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State of the Union

Interview With Martin Luther King III, Yolanda Renee King, and Arndrea Waters King; Interview With Presidential Candidate Vivek Ramaswamy; Interview With Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). Aired 9-10a ET

Aired August 27, 2023 - 09:00   ET




DANA BASH, CNN HOST (voice-over): Fight night. No Donald Trump, but plenty of fireworks at the first Republican debate.

VIVEK RAMASWAMY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm the only person the stage who isn't bought and paid for.

MIKE PENCE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Now is not the time for on- the-job training. We don't need to bring in a rookie.

BASH: With the front-runner's legal peril hanging over everything, can any of his rivals break through?

Republican candidate Vivek Ramaswamy is here.

Plus: Burning down the house? With President Biden's poll numbers stagnant, his one-time competitor heads to a key state with a warning.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): Democrats must reject the corporate wing of the party.

BASH: I will speak with Senator Bernie Sanders in moments.

And still dreaming. Sixty years later, Martin Luther King Jr.'s vision for America is still very much a work in progress.


BASH: Dr. King's son and family join me to discuss what still needs to be done to make his dream a reality.


BASH: Hello. I'm Dana Bash in Washington, where the state of our union is waking up to tragedy again.

Authorities say three Black Americans and the white shooter are dead after a racially motivated attack in Jacksonville, Florida. The FBI is investigating it as a hate crime, and the sheriff there said the shooter hated Black people and wanted to kill Black people. The horrific incident caps off a historic and sad week in the United

States. Donald Trump is now the first president in American history to have a mug shot and an inmate number to go along with it. Trump and his 18 co-defendants have all surrendered at the Fulton County Jail. And, tomorrow, the legal fights over who goes to trial, where they go to trial, and when they go to trial get under way.

While the former president was finalizing his plans to turn himself over in Georgia, the Republicans hoping to replace him as the leader of their party battled it out on their first debate in the election cycle.

And a lot of the not-so-friendly-fire was sent in the direction of my first guest, a Washington outsider who has been very much rising in the polls.

Joining me now is 2024 presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy.

Thank you so much for joining me this morning, sir.

RAMASWAMY: Good morning.

BASH: I want to start with what I began the program with, which is this racist shooter killing three Black people in Jacksonville yesterday.

What is your reaction to the shooting?

RAMASWAMY: It is such a tragedy, and my heart goes out to those families.

This should not be happening in the United States of America, and it is wrong. The reality is, we have a mental health epidemic in this country. There are reports that this particular individual, the perpetrator, was indeed evaluated for mental health deficiencies as well.

And I think we need to have -- to have the courage in this country to bring back a practice of putting back psychiatrically ill people who pose a risk to their communities into psychiatric institutions, not just drugging them up, but faith-based approaches and other approaches that fill our longing for purpose and meaning in this country.

I think just a shame that we even have mass shootings like this, be it the one that happened in Florida, be it the recent one, the Nashville shooter in a Christian school, killing six in a school. We have to address that mental health epidemic, and we need leaders with the courage to do it.

But my heart goes out to those families, and I hope something like this never happens again.

BASH: Mental health is one aspect of these shootings.

And, apparently -- and we're still learning a lot about what happened. The facts are still coming out. Also, this was very much, apparently, racially motivated. The sheriff there said point blank that this shooter had -- had manifestos coming -- three manifestos, and said specifically that he went to this dollar store with the intent of killing Black people.

RAMASWAMY: I think that is heinous and deserves to be called out for what it is.

The reality is, we have created such a racialized culture in this country in the last several years that, right as the last few burning embers of racism were burning out, we have a culture in this country largely created by media and establishment and universities and politicians that throw kerosene on that racism.

And I can think of no better way to fuel racism in this country than to take something away from other people on the basis of their skin color. I have been saying that for years. And I think that is driving, sadly, a new wave of anti-Black and anti-Hispanic racism in this country.


BASH: Sir -- sir, is it -- is...

RAMASWAMY: I think the right way forward is, if we want to stop hate and discrimination on the basis of race, let's stop discriminating on the basis of race and see what unites us as Americans, because I do not think this kind of racial division and any division is good for us as the United States.

BASH: I believe that there are a lot of people of color in this country who don't think it was just lasting embers of racism, but that a lot more work had to be done, particularly given the history of the systemic racism in this country with slavery and beyond.

I want to ask you about a comment that you made about white supremacy in Iowa on Friday.


RAMASWAMY: I have never once encountered that yet. I'm sure the boogeyman white supremacists exist somewhere in America. I have just never met him. Never seen one. Never met one in my life, right? Maybe I will meet a -- maybe I will meet a unicorn sooner. And maybe those exist too.


BASH: So, just because somebody hasn't encountered one doesn't mean that the notion of white supremacy doesn't exist as a threat in America.

What do you think goes through the minds of the families of the three victims in yesterday's shooting when they hear you say that white supremacy is basically a fantasy?

RAMASWAMY: I'm sure they're grieving for their loss. And I don't want to politicize those victims, Dana.

This is a very sensitive situation, where we should have nothing but foremost respect for those victims and not bring them into partisan politics.

But I was responding to a question where someone asked me, what racism have I experienced in recent years? And I answered honestly. Most of that racism has come from the modern left. It's happening during the course of this campaign, Kara Swisher calling me Ramasmarmy the other day and reveling in making twists of my last name, people effectively reducing me to the color of my skin and my attributes.

That comes today from the modern left. But the reality is, this is part of a dogma in this country.

BASH: Well, do you acknowledge, though, that white supremacy does still exist in the United States?

RAMASWAMY: I acknowledge that all forms of racial animus exist in the United States, including fringe branches. I mean, that's clearly what was at the head of this mentally deranged individual responsible for this shooting, yes.

But I think there are many forms of mental derangement that cause us to see one another on the basis of our skin color and our attributes. And I think what we need to revive, Dana -- and it's my job as the leader, hopefully, as the next president, to do this -- to revive our doctrine of e pluribus unum, not just celebrating our diversity and our skin-deep attributes, but celebrating what unites us across that diversity.

That's what we have forgotten in the United States of America. Our true strength is the set of ideals that unite us. That's my job to revive as our next president. And I think that the next generation in particular is so starved for that, starved for commonality, starved for a nation that is unified, bigger than the sum of its parts.

That's what we need to recreate in this country.


RAMASWAMY: And to those who say the remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination, I say no. The right remedy is actually abandoning all discrimination and moving forward with colorblind meritocracy in the United States of America.

BASH: You took it to another level on Friday. In addition to the comment we played, you took issue with comments from Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley.

She reportedly said -- quote -- "We don't need any more brown faces that don't want to be a brown voice."

About that, you said: "These are the words of the modern grand wizards of the modern KKK." You know, I'm sure, the KKK was responsible for more than a century's worth of horrific lynchings, rapes, murders of Black people. How in any way are the views you're talking about comparable to the views and atrocities committed by the KKK?

RAMASWAMY: What I said is, the grand wizards of the KKK would be proud of what they would hear her say, because there's nothing more racist than saying that your skin color predicts something about the content of your viewpoints or your ideas.

BASH: No, you didn't just say that -- you didn't just say that they would be proud. You said: "These are the words of the modern grand wizards of the modern KKK."

RAMASWAMY: It is the same spirit. You're right about that, Dana.

I think it is the same spirit to say that I can look at you and, based on just your skin color, that I know something about the content of your character, that I know something about the content of the viewpoints you're allowed to express.

BASH: OK. That's...

RAMASWAMY: For Ayanna Pressley to tell me that, because of my skin color, I can't express my views, that is wrong. It is divisive. It is driving hatred in this country.

BASH: That is a debate...

RAMASWAMY: This is dividing our country to a breaking point. And I think we need to move beyond it.


BASH: That is a debate that is based on nonviolent discussion that you just said -- you're using rhetoric. What she said, she's using rhetoric.



BASH: There is -- that's one thing.

And another thing is to say that she represents and she is a modern version of a KKK, which, as you know, was dedicated to the subjugation and violence against Black people. How -- how on earth is she a modern grand wizard of that kind of organization?

RAMASWAMY: Dana, let's be intellectually honest. Let's be intellectually honest and get to the heart of what this debate ought to be about.

There is a world view that says that the remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination, that, if you're Black or brown, you have to have a particular point of view. That's from Ibram Kendi. That's from Ayanna Pressley...

BASH: But...

RAMASWAMY: ... the people I quoted in my speech yesterday. There's a different view that I have, which says that, regardless of who you are, you have to be able to have your own opinion. Let's have the debate.

BASH: But can you have an intellectually honest conversation when you accuse her of being a grand wizard of the KKK? Can you have that intellectually honest discussion with that kind of rhetoric?

RAMASWAMY: I think that the point is -- yes, I can, Dana, because the point -- the point I'm highlighting is that even the people who, in good spirit -- we all agree that the KKK was an awful organization that is a toxic stain in our national history.

So, given that we can start from that point of agreement, now that allows us to say, well, who actually sounds more like that organization today? The people who are calling for more racial discrimination on the basis of skin color.

BASH: But it's not about sounding...


RAMASWAMY: So, yes, I think that is an intellectually useful study point for a provocative discussion that we need to have in this country.

BASH: The whole point is, the KKK wasn't just about rhetoric.

RAMASWAMY: And I think that -- I think the reality, Dana, is, we have to speak openly in this country.

BASH: They lynched people. They murdered people. They raped people. They burned their homes simply because of...

RAMASWAMY: And that was wrong. That was obviously wrong, wrong.

BASH: So,-- OK, so, again...

RAMASWAMY: That is obviously a wrong thing for them to have done, absolutely.

BASH: ... if you want to have an intellectual question, do you think that maybe comparing her to the grand wizard and the notion of what she said to being a modern leader of the KKK was maybe a step too far, or you stand by what you said?

RAMASWAMY: I stand by what I said to provoke an open and honest discussion in this country, because there is a gap, Dana, between what people will say in private today and what they will say in public.

I think we need to close that gap. I think we need to have real, open, honest, raw conversation as Americans. That is our path to national unity. And there are many Americans today who are deeply frustrated by the new culture of anti-racism that's really racism in new clothing.

BASH: I'm just not sure how provoking a discussion...

RAMASWAMY: And we need to have that debate in the open.

BASH: I'm not so sure how provoking a discussion of...

RAMASWAMY: Dana, I think you're doing, with due respect, what many in the media do, picking on...


RAMASWAMY: ... picking on some fringe comment in the context of a broader context that I was offering it in a speech, avoiding the meat of the issue.

BASH: All right, so you just said that your comment was fringe.

RAMASWAMY: Let's have the courage to confront the meat of -- that -- no, I'm saying you drew a fringe comment from a much longer speech as...

BASH: You just described your comment as fringe.

RAMASWAMY: I described my -- that was -- I described you picking one fringe comment from a long speech that I gave to duck debate from the real issue that I think you don't want to have, Dana, because I think you probably agree with me on this, that this is toxic rhetoric from leading politicians on dividing us on the basis of race.

And I want to have the open debate.


BASH: I think that this debate is fascinating and interesting and opening and important.

RAMASWAMY: I do too.

BASH: What I did was explain to our viewers that you were asked a question and you took it to a point where you called a sitting member of Congress who is Black, who was having discussions about race, calling her the modern grand wizard of the KKK.

And I'm just not sure how that's open and honest discussion.

I want to move on, though, to another issue, a very important issue, and that is climate change.

RAMASWAMY: Well, before I move on, I want to say...

BASH: Sure, please.

RAMASWAMY: ... the question was, how was I actually able to speak?

And her view is, I can't share certain views because my skin color is brown. I disagree with her, and we should have that debate in the open.

But, yes, let's talk about climate change, because this is critical.

BASH: You said on Friday that manmade climate change has existed as long as man has existed.

But I want to read to you part of what the Trump administration said in a report. It said that: "The Earth's climate is now changing faster than at any point in the history of modern civilization, primarily as a result of human activities."

Do you acknowledge that that is true?

RAMASWAMY: Here's what I acknowledge is true, hard facts.

The climate-related death rate, tornadoes, hurricanes, heat waves, it is down by 98 percent over the last century. For every 100 people who died of a climate related disaster in 1920, two die today. And the reason why is more abundant and plentiful access and use of fossil fuels.

So, the same anti-fossil fuel agenda today is actually resulting in more deaths than climate change or manmade climate change itself. Eight times as many people today are dying of cold temperatures, rather than warm ones. And the right answer to all temperature-related deaths is more plentiful access to fossil fuels.

BASH: Right. OK.


RAMASWAMY: That's the reality, is the climate change agenda and the policies are killing more people than climate change.


BASH: As you know, it's not about people dying today. It's about what is going to happen in the short term and long term.

RAMASWAMY: Oh, I think it's all about people dying today.

BASH: I want to read more of the Trump administration report and specifically some of the areas where this climate crisis will affect, transportation system damages, poor air quality, deteriorating human health, flooded coastal properties, and it goes on and on and on.

So, my question for you is about the remedy.


BASH: If you don't want to cut fossil fuels, which you just said, you don't want to cut carbon emissions or promote clean energy, what would your policies be to slow things like droughts, like flooding and other damage to our planet?

RAMASWAMY: I think we should focus on adaptation and mastery of any change in the climate through technological advances powered by fossil fuels and other forms of energy.

I have no opposition to nuclear energy.

BASH: What does that mean? What does that mean?

RAMASWAMY: Dana, I do think it's a bit of a mystery.

What does that mean is look at the quality of our buildings. Look at the quality of temperature controls. This is actually what has allowed human beings to die less of climate-related disasters today than before. And the reason I call the climate change agenda a hoax, Dana, is that it actually has nothing to do with the climate.

This has to do with global equity. And the reason why is, the same people who are opposed to carbon emissions are also among those who are most opposed to nuclear energy, the greatest form of carbon-free energy production known to mankind.

This doesn't make sense unless you actually call this out for what it is, global equity.

BASH: You would increase nuclear energy? Is that one of your -- is that one of your remedies?

RAMASWAMY: Absolutely.



RAMASWAMY: Oh, I'm unapologetically pro-nuclear energy.


RAMASWAMY: In fact, I have laid out a plan to get government regulation out of the way for nuclear energy.

BASH: Can I just quickly go back?

So, you're saying, like, build taller buildings and have better air conditioning and heating systems? That's your remedy for climate -- the climate crisis?

RAMASWAMY: Well, there's a -- there's a fuller totality of the way we use fossil fuels to live more advanced lives that protect us from all risks, not just climate-related risks, but all risks to humanity.

Right now, most people who are dying are dying actually of lack of access to energy at all, not because of the effects of climate change. The models that you described are, I think, badly fabricated. And if you want a good piece of evidence for this, remember, in the 1970s -- that's not that long ago -- in the 1970s, the same expert class was warning of a global ice age...

BASH: Yes.

RAMASWAMY: ... if we didn't stop using fossil fuels. That same expert class is now warning of global warming.


RAMASWAMY: So I think it is a fatal conceit of false hubris.

BASH: Unfortunately...

RAMASWAMY: And the reality is, we should focus on human flourishing, not carbon emissions. That's what we should measure.


Unfortunately, we're out of time. That data, the model that you just talked about, again, was from the Trump administration, Donald Trump, who says -- who you say had a wonderful administration and a successful presidency.

I would love to talk more about this with you when we have more time. I really appreciate you coming on this morning.

RAMASWAMY: Thank you, Dana.

BASH: And he challenged Joe Biden for the White House in 2020, and, yesterday, Senator Bernie Sanders visited an early voting state to lay out a political and policy strategy for Democrats. I will talk to Senator Sanders live next.

And then T-shirts and posters and cups. Donald Trump tries to turn his mug shot into cold hard cash.



BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION.

As Republicans battle it out for their party's nomination, Democrats are fighting to hold their coalition together, with polls showing low enthusiasm for a second Biden term. That could be why former Biden challenger and now supporter Senator Bernie Sanders took his message to the key early voting state of New Hampshire yesterday, where he laid out what he calls the agenda Americans need.

Here's part of his speech.


SANDERS: Democrats, through words and action, must make it clear that they stand with a struggling working class.

In my view, if Democrats are prepared to do that, they will win this election and win it comfortably. If not, frankly, I am not sure what the election outcome will be or, for that matter, what the future of our country holds.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BASH: Joining me now is Senator Bernie Sanders.

Thank you so much for joining me, sir.

In your speech yesterday, you urged Democrats to make it clear which side they're on when it comes to the working class. And you said: "If we're going to defeat the creeping authoritarianism and right-wing extremism, there has to be an ideological change of course."

Can you explain what you mean by that?

SANDERS: Well, what I mean, by that, Dana, is that the president has a right to be very proud of many of the accomplishments that we have achieved in the last three years, unemployment very, very low.

We have brought inflation down. We're investing in clean energy. We're rebuilding our infrastructure. We have made real progress in a number of areas. But the reality is that, today, 60 percent of our people are living paycheck to paycheck. We have massive levels of income and wealth inequality. Three people have more wealth than the bottom half of America.

Our health care system is a total disaster, 85 million people uninsured, uninsured, underinsured, while the insurance companies make huge profits, the cost of pharmaceutical drugs, prescription drugs sky high.

So, the point is, in my view, the president should tout his very good record. We have got to continue to defend women's right to control their own bodies.

But we have to deal with the reality of life today. That's what Roosevelt did back in 1936. And that is to understand that we have massive levels of corporate greed in every part of society. Very rich are getting richer. Working people are struggling.

We have got to make it clear we're going to stand with those workers. We're going to have a health care system that works for all. Lower the cost of prescription drugs. Raise the minimum wage to a living wage.


And so I think that was the message of yesterday.

BASH: You called it absolutely absurd that Republicans are gaining support, maybe even in some cases have more support for the working -- from the working class than Democrats do.


BASH: Why is that?


BASH: Why is the message that you gave in your speech...

SANDERS: Well, I...

BASH: ... that you just said right now not resonating when it's coming from the White House?

SANDERS: Well, that's a great question.

And here's the absurdity. You have a Republican Party that wants to give massive tax breaks to billionaires, a Republican Party that does not want to raise the minimum wage, a Republican Party that opposes legislation that will give workers the right to form unions, a Republican Party which wants to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

And the reason I think they do well among working-class people is, the Democrats have not been strong enough to oppose that agenda and present a strong alternative agenda. In other words, you can't be pro- labor and pro-worker unless you have the guts to take on these large, profitable corporations who are exercising an unprecedented level of corporate greed.

The American people have got to know the reason that inflation was high last year was not because primarily of the war in Ukraine or a breakdown in supply chains. It was because of corporate greed in the fossil fuel industry, in the food industry, in the pharmaceutical industry.

These guys raised prices like crazy, while they made record-breaking profits.

BASH: I want to ask you about the UAW.

In your speech, you referenced the fact that the United Auto Workers overwhelmingly approved possible strikes at three major automakers. More than 145,000 UAW workers could be on the picket line next month if a deal isn't reached.

I'm sure you have heard President Biden. He says that he's not that concerned about a strike. But do you think that he should support a strike? And do you worry that any of this and all of this could undercut an economic rebound?

SANDERS: Well, Dana, one of the, I think very positive things that's happening in America today is that working-class people are standing up and fighting back.

We have just seen the Teamsters take on UPS and win a really strong contract for their workers. We're seeing nurses all over this country stand up and fight back for decent wages and working conditions and for their patients.

Right now, what you have is, the Big Three auto industry, they are making huge profits, while real wages for those workers have not kept up with inflation over the last 10 or 20 years. So I very strongly support the UAW and their new leadership standing up and fighting back. And I certainly hope there is not going to be a strike. No one wants a strike. But the Big Three have got to understand they cannot have it all. They

can't make huge profits, give exorbitant compensation packages to their CEOs and ignore the needs of workers. So I hope they will sit down with the union and negotiate a contract that is fair to the workers in the industry.

BASH: Senator Sanders, Cornel West, who is a close ally of yours, he is running a third-party campaign for president.

He recently criticized you for endorsing President Biden's reelection. Listen to what he ahead.


CORNEL WEST, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I love the brother. Even in love, people have deep disagreements about these things.

But I think, again, he's fearful of the neofascism of Trump. People look at Biden, they don't really want to tell the full truth. He's created the best economy that we can get. Is this the best that we can get? You going to tell that lie to the people just for Biden to win?


BASH: What's your reaction to that?

SANDERS: Well, my reaction is, it certainly is not the best economy that we can create. That is was what my speech was about yesterday.

We have got a join the rest of the industrialized world, guarantee health care for all. We got to cut the cost of prescription drugs in half. We got to raise the minimum wage to at least 17 bucks an hour. We got to build the affordable housing we desperately need.

But where I disagree with my good friend Cornel West is, I think, in these really very difficult times, where there is a real question whether democracy is going to remain in the United States of America -- you know, Donald Trump is not somebody who believes in democracy -- whether women are going to be able to continue to control their own bodies, whether we have social justice in America, we end bigotry.


Around that, I think we have got to bring the entire progressive community to defeat Trump or whoever the Republican nominee will be, support Biden, but, at the same time, which is what I did yesterday, is demand that the Democratic Party, not just Biden, have the guts to take on corporate greed and the massive levels of income and wealth inequality that we see today.

BASH: Senator Bernie Sanders, appreciate your time this morning. Thank you.

SANDERS: Thank you very much.

BASH: And up next: Republican candidates are plotting their paths forward after the first 2024 debate. But who actually has the momentum and the fund-raising to prove it?

Plus: Sixty years after his March on Washington, the family of Martin Luther King Jr. is here to reflect on his legacy and what comes next.



PENCE: I really do believe, more after last night, that Donald Trump is not going to be the Republican nominee.

FMR. GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Vivek Ramaswamy was just getting too out of hand. The moderators wouldn't try to control him, so I did.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There was a kind of a lot cross-chatter that was going on. And my thing is, it's like, look, we're auditioning to be the president of the United States. I'm not here to get in a food fight.


BASH: Some-morning after reviews from the 2024 field after the very first Republican debate this week.

My panel is here with me.

Scott Jennings, let me start with you and kind of get your overall takeaway of -- let's just start with the debate.

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, my initial reaction was sort of centered on Ramaswamy because of how much he dominated the attention after the debate.

But after 24 hours of thinking about it, I really think DeSantis actually may have come out as the winner. He made no mistakes. I think he advanced himself on a couple of big-time answers, especially early on, his opening statement, sort of indicting the Biden economy.


So, I think DeSantis did himself some good. I think Nikki Haley did herself some good. I was glad to see Mike Pence turn in a feisty performance.

And, on net, I'm just not sure the shtick of Ramaswamy is going to play that well over time. I think it wore pretty thin as the night wore on.

BASH: Is there anybody on that debate stage, Nina, that would concern you as a Democrat?


(LAUGHTER) BASH: I mean as an opponent, meaning somebody who's most formidable as an opponent.


The person that wasn't on the stage, and that's Donald J. Trump. I mean, his mug shot, he took it up to a whole 'nother level, raising over $7 million since the mug shot came out. As one of the commentator -- or one of the people said on the -- commentators asked the questions -- moderators -- excuse me -- we're going to talk about the elephant that's not in the room.

Well, the elephant that wasn't in the room dominated that stage, and he continues to be, to this moment, the biggest threat.

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Dana, I was at the debate, and I was -- a couple things stood out to me.

We had eight people on the stage that clearly, in my view, had the experience, the skills and the policies to go in on day one and really do a much better job than Joe Biden or Kamala Harris and turn the economy around and get us back on track.

The other observation I had was, being in this large room of Republicans -- and these are leaders in the Republican Party -- they were wide open for turning the page. They are open to someone else besides Donald Trump, because they recognize the seriousness of, if Donald Trump were to be our nominee, this is really going to be a difficult process moving forward for the general election.

And they're looking at all of these candidates. And I agree 100 percent with Scott's assessment of the various candidates out there. DeSantis basically got off there without the cuts and bruises that he anticipated. Ramaswamy was Trump-lite.

But Nikki Haley showed many people that she not only has the foreign policy experience. She has the nuance and the appropriate response on abortion, which is a critical issue for the Republican primary, but also would be palatable in a general election.

KATE BEDINGFIELD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: But this was an opportunity for any one of those candidates to distinguish themselves, to really grab the momentum, to seize the narrative, and none of them really did.

I mean, they had this moment without Donald Trump there. And the big pieces that really came out of the debate were this moment when none of them could really be sure whether they should raise their hand or not about whether they'd support Donald Trump if he was convicted.


BASH: Let's actually play that, and we can continue your point.


BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: If former President Trump is convicted in a court of law, would you still support him as your party's choice?

Please raise your hand if you would.



BASH: As you were.

BEDINGFIELD: That is not a leadership moment.

I mean, if you look at the folks on that stage, you had a few who were willing to unabashedly put their hand up and say, I will support this person for president of the United States even if they are convicted of crimes. And then you had a handful of people who couldn't be sure and sort of looked to the left and looked to the right.

And that moment was an opportunity for leadership. We saw none of it. And we actually really just saw how the Republican Party has been entirely co-opted by Donald Trump.

So, for these candidates, if any of them are going to break out, they're going to have to find a way to take him on in a way that's compelling. And that was a moment for moral leadership. And we saw absolutely none of it.

STEWART: But they recognized what they need to do in order to win this primary. They need to keep Donald Trump's base fully on board.

And if they were to go out at this stage of the game, knowing that he is innocent until proven guilty, although we -- it does not look good for him, they have to go on and be able to thread the needle and saying, we're going to give him the benefit of the doubt at this time, and, if he is the party's nominee, I'm going to support him.

TURNER: I don't think it was about just threading the needle here. It was about the fear of Donald J. Trump. They fear his base. They fear him, and that's why they didn't have the courage.

And, quite frankly, DeSantis did not distinguish himself. He didn't deserve to be in the center of the stage. I mean, he was the main one looking around to see who else was going to support Donald Trump. He's scared of him, just like the rest of those people on the stage, for the most part.

JENNINGS: Well, if they were scared, they wouldn't be running against no.

TURNER: No, they're scared. They're running scared.

JENNINGS: I mean, the polling on this is actually really clear; 70 percent of the American people in the last Quinnipiac poll said they would not vote for a convicted felon or a convicted felon shouldn't be eligible to be president; 58 percent of Republicans said that.

BASH: So, why did they raise their hand? JENNINGS: And so my sense is, as time wears on, this is going to

become more and more clear.

But, as Alice said, Republicans are going to give Trump the benefit of the doubt until he is convicted by a jury of his peers.

TURNER: It's not just about the benefit of the doubt, though. Right. We're supposed to be innocent until proven guilty. We're going to put that in the parking lot.

This is about something that Kate just brought up, which is, they fear the Trump base, so they're going to say and do anything to ingratiate themselves to that base. And that is not courage, and that is not leadership.

BASH: Let's look at the other side of the aisle, the president, who you worked for until recently, running for reelection.


And a man that you have supported in multiple campaigns, Bernie Sanders, just had him on the show, gave a very interesting speech in New Hampshire yesterday, where he said a lot of things about the Democratic Party, about the need to kind of step up, talking about the working class and so forth.

But, also: "If we are going to defeat creeping authoritarianism and right-wing extremism, there has got to be an ideological change of course."

That was directed at the party, but, obviously, the party leader who was running for reelection, President Biden.

BEDINGFIELD: Well, I'm not actually sure that's true.

Let's take a step back. Bernie Sanders was in New Hampshire giving a speech in support of Joe Biden's agenda.


BASH: Absolutely.


BEDINGFIELD: And he just said so on your show. So...

BASH: He did.

But he's trying to help massage the message.

BEDINGFIELD: Well, and I think there's an important thing to remember here, which is that Joe Biden has spent the last now two-and-a-half years navigating an incredibly divided Congress.

And that doesn't -- you don't get carte blanche to do whatever you want. What that means, though, is that he is about getting results. And he's about working in a way that was able -- he was able to pass the most significant -- some of the most significant infrastructure investments, the most significant legislation to combat climate change.

I mean, he's made historic -- he's had historic success. And I think the other thing I would say, from having sat with Joe Biden while he was debating whether or not to run for president in 2018 and 2019, as he was thinking about it, he also believes that the Democrats have to get the working class back.

That is what Bidenomics is all about. It's all about making investments that allow middle-class family -- middle-class families and working people to get ahead. And so, in that way, he agrees with Bernie Sanders. And that's why he says there's so much more that has to be done. That's what he's running on.

STEWART: If that speech yesterday was in support of Joe Biden, I pity Joe Biden if Sanders is out there speaking out against him, because it was quite clear he was very critical of the Biden agenda, as he told you.

Sixty percent of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. Health care is a disaster. And many people are struggling. But he has the nerve to call the Republican Party the anti-work party, when Republicans are creating more policies to get people back to work and encourage entrepreneurship and encourage people to get back and make a living paycheck.

TURNER: Neither party is answering to the needs of everyday people.

And I hear Kate. I hear all of that. We got to be on the side of the people. And the people are not feeling this economy. They weren't feeling it before. None of the stressors just happened overnight because President Joe Biden is in office. Those stressors have been there, but they are being exacerbated.

When people talk about the working class, who are you talking about? Is it all working-class people, or is it just a certain group of working-class people? That is important.

JENNINGS: I thought Senator Sanders made points on the health care system and on the economy that were very troubling.

You played a clip from Cornel West.

BASH: Yes.

JENNINGS: This third-party effect in 2024 could be a real problem for the Dems.

BASH: OK, everybody, thanks for that great discussion.

Up next: Thousands filled the nation's capital this weekend to mark 60 years since the March on Washington and Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech.

So, how much progress does his family think has been made in the past six decades? They're going to join me live next.



BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION.

Tomorrow marks 60 years since the March on Washington, when Martin Luther King Jr. laid out his dreams for the future of America. This weekend, thousands gathered in the same location right here in Washington, D.C., to mark the progress that has been made since then and the challenges still ahead.

Joining me now, Martin Luther King III, Yolanda Renee King, and Arndrea Waters King.

Thank you so much for joining me, all of you. It's really an honor to see you all.

I want to start, unfortunately, with the tragic news that we saw out of Jacksonville yesterday. You were commemorating your father's historic March on Washington, and three Black Americans were shot and killed by a racist shooter in Jacksonville, Florida.

KING III: Well, first of all, I must send my condolences to the community and to the families, but also to say we were talking about one of the issues was hate and hate crimes and what's being spewed in this country.

In 2023, we are seeing an emergence of things. And it's so tragic. We have got to, as a society, find a way to navigate through issues. You don't have to like me, but we have to understand how to deal civilly with issues.

And we have got to do something to change that. And we have not -- not tomorrow. We have got to do something now. I know there's hate crimes legislation. But it's unconscionable. It's unacceptable. It's inhumane. And it's not American.

BASH: It's been six decades, as we mentioned, since your father shared his dream that, one day, you and your siblings and your daughter would live in a country that would not judge people by the color of their skin.

And you said that day still has not arrived.

KING III: No, it still -- that's the problem. People may think, in some individuals, it doesn't -- I mean, my situation personally might be different, but what about the masses of people?

Our daughter, my wife would say, which is true, has fewer rights today than she did the day she was born. The Voting Rights Act was struck down in 2013, women's reproductive rights struck down in 2022, affirmative action struck down in 2023.

So there are fewer rights than she ever had. And Arndrea may even say something about that.

BASH: Well, yes, Arndrea, I want to ask about that, and please speak to it, but also about the fact that the focus of your father-in-law's speech in 1963 was as much about sort of economic inequality as racial inequality, and how they all basically are part of the same challenge.

And those disparities still exist today. The Black unemployment rate is more than double of that of white Americans. The median household wealth for white Americans is nearly eight times that of Black Americans. Why is the gap still so persistent?

ARNDREA WATERS KING, PRESIDENT, DRUM MAJOR INSTITUTE: I think it points to the fact that we still have much work to do.

My dear friend Jennifer Jones Austin and I actually just penned an op- ed for a few days ago talking very -- with very real numbers about the disparities of poverty within the Black and white community, particularly as it relates to Black women.

And I think that we are aware of those things, and there are a lot of people that are on the ground continuing to do the work to make sure that those disparities once and for all are erased.

One of the things as well that I would like to piggyback on with Martin in talking about the march yesterday was the -- and then what happened in Jacksonville, it really was not surprising, but it certainly was heart-wrenching.


And one of the things I immediately thought about was the parallels between 1963 and literally three weeks after the original March on Washington, the bombing and the killing of four Black girls.

So, yesterday, the same day when we had almost 200,000 people gathering together to stand for democracy in our country, we saw the -- we saw what happens with hate, the very thing that we were talking about, what's going on. And for a lot of people that question, well, why were we coming back together and how different are things from 1963, it unfortunately gave the demonstration of the work and why we are and where we are in 2003 compared to 1963, which is not far at all.

BASH: And, Yolanda, you have spoken out since you were even younger than you are now about the need for change, for generational change.

Talk about that as the next generation.

YOLANDA RENEE KING, GRANDDAUGHTER OF MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.: Well, I think that, this weekend, it is the 60th -- it's the 60th anniversary of the March on Washington and the "I Have a Dream" speech.

And, 60 years ago, my grandfather delivered his dream, his message, and that was a call to action. And, 60 years later, the dream still has not been fulfilled. We are not where we need to be. And so now, and to put it, basically, blatantly and plain, that it seems like the past generations, our parents' generations, have failed us.

And so now we have to take on the responsibility to make sure that we do not to repeat the same mistake and to make sure that we fulfill the dream.

BASH: All right, well, thank you so much, all of you, for coming in. I really, really appreciate it.

And, you know, still a lot of work to do, as you said, but it is important to commemorate such a historic and critical moment led by your father and your grandfather all those years ago.

KING III: Thank you.

WATERS KING: Thank you for having us.

Y. KING: Yes, thank you for having us.

BASH: And we will be right back.



BASH: Don't go anywhere. We have got another whole hour of STATE OF THE UNION.

I will be joined by former Trump impeachment manager Jamie Raskin on the latest from Georgia, Republican presidential candidate Asa Hutchinson after his debate performance, and Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker on Joe Biden's bid for reelection, and another all-star panel.

Plus, next Sunday, a special edition of "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS," "Artificial Intelligence: Its Promise and Peril," right here on CNN at 10:00 a.m. Eastern. You won't want to miss it.

Stay with us. STATE OF THE UNION will be right back.