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Fears Grow In Congress Over Fate Of Israel And Ukraine Aid; Progressive Democrats Continue To Push For Ceasefire; More DeSantis Campaign Turmoil: Super PAC CEO Steps Down; Haley Tops DeSantis In NH, SC; They're Tied For Second In Iowa; Biden Campaign Targets Battleground States With Ads During Thanksgiving Football Games. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired November 23, 2023 - 12:30   ET




AUDIE CORNISH, CNN ANCHOR: Efforts to help Israel and Congress alongside key ally Ukraine have gotten caught up in squabbles within and between the two major parties. For more on the dynamics here in Washington, we're going to bring in our great panel of reporters CNN's MJ Lee, CNN's Melanie Zanona and Alayna Treene and Heidi Przybyla from Politico.


CORNISH: Did I say that, right? We have to get it right. Great.

I want to start with you, Melanie. First just outline for us at what point, what is the package in front of everyone, because we had heard Biden saying, we want a package with Taiwan aid, and Ukraine aid, and Israel and a whole bunch of stuff. But what actually exists right now?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Yes, Democrats want to package it all together. Republicans want to do all of these pieces individually, but it's really unclear if and when a package is going to be passed. And the reason is, because on Ukraine, you have Republicans who are insisting on border policy changes, not even just more border money, they want stricter asylum laws, stricter immigration laws, that is something that is vexed Washington for many years. So it's a very complicated issue to try to be getting policy changes. And --

CORNISH: And we often see border security tacked on to things, right, because it is a Republican priority --

ZANONA: Right.

CORNISH: -- in so many ways. I know that in Politico, we were reading that Senator Chris Murphy is raising concerns that there actually could be shortages for Ukraine and soldiers. They're getting all the way to 2024. I want to open it up to the table because this feels like such a fundamental -- it seems minor, but it's like a big fundamental question. Is the U.S. a place that is intervening, supporting in various places all at once and they all can be looped together, or is there a different approach afoot?

PRZYBYLA: Also a first big test for Johnson. I've been thinking about it this morning. We have a new dance partner here for the White House, but it's like the same tune and the same orchestra with very unlikely outcome being much different, which is just a lot of squabbling.

You know, another CR, although, we're being told -- Melanie's being told that they don't not likely to go for that. And very little indication that there is an understanding of the broader stakes. You cited Politico and Chris Murphy and he's saying, yes, within weeks, they could be running out of ammo. And the truth is, if you read what's out there right now, the counter offensive here is all but stalled.

CORNISH: Yes, but --

PRZYBYLA: And understanding they might not be able to wait until next February.

CORNISH: It was supposed to be host America first, right, coming out of the Trump years. It was supposed to be a new approach. Is that how the White House sees it?

MJ LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I mean, I think the fact that Israel and Ukraine aid both, the prospects for getting more aid is so grim right now just speaks volumes about how much of a distance we've traveled, both in terms of the Ukraine conflict being so protracted, but also how divisive this issue now is within the Republican conference.

I mean, we are in a political world where even just the prospect of keeping the government funded is so incredibly divisive and challenging. Everything just comes down right to the wire. I think the White House feels no sense of confidence right now that this is a situation where they can trust that the House and the Senate can get this kind of funding passed when not that long ago, it was just sort of a an accepted reality that --


LEE: -- Congress would be OK with.

CORNISH: Yes. Also, they've got this pressure in the front and then headwinds also within the Democratic Party, right? There's this conversation about whether or not even saying ceasefire --

LEE: Right.

CORNISH: -- works for Democrats. Give us some context here.

ALAYNA TREENE, CNN REPORTER: Yes, well, I think the divide right now within the Democratic Party in Congress, but beyond, is something that's also complicated. A lot of this -- I mean the divide when it comes to Israel. I mean, it's obviously --


CORNISH: Yes. Just to give an example, Rashida Tlaib actually made a comment. She's continuing to push for a ceasefire, as this kind of conversation about a halt in hostilities is on the way where she says when this short term agreement expires, the bombing of innocent civilians will continue.

And we need a permanent ceasefire to save lives, bring all the hostages and those arbitrarily detained home and put an end to this horrific violence. I don't know necessarily how welcome this is in the White House, kind of how she's been talking.

TREENE: It doesn't seem welcome. And MJ, you know, as well. I mean, I think that Biden has been trying to walk this line, right, like he's very pro-Israel. I think he's been making it clear that he wants to aid Israel. He wants to help Israel right now.

But he also recognizes that there are a lot of people in the party, people like Congressman Tlaib. But a lot of people on the hard left, who are sympathizing a little bit more with what's happening in Palestine, and even some people, I mean, we've seen on social media sympathizing with Hamas to an extent.

And so, I think the politics around this are very difficult. But --

CORNISH: But even if there's aid, there's probably strings attached. Do we think conditions are possible?

ZANONA: That is actually a split in the Democratic Party right now. We have seen some on the left coming out and saying there should be conditions which should be conditioned upon their human rights and their military strategy. But other Democrats are coming out and saying, absolutely not, there should be no conditions attached.

We've never -- you know, we've done this for other countries. We've never done that for Israel. And so you're also saying the split on the left, which is also why this aid package that they're trying to do is become so complicated, and the normal times when it would just be something very easy for them, so.

CORNISH: And it can reverberate in our own domestic politics. I want to end on this, this Politico headline, reporting that donor -- a donor tried to offer $20 million to recruit a primary challenger to Rashida Tlaib.

LEE: I mean, I think the issue -- you mentioned this before for the Biden campaign, is that this is just a divide that we're seeing among members of Congress and the party. It is among voters too, right? The Biden campaign looks at this and they see that the Israel issue has the potential to really erode support among younger voters.

We're also talking about support among voters of color. So when you start sort of taking away those slivers of support, that is supposed to be key to the Democratic base --

CORNISH: Undercurrent of enthusiasm.

LEE: -- supporting Biden -- yes. We're -- how do you make up that difference.

CORNISH: OK, stay with us. We're going to talk next about turmoil with the DeSantis campaign and whether or not that's good news for Nikki Haley. But is there still time to catch the GOP front runner? Stay with us.



CORNISH: We're now less than two months from the Iowa caucuses and Ron DeSantis, once seen as the GOP's most viable alternative to Donald Trump is floundering. Yesterday, the chief executive of his Super PAC quit, the latest personnel shuffle and his inner circle.

We want to talk about the polls because they have been trending in the wrong direction at least for DeSantis. In the early voting states, Nikki Haley now tops him for second place in New Hampshire and South Carolina. The two are tied in Iowa. They're both still pretty far behind Donald Trump.

But I'm bringing back our political reporters because it's a holiday. And if you're watching this show, you care. You know, this is two months away.

ZANONA: This is the only place we're allowed to talk politics.

CORNISH: Yes, exactly. The only Thanksgiving table where you could talk politics like this. So I'm looking at those numbers in that poll, and I did some quick math. And it's still like 40 percent, 30 percent of electorate total who are looking for someone else. Is that what you're hearing?

TREENE: It is. I mean, I think what's really interesting about these polls, too, is that Nikki Haley and DeSantis are kind of head to head now in Iowa, especially because DeSantis has really operated this all in strategy. He's really put all his eggs in the Iowa basket, and he's counting on succeeding in Iowa in order to help him build momentum for the other primaries, but it doesn't look like that's really working out for him so far.

CORNISH: And yet more money might be on the way.

TREENE: Yes. I mean, he has had -- other than this Super PAC drama where the head of the Never Back Down, Chris Jankowski resigned. He has had a good few weeks. I mean, we saw Bob Vander Plaats and he is a very big Republican powerbroker in Iowa Christian evangelical leader, gave him his endorsement earlier this week. He's also, as you mentioned, getting more donors.

CORNISH: Heidi, let met let you jump in. Your face is saying, is he really?

PRZYBYLA: I'm thinking of all these things, and all of retreading all of the campaigns that I've covered and this is just a textbook case of what you do when you're struggling campaign, which is rearrange the deck chairs.

Number one -- rule number one, it's never the candidates fault. It's always the help, get new help. We saw this with DeSantis in August when he got a new campaign manager. We've seen this in previous campaigns, like when Donald Trump gave Brad Parscale the boot.

The reality is, he was supposed to have his breakout here in Iowa. It's not happening. We're seven weeks before now, the caucuses. He's down 25 points from Donald Trump. And so he's painting his --

CORNISH: You're painting a brutal picture that Nikki Haley's people will love, OK. They're going to be like, this is great. So I want to play an ad from this DeSantis pack, because he's, obviously, she's been getting better press and see more as a front runner. The knives are out so to speak.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We know her as crooked Hillary, but to Nikki Haley, she's her role model. The reason she ran for office.

NIKKI HALEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I often say that the reason I got into politics was because of Hillary Clinton.

She is actually the reason that I made the jump.



CORNISH: OK. So, this is from the far-right PAC, we know there is no greater slur in the Republican Party than to be called Hillary Clinton. So what is the aim here in terms of approaching Nikki Haley?

ZANONA: Actually, our colleagues reported that there was some concern that some of these ads were backfiring on DeSantis. We're going after her. And I think just like DeSantis, has struggled to figure out how to take on Trump, he's also struggling how to take on Nikki Haley.

I mean, they've gone after her on foreign policy, which has been her calling card. That's also been, you know, a rallying cry on the far- right. You've seen this more isolationist wing of the party taking hold --

CORNISH: Right, which is probably struggling a bit in this moment with Israel, right?

ZANONA: Exactly.

CORNISH: Like trying to push that America first with this particular ally. ZANONA: Yes. But I think they really struggled to land attacks on her without it also backfiring.

CORNISH: All right. I want to talk about messaging, because this is always the conversation with Joe Biden and the White House. Are they doing enough? Are they saying enough? Are they convincing people to ignore the data and feel like the economy is better? How are they thinking about this right now?

LEE: I mean, I know we've talked about this so much. And I don't know how many times we can use the word disconnect. But I do think that is like the theme song of the campaign right now. They know that the economic data is so much stronger now than before, earlier in the administration, but they also recognize that there is a disconnect.

People do not feel like the economic situation is good, even despite --

CORNISH: And they're running ads, right? Like there's a whole flurry of ads --

LEE: They are --

CORNISH: -- that they're pushing.

LEE: -- running ads in battleground states about the President's economic record, trying to sort of sell his record on the economy, in particular. When I talk to White House officials, they say and they recognize that there is a bit of a messaging problem. You know, is Bidenomics really the white label.

CORNISH: That you're being very generous. I also say the internet is undefeated and TikTok is hating the economy. I don't know how you guys like, where's your social media life.

PRZYBYLA: Well, there's messaging but there's also actual looked at the data. And inflation for much of Biden's presidency was outpacing wages, even though wages were rising. Now that has flipped. And so we have to watch and see --

CORNISH: Is inflation the problem or prices?

PRZYBYLA: Well, it's the same thing. I mean, so -- but the point is that this dynamic is now flipping.

CORNISH: The reason I say this is you -- inflation can come down, and you can still go to the grocery store and find very high prices, right? This has been one of the puzzles so far.

ZANONA: Well, price gouging, yes.

LEE: Well, and I was going to say I think there's also a recognition that just some part of this is that time needs to pass. And there's nothing that the White House and/or the campaign can do about that, right? I mean, we went through two brutal years of the pandemic, historic inflation, prices of everything being so high. So even if the economic data is strong, there's something about like the human psychology, that's just going to take time.

PRZYBYLA: And then there's a second thing, right, which is the social safety net programs that are due to expire. And --

CORNISH: And that's where House Democrats involved, right?

PRZYBYLA: -- that really hit his base very much so when you talk about lower income individuals, single mothers, you know.

CORNISH: How does that dialogue go?

TREENE: Yes, well, it's -- just want to talk to voters out in the field, but also Republicans. I covered the Trump campaign so I hear a lot of Republicans and how they think Biden is doing on the economy. And I totally agree with MJ's point that there is a bit of a hangover when it comes to looking at the economy, even if the economy is getting better.

They think of Joe Biden as being someone who was in office when the economy was really bad. They think of the really high gas prices. They think of inflation, and they associate that with him. And so I do think there is an uphill battle for the White House to change the messaging on bionomics.

CORNISH: All right. I want to thank you guys for being here on a holiday. I appreciate you. Great reporting. Thanks so much.

LEE: Happy Thanksgiving.

CORNISH: Happy Thanksgiving.

Ahead on this Thanksgiving Day, how to deal with the political divisions around your Thanksgiving table by embracing new stories. That's up next.



CORNISH: The percentage of Americans who say they're extremely proud to be an American is actually at a record low. Earlier this year, a Wall Street Journal poll found that just 38% of Americans say patriotism is very important to him. And that's actually down from 70% in 1998.

But I want to invite you to listen to a conversation that I had on my podcast, The Assignment, because we wanted to bring you a unifying conversation and uplifting conversation for your Thanksgiving tables. One that asks some important question, like, what does it mean to love this country despite its divisions? How can we come together and hold space for the good and the bad of the American story? What would those conversations even sound like if we did?

Well, I spoke to the author, Baratunde Thurston. And he says that it might mean letting go of some of the old stories about who we are as a country. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARATUNDE THURSTON, COMEDIAN AND WRITER: That's part of the polarization that has spread throughout society and it's not limited to the halls of Congress. It's showing up in business transactions and who you buy a chicken sandwich from. And, you know, you got to pick a side in everything. That's risky.

But we know in our realist relationships, we are not in relationship with a totally good person or a totally bad person.


We know that the children we love and the spouses we marry and the parents who brought us into this world are very imperfect. And we embrace multiplicity, duality, a full spectrum with all those people. We make excuses, right, for ourselves and for the people we love. And we embrace more of them when we're doing our best.


CORNISH: So if you want to listen to more, that episode of The Assignment is available wherever you get your podcasts. Please listen and subscribe.

And thank you so much for joining us this hour. All of us here on INSIDE POLITICS wish you a very happy and healthy Thanksgiving. "CNN NEWS CENTRAL" starts after the break.