Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Live Event/Special

LeBron James Breaks NBA's All-Time Scoring Record; Biden: "The State Of The Union Is Strong"; Republicans Heckle Biden During State Of The Union Address; Republicans Heckle Joe Biden During State Of The Union Address. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired February 08, 2023 - 00:00   ET



DANA BASH, CNN HOST: Held since 1984. And who's in attendance for tonight's game? CNN's Omar Jimenez is inside Los Angeles Arena. He is joining us by phone. Omar, tell us what that moment was like.

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Honestly, watching the aftermath of that moment right now is incredibly surreal. Everybody here in the arena was on their feet waiting in bated breath for the anticipation of that shot going in. And it was one of his signature fadeaway shots going from the left elbow. And he absolutely drained it, ran back towards center court with his hands up in the air.

His entire family, his close friends cheering him on. They're now on the court with him celebrating, embracing. Some of them feel -- or look, I should say very emotional in this moment.

It's a record that many people never thought would be broken. We're talking more than 38,000 career points at the highest level of basketball over the course of an NBA career that spanned 20 years for LeBron James.

And now he stands at center court as fans chant MVP, as the arena plays a montage of what is essentially him collecting infinity stones over the course of his career. And it could not be more proud moment for the fans, for his family looking on from right in front of them. And, of course, for the NBA as Kareem now embraces him, passing one milestone, handing it off to the next generation.

: Omar, how cool as a huge basketball fan and a -- and a former player yourself to be there to witness this incredible, incredible history.

I want to go now to someone who knows LeBron James and the NBA and pretty much all of sports very well, sportscaster and CNN contributor, Bob Costas. Omar just said over 38,000. Let's just be exact, 38,387 points, that was the number that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar set all those years ago and that was what was just surpassed.

I was just reading that we know that LeBron James set out at a very young age to break all kinds of records in the NBA, but this one, he said, I never said I wanted to lead the league in scoring. And for sure never said I wanted to be the all-time leader in scoring. And yet, here he is.

BOB COSTAS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, it's a tribute, not only to his continued excellence, but to his longevity. At age 38, in this his 20th season. And Kareem, by the way, also played 20 seasons, but he wasn't playing nearly as many minutes toward the end of his career as LeBron is right now.

LeBron still among the tiny handful of best players in the league. LeBron only led the league in scoring one season. Michael Jordan led in scoring 10 seasons, and Michael Jordan averaged more points per game slightly more than 30 than LeBron has over his career. But LeBron also leads Michael in rebounds and assists per game. And when you play at that higher level, and for 20 seasons, and basically stay healthy, then you've got a chance to scale the highest mountain.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar held that record for a very long time. And now it belongs to LeBron. And as I watched the game, not at the game, but watching it, the last flurry that took him past the mark of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had a little bit of everything from the LeBron James playbook. He had back to back three pointers, then he took an alley- oop lob and banked one in.

And then the last basket that took him pass Kareem was a classic fade away from near the foul line. He's such a versatile player. There's so many aspects to his game, and he's shown a little bit of everything tonight in this his 20th season in the league.

BASH: And we should note, this is obviously a huge milestone, but he's already racked up so many four NBA championships, four-time MVP award, three All Star MVP Awards, two gold medals, Rookie of the Year. It goes on and on.

Bob, you interviewed LeBron James back in --

COSTAS: I did.

BASH: -- 2003. I want to play a little bit of that and talk on the other side.



COSTAS: How does it feel to know that if you're not eventually a Hall of Fame caliber player, it's not good enough to be good or an All- Star. If you're not eventually a first rank Hall of Famer, a lot of people will say you were a bust or overhyped.

LEBRON JAMES, NBA PLAYER: How does that make me feel?


JAMES: Well, I don't -- I don't look at it as looking into the future always go by. I'll take every moment at a time because you're not promised tomorrow. And that's what my mom brought me up on. And I always say that I just try to get better every day at what I do.


BASH: Your thoughts now.

COSTAS: Well, even then, I was impressed as an 18-year-old and with all the scrutiny and adulation that had already come his way, he was very mature. He was very levelheaded in his responses.


And you have to understand the context, Moses Malone came out of high school right into the ABA then NBA, won three MVP awards, went to the Hall of Fame. True. Even Kobe Bryant, obviously, one of the greatest of the great, came right out of high school, but none had the pre-NBA during high school attention that LeBron had.

His games, his high school games were on ESPN. Sports Illustrated was all over his story. He was a national name before he ever hit the NBA. And my question, therefore, was not to put them on the spot. It was appropriate. And it was true. It wasn't enough that he just be a good player. He had to become an all-time great to meet those expectations. Not only as it turns out, did he meet every expectation, he exceeded them. He has had a deeply admirable career.

BASH: He sure has. OK. Bob, standby, because I want to go back to Los Angeles --

COSTAS: Sure, Dana.

BASH: -- to Omar Jimenez who again is still in the stadium there. Omar, what's happening right now?

JIMENEZ: Well, LeBron just addressed the entire crowd reflecting on this, of course, monumental moment. And he want -- he said what he said over the past week that he couldn't believe that he is the one to be in this situation.

But if you listen to some of what Bob said and what LeBron has done over his career as a fan, you almost wonder who else would have been in that situation? He was emotional. He spoke through tears as he stood alongside NBA Commissioner, Adam Silver and Kareem.

At the end, he cursed a little to the laughter of everyone because I honestly think he was just lost for words. But to do it in front of friends, family, he seemed like someone who could not be more grateful and more humbled by, of course, this monumental moment.

BASH: Fascinating, and the fact that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, of course, an L.A. Laker, the one who gave everybody, including LeBron, that score to overcome was there is pretty remarkable. Thank you to Omar. Thank you very much to Bob Costas. Appreciate you.

I want to go back to the State of the Union Address that happened here in Washington tonight, President Biden traveling to Capitol Hill and declaring the state of our union is strong. I am Dana bash in Washington, DC.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: And I'm Alisyn Camerota here in New York. Dana, it's great to be with you on this historic night for many reasons.

President Biden touting what he sees as his major legislative and foreign policy achievements after two years in office. And repeatedly urging lawmakers to help him, quote, finish the job.

President Biden's speech tonight focused on a number of kitchen table issues, health care, and Social Security, the economy and taxes. The President also pushed Congress to pass other major legislation, including police reform and fixing the immigration system.

I want to bring in CNN chief White House correspondent, Phil Mattingly. So, Phil, what's the mood in the West Wing after tonight's speech?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You know, it's interesting, Alisyn, they had high expectations. The President's top advisers going into these remarks very carefully crafted over a period of months, including a really intensive process over the course of the last couple of days.

The speech that as you noted, was going to focus mightily on the idea of finishing the job. Those three words mentioned 12 times in the remarks detailing clear progress in the first two years but also outlining why they believe there's a resiliency that can carry forward in the years ahead, including the likely reelection campaign of the President.

But it was an off the cuff, unscripted back and forth with House Republicans in the chamber that has really drawn the most buoyant response from White House officials. The idea of the president laying out how some Republicans may want to change, cut, or to some degree reform entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare, drew a harsh response from Republicans who said that was simply not on the table at the moment.

The president engaged, even as he was called a liar by some Republicans going back and forth with them, calling it a conversion moment, calling all Republicans to stand for seniors, at which point all Republicans and Democrats did exactly that.

That moment, I'm told, inside the White House, according to a source familiar with the matter, brought high fives from White House officials, cheers from White House officials, as it played out in real time.

And the president, as he returned to the White House, was greeted by White House staff waiting for him in the Diplomatic Room through a standing ovation. When he approached the staff, he noted Chief of Staff Ron Klain, his last day is tomorrow, called out Ron Klain and his service to the administration at which point Klain gave a few remarks of his own calling that moment about Medicare and Social Security one of the all-time great moments in State of the Union addresses that people will remember for years to come.

So if you want a sense of how White House officials were feeling going into this speech, certainly they felt like they had some high expectations that the president would deliver on. In the wake of that speech, he clearly surpassed those expectations. And I think that underscores the feeling inside the White House right now and the idea that this isn't just a moment for tonight, a moment in front of tens of millions of viewers in a primetime address but one they believe will carry forward in the weeks, months, and potentially years as he waves reelection ahead, Alisyn.


CAMEROTA: It was quite a moment. OK. Phil, thank you very much for that

So from calls for bipartisanship to loud heckling, as you just heard by Republicans, here are some of the highs and lows from the State of the Union Address.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Speaker, the President of the United States.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think that people send us a clear message, fighting for the sake of fighting, power for the sake of power, conflict for the second conflict gets us nowhere. So let's look at the results. We're not finished yet by any stretch of the imagination, but unemployment rate is at 3.4 percent, a 50-year low.

Instead of making the wealthy pay their fair share, some Republicans -- some Republicans want Medicare and Social Security sunset. I'm not saying it's a majority.

Well, I'm glad to see you.

Let's finish the job. Join us tonight where the parents of Tyre Nichols. Welcome.


It's up to us, to all of us.

Putin's invasion has been a test for the ages, but we stand for the defense of democracy. One year later, we know the answer. Yes, we would and we did. We did.

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.

Because the soul of this nation is strong, because the backbone of this nation is strong, because the people of this nation are strong, the state of the union is strong. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: OK. We'll have much more on all of those moments. But next, President Biden urged Congress to work together on a number of major legislative priorities. Is that realistic? One Republican considering a 2024 presidential bid joins us live.



BASH: Welcome back to CNN special coverage of President Biden's State of the Union address. Joining us now to react to President Biden's comments, former Republican governor of Arkansas and potential 2024 presidential candidate, Asa Hutchinson.

Thank you so much. It's nice to see you in-person. We talk all the time when you -- when you're back in Arkansas, but now you're free to travel. So here you are.


BASH: What do you think of the President's speech?

HUTCHINSON: You know, I thought it was really a good moment for Congress, and the people to see the president congratulating the new Speaker of the House, the new Congress that's led by Republicans. I thought that was a good moment for our democracy. I thought it was a warm exchange, actually, and a little bit friendly.

BASH: At the beginning.

HUTCHINSON: At the beginning, but even later, I mean, it was a banter back and forth. Now, it was a little bit odd, because he was responding so much to the audience in front of him. You know, usually you just simply focus on the American audiences there.

But notwithstanding that warmth that I think that it started off with particularly, it was striking to me that he gave such a short time to such key issues, that I had a greater expectation on. The border security of 60 minutes in before he mentioned the border and immigration.

Whenever you look at the time on China, what a great opportunity to really emphasize the threat that China brings, and how we need to address it. Energy, really was discouraging to those that want to invest in energy production. And so, you know, those are some surprises that I saw in.

BASH: Well, he obviously wanted to focus a lot on the economy, because that's where people -- I just have to say, I know where you're going about sort of the warmth. That's the word you used at the beginning. But then he was called a liar, like, more than once by Republican House members. HUTCHINSON: Yes, it would be fair, though, because that was from somebody in the back of the chamber, and you could see the speaker saying, let's do it. And so they're really showing respect.

And I think, you know, because you have one member that acts inappropriately, and maybe they ought to deal with that. But by and large, I thought the Republican side show great respect to the president. Certainly Speaker McCarthy did.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: So, Governor, you've made no secret that you're looking into considering potentially running in 2024. If Biden is who the Democrats put up, what do you think -- you know, what is he like as an opponent? What is his standing right now? Is he a strong potential opponent for Republican?

HUTCHINSON: Well, I think he'd be a strong candidate against Donald Trump, because he likes to run against Donald Trump and raise that contrast. And I think the Democrats would like to see that matchup. I don't think that's going to be the case.

And, in fact, whenever you look at things that he articulated about the economy and reducing inflation, the American people, by and large, say it's time for a change. And so it doesn't change the dynamics, the fact that he made a campaign speech, which presidents do, and the State of the Union address, setting the stage for the future.

But the contrasts are really set up very dramatically for 2024. Big government solutions that he presents more taxes he presented, minimizing the energy production in the United States of America, not presenting the solutions for our border.

I will say that, he said, if you can't pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform, give me a border resource bill. And to me, that left an opening actually to get something done.

PHILLIP: Yes. And actually, I noticed Republicans didn't really applaud for that. I saw Ted Cruz in the audience who's shaking his head. That there's -- that's one thing that maybe they can work on. Is there anything else that you heard in the speech tonight that maybe from a tactical perspective, Republicans should or could work with Biden on?


HUTCHINSON: Well, let's look through some of the things that he talked about. I thought it was a positive moment whenever he talked about -- you present your economic plan, I'll present mine and we'll talk about it. And you saw the speaker behind saying, that's great. That's what I've been asking for.

And so I thought that was a positive discussion. Now, I think they'll get into loggerheads very quickly, because his economic plan is raising taxes and more regulation and in our ideas, less control spending. So -- but it still was good that they had that exchange.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What did you make of your successor, Sarah Huckabee Sanders' speech? The Republican rebuttal didn't mention Donald Trump, didn't -- she worked for Donald Trump. She's aligned with Donald Trump but did not -- was not part of her speech. What does that say to you about how the party is talking about messaging, embracing the former president?

HUTCHINSON: Well, she started out by saying it's time for a new generation of leaders. And she contrasted her being the youngest governor of Arkansas with President Biden's age in running for reelection, presumably.

But I thought she drew contrast there. She told that story about going to Iraq with the president. Didn't mention the name, but I mean, obviously, everyone knows she was the spokesperson for President Trump. And there's a close connection there. But I thought she did a really good job of drawing contrast, which is what is necessary.

And secondly, from an Arkansas standpoint, she made a little bit of news because she said she's going to be announcing her education plan tomorrow, which is school choice, parental engagement, and reading and literacy. So that was exciting to hear her talk about to some of the goals that she has for the state.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: You said, you don't think Donald Trump is going to be the nominee for your party. And I'm just wondering, why are you confident in that outcome? What do you -- what do you see right now that suggests to you, he's not on the path to potentially be the nominee again?

HUTCHINSON: Well, clearly, you know, he's still got his strength. He's still got a following that's out there. And so I don't want to overly diminish the chances. But the fact is, you know, he can't win in a November election, because you can't draw independence. He's got a small number of the Republican base. So is that going to shrink or expand?

And my conversations both with donors, but with grassroots Republicans, from Iowa to New Hampshire is, let's look for an alternative that can win. We want to win.

CHALIAN: Two random states that you just picked up at the end that you go talking to people, you know, Iowa to New Hampshire.

But I just -- but on that point, so if you choose to get in the race, is that going to be one of your arguments that he can't win in November?

HUTCHINSON: Sure, absolutely.

BASH: When are you going to decide whether you're going to run?

HUTCHINSON: Stay tuned. But, you know, it's probably going to be later spring. You're going to have a little bit of time to work with. Right now, it's important to message. This is a perfect illustration of it, what President Biden said tonight, what the contrast is with a consistent conservative message, but engaged in problem solving. And that's what I hope that our future candidates will focus on. BASH: Thanks for staying up late with us. Nice to see you.

HUTCHINSON: Thank you. Good to be with you.

BASH: Appreciate it. And then coming up, two former lawmakers who just left Congress, a Democrat and a Republican. They're going to react to the president's speech and the tensions in the House chamber tonight. Our special coverage continues right after a quick break.



BASH: We're back with our special coverage of the State of the Union Address. Democratic lawmakers are criticizing their Republican colleagues who loudly interrupted President Biden's speech tonight. One of the most raucous outbursts was when Republicans booed the president's remarks about their economic proposals.


BIDEN: Some of my Republican friends want to take the economy hostage. I get it. Unless I agree to their economic plans.

Instead of making the wealthy pay their fair share, some Republicans, some Republicans, want Medicare and Social Security sunset. I'm not saying it's the majority.

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 to see you. No, I tell you, I enjoy conversion.


BASH: I want to bring in now, former Democratic Congressman Mondaire Jones and former Republican Congressman, Adam Kinzinger. Great to have you guys here tonight.

Congressman Kinzinger, before we get to that moment, and I do want to talk about that moment, and particularly how President Biden handled it. It was raucous and he wasn't rattled. It was just an interesting moment to see.

But before we get to that, what did you think of this speech as a whole?

ADAM KINZINGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, substantively, so if you just read it, it would be just like probably any State of the Union speech.

What matters or what people pay attention to is delivery, particularly when he's constantly under criticism for his age. You know, the Republicans say he's not there mentally. He blew it -- he blew it out of the water tonight. I mean, he really did. I think he had the energy necessary. That sparring back and forth was something I didn't have on my bingo card. So I think the speech itself wasn't all that.

I was actually very disappointed he didn't go into a lot more foreign policy, particularly on Ukraine right now. But he delivered it, did everything he needed to do tonight.

BASH: Really interesting. And, Congressman Jones?

MONDAIRE JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think he had a strong speech tonight. It's actually not my favorite speech of his. I actually think he's done well in the prior to State of the Union addresses that he's given when he was talking about some of the economic legislation that he wanted to see Congress passed, and that we were still negotiating at the time.

But, you know, less again, for someone who has been routinely criticized for his age, and for the way in which he delivered speeches, he has more than exceeded expectations.


MONDAIRE JONES (D) FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: I will say, I wanted to see him going to greater detail with respect to the policing reform that he wants Congress to enact. He did not explicitly called for Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice and Policing Act. And I thought that was mistake--

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: I wonder why he didn't I mean, particularly with the guests that he had invited. This was the moment.

JONES: I think it's because he knows that under GOP control in the House, the version of the George Floyd Justice and Policing Act that the House passed on a Democratic control is not going to see the light of day, and that there may not even be much support on the Republican side for any version of the George Floyd Justice and Policing Act.

CAMEROTA: OK, let's talk about that moment. So, congressman, what did you think of that? I mean, not how President Biden handled it, but the fact that it happened.

JONES: It was disgraceful. I mean it really was. So, I've sat on that floor and every year that we've had a State of the Union speech, I get, like, more nervous that there's going to be bigger outbursts. It used to be Joe Wilson did his famous outbursts. That was the news for three days.

CAMEROTA: And it was shocking by - in fact, 2009, that moment was shocking. Tonight, it happened several times.

JONES: There is a reason a quorum exists because when a quorum breaks down, it's hard to self-govern. Marjorie Taylor Greene tonight, she was trying to get attention. She was disgraceful. And as a Republican tonight, I was embarrassed. And I think and they won't do it. I think Kevin McCarthy should lead the center against her for her behavior.

CAMEROTA: But you're sure he won't do it.

JONES: I'm sure he won't do it. Of course not. He needs her.

CAMEROTA: What did you think?

ADAM KINZINGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: As an American, I was embarrassed. I mean, you know who the central characters of the speech will be before the speech is even delivered because it's really about the audience. There's too many of these folks in Congress, some of the newer people, Lauren Boebert with someone else who can always be trusted to engage in sort of theatrics.

CAMEROTA: And there was more than just the two of them. I mean, there was a moment of like, a groundswell of the sound of the raucousness from the Republican side. So, it wasn't - you can't just center the two of them, I think.

JONES: No. So, this - here's what's interesting. So, it's like, OK, we've had - so I remember when Donald Trump was president, there would be some outbursts from the Democrats. But it wasn't like this. It wasn't like yelling liar. And this just absolute complete lack of decorum. And I get it, because emotions are running high. And you're being attacked by the president in your mind, so you have to push back. They walked right into, I don't know if he set the trap on purpose, or if he was just like that, good on the fly, they walked right into that buzzsaw and he crushed him with them.

CAMEROTA: That's so interesting that you say that because we just heard from Phil Mattingly, our Chief White House Correspondent who said that they were quite pleased at the White House tonight with how it went because he wasn't rattled and he rolled with it.

JONES: This is holy grail stuff. You're talking about Medicare and Social Security. This is something that unites Republican voters and Democratic voters and independents. If he is going to say that Republicans want to make cuts to Medicare and Social Security, he knew that the response from the Republicans in the room, including, by the way, plenty of folks who just a few days ago, were saying that we do need to look at changes to Social Security and Medicare, we're going to deny that that is what they intended, because that would be very fatal. I think it will be fatal to them in 2024, if they were to go through.

CAMEROTA: So, in other words, what the president said tonight was true. They - what the crowd said was, you're a liar. That's not true. What he said was true. Some Republicans are looking to sunset Medicare and Social Security.

KINZINGER: It is true. Rick Scott's one of those. The other thing that what's interesting tonight, so I've always been an advocate to save people, my age should not be under the same social security system, as my parents, we have to make changes, we have to make adjustments, whether that's more taxes, or whether that's cuts, that's up for debate. By the Republicans tonight saying, we don't want to touch anything, we don't want to do anything and that out, you now effectively have no party that's advocating for the reform of Social Security, Medicare, and I'm telling you, we're going to find ourselves in a problem there at some point, maybe you just want to raise taxes for it. That's fine. It's a legitimate answer.

But now if the debate is just nobody ever wants to touch us ever to be a rude awakening one of these mornings--

CAMEROTA: So, Congressman Jones, quickly, do you think that tonight changed things in terms of how the president is seen and for his reelection? I mean, what we're talking about the style of him seeming spry and seeming energetic, I don't know if Americans decide who they're going to vote for, based on the State of the Union address. But do you think tonight changed that?

JONES: I think it perhaps used to be the case that that it would change American public opinion for a President of the United States to deliver a highly persuasive speech to the American Congress and into the people writ large, but that is not the nature of our media environment today.

What you will see when you turn to Fox News, is all of the gaffes that he potentially made tonight, all of the times that he may be stuttered or paused to collect his thoughts. You're in, of course, editorialization of what has actually been happening in this country as opposed to the factual data that employment is at a historic low, that this president has presided over record job creation that I think he can validly take a lot of credit for. and so on and so forth. He showed energy tonight and that's what he needed to do.

CAMEROTA: OK, gentlemen, thank you.

JONES: You bet.

CAMEROTA: Good to talk to you. OK, up next, more on the central theme of President Biden speech that he repeated over and over and over again and what that means for 2024.



DANA BASH, CNN HOST: There was one phrase that we heard repeatedly during President Biden's State of the Union address, a plea to both Republicans and Democrats for the next two years.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let's finish the job and ban these assault weapons. Let's finish the job and get more families access to affordable quality housing. Let's finish the job and make these savings permanent, expand coverage on Medicare.


BASH: Welcome back. We're here with our panel. Evan Osnos. I want to ask you as somebody who is a student, an expert on Bidenology. What did you make of the speech and that particular refrain was interesting and obviously the fact that we're talking about it memorable.


EVAN OSNOS, BIDEN BIOGRAPHER: Yes, it was about as close as you can come to saying you'll be hearing from me again perhaps in 2024 without actually saying it. I mean he has been hinting for a while that he had a theory of the case for this presidency, that you had to first do some things that would appeal to the members of your own party on the Left, you had to do things that would appeal to your own party in the center, you had to find some things that Republicans could cooperate with you on, that might get you to the midterms, then you might be able to make a case for the second two years.

You know one of the things you hear when you go into the White House has always been that this is not an improvisation, that there has always been a plan. It has to do with sequencing legislation. And there were times where it looked like it wasn't going to work. There were times when they thought the infrastructure--

BASH: And some things didn't work.

OSNOS: A lot of things didn't work. But there were times where they said, I mean, I talked to Ron Klain last - just before he's leaving tomorrow, and he said we were dead, dead, dead so many times. He said, if I had to take one lesson from this experience, it's don't panic and be patient. And I think that's sort of a lesson of Joe Biden's career too writ-large.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, they pride themselves in being the off-Twitter presidency, the off-Twitter campaign. And I mean, I think that one of the risks, and I asked Republican earlier today, Jeff Duncan, who's one of our contributors about this, one of the risks for Republicans is always believing that Biden is dead in the water when he's not.

And even when his poll numbers look pretty bad. And when he looks like he's kind of middling, there has always been something else going on in the electorate, in which he's been able to make an argument that I think is actually pretty simple. And it's an argument of general reasonableness. I think it prevents some people who maybe don't love him, from hating him. And as we discussed going into the midterms, these kind of so-so voters, the meh (ph) voters were the ones who allowed Democrats to do better than they expected in November. And I think those will still be the voters who if Biden is going to run for reelection, he will need and He will try to run on.

Those voters, I think, are looking for people who are just simply going to try to make things better. Maybe they don't like all of it. But they think that they're going to try it.

BASH: That's an interesting point, David, the notion that there are so many voters out there who don't love him, but they'll take him. Is that still the case? And can it still be the case after they've seen him for two, maybe three years?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: I'll just look at our flash poll tonight.

BASH: Yes.

CHALIAN: We see yet again, this pattern with Biden, which is that, yes, 72 percent said they had a positive reaction to the speech, that's on par with what he did last year. Only 34 percent say, very positive. We looked, that is the lowest very positive meaning a passionate feel about it across any flash poll we've done for any president, any State of the Union. But yet, so yes, a little meh (ph), but they're with them. And I think one of the key things that you're getting at Abby is, I think Biden has a sense of the electorate, certainly better than Twitter has a sense of the overall broad electorate.

PHILLIP: You sure?

CHALIAN: Yes. And we see tonight, again, in our results I was mentioning earlier, you saw growth, pre-speech, the speech watchers thought he had some positive direction, taking the country in the right direction on the economy. And that grew by like 16 points when you ask people again, after the speech. When we look specifically at independent voters, like a third or a little more than a third of independent voters thought he was doing the right direction on the economy before the speech. Nearly two-thirds of independent voters in the flash poll of the speech watchers thought after the speech after they saw it, he grew tremendously in a key critical component of the electorate.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is so interesting, just you know, being in the room tonight, I was in the chamber, chamber, the mood completely changed from among other Republican side, it started off as a very positive speech. There's the - welcoming Kevin McCarthy, and people were generally in a good mood going in. But then when he started talking about the things that passes along party lines, as he's trying to sell to the American public what he has done, he lost the room, lost the Republican side of the room.

Republicans came out thinking this was a very partisan speech, very political speech. He saw them taking - they saw them taking direct aim at them, how does it affect Republican voters, leaning voters, some of them who may have voted for Joe Biden in the 2020 election? How do they view him coming out of this speech? That's going to be the big question going forward?

And he tries to lay out his accomplishments tonight, but the challenge for him is trying to convince the American people that these accomplishments are actually having an impact on their lives.

BASH: Another question is whether or not he was tough enough on China. We're going to talk about that after a quick break.



CAMEROTA: Welcome back to our special coverage of the State of the Union address. President Biden did bring up the U.S. competing with China was that a veiled reference to last week's spy balloon saga? We're back with the panel now. OK, so let's talk about that. Because there was a lot of talk beforehand about whether or not he would bring up the spy balloon and he chose not to and did you think that was a missed opportunity?

ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: I think it was probably right to not address it head on. He's trying to move on beyond balloon gate. But I really think he glossed over China. Just to be honest, this is our number one geopolitical foe. I think it was on something like page 15. And probably a paragraph. We have to think about. We'll have the numbers tomorrow. But I mean, between 20 million and 30 million Americans probably saw this. And part of the State of the Union is educating the public on the things that don't necessarily impact them day-to-day, but matter in the threat of countering China is one of those things.

I put Ukraine in that category as well. Of course, he just hosted Zelenskyy, but I think it would have been valuable to reinforce worse the importance of why it's in the U.S.'s national interest to support Ukraine.


DAVID AXELROD, FORMER OBAMA SENIOR ADVISER: I said the other day that the thing that balloons and this is not direct to you, but the thing that balloons, and many politicians have in common is a lot of hot air. There was so much bloviating about this balloon. And meanwhile, he's the President of the United States and he's trying to manage what is a very volatile and dangerous situation. And I don't know what all is going on now, between us and China, since this happened, but we already, we just sent more military to the Philippines, the situation over Taiwan is heating up.

CAMEROTA: But should he have talked about foreign policy and or China more?

AXELROD: I think what he - I think, if you read his comments, what he was saying is, this is a relationship we have to, we have to manage. And he suggested that it was - that it was fraught, but I just - I want I mean, the whole - on the whole balloon situation, no, seriously on the balloon situation. I believe that the military and the intelligence community had a pretty clear sense of what was going on. And there were things going on that we don't know about. And there are a lot of people who are talking about it authoritatively who didn't know nearly as much as they should.

VAN JONES, FORMER OBAMA ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'm glad that he didn't talk about it, because I'm sick of it. Here's reality. There is - there are a thousand things that are more threatening to America than this balloon. TikTok--

AXELROD: Certainly now--

JONES: TikTok is more threatening. There are 100 satellites above us right now gathering information, but you can't see them. So, we don't have to react to them. If you can see it, then we have to-- CAMEROTA: Couldn't he take a victory lap and just said, I handled it.

JONES: Well, he doesn't - basically what he did. But my point is, that is a serious problem. Blinken was supposed to go there trying to get China away from Putin, trying to deal with Taiwan. But there's a balloon. And so now we have to spend a week on a balloon when there are satellites right now that we can't see, what are we talking about? I'm glad they didn't talk about it.

SCOTT JENNINGS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST AND CORPORATE PR ADVISER: Look, I agree with you there are - there is a little balloon in every house, with TikTok or whatever. I mean, we've all got balloons flying around in our homes, but it's emblematic of what the Republicans believe is just a general slowness and a general weakness when it comes to what is probably our number one geopolitical foe. And it's embarrassing. They flew this thing over our - the entirety of our country from Alaska to the Carolinas--

CAMEROTA: But for 48 hours--

JENNINGS: You could look up and see it and the American people I just think are like, if we had sent a balloon to China, you reckon they'd let it fall away across China before--

AXELROD: Let me ask you a question, we have shot it down. I mean, the blast.

JONES: Seven miles--

AXELROD: Field was seven miles, if we had shot it down, and this stuff came raining down on a community or--

JONES: Or school.

JENNINGS: In the Aleutian Islands?

GRIFFIN: But again, the discussion tonight should have been bigger than the balloon. I don't think he should have mentioned the balloon. That would have been communications malpractice. It's not a win for him. But Beijing pays attention to tonight. The world watches the State of the Union. It would have been a moment to be tough on China and I think just kind of glossing over is what I felt like.

AXELROD: Saying you're tough on China isn't as silly being tough on China. I also remember when President Trump, you may have been there at the time, lavished praise on Xi. So--

JENNINGS: He's been all over the place on it. That's the thing. We can't have mixed messages with this guy. This is a dictator. This country is our - not our friend--

AXELROD: But maybe the messages aren't being delivered through the State of the Union.

CAMEROTA: Alright, well, guys, we also have other breaking news, so we need to get to right now. This is in the sports world. NBA superstar LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers has become the league's all- time leading scorer that was tonight. It was just a short time ago. Here it is.


CAMEROTA: James scored a total of 38 points against the Oklahoma City Thunder tonight passing former record holder Kareem Abdul Jabbar, who joined James on the court after the record-breaking shot. NBA on TNT Reporter Stephanie Ready joins us now from inside Los Angeles's Arena. So, tell us what that moment was like.

STEPHANIE READY, NBA ON TNT REPORTER: It was amazing. I mean, it's what you would imagine. It was palpable from the very beginning. There were celebrities everywhere. NBA fans were very excited. They started standing when he was single-digits away from breaking the record. You could tell the excitement was there. Everyone knew in the building because they had a counter on display. When it actually happened.

And then when you saw the captain Kareem Abdul Jabbar pass him the ball in this moment that we're going to share with you, you could see the emotions wash over Lebron James.


And he had to gather himself for a minute. And I will admit to you, I got a little emotional when I saw that too, because you could tell all of his years of hard work, and a goal that he admitted he'd never set for himself, which everyone thought was unattainable. He achieved it tonight. And it all came to a hep. Take it back.

CAMEROTA: You - we all felt that way. It was a momentous goose bump moment here as well. Thank you everyone for watching and CNN special coverage of the State of the Union continues with Laura Coates after this very quick break.