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Inside Politics

U.S. Shoots Down Suspected Chinese Spy Balloon; Biden Touts Wins Ahead of State of the Union Address; Haley Expected to Announce Presidential Bid Later This Month; Koch Network Plans to Back Candidate other than Trump in Primary; Biden and McCarthy Hold First One-on-One Meeting; Revisions to AP Black Studies Class Spark Controversy, Debate. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired February 05, 2023 - 08:00   ET





ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST (voice-over): Shot down. The U.S. destroys the suspected Chinese spy balloon that triggered a diplomatic crisis.

ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: The presence of this surveillance balloon is a clear violation of U.S. sovereignty and international law.

PHILLIP: What's the fallout for the critical U.S. relationship with China?

Plus, the president gears up for reelection.

CROWD: Four more years! Four more years!

PHILLIP: And trumpets a blockbuster jobs report.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Biden economic plan is working.

PHILLIP: But can Biden convince voters that the economy is back on track?

And Donald Trump unloads on his would-be primary rivals.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: Rob DeSantis got elected because of me.

Nikki suffers from something that's a very tough thing. She's overly ambitious.

PHILLIP: As the 2024 field takes shape, are they ready for the attacks coming their way?


PHILLIP (on camera): Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY. I'm Abby Philip.

At 2:39 yesterday afternoon, a tense and dramatic diplomatic crisis ended with one shot from an F-22 fighter jet.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, (EXPLETIVE DELETED) wait, those are missiles. Oh my god, they shut it down. They shut it down. No. (EXPLETIVE DELETED) Did you hear it?


PHILLIP: Just off the coast of South Carolina, the U.S. took down a suspected Chinese spy balloon that have became a critical flash point in U.S.-China relations.

President Biden had this to say shortly after the mission was completed.


BIDEN: On Wednesday, when I was briefed on the balloon, I ordered the Pentagon to shoot it down on Wednesday, as soon as possible. They decided that the best time to do that was when I got over the water, outside, within out -- within a 12-mile limit. They successfully took it down, and I want to compliment our aviators who did it.


PHILLIP: It didn't take long for China to issue its own response, expressing it strong dissatisfaction and protest, and, stating it reserves, quote, the right to make further necessary reaction. Those three words, further necessary action, beg the question, is this standoff really over? And if not, what happens next?

Let's discuss all of this and more with two of our very own best reporter, CNN anchor and chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, and Phil Mattingly, CNN's chief White House correspondent.

Thanks both of you for being here this morning.

Jim, this is an area that you studied quite a lot, a clear escalation in U.S.-China relations at a very tense time. We're also learning some new things this morning.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, let's first talk about the chance of escalation, that's always a concern about this one when nation fires at another. This was a missile strike. It is superpower versus superpower, is what is China's response?

I was reading "The Global Times" this morning. That is effectively a Chinese government mouthpiece. Notable, to have this language in the mouthpiece. If the U.S. does not differentiate between civilian and military aircraft, then it has made a very bad precedent in treating China-U.S. relations. This piece mentions what is a fact. U.S. has many surveillance

aircraft to fly around Chinese airspace, both drones, but also spy planes. I've been on one of them. China claims that the U.S. uses civilian aircrafts, or similar surveillance purposes.

It is telegraphing there, at least, the possibility that if you are able to shoot down what we claim to be a civilian aircraft, claiming it's surveillance, we reserve the right to do the same. Whether China makes a decision to do that is another question.

But some of these aircraft are unmanned, like this balloon. Is it possible that China, under certain circumstances, might do the same? It's possible. They seem to be telegraphing that, and that shows you that an incident like this is not necessarily over. The danger now is escalation and response.

PHILLIP: There's some clear frustration among the administration that China continues to use this explanation, that it's a weather balloon, that they view this as completely fallacious and they are saying so pretty loudly. But they're also being criticized because of the duration of how long this went on.

This is a balloon the traverse the entire continental United States. And you have Republican, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Republican on the Armed Services Committee, Roger Wicker, saying this: Allowing a spy balloon from the communist party of China to travel across the entire continental United States before contesting its presence is a disastrous projection of weakness by the White House.


The White House owes Congress and the American people answers about this failure, and I tend to get those answers. So, what is the explanation for why they didn't address it more aggressively before it was able to make that full journey?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I mean, I think contextually you have to understand, at least to people I've been speaking, I know Jim has been speaking the same -- the fact that alleged Chinese spy balloons are in the general vicinity of the United States, or in the general vicinity of Alaska is not a rarity. We've seen it regularly over the last administration and this administration. They've seen the spy blues and more than five continents up to this point.

What was different about this was that when it was first spotted on January the 28th, in the Alaska territory area, they actually left the U.S. territory, went into Canada, and then came back into the continental United States on January 31st. That was the moment when it became clear that it was. Different that alarms of people.

That was the moment where the process inside the administration between the Pentagon, between the White House national security council really kicked into high gear but how to deal with. As the president was briefed by General Mark Milley, the chairman of the chief joint of staff on Tuesday. On Wednesday, the military presented full options to the president.

And the president made clear this needs to be shot down. However, every one of the table, both national security council on the Pentagon, said that it is now over the continental United States knows a significant risk to civilians of this very large, this is not just the balloon, this was three buses, size of three buses, payload underneath that, that could cause real damage both the property and to people.

And so, the decision was made, given the bet there is no security, risk in the collection perspective, they would quickly to address that in the U.S. side, that they would let this go, shot it down when it came over water, and then be able, in their, minds to be able to collect a more fulsome intelligence when they picked up the payload from the water, which is the recovery process that they're now engaged in.

SCIUTTO: Another point for that discussion. I'm told that General Mark Milley, chairman the chief joint of staff, called the administrator of NASA, a former senator, Bill Nelson, to ask for NASA's help in simulating won a debris flow would look like, where it might pose a danger.

Those are capabilities that NASA has, DOD does not, because NASA, of course, has to consider this if the satellite goes awry, they have the capability and say where might the set on the, ground what kind of dangers would oppose.

And that factored into this decision here, that you shoot something this big down over populated U.S. territory, it does pose a risk to people, and property, on the ground.

PHILLIP: Jim, now that we have the United States shot this balloon down, they are collecting it. What do you think they can actually get in terms of usable intelligence out of that payload?

SCIUTTO: Well, I'm told by a senior U.S. military official that this balloon had surveillance capabilities, but limited surveillance capabilities, that the U.S. believed it was able to -- while in effect over U.S. soil. It's not clear that this is the be-all and end-all of Chinese surveillance equipment. It did have surveillance capability.

And anytime you have an opportunity to collect that, you do. I'm thinking back 27 odd years ago if you remember when as spy plane, an EP-3, collided with a Chinese jet over Hainan Island. They had to land, the Chinese kept that -- kept that plane, and I'm sure, drew what intelligence and technology they could from it.

PHILLIP: It all seems to beg the question, why would the Chinese bother to take this risk if what they were trying to -- the technology that they were utilizing was perhaps not all that revolutionary?

MATTINGLY: Yeah, and I think what the words I heard earlier in the week is clumsy. It just felt clumsy. I think that was the brazen nature of things, given the kind of cost benefits from the actual collection perspective, in the U.S. ability to very quickly move to mitigate any real threat in terms of intelligence collection has really kind of raised not just alarms, but real questions that the administration because you can't view this in the vacuum.

Secretary Antony Blinken was scheduled to go to China this weekend. It was supposed to be a significant second order of the summit between President Xi and Biden last year in Asia. And to have that happen, obviously, there is the cancellation of the summit.

And then, if you look through what's happening behind the scenes, on Wednesday night, the Chinese embassy top officials were summoned to the State Department to meet with Wendy Sherman, and Tony Blinken, or they express their very real displeasure.

Also after, it was shot down, conversations between U.S. officials and Chinese officials basically U.S. officials saying this is what happened, this is what we told you it was probably going to happen, and this is why it happened. Now we need to figure what the next steps are.

I'm not sure anyone really knows, yet just because of how unusual and strange this whole thing was.

PHILLIP: Yeah. Meanwhile, all of this is happening in a domestic context.

I just want to show you real quick some of the social media comments and images being made by Republicans. It's a little unserious to say that you're going to use a weapon of any kind to shoot this down. What do you make of the politics of this play back in the U.S.?

SCIUTTO: Well, a reasonable follow-up to all these folks is would you shoot down over your own state? With your own citizens at risk of being hit by the falling debris?


I mean, that clearly went into the decision-making here. I mean, there are open questions about whether there was an opportunity prior to have been overpopulated U.S. territory. But this is the nature of our politics today.

We used to say politics ended at the shoreline. They clearly do not anymore. Every one of these areas becomes a partisan issue.

PHILLIP: And as you think, it really just underscores China has always been a major point of conflict for the United States, but it's about to supercharge into a major domestic political issue I think coming up.

SCIUTTO: It's a dangerous time, we should be aware of.


SCIUTTO: That this is not a video game. This is superpower firing, and superpower. It's retaliation for what the U.S. views as a hostile action. PHILLIP: Yeah, serious issues here.

Jim Sciutto, thank you so much for coming in for us.

Phil Mattingly, stick around.

Coming up next for us, an economic shocker. The U.S. unemployment rate drops to the lowest level that it's been in more than 53 years. We'll tell you why.


PHILLIP: U.S. job creation smashed expectations this weekend, and the unemployment rate hit the lowest level that it's been since this classic was at the top of the charts.



PHILLIP: Yes, we can use some tunes this morning. Not since 1969 has the unemployment rate dubbed to the stunningly low 3.4 percent that it hit in January, as 517,000 jobs were added to the economy.

Now this is welcome news for the White House, and it comes just days before President Biden delivers his first State of the Union Address in front of a Republican-controlled Congress.

And on Friday, he gave what was a very likely preview of the victory lap that he'll take on Tuesday night.


BIDEN: We created more jobs in two years than any president did in their entire term. The biggest investment American infrastructure since Eisenhower's administration. Lower health care costs and lower prescription drug prices. The first Black woman on the Supreme Court in the United States of America. The most significant gun control passed in 30 years. The biggest investment in tackling the climate crisis in the history of not only this country, but the history of the world.


PHILLIP: And Phil Mattingly is back with us. CNN's Nia Malika Henderson is here as well. Toluse Olorunnipa of "The Washington Post" and Olivia Beavers of "Politico" are joining the table.

I bet none of you had age of Aquarius --


MATTINGLY: That music to you was legit. Love that.

PHILLIP: Blast from the past, but also a really blast, really, for Biden, a blast of optimism heading into the State of the Union.

These are the kind of numbers mostly that they want, although the irony of this economy is that a hot economy is kind of bad news for the economy as well. But putting that aside, he's going to tout this --

HENDERSON: Yeah, I think this is a brilliant preview of what we hear on Tuesday night, when he delivers that State of the Union Address in this divided Congress, I don't imagine that a lot of House Republicans are going to cheer those numbers, necessarily.

But there is good news. It is in some ways of mixed bag about how Americans actually feel about it, in some ways, they feel good about the present. They're very nervous, though, about what's ahead. Is there going to be inflation? Is the mortgage rates are what they are and likely will tick up?

So, there is some worry. But listen, there is a victory lap to be had. And I think this president will have it in terms of some of these economic numbers.

PHILLIP: Look, to that very point, I mean, just take a look at these poll numbers. Americans continue to be incredibly pessimistic about this economy. Just 17, or just 20 percent now say that the economy is excellent to good. That's pretty much unchanged from where it was in July of 2022. And this is despite the economy really showing extraordinary resilience.

I mean, what do these numbers really show? I mean, you could make an argument that some of this is a reflection of partisanship getting baked into how people feel about their economic --

MATTINGLY: I think partisanship. I think the inflation is a very difficult issue to address politically, even though there is been clear deceleration of the last hour six months because people are seeing, right? In the same way that gas prices were such a huge fixation for the White House, because they knew that it was essentially a political billboard every single time you drove down the street, you are seeing that this is a problem and that's what resonates with people.

I think that's been the case with grocery stores as well. And that drives a lot of this. I think the coverage of it, the perception of this drives a lot of how people feel about things.

I think when you look at the underlying numbers, particularly given where even White House economists out there were going to be at this point in time, this is as good as it can possibly be for the White House, in terms of what they've been grappling with, how inflation is starting to move downward, where growth is, where jobs are, and what they view, as you heard the president kinetic through his list of accomplishments, what is very much a groundwork laid for a very positive next few quarters when it comes to the economy, based on what they did legislatively in those first few years.

I think all of that is factored in. But they are cognizant of the fact that they're still pessimistic. I think to Nia's point, I think there's still concern about what lies ahead.

PHILLIP: Meanwhile, President Biden was at the DNC this past week basically taking a victory lap, and perhaps previewing a little bit of what his 2023 matches might be if he runs for reelection. Take a listen.


BIDEN: Jobs are up, wages are up, inflation is down, COVID no longer controls our live. But now, the extreme MAGA Republicans in the House of Republicans have made it clear that they intend to put it all at risk.

Think about it -- these aren't conservatives. These aren't conservatives. These disruptive people, they intend to destroy the progress we made.


PHILLIP: Biden on the attack?

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: He's going to be on the attack for much of the next few years. We're going to see some of that in the State of the Union, when he officially announces his reelection bid. We're going to see even more of that sort of attack dog, and sort of -- one of the reasons he's doing that is because he wants to not only tout his economic progress, but he also wants to talk about the contrast between what Democrats are for, what Democrats have done over the next few years, and what Republicans are for.


And we've seen some of that in the last couple of weeks with the Congress pushing for things like bills on abortion, bills to take care of Medicare, and Social Security, and potentially cut those programs. And Biden wants to say, Democrats are going to save those programs, and save and protect the economy, while Republicans are going to be pushing things that Americans don't want.

PHILLIP: We were just talking about the balloon issue, the balloon issue. That plays a role in what he's going to face on Tuesday as well.

OLIVIA BEAVERS, CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, POLITICO: Yeah, I had a leadership source reach out to me last night and they said that Republicans are talking about introducing a resolution basically condemning how the Biden administration handled the balloon. And if they do pull the trigger on that, that's going to be on Tuesday.

So, they're going to be condemning basically the president right before he comes on the house floor and makes a speech. That is just one of the sort of first approaches where they're going to be trying to message against them. If you see him taking the tactic of calling them extreme MAGA Republicans, I think you're going to see responses from other House Republicans on the floor, and maybe an eye roll from McCarthy. But I think, you know, it depends what Biden says. PHILLIP: Speaking of reactions on the floor, just a little bit of a

flashback for you. Here is last year's State of the Union on Marjorie Taylor Greene, and Lauren Boebert heckling President Biden from the floor.

Interesting thing about that now, you are looking at two of the most powerful House Republicans in the conference right now. Things have changed quite a lot politically going into this next State of the Union.

Everyone, standby.

Up next for us, Nikki Haley versus Donald Trump. The former U.S. ambassador is gearing up to challenge her former boss.



PHILLIP: This was Nikki Haley nearly two years ago on the possibility of running against Donald Trump for president.


REPORTER: If he runs again in 2024, will you support him?

NIKKI HALEY, FORMER SOUTH CAROLINA GOVERNOR: Yes. I would not run if President Trump ran.


PHILLIP: And this was Nikki Haley just two weeks ago on the possibility of running against Donald Trump for president.


HALEY: Yes, we need to go in a new direction. And can I be that leader? Yes. I think it's time for a new generational change. I don't think you need to be 80 years old to go and be a leader in D.C.


PHILLIP: How things have changed in just over a week, the former Trump administration ambassador to the United Nations is expected to announce that she will battle her former boss with the Republican nomination. She will be the first, but definitely not the last to mount a challenge to Trump.

Let's just say, he isn't too happy about it.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: You know, she said numerous times, I put it up actually, that I would never run against President Trump, he was a great president, et cetera, et cetera. She said that numerous times. But she's a very ambitious person. She just couldn't stay in her seat.

I said, you know what, Nikki, if you want to run, go head and run.

Nikki suffers from something that's a very tough thing to suffer from. She's overly ambitious.


PHILLIP: No surprises there. Trump starts with the very first think he starts with this, I guess a kind of gender troupe about overly ambitious woman. And you better believe that Nikki Haley, who is very used to running against a lot of men, that's something that she is going to exploit.

But what's her path, really here in this race?

HENDERSON: You know, that's a big question for Nikki Haley who when she was in the Trump administration, had very high approval ratings. She got approval ratings that were pretty good from Democrats and Republicans.

How did she gather enough momentum and steam with the primary audience, when it's all about the heart and it's all about the gut? Like how did she grab those folks? It's not going to be sort of an intellectual, generational argument that says, you know, I'm not 80, I'm only 50, however old she is.

So, I mean, I think she's got some real work to do. Like what is the Nikki Haley constituency?

PHILLIP: And how is she going to answer the questions about what she said a year ago about now riding against Trump, about working for Trump. There has been a lot of back and forth on Trump from Nikki Haley.

BEAVERS: Yeah, if you look after January 6th, Nikki Haley basically said, I think Donald Trump is done. He went as far down as he can go. There's no coming back for him.

And then as the political tide started showing the Trump was making the resurrection with the Republican base, Nikki Haley changed her tune. So, this is not the first time that she has sort of flipped on Donald Trump, but you have House Republicans already starting to call her out for that, you know that they are going to be attacking her for what they call flip-flopping.

I talk to Max Miller last week and he said people continue to backstab President Trump, only to elevate their platform. He pointed to Nikki Haley, and he pointed to Mike Pompeo. Those are both people who used to work for Trump, and Miller, I would, is a former senior adviser to Trump.

PHILLIP: Yeah, I guess, and to his point, she's not alone in the flip-flop on Trump here. She would not be alone. There have some brand-new reporting out this morning at CNN, "New York Times" as well, about Americans for Prosperity. This is the Koch organization. They are saying that: To write a new chapter of our country, we need

to turn the page on the past. So the best thing for the country would be to have a president in 2025 who represents a new chapter. They are saying they are going to weigh in on, in the primary, the Republican primary, they're going to pick a horse in that raise, and that horse is not going to be Donald Trump.

That's a pretty extraordinary move amid organization that could rival the RNC in terms of funds and resources.

OLORUNNIPA: Yeah, the Koch stayed out of the 2020 presidential race. They stayed out of the 2016 presidential race. There's no love lost between them and Trump and Trump world. They think that Trump has taken the party in the wrong direction.

And so the fact that they're going to potentially put their money behind and potentially a lot of money behind another candidate could shake up the race in a major way.

I would expect a number of these other potential candidates, people like Ron DeSantis who the Kochs backed in 2018 to be going hat in hand to the Kochs and saying that I am the person who can take on Trump.

And there's been a big challenge among the Republicans about whether or not you should have one person take on Trump one-on-one or whether or not you're going to have a big field. This could put things in the direction of having one person with a lot of money behind them as a potential challenger.

MATTINGLY: And I think that the key on this is for the last -- since 2015, it has always been, all right, fine, are you just going to sit there and wait for him to go away or is somebody going to actually take action to do something about it.


MATTINGLY: Everyone has chosen the former always and has always been wrong about that. And this is the first signal of like actual real money coming in and trying to push the latter (ph).

PHILLIP: Yes. To your very point, McKay Coppins writes a piece this week on Republicans 2024 magical thinking that "Faced with the prospect of another cycle dominated by Trump and uncertainty that he can actually be beaten in the primaries, Republicans are quietly rooting for something to happen that will make him go away and they would strongly prefer not to be the ones to make it happen themselves."

He also writes in this piece that Republicans that he talked to for this story are basically whispering that worrying that Trump in old age will just go away, pass away literally.

I mean Republicans are telling him that. That is -- I mean if not magical thinking, I don't know what is.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Hope is not a strategy. I mean listen, Trump is either sort of like 25 percent or 55 percent of the electorate. Maybe it's something like 35 percent if you sort of average it out.

You know the idea is, you know, he's a balloon -- not a Chinese spy balloon, but a balloon that here --

MATTINGLY: That's quite a metaphor.

HENDERSON: -- he'll sort of lose altitude, right, as time goes on because of the weight of his own, you know, meeting you know, meeting with anti-Semites or the investigations that are going on or you know, the strength of somebody like Ron DeSantis who is in a really good position.

Maybe he's got 25 percent or 20 percent of the electorate -- Republican electorate. He can grow, right.

But the idea is can you just wait and hope passively that this person, Donald Trump who has such a strong hold on the Republican electorate just fade away?

PHILLIP: Ok. The lesson from 2016 seems to be no. I mean just take a listen to what it was like to run against Trump back then.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't even know why I mentioned Jeb. What happens is this. It's sad. It's very sad. His family is so ashamed.

In the case of lying Ted Cruz, Lying Ted lies -- oh, he lies.

Now you look at Kasich, I've never seen a human being eat in such a disgusting fashion.

A guy like Rubio is a baby. It's Rubio.


PHILLIP: You know, watching that, there are two things about that. One, Trump goes on the offensive. He picks off his opponents one by one.

The other thing, I think there's really a question of the energy that you see in those clips from years ago, you don't see that same kind of energy from Trump today. I think it's an open question.

OLORUNNIPA: Yes. If you talk to people in Trump world, they say they've got a lot of time to ramp up that energy to do the kind of rallies that he did and he got famous for in 2016 and 2020. But he is older. He does have a lot of political battles behind him.

He -- if you talk to people close to him -- is more bitter, not only about 2020 but about the fact that people like Nikki Haley and people that he thought were his supporters have turned against and people that he endorsed like Ron DeSantis are potentially running against him.

And so he is in a position where he doesn't have that same energy, that same likeness that he had in 2016 and that may make it difficult for --


HENDERSON: Yes. And there was also a sort of shock value back then in watching him, right?

PHILLIP: Yes. We've seen this movie before.

MATTINGLY: And entertainment value.

HENDERSON: Exactly, yes.

MATTINGLY: It was funny to watch. It was interesting to watch on TV. And now it's tired. It's old. And I think the calculation right now, to some degree is, you know, the 25 percent to 30 percent that's baked in for him, everybody gets that. What he doesn't have anymore is the Trump skeptical folks who are willing to just say, ok, right.

And so can they all coalesce together behind a single or a couple of candidates to put him in real problematic territory in a primary. And I think that's the open question right now.

PHILLIP: Meanwhile, if you're Ron DeSantis, you're just not saying anything at all.

BEAVERS: No. And I mean Republicans said DeSantis is playing it well, right. He hasn't announced. He hasn't really signaled that he was going to launch his campaign soon and we're already talking about him as the number one heavyweight going against Donald Trump.


BEAVERS: So DeSantis is in a very strong place who's trying to not alienate Trump supporters, but he's also making a punch here and there, you know, saying well, I won re-election. So he's having his say.

But I think that one of the attacks that Trump is also doing is he's trying to say that DeSantis is beholden to special interests and to, quote, "the deep state" because he doesn't have nis own independent money. So Trump is trying to find what works against DeSantis already.

PHILLIP: He's still feeling it out.

Well, it's about to kick off very, very soon here.

And coming up next for us though, when Kevin met Joe, the president and the speaker hold their first one-on-one meeting. How did it go?


[08:29:45] PHILLIP: The fate of the global economy may rest on the relationship between President Biden and Speaker McCarthy. And until now they really haven't had one. But this week they held their first one on one meeting to tackle a critically important issue -- raising the debt ceiling. And McCarthy says that meeting went better than he expected.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The president and I had a good fist meeting. I shared my perspective with him. And we can -- we agreed to continue the conversation. I think at the end of the day, we can find common ground. I really do.


PHILLIP: But the two sides remain very far apart. Despite that though, Biden made it clear that he's hopeful that they can have a productive and respectful relationship.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let's start treating each other with respect. That's what Kevin and I are going to do. Not a joke. We had a good meeting yesterday.

I think we've got to do it across the board. It doesn't mean we're going to agree and fight like hell, but let's treat each other with respect.


PHILLIP: Amen. Hope springs eternal. We will see how this goes. I mean -- but it is positive. I mean I don't want to downplay this because look, I think respect goes a long way in this town. And I think, if they can get to a point where they actually deal with each other -- I mean this is in stark contrast to what we saw in the four years of Trump-Pelosi -- two people really butting heads. I think Biden and McCarthy are trying to get to a decent place here.

MATTINGLY: I think it's important to know that two things can both be true, the fact that in terms of a resolution on the debt ceiling, they're still very far apart and neither has moved off of their positions which are completely, diametrically opposed to one another. And they can have a very positive meeting in the sense of getting to know one another better.

They've known each other before hand but getting to know one another better and having a very respectful and engaging conversation, which by all accounts -- both White House and Capitol Hill -- is exactly what happened. And I think to be frank, that's kind of how Biden operates generally when he meets with people, particularly behind closed doors.

What people miss in the kind of Biden-McCarthy dynamic is they're actually very similar politicians in terms of how they operate. They are people of people. They work with individuals. They have relationships. They care about their relationships.

And a big part of their success is because they maintain relationships over time and understand the importance of care and feeding of those relationships. And I think those two getting together behind closed doors away from kind of the atmospherics of the political scene in which we are all living in right now is both critical and I think will be helpful down the line.

I don't know how this actually resolves the debt ceiling but I don't -- to your point, I don't think you should minimize that. These sessions are important at this level.


I guess the other question that I have is when McCarthy walks back into the Capitol, can he really sell to his conference a respectful relationship with someone who many of them want to impeach?

BEAVERS: It's going to be a tough sell. I mean, you know -- and we saw it with the speakership battle -- he has an entire contingency of Republicans who want to just be going after the Biden administration. Some are saying that they might not even support raising the debt ceiling at all.

But you know, if they're taking this tone, it's a good sign. But I also think that it sounds a little too rosy because time here is important. When you start having the pressure cooker getting in, that's when you have McCarthy probably in his best position to push Biden, but neither of them want the chance or the specter or, you know, the impact of the economy landing on them.

So I don't know, I don't know. They're talking a very good game. But we'll see if that sticks.

PHILLIP: Part of the subject here in this relationship, as you pointed out, Phil -- these are not strangers to each other. McCarthy and Biden know each other.

But the subtext here is that both men have been here before by virtue of their, you know, sort of like former bosses -- although I wouldn't call Boehner McCarthy's boss. But they were both in the background of a conflict that played out a few years ago in the Obama administration.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will not negotiate over Congress's responsibility to pay the bills that have already been racked up. Voting for the Treasury to pay America's bills is not a concession to me.

JOHN BOEHNER, FORMER GOP CONGRESSMAN: The president says I'm not going to negotiate. Well, I'm sorry, but it just doesn't work that way. We've got to address the spending problems that we have in this town.

(END VIDEO CLIP) PHILLIP: It sounds like deja vu, but that is --


PHILLIP: -- that situation and some of the same players. Biden was on the Hill negotiating for Obama.

HENDERSON: That's right. Biden was the negotiator there, and you hear some Republicans saying, listen, you're saying you're not going to negotiate, but you were negotiating back then.

Listen, I think the big question for McCarthy is him negotiating with his own caucus. What are they going to ask him to do? There's talk about, for instance work requirements attached to Medicaid and food stamps and discretionary spending caps as well as waste, fraud and abuse -- whatever that means, eliminating of that.


HENDERSON: But yes, there's a lot more to go in these discussions. I think the good news is some of these initial relationships and talks that McCarthy has had with Biden and the fact that the real problem doesn't come until June, right.

That there is some time to work this out. There's not a real urgency yet, but there will be.

PHILLIP: And I think will give Republicans some time to answer the question, what are they going to cut? So far they have not been willing to be very clear about what exactly they want on the chopping block in these negotiations.

But when we come back, as Black History Month gets under way, a first- of-its-kind class for high schoolers on black studies is stirring up a big national debate. But it's what the students won't be learning that's causing the biggest backlash.




JAMES BALDWIN, AUTHOR: The future of the Negro in this country is precisely as bright or as dark as the future of the country. It is s entirely up to the American people whether or not they're going to face and deal with and embrace the stranger whom they relied on so long.


PHILLIP: Author James Baldwin issued That prophetic warning about race in America almost 60 years ago. But now the literary giant, a voice of the Civil Rights Movement, has been removed from the curriculum for students studying Advanced Placement African American history. And he joins a long list of notable authors and scholars glaringly absent from the course of official curriculum that was released this week by the College Board.

In Black History Month, no less, their writings which were originally included in a draft syllabus of the class were removed shortly after Florida Governor Ron DeSantis banned the course from his seat (ph).

The College Board though denies any connection between the changes and DeSantis' move stating that the course has been shaped over years by the most eminent scholars in the field, not political influence.

It is not lost on all of us. I mean we're all journalists here and understand our role in writing history that these kind of moves, they have a political, you know, lens to them. But in real life, I mean the issue here is are we really trying to teach history or are we trying to teach what's comfortable for us?

Toluse, your excellent book, "His Name is George Floyd" about George Floyd probably would be on the banned list.

OLORUNNIPA: I think so. I mean a lot of these writers that were banned or taken out of this course are more contemporary writers dealing with the contemporary issues that we faced in this country, including the Black Lives Matter Movement, the aftermath of George Floyd's death and these broader theories, this broader approaches to discussing race, getting involved discussing difficult aspects of our racial history, including the fact that we continue to grapple with some of the challenges that we face in the past and that, you know, the civil rights movement didn't end racial injustice in this country.

And so that's one of the challenges that folks like Ron DeSantis have presented for the College Board because he seems to appreciate a more -- you know, kind of discussion of race that does not deal with some of these difficult issues.

PHILLIP: Yes. I mean it's basically whitewashing things you don't like. I mean it's not to say that everyone should agree with some of these topics, but the idea that students shouldn't learn them at all is I think what people have an issue with. I want you to listen to Nikole Hannah-Jones, creator of the 1619 Project on this because in some ways she might be the very reason why a lot of this is happening. Take a listen.


NIKOLE HANNAH-JONES, CREATOR, 1619 PROJECT: How do you have African American studies course that doesn't deal with mass incarceration? Why would reparation as a subject be out of the purview. We don't see this same types of fights over Asian studies, over European studies.

But when it comes to black history, we want to treat this as a political playground.


PHILLIP: And when I say she might be the reason. It's because of the backlash to the 1619 Project that's created this fervor over CRT and whatnot. But she makes a good point. It's very transparent that this is

happening over African American studies and not all these other topics.

HENDERSON: It didn't happen around some of the other courses that are offered. Listen, I sort of take the long view of this, and it's a more positive view which is I think probably in about a year or two, this course is going to be offered in states across the country, probably half the states across the country.

It's a very comprehensive course from ancient Africa to Afro futurism. You know, you should actually look at the syllabus and the framework there. It's going to open up kids to all sorts of ideas, right.

In a free and open society where I have this phone, you can't really ban ideas. You can't ban Nikole Hannah-Jones who is probably more popular because of the backlash than she would have been if it weren't a backlash.

People know who Kimberly Crenshaw is. People know what critical race theory is precisely because it has been so targeted, precisely because people are trying to ban it across this country.

So I'm actually excited about this course. I think it's going to open the minds of so many students across this country. It's a college- level course. No telling what they're going to do with this information in terms of further study in college and beyond.

So I am an optimist in a way that I think some people are deservedly critical of the process.

PHILLIP: Yes. And I appreciate that because I think that that is true, right. I mean you're raising attention to all of these things and it's going to make people seek them out.

But on the political side of this, this is a long list of Republican- led states that are trying to pass laws to basically shape what kids can and cannot learn about racism and sex and sexism and all kinds of things.

I mean this is a trend that is about, in a lot of ways, playing to the base. I guess the question is, when we're getting into a presidential cycle, I mean does this still work?


MATTINGLY: I think it's an open question that doesn't necessarily have on a national scale an actual test case at this point in time. I think you could say in a congressional race scale or the midterm scale, it didn't seem to have the effect that perhaps some Republicans thought it did.

It clearly has a dramatic effect on the base and has become something that not just Governor Ron DeSantis but governors across kind of red states have settled on. I think there's a very real thread here where parents coming out of

COVID writ large have a lot of concerns about a lot of things and are extraordinarily frustrated how do you tap into that politically?

And this is a piece of that, whether it's scaled nationally, I think it's still an open question.

PHILLIP: Yes. I mean I think parents being involved in their kids' lives is one thing. It's another thing for, you know, politicians to basically say you can't learn about things that we don't like.


PHILLIP: But that's it for us on INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY.

Coming up next here on CNN, "STATE OF THE UNION" with Jake Tapper and Dana Bash. Jake's guests this morning include Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg as well as the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Marco Rubio.

Thank you again for sharing your Sunday morning with us. Have a great day.