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CNN Live Event/Special
President Joe Biden Delivered His First State Of The Union Address; Russian Forces Seen Across Southern Ukrainian City Of Kherson; Results Of Texas Primary Elections. Aired 11p-12a ET
Aired March 01, 2022 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: For now, it is not clear what that is, and that is why so many here are fearful that we are going to see continued bloody onslaught from Russian forces here in Kyiv and across the country, Anderson.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: The potential for a humanitarian disaster, I mean, obviously, we have seen more than half a million Ukrainians already leave, Ukrainians and others who were residing in the country leaving to Poland, to Hungary, Slovakia, to other places, that will only continue as long as people are able to still travel.
But getting supplies -- I mean, in Kyiv, if -- when the attack comes, assuming it comes, I mean, you have -- tonight, you have children who were in a NICU, you know, sheltering, being treated by doctors in the basement of a hospital, children who have cancer being treated in basements of hospitals, supplies are, at some point, are going to become, you know, a huge, huge concern if they're not already.
WARD: Yeah, and it's already becoming an issue, Anderson. I mean, it's incredible to see Ukrainian people with great stoicism and dignity, waiting patiently in these lines to go into the supermarket, they're not hoarding, they're not stockpiling, but you do see the supermarket shelves are starting to empty. You see the same thing in pharmacies.
And as you point out, most importantly, you're seeing hospitals run into real challenges, moving maternity wards into basements, moving children's oncology wards into basements, and basements that are not designed to be hospitals. They're having to evacuate some children in the pediatric oncology ward to try to get them out to where they can properly receive treatment.
And as that noose tightens and as that Russian ground offensive starts to really properly encircle the capital and totally block off any supply routes in and out, this could well be a major humanitarian disaster.
At the moment, things can get in, in much less volume and obviously certain things are not able to move as freely. There are also just enormous traffic jams and difficulties moving goods around many parts of the country. But everyone here understands, and they're facing it with enormous resilience and dignity, but everyone here understands that the situation could well get much worse very soon.
And so, how do they begin to prepare for that? What can hospitals do? What do you do with the elderly? What do you do with those very sick children, those women who are giving birth? No one really has any answers. They're improvising in the moment and trying to make the best out of what can only be described as a very grave situation, Anderson.
COOPER: Yeah. Clarissa, appreciate it. We will continue to check in with you.
I want to go to Jill Dougherty, who is standing by in Moscow, our contributor on Russian affairs, long-time Putin watcher. Jill, you reported earlier today that according to the Kremlin spokesman, Putin was unlikely to watch tonight's speech, that he prefers reading reports afterwards. So, I'm wondering what you expect Putin will make of the reports of what the president said tonight.
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, you know, I think those personal comments by Joe Biden were probably things that would get under -- into the craw of the Russian president, things like dictator, Putin alone is to blame, more isolated than ever. But I don't think they're going to engage in that. You know, you can't really defend yourself by saying no, I'm not a dictator. But what they can do is try to pick apart the argument.
Tonight, on Russian T.V., they did have a very short -- right after Biden's speech, they had a very short report, kind of summing up what he said. And they got a few things: U.S. is closing airspace to Russian airplanes, the fact that American forces would not be fighting Russians, and interestingly, they mentioned the fact that the United States is going to be creating this group that will be investigating Russian oligarchs.
I found that quite interesting, that they'd actually talk about that. But I think all of this is a good indication that they are not going to engage on a personal basis on President Putin and this war, even though it is obviously his war, that they're trying to keep it more on a plane of issues for Russia, protecting Russia. Anderson?
COOPER: Interesting. Jill Dougherty, appreciate it, from Moscow. Wolf Blitzer, let's go back to you.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Anderson, thanks very much. We're getting lots of reaction to the president's state of the union address. I want to go to Jeff Zeleny. He's up on Capitol Hill. It's interesting to hear from Democrats and Republicans. Tell our viewers, Jeff, what you're hearing.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, there's no question the biggest moments, at least in terms of unifying moments, some of the only unifying moments, came during the powerful passages on Ukraine.
And you could just hear the thundering applause when the president was talking about going after the oligarchs, going after the luxury yachts. And that is amplified in the conversations we are having with Republicans and Democrats as they are leaving the chamber this evening.
But Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah who has been very measured in his comments on Ukraine, he had this to say a short time ago. He said that he believes the president did a very nice job on Ukraine, he showed our full commitment to defer to allies and standing with the Ukrainian people. So, he, of course, is going to be playing a central role in what comes next here on Congress.
And Wolf, that is Congress is debating right now, how much aid to prepare for the Ukrainian people, from some $6 billion to some $10 billion in the omnibus spending bill. That is the overall spending bill that will be passed likely next week. So, that is what is going to happen here.
And Wolf, there is a deep concern about the humanitarian crisis. Talking with many senators who have visited the region, they believe there could be millions of refugees by next week leaving Ukraine. So, that certainly is a concern.
So, for all of the bitter divide in the chamber, Wolf, it is very clear that on Ukraine and the anti-Putin message, this is something that Republicans and Democrats can both agree on. Wolf?
BLITZER: Yeah. The United Nations Refugee Agency today said more than 650,000 refugees have already fled, have already fled Ukraine for neighboring countries, especially Poland.
Jeff, stand by. Jamie Gangel is getting more reaction. Jamie, I understand you've been speaking to several Republicans.
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: So, I've been texting with about six or seven Republicans tonight. Some of them were members of Congress who were there. Some of them were at home. Also, some Republican donors and Republican strategists. And it turns out, for once, Mitt Romney was not alone. I don't want to overstate it, but you saw even Kevin McCarthy, the Republican minority leader, there he is, and Scalise, his number two, standing and applauding.
And beyond Ukraine, there were several other lines that the Republicans I was texting with pointed out to me: the made in America line, fund police, secure borders. I think the headline is, Wolf, that Republicans didn't sit on their hands.
One Republican donor said to me, and this was in light of the shadow of Donald Trump, which has even further polarized the Republican Party, this Republican, a big donor, said to me that he was glad to see the Republicans standing and not making fools of themselves. That was about Ukraine.
Another Republican member of Congress said he's done well on Ukraine, actually knocked a hanging slider off the left field wall, nicely done. From another, infrastructure decade was a good line, prescription drugs well delivered. And finally, from another member, that capitalism without competition will resonate.
So, I think that this was much better than, I think, a lot of Republicans would have expected, especially with Donald Trump still having a grip on the party, Wolf.
BLITZER: He certainly has a major grip on the Republican Party. Jamie, thank you very much.
You know, Gloria, as we take a look at this reaction coming in, I think the president should be pretty pleased that Republicans, first of all, were giving him a standing ovation on certain lines as far as Ukraine is concerned, but the reaction from Republicans on the Ukraine portion of his speech was pretty positive.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it was very positive. I mean, when was the last time you saw a bipartisan standing ovation in the United States Congress? I can't remember the last time. Not in recent history. Certainly not in the last four years or so. So, yes.
And I think they knew that that was going to occur and that was why they put it at the top of the speech. Obviously, it's on everyone's mind, issue number one, but there is a sense in this country, the longer this war goes on, the more public opinion has been shifting to being -- saying, you know what, we need to care about what goes on in Ukraine.
So, I don't think they were surprised by it in the White House. But that part of the speech, I think, was really well written. And Biden did try and appeal even on domestic policy to Republicans, it's not defund the police, it is fund the police.
BLITZER: Yeah. I thought that was a major moment for him.
DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER OBAMA SENIOR ADVISER: I mean, you know, the lines that Jamie cited were specifically put there to send a message. They understood in the White House that they wanted to reposition and get back to sort of the center-left moderate image that Biden has -- that attached to his candidacy.
AXELROD: That is truly who he is. You know, one of the things -- one of the questions I have about that speech, the Ukraine piece was so powerful, we talked about it earlier, could have been longer, but you know, in war, you don't want to leave anybody behind, and in state of the union speeches, they don't want to leave any idea behind. And sometimes, it's best to leave some ideas behind and tell a larger story.
So, the story of Ukraine is the story of the resilience of the Ukrainian people. We have our own resilient story about what we've been through the last few years with COVID and all of the permutations of COVID. And in some ways, I think he might have been better off telling that story rather than trying to cram as much as he could into this speech. I think it may have been more powerful if he had done that.
VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER OBAMA ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: One of the things I thought was interesting, though, was that he was trying to find some common ground. And he was actually stealing some stuff from the last administration. He talked about infrastructure, but he said, I actually got it done. Made in America.
BORGER: Oh, yeah.
JONES: The innovation agenda. Manufacturing. He was talking about those manufacturing jobs. And I thought he did a very good job of humanizing the manufacturing, talking about the specific place it's going to be and the number of jobs and that kind of stuff. And he also was reaching out on cancer, reaching out on insulin.
So, this was a speech -- I think the Republicans don't know how to fight this guy sometimes because he wasn't giving them as many opportunities to, you know, attack him, and instead, I think he was trying to find that common ground. I think that's really authentically who Joe Biden was.
I think tonight, the White House said, just let Joe Biden be Joe Biden, let him talk about real folk stuff, let him try to hug the country, bring people together. I thought he did a great job tonight.
BLITZER: What do you think, Scott?
SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDNET TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Couple of things that I thought were good. Defund the police, that is so smart to take on his own party on this because there are obviously people in his party who don't believe in that. That is a good thing. It a smart thing for him to do. It is an 80-20 issue.
I thought mentioning the drug epidemic and the recovery piece, I mean, that means so much to so many people of all partisan stripes all over the country, especially where I'm from out in middle America. It's a huge issue. I thought that was good. I thought of the little boy who suffers from diabetes. That was a great story. And oftentimes, at the state of the union, those stories in the box are what people remember more than the rhetorical flourishes.
As a political matter, if you didn't know anything about -- if you had not seen any polls, not followed any coverage, you might have watched this speech and assumed this presidency was be-bopping along at a good clip, mid 50s, everything's fine. He's in the high 30s, 37% according to "Washington Post."
What was not in the speech was hey, we're down three touchdowns in the fourth quarter and we have to throw it down the field. He's kind of handing it off tonight. You know, handing it off, handing it off. And they got through that speech and there were a couple of nice things but not a game-changing pivot that you might expect from a party or a party leader whose people are heading for a shellacking come November.
JONES: I feel a little bit differently, though, because I think what you've been criticizing him for was getting pulled too far to the left and getting away from the original Joe Biden. I think he had to reset tonight and I think he did reset tonight. And I think that puts him in position where he can be heard by other people who may have tuned him out.
Listen, when you have a Joe Biden, his great strength is his connection to ordinary people. That deep empathy. That middle-class Joe. And they gave him time tonight to re-establish that, I thought.
AXELROD: You know, and I agree with you. I think that his two greatest assets as a politician are empathy and a sense of connection with sort of middle-class, working-class people.
My point only is that those people are unhappy right now and you can't sort of tell them, hey, things are a heck of a lot better than you think they are. You have to acknowledge that we've been through a really difficult time, that the American people have been valiant during this period, and we're coming out of it and this is how we're going to come out of it.
You know, tell the story -- this is not a normal time. We have been through an epic in our history that is really disruptive, that people still feel PTSD from. Inflation is a by-product of it. I would argue that the violence is in some ways a by-product of it. I know that's a controversial suggestion. But homicides went up 30% in 2020. And Joe Biden wasn't president. Okay?
So, I mean, I just wish that he had told that story better. That's actually what people are talking about around their kitchen table.
BORGER: I think there's a little bit of pretend going on here. And after the speech, Joe Manchin was upset because he was sort of saying, according to our reporters on the hill, why is he talking about all this stuff that didn't get passed?
BORGER: It's not going anywhere.
He didn't say the words Build Back Better, but he talked about a lot of the stuff that was in Build Back Better, but it isn't going to go anywhere. So, the question is, how honest was it? To a degree, he already tried and he failed. And I think you're right, David, because you want to tell the story, but some of this stuff, we all having covered it, is just not --
JENNINGS: Yeah, he ran the same plays that got him in the position he's in right now.
AXELROD: Although a lot of that stuff, you know, to be fair, some of the things that he talked about are quite popular.
BORGER: And maybe you can split it up.
JENNINGS: Are they? I mean --
AXELROD: They are. Yes, they are.
JONES: Where's the pro-cancer caucus?
JENNINGS: On the legislation, if they were so popular, why is he at 37 and why are the Republicans up 11 in the --
AXELROD: Well, they didn't pass, Scott. They didn't pass. I mean, here is what I would argue --
JENNINGS: They control the whole government.
AXELROD: Yes. Well, that would be the argument. I think that the things that he -- these popular items did not pass and there was some bewilderment as to why you couldn't get your own party to go along. And Senator Manchin knows a lot about that because he's the guy who wouldn't go along.
BLITZER: It's interesting that Senator Manchin was sitting with Senator Romney. And that was a deliberate move by both of them to show yes, there are Democrats and Republicans in the Senate who can work together.
BORGER: Such good boys.
JONES: I think that's good. I just want to say, I think that's good. Everything, at this point, we can't solve any of these problems as divided as we are. That's just the bottom line. There is popular stuff that Republicans like that they still won't support because they just don't want to give the other side a victory. And both sides do that kind of stuff.
But tonight, I just want to say, if you were biting your fingernails, worried about the world, worried about America, can we ever get anything done, and you watched this president tonight, this is a president that was finding common ground and speaking common sense and trying to turn common pain into common purpose, and that's what you need right now.
BLITZER: David, you worked in the White House. Maybe you can give me a little appreciation of this. A lot of us, including a lot of U.S. officials today, were bracing for a heavy Russian assault during the course of the president's address, the state of the union address. They thought there would be explosions and sirens going off and bombs while the president was speaking. It was totally quiet --
AXELROD: Yeah. BLITZER: -- by our reporters' accounts over there, which I'm sure says something about the Russian intention right now. Why were they effectively, you know, sort of respectful of what the president was doing?
AXELROD: Here's what I -- I don't know the answer to that. What I do know is that Biden and his team probably know more than we do about that because they -- I'm sure he was being briefed right up to going in. And I'm sure they weren't thrilled about the idea of a split- screen situation where he was delivering the state of the union and, you know, a massacre was taking place in Ukraine. I suspect they knew when he got on that platform what the situation was.
Let me just say one thing. You say I worked in that White House. I just feel like I have to say that sometime during this discussion, the thing I hated the most when I worked in the White House was working day and night on a speech and everything else that you're working on, and then having ex-White House aides like me say, you know, here's what they should have done.
And I appreciate that. And I think there's a lot that was accomplished tonight. I just think that there is an urge to accomplish too much and that can sometimes reduce the impact of what you're doing.
BLITZER: Now, we'll wait to see what the Russians are up to in the coming hours. Jake, back to you.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Wolf. We're getting the first results of our poll of Americans who watched President Biden's speech tonight. David Chalian is here with the numbers. David?
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Jake, we first should note this is not a poll obviously of all Americans. That would not be possible here. This is a poll of people who watched the speech. And what's important to note about that is that people who watch a president give a state of the union tend to be more supportive of that president or in that president's party. We see this with Democratic presidents and Republican presidents.
And so, our survey tonight of speech watchers is about 11 points more democratic as a body of people here that were polled than the overall population in America. So, just keep that in mind as we now show you what this instant reaction was of poll -- of speech watchers tonight.
Forty-one percent had a very positive reaction to the president's speech, 29 percent somewhat positive, 29 percent negative. That 41 percent, when you compare it to last year's speech that Joe Biden gave to a joint session of Congress, that's about 10 points lower on the very positive scale. Fifty-one percent last year, you see 41 percent today. In fact, that 41 percent is the lowest very positive we've seen in about the last 15 years of instant polling after the state of the union address.
[23:19:59] Take a look at this question here. We said, did Biden do enough to address some of the major issues here? On Russia's invasion of Ukraine, 69 percent said the president did enough to address that.
But look at this. For the domestic issues that the White House is so keenly aware of in this midterm election year that are potential problems for Biden, they still seem to be problems. Forty-seven percent said he did enough on inflation. Forty-six percent said he did enough on violent crime. Majorities for both inflation and violent crime said he did not do enough. And again, I just want to remind you, that is the majority of a speech-watching audience that is more Democratic than the American populace overall. Keep that in mind as you look at that.
How about changing your level of confidence in the way Biden is handling the situation in Ukraine? After the speech tonight, these watchers said -- 30 percent of them are more confident in his ability to handle the situation in Ukraine. Only 14 percent less confident. But the vast majority had no change of mind in their confidence level of how Joe Biden is handling the Ukraine situation.
And then you want to take a look at which speech topic is more important to you, the economy or Ukraine? This explains why 10 minutes, 12 minutes of a 62-minute speech was dedicated to Ukraine and the other 50 minutes were dedicated to other things, because 64 percent of speech watchers say the economy is more important, 36 percent say Ukraine was the more important issue.
TAPPER: So generally speaking, these are lower marks than you would expect from such a disproportionately Democratic audience?
CHALIAN: We've seen over the last year Joe Biden take a slide in the polls. There's no doubt about it. He's not just taking a slide with the overall public. He's also taking a slide, and I think this reflects that, the instant reaction of the speech, with people who are even supportive of him or who are in his party.
I think that is what these numbers reflect, is that he obviously has been on the decline. There's nothing in this speech that suggests he turned that around. I don't think that was the expectation. I don't think that's a realistic expectation for this speech. But clearly, that decline in popularity that we've seen we're seeing it across the board.
TAPPER: And what's interesting about that, Dana, also is I think that it is -- I'm not telling tales out of school, that his numbers when it comes to inflation and violent crime are much, much more important as to what happens in the midterm elections this November and also what happens to his re-election should he run for re-election in 2024. Most people are not going to be voting for a president on foreign policy.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Inflation and the broader issues of the economy, how people feel about their pocketbooks, and how people feel about their neighborhoods, worried about crime, that's the political ball game. That is what every member of Congress, Democratic and Republican member of Congress, will tell you, that they believe that voters are going to be caring the most about when they decide whether Republicans should take the majority in the House and in the Senate.
And they know that. On Capitol Hill, they very much know that, at the White House, which is why you said, as you said, David, as much as understandably -- it's understandable that everybody is focused on Ukraine and that the president started there, but that the bulk of his speech was about that.
And just one quick thing on the crime, that number. The fact that the president not just -- didn't just distance himself from defund the police, which he did throughout the entire primary season, he never embraced that, in fact, he was very much saying he didn't support it, but that he used the term "fund the police," he turned it on his head, that tells you everything you need to know about where the Democrats think they are on this issue politically.
TAPPER: Although I have to say, and Dana, you were making this observation earlier, it is amazing to me Governor Reynolds talking about parents' rights, talking about education, seen through that lens. President Biden did talk about the importance of schools staying open in the context of COVID and he did talk about increasing funding.
But Democrats seem to consistently see this idea of parents' rights and parents' involvement in schools to Republicans. Republicans are taking up the mantle of this, of parents' rights. Parents get to have a say. Democrats seem to just like not even say anything about it. And we saw how well that worked out for the Democrats when a Republican took control of the governor's mansion in Virginia.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: They're talking to voters about two completely different sets of issues and that could not have been more apparent tonight. And you're right. I mean, Democrats by and large just ignore it. They don't respond to it. They don't push back on it.
They just ignore the arguments being made on so-called parents' rights because -- you know, what Republicans are calling parents' rights seem to only refer to certain kinds of parents. Not talking about the parents who maybe do want their kids to wear masks or to learn about race in schools, et cetera.
But Democrats aren't talking about those issues. And I think it's because they think that if they engage on it, they will -- they will -- if they engage on it, they will give it more credence than they want to give it.
TAPPER: Coming up next, we're going to go back to Ukraine as we get new reaction to President Biden's decision to ban Russian planes from entering U.S. airspace. Will that make any difference? Stay with us.
COOPER: There's deep concern here in Ukraine about when and where Russian troops will strike next as Kremlin forces appear to have taken more territory in the south of the country. You're looking at a live shot there of Kyiv, the capital. New video shows Kremlin military vehicles in Kherson as well as we've seen scenes of Russian soldiers taking food from a supermarket there as well. Russian forces seem to have entered the center of that city.
Vladimir Putin undeterred by President Biden's stark condemnation, obviously, of his aggression and the mounting sanctions that the U.S. and the West are imposing on Russia.
I'm here in Lviv with CNN chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto. At this point, it's unclear how exactly Russian forces are going to be brought to bear fully against Kyiv. And clearly, we're seeing stepped-up activity in Kharkiv, in the east of the country. We saw Russian troops in the center of the city in Kherson. What are your thoughts on where the Russian troops are now?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: I think we have to be realistic and acknowledge that Russian troops are advancing, not as quickly as expected certainly around the capital Kyiv because the initial U.S. Intelligence assessments had said that they might be able to capture Kyiv within 24 to 48 hours, but the supply lines, there are issues moving into the country, plus resistance has slowed back down a bit in the north.
In the south, different story. Right? They are advancing. And you see -- again, as I'm watching that, those are tanks in the street of a European city in the year 2022, a country that didn't attack Russia. It's just invading because Putin doesn't believe it's a country and that's what we're seeing unfold here.
And they are making good progress in the south from the Russian perspective. Slower, I'm told, from the U.S. Military perspective in the east and the north, but still progress. An open question is, why so slow around Kyiv? But we're only six days in.
SCIUTTO: And still a massive force. And you have that massive force coming down the highway and that convoy.
COOPER: Given the realities -- I mean, Kyiv is a massive city, some two and a half million people. Kharkiv, I think, has 1 to 1.5 million people. This country is the size of Texas. I mean, this could be a very long conflict depending on -- it's hard to predict with the number of factors in play.
SCIUTTO: True. Russia could conceivably establish military control of the country, but that doesn't mean the resistance disappears. I mean, there's been open talk about an insurgent campaign if you get to that point. By the way, we're not at that point. There are a lot of things that could happen between now and then. But Russia's force greatly outnumbers the Ukrainian forces. So, that is according to U.S. Intelligence assessments the most likely scenario, right, that they are able to establish military control, particularly from Kyiv east, sort of the 2/3 of the country there. Now, they may very well strike where we are at some point, but that's the focus at the beginning.
And then what happens? There are enough people motivated in this country, both military and non-military volunteers, to keep up the fight. You and I have seen and been amazed by, you know, even average people, right, trying to stop tanks in the streets. That wouldn't end in a day even if Russia is able to establish military control of the country.
COOPER: Yeah. Jim Sciutto, appreciate it. I Want to bring in Director James Clapper, who is joining us now from Washington, former director of National Intelligence and a CNN national security analyst. George Clapper, how -- I mean, as you view where Russian forces are arrayed, are you surprised at the pace of the Russian attack thus far?
JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Yes, Anderson, I have been surprised, and I think maybe not as surprised as Putin. I think they thought that this would be a cakewalk and they could just roll the tanks down the street and that would cow the Ukrainians and they'd roll over and capitulate. And that obviously hasn't been the case. The Ukrainians have staunchly resisted the Russians and that will continue.
As far as Kyiv is concerned, you know, I think a likely scenario for me at least would be to try to surround Kyiv and cut it off, cut off communications, cut off transportation in and out of the city, and then try to decapitate -- you know, seize government buildings perhaps and decapitate the government. And they're going to have a very hard time doing that.
And every day that goes by that they don't win, whether I use that term advisedly, that just heightens the frustration of the Russians. Now, what concerns me in all this is they'll resort to what they're famous for, which is a heavy use of artillery, rocketry, and that sort of thing and just do a lot of mindless -- they already are -- a lot of mindless destruction and killing a lot of innocent people. That's my fear.
COOPER: I mean, I keep looking at what Russia did in Grozny. I mean, they decimated that city, assassinated a lot of people, a lot of leaders -- a lot of government officials, and installed a thug who is currently running the country.
Is that possible here? I mean, given that so much of the world is watching what is happening?
CLAPPER: Yes, it is. And Putin has -- as far as I can tell, it has absolutely no compunction, no reservation about using brutality and killing civilians because his objective is to suppress resistance and capture Ukraine even if he destroys it.
COOPER: There's obviously been long histories of guerrilla forces fighting against occupiers who have come and overthrown a government. How difficult is that or how likely do you think that is in a country like Ukraine?
CLAPPER: I think it's extremely likely and particularly in the dense urban areas, which is tough in any event, even if you don't have much resistance. Well, as we've seen, the inspirational resistance of the Ukrainians, they're determined to take out as many Russians as they possibly can.
The other thing I want to comment on is, you know, a very important but intangible quality here in assessing what's going to happen is a will to fight. Will to fight both on the Ukrainians and they have clearly demonstrated that and the lack of will to fight on the part of many Russian soldiers. And that's another factor that will come into play here. That's a little difficult to measure empirically, especially beforehand.
COOPER: It is fascinating that in this modern world of weapons, incredibly sophisticated weapons systems, that it can still boil down to the will to fight.
CLAPPER: Exactly. It's still all about human beings and what motivates them, what inspires them, and what doesn't, conversely. And, you know, I'm hearing anecdotes on social media about whole units of Russian soldiers giving up and asking the Ukrainians if they could have something to eat or feigning destruction to their gas tanks on their vehicles so they don't have to fight.
That doesn't speak very well of the vaunted Russian army. And that -- but it is a manifestation of the will to fight or lack thereof on the part of the Russians. And already, I think their respect, indeed maybe their fear of what the Ukrainians will do to them.
COOPER: All right. Director James Clapper, I appreciate your time tonight. Thank you.
CLAPPER: Thanks, Anderson. Stay safe out there.
COOPER: Coming up we'll have -- thank you -- the last-minute changes to President Biden's speech and the story behind those changes.
BLITZER: We're continuing to get more reaction to the president's state of the union address. This was his first state of the union address. Last year he gave a speech before a joint session of Congress. This was a formal state of the union address.
Our chief White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins is right at the White House, right behind us. We're across the street over there. Kaitlan, give us some more reaction that you're picking up.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you noticed tonight the president dedicated the first 12 minutes of his speech to this ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine. And when you talk to officials about this speech and how it came together, they readily acknowledge that is something that would have been unthinkable even a month ago, much less a year ago, as you noted the last time President Biden addressed congress.
But I'm told that as he was editing this and rehearsing it, he told aides that he wanted to make clear what is at stake here to his domestic audience, given this is a rare primetime speech for President Biden, often the biggest audience that a president has during his time in office.
And not just when it comes to the impact they could be feeling when it comes to gas prices and energy markets and the impact that could happen there as a response to the punishment that they are putting on Putin and the Kremlin for this invasion, but also really, Wolf, what's at stake here when it comes to the global order and how that is being disrupted by this invasion of Putin.
This is something that cabinet secretaries are framing as this moral commitment that they believe the United States has. I was told that President Biden really wanted to make that clear tonight as he was talking about this. Of course, they know this is what's going to resonate in the headlines in the days to come.
And they've also been very blunt behind the scenes with me, Wolf. They do believe that while the Ukrainians have put up this fierce resistance so far, they do not think ultimately, they're going to be able to hold the capital of Ukraine, so they fear more grim headlines in the days to come.
BLITZER: They certainly do. Let's see what happens in the immediate days ahead. Our Kaitlan, thank you very much.
You know, David, those of us who have covered state of the union addresses --
BLITZER: -- over the years, we always get from the White House an advance text, and then we watch what he actually says and does. He deviates from the advance text. And one particular point today, there were a few deviations.
In one point, he said tonight, and this is in the advance text, "Tonight, I am announcing that we will join our allies in closing off American airspace to all Russian flights, further isolating Russia, and adding an additional squeeze on their economy." And then, he ad- libbed these words: "He has no idea what's coming."
BLITZER: That was his message to Putin.
AXELROD: It really was, yeah. And meaningful. And I do think one of the things that has been clear throughout this saga is that Putin has been surprised. Surprised by the solidity of the coalition that has been put together. Surprised by the severity of the sanctions that have come. And obviously, surprised by the reaction of the Ukrainian people.
But it's very clear that the president was speaking there directly to Putin, not to the people in the room, not to the country. That was a message he wanted to deliver.
And they want Putin to know there's a cost to everything that he's doing and those costs are going to escalate over time.
BLITZER: Yeah, that cost is going to be really severe. Already very severe. But the question is, will it create the dissension within Russia that potentially could endanger Putin's rule?
BORGER: We don't know. We've had a couple of oligarchs saying, you know, enough of this. But, you know, you just can't predict that. One thing I was thinking about when David was talking was about Biden and his relationships with foreign leaders.
One of his selling points when he ran was, I have all these longstanding relationships with all of these foreign leaders and that is why I can negotiate with Xi. He does have a longstanding relationship with Putin and it's terrible. And, you know, he's the one who said to him, you have no soul. He loves to tell this story. As you know, when he looked right into Putin's eyes and said, "you have no soul," and then when interviewed by George Stephanopoulos last year, he said, you know, he's a killer.
And so, the "you have no idea" was clearly directly to him because he was saying, you know, buddy, we've got some stuff going on that you don't --
BLITZER: And I think that's also -- let me get, first of all, Van, to respond because I think it's also based on U.S. Intelligence assessments that a lot more that the U.S. can do is about to unfold when the president ad-libbed "he has no idea what's coming."
JONES: And I think what's interesting is this early on, we're still within the first week, you already have some of the oligarchs, their knees are shaking, they're backing away, and Biden says, we're coming for your yachts, we're coming for your villas, and that was a huge applause line.
And I think the contrast between the greediness and the craven character of Putin's allies versus Zelenskyy. Zelenskyy is really Biden's ideological heir in so many ways. And that Biden believes in democracy, he stood up for it his whole life.
Now, you've got this young guy, this young Jewish guy whose family suffered through the same kind of autocracy, the same sort of dictatorship, who's now standing up on the world stage and saying, I'm willing to die here in this bunker for democracy.
And you put a Biden who represents his generation. And then on the other side, you have Putin, who's so afraid of his own general sneezing that he's sitting at the end of a long table.
BLITZER: You make a good point. Scott, let me let you assess this because Zelensky deserves an enormous amount of credit. All of us I'm sure agree. But he is a grandson of holocaust survivors. And today, the Russians actually attacked an area right near Kyiv where thousands of Jews were massacred by the Nazis.
JENNINGS: It's disgusting. And the Putin talking point is I'm going to de-nazify Ukraine. And then this happens. It's disgusting.
And just as the Republican analyst up here, a word to everybody in my party. If you've been playing footsie with the idea that Vladimir Putin might be in the right here, if you've been playing footsie with the idea that we shouldn't be taking a strong stand against Ukraine, if you've been flirting with this at all, stop, because one thing that we should all take away from this speech tonight -- and look, I know I wanted Biden to do more, but do not give Vladimir Putin any quarter.
As Americans, he's the bad guy. We're the good guys. Zelenskyy is the good guy. Ukrainians are the good guys. No right from wrong in this instance.
BLITZER: Yeah, you're absolutely right. All right, Jake, back to you.
TAPPER: Thanks, Wolf. There's another big story we're following tonight. Results are coming in from the Texas primaries. This is the first big contest of the 2022 election year, testing the influence of former President Trump on the Republican Party as well as progressive clout within the Democratic Party.
CNN can now make some major projections. In the Republican governor's race, CNN projects that incumbent Greg Abbott is the winner of the GOP primary. He's surviving challenges from the right as he runs for his third term with Donald Trump's support.
CNN can also project that former Congressman Beto O'Rourke is the winner of the democratic primary for Texas governor. O'Rourke will face off against Abbott this fall. O'Rourke is aiming for a political comeback after his failed Senate race and his failed presidential campaign.
Now, to the republican primary for Texas attorney general, a key test of the Trump factor. CNN projects that embattled incumbent Ken Paxton is heading for a runoff. Paxton, who is running under a cloud of ethics concerns, fell short of the 50 percent needed for an outright win despite having Trump's backing.
Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush is currently leading the field to face off with Paxton in the May runoff. Bush is narrowly ahead of former State Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman and Congressman Louie Gohmert.
And take a look at this closely watched democratic congressional primary. Progressive rising star Jessica Cisneros is currently leading the incumbent Congressman Henry Cuellar, one of the most conservative House Democrats. Cisneros nearly beat Cuellar two years ago. This time, he may be even more vulnerable largely because of a recent FBI search of his home and his office.
Well, there it is. That's the first 2022 race that I'm describing. And David Chalian, there was a bit of 2022 in President Biden's state of the union address this evening. How do you see how he set up the choice that voters will face in November?
CHALIAN: Yeah. If it were not for the Ukraine situation, I think we'd be looking at an election year state of the union address geared towards giving his party the message, the battle plan for the path forward. And I think that's why, you know, we're all talking Build Back Better, right, is dead. His plan did not get through Congress.
Why was he talking so much about those initiatives? Because his first mission critical this election year is to actually get his base back enthusiastically to a level they were at when they helped get him into the presidency.
Yes, he has lost the middle and independents. He needs to win them back. But he also, we see in poll after poll, a real enthusiasm deficit between Democrats and Republicans.
And so, by talking about these true blue democratic issues on the economic front that he did tonight, he did that, even if he knows it's not getting done, to give them something to get charged up about. It's also why he highlighted his Supreme Court nominee. This is the kind of stuff that he can use this huge platform tonight for to start trying and getting some of that enthusiasm back.
BASH: But he needs to do it all.
BASH: And that is the thing, because if you're talking about the House in particular here, he needs to make sure that that enthusiasm, the fact that it's gone down, he needs to get that back up, but he also does need, if you're talking about keeping the House, the seats that are in most danger are the vulnerable Democrats who are for the most part in what's left of the swing seats, and they tend to represent more moderate constituents.
And so, what they wanted to hear was about inflation, was about crime, were about the parents' issues and choice when it comes to masking or not masking and the COVID situation.
So, he had to do both things. He tried to do both things because he talked about -- he didn't utter the term Build Back Better intentionally because that didn't go very well for him, but he picked several of the issues that he believes will not only help the base, but also to be fair, are popular. PHILLIP: I mean, I did not hear, to be honest, I didn't hear Biden
really playing to the base in this speech. It seemed almost like what he was trying to say to the base is this is how we have to message going into 2022. And it's actually somewhere closer to the middle.
He talked about securing borders. He had that line about funding the police. He talked about economic populism, which is, you know, I mean, the base might like that, but it's really focusing the economic message more on things like stopping corporate greed, on building things in America.
This was Biden trying to find some place in the mushy middle of American politics where he can guide his party to salvage, frankly, the House and the Senate in November. I didn't hear -- I mean, I'm seeing a lot of criticism, frankly, from the base when it comes to some of the things that he did say.
Giving quarter to conservatives on the defund the police stuff is a big deal in progressive circles. And the White House did that intentionally to say we think the message is somewhere else. He talked about the two police officers killed in New York.
I mean, look, there were some flags put down there to say we're heading toward the middle because I think that's where we need to be. And I don't know necessarily that progressives are going to be particularly happy with it. I mean, you have them asking oh, where is the talk about climate change and wind and solar and all of that stuff? There are some complaints about what's not in this speech.
TAPPER: So, there were a couple of nice moments that were completely free of politics that I just want to give a nod to. There was this lovely moment when President Biden acknowledged in the audience a 7- year-old -- a boy named Joshua Davis, a seventh grader. He is 13. He is from Virginia. He and his dad both have type 1 diabetes. He was active when he was younger in making school safe for kids with type 1 diabetes.
Now, he and his family are active in trying to bring down the costs of insulin. And -- I mean, look at that sweet face. Really wonderful nice moment. You thought that he was going to -- that Biden was going to have a catch with him after this speech.
Another moment came when Biden acknowledged Supreme Court Justice and Veteran Stephen Breyer. This will likely be his last state of the union address. He thanked him for his service both as a member of the army as well as a Supreme Court justice, one widely respected by Democrats and Republicans. That was another sweet bipartisan moment.
BASH: They go way back.
TAPPER: We only have about 10 seconds. But I think you would agree that is where Biden lives. The mushy middle that Abby was talking about and these kinds of moments.
EVAN OSNOS, AUTHOR: He could have lingered on that moment with the 13-year-old for a long time. That's a big piece of it. And a nominee that is going to push him into making history.
TAPPER: That's right. Our coverage continues now with Don Lemon and Pamela Brown after this short break. We'll see you all tomorrow.