Return to Transcripts main page

Inside Politics

Blinken Visibly Shaken After Viewing Video Of Oct. 7th Hamas Attack "Receded So Quickly In The Memories Of So Many"; Israel Defense Minister Told Blinken No Pause In Fighting Without Hostage Releases; CNN Reporters On Ground In Israel Hear "Loud Boom"; Hezbollah Leader Warns Of Wider War In Mideast; Source: Blinken Pressing Israel For Temporary Ceasefire; 13 Senate Dems Call For "Short-Term Cessation Of Hostilities"; Biden Under Pressure From His Allies Over Support For Israel. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired November 03, 2023 - 12:00   ET



DANA BASH, CNN HOST, INSIDE POLITICS: Today on Inside Politics, fear of an escalating war. United States top diplomat is on the ground in Israel, as Hezbollah warns it is an unprecedented battle that they are in with Israel. And all scenarios are on the table and possible on the border with Lebanon. Plus, President Biden is under pressure from his own party over Israel's response to the brutal Hamas attack inside Israel. 13 Senate Democrats are now pushing for a humanitarian pause in Gaza.

And a CNN exclusive Republican Congressman George Santos is speaking out on the criminal charges he's facing and why despite all of the lies, talking about a lot of lies and his legal problems. He still thinks he has a shot at reelection.

I'm Dana Bash. Let's go behind the headlines at Inside Politics.

We start with Secretary of State Antony Blinken is powerful message in Israel today. He was visibly shaken describing more horrific images that he was just shown by Israelis from that barbaric Hamas terror attack on innocent civilians' families on October 7.


SECY. ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: I saw, for example, a family on a kibbutz, a father of two young boys maybe 10, 11 years old, grabbing them, pulling them out of their living room, going through their very small backyard and into a shelter, followed seconds later by a terrorist who throws a grenade into that small shelter.

And that is the father comes staggering out, shoots him down. And then the boys come out. And they run into their house. And the camera in the house is filming everything. And they're crying. Where's daddy? One says, the other says, they killed daddy. Where's my mommy.

And then the terrorists comes in and casually opens the refrigerator and starts to eat from it. That's what we're dealing with. And it is striking, and in some way shocking that the brutality of the slaughter has receded so quickly in the memories of so many.


BASH: Blinken also spoke of young Palestinian children pulled from the wreckage of buildings in Gaza.


BLINKEN: When I look into their eyes, through the TV screen, I see my own children. How can we not. Hamas doesn't care one second or one iota for the welfare for the wellbeing of the Palestinian people. It cynically and monstrously uses them as human shields, putting his commanders and command posts. Its weapons and ammunition within or beneath residential buildings, schools, mosques, hospitals. But civilians should not suffer the consequences for its inhumanity and its brutality.


BASH: As you can hear that the emotion is palpable, calling Blinken's task complicated is almost an insult to the difficulty of the policy hurdles and trying to navigate the near impossible amidst to see of anger and despair.

CNN's Jeremy Diamond is now joining us from Sderot inside Israel. Jeremy, the visit is not stopping what is going on, on the ground there. Jeremy, I want to try to bring you in now. I know there is a lot happening right where you are. This is what we're looking at our live pictures. We can hear you. Tell us what's happening there.


JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Dana. So, we are on a hill overlooking the Gaza Strip, and right here you have a lot of media that are actually set up. We had a siren go off just moments ago, and actually there was a hit, it appears on a vehicle nearby. We are standing, again, there's a lot of media here because this is one of the overlooked points to look into the Gaza Strip.

And what you're seeing, let's just get closer to some of the damage if we can here. See there's obviously a lot of press, it's quite a scrum here. But this car appears to have been blown out by some kind of a rocket perhaps, or an interception, shrapnel may have fallen. But what we heard was a very, very loud boom.

It appeared to be some kind of an impact falling directly on this vehicle or near it. Trying to get a better looked, Dana, because I don't want to get the facts wrong here. But you can see that obviously, this vehicle, there's quite a lot of damage to it. And we heard a very loud impact.

Let me walk around this way with my cameraman Matias. If you can follow me, here. We heard a loud boom. We have not seen any pieces of the rocket at this point. And so, it's possible that there was some kind of an interception right overhead and shrapnel may have fallen to hit this vehicle. It's very hard to tell right now, Dana. But obviously, this is one of the realities here. The Iron Dome system obviously takes out the overwhelming majority of those rockets, but some of them do get through. And in some cases, you also have to be aware of the shrapnel that may fall down. Obviously, this is turning into a bit of a circus here. So, I'm going to take us kind of closer this way. But you can see that there's some damage here as well on this vehicle, which may have been due to shrapnel falling. And so, this is the reality of the situation here. Dana?

BASH: And Jeremy, understanding that this just happened just before you came on air with us. I want you to go back to an important point that you made, which is you are in Israel, you are near the border with Gaza, and the Hamas, the terrorists and Hamas, who still have the ability, the capability despite the civilians not having water, or electricity, and what have you capability somehow to shoot missiles or whatever kind of attack that they just tried to launch inside Israel.



BASH: And what happens regularly, sorry Jeremy, what happens regularly is that because Israel has what's called the Iron Dome, and the ability to intercept what comes in. For the most part, it keeps Israel safe, but it's not foolproof and there is shrapnel.

DIAMOND: Understandably. And as I said, we aren't sure whether this was a direct hit to this vehicle. To me, this seems like, most likely some shrapnel that hit this vehicle, just given the scale of the damage. But it is hard to tell, some of these rockets are actually not that -- don't have that much explosive on them, some of these rockets that Hamas uses.

And so, it's a little bit difficult to tell at times if it's just shrapnel, if it was a direct hit. But what I can tell you is that we had seconds to react here. We heard that siren, maybe, you know, three to five seconds later. We heard a very, very loud boom coming from right where we are right now. And you can hear some of the car alarms still going off.

But I do want to as we talk about this. And as we talk about some of the damage that has happened here. We should also keep in mind the damage that is happening inside of Gaza as well where Israeli strikes, bombs, missiles, targeting Hamas command centers, many of them underground, but also targeting residential buildings where Israeli forces say that Hamas fighters have embedded themselves.

In Gaza, they don't have an early warning system. In Gaza, they don't have bomb shelters to rush into as we were able to do. And we have watched, of course, as the toll of casualties in Gaza has really mounted quite substantially over these last three and a half weeks of war.

So, I do think that that's something we keep in mind, especially as there's quite a scrum of media here. And one of the reasons everyone is here is because again, these positions over here is where we are posted to kind of watch the activity inside the Gaza Strip. Dana?

BASH: All right, Jeremy, stay safe please. I know you don't need me to tell you that. But also, I just want to say that this is happening, while again, as I just played at the beginning of the show. The U.S. secretary of state is there, is in the region, not where Jeremy is, but is in Israel. Thank you so much for that.

I want to now go to a different part of Israel to the northern part of the country. That's where Jim Sciutto is. So, Jim, the leader of Hezbollah broke his silence, spoke publicly for the first time since the Hamas terror attacks. What can you tell us about what he said there was a lot of anticipation about the statement?


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: A lot of anticipation, a lot of fear, frankly, among residents here, particularly in northern Israel, bordering Lebanon, where Hezbollah, of course is based. But also, among Israeli officials and U.S. officials to see if the leader of Hezbollah would announce that Hezbollah was entering this war more so than it already has been involved.

It's already been firing rockets and artillery across the border, since we've been up here and really since the October 7 attacks, but anticipation that he might announce something more substantial. He did not do that, at least in so many words. He spoke for more than an hour. He said a lot of things certainly expressed solidarity with his brothers and arms in Hamas but did not say that Hezbollah was entering this war more definitively. Have a listen to how he put it.


HASSAN NASRALLAH, HEZBOLLAH LEADER: The worry is that the possibility of this front actually escalating or going into a fully-fledged war or becoming a wider war is a realistic one. It can happen. And the enemy has to make every provision for this. And I'm sure they do make every provision for this. And I'm sure they do think about it.


SCIUTTO: Know what he said there, and he didn't say, note that the enemy, he's describing Israel is thinking about it. But he did not announce that Hezbollah was jumping in as it were in. And I think it was notable as well, Dana, that he deliberately put daylight between Hezbollah and Hamas for those October 7 attacks. He called it in his words, a 100 percent Palestinian operation, saying this was a Hamas operation, Hezbollah was not involved.

And he even took care to note that, in his words, Hezbollah was surprised by the attack or did not get advanced warning. And he explained that and even said, well, we weren't bothered by that. We understand the need for the element of surprise here. But many in this country note that distance that he put between Hezbollah and Hamas as a way to perhaps ensure that Hezbollah does not become a target, not just of Israeli forces, but also U.S. forces. You've got two U.S. carrier groups off the coast in the eastern Mediterranean, which as you know, Dana, was a deliberate step by the president who said, right in the wake of the October 7 attacks. If you are thinking of joining this war, speaking to other players in the region, in President Biden's words at the time, don't, and Secretary Blinken repeated that warning during his visit to Israel today.

BASH: Really interesting. Also, noteworthy Jim, that Hezbollah talked about the potential for the war escalating in the north where you are as if he's just sort of a bystander, looking at it and not a very active player, and the answer to that question.

SCIUTTO: Exactly.

BASH: Jim, thank you so much for that reporting. I want to now bring in CNN Global Affairs Analyst Kimberly Dozier and CNN National Security Reporter Natasha Bertrand. Kimberly, can you help parse the one of the things that Jim just reported from the leader of Hezbollah's statement, which is the distance that he tried to put between Hezbollah and Hamas. What does that mean? Why is that important?

KIMBERLY DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: All along, Hezbollah and its partner Iran have been really good at calibrating, creating friction, keeping Israel engaged, staying on the right ideological side of the fight in terms of the air war without triggering an all- out response. Hezbollah the time to attack would have been October 8, October 9, before Israel had deployed 70,000 troops to that border evacuated civilians.

So, their strategy seems to be engaged just enough to keep Israel occupied, and Nasrallah even sort of bragged about that, that they kept that much of the army engaged. That seems to be their answer to the Hamas public complaint that Hezbollah hasn't done enough so far. So, but he reserved in this long speech, the option to do more to declare a war.

BASH: And Natasha from the U.S. perspective, Antony Blinken, I mean, he's trying to navigate this, as I mentioned, at the top of the show is quite, quite difficult. I talked about the emotion that he had and the sympathy and empathy that he showed towards Israelis and also innocent civilians in Gaza. But from the diplomatic and policy point of view, the fact that he said, standing in Israel, that there should be a pause. How realistic do they actually think behind the scenes that that is?

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Well, I think they think that something can be negotiated because as President Biden alluded to last week, there does appear to have been a brief pause in airstrikes wall, a couple of hostages got out of Gaza, and the Israelis have not yet confirmed that, but President Biden did allude to that. And so, I think what they want to see is some kind of repeat of that.

[12:15:00] But the question is, how long will Israel agree to maintain that pause in hostilities? Will it be a couple of days? Will it be a few hours? Israelis have said that they do not want any kind of ceasefire and they will not engage in one unless the hostages are released by Hamas. They do not want to give something for nothing here.

And look, I think that at the same time, the Israelis are clearly feeling some of the pressure by the U.S. and the international community on how they are engaging in this war. Just look at the fact that they felt the need to show that horrific video to Blinken this morning. I mean, that clearly impacted Blinken, and he was obviously empathetic and sympathetic.

BASH: And it's not the first time that he has -- since the last time he was there, he saw the images. And we know that the Israelis are showing this 40-minute video and if he saw it.

DOZIER: Quite earlier this week, is the video that you described -- -

BASH: To media and to influencers all over the world.

DOZIER: That particular video, when you watch the father and the two young boys, you can see its security camera footage from inside their house. So, you can see them running to take shelter and then being attacked and the father falling to the floor, dying in front of his kids, and then trying to run away and then getting caught. It's terrifying.

But what in the larger picture, what this does in terms of by the U.S. backing a humanitarian ceasefire and then Netanyahu saying, we'll only do it if hostages are released. It does possibly arm the negotiators with a hey, Hamas, we have something that's a serious offer right now. So, the possibly they can get a few dozen more of those hostages out. All of them, probably not, some of them maybe.

BASH: Carrot and stick. Thank you both of you. Appreciate it. Coming up, President Biden is facing more pressure from some of his key Democratic allies in Congress. More than a dozen Senate Democrats say, it's now time for a short humanitarian pause in Gaza. And later presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy will be here to tell us what his approach to this war would be if he were to be president.




BASH: President Biden is under increasing pressure from his own party to push Israel to pause on their attacks on Hamas terrorists inside Gaza, as civilian Palestinian death tolls rise. 13 Senate Democrats signed a letter calling for a "short-term cessation of hostilities" to allow for more aid and to get that into Gaza, and also to figure out a path forward for a potential way for peace, which actually sounds quite elusive at this point. But let's listen to what Chris Murphy said earlier today. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY, (D-CT): I simply believe that the current level of civilian casualties inside Gaza is too high, both from a moral perspective and a strategic perspective. What we have learned in our own country's counterterrorism operations is that when you are too permissive of civilian casualties, you kill a lot of militants. But you also create a lot of terrorists as well because that civilian harm becomes bulletin board material for terrorist recruiters.


BASH: Let's bring on our great panel of reporter, CNN's David Chalian, CNN's Manu Raju, and Seung Min Kim of the Associated Press. What I find interesting about this letter from Senate Democrats, David, is that it's not just the progressives, if you will.

If there are a lot of Democrats who signed this, who would consider themselves maybe a little bit more hawkish on national security and on foreign policy, in particular. You can see some of them on the screen. And we don't have to go through the specifics. But what does that tell you about the politics of what is happening right now inside the president's party?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: It tells me it's on the move. This is not just as you're noting, a position that is being cornered off to the squad, if you will. That's not where it is. This issue is moving with real time events, obviously, and responding that. When Chris Murphy put out that statement yesterday, I couldn't believe it. I was very surprised by it. And not, it just -- and I flagged it around to our colleagues and I was like, this is significant.

This is somebody that I would expect to be far more sort of in line with the administration every step of the way on this. And this clearly was him trying to guide the administration to a place that they should be at, and you look at the polling data you see. What Democrats, broadly young people, these are parts of the president's coalition that is in a different place than the president.

BASH: Yes. And then if you just look overall, we actually have some numbers from the Quinnipiac poll that came out this week, just overall on the party, how Israel is responding. 75 percent of Republicans approve, 33 percent of Democrats. And this is when you saw Tony Blinken, just this morning in Israel, talking about how quickly the horrors of what happened to innocence inside Israel is receding.

The impact of that is receding in public opinion on the world stage. And then trying to balance that with the horrors of innocent Palestinian civilians at the hands of Israeli bombs, but also because Hamas is not only not protecting them but putting them in harm's way.

SEUNG MIN KIM, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Right. It is such a difficult balancing act for the administration because clearly the White House, the president sees the public polling, sees the public reaction that we are all seeing, particularly from members of his own party, and for in particular from those who would be otherwise stalwart allies of the administration.

There are some actions, I mean, not only the actions of the White House and their staunch support Israel. That's not the only factor that's really concerning many in the Democratic Party, particularly rank and file Democrat in critical, key states I would mention such as Michigan, where there's a large Arab American community. But it's a lot of the things that the President Biden has said.


I was actually when Chris Murphy was talking about the civilian death toll count in Gaza being too high. I was actually reminded of how President Biden last week in his press conference said that he kind of didn't take the death toll count at face value, because it is coming from the Hamas run health ministry in Gaza. And many in the community, many of the Palestinian American community really felt those comments were not sensitive.

BASH: Well, if Hamas is not and the people who are giving us those numbers are not necessarily reliable when it comes to data. So, he's not wrong about that. But that is lost, nuance, as you're trying to mention. You mentioned Michigan. Another person who I thought was really, really telling, in speaking out is Elissa Slotkin. She is a Democrat. She is former military intelligence. Definitely not a progressive like at all. But she's also running for Senate in the very important state of Michigan. Listen to what she said.


REP. ELISSA SLOTKIN, (D-MI): I think our experience after 9/11 is actually instructive here. For those of us who have served in places like Fallujah and Ramadi, we just want to make sure that there's an endgame. That's not fantasy, that's actually real. We want to make sure that you don't create more terrorists by the way that you act. And we want to make sure that we get the people who perpetrated this attack, and you can want all those things all at the same time. And sometimes being a good ally and a good partner is telling those hard lessons from our own experience.


MANU RAJU: You know, she's also running in a Democratic primary in Michigan, still that she's a favorite. But there is a growing split within the Democratic Party. I spent the morning talking to House members, some are very close, aligned with the president on this.

Some want him to be more forceful against Israel. Some of them want to embrace calls for a ceasefire. You're seeing in the Democratic leadership, all down to the rank and file. And the longer this plays out, the more likelihood we're going to see that persist and then reflected in the polling as well.

BASH: OK. Short panel today. We have a lot going on, but we are going to have you back with an exclusive interview later in the show. Coming up, we go one-on-one with a GOP presidential candidate, Vivek Ramaswamy, how he plans to try to break away from the pack, take on Biden in 2024. We'll talk to him about that in more, next.