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Inside Politics

Biden Speaks At African American History Museum; Biden Moves To Bolster Crucial Support Among Black Voters; Poll: Biden's Margins With Black Voters Have Eroded Since 2029; Poll: Young Voters Split Between Biden And Trump; Sunday: Biden To Give Commencement Address At Morehouse University; Israeli Military Recovers Bodies Of 3 Hostages In Tunnel In Gaza. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired May 17, 2024 - 12:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: The president of United States speaking at the National Museum of African American History and Culture here in Washington D.C., very strong words. And words that are designed at least part to appeal to the African American community for support, going into the November election. The president also making it clear that he went after Trump and what he calls that Trump's MAGA supporters for erasing history in many -- in many ways as well.

We're going to continue to stay on top of all of these stories. Thanks very much for joining me here in the CNN Newsroom. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. And I'll of course be back later tonight 6 pm eastern in the Situation Room. Inside Politics with Dana Bash starts right now.

DANA BASH, CNN HOST, INSIDE POLITICS: Welcome to Inside Politics. I'm Dana Bash. As Wolf just said, we have been listening to President Biden speak at the National Museum of African American History in Washington.

I want to start this hour by going straight to CNN's White House correspondents, Kayla Tausche. Kayla, tell us about the speech. We obviously heard it here live what the president delivered but take us behind the scenes on the intent and the hope that the speech -- what it achieves politically and also policy wise?

KAYLA TAUSCHE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dana, it is one of a series of events that President Biden has hosted this week, catering to the black community that speech, of course, held at the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Part of an event, commemorating the 70th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark civil rights case that led to school desegregation.

And just yesterday, the president met at the White House with the plaintiffs in that case. Now, the president was trying to deliver a message to the black community that he understands the progress that the community has made, and also the work that is left to do. Here's the president, in his own words.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: The black students rely on Pell Grants to go to college. And something I'm really proud of. We're making historic investments in historic black colleges and universities.

I'm from Delaware. So, I go along with Delaware state to be the best HBCUs. Kamala keeps saying is Howard. And I'm going now -- I'm going on Sunday to make a speech at that other place -- that man's college, more -- Morehouse. I got more Morehouse men in my administration in Morehouse. The regardless of loyalties, it's clear HBCUs are vital to our nation's progress. I mean it.


TAUSCHE: The president injecting some levity there in the announcement and that continued reinforcement that isn't it -- his administration has invested $16 billion in historically black colleges and universities. Part of this barrage of events, this week meant to establish more outreach to black voters and black interest groups, specifically.

Dana, there have been more than eight events this week that either Biden or Vice President Harris have participated. And later this afternoon, they will be meeting with the divine nine that historically black fraternities and sororities.

And as the president mentioned, he'll be going to Morehouse College in Atlanta on Sunday to deliver a commencement address that has been fairly politically fraught, with the White House dispatching officials to try to calm some tensions there and establish a rapport with students, and faculty to inform the president's speech and make sure that it hits all of the right notes.

There's another person that the White House has been consulting with on that speech, and that is Dr. Tony Allen. He's the President and CEO of Delaware State University that President Biden just mentioned. I spoke to him just a few minutes ago about how we can expect that Morehouse speech to go. What he believes the president will be talking about.

And Dr. Allen told me that he thinks that the president is going to be highlighting the rise in student voices, black student voices in particular, since the pandemic after the murder of George Floyd, the Black Lives Matter movement, the political unrest that followed.

He told me this about that -- he said, all of that gave significant rise to the student voice in a very good way as opposed to striking a delicate balance. I think Biden will hit that head on and go back to the history of our country, when young people had big things to say.

Of course, Dana, black voters by and large are telling Biden that his message is not resonating, more than 20 percent of vote -- black voters telling the New York Times in a recent poll across swing states that they would be voting for Donald Trump. So, Biden still has his work cut out for him. Dana? BASH: Thank you so much for that. Excellent reporting, Kayla, appreciate it. Let's talk more with another group of excellent reporters, CNN's David Chalian, Frank Bruni of The New York Times. He's also the author of a new fantastic book, The Age of Grievance, which we'll talk about a little bit later. Zolan Kanno-Youngs of The New York Times, and POLITICO's Heidi Przybyla. Thanks so much one and all.


David Chalian, you just heard Kayla use the term barrage of events between the president and the vice president when it comes to outreach to the black community.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yeah. I mean, I think you can't look at any one of these things individually. It is the totality of this week. But I would say, that's not terribly different from what we've seen in past election cycles that a Democratic presidential candidate may put together.

What is different is that Donald Trump -- according to all the public polling out there may be on the precipice of doing better and performing better with more support from African Americans than any Republican in the modern era. That's the different piece of this. So that's why this can't just be for the Biden campaign, nor do -- when you talk to them, I don't think they intended to be.

Just a one-week kind of thing and done, maybe the way that the president likes to joke about the former president and infrastructure week. This will not just be a one and done effort. This is going to be a concerted effort. You see it in their field organizing attempts. You'll see it in their paid advertising. They understand this is a critical constituency, they cannot take for granted.

BASH: Yeah. And Zolan, I want you to look at some of what Kayla was just talking about. First, let's just go back to 2020 and the actual vote. Black voters, Biden got one that 75 percent of them. And just look at the subset of 18- to 29-year-old voters, 24 percent. Now this is -- that's an actual vote. Now we're just looking at polls and he is down in the polls to 49 percent.

Now we know that, for lots of reasons, polling in the black community, political polling has been fraught. And maybe the sample sizes haven't been big enough to get a true sense. But as we talked about that, I also want to talk about what you have reported.

As recently as last week, you and your colleagues have a story, the justice department recommends easing restrictions on marijuana. And part of what you talk about in there is that that was a policy decision intended as an outreach activist to African American voters, but to young voters, in particular.

ZOLAN KANNO-YOUNGS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES & CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yeah, that's right. That's right. I mean, look, yes, it's early. And we're looking at polling here. But one, I can tell you that these numbers have the attention of some of Mr. Biden's closest political advisors -- some of President Biden's closest political advisors. They are -- they are worried about this frustration that's far because this very much is the base of the party.

And in a way sort of scrambling for different policy achievements now that you can show that can energize not just -- not just voters in the black community, which is obviously not a monolith, but specifically young black voters as well. So that falls as the marijuana announcement, definitely is an example of that.

Look, that's essentially a proposed rule. It's not going to take effect for a while. It's like a long arduous process. The fact that the president put out a video with it yesterday, a week after the Justice Department sort of recommendation to the White House, even shows just the urgency to really find something to energize these voters.

BASH: And be concerned that they didn't really get it and they didn't hear it.

KANNO-YOUNGS: 100 percent, absolutely. But I do want to say to, look when we talk about young black voters, when we talk about voters in the black community, many of the concerns are the same that many American voters, it's the economy, right? It's frustrations around affordability.

So, just looking for sort of different announcements, such as like a marijuana announcement, it's not going to suffice. And if this current moment that we're in reminds me of the last time around Biden made a commencement speech at Howard University. I spent the week going and talking to Howard students, as well as their parents to sort of see that generational divide in a way.

What you had is parents obviously worried about the state of democracy. But saying, look, if it's a choice between Biden and Trump, I'm going to go with Biden. But those younger voters are saying, we have high expectations here.

This person came in, proposing sprawling -- you know, proposals and didn't get -- and didn't, you know, get policy achievements, legislative achievements, but it wasn't everything that they heard, you know, initially. So, whether he can meet those high expectations. That's what we have to watch with these events moving forward.

BASH: Frank, if you are -- and I say this with respect, not a young voter, but you all -- but you do spend most of your days with these kinds of young voters because you teach at Duke University. What's your sense given your -- the fact that you are very much in touch with a part of that community of how the political effort is going?

FRANK BRUNI, OP-ED COLUMNIST, NEW YORK TIMES: Well, I think they are a generation that's very skeptical, you know, of sort of what sound like blanket and bland promises. I have to say on my campus, at Duke University, I don't see a lot of support for Trump. But I see a lot of students who might not vote because they feel so disaffected.


And I think the challenge with a lot of these younger voters, black, white, whatever, is to just get them to go out to vote because so many of them don't believe that the difference is going to be as consequential as I believe it's going to be. But I have to -- I also want to say, I'm really glad to see Biden going to Morehouse College in what people who say, you're going to be challenging circumstances in what might be a challenging reception.

Because we keep on hearing from Trump's supporters and from Biden's critics that he's in hiding, that he's afraid to do risky things, that he's not running a bold campaign or a vigorous campaign. I think going out there and doing this and saying, no, I'm going to give a speech, I'm going to address the concerns, however it's received, it's received. I think that's a great look for Biden.

BASH: So, on that, I want you to listen Heidi to what David Thomas, who is the Morehouse College President told to our colleague, Victor Blackwell.


DAVID A. THOMAS, MOREHOUSE COLLEGE PRESIDENT: We will allow silent non-disruptive protests. I believe right now that Morehouse is an institution that can hold these tensions that threatened to divide us as a nation, as a society, as a world. And if Morehouse can hold those tensions, there's probably no place in this country that can hold those tensions.


BASH: So interesting, Heidi?

HEIDI PRZYBYLA, NATIONAL INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT, POLITICO: Yeah. I think the question here is going to be whether Biden can continue to give the speeches like the one that we just saw, which is really a conventional speech. Talking about all of his accomplishments, the things that he's delivered in his presidency, diversity and whatnot without going very negative on Trump.

Because this is a discussion right now within the Biden sphere of folks who want him to go more on the offensive and remind these young people of what's at stake of what happened during the first Trump presidency with the court, with affirmative action, with Roe v. Wade, and there's others, Dana, who want to go even further. I think the debates are going to be an opportunity for Biden to show his hand on this and whether he's going to go brass knuckles on some of this.

And extending to some of the advice for instance, that Reverend Sharpton -- Reverend Sharpton has given, which is look, we should also talk about the way back history of Central Park Five of housing discrimination. He even said, he wanted some of these individuals to come to the debates. So, you have a lot of tension here within the advisory sphere for Biden to get a lot more rough and tumble.

BASH: And one thing that we haven't talked about is the Middle East. And I mean, I have talked to people, African American leaders who are concerned about what the reception that the president is going to get this weekend at Morehouse. And it's not so much -- and maybe it's a little bit about did he do what he promised to do on the economy. But it's not unlike to your point, the concern that the Biden administration -- the Biden campaign has when he goes on any college campus.

KANNO-YOUNGS: It follows him everywhere he goes now. I mean, my colleague Maya King did a great piece where she basically went and met with black clergy members in Georgia as well and around the country, who did express concern about how Biden's policy towards Israel and Gaza would impact the black vote.

We've already seen some protests around Morehouse in the surrounding colleges around there. We know that the faculty is well circulated a petition around the time that this was announced. So, I think it's fair to say that we can expect, you know, some protests. But, you know, to your point, I mean, that's kind of been where everywhere the president goes at this point.

So, whether or not it stops at speech. I don't think that that would be the situation, but it will definitely be something to watch there. I'm still looking at the central challenge, I think, but the Biden administration has had -- when it comes to their racial equity agenda, which is, you know, you came in talking about voting rights sprawl and criminal justice reform.

The fact that democracy is being threatened and you have had policy accomplishments, but they're not sort -- but how can you sell -- how do you sell enrollment in Obamacare, lower prescription drug pricing, lower unemployment, when many of the students that are in that commencement speech are worried about the state of democracy and the current state of the nation right now.

BASH: Fascinating reporting. fascinating conversation. Don't go anywhere. Coming up. We are going to talk about some terrible breaking news out of Israel, where the Israeli military says, it's recovered the bodies of three hostages from a tunnel in Gaza. We're live from Jerusalem with details next.




BASH: Now to incredibly grim breaking news. Israeli forces recovered the bodies of three hostages in a tunnel in Gaza, Shani Louk, Amit Bouskila and Itshak Gelernter. An IDF spokesman says, these three innocent people were murdered while escaping Hamas terrorists during the depraved massacre on October 7.


REAR ADMIRAL DANIEL HAGARI, IDF SPOKESPERSON: The bodies were taking into Gaza. They were celebrating life in the Nova Music Festival, and they were murdered by Hamas.


BASH: CNN's Jeremy Diamond is in Jerusalem. Jeremy, what are you learning?


JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, very sad news, Dana. These three hostages, Shani Louk, Amit Bouskila and Itshak Gelernter now confirmed dead. And their bodies indeed retrieved from the Gaza Strip by the Israeli military. The IDF spokesman Admiral Daniel Hagari saying in that news conference that you just played a clip of that the three of them were attending the Nova Music Festival on October 7. They actually managed to escape the festival as Hamas militants and terrorists began arriving and shooting of that festival and regime.

But then in (inaudible), a town nearby is where the Israeli military says that these three individuals were killed, and their bodies then subsequently taken into the Gaza Strip. We already knew previously, according to the Israeli government that Shani Louk, the 23-year-old tattoo artists from Tel Aviv, who was attending this festival, that she had been killed on October 7, after in late October.

Forensic pathologist discovered a fragment of her skull in Israel and concluded that she was dead. But today was the first time that we've actually heard official confirmation that Amit Bouskila, a 28-year-old and Itshak Gelernter who was 58 years old, that they were indeed killed on that grim Saturday.

This is of course, as we've been watching reaction pour in from all corners of Israeli society, including the Israeli prime minister who says that his heart breaks for this great loss. It is a powerful reminder of just how connected everyone in Israel feels to the fate of these hostages. And the Nova Music Festival was certainly one of the reasons for that.

And that's because this festival pulled together people from all corners of Israeli society, all corners of the country from near the Gaza Strip, but also from Tel Aviv, from Northern Israel, contributing to this sense of connectedness that so many Israelis feel to the plight of these hostages. Dana?

BASH: Jeremy, thank you so much for that reporting. Appreciate it. And I want to turn to Axios reporter Barak Ravid, who is also a CNN political and global affairs analyst, and Eyal Hulata, the former head of Israeli National Security Council and former Israeli National Security Advisor. Thanks to both of you.

Barak, I'm going to start with you. What is your latest reporting, not just on this mission that allowed for the IDF to announce this grim news, but kind of what it means in the bigger picture, and the ultimate goal here, which is to get all the hostages back and to stop the war in Gaza?

BARAK RAVID, CNN POLITICAL & GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, I think that one of the things that are evident from this -- from this retrieval of those bodies is dead. Every day that passes, we find out that more and more of those hostages were either killed on October 7, or while they were in captivity, those specific three were killed on October 7, but the hostage talks are stalled.

Just in the last few days, there were several meetings of the Israeli war cabinet with no real progress when it comes to how to re-launch those talks and how to create possibility for a breakthrough. And I think that this isn't -- this might be the tragedy that most of the news that Israelis get over the last few weeks and months about the hostages are mostly about dead bodies that are being brought back from Gaza.

BASH: And Eyal here in the studio with me. What is your sense of -- I mean, obviously, we just heard Barak and Jeremy talk about the sentiment in Israel and the reminder of just how small a country it is, just how small a society is. And particularly when you look at the festival, how it was a gathering of Israelis -- particularly young people from all over the country. But you are a national security expert. Can you talk about this news vis-a-vis not just sort of the cultural and societal implication, but the national security implication going forward?

EYAL HULATA, FORMER ISRAELI NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: These are very bad news, of course. And I think the reality is that almost any Israeli recognizes the faces of the Itshak, and Amit and Shani because we know -- we know them, right. We know them either directly or through their stories throughout the time.

But I think you're rightly asking about the more strategic implications of this, and not just about the personal stories, as hard as it will be. Israel is in a very tight position in these cases. I mean, of course, the public -- and I think that large parts also of the government want the hostages out. Benny Gantz, Gadi Eisenkot, Yoav Gallant, they understand the importance of this.

I think Prime Minister Netanyahu understand the importance of this as well. But this is a political decision to be made by the government that will probably crack it because there are factions in the government who don't want this to happen.


BASH: And when you say this, what does this mean?

HULATA: Hostage deal that would bring home, first of all, the alive hostages, probably several dozens are still alive. It is true that every day that passes, I think they're less and less of them and we need to bring them back. But this will not end until we get everybody back, including the bodies.

The fact that the IDF is risking lives of soldiers to get the bodies out gives us a sentiment of how important this is to the sentiment of Israel public and in the military. Ultimately, though, it is Hamas was refusing to release them. Hamas took them on October 7. Hamas murdered so many of them either on October 7, and afterwards. There were several times deals on the table that Hamas could ever prove. We've seen President Biden and leaders of the world understand and recognize that is Hamas that is not allowing this to happen because they want the war to completely end before even they release all of the bodies of the hostages, the Israeli public.

Israel as a country cannot agree to that. We did not look for this war. We did not enter this war. We were very much surprised as everybody knows. We've suffered a total massacre. This war has been waiting for so long for seven months. For this to end, we need to get them back home. And this is a reminder of that today.

BASH: Sure. And, you know, it wasn't that long ago that we had just sort of the latest in the roller coaster of it could happen if -- it won't happen, it stalled. It's close on these negotiations when Hamas their political wing, clearly as a publicity stunt announced that there was a deal that they had accepted to deal. Well, it wasn't actually the most recent deal that was before them, or the most recent offer that was before them that even the U.S. secretary of state was talking about.

Can you explain, it's such a complicated thing, both on the Israeli side, but also when it comes to Hamas and their grip on power and how they approach the war. Why things continue to be stalled? And what you think could be a key to a breakthrough.

HULATA: So, first of all, I think the situation on the ground is not getting better by the week. As I said before the wars been continuing for several months, the IDF is incurring more and more casualties. We've had of course this --

BASH: And more casualties in Gaza.

HULATA: And more -- I'm talking about Gaza. Yes.

BASH: Yeah. I'm talking about --

HULATA: And, of course, more casualties -- civilian casualties in Gaza, definitely every day that the war continues, it is a war. You know, Israel has been accused of doing things deliberately. We're not doing this deliberately. I will protect and defend this. But I am cognizant and empathic to the suffering and the casualties in Gaza. This is a war that was brought upon us, and Hamas is using its own population as human shields. But there are casualties indeed.

And we've just passed this debate -- even strong debate on Rafah. Can Israel do this? Not do this and how this will play out. From an Israeli perspective for the war to end, we need to get the hostages back. And we need to make sure that Hamas cannot continue to do this. But the war is not willing to just give this away here, we will need to force him into this. Unfortunately, the conditions are difficult for that. So, I think this will actually continue for a while now before we can reach an opportunity to have a proper ceasefire.

BASH: Well, that's not exactly great news. But thank you for being a realist and coming on and explaining the sentiment in the reality. HULATA: Thank you.

BASH: Appreciate it. And thanks to Barak as well and Jeremy for his reporting. Up next, a New York Times report about Justice Samuel Alito. And whether in the days after January 6, he was signaling support on his front lawn for Trump's effort to overturn the election.