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Inside Politics

Presidents Of Harvard, Penn, MIT Called To Testify About Surge Of Antisemitism On College Campuses; Antisemitism On The Rise Across The U.S.; Liz Cheney, Democrats Warn Of Trump's 2024 Danger; Haley Says She Backs Raising Social Security Retirement Age; Trump, DeSantis Say They Won't Cut Social Security Or Medicare. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired December 05, 2023 - 12:30   ET



DANA BASH, CNN HOST: Colleges must take the right stand."

And Larry Summers was also the former Treasury secretary is joining me now. Thank you so much for being here. So, sir, for years, when students have made complaints or shared concerns about antisemitism that they have either witnessed or been victim of, they have been told, there's nothing administrators can do, because it's political speech, which is free speech. And rhetoric has been accepted for the most part, or ignored, or both. Why?

LARRY SUMMERS, FMR. HARVARD UNIVERSITY PRESIDENT: Look, there's been a problem on college campuses generally. And it's been a problem at Harvard, as well, that there's just been a double standard in the way university leaders have responded to racism, to other forms of prejudice, and the way they've responded to what is pretty clearly antisemitism, or at least has antisemitism as its effect.

And I don't know why that why those mistakes have been made. But they have been serious and there's something that Israeli students have been aware of, for quite some time. If there's any silver lining and the tragic events that have taken place recently, it's that it's brought antisemitism to the fore as a major issue.

And I think it is being taken more seriously. But the problem is not to condemn antisemitism. The problem is to maintain a broadly tolerant and open community. And that means you have to make sure that students don't enter classrooms with megaphones and disrupt classes.

That means you have to respond firmly, strongly and clearly when people occupy buildings. That means you have to set the tone for the discourse by condemning sloganeering where the intent and the effect is very clear --

BASH: Right.

SUMMERS: -- like these calls for globalizing Intifada. I've been glad that I've been critical on many dimensions of the leadership at Harvard. But I've been glad that our President Gay very explicitly condemned the chant from the river to the sea. And I hope the leaders of more institutions will join her in that condemnation. BASH: Well, I want you to listen to something that she said, the current president of Harvard, Claudine Gay, she is among those testifying on Capitol Hill. Listen to her opening statement.


CLAUDINE GAY, PRESIDENT OF HARVARD: During these difficult days, I have felt the bonds of our community strain. In response, I've sought to confront hate, while preserving free expression. The free exchange of ideas is the foundation upon which Harvard is built, and safety and wellbeing are the prerequisites for engagement in our community. Without both of these things, our teaching and research mission founder.


BASH: So you said that she did condemn the statement that we've seen not just a statement, the protest, the mantra, from the river to the sea, which most Jews do consider blatantly antisemitic. But beyond that, do you think that she and others have taken the moment that you just talked about October 7, and has have used it as a tool to start overhauling this problem that has been going on for years in higher education?

SUMMERS: The ideals that President Gay expresses are just the right ones. But there's a lot of work to do. You know, one survey, and who knows whether it's right, rank Harvard dead last out of 240 institutions on free speech.

And so we have a lot of work to do on many dimensions. I think a place that starts with the way is -- with the way you respond to disruptions, the way you respond to events. I was disappointed when our Graduate Student Union made a statement that I think can only be regarded as vile and it's antisemitism, and there was no response from the Harvard administration.

BASH: Can I just ask you about that?


SUMMERS: I've been disappointed by the lack of response in general to maintain order in the face of some of the protests. But, look, things are moving. There are responses underway, and we'll have to wait and see how it plays out. But the right standard --

BASH: Yes.

SUMMERS: -- is the same responses they give to racism.

BASH: As somebody who was in academia for a long time, why? Why is it so difficult for university administrators to respond forcefully to antisemitism?

SUMMERS: I think that the issues around antisemitism are related to issues around political diversity. And in a variety of communities that regard themselves as highly progressive, there is an affinity for positions, vis-a-vis the Middle East, that many of us find deeply problematic.

And I think there because that community is so large, within universities, there has been a reluctance on the part of administrators to take it on. I saw that myself when years ago as president, I condemned the Boycott, Divest, Sanction, Israel movement, and saw how much controversy that statement generated.

But I think the issues around antisemitism, and particularly before October 7, the failure to confront it can't be separated from the broader issues of political diversity, the broader issues of identity politics.

BASH: Yes.

SUMMERS: And I think it's going to be very important to find a new synthesis as we work our way through this. That's what I tried to express in the editorial to which you referred.

BASH: Yes. And you did so well. And I'm very grateful that you came on to talk even more about it on this day when your successor and others are testifying about this very, very big problem on universities, campuses across the country.

Thank you so much, former Harvard President, former Treasury Secretary, Larry Summers. Appreciate it.

SUMMERS: Thank you.

BASH: Ahead, Liz Cheney says if Donald Trump wins in 2024, he'll try to make himself president for life. We're going to talk about that and much, much more.

Jon Karl is back. Don't go anywhere.


BASH: As Donald Trump heads into 2024, the clear GOP front runner some Republicans and Democrats are alike are sounding the alarm about just how dangerous they think a second term could be.


REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D), MARYLAND: You can see him trying to create the embryo of a fascistic authoritarian criminal party once he gets back into office. And Liz Cheney's got it absolutely right. If he gets back in, does any person think that really he would ever leave office again? If you believe that, you're just too innocent to be let out of the House by yourself.


BASH: Jonathan Karl is back with me to discuss his fantastic new book, "Tired Of Winning: Donald Trump And The End Of The Grand Old Party", which I happen to have right here, which I read cover to cover, as they say. I want to just on this note, talk about one of the many scoops that you have in this book. And your -- the chapter is called, Fix It Now. And it's about this notion, not just of him staying if he wins again, but historically, back in 2021, whether or not he thought he could actually be reinstated even after he lost because he refused to admit that he lost.

And you notice that he put out one of his statements ranting against Saturday Night Live. And in it he said, 2024 or before. And this is from your book, you said, "I began the conversation because you talk to him --


BASH: -- July of 2021. But no intention of asking Trump about the reinstatement fantasies I'd seen circulating amongst some of his most extreme supporters. But as he droned on about the very strong information I'd soon see coming, he sounded like someone who genuinely believed his 2020 defeat could be overturned. So I asked what he meant when he wrote in his statement 2024 or before."

We have some audio of that conversation you had.


KARL: By the way, when you had a release recently, you said 2024 or before. What do you mean by that? You don't really think there's a way you would get reinstated before the next election, do you?

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm not going to explain it to you, Jonathan, because you wouldn't either understand it or write it.


BASH: You wrote it, but you might not understand it.

KARL: I mean, this is a truly lunatic idea that was floating out there that somehow Biden could be ejected from the White House long after he was sworn in, long after his administration had taken hold. And what you hear there in -- and you can hear the way he's saying it.


I mean, he believed that somehow, the truth was going to come out about the Chinese manipulating our voting machines and election being stolen, and that he was going to be reinstated as president.

And over the course of that chapter, which truly some of the most surprising things that I have learned about Trump, what was going on behind the scenes throughout the year of 2021, and even into last year, Dana, he was pressuring people to pursue this idea that Biden could be upended, thrown out of the White House, he could be put back into the White House, they could rerun the election and he would be president.

And, look, it's one thing to hear this in QAnon websites. It's another thing to hear the former president of the United States talking about this.

BASH: Yes, it sure is. Now, I should say that this is old home week day, whatever you want to call it, because I used to be your producer. You were at CNN, and we ran around Capitol Hill together. I learned so much from you. And I enjoyed working with you.

There you go. The guy --

KARL: Back in the day. Look at that.

BASH: Yes. The guy in the middle, that was a U.S. senator, people may have heard of, last name is Kennedy.

KARL: Yes.

BASH: Yes, that was back in the day. And one of the many stories that you and I covered together on Capitol Hill was 9/11. We were at the Capitol together on 911. And it's etched in my mind, obviously, and yours, because you write about it in this book, us coming back to the Capitol, the evening as desk was falling, and watching the leadership get together and in an impromptu song, God Bless America.




BASH: Jon, you note in your book that you can see then freshman Congressman Mike Pence.

KARL: There with the white hair.

BASH: There with the white hair singing. And at the end of the book, you talk about that moment versus fast forward to January 6, and what a different world it was. And I think about that so much more -- so much, just as you do. That was a response to foreign terrorism. And January 6 was domestic terrorism.

KARL: And, you know, that moment we really felt America was under attack. The Capitol had been entirely evacuated. The plane that ultimately were down in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, widely believed that it was coming to the dome of the Capitol. You and I were there.

We both -- by the way, I mean, I've never had a greater experience working with a reporting partner than you. We really -- I think both of us had a reverence for the Capitol, for American democracy, for the privilege of being a reporter that got the opportunity to go to work every day in that building.

And when we saw it come under attack, and we saw Democrats and Republicans come together, that was a spontaneous, that was late in the evening on September 11, when they came back to a closed building, and made a couple of speeches and then spontaneously sang that song.

So as I watched the Capitol come under attack again, this time by domestic, as you said, terrorists, I mean, I took it personally.

BASH: Yes. Me too.

KARL: This was a place that means so much more than simply the place where Congress meets. This is the symbol of everything --

BASH: Yes.

KARL: -- in American democracy is.

BASH: All of America should take on that personally. So good to see you.

KARL: Great to be here with you.

BASH: Thank you so much for coming on. This is the book, "Tired of Winning", go get it. It's really good.

And ahead, new reporting on one of Nikki Haley's strategies to set herself apart from the PAC. It's getting a lot of interest from people with big, big bank accounts. Stay with us.


BASH: As part of her effort to set herself apart from the crowd and the GOP presidential primary, Nikki Haley is bringing a tough topic for conservatives back to the fore, Social Security reform.


NIKKI HALEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Social Security is going bankrupt in 10 years, Medicare's going bankrupt in eight. The ones we change it for are those like my kids, in their 20s, coming into the system. We change retirement age to reflect life expectancy for them. We limit benefits on the wealthy. Instead of cost of living increases, we do increases based on inflation.


BASH: CNN's Fredrika Schouten is here with me now. She wrote about this story today. It's so interesting, because this is not a popular position among -- particularly among the voters she needs, Republican primary voters or leaning Republicans. And yet it is very popular among the money people.

FREDRIKA SCHOUTEN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL WRITER: It is, absolutely. It was striking to me as I've been talking to donors in recent weeks how many people raised this issue. She's been attracting sort of Wall Street types. The Koch Network gave her a big endorsement and they specifically cited her courage to tackle entitlement reform.

But as you note you, it's really risky, right? I mean we have something like nearly 60 percent of Republican and Republican leaning voters saying that it's essential to them that are Republican nominee leave these programs, Social Security and Medicare as they are.


So we'll see how this plays out here and --

BASH: Yes. And if she -- I mean, you're alluding to this, if she continues to rise, there's no question Donald Trump will go after her on this issue because it's so potent with voter.

SCHOUTEN: It is potent with voters, particularly older voters who participate in Republican primaries. And, you know, Donald Trump has a history of criticizing these entitlement reforms long ago. But now he says that they will not be touched, and he's already gone after Ron DeSantis, another rival early on in this campaign

Ron DeSantis, of course, isn't talking about entitlement reform in exactly the same way. But as a member of Congress, he voted for some non-binding resolutions to raise the retirement age. And Donald Trump and his Super PAC spent millions of dollars.

BASH: Yes, they did. Yes.

Fredreka, such good reporting. You always have amazing reporting, and you can check it out on about how much these donors who are flocking to Nikki Haley support her efforts here. Thank you.

Thank you so much for joining Inside Politics. CNN News Central starts after a quick break.