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Former Sen. Perdue Announces Run For GA Governor; GOP Rep. Tweets Family Photo With Guns Days After Deadly School Shooting, Asks Santa Bring Ammo For Christmas; Tributes Pour In For Dole, Who Served 27 Years In Senate. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired December 06, 2021 - 12:30   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Kemp wins the primary does the Trump base stay home in November and if that happens, you lose a seat.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we're looking at this purely through the lens of the Republican primary in the battle. It's not going to be, as Julie said, extraordinarily nasty. I would make very, very clear. The incumbent governor's team is quite good at their jobs. And they're not going to be pulling punches at any point in time.

And Perdue who was well thought of in the Senate was not known as a really hardcore retail campaigner. I think that was one of the concerns, a lot of national Republicans had. But the reality is, is as this fight plays out, Stacey Abrams is just going to pretty much have her lane to herself.


MATTINGLY: And in a -- an election cycle, where it is very clear, at least at this point in time that Republicans are going to have an advantage based on historical precedent, also based on all the numbers we're looking at right now. And a real concern in some of the states

that Joe Biden flipped whether or not the turnout, particularly minority communities is going to be there. Stacey Abrams is going to have all of these months to work to ensure that those communities in particular, which are her strong suit, where she registered millions of voters over the course of the last four years are there, are turning out, are energized as these two individuals and perhaps Jordan Jones as well, I'm not totally sure what he's going to do, are just nuking each other on a daily basis.

KING: And so then help me explain this. We know Trump wanted this, we were told by our reporters, Gabby Orr or another, Trump plans to endorse Perdue. We know he was encouraging him to get into the race. So explain this from Trump ally, Steve Bannon today.


STEVE BANNON, FORMER TRUMP CHIEF STRATEGIST: There's no difference between camp and Perdue. This is the classic kind of country called blue blazer, khaki pants, and loafers that are part of the globalist movement. That's the problem with the Republican Party.


KING: Steve Bannon was not asking for khaki pants and loafers for Christmas, that was not the secret. That was not the secret play there. But you have his point is that Perdue did not lie enough, help Trump lie enough, support the lie enough, therefore, why him?

DAVIS: Right. I mean, he's pushing this, you know, this sort of populist style of politics that Trump, you know, did make quite an article of faith for his voters where he says, you know, this whole system is just split up with elites, and he's lumping Perdue with the rest of the political elites. And it's interesting, because Trump obviously wants Perdue in this race, which is why he's in this race. But what it shows you is that for this entire primary, and maybe beyond, the pressure on Perdue is going to be as Trumpy as possible.


DAVIS: You know, if he's on -- the pressure that he is under is not to sort of, you know, make himself broadly appealing, it has to appeal to that base. And some of the people who Steve Bannon talks to you on daily basis on his podcast, who think that the elites have taken over this system and what we want to see is allegiance to Trump and not allegiance to Republicanism or anything else.

KING: So that's the world we live in that if you want to win that primary, you need to please Steve Bannon more.

MCKEND: And the goalposts keep moving. You know, the thing is that the problem that these Republicans face is that you can never be Trumpy enough, right? David Perdue is eventually going to fall out, could potentially fall out of line, and then what?

MATTINGLY: All I would say is what Bannon is saying about Perdue is not necessarily wrong in the sense of best what he ran as when he won his Senate seat. That's what he was the United States Senate. He was a businessman. Every single time I spoke to him for years, it was about he was a businessman. That is what he was.

That's what he came to do. Now he's not running on that anymore. He's running purely, purely on Donald Trump and agreeing with Donald Trump. And if that's enough to win a statewide primary against a conservative governor who has delivered for conservatives on a policy perspective, that's wild and possible and entirely possible.

KING: And which what makes it there'll be several of these around the country, but I think that is the marquee one right now. At least as you see it and we'll have to watch it because it is a fascinating test of where the Republicans want to take their party.


Still ahead for us just days after 14th was shot and killed in high school. The Republican Congressman raising eyebrows with that right there. It's a Christmas card. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Right now, the Michigan school shooting suspect and both of his parents sitting in the same jail under suicide watch. Police arrested the parents, James and Jennifer Crumbley. At a warehouse, you see the video there in Detroit some 40 miles from their home. That was really Saturday morning after authority spent hours looking for them. The arrest comes as school officials are now defending their decision to allow the accused gunman to go back to his classroom.

The panel is back with me to discuss. So the legal case will play out in Michigan. It is a groundbreaking case the prosecutor trying to get the parents convicted in involuntary manslaughter, four counts each. Immediately in this town, there's a debate about gun control always after horrific shootings like this.

And then this over the weekend, Congressman Thomas Massie posting this Christmas card on Twitter. The Congressman, his wife, and his children all holding weapons, Merry Christmas PS Santa, please bring ammo. He's a gun rights. That's his position. Phil, the question is why then. The timing is it will offend many, did offend many, congressmen knows that. This is -- I want attention at this moment.

MATTINGLY: It's trolling. OK, we're talking about during the break. I've got friends back where I'm from that oftentimes take photos, maybe family photos with guns. They're hunters. It's what they do. It's part of the culture, not with guns like that. In particular, those are hunting rifles and also not at that time and not with the tweet.

It's to get attention. I'm sorry. And Congressman Massie obviously he's a Republican. He's kind of in his own wing of the House Republican conference to some degree and he'll often tweet things that maybe are a little bit inflammatory. And I think they're always designed to some degree and you've covered them a lot, a lot longer than I have. But it is explicitly designed to get attention and to draw rise out of people.


KING: That's the brand right, poke.

MCKEND: Yes, absolutely. And his politics don't always follow along neat party lines. But it seems as though in recent months, he has aligned himself with some of the most incendiary members of the caucus, he leads the Second Amendment caucus, he is very fervently pro-gun, so perhaps this is no surprise. Even years ago, he was against the move to ban bump stocks that we saw from the Trump administration.

That was a time when some Republicans were changing their position on that issue solely. But even he was very vocally against that. So that is why we see this. Also his district, I've traveled there before it is heavily Republican. And so the largest challenge political challenge that he faces year after year is that Republican primary, and this is going to make you popular with that place. KING: He outperformed Trump in the last election in his district, just by a couple points. I think 67 percent outperforming Donald Trump so he's in safe a country when it comes to the question his taste and the moment, do you want to make your point but that is the thing. Look, this is fundamentally his legal case plays out bad parenting.

These two parents bought a 15-year-old boy this weapon and then celebrated it using social media posts and the like. You can't legislate that. You can't legislate that. But there is a conversation in town about some things that Julie have -- that come up repeatedly. You know, can you regulate the size of the magazines that you can buy? Can you have a more strict enforceable tighter background check system? Dan Kildee a Democrat in the House says in the house, we're passing these bills and in the Senate, they sit.


REP. DAN KILDEE (D-MI): We can continue to pass bills in the House of Representatives. But if the Senate continues to fail to act, we're going to see more of this. And I don't think that is defensible. And I questioned whether some of those senators who are standing away really understand the gravity and the consequence of their failure to act.


KING: This is not a new conversation. It happens after every one of these tragedies and there are way too many of these tragedies, whatever your views on guns, there are way too many of these tragedies. But is there any evidence in Washington that again, I don't even want to call it low hanging fruit because all of these things get controversial? But there are some things on which they would easily pass with the majority vote if that vote was allowed?

DAVIS: Well, I mean, that's the point, right? I mean, as Eva said, not all Republicans are where Tom Massie is on regulating guns, particularly some of these less aggressive measures that have been talked about, but that would still a lot of people think be very effective, like posing background check and gun show loopholes. There is a majority in the Senate for these things. The problem is, as you well know, as we all know, the Senate doesn't run on majority rule.

The Senate, you need 60 votes. And there is, to answer your question, very little evidence that any of that calculus has changed, there is a group of Republicans and Democrats that have been working for a long time to try to see if there is a middle way for some of these more, you know, less extreme examples of gun control proposals to pass. But they continue to run into this brick wall time and time again.

And partially it is because the Republicans are very much against this and the power of the NRA, every time a proposal like this starts to gain any traction. But also part of it is because the problem has gotten so bad and so big. And the reminders tragically are so frequent, that there are a lot of Democrats who are reluctant to have -- to do any half measures at all, you know, that they think that, you know, background checks are important. And maybe there could be something that could get done with 60 votes

on background checks. I haven't seen any evidence of that yet. But even if that were the case, I think there are a lot of people who are very worried that more needs to get done. And you need to in the wake of a tragedy like this, think about what the most aggressive moves you could make would be to make sure that this stops happening.

KING: And the conversation, we're in December, heading into a midterm election year where the conversation is what can we do to excite, motivate, enthused our base, it's not going to be on gun control weather -- whatever your position is, it's just not -- the political reality is that's not going to happen. I'll show you a live look here. This is the White House, the flag at half-staff in honor of an American hero. Senator Bob Dole died Sunday at the age of 98.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People see this as a speculating them, maybe you'll take some kind of position with the Clinton administration. Is that a possibility? Is that a likelihood? Is that anything you're interested in?

BOB DOLE, FORMER MEMBER OF THE UNITED STATES SENATE: Well, if he wanted to give me his job, I'd think of it.



KING: Senator Dole's life and legacy, including the laughter, next.


KING: America is down a hero today. Senator Bob Dole died Sunday at the age of 98. Flags at the White House are at half-staff. And we could learn more today about plans for services. Public Service defined Dole's life, 27 years in the Senate, including two stints as Majority Leader, President Ford's running mate back in 1976.

Three times Dole was a presidential candidate he won the Republican nomination in 1996 but lost the general election to President Bill Clinton that Lieutenant Dole rose to Senator Dole is a testament to his legendary personal resilience and to hometown Russell Kansas generosity. Dole, Lieutenant Dole was wounded in Italy during World War II and spent 39 months in and out of the hospital. The pen in a clenched fist was a Dole trademark. The war wounds cost him the use of his arm.


Deal making was Dole's bread and butter, a plan to save Social Security, the Food Stamp Program and the Americans with Disabilities Act among the big Senate compromises that are part of the Dole legacy. So to is Washington's World War II Memorial, Senator Dole pushed relentlessly for that project. With me to discuss this remarkable life, USA Today Washington bureau

chief, Susan Page with me now. We were talking during the break. And a lot of fun on the Dole plane back in 1996. It was a fun campaign to cover even though he knew he was likely to lose. And he ultimately did. You spent a lot of time with him over the years, what jumps out?

SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, USA TODAY: Well, I've spent 40 years interviewing Bob Dole, I interviewed him during that first campaign, I covered in 1980. That was the first presidential campaign he ran in. I last interviewed him in July of this year, two days before his 98th birthday.

He was the same guy from the start to the finish. He was funny and candid and acerbic and very interested in what was going on in Washington. And I think at that point, actually quite alarmed by the direction he saw the country going.

KING: And naturally, as you know, he chose his words. He likes short sentences. He didn't speak he was -- it was just that was the Kansas City, if you're Kansan you know you wrote a column, great column about your dad. And you just you say what you had to say and you don't say anything extra. So which is why I wanted to play this, this is from the Dole convention in 1996. And it's a wonderful piece of speech making.


DOLE: And do not think I have forgotten whose moment this is, above all. It is for the people of America, they stand here tonight, and by their generous leave. And as my voice echoes across darkness and desert, as it is heard over car radios on coastal roads and as it travels above farmland and suburb, deep into the heart of cities that in space look tonight, like spraying strings of sparkling diamonds. I can tell you that I know whose moment this is, it is yours. It is yours entirely.


KING: It was not what he enjoyed doing most he was not a big speech giver. Those words written by him or speech -- he was that ultimate middle American. And to that part, that's true. But that was not his thing.

PAGE: No. He had a suspicion of people who talked to well. I mean, that was one of the things that annoyed him about Bill Clinton, Bill Clinton very glib, great at doing speeches like that. Bob Dole was terrible at it. Because in Kansas, where I was born and raised, it is not to be glib is not seen as a compliment. People on the East and West Coast who talk so much are viewed with some suspicion. You say what you have to say in as few words as possible, and you stop.

KING: And he was. So this is a clip from David Letterman after the 1996 election. Bob Dole was just one of the funniest people you'd ever meet. He did it on the fly. He did it reflexively, Letterman like a service but hilarious. Listen.



DOLE: Thank you.

LETTERMAN: Bob, what do you been doing lately?

DOLE: Not -- apparently not enough in any event.

LETTERMAN: Are you talking about people speculating that maybe you'll take some kind of position with the Clinton administration? Is that a possibility? Is that a likelihood? Is that anything you're interested in?

DOLE: Well, if he wanted to give me a job, I'd think of it.


KING: Both funny and he meant it. I just want to show this an old AP headline written by some schmuck John King back in the day about. One of the interesting things, there's a joke there about if Bill Clinton give me that job, I'd take it. Dole made that decision during the campaign to quit the Senate to run as a candidate so he could not go back to the Senate, which was actually his love.

PAGE: Yes, he was -- and he was a great senator, and he was a great legislative leader in the tradition of LBJ and Sam Rayburn and other leaders on Capitol Hill who were able to forge coalition, so even though they had really strong personal opinions and stuff, he was a conservative Republican, he was a fierce partisan, but he was willing to work with the most liberal Democrats in the Senate to get things done that he thought were important for himself and for the nation.

KING: Right. Majority leader Newt Gingrich became speaker of the house. Bob Dole didn't like that he didn't like the way Newt played. A longtime rivalry with George H.W. Bush, yet this is the remarkable picture at the former President Bush's funeral where Bob Dole gives the salute as well.

PAGE: Yes, he was very sorry, he didn't defeat George H.W. Bush for the nomination in 1988, would have been a better year for him to run for president. They were of the same generation. They were right political rivals. They came to an accommodation and mutual respect, late in life, which you certainly saw in that picture.

KING: Right. You see it right there. Senator Dole being helped from his wheelchair, a remarkable, a man who put country first and put differences aside as you mentioned, forging a bond with President Bush after that. Susan Page, thank you. Thank you for coming in on this day. I wish we had all the more time again, a great American hero, a great loss. People say it was nostalgic go back to the days when compromise actually worked, but he proved compromise could work.


We'll be right back.


KING: Topping our Political Radar today, the Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar told CNN she is confident Speaker Pelosi will take action this week against Republican congresswoman Lauren Boebert for Boebert's racist anti-Muslim remarks and Omar slamming the Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy for not doing so.


REP. ILHAN OMAR (D-MN): McCarthy is a liar and a coward. He doesn't have the ability to condemn the kind of bigoted Islamophobia and anti- Muslim rhetoric that are being trafficked by a member.


KING: Thanks for joining INSIDE POLITICS. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.