castro is on the verge of extinction in this race. He's hovering around one percent or two percent. He learned the lesson the first debate when he attacked Beto O'Rourke that when you create conflict, you get attention. And I think going after the frontrunner gets you that.

And look, but Biden is going to have to answer these -- the question through his performance as to whether he's up to this. This isn't the last time. And he's going to have to up his game or he's not going to get to where he wants to go.

CAMEROTA: Everybody I know when they watch the debate thinks, how will this person perform against President Trump. That will be the ultimate -- one of the ultimate tests, obviously. And one of the things that's interesting, Bianna, about Biden is that in these moments he doesn't take the bait. So this has happened a couple of times where people have gone after him personally and he doesn't -- he doesn't return fire. He doesn't take the bait. And is that a good strategy?

GOLODRYGA: I think it works for him. I think Biden works best when he's Biden, flaws and all. You didn't see a moment from him last night where he said my time is up. That was good. That worked well for him. You saw him energized, you saw him engaged, especially in the first two hours.

I think the real question still lies among Democratic voters as to who can beat President Trump. And even though there's a lot of energy and support around Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, there's a real question as to whether a progressive Democratic candidate can defeat Donald Trump. The question going forward is, did we see other alternatives to Biden along the moderate route than just himself right now? And that's where I think -- and Amy Klobuchar, Buttigieg, and perhaps even Kamala Harris and Beto O'Rourke.

BERMAN: It's funny you mention Senator Amy Klobuchar, because she's with us right now. So stand by, friends. I want to bring in the Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar who has been waiting and listening to this.

And Senator, I know coming into this debate, you had suggested that in past debates it was frustrating because you were mostly being asked to respond to some of the other candidates on stage and there were so many candidates with the two debates. So how did you feel about last night? SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR, (D-MN) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I felt very,

very good about it because it gave me that opportunity to make the point that I don't want to just be the president for half of America. I want to be the president for all of America. And that has been my track record. I bring in independents, moderate Republicans, as well as what is clearly a fired up Democratic base, because if we want to win, we don't just want to win the presidency. We have to win big if you want to get things done on climate change and gun safety and do something about pharmaceutical prices.

And I also finally had that opportunity to make the strong case, when Bernie says I wrote the bill. I said I read the bill. And on page eight, it clearly delineates that you're going to get rid of everyone's current insurance, 149 million people, instead of building on Obamacare to make it better. And I was able to uniquely make that point early on in the debate.

BERMAN: Why is that an important distinction in this Democratic primary? Why do you think it is important to clarify where you stand versus senator Sanders and Warren on this?

KLOBUCHAR: Because they have now for a long time been labeled as having the bold ideas. And what I said last night is those aren't bold ideas. They're bad ideas. And that, in fact, these other ideas, like I have, to finally do something about mental health and long-term care and actually showing how I'm going to pay for things, which a lot of these guys have not done, or done in a very real way.


And I have done that, because I am worried about the debt. And I think we have to look at how we're going to bring everyone with us instead of using taxpayer money to pay for rich kids to go to college. Those points have not been made. And now that we're down to 10 people on the stage, there's a way that we are going to finally be able to rise up and say these are bold ideas, too. They're just different ideas than yours.

BERMAN: Elizabeth Warren was asked directly if in Medicare for all it would mean raising taxes on the middle class. And she didn't answer exactly. She kind of swerved away from answering that question. As you look at the plans and you've read Senator Sanders' plan, which is the one that Senator Warren supports there, would it raise taxes on the middle class?

KLOBUCHAR: I believe it will because of the fact that Bernie has said it himself. At least he's been honest about it. He made that very clear in the early debates. And that's fine. That's how their plan works. But I do think there is another way, and that's what we got an opportunity to make that case much more clearly last night as well as talk about some of the other ways that were different.

And one of the big ways that I am different, and I've made this case as much as I could, is I am from the middle of the country. Mayor Pete and I were the only two up there from the heartland. I'm someone that actually has a track record of getting things done over and over and over again. And I think once people just are done with the soundbite, the bumper sticker way of talking about this campaign, they start looking as a candidate. And I'm thinking of David. I watched Barack Obama during those debates when I was getting ready for this one. And he wasn't always the loudest voice in the room. And I said from the get-go, I may not be the loudest voice in the room, but we already have that in the White House. And Houston, we have a problem, maybe people want something different. And that was the case that I made.

BERMAN: You also said, I think it was you because it was the one moment where there were a lot of voices speaking at once there. This was after the exchange between Secretary Castro and Joe Biden, a house divided against itself cannot stand. Are you concerned that that is beginning to happen in this Democratic primary?

KLOBUCHAR: Well, it's always been there in this Democratic primary. And we're Democrats. We're a big tent. We bring people in, unlike the Republican Party right now, which is one guy, Donald Trump, who says jump, and they say how high can I go? So we're going to have those disputes.

But why I said that at that moment was that I thought, as much as I respect Julian, I thought that was a personal attack. And I took it to Bernie, even though we're actually friends. We came in together to the Senate. And we have a personal friendship. But I thought that was OK. That is policy, and American people have to see that.

But this felt different to me when he was sort of mocking him and making fun of him, and that's why I said that, because if we start acting like that, then we truly have, in Abraham Lincoln's word, a house divided that can't stand. And the stakes are just too high. Failure is not an option in this election. We have to be able to win and win big.

BERMAN: What are the fair questions that voters should be asking and candidates should be asking about age and endurance?

KLOBUCHAR: I think voters are pretty smart. And they're going to be able to observe how candidates handle this through many debates, through many appearances, having to answer questions. And as this race gets more defined, they're going to be able to see it more. I view this summer as just kind of a run-up. Most of the people I know, they were -- their kids were in little league. They were hanging out in the Midwest in cabins. And now they are ready to focus. And I think this is the time where you'll be able to see. It's a bit of an endurance contest, and you see how people fare over time. That's their decision to make.

BERMAN: We talk about lanes, or some people talk about lanes in this race. People look at you and say you yourself talk about I'm the one from the middle of the country, which is an awfully big lane. It's everything between California and New York.

KLOBUCHAR: Pretty big.

BERMAN: Do you think there's enough space in that lane for the former vice president and you?

KLOBUCHAR: I do or I wouldn't be running for this. I think I have strength that I bring to this that no one else does. Yes, being from the middle of the country, but also, I'm only one of three women that were up on that stage. And then, finally, as I said, I'm someone that gets things done and really comes at this with a different background as the granddaughter of an iron ore miner, worked 1,500 underground, the daughter of a union teacher and a newspaper man, first woman elected to the U.S. Senate from the state of Minnesota and a candidate for president. That's because we come from a country of shared dreams.

So I can make that argument of grit. I love the last question that they had in that debate about resilience, and I was able to talk about growing up in a family where my dad struggled with drinking -- alcoholism, his whole life, and I got through that and then got through having a sick child and every step of the way,


I thought the obstacles in my path were not obstacles. They were the path.

BERMAN: Senator Amy Klobuchar from Minnesota, thank you for sticking around. Great to have you on this morning. Appreciate it.

KLOBUCHAR: It was really fun. Thanks, guys.

BERMAN: Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: Great to see you.

OK. So, Senator Kamala Harris took a different tact last night. She went after President Trump right from the get-go of last night's debate. She's going to join us live, next.


BERMAN: This morning, devastating, unthinkable, a nightmare. That's how one New Jersey family describes learning that their daughter conceived via IVF contains none of her father's DNA.

CNN's Erica Hill here with that story.



ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR & CORRESPONDENT: I mean, just let that sink in for a moment. None. This was done via IVF.

Now, the parents maintain it's the clinic who messed up. The facility, though, says they did everything by the book.

Well, now, the family is suing for answers, and those answers could now be just weeks away. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HILL (voice-over): Six years ago, Kristina Koedderich and Drew Wasilewski welcomed a baby girl. Conceived via IVF using what they thought was Drew's sperm and Kristina's egg.

KRISTINA KOEDDERICH, MOTHER: When she was born, all my friends said, oh, she looks Asian, she looks Asian. But you just figure every baby like looks different when they're born.

HILL: As she got older, the physical differences were clear.

KOEDDERICH: I would go to a restaurant and they're like, oh, did you adopt her?

HILL: Shortly after their daughter's 2nd birthday, they say DNA tests confirmed Drew had a zero percent chance of being her biological father.

DREW WASLEWSKI, FATHER: It shook my world. That was like the final thing that destroyed everything around me.

HILL: Now divorced, the former couple is united in their fight to learn the identity of her biological father, suing the clinic where she was conceived. A director with the facility in a March deposition maintains there was no mix-up.

In a statement to CNN, that facility, the Institute for Reproductive Medicine and Science, said it cannot comment on individual patients but says they're taking this very seriously and are thoroughly examining the alleged incident.

DAVID MAZIE, ATTORNEY FOR THE FAMILY: They have known about this since 2015. And they haven't provided any information, any clarity. The only thing they say is we did everything right.

HILL: Then last month, a judge ordered the clinic to turn over records on all the men, both donors and those hoping to be parents, like Drew, who gave specimens around the same time, and all the women whose eggs were fertilized when Christina's were. They have until September 27th.

WASLEWSKI: It hurts every time. It just gets to the heart. Just stabbing and stabbing and stabbing.

Every day, you can't run from this. You can't run. Hi, daddy. Hi, sweetie. How are you?

And, you know, you see that and she's adorable and it breaks your heart, but the whole scenario is just -- it sucks.

HILL: Did it change in any way how you feel about her?

WASLEWSKI: No. Everybody is wondering, what are you going to do? What do you mean I'm going to do? I'm going to take her and throw her like a piece of garbage and throw away? You go, she didn't do anything.

She's my daughter. I watched her born.


WASLEWSKI: She's the most adorable little kid. I want to be there as long as I can, but still, it doesn't make it right.


HILL: Drew says even now, there are days this completely consumes him, which is understandable.

And another question that he has is, if his daughter was not conceived using his sperm, was another child? Was more than one child? And he says he wants those answers, too. And if there are other children, he wants to reach out in case they want a relationship. He may want to have a relationship with them.

As for their daughter, one of the other reasons they decided to pursue this is their daughter will ultimately have questions. And they feel she should have the answers to her DNA, to her genetic makeup, to health issues that may arise for her. If she wants to have a relationship with that biological father, they say they're open to it. They know it will be tough but they want to do what's right for her.

CAMEROTA: Wow. I mean, that father, you just feel for him. He's so candid about all of the mixed emotions he's having. But she is his daughter. I mean, he raised her. That is his daughter.

But it's just -- you can see how disorienting all of this has been for him. Thanks for bringing us that story.

OK. So, Senator Kamala Harris unveiling what seemed like a new debate strategy last night. She's going to join us live to tell us all about it, next.




SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: 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.


CAMEROTA: That was just one of several swipes that Senator Kamala Harris took at President Trump last night.

This is seemingly a new strategy on the debate stage. So let's ask her about it. Joining us now is Senator Kamala Harris. Good morning, Senator.

HARRIS: Good morning, Alisyn. How are you?

CAMEROTA: I'm doing well. Let's talk about that. Did you -- you took several swipes at the president last night, which was decidedly different than what we saw in, say, the first debate where you memorably went after former VP Biden's record. So, why the shift?

HARRIS: Well, actually, it's been a through line in my campaign. You'll remember -- I mean, since the beginning, I've said that we need to prosecute the case against four more years of Donald Trump, and consistently in this campaign, I've been pointing out the reasons why.

And, you know, as I refer to it semi jokingly, you know, there's a long rap sheet. Everything from the fact that he passed a tax bill that only benefits the top 1 percent and the biggest corporations in America, to putting babies in cages, separating children from their parents at the border, and, you know, the list goes on and on.

So this is a through line. And I -- it is, I think, very important that we are able to point out to articulate and to explain why we can do better. And, frankly, why Donald Trump has a long list of failed policies and, frankly, broken promises.

CAMEROTA: There was a moment that's getting a lot of attention this morning that happened last night that I want to play for you. And that is when Julian Castro turned his barbs on Joe Biden. And he seemed to go after the former VP's age and memory.

So, just let me play a moment of this for you and our viewers.


JULIAN CASTRO (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: 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 because --

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: 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: Do not have to buy in if they can't afford it.