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Seven GOP 2024 Candidates Will Face Off Tomorrow In 2nd Debate; Trump Appears To Be Mistakenly Blame Jeb Bush, Instead Of George W. Bush, For Staffing The Iraq War; Trump Claims Windmill Farms Are Driving Whales "Crazy"; Trump Accuses Gen. Milley Of Treason, Hints At Death Penalty; Soon: Biden To Join UAW Picket Line In Michigan. Aired 12:30-1p ET
Aired September 26, 2023 - 12:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DANA BASH, CNN HOST: Let's talk about all this with our reporters who are here.
Talk about the sort of the debate stage and what we're going to see. I'm going out there. It is -- it was certainly for the first debate. I was in Wisconsin, and it will be in Simi Valley at the Reagan Library. It's fascinating to watch these candidates debate one another, but knowing that it's a bit of an alternate universe --
MICHELLE PRICE, JOURNALIST, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Right.
BASH: -- because Trump isn't there.
PRICE: Yes. The last debate, it felt like an exercise in a world in which Donald Trump didn't exist for the most part.
PRICE: You know, it's unclear if that's still going to be the tactic this time. We did see in the lineup that Ron DeSantis is going to be dead center, which is kind of fitting because this is a real pressure cooker moment for him.
He didn't have a standout performance in the first debate. His campaign said that they just wanted him to hold the line, and he seemed to do that. But it was a breakout moment for Vivek Ramaswamy, for Nikki Haley, and they are right flanking him and are going to, it seems like, try to steal the spotlight again.
BASH: What are you going to be looking for?
SHANE GOLDMACHER, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I mean, I think one of the unseen things is the audience itself. And there was a really big audience in Milwaukee, and they were cheering for Trump. And when Christie went against him, they were booing Chris Christie. And it's not expected to be a big audience. It's something around 700 people at this debate and a different selection process from who's there. So I think that the potential to make a contrast with Trump and not get booed is a pretty significant thing. And whether any of these candidates will take advantage of that is a real open question.
BASH: Especially since there's now only going to be one candidate who is openly, aggressively going after Trump on the stage, and that's Chris Christie, because Asa Hutchinson, the former governor of Arkansas, didn't make the stage.
MARGARET HOOVER, HOST, PBS "FIRING LINE": Well, I would point out that the very first debater to take a swipe at Trump last time was Nikki Haley.
BASH: Was Nikki Haley. That's a good point.
HOOVER: And she did it not based on the constitutional, you know, argument against him, the defense of democracy. She did it based on deficits and debts and Republicans' bad record on stewarding the economy and the massive debt and deficits that Republicans have managed the country into.
She had a great debate last time. She really stood out. She created a contrast between herself and Donald Trump and the other candidates. But this is Ron DeSantis's debate to either solidify himself as the second runner -- the runner up to Trump, or not.
And he held even last time, but he didn't have a breakout debate, and he barely toed the line in terms of remaining where he was in the polling. So that's what I'm looking for. Does Nikki Haley capitalize on the momentum she gained for herself last time, which, by the way, has been deeply noticed in the Republican donor community.
And if she can do that again, she's got real momentum. But I just -- we wouldn't be reporting this if we weren't pointing out the fact that all of this is like an Earth 2.0. I mean, it is like a parallel universe to what's actually happening in real life, which is that Trump and Biden are already running against each other, and we're seeing that play out right now in Michigan.
So this is sort of a sideshow, which is almost a Republican Party that has its head in the sand and just isn't realizing that the party and the momentum that they've set up is one that favors Trump's inertia and momentum towards the nomination.
BASH: I think they realize it maybe, but they're hoping --
HOOVER: Well, then why are they pretending?
BASH: They're hoping for a different outcome.
HOOVER: I mean, hope is not a strategy.
BASH: I've heard that.
COLEMAN HUGHES, CONVERSATIONS WITH COLEMAN PODCAST: Yes. No. So I'm curious to see in this debate how are Nikki Haley and Vivek Ramaswamy going to perform now that they sort of have a target on their backs because of how well they did in the first debate, right? They really made huge gains.
Now, you can expect, certainly, Ron DeSantis to come after Nikki Haley because it seems like she has been drawing right from what used to be his support base in the moderate part of the GOP. And Vivek, obviously, there are many lines on which he can be attacked as a candidate, but because he's really swelled in the polls, he's going to be more of a target.
So the question is, how will these two people really withstand the additional amount of heat that they're likely to draw at this second debate?
BASH: And the question about Ron DeSantis being dead center, he is sort of previewing the kind of message that he's going -- potentially going to make on the debate stage. You never know. But listen to what he said to Glenn Beck about the issue of abortion.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Protecting unborn babies that have detectable heartbeats is not terrible. It's noble. It's just and it should be something that anyone says that they're pro-life would embrace.
The left is going to take his comments. They're going to weaponize those comments, and they're going to use those against every single pro-life measure from here to eternity. And so he has given the people that are fighting life and that are trying to promote more abortion. He's given them a gift that cannot be quantified.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Now, again, that's kind of shadow boxing because he's talking about Donald Trump who won't be there.
GOLDMACHER: Yes. And I think the most important words in that last Ron DeSantis quote was the left, right? If he's going to attack Donald Trump on the issue of abortion, he wants to do it to say the left is going to take advantage of what he is talking about and how he talks about things.
You know, framing that Trump is going to be attacked, that Trump is going to be vulnerable on a host of issues from Democrats, that's his way in. Not saying he disagrees with Donald Trump on very many issues, but that the left is going to use Trump and beat Republicans because of it.
BASH: Yes, that's a very nuanced strategy. Unclear if that's going to sell or, to your point, if any of this is going to matter to Republican --
HOOVER: Yes, it does matter at all. BASH: -- to Republican voters right now.
CNN's Anderson Cooper and I will be hosting "The Republican Presidential Debate Post-Debate Analysis" live on Wednesday night. That's tomorrow night at 11:00 Eastern. Get the critical context and political analysis you need right here on CNN.
Donald Trump has always had a thing against windmills. Now he says they're killing the whales. Why is he talking about that and why it really matters? That's next.
BASH: President Biden is in Michigan to join striking auto workers on the picket line. He is on his way there. We will bring it to you as soon as he arrives. In the meantime, let's talk about politics. There are a lot of Bushes in politics, and it appears Donald Trump can't keep them straight.
Here's what he said in South Carolina about the 2016 campaign.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When I came here, everyone thought Bush was going to win. And then they took a poll, and they found out Trump was up by about 50 points. Everyone said, what's going on right here? They thought Bush, because Bush supposedly was a military person. Great.
You know what? He was a military, he got us into the Middle East. How did that work out, right? But they all thought that Bush might win, Jeb. Remember Jeb? He used the word Jeb. He didn't use the word Bush. I said, you mean he's ashamed of the last name? And then they immediately started using the name Bush.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Our reporters and analysts are back with us. Margaret, you worked for one of the Bushes. Just one, right?
HOOVER: Hard to keep them all straight.
BASH: Yes, yes. And listen --
HOOVER: OK, it's not actually that hard to keep them all straight.
BASH: Well, listen, I mean, this isn't just kind of a run of the mill thing, it's -- he -- it's goes after Joe Biden all the time for things that he says that may be a little bit off. Maybe this is like, OK --
HOOVER: Should we apply the same yardstick to him?
BASH: Or -- yes, like it's human. HOOVER: Well, what we should do is scrutinize all of them equally and try to make a sound determination. There is now a running clock or running sort of marks on the wall of times where potentially Donald Trump is getting confused.
I don't -- we need to keep looking for data points and see if that's true, but he did grasping at straws not think of the person he ran against in 2020 just a couple of weeks ago and then said it was Obama. He never ran against Obama.
And then in this case, you know, he forgot that he was running against Jeb and confused the brothers, suggested that Jeb Bush got us into the Iraq war. I mean, I recognize there are three Bushes that have been on the national stage. A father, a son, and a brother, but we all can keep track of that.
I mean, maybe it's our jobs. Maybe regular Americans aren't paying attention to this all the time, can't. But it's our job to keep track of this.
BASH: He's not a regular American -- yes.
HOOVER: And try to determine and report accurately what's going on with a candidate for presidency of the United States and a former president. Can he really not keep track, or is he just dismissive and thinks it's not important?
BASH: OK, let's turn to some of the things that the former president is doing, which is they're extremely intentional. Some of the comments that he is making, including something else he said yesterday in South Carolina. This is a claim about what windmill farms are doing to whales.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: There has only been -- listen to this -- one such whale killed off the coast of South Carolina in the last 50 years. But on the other hand, their windmills are causing whales to die in numbers never seen before.
Nobody does anything about that. They're washing up a show. I saw it this weekend. Three of them came up. They wouldn't -- you wouldn't see it once a year. Now they're coming up on a weekly basis. The windmills are driving them crazy. They're driving the whales, I think, a little baddie.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: OK, again, a little bit of a context moment here. Maybe fact check. I don't think that he is going to join the Save the Whales movement anytime soon. This is about his business, and this is about the windmill farms that have been sort of under his skin since 2015. He launched a legal battle to stop Scottish officials from building what he called ugly windfarms near his Aberdeen golf resort.
GOLDMACHER: He's been anti-windmill for a long time. In speeches in Iowa, he talks about the birds that they kill. I think it's mean that you threw this question to me now.
BASH: Anyone else who want it?
GOLDMACHER: No, I mean, I think this also speaks to the news ecosystem that Trump occupies, where this is actually a story that is circulating in conservative news on a regular basis that the growth of wind turbines in the oceans are creating deaths of animals. And this is something that he's seeing on television, and he's spitting back, and it's going to get back on television.
BASH: He's seeing now on television, but I think that the reason what I brought it up is that, yes, it's, like -- it's all kind of going back and forth inside his ecosystem.
But this is because of his business. This is because he sees the windmills as something that just bothered him and from his perspective, maybe lost money, maybe didn't, but certainly hurt the vista at one of his properties.
PRICE: Right. I mean, on the face of it, it sounds silly. You know, he's not a marine biologist, so I don't know that we could take his word on what is driving whales crazy. But in a way, though, I mean, this kind of encapsulates some of the reactions we see to Donald Trump within his ecosystem.
For people who agree with him, they see this point of like, wow, he's saying that the people who want these renewable energy projects, they can't even get it right. They're killing animals. And it might actually resonate.
And for people who are not supportive of Donald Trump, they think it's crazy. And those reactions we see spill out in a big way, even when it's just something that's self-interested, whether it's his claims about the 2020 election.
The people who agree with him, they, you know, it might not directly affect him, it's about him, but it reinforces their idea of what it's about. And on the other side, they are -- you know, they think it's Donald Trump making claims that are unfounded and dangerous.
BASH: Thank you for the segue into the next thing I'm going to say, because we have seen some more unfounded and dangerous comments from the former president and sort of in the vein of let's not get used to this and let's call it out.
Not only did, on his social media platform, did he talk about Comcast with its one sided and vicious coverage by NBC News. In particular, MSNBC, often referred to as MSDNC, should be investigated for its country threatening treason. He also went really hard against somebody who has served this country and is still serving this country as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs is on his way out.
Mark Milley upset about some things that Mark Milley had said. So his response, Trump's response, was this is an act so egregious in times gone by the punishment would have been death. Again, words that a former president has. And anybody with a platform, anything close to what Donald Trump has, he should know they have consequences.
HUGHES: It's scary to hear this kind of thing. At the same time, I feel -- and I don't know if you guys would agree after eight years of hearing this guy threaten people publicly, say that he's going to lock people up. I don't know what is bluster and what is actual intent.
He changes his mind so often. He says things out of one side of his mouth and then changes his mind two seconds later. I think that he has desensitized the public to his crazy statements. He can get away with saying things that would be the end of any other politician's career.
It's because people don't really believe him. But this is a case where, you know, like the parable, you just cry wolf enough times, and when the wolf does come, nobody's prepared for it because we've stopped believing the guy.
HOOVER: Except for that we saw what happens when you cry wolf, because we saw January 6. And we saw that people don't just take his words and some people think one thing, some people think the other.
There is a very motivated sector of the following of Donald Trump, who actually does take his words seriously and did want to overturn the election and has acted violently and, frankly, might have hung Mike Pence if they had gotten their hands on him.
And so, you're right, Dana, we can't just let it go anymore and wonder what his intent is. Because we understand that there are several people, several people, enough people, who follow Donald Trump, who will take his words literally, not figuratively.
HOOVER: And that is dangerous for the country.
BASH: Yes, which is why we wanted to talk about some of these things.
All right, everybody, stand by, because any moment now, President Biden will be joining auto workers in Michigan on the picket line. We're going to bring it to you live after a quick break.
BASH: Welcome back. CNN's Arlette Saenz joins me from Wayne, Michigan. Arlette, we are waiting for President Biden to arrive on the picket line. What are you hearing from your sources?
ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dana, President Biden landed here in the Detroit area about an hour ago -- in the last half hour and is making his way towards meeting with striking workers. Now, the White House has not detailed specifically where President Biden will be. They've cited security concerns about having him at an active picket line, but what they have said is that he will be here in Wayne County, Michigan, and he is expected to appear with the UAW President, Shawn Fain.
Now, we saw President Biden as he arrived a the airport a short while ago, where he was greeted by not just Fain, but also some Congress members, including Debbie Dingell and Rashida Tlaib, as well as the state's lieutenant governor.
And President Biden, while he was on that tarmac, was asked by a reporter whether what he thinks it will take to earn the UAW's endorsement. The union has yet to endorse in the 2024 presidential race. President Biden responded that he's not worried about that at this moment.
Now, what the President and the White House have said is that he is focused on trying to show solidarity for these striking workers, really marking a historic moment. There has never been a sitting president to appear on an active picket line in the middle of intense negotiations.
Now the White House has walked an incredibly fine and delicate line as these negotiations have played out. They are not -- they don't have any legal authority to be party directly to the negotiations. But the President has tried to lend his support since the strike started.
What the White House has refrained from doing, though, is weighing in on any specific demands that the UAW is seeking at this time. But, of course, this is all presenting a pretty phenomenal split screen in the 2024 race as President Biden is here today and former President Donald Trump is set to appear in the Detroit area tomorrow.
It comes as both men are trying to make their pitch to those working class voters. The White House has said that they didn't plan this trip because Trump was coming here, that the President is focused on talking to those workers.
But they do try to make this contrast between the policies that President Biden has put into place and what former President Trump put in place when he was in office. So we are still waiting to see when exactly President Biden will arrive at this picket line.
A historic moment, as he would be the first sitting president to be side-by-side walking those picket lines during an active strike against auto companies.
BASH: And Arlette, you can't see it because you were out in it, but we do see video of the president's motorcade arriving and we're going to stay on that as he comes for this historic visit. Very critical visit at a critical time as Arlette was just laying out in such a thoughtful way.
Arlette, stay with us. I want to talk to our reporters and analysts here about this.
Shane, just when you look at the -- sort of the -- not only the politics of this, but the zeitgeist right now, for lack of a better word, of where the American public is, especially those who are frustrated economically. And they blame Joe Biden in poll after poll about the economy, about people not feeling good about the economy, despite the fact that the raw numbers are very good.
This moment that we are seeing, Joe Biden, the guy who has since I -- even before I covered him in the U.S. Senate, a long, long, long time, has tried to be somebody who was aligned with workers. It is such a critical time and place for him to be doing that right now.
GOLDMACHER: I mean, I think you see, as you said in poll after poll, most Americans see that there's good economic opportunity out there, but they're not feeling it themselves. And so by going out to this picket line and by siding with the workers, what Joe Biden is saying is, look, there is profit in the American economy.
Look, all these economic indicators are good, and if you're not feeling it yet, you should be. And it's these companies that you should be blaming and not necessarily Joe Biden. And so, look, again, he wants to, at his core, be defined as a union working class Democrat.
And so this is a moment where he can say, look, yes, the auto companies are making more money and they should be sharing it with their workers. And I think it's the same message that he can use to sort of attack -- now, maybe not in the same way that a Bernie Sanders would, but to put pressure on Corporate America to say, look, you should be sharing some of the profits you're making with the working people.
BASH: And the fact that Shawn Fain, the head of the UAW, was there is noteworthy. They have not endorsed. And you heard at the beginning of the show, we talked about Donald Trump in one of his social media posts saying, please endorse me. The president today says, I'm not here to talk about endorsements, but he would be very happy if the UAW supported.
Because even though the union support as it relates to political support and boots on the ground, grassroots activism maybe isn't what it was 20 years ago, even 10 years ago, but it still matters, particularly in places like Michigan, like Wisconsin, and other areas that are union rich.
PRICE: Yes, I mean, it's definitely a big statement for the president in his actions today assuming he's going to be on this picket line. You know, he's not just showing up and speaking at people from what we understand.
He's going to be marching with them, which is a big sign of solidarity. And he did do this as a presidential candidate. But as a president, showing up with your motorcade doing this, it's a huge statement to literally put yourself shoulder to shoulder with workers and what they're facing. HOOVER: I mean, what he's doing is he's out getting footage and ad material for his campaign. This is a photo shoot, really, for his re- election campaign, and it'll play in Michigan. He has created more jobs in Michigan. He is going to stand with the workers, he -- you know, he does in this -- but this becomes an inflection point between Trump and Biden.
Trump is saying, it doesn't matter if you've made more jobs here in Michigan. Ultimately, electric vehicles are putting us in a position where more cars are being made in China and we're still exporting jobs.
BASH: And we'll see what happens when he's actually there. But one of the big arguments against President Biden from Donald Trump and all of his supporters and all Republicans is you don't get out, you don't talk to the people, and so forth.
And so this is a strategy that is new-ish --
HOOVER: One could argue he should have been doing for four years.
HOOVER: The bully pulpit of the presidency is powerful --
HOOVER: -- and that's what we'll see.
BASH: Yes, it is what we'll see.
HUGHES: It may be more than a strategy, too. I mean, I think this is a legacy issue for Biden. He really wants to go down as the most pro- labor president. So it's more than just a political strategy.
BASH: Yes, fair point. Fair point. And it happens to be what he truly, truly believes. You are seeing pictures right now in Wayne County, Michigan. President Biden is going to be there any minute. Don't go away. Stay with CNN to see what happens with this historic moment.
Thank you so much for joining Inside Politics. CNN News Central starts right now.