Return to Transcripts main page

Inside Politics

One-On-One With Vivek Ramaswamy; Rep. Santos Says He'll Run Again In 2024 Event If He's Expelled; Dems Encounter Voter Frustration In Battleground Wisconsin. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired November 03, 2023 - 12:30   ET




DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: We are just 10 weeks away from the Iowa caucuses. The first time Republican voters will have a say in who will be their nominee for president. Joining me now is one of the candidates, Vivek Ramaswamy. Thank you so much for joining me.

My first question is about lawmakers in Washington who are resisting calls for a ceasefire. A lot on the Republican side. The president has now endorsed a pause to get hostages out of Gaza. Do you support calls for either a ceasefire or a pause?

VIVEK RAMASWAMY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My view on this is a little bit different than candidates in both major parties, Dana. I think Israel has an absolute right to its own national self-defense. What Hamas did to Israel was medieval. It was subhuman and Israel absolutely has a right to exist.

That was the founding vision of Israel, is that it would defend itself without relying on the West or the United States or Europe or anybody else for their fleeting sympathies. And so our job is to let Israel defend itself to the fullest. But conversely, I would have the U.S. stay out of it militarily as well. That respects Israel. It respects America first. And I think that that's best actually for both countries. And that's how I would lead.

BASH: You have taken a different stance than most if not all of your Republican competitors for the nomination when it comes to Israel. I want to play something that you said last week about Israel.


RAMASWAMY: Whatever military aid the U.S. provided to Israel for the last 10 years did absolutely nothing to prevent that breach, which was the worst attack that Israel has faced in 50 years possibly ever in its history. And I think it is at least reasonable to ask the question of whether the supposedly protective blanket that the U.S. provided may have in a small way contributed to the intellectual inertia of Israel's own defenses.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BASH: I just want to be clear, do you think that U.S. aid, military aid, in particular, to Israel is somehow harming the IDF's abilities?

RAMASWAMY: I think not directly, but indirectly, I think it's a reasonable question to ask that quote about intellectual inertia that I referenced there in that speech, Dana. That was from a speech given by David Ben-Gurion, the founder of Israel, who said that the intellectual inertia of Israel's defenses would be the greatest danger to Israel's existence. And actually warned of the importance of not relying on foreign sympathies from the U.S. or the West or otherwise for Israel's own national self defense.

And so I do think when the U.S. gets overly involved in the Middle East, and particularly even in this conflict in Israel, it muddies the waters where it constrains the IDF's ability to get its own job done, versus where I think the U.S. job does exist as an ally, to provide a diplomatic iron dome --

BASH: Yes.

RAMASWAMY: -- to Israel.

BASH: Well, it --

RAMASWAMY: Don't let the U.N., the E.U., or anybody else get in the way. So I think that's the right relationship.


BASH: But -- yes. And David Ben-Gurion, who was the first Prime Minister of Israel, certainly talked about the intellectual inertia and not relying on sympathy. But I don't get any sense considering the fact that the U.S. has been helping to aid, financially aid Israel since 1946 before it was a state that that has contributed to military or national security inertia, quite the opposite if you ask most experts.

RAMASWAMY: Well, Dana, I think that it's worth taking a step back, all of us. What did I say in that speech? It's a reasonable question to ask, but we need to ask what actually led to that colossal failure of intelligence of defense of border defenses. That was on the 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War of 1973 should have been on high alert and yet something happened that should not have happened.

We need to get to the bottom of what exactly occurred there. I also think that the U.S. poking its nose in the Middle East in other ways may have indirectly contributed to this. The talks about potential nuclear technology transfer to Saudi Arabia, I think is a disastrous idea that had bipartisan support.

BASH: Yes.

RAMASWAMY: And I don't think it's entirely a coincidence that that happened this summer right before what happened on October 7th. And so, yes, I am asking difficult questions outside of the partisan orthodoxies in both -- BASH: Yes.

RAMASWAMY: -- major political parties. But they'd get to the bottom of what's right for Israel and right for the United States, and that's what I'm doing.

BASH: Before I let you go, I have to ask you about where the campaign rhetoric is right now in this competition to be the nominee. Yesterday, Ron DeSantis said this about Donald Trump not showing up to the Republican debates.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I know Donald Trump and a lot of his people have been focusing on things like footwear. I'll tell you this. You know, if Donald Trump can summon the balls to show up to the debate, I'll wear a boot on my head.


BASH: And this is, of course, part of a discussion that began with Nikki Haley talking about the size of the heels that Ron DeSantis wears in his boots.

RAMASWAMY: So look, I prefer to talk about the issues, Dana, and right now we are marching our way into World War III. Both political parties are. I think I'm the only candidate who's offered a clear vision of how we'll stay out of it. Pull apart the Russia-China alliance, avoid Dick Cheney 2.0, $7 trillion of national debt that we racked up, sending America's sons and daughters to die in places like Iraq and Afghanistan when the Taliban is still in charge 20 years later.

I am worried we're marching our way towards making those same mistakes again. And so I see a lot of other candidates, many of them will be on that debate stage, avoiding talking about that real issue to talk about everything else around it. Dancing around the really difficult issues we need to answer.

How do we advance American interests? How do we secure our own homeland? How do we focus on our real adversary, Communist China, and declare independence from them? While staying out of World War III, which we are closer to, any time in my lifetime than we've ever been.

That's what I want to be talking about, and I do think that the other candidates are deflecting. I'm not going to let them get away with it.

BASH: Vivek Ramaswamy, thank you so much for joining me.

RAMASWAMY: Thank you.

BASH: And up next, a CNN exclusive. Congressman George Santos spoke with Manu Raju about the criminal charges he's facing and his future in politics.



BASH: Welcome back to INSIDE POLITICS. New York Republican George Santos is speaking out after surviving an expulsion vote this week, but that doesn't mean he's in the clear. He could face another vote after a House Ethics Committee report comes out later this month. He told our Manu Raju just this morning that even if he is eventually expelled, he will run again in 2024.


MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So they expel you and then they put someone else in the seat. You're going to run in 2024.


RAJU: Can you win a primary given all these --


RAJU: -- things are lined up against you --


RAJU: -- and the general election? This is a Biden leaning district and you have all these issues against you.

SANTOS: Could I have won the general election last time? Nobody said I could, but I was surprised.

RAJU: It was a different situation.

SANTOS: No, I understand. But elections are tricky. There's no predetermined outcome.


BASH: Manu is here with us. Manu, so much to discuss. I'm sure you got into all of it.

RAJU: Yes, defiant all the way. We talked about his criminal indictment against him, his fabrications from his past. He downplayed any of that having an impact on him, especially the lies that he admitted telling about his past. He said voters don't care about that.


RAJU: Your voters thought they were electing one person.

SANTOS: Manu, nobody elected me --

RAJU: And that --

SANTOS: Nobody elected me because I played volleyball or not. Nobody elected me because I graduated college, no. People elected me because I said I'd come here to fight the swamp. I'd come here to lower inflation, create more jobs, make life more affordable, and a commitment to America. That's why people voted for anybody to say that they voted based on anybody's biography.

I can beg you this. Nobody knew my biography. Nobody opened my biography who voted for me in the campaign.


RAJU: And of course he lied about his employment history, going to school, being a star volleyball player, but says no one cares. So will he run again? He says he will. We'll see what happens.

BASH: And being Jew-ish --

RAJU: Yes.

BASH: -- which I know you talked about as well.

RAJU: Which we've talked about as well.

BASH: Catch much more of the interview this Sunday at 11:00 a.m. on INSIDE POLITICS Sunday with Manu Raju.

Up next, does the president have a problem with black voters? CNN's John King talked to voters in the battleground state of Wisconsin to find out.



BASH: CNN's John King has been talking to voters in battleground states about the issues that really mattered to them ahead of next year's presidential race. He traveled to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where high turnout is key for Democrats in the state's largest city.

Nearly 40 percent of Milwaukee's population is black, a crucial voting bloc. But voter frustration could be a problem for the Biden camp.


JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: (voice-over): Devonta Johnson is a foot soldier for democracy in one of its most crucial battlegrounds.


KING (voice-over): This stop is encouraging.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm so happy that it's a black man out here that's going from door to door.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's a tough one.

[12:50:02] KING (voice-over): Fellow organizer Des Woods, though, gets the response far more common these days.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't talk about the elections.

KING (voice-over): Woods is trained to keep trying.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So are you not a voter?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When I want to and right now I don't want to.

KING (voice-over): The predominantly black neighborhoods on Milwaukee's north side can look and feel forgotten.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One of the main things you care about --

KING (voice-over): The canvassers meet often and share what they are hearing. Good paying jobs are scarce. Rent is up. The streets used to be cleaner and safer.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you all hear people say, it ain't nothing happening, it won't affect us, it don't? Raise your hand. Raise your hand.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. All they be saying is like, ain't no change.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So we see all these other areas.

KING (voice-over): BLOC founder Angela Lang outlines this week's agenda and next November stakes.

ANGELA LANG, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, BLACK LEADERS ORGANIZING FOR COMMUNITIES: There's no way to win a statewide election that doesn't run through the black community. What happens in Milwaukee can impact the rest of the state which ultimately can impact the rest of the country. No pressure.

KING (voice-over): The president was last here in August for a green energy event, and this old industrial site is being cleaned up with Biden infrastructure money.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Putting in the work for black America.

KING (voice-over): But early spending on radio and TV ads targeting black voters is proof the campaign sees the problem. Those ads don't mention one issue critical here.

LANG: People are wondering, what is he doing in terms of police accountability and criminal justice reform.

KING (voice-over): Lang also says the president better show up more.

LANG: People always want to see -- people actually paying attention. And sometimes that means being able to physically be here and engage.

KING (voice-over): Black turnout soared here in the Obama years, but it dropped in 2016 and was flat in 2020.

(on-camera): On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you grade the Joe Biden presidency in terms of its impact on your life and your community?


KING (on-camera): A four?

BAKER: Yes, and I love Joe.

KING (voice-over): Davette Baker, though, sees a reason for optimism.

BAKER: The alternative is the man whose name I try not to say.

KING (on-camera): Well, I'll say it. When we sit -- as we sit here today, the likely alternative is Donald Trump?

BAKER: Right.

KING (on-camera): Would that be enough to motivate people, even if maybe they're a little on Biden?

BAKER: I think so.

KING (voice-over): Joanna Brooks is one such voter. She owns a yoga studio, just across the Milwaukee line in Glendale.


KING (voice-over): Like many we met in the city, Brooks says black voters get taken for granted.

BROOKS: Black people in general, I think, tend to be pretty loyal to the Democratic Party. And sometimes I wonder just based on how that party has performed thus far for people of color, if we should continue to be.

KING (voice-over): But Brooks says that accountability exercise must wait until after 2024 because of constant Republican attacks on abortion rights and voting rights.

BROOKS: I grew up almost certain that my rights were guaranteed, right? I took it for granted. And now, as I sit and watch the work of so many black folks during the civil rights movement, so many women who fought for women's rights, when I see all of their work slowly being undone, that was a wake-up call for me for sure. You have to fight.

KING (voice-over): Eric Jones is no Trump fan, but he thinks it's foolish to bet on Trump motivating black turnout.

ERIC JONES, MILWAUKEE VOTER: I get people saying they're not going to vote. That's my fear. That if they see those two and they're going to say, screw it. We're damned anyway.

KING (voice-over): We met Jones at the 5th anniversary of the Bronzeville Collective. Several local artists sell their goods here.


KING (voice-over): It is a source of smiles and hope in a community often defined by poverty and a high incarceration rate.

JONES: When the factories and the manufacturing left, jobs left. When jobs leave and opportunities leave, then you have certain things that are domino effects, right?

KING (voice-over): Jones says the president should stop by and learn a lesson.

JONES: You bring opportunities, you bring jobs, you get votes. Plain and simple.

KING (voice-over): For the president, it is the mood a year from now that matters most. But the mood today is bleak.

(on-camera): If you're Joe Biden and you want to be re-elected, he'd have a problem today, right?

JOHNSON: Yes, he would. He'll have a big problem.

KING (voice-over): Johnson's work could well help the president. But listen.

(on-camera): If it were just Biden and Trump, who would you vote for?

JOHNSON: That's just a tough one.

KING (voice-over): A young man who says the country needs big change, determined to boost Milwaukee's black turnout. Yet, not sure who gets his vote.


BASH: John, so fascinating. And important always to hear from voices of the people who are actually going to determine the president. I just want to kind of underscore the entire theme of your piece, which is in this community, it doesn't seem like it's not a question of am I going to vote for a Republican or a Democrat? It's am I going to vote and go out and help Joe Biden and get him over the line?

KING: It's just the disconnect. You find this among Trump supporters, and now you find it among black voters who are reliably Democratic. They think Washington has just stopped working for them. They don't think their leaders are paying attention to them.

They think in the case of the Democrats, including the president of the United States, that they come and say how critical you are, how you have to vote, how I need you to vote, and then they forget about them. [12:55:07]

They just feel forgotten and left out, and they think Washington is broken. They think politics is broken. And so to hear, a, that young man and then the older black women, the black women are the Jews in the black community, they keep it going and thriving.

They, you know, they lived through the Civil Rights movement. People died for their right to vote, and then they still say, I'm not sure it matters anymore. It is stunning.

BASH: Oh, it absolutely is stunning. And the enthusiasm gap, if you will, is true in that community and all over when it comes to the Democrats and the challenge that Joe Biden has. And I know you have found that in your travels before. And I know that you're going to be looking into that as you continue to go around the country.

John, thank you so much. Thanks for coming in.

KING: Thank you.

BASH: Thank you for joining INSIDE POLITICS. "CNN NEWS CENTRAL" starts after a quick break.