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CNN Covers President Biden's State Of The Union Address; Lebron James Breaks NBA All-Time Scoring Record. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired February 07, 2023 - 23:00   ET



GOV. SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS (R-AR): And he placed it into my hand, a sign of ultimate respect. And he said, Sarah, we are in this together. Overwhelmed with emotion and speechless, I just hugged him with tears in my eyes and a grateful heart for our heroes who keep us free.

That young man and everyone who has served before him, all of those who served alongside him, and the thousands we know who will be called upon to serve after him, deserve to know they have a country and a community back home doing our part in the fight for freedom.

America is great because we are free. But today, our freedom is under attack and the America we love is in danger. President Biden and the Democrats have failed you. And it's time for a change. A new generation of Republican leaders are stepping up not to be caretakers of the status quo, but to be changemakers of the American people.

We know not what the future holds, but we know who holds the future in his hands. And with God as our witness, we will show the world that America is still the place where freedom reigns and liberty will never die.

Thank you. God bless you, and God bless America.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Republican governor of Arkansas, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, giving the republican response to President Biden's state of the union address.

Joining us now in studio, the former speaker of the House, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi. This is the first time I have ever called you congresswoman as opposed to Leader Pelosi. Let me ask you. There was a very powerful moment this evening when President Biden specifically praised your husband, Paul, who we all know was grievously attacked. He called your husband as tough, a strong, and as resilient as they get. I want to just show a little bit of that, if that's okay with you.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Here tonight in this chamber is the man who bears the scars of that brutal attack. But is as tough and strong and as resilient as they get. My friend, Paul Pelosi. Paul, stand up.



TAPPER: What did that moment mean to you, congresswoman? And how is Paul doing?

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Paul is doing fine. He is still on a path. It will take him another few months to be well, normal. But he is strong and resilient. What it meant was that so many of my colleagues -- of course, the Democrats, but many of the Republicans -- have been very prayerful and kind about this. So, some of them weren't, but most of them have been. And so, when they responded to that, it had some authenticity for me. It wasn't just they're applauding because it really matched the words that they had said.

And it was lovely of the president to make mention of it not because just as a personal matter, but in terms of what it meant for our country, that any of us in the public arena could be under siege.

TAPPER: And Speaker Pelosi, which I'm told I can still call you, which feels more natural, if that's okay, Speaker Pelosi, there's something else I want to get your response to. And again, it is a minority of the Republicans that we are talking about, not a majority of them.


TAPPER: But there was heckling like I have never really heard at the state of the union address. Let's play some of that.


BIDEN: Instead of making the wealthy pay their fair share, some Republicans, some Republicans want Medicare and social security to sunset. I'm not saying it's a majority.


BIDEN: Let me give you -- anybody who doubts it, contact my office, I'll give you a copy. I'll give you a copy of the proposal. That means Congress doesn't vote -- well, I'm glad you see it. No, I'll tell you, I'm -- I enjoy conversion.


TAPPER: We should point out, as a matter of fact, that Republican Senator Rick Scott of Florida has proposed sunsetting all federal programs, which presumably would include social security and Medicare. What did you think of the heckling?

PELOSI: I think that they were protesting too much. They knew that they had been identified as putting Medicare and social security on the table and they were trying to dismiss that. But the fact is it still is part of who they are. They never really support it to begin with.


But rather than go into that, as we go forward, the president has said, how do you intend to lift the debt ceiling, reduce the national debt? What put it -- tell us what your programs -- and up until now, they have been talking about it. And the leader of the Senate Campaign Committee, as you mentioned, Senator Scott, had that as the priority of what they will do. So, this was sort of showbiz.

TAPPER: Uh-hmm. It didn't bother you, though, did it? The lack of decorum?

PELOSI: No. Well, actually, for them, fairly well behaved, from what we see every day of the week in the House of Representatives, unfortunately.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: The flip side of that -- and we were talking about this before you came on -- was that the president interacted and reacted to that in a way that, you know, maybe showed people what he was made of. What did you think of that?

PELOSI: Well, first of all, let me just say, thank you for the opportunity to say how great I think the president was tonight.


PELOSI: I mean, what do we want in our president? We want judgment, we want values, we want knowledge. Therefore, it's judgment springing from that. And we want connection to the American people. We want a hopeful message and that is what he gave us. He proved it by what we have done, but recognizing there is much more to be done. So, his interaction, I think, was a sign of this comfort level, of all that I just said.

BASH: He did talk about his desire to work with Republicans who are now in control of the chamber. Given your experience with -- dealing with or not dealing with people across the aisle, how realistic is that right now?

PELOSI: I'm hopeful that that is possible. But all of it depends on the American people. President Lincoln, you have heard me say, he said, public sentiment is everything. With it, you can accomplish almost anything. Without it, practically nothing.

So, the message has to go to the American people. This is what the choices are. Chaos or stability. And they have demonstrated how chaotic they can be from the first day electing a speaker to their behavior on the floor.

On the other hand, there are some -- in the infrastructure bill, we had 13 Republicans who voted, making it bipartisan. In the CHIPS and science bill, we had 24 Republicans. But nonetheless, bipartisanship.

TAPPER: Still counting votes.


PELOSI: It was interesting to me because some of the -- on the CHIPS and science, they wouldn't vote with us until they saw we were going to win it on our own. And then they saw that that was evident, so they came on board.

But, you know, we always have to -- we know that some of them know -- they were for the bill the day before the CHIPS and science. And then the day of the -- managed the opposition to it. But we knew that many of them believed in making these CHIPS in America.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And many -- and many Republicans we know went home to their districts and touted the bill even if they voted against it. I do want to ask you --

PELOSI: The president said about infrastructure and CHIPS, I will see you at the groundbreaking.


PHILLIP: I do want to go back a little bit to what Dana was saying because this context here of the speech is a president who may run for reelection pretty soon. And -- I mean, you probably heard by now, a recent poll found about 30% of -- only about 30% of Democrats say he should run again. It seems like a lot of Democrats -- they're happy with Joe Biden. They think he has done a great job, but they are wondering if he should step to the side.

You have made that choice on your own, ushering in a new generation of Democrats into the house. What do you say to that criticism? And do you think that he did anything tonight to quiet some of the rest of this among Democrats, about should Joe Biden be the person leading the party into the future?

PELOSI: Last weekend, I was at the Democratic National Committee meeting in Philadelphia. I know that there were some who would say, perhaps we should consider somebody new. But even in the 30% poll that you said, 90% of Democrats would be for Joe Biden if he runs.


PELOSI: What they would -- what they might hope for in these earlier stages of a campaign and what they have decided they would do are actually two different things. They are for Joe Biden. Joe Biden is a person of vision, knowledge, judgment, strategic thinking to get the job done. He was a remarkable two years. A remarkable two years. And again, he connects very empathetically with the American people.


So, I hope he runs. I'm for him if he runs. And I know that the Democrats will fully embrace him. If he runs, it's over. That is --

PHILLIP: You don't think there will be any primary challenges to him?

PELOSI: No, no, I don't think so. PHILLIP: Dana was talking to AOC earlier today. She said something -- Dana, correct me if I'm wrong -- to the effect of she appreciates the primary process. I mean, do you think that -- do you think there will be any Democrats who jump to try to challenge Joe Biden on this generational argument?

PELOSI: No, I don't. I think that you have to weigh all of the equities. Yes, the age issue is something that we all have to contend with in every line of work. But I do think that the fact is weighing the equities, this is a president -- 12 million jobs. All of the things that he has done is a record unmatched by any recent president. Maybe Franklin Roosevelt, who wasn't recent, but Franklin Roosevelt had 319 Democrats. We had 220 --


PELOSI: -- and got done that record of achievement. So, he knows how to -- he knows -- he has a big vision, a shared mission with America. He is a unifier. He really is. He doesn't go looking for differences. He goes to look for hopeful unity. And he talked about for unifying things when he talked about -- he talked about the cancer moonshot, he talked about veterans, he talked about the issues that relate to fentanyl --

TAPPER: Fentanyl, yeah.

PELOSI: -- fentanyl but also mental health issues that sort of relate to that where we have made some progress in a unified way. So, he is always hopeful about that. So, I think progress -- he made progress. He gave us hope. He made it clear, we have much more to get done.

We did not finish our job. But we really went down the path in a way that demonstrated that he is a president with great judgment. Sometimes, that judgment comes with age. I remember when Jerry Brown was running for governor -- for office when he was young. He said, it's time for a change. Then, when he ran for a governor, the second time, there is no substitute for experience.


PELOSI: Experience counts for a lot. I think, tonight, he showed the energy, the empathy, the hopefulness that a presidential candidate would have. I think it was a triumph for him, for the country, and certainly for the Democrats. People were so excited about his presentation tonight.

TAPPER: All right, former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, thank you so much for being here. We are glad Paul is on the mend. It's always good to see you.

PELOSI: Thank you so much.

TAPPER: Anderson?

PELOSI: Lovely to be with you. Thank you.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Jake, thanks so much. She's not only a historic figure. She's also a student of history. I love how she can sort of wheel off the House counts of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.



AXELROD: -- who ran 40 years apart for governor of California, once as an agent of change and then as an agent of experience. But we ought to talk a little bit about Sarah Huckabee Sanders and her --

COOPER: What did you think of her speech?

AXELROD: I thought it was -- first of all, it was a little bit of a speech in two parts. But the first part, it was almost as if she was just talking to the base of the Republican Party. It was very, very -- it was searing. It was -- she said the difference in America is between normal and crazy. She was Donald Trump's press secretary.


AXELROD: I mean, there is real irony in that. But she was - shew was stoking the red meat to the base. And she's probably someone who has ambitions of her own down the line in national republican politics and this did not hurt her. But if the goal was to speak to a broader swath of Americans, I don't think she achieved that.

ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: I like that she leaned into education choice. School choice is always a win not just with the republican base but I think more broadly. So, from a policy perspective, that was good.

But yes, Sarah Huckabee Sanders is not just thinking about her time, new time in the governor's mansion, but she has been considered to be on a short list to be Trump's running mate. So, I think it made a lot of sense that she was throwing some red meat to the base.

I probably would've frontloaded it with a more unifying message and then throwing some red meat at the end. But, listen, I mean, she's a talented, savvy politician. It makes sense that they chose her. The juxtaposition on age, the youngest governor in the country and the oldest president in history.

COOPER: By the way, hasn't every president visited the troops at --


GRIFFIN: Yeah, we were all laughing.


COOPER: -- as if it was a remarkable achievement.

AXELROD: I will say it's incredibly moving. You know, I went through the whole exercise in Afghanistan and Iraq, the same deal with the plane and the lights off and all of that stuff, but you can't help but be inspired by the troops.


And so, that is not the province of any particular president or any particular party. And anybody who goes, comes back with that same sense of inspiration.

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I thought she came across as mean. And she's not mean. You know, Sarah Huckabee Sanders is not a mean person. I think she came across as mean. And I thought that it was not necessary. She wants to help kids in Arkansas. They sure need the help. But you don't have to put down every Democrat to stick up for kids in Arkansas. It didn't make sense to me.

COOPER: Let's go back to the president's speech because one of the things that, Van, you had actually referenced before was some sort of the kitchen table issues that he talked about, about airlines and other things --

JONES: Yeah.

COOPER: -- tickets for concerts. I just want to play some of what he said.

JONES: Real kitchen table stuff.


BIDEN: We're going to ban surprise resort fees that hotels charge on your bill. Those fees can cost up to $90 a night in hotels that aren't even resorts.


BIDEN: The idea that cable internet and cell phone companies can charge you $200 or more if you decide to switch to another provider, give me a break.


BIDEN: We can stop service fees on tickets to concerts and sporting events and make companies disclose all the fees upfront. And we'll prohibit airlines from charging $50 roundtrip for family just to be able to sit together.


BIDEN: Baggage fees are bad enough. Airlines can't treat your child like a piece of baggage.


COOPER: That sounds like somebody is running for president.

JONES: It does, but also, it sounds like someone who knows what is going on. The idea that he's old and out of touch, this is the type of stuff that drives people nuts. If you're trying to raise kids, you're getting nickeled and dimed and screwed over all the time and nobody is on your side.

And he shows up and he says, look, I get it and I'm on your side. And I thought it was powerful because it shows that government can do big stuff. If you don't trust government can do big stuff, it can at least do the small stuff to get your life work better (ph).

AXELROD: The other things is, I think probably the -- maybe one of the weaker parts of the speech was his discussion of inflation and how much better inflation was getting. This was a way of saying, I get the

things in your life that are irritating and hard --

JONES: He's got to take some rocks out of your shoe.


SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDNET TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Is that what we depend on the president for? To rail against the -- I mean, look, I agree with you, these are irritants. I mean, call me old fashioned, but, you know, this is commander-in-chief of the most powerful military in the world and he's talking about resorts before he ever got to China --

JONES: Not resorts.


JENNINGS: -- which just -- whatever -- which just flew a balloon over our country, which he really sorts of failed to do anything about for several days. I thought the whole thing was totally backward. I understand the political usefulness of complaining about things that irritate everyone. It just -- it felt small to me.

If I can go back to Sarah for just one second. He seemed to be negative on her having some partisan pieces of her speech that were for her base. What percentage of Joe Biden's speech was purely for democratic base that does not want him to run again?

AXELROD: I think the whole tenor and tone, Scott, of Biden's speech was really constructed to try and speak to a broad audience. Sure, there were some issues on which Democrats are much more supportive than Republicans, but there wasn't a sort of scorched earth.

Let me just be really frank about this. One of the things that is wrong with the politics in our country is the fact that we don't just disagree on issues, but we disqualify ourselves as Americans and as human beings.

And she sorts of strode right into that lane. And that, I think, may thrill the base, but I don't think it is good for the country. I don't think the country as a whole reacts well to that. And you know, Joe Biden did not do that in his speech. And that's not who Joe Biden is. That's one of the reasons why he's president of the United States and Donald Trump isn't.

JENNINGS: You're saying you don't think Joe Biden is a strident, partisan Democrat? I just respectfully disagree. Look, the most important thing Sanders did to juxtapose the republican position against Biden was to make this generational argument. There is a clear market demand for Biden not to run again. Not by Republicans, by Democrats. There is a clear demand for Trump to not run again. And so, what she is appealing to is probably the only unifying thing in the country.

AXELROD: But you didn't -- but you didn't respond to a point I am making.

JENNINGS: I'm responding.

AXELROD: No, you're not. You are doing what a trained political professional does. You're changing the subject. What I am saying is -- what I'm saying is that -- at the end of the speech, Biden spoke to the fact that we need to not treat each other as enemies but as fellow Americans. Really, her speech was, no, let's treat each as enemies. That was the tone and tenor of her speech. I agree that the education stuff had a much broader appeal.


AXELROD: That is -- I'm sorry. Go ahead, Van.

JONES: There are two dividing lines here. One is the generational peace. I think Sarah spoke about it well. Are you going to be a uniter or a divider?


Tonight, Joe Biden and Republicans reminded us why Americans voted for Joe Biden, because Joe Biden was a uniter tonight and Republicans across the board were not.

GRIFFIN: What I couldn't lose, just really quick, in Sarah's response is the generational message was the most powerful, but Trump is still the frontrunner for the GOP. So, are we going to take that hold our party to the same standard? A 78-year-old is just as difficult as an 80-year-old.

JENNINGS: I disagree. I don't think he's the frontrunner right now. I don't think we have one. I think it's close.

GRIFFIN: You can (INAUDIBLE) DeSantis into the universe.


AXELROD: You should take it up with Sarah Sanders. I think you should disagree (ph).

COOPER: Let's go back to Jake. Jake?

COOPER: Anderson, thanks so much. I'm here with Don Lemon because we saw the parents of Tyre Nichols in the House chamber this evening to bear witness to the president's new call for policing reform.

This was obviously just days after they buried their son who was fatally beaten by Memphis police. You could sense the pain and the disconnectedness and the the other worldliness of the situation that it must have been for them. The president acknowledging their pain and the pain felt by far too many families of color.


BIDEN: Most of us in here have never had to have the talk, the talk that brown and Black parents have had to have with their children.

Beau, Hunter, Ashley, my children, I never had to have the talk with them. I never had to tell them, if a police officer pulls you over, turn your interior lights on right away. Don't reach for your license. Keep your hands on the steering wheel. Imagine having to worry like that every single time your kid got in the car.


TAPPER: And Don joins me now in the studio. Don Lemon, what were your thoughts on that very emotional moment?

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: I was looking at the face of Rowvaughn Wells and -- the mother, and Rodney Wells, the father of Tyre Nichols, the anguish and the pain on her face, having to sit there and listen to the president talk about her son in the past, right, who is no longer here.

I was thinking about my interview with her where she said, just days after her son's death, that she wanted action and legislation. She wanted Congress to do something, the people in Washington to do something to stop it.

And I was thinking what you and I talked about, as Anderson was talking, that this is the first time that I believe, as you said, that the talk has been mentioned in the state of the union, something that is so personal and something that every Black parent feels that they have to give to their children, especially Black boys or Black man.

So, it was a moment. And the people who were there tonight, other mothers, Gwen Carr, who is Eric Garner's mother, said that was there for the same reason as Rowvaughn Wells.

She said that there are issues that affected all of us, that the president was going to talk about tonight. There are issues that specifically affected us, meaning African Americans, more than others. And the hope that he would address it. She believed that he did. She wanted him, though, to be stronger --


LEMON: -- when it comes to police reform. But she thinks that this is the right direction. She like some of the proposals.

TAPPER: I know that it was one of the goals of the White House for the speech, for white middle class parents to learn about the talk.

LEMON: Yeah.

TAPPER: The talk is something that you know. That has been part of the discussion on policing reform and Black Lives Matter and the like for the last five or 10 years.

LEMON: Uh-hmm.

TAPPER: But it is still probably largely unknown in white America.

LEMON: Yeah.

TAPPER: Do you think he accomplished that? Do you think that the white middle class families or white families out there might now have an understanding of it in a way they wouldn't have?

LEMON: I would hope so, Jake, and I think that -- listen, I think that Joe Biden's superpower is sort of in his every (INAUDIBLE) kind of way. He is sort of every man, right? And his relatability, whether you like his policies or not. He is very relatable.

And so, I hope that he -- he -- he was able to relate that to the American people and get the message across because those are the people, the people that you mentioned, white America, those are the folks who need to hear it.

Whether it is a formal, I'm going to sit you down, son, I need to talk to you and have to talk to you, or if it's just like my dad who would say, boy, listen, those police stop you out there, you know, you comply, you do what they tell you, don't get out of the car, put your hands on the outside of the car, every parent does that not because they think that you're doing something wrong but because they want to save your life.


LEMON: So, I would hope that, especially white parents, white police officers, Black police officers because the officers in Memphis were Black, I hope that they are listening to the president more than anyone, especially law enforcement, because those are the hands that young people's lives are in, just people, especially Black people's lives are in, when they are pulled over by police officers.


TAPPER: Let's listen to the moment where he called upon Congress to act. So, something came of this tragedy.


BIDEN: What happened to Tyre in Memphis happens too often. We have to do better. Let us commit ourselves to make the words of Tyre's mom true. Something good must come from this. All of us in this chamber, we need to rise to this moment. We can't turn away. Let's do what we know in our hearts, what we need to do. Let's come together to finish the job on police reform. Do something.


TAPPER: Do something. An emotional moment, a call to action. It's very light on specifics. It's very different from when I talk to Congresswoman Cori Bush earlier today with Michael Brown, Sr. (ph) and said, what do you want? And she started listing legislation after legislation. This bill will have psychiatrist and health care experts go on to calls that are necessary as opposed to police who are not trained --

LEMON: Cori Booker and all of them --


LEMON: -- giving specifics --

TAPPER: Tim Scott. I mean, there are a number of legislators. Now, I understand the reason for that. Because he wants them to write the bill and then he will sign it. And he does not want to tell them what to do. But, you know, the big hang-up in Congress, quite honestly, as you know better than I, is whether or not police should receive blanket immunity.

LEMON: Right. Qualified immunity.

TAPPER: Qualified immunity for -- from lawsuits. That is what Tim Scott, the Republican from South Carolina, did not want to give, and that's what Democrats were demanding. That's how the talks broke down.

LEMON: So -- a complicated answer here, but I will keep it short. When Joe -- when the president of the United States said that police are good people, right, so he's walking. This is a very delicate balance that he has to do because he did not say, you know, I want to defund the police, he said, I want to defund committee, so he saying -- I want to fund communities.

TAPPER: Right.

LEMON: So, he saying he wants to fund people, not saying, I want to defund the police. So, it's a delicate dance that he's doing because he wants to be supportive of law enforcement, right? But he wants to do something about police reform, and he wants to do something about crime. So, he has to wait --

TAPPER: It's a lot.

LEMON: It's a lot that he has to put in one speech.


LEMON: So, I'm not surprised that he was light on specifics. But I think when he says that and you get a standing ovation from Republicans, that perhaps, hopefully, there will be some movement on this and some common ground.

And I hope that by having the parents of Tyre Nichols there, so fresh, just weeks ago when I sat on the couch and spoke to them, that it would still be fresh in people's hearts and that there would be some movement from the Congress to do something, to act, to move, because no one should die, no one should be paralyzed, no one should be shot in routine police stop. We all deserve that right as Americans, and I think the president convey that.

TAPPER: Don, it is so good to have you. And I know you are -- well, be sure to watch Don's interview with Tyre Nichols's parents tomorrow on "CNN This Morning" in the 8:00 a.m. hour Eastern time. I know it is going to be emotional.

LEMON: I know.

TAPPER: Your stuff in Memphis was so powerful, Don. Glad to know you. Thank you so much. We are getting quick reaction from the public to the president's address. David Chalian is standing by with the first results from our exclusive flash poll of speech watchers. D.C. joins us. Back in a moment.




TAPPER: We are back with our state of the union coverage and reaction to President Biden's message to Congress and the American people. Biden rolled out a new mantra as he laid out his agenda for the next two years, and he teed up in some ways his 2024 campaign should he launch one. He repeated the phrase about a dozen times, let's finish the job.

And we now have the first results from our exclusive flash poll, people who watched President Biden's state of the union address. David Chalian, Mr. Flash Poll, is here to break it all down. David?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, before I reveal the numbers, Jake, as you just noted, this is a poll of speech watchers. This is not representative of the country overall, the way we normally present polls. I highlight that because what we know is speech watchers, for any president's state of the union, tend to be on the president's political team, no matter which team that is.

And so, that is true with this sample as well. It is about eight points more democratic than the general population at large. So, keep that in mind as you now look at these numbers of the response of speech watchers. Thirty-four percent of those watching the speech tonight said -- had a very positive reaction to Joe Biden's speech, 38% somewhat positive, 28% negative. Add these positive numbers up, that's 72% positive.

And if you look at that, compared to previous Biden state of the union address, you will see over time that 72% is roughly what we have seen in the past. Yeah, so, 72% this year, 71% last year. His first big speech, which is not officially state of the union, was at 78%. But he's right in line with where he was last year.

And now, take a look on how it compares to his predecessors in the job. So, at this point in the Trump presidency, at the beginning of the third year of the presidency, Trump got a 76% positive. Obama, in 2011, was at 84% positive, as was George W. Bush in 2003 on the eve of launching his reelection campaign. Biden at 72%. Jake?

TAPPER: All right, David Chalian, thanks so much. Abby, so, not a surprise.


People who are watching the state of the union address tend to want to see that president speaking. But some stronger views.

PHILLIP: Yeah, I think that this is generally viewed as a fairly strong speech, especially for Biden. You heard it also from Speaker Pelosi who was here just a few minutes ago. I think Democrats are pretty elated. That is beyond just the sort of typical kind of --

TAPPER: Right.

PHILLIP: -- thing. I think you are hearing a feeling that they needed Biden to do a certain set of things, and he accomplished what they wanted them to do in terms of the tone, the tenor and the substance of the speech.

It is interesting to me -- I love the comparisons because I think it tells us a lot about just the kind of declining, you know, ability of the American people to come to an agreement on things. It's sort of like trickling away over the years.

But I think is just a reflection of the deep partisanship. I mean, we are in a pretty divided place as a country. So, in some ways, Biden kind of scoring marks about -- while as he when he first got into office. It's probably a triumph for him.

TAPPER: Yeah. And Dana, I mean, we shouldn't, you know, overstate the case. Joe Biden is not known -- he is known for a lot of wonderful qualities and some not so wonderful ones. He's not particularly known as a great orator. He's, in fact, quite the opposite.

BASH: Right, which is why our reporting is that, I mean, all presidents were caught on state of the union speeches. They rewrite them and then they practice them. But he really, really worked hard on this because he and his aides understood very well how high the stakes were for this one, in particular for all the reasons we were talking about, because he is -- now has reintroduced himself to the American people as a president who wants another term.

And as a president who wants another term at age 80 years old. And he has a another -- a higher bar in that respect that other first-term presidents who want to run again. And that is why the vigor with which he gave the speech was so critical. This isn't me saying this. This is the people who are in the White House and in his inner circle saying this.

TAPPER: And one of the things that Biden doesn't necessarily project well historically when it comes to the speeches is vigor, is strength. He might convey empathy very well. But honestly, and we've been talking about this all night, the House Republicans heckling him and it was a minority of them, but it was the same one they gave Kevin McCarthy a run for his money a month ago.

But they were loud and proud. And they really gave him an opportunity to be reasonable, to push back, to have, you know, an ad hoc debate, and to even score some points.

CHALIAN: Right. So, we have heard from White House advisers in advance of the speech that the president was not going to do what he does when he addresses the DNC or what he will do when he is out on the campaign trail of sort of hammering away at the mega MAGA Republicans like he did last year.

But it did not mean they weren't going to draw a contrast. Right? There's a difference there. So, yes, he was not going to go proactively in that place he does when he's in a pure partisan political setting, but they played right into his ability to draw the contrast with Republicans that he has been drawing throughout his entire tenure, constantly telling people, this is not your father's Republican Party, and they did not like it was their father's Republican Party. And so, that helped him.

I just think the other piece that was so successful for him tonight is the ability to meet the American people where they are on the economy. That's the stuff of gold and politics, right, that all politicians look to do.

And for a guy who has spent 50 years in Washington and can be, sometimes, a little (INAUDIBLE) in his demeanor, he really elevated that room tonight, I thought, on what was largely an economic speech. I mean, I think we got four minutes of foreign policy total and try to meet the country where they are.

TAPPER: And that's interesting because I remember after Donald Trump gave his 2016 republican national convention speech, which was dark and foreboding, President Obama came out and basically mocked it, which in some circles was interpreted as mocking people's concerns.

And you're right, Biden did not do that, although every fiber of his being wants to be. Look at these jobs' numbers. Look at the low unemployment number.

PHILLIP: It seemed like a clear attempt to reclaim this economic populism message, the Trump --

TAPPER: Oh, sure.

PHILLIP: -- even using some of the same message about jobs lost, about communities hollowed out. I mean, it's not quite as dark as the --

TAPPER: American carnage.

PHILLIP: -- American carnage speech, but a clear attempt to reclaim that part of the economic narrative that used to actually belong to Democrats back in the day, before NAFTA and before all of the trade deals that kind of really chipped away at it and created an opening for someone like Trump.


TAPPER: So, since last Thursday and especially Friday, we have been talking a lot about the Chinese spy balloon. We all wondered how much, if at all, President Biden was going to talk about that this evening. Here is the quick mention.


BIDEN: I'm committed to work with China where we can advance American interests and benefit the world. But make no mistake about it. As we made clear last week, if China threatens our sovereignty, we will act to protect our country, and we did.



TAPPER: He only mentioned it.

BASH: And it was very, very (INAUDIBLE) speech, like almost an hour into the speech.

TAPPER: It was a glancing reference.

BASH: It was a glancing reference. Why? Because of all the reasons that David just gave and we've been talking about tonight. The economy is still the driving issue. He cares a lot about China. It was a very big story, what happened with the balloon. He did not say "balloon." He was clear on what he was talking about, but that was also noteworthy.

But what people can afford and can't afford and the things that affect people's everyday lives matters the most. That matters the most to them not just now as citizens, but in the future as voters for him.

PHILLIP: And from a foreign policy perspective, I mean, I asked a White House official about how he would address this. And it seemed to me that the perception inside of the White House is that the coverage of this balloon story is sensational.

It's kind of -- I mean, it's kind of fun to see. You don't get to see F-22 shooting down a balloon every day. But I think there was a little bit of frustration that was kind of blown out of proportion, and I think that they did not want to lean into that too much.

And on top of that, I think there was a clear attempt to take the temperature down on China there. They did not want to amp things up, to make this a kind of (INAUDIBLE), we shot down your balloon sort of thing.

He even mentioned, we will work with China in areas where we can find an agreement. I think this was Biden being, you know, I mean, former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He's not going to go too far when he is not comfortable doing that on an issue and he thinks it is actually incredibly important.

TAPPER: All right, coming up, more results from our flash poll of Biden speech watchers and an unusual close encounter in the House chamber tonight involving Republican congressman and serial liar George Santos. Stay with us.




COOPER: We are getting reaction from the American people to the president's state of the union address. David Chalian has results for our flash poll speech watchers. David, what else did you learn?

CHALIAN: Yes, some of these results, Anderson, I think really tell the story of why this was a successful night for Joe Biden. So, again, this is a poll of speech watchers, a more Democratic-friendly audience overall because it's a Democratic president, certainly more Democratic than the country at large.

What we asked people, did Biden's policies -- are they going to move the country in the right direction or the wrong direction? Seventy-one percent of speech watchers said the right direction, 29% said the wrong direction.

But I want to compare that 71% to what people thought prior to the speech because we were able to look pre-speech and post-speech. And so, you will see here the movement of people who thought his policies would move the country in the right direction. Prior to the speech, 52% of these speech watchers said they believe Biden's policies would move in the right direction. And then after watching the speech, that went up to 71%.

We see something similar on economic policies, specifically, Anderson. So, 66% of speech watchers said Biden's economic policies move the country in the right direction, 34% say the wrong direction.

But again, the impact of the speech prior to the speech, these folks said -- I think it was roughly maybe 50% of these folks -- said that his economic policies would move the country in the right direction. But after the speech, that went up to 66%. That is exactly what the White House is looking for on the eve of a president likely to announce a reelection campaign.

COOPER: Fascinating to see that. David Chalian, appreciate it. We had a pretty interesting moment ahead of the president's state of the union address. Tonight, Republican Senator Mitt Romney had an encounter, confronting GOP Congressman George Santos, who is under investigation for multiple lies, telling him -- quote -- "You don't belong here."

He also apparently said to -- he also said to -- I'm looking at it right now -- George Santos -- he said to reporters about Santos, he should be sitting in the back row and staying quiet instead of parading in front of the president and people coming into the room.

It is not clear exactly what Santos's response, if any. I think he later went on Twitter and said something nasty about -- you know, Mitt Romney will never be president.


GRIFFIN: This guy --

COOPER: It's probably the only true thing he said.

AXELROD: He said, you will never be president like I was.


JENNINGS: This is like the most honest member of Congress dressing down the most dishonest member of Congress. This is a great moment.


JENNINGS: And Santos needed to hear that. We all need to see that. I mean, look, the Republicans are going to have a chance, I think, to balance the sky as soon as the Ethics Committee fully finishes up some kind of a review. They really ought to do it.

He's a complete and total embarrassment. He doesn't represent any Republican that I know. Republicans are embarrassed by him. He is not an ideological hero of any kind. He's an accident and a dishonest one at that. And we need more Mitt Romney attitude on this guy.

GRIFFIN: Well, and the brazenness, too. I mean, members wait for hours to get those seats closes to the aisle. They had to shake the president's hand. You would think you would have the humility to know, I probably don't belong here. I should, you know, sit to the side.

But also, like, he's funny and in some ways, he is like the gift that keeps giving (INAUDIBLE). It is very serious. A constituent of his who traveled to the Capitol with a group to protest him talked about how she has been working on getting Afghan visas to help interpreters get to the U.S.

He is not doing constituents services. So, she would always gone through the former member's office to deal with the State Department. That has been on hold since he has been elected. The actual issues that matter to people, he is just not doing the job. It's totally shameful. And that's right, he should resign.

COOPER: One can't imagine that he's really getting anything done. I mean, nobody wants to be associated --

[23:50:00] AXELROD: Look, I mean, who can crawl into this guy's head and understand what motivates him? Because he is -- every time he steps on the floor, every time he's in public, he embarrasses himself. This whole thing is hugely embarrassing. He seems impervious to that. But you're right that, you know, he is also basically defrauding the people of his district to representation.

COOPER: So, in terms of the president's speech, David, if you are in this White House tomorrow morning, would you be about as happy as one could be after state of the union?

AXELROD: Sure. And I think, also, you know, this was sort of the framework of an argument that he will carry forward should he announced for reelection. It is the framework of what he's going to carry forward when he goes out tomorrow and begins to take pieces of this on the road.

But I want to just second something that Alyssa said earlier. A challenge, not just for Joe Biden but the Democratic Party, more for the Democratic Party than Joe Biden, has been, in many ways, the abandonment of voters in the middle of the country, the abandonment of non-college educated voters.

I mean, there was one line in the speech, I think John King mentioned it earlier, he said, let's offer every American the path to a good career, whether they go to college or not. I think that was a really important message because there is this sense among those voters in particular, the Democratic Party is basically an elite, college educated party that looks down on people who work with their hands, work with their backs. And basically, Biden's whole speech was, you know what, I hear you, I identify with you. It's very important.

JONES: Basically, he is saying this is your grandfather's Democratic Party.


JONES: And I thought that was really important in cheeping away that sense of elite-ism. And he pointed out in particular some of these infrastructure jobs and other jobs, $100,000, $120,000 a year, and you don't have to have a college degree. That says something. And I think it is true for him.

And I know that you cannot just get out there and brag on yourself. I think he did a good job. A lot of this stuff that the Democrats got done, sometimes with Republicans, sometimes on our own, in the last two years, you won't even see the benefit of that for another 12 months or 18 months as some of these infrastructure projects come on and people started getting these jobs.

As we start reshoring, talk about America first, as we start reshoring some of these technology jobs, some of the CHIPS manufacturing stuff, you're going to start having people with a real reason to hope again and to believe.

The other thing he pointed out was the manufacturing jobs coming back. We have growing manufacturing jobs here in a way that we haven't for two generations. So, there is help on the way. Right now, people are sad and they should be. They are resistant to hope. People are scared to hope. I think help is on the way.

AXELROD: Yeah. One other point I would raise is the outreach to seniors and his emphasis on the things that were done to help older Americans. You know, that's a base for Joe Biden. He does very well with those voters. He doesn't do as well with younger voters. And he would be well advised to cultivate that as he moves forward because it's going to be very important for him if he actually runs again.

GRIFFIN: I think a standout moment of the night was the exchange over entitlements. I think it shows a snapshot of Biden's 2024 strategy, which is going to be to try to paint the entirety of the Republican Party as aligned to a sort of the minority (INAUDIBLE) most extreme. And that was exactly what we are seeing. And I think to his credit, he did it fairly artfully.

And unfortunately, the House Republican Conference did not lend itself well to the notion that we are not, you know, the extremists, the ones who are shouting and interrupting. But I would -- I think it's something Republicans have to prepare for, is to say, we are not the party of Marjorie Taylor Greene, we are not the party of Paul Gosar and Matt Gaetz, we are the party of substance, and we are also not trying to cut your entitlements.

COOPER: It's hard to make -- it is hard to make that argument, though, given -- I mean, they are now back on committees. You know, they've been rewarded in a way that they weren't over --

GRIFFIN: They have more power than they ever have. The House Republican Caucus really pulls back the entirety of the party in this moment.

JENNINGS: These people will be irrelevant, depending on who we nominate for president. I mean, they become more relevant if we re- nominate Donald Trump. Obviously, that is what Joe Biden is desperate for to happen. He wants Donald Trump. This is his dream to get this rematch. It's also Donald Trump's dream. They share the same dream. They sit at the Hardee's together in the back of the booth --


JENNINGS: -- at 6:00 a.m. and talk about the dream they had to run against each other again.


GRIFFIN: Do you think it is different if it's a DeSantis?

JENNINGS: I do, actually, because I think the race then -- he is president because he wasn't Bernie and he wasn't Trump. That's why he's the president. That's why people are waiting for him to move on. That's the only thing they wanted him to do.

So, if you give him somebody else, a younger person, a new generation, to me, the crazy personalities and even some of the issues just fall by the way side --

AXELROD: Just on the question of empowerment of these people, I want to make two points. One is -- I mentioned it in the break -- I was in the House when President Obama made a speech about health care, and he was called a liar by Representative Joe Wilson from South Carolina.


He was widely rebuked by Republican leaders and apologized. You have several members, including Marjorie Taylor Greene, doing the same thing tonight, and they get (INAUDIBLE) from Kevin McCarthy.

COOPER: We are going to take a break. Coming up, the moment in the president's speech that have officials high-fiving at the White House. Our coverage continues after this.


UNKNOWN (voice-over): This is CNN Breaking News.

BASH: We have a lot more coverage of the state of the union at this hour. But right now, major breaking news in the sports world. King James is the new points king of the NBA. Los Angeles Lakers superstar Lebron James has just become the league's all-time leading scorer. James scoring 36 points tonight so far. The game is still going on. What he has done is past fellow Laker legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to claim the record, which Abdul-Jabbar held since 1984, and who is in attendance for tonight's game.