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State of the Union
Interview With Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel; Interview With Fmr. Gov. Larry Hogan (R-MD); Interview With Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Aired 9-10a ET
Aired November 12, 2023 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DANA BASH, CNN HOST (voice-over): At war. A note of caution from the U.S.
ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Far too many Palestinians have been killed.
BASH: As Israeli forces pound Gaza...
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): We are increasing pressure on Hamas every hour, every day.
BASH: ... what's his war plan? Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu joins me live for his first CNN interview since Hamas' terror attack inside Israel.
Then, U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan is here.
Plus: the right to vote. Voters send Republicans another message on abortion rights. How will the GOP adapt?
RONNA MCDANIEL, CHAIR, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: We have to address this issue.
BASH: I will ask the chairwoman of the Republican Party, Ronna McDaniel, ahead.
And it's complicated. A new Democratic headache.
SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): I will not be running for reelection.
BASH: But will he run for president? And what does an already crowded third-party presidential lane mean for a Biden reelection?
Former Obama senior adviser David Axelrod and former Republican Governor Larry Hogan join me ahead.
BASH: Hello. I'm Dana Bash in Washington, where the state of our union is watching global tensions rise even further. This morning, attention in the Middle East is focused on worsening
humanitarian crises in Gaza, as Israel faces growing pressure to take civilians more into consideration as it prosecutes its war against the terrorist group Hamas following its barbaric October 7 attacks on Israeli civilians.
At Gaza's Al Shifa Hospital, doctors tell CNN the outlook for patients there becomes more desperate by the hour, low on food, water and fuel and largely without power, amid heavy fighting in the area.
This morning, Israel said it opened a self-evacuation corridor from the medical center for people to move south. The civilian crisis has prompted a shift in approach by the Biden administration, which says too many Palestinians have died in the conflict, while Israel, yesterday, what we saw there were families of hostages taken by Hamas demanding that they be more prioritized, the rescue comes soon.
Joining me now is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Sir, thank you so much for joining me.
Let's start with what's happening at that hospital. Israeli forces have said that they are engaged in intense fighting around Al Shifa Hospital, the largest medical facility in Gaza. I know that you say that the hospital sits on top of a Hamas command-and-control center, but, of course, there are also patients, civilians sheltering in that complex, getting treatment.
So, how do you intend to go after Hamas without putting sick and injured civilians in that hospital at more risk than they already are?
NETANYAHU: Well, we have called to evacuate all the patients from that hospital.
And, in fact, 100 or so have already been evacuated. I have called for field hospitals. The French president has sent a floating hospital ship. I have asked the Emirates to send a field hospital. They have. And other countries have done the same. I expect the U.N. to build it soon.
There's no reason why we just can't take the patients out of there, instead of letting Hamas use it as a command center for terrorism, for the rockets that they fire against Israel, for the terror tunnels that they use to kill Israeli civilians.
Remember, Dana, let's keep this in focus. Just imagine what would happen if the United States were attacked viciously by 20 9/11s, 20 -- that's the proportionate number -- 50,000 Americans killed, 10,000 Americans held hostages, including babies, elderly, women, children, 10,000 rockets falling on your cities.
That's the number of rockets that are falling all the time on our cities, may fall during this interview, in fact, and we will have to go to a shelter. That's what's happening.
So what would America do? It would take all its force and go after these killers. And what if these killers embed themselves in hospitals, in schools, in U.N. facilities? You do everything in your power to get the civilians out, which is what we're doing.
NETANYAHU: We call them to leave.
But you certainly wouldn't give immunity to the terrorists. So we're obviously treading carefully when it comes to hospitals. But we're also not going to give immunity to the terrorists. And so far, even though Hamas has tried to prevent the civilians from leaving, hundreds of thousands have left...
BASH: But just...
NETANYAHU: ... sometimes having to go through Hamas gunpoint and gunfire...
BASH: Just to be clear, sir...
NETANYAHU: ... that wants to keep them in harm's way.
BASH: Just to be clear, sir, Israel will aid, help these civilians who are quite sick and inside these hospitals come out, not just in Al Shifa, but there are other hospitals where this is happening?
NETANYAHU: Yes. Yes. We're telling them to leave.
BASH: Telling them or helping them?
NETANYAHU: And, in fact, we're creating, Dana -- safe -- helping them by creating safe corridors. So we have designated routes to a safe zone south of Gaza City, where there's no fighting.
And we're telling them, go ahead, move. And, by the way, 70,000 have moved three days ago. I think 50,000 moved yesterday. More will move today. We want all the civilians to be removed out of harm's way. And Hamas is doing everything in their power to keep them in harm's way.
BASH: Do you believe...
NETANYAHU: They put missiles below -- yes, go ahead.
BASH: Do you believe that there are hostages below that hospital, Israeli or American hostages?
NETANYAHU: Well, I'm not going to go into the intelligence picture we have, but this -- there's been this vicious thing.
They take hostages. Imagine a baby is held hostage. Who takes a baby hostage? I don't know if you have children, Dana. I'm sure your camera crew has them. We all have children. What is this taking children hostages, threatening to kill them?
I mean, this is savagery of the highest order. So, obviously we're doing everything in our power to achieve two things, one, destroy Hamas, because, without it, none of us have a future. And it's not only our war. It's your war too. It's the battle of civilization against barbarism. And if we don't win here, this scourge will pass. The Middle East will pass to other places.
NETANYAHU: The Middle East will fall. Europe is next. You will be next.
BASH: Can I...
NETANYAHU: But it's -- the first goal is to destroy Hamas. And the second goal is to bring back our hostages. We're trying to do both.
BASH: Yes. So those are completely understandable goals, goals that the United States very much supports, understanding that Hamas is a barbaric terrorist organization.
But Israel is not Hamas. And the United States also makes very clear that democracies have to do better. The secretary of state, Tony Blinken, said that far too many Palestinian civilians have been killed. What is your response to that?
NETANYAHU: I think any civilian loss is a tragedy. And it should -- the blame should be placed squarely on Hamas, because it prevents them from leaving the war zone, sometimes at gunpoint.
It's fired on the safe zone and the safe corridor that we enacted the other day to prevent Palestinians from leaving harm's way. It puts rockets inside the schools, hospitals. It has tunnels below children's beds. This is what we're dealing with.
BASH: Absolutely, but...
NETANYAHU: So, obviously, we can't give them immunity.
BASH: But because Israel isn't Hamas, is Israel doing everything possible to take that into consideration and avoid civilian casualties?
NETANYAHU: Yes, yes, Dana, and more than that, and more than that.
We're trying to minimize civilian casualties. As a result of our ground action, I think the number of civilian casualties is actually being reduced, because people are heeding our calls to leave the area and defying Hamas' attempt to keep them there. And we will do everything in our power to do that.
But the one example I could give you is this. Look, these savages, they perpetrated the worst horrors on Jews since the Holocaust. The German chancellor, Scholz, called them the new Nazis. Well, look at the old Nazis. The Allies were attacked by Hitler, and so they invaded France and then Germany. And when they did that, they went into the cities. They had to fight the German army that was often embedded in civilian -- in the cities...
NETANYAHU: ... in civilian neighborhoods. And many civilians were killed.
So, who was the blame laid on? Did they say, well, the Nazis are -- the Allies are wrong, the Allies should stop fighting? Or they said, look, use forces judiciously as you can, but don't give the Nazis any refuge, defeat the Nazis, which is what we're doing.
BASH: Prime Minister...
NETANYAHU: We're using force in the most judicious way, but we have to defeat these new Nazis. And we will, for our sake, for your sake too.
BASH: I want to ask about the hostages.
Thousands of Israelis, including families of hostages, rallied this weekend, right across the street from where you are right now. They're very frustrated that they're not getting more information from you and where their loved ones are, believe that the government, your government, is not doing enough to get them back.
What do you say to them?
NETANYAHU: It's understandable. They're under tremendous distress. They're under just torture.
You can imagine that, to have your father, your husband, your son, your daughter taken by these savages...
BASH: Are you doing enough?
NETANYAHU: ... and held at -- yes, we're doing everything we can around the clock.
And I can't talk about it. I have personally met with the hostage families -- families of hostages several times. And it's -- it just tears your heart out.
But, yes, we're doing everything and many things that I can't say here, obviously, but this is one of our two war goals. I mean, one is to destroy Hamas, and the second is to bring back our hostages. And we will do everything we can.
And we think the entire world should join us, demand from the Red Cross, that it demand visits to the hostages. Demand the unconditional release of the hostages. Say that this is barbarism that is unacceptable, unacceptable.
I'd like to see the U.N., I'd like to see the U.N. secretary-general, who basically laid the blame on Israel, lay the blame on these savages, demand that they obey international law, because Israel is fighting according to international law.
NETANYAHU: The Israeli army is doing an exemplary job trying to minimize civilian casualties and maximize terrorist casualties. But we need the international community not to give succor, support, and moral support and legitimacy to sheer evil that Hamas represents.
Support Israel. Attack Hamas.
BASH: Prime Minister Netanyahu, the -- one of the questions right now is -- when it comes to hostages, is whether there can be a negotiation that work towards -- works towards a deal to free large groups of hostages in exchange for a sustained, days-long pause in fighting.
Is that acceptable to you? And, if so, how long of a pause would Israel be willing to allow?
NETANYAHU: I said that we're going to pursue the battle to destroy Hamas to its end.
But I also said that the only cease-fire that we would consider is one in which we have our hostages released. And that remains true. It doesn't mean that we can't give humanitarian pause for a few hours in a place, a specific time and place where we want to have a humanitarian corridor and have the people leave safely.
We have done that, and hundreds of thousands have left the fighting zone in that fashion.
BASH: So how long of a pause would you be willing to support?
NETANYAHU: Well, so far we have dealt with a few hours. If you're talking about a cease-fire, well, I'm not going to get into that, but...
BASH: No, I'm not talking about a cease-fire, just a longer pause, days, for example.
NETANYAHU: That's not a pause. If you're talking about stopping the fighting, that's exactly what Hamas wants. Hamas wants an endless series of pauses that basically dissipate the battle against them.
It's like the Germans after Normandy. They say, OK, let's have a cease-fire. You guys hold off. Let us replenish our supplies. Let us get out of our terror tunnels. Let us rearm ourselves and so on.
Obviously, we're not going to do that. But in order to have...
BASH: The U.S. says that you need a...
NETANYAHU: In order to have a cease-fire of any -- a cease-fire in the entire area, that will require the release of our hostages.
BASH: The U.S. says that you need an extended pause in order to get the hostages out. Do you not...
NETANYAHU: Yes, well...
BASH: ... believe that as well?
NETANYAHU: Well, we don't -- we don't disagree with that. We need to get our hostages out.
The U.S. also says that any postwar plan for Gaza must include Palestinian-led governance and Gaza unified with the West Bank under the Palestinian Authority. You appeared to reject that yesterday. You said Israel will not accept a -- quote -- "civilian authority there that educates its children to hate Israel."
So I just want to be clear. Are you saying that Israel would not accept giving control of Gaza over to the Palestinian Authority after the war?
NETANYAHU: First -- the first thing we have to do is destroy Hamas, because, otherwise, they will do it again and again and again. And they have said so. So we will destroy Hamas.
The second thing we have to understand is that there has to be an overriding and overreaching Israeli military envelope, because we have seen, any place that we leave, we just exit, give it to some other force, very soon, terrorism resurgence, so we have achieved nothing.
The third thing we have to understand is that a civilian authority has to cooperate in two goals. One is to demilitarize Gaza, and the second is to de-radicalize Gaza. And I have to say that the Palestinian Authority has unfortunately failed on both counts.
They don't demilitarize the West Bank, Judea and Samaria. We have to do it. We have to go in and fight the terrorists. They don't de- radicalize. They teach their children the hatred of Israel. They do pay for slay -- they pay for terrorist murderers and their families. The more Jews they kill, the more they pay.
They refuse, to this day, 36 days after this savagery, to condemn what Hamas did on November (sic) 7.
BASH: So, if not the P.A., then who?
BASH: If not the P.A., then who?
NETANYAHU: Well, there has to be a -- there has to be a reconstructed civilian authority. There has to be something else.
Otherwise, we're just falling into that same rabbit hole, and we're going to have the same result. Remember, the P.A. was already in Gaza. When Israel left Gaza, it handed the keys over to the P.A. And what happened? Within a very short time, Hamas took over, kicked them out. They weren't willing to fight Hamas. They're still not willing to fight Hamas.
So, you have to have some kind of authority, civilian Palestinian authority, that is willing to fight the terrorists and educating -- and, importantly, must educate their children for a future of peace, peace, cooperation, prosperity, cooperation with Israel, not the annihilation of Israel.
NETANYAHU: And, so far, that hasn't happened. The burden of proof is on the P.A., and they failed every single count.
I say that regrettably, but honestly. We have to be realistic about what we expect. We can't fall back on formulas that failed. We have to succeed, to succeed to give Gaza a better future, not bring it to a failed past.
NETANYAHU: Let's create a different reality there.
BASH: Prime Minister Netanyahu, before I let you go, I know you have been asked this several times, but I have had multiple people inside Israel reach out to me knowing that I was going to interview you and say the one thing they want to hear from you is that you take personal responsibility for failing to prevent the October 7 attacks and protecting your people.
I know you say the time for that will come after the war. Why won't you take responsibility now?
NETANYAHU: I have already addressed that many times.
And I said this whole question will be addressed after the war. Just as people would ask...
BASH: Why not now?
NETANYAHU: Well, did people ask Franklin Roosevelt after Pearl Harbor that question? Did people ask George Bush after the surprise attack of November (sic) 11?
Look, it's a question that needs to be asked.
BASH: I think those questions were asked.
NETANYAHU: And these questions will be asked.
And I have said -- and I have said -- I have said that one thing that is important, and I have said, we're going to answer all these questions, including me. I'm going to be asked tough questions. Right now, I think what we have to do is unite the country for one purpose, one purpose alone, and that is to achieve victory.
That's what I did. We formed a unity government, where the country is united as never before. And I think that's what we have to pursue. And what the people expect me to do right now is two things, one, achieve this victory and bring the hostages back, and, second, assure that Gaza never becomes a threat to Israel again.
And to Israelis who are disappointed that you still won't take responsibility, you say?
NETANYAHU: Well, I said that I'm going to answer all the questions that are required, including the questions of responsibility. There will be enough time for that after the war. Let's focus on victory.
That's my responsibility now.
BASH: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, thank you so much for your time this morning. I appreciate it.
NETANYAHU: Thank you, Dana.
BASH: And up next: As we have talked about a word of caution this week from the U.S. to Israel, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan will be here.
And also coming up: How much could a third-party candidate hurt Joe Biden's chances for reelection? David Axelrod and Larry Hogan will be here ahead.
BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION.
A notable shift this week from the U.S. in its approach to America's close ally Israel. At the White House, President Biden expressed frustration over Israel's resistance to implementing humanitarian pauses inside Gaza. And, overseas, the U.S. secretary of state, Tony Blinken, said -- quote -- "Far too many Palestinians have been killed" and more needed to be done to keep civilians safe.
Here with me now is President Biden's national security adviser, Jake Sullivan.
Thank you so much for being here this morning.
I just want to be clear. Does Israel need to do more to limit civilian casualties?
JAKE SULLIVAN, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Well, first, Dana, every loss of innocent life, Palestinian, Israeli, anyone, is a tragedy, every single one. And we grieve for those who have been lost, those innocent lives who have been lost.
At the same time, what Israel is facing is a terrorist enemy who hides among civilians, who uses civilians as human shields. And so it has an added burden of trying to prosecute this campaign against that terrorist group while distinguishing between terrorists and innocent civilians.
That doesn't lessen its responsibility to operate according to the rules of war, and we have continued to make that point both publicly and privately, and we will continue to do so as we go forward.
BASH: Is Israel operating according to the rules of war?
SULLIVAN: Well, Dana, I'm not going to sit here and play judge or jury on that question.
What I'm going to do is state the principle of the United States on this issue, which is straightforward. Israel has a right, indeed, a responsibility to defend itself against a terrorist group that just in the last couple of weeks has come out and said that it would like to repeat October 7 over and over again until Israel no longer exists.
A Hamas spokesman on the front page of "The New York Times" said the entire objective of the group is permanent state of war with Israel. And so that is what Israel is up against. At the same time, as I have said and as President Biden and Secretary Blinken have said, we are democracies.
And, as democracies, we have to be different and we have to abide by the rules of war. We have to do our utmost to protect innocent civilians. And that means being targeted and careful in military operations to try to reduce and to try to avoid any loss of civilian life.
BASH: On that note, Israel says its forces are engaged in intense fighting around the Al Shifa Hospital, the largest in Gaza.
Doctors Without Borders says there are some 600 patients, including infants, in that hospital with no food, water or electricity. Now, Israel says that beneath that hospital is a major Hamas command-and- control center.
First of all, is that the U.S. understanding?
SULLIVAN: Well, Dana, I'm afraid I can't get into intelligence matters.
But you can see even from open-source reporting that Hamas does use hospitals, along with a lot of other civilian facilities, for command- and-control, for storing weapons, for housing its fighters. And so, without getting into this specific hospital or that specific claim, this is Hamas' track record, both historically and in this conflict.
BASH: Well, Israel says that it is.
SULLIVAN: And, again, that puts an added burden on Israel. BASH: Israel says that Hamas is using this hospital as a place to
control and command, command and control their terrorist activities.
What is the U.S. position?
And what I'm saying is that I can't speak to intelligence matters here live on camera with you. I can just say that we know from a lot of different sources, including open-sources that are not classified...
SULLIVAN: ... that this is a common practice of Hamas.
BASH: So, given that -- the reason I ask the question, of course, is, how should Israel proceed with this hospital, given the fact that not only are there civilians in this hospital, but there are sick and injured civilians in this hospital?
SULLIVAN: Well, Dana, I think your question just points up the difficulty and complexity of this conflict.
You have got a terrorist group using civilians as human shields, even using sick and injured civilians as human shields. And you have got, at the same time, an Israeli Defense Force that is seeking to try to root out this terrorist group and to make sure that it can no longer represent a threat to Israel.
And the hospital puts this question into stark relief. But the bottom line for the United States is that we do not want to see firefights in a hospital. We do not want to see innocent patients who are sick or wounded be injured or killed in the crossfire. So, that is how we look at this issue, and that is how we are communicating with our Israeli counterparts.
BASH: Jake, there are still more than 200 hostages being held in Gaza, including a number of Americans.
A senior U.S. official tells CNN that negotiators are working towards a deal to free a large number of hostages in exchange for a sustained, long pause in fighting. How close are you to a deal on that, and how many Americans does the administration believe are still being held by Hamas?
SULLIVAN: Well, I don't want to predict how close we are, because I have thought we have been close before, and we haven't quite gotten there.
What I can say is, there are active, intensive negotiations under way involving Israel, Qatar. The United States is engaged in those negotiations. Egypt and other countries are also engaged. And the goal here is to do what is necessary at the negotiating table to ensure that we get the safe return of all of the hostages, including the Americans.
And we currently have nine Americans who are missing, one green card holder who is missing. We don't know the status, whether they are alive or whether they have passed away, but we are looking to get the safe recovery of all of those individuals.
And we're staying in close touch with their families. In fact, I will be meeting with the families of the American hostages this week.
BASH: Let's look ahead to a postwar situation.
The administration, your administration has warned that it would be a mistake for Israel to occupy Gaza, indicating that the Biden administration thinks that the Palestinian Authority should take over after the war.
Prime Minister Netanyahu says Israel will not accept a -- quote -- "civilian authority there that educates its children to hate Israel" and says that Israel will insist on full security control in Gaza.
What's your response?
SULLIVAN: Well, first, I think the prime minister will have to speak to exactly what he meant by each of those comments.
With respect to the full security control, I think he's made some clarifying comments. We have been very clear about our position, and you referenced it, which is, there can be no reoccupation of Gaza, there can be no forcible displacement of the Palestinian people from Gaza, and there can be no reduction in the territory of Gaza.
And also, at the same time, Dana, Gaza can never be used again as a terrorist base from which to attack Israel. Those are our basic bottom lines. We have also said that we think that there should be unified political leadership across both the West Bank and Gaza.
The Palestinian Authority is the political leadership in the West Bank. Over the long term, of course, the determination of how the West Bank and Gaza are governed will be up to the Palestinian people.
BASH: Jake, I want to ask you before I let you go about a highly anticipated meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping this week in California.
The president is big on believing that personal diplomacy and talks in person can work, and he's gotten to know President Xi very well over the years. Can the summit really reverse months of tension between the U.S. and China? And, specifically, is it possible that the disintegration of communication between U.S. and Chinese military could be one thing that is restored after this?
SULLIVAN: Well, it's a great question.
First, you're right. President Biden believes there is no substitute for leader-to-leader engagement, face to face, to manage a complex relationship like the U.S.-China relationship. And that's what we're trying to do here.
The U.S. and China are in competition. President Biden is trying to manage that competition responsibly, so it doesn't tip over into conflict. And he's looking for areas where we can work together where it's in our mutual interests to do so.
When it comes to managing the relationship, ties and communications between our two militaries are critical. The Chinese have basically severed those communication links. President Biden would like to reestablish them. And he will look to this summit as an opportunity to try to advance the ball on that.
I won't get ahead of any announcements that might come out of it, but this is a top agenda item. And he's also looking for other practical ways to show the American people that sitting down with Xi Jinping can defend American interests and also deliver progress on the priorities of the American people.
BASH: Jake Sullivan, thank you so much for being here. Appreciate it.
SULLIVAN: Thanks for having me.
BASH: Even on the debate stage, Republicans said their party had a bad week.
I will talk to the GOP chairwoman, Ronna McDaniel, about the message voters sent on Tuesday. That's next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VIVEK RAMASWAMY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am upset about what happened last night. We have become a party of losers, at the end of the day.
For that matter, Ronna, if you want to come on stage tonight, you want to look the GOP voters in the eye and tell them you resign, I will turn over my -- yield my time to you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION.
GOP presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy going scorched earth during this week's GOP debate. And, this weekend, he's back at it. He's now suggesting a candidate to replace Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, after another disappointing election night for Republicans on Tuesday.
The RNC chairwoman, Ronna McDaniel, is here with me now.
Thank you so much for being here.
He did double down, Vivek Ramaswamy. He tweeted that he wants an interim chair to take over until the next RNC meeting in January. Your response?
MCDANIEL: Yes, last I checked, I wasn't running for president. He's at 4 percent. He's looking for headlines.
I think what Republicans really want to hear from our candidates right now in terms of headlines is, how are we going to take on Joe Biden, how are we going to take on the border, crime, fentanyl, restore our kids' education? What's happening with Israel? There are so many things that Republican voters, Democrat voters, independent voters want to hear from our candidates.
So he can do that. That's OK. But I will continue to say to everyone, we should be taking on Democrats, not each other. The circular firing squad, this attacking other Republicans, like we saw with Kevin McCarthy, like we have been seeing over and over again, it is hurting us. And we have a map in 2024 where we can win the White House, take back the Senate and win the House.
BASH: Personal attacks against you aside, if you look at what Republicans have dealt with over the last few years, Republicans lost the White House in 2020, did not win the Senate back in 2022.
The House has a Republican majority, but it's so narrow they can barely govern. And, on Tuesday, on the state level, Republicans lost big in Virginia and in Kentucky. Are Republicans right to be frustrated?
MCDANIEL: I understand being frustrated. Of course, we want to win.
And I look at the RNC, though, and I'm proud of what we're doing. I mean, we're a turnout machine. We don't do the messaging. The candidates do with their pollsters and their campaigns. But I look at our minority outreach that we're doing and the growth we have seen with Hispanic and Asian voters.
I look at 2022. Republicans won the popular vote. We turned out four million more voters, and we would have won the Electoral College. The RNC builds the road. All the candidates drive on it. You need a good candidate and a good road to get to your destination.
And the things we're doing right now with our Bank Your Vote initiative and with 70 lawsuits that we're in -- we just won one in New Hampshire that upholds voter I.D. -- on top of our engagement with minority communities, I'm really proud of what the RNC does.
BASH: One of the big takeaways from this past Tuesday's election, from the Democrats' point of view, is that making abortion front and center in elections wins.
And you said this week that -- quote -- "Our candidates have lost their messaging on abortion."
What should Republicans' message be on abortion?
MCDANIEL: Dana, I have been talking about this with you. I have been on your show talking about this since 2022.
I am a suburban woman. I get this. We actually put a memo out before the elections in 2022. It's up to the candidates if they take those suggestions. As I always say, if I give my husband directions in the car, it doesn't mean he's going to take them, right?
But we have to talk about this. I'm going to point to a candidate in Virginia that did a fantastic job, Danny Diggs. He won a Senate race. He put his daughter in an ad, and she was compassionate. She understood women. She wasn't coming at them as criminals because they have different -- differences of opinion.
And she articulated her dad's position.
BASH: Which is?
MCDANIEL: His position was, we should have commonsense limitations.
I mean, why can't the Democrats come to that? Why can't they say, listen, we now know through science from 50 years ago a baby feels pain as its life is being taken at 15 weeks. Can't you at least come here? Why are Democrats continuing to double down on 39 weeks, 38 weeks?
MCDANIEL: What is an abortion they're against?
BASH: Ronna, that there are -- most Democrats don't support abortion until -- until the end.
MCDANIEL: But why don't they say it? But they don't say that.
BASH: And that -- and if there is, if something like that happens that far along, it means something is really wrong. And you know that.
MCDANIEL: Yes, but that's life of a mother, which is an exception.
But there are states, five or six, that have it until 39 weeks.
MCDANIEL: So why don't you say, you know what, if we don't support that, let's come to this consensus position? And that's what this candidate in Virginia did. And he did an excellent job. And he won that race.
BASH: So what you're saying is, it's a little bit of a position question, but it's also a message problem.
But if you look at the actual results on Tuesday -- just take Ohio, which is effectively a red state right now -- it wasn't a message problem. It was a policy problem. People voted overwhelmingly to allow abortion rights. They wanted it embedded in the constitution.
MCDANIEL: I think there was a message problem. The way that bill was framed was, like, disingenuous to the voters. And there's a spending issue.
This has galvanized money on the left. It was a 2-1 ratio in Ohio of spending. In Virginia, Democrats spent nine times more on abortion ads than Republicans. My point is, as Republicans, we cannot let Democrats fearmonger on this issue.
We, of course, want lifesaving care for miscarriages. We support lifesaving care for ectopic pregnancies and IVF. And they are going on TV and using Roe to scare people and misrepresent Republicans on this issue.
And I think our candidates have to get out in front of it.
BASH: Well, also, when you talk about what went on in Ohio, that it was misrepresented, you could argue that the Republicans misrepresented it too by saying that there were rules on that measure that weren't actually there.
But on just the bigger picture, are you saying that you believe it is a messaging problem? You don't believe Republicans have a problem with the overall policy? That, over and over again, not just public opinion polls, but actual votes, seven states have voted overwhelmingly, including very red states, to allow for abortion.
So why aren't Republicans just looking at that and saying, we're just on the wrong side of this policy-wise?
MCDANIEL: I think commonsense limitations is where the country is. I do.
I think most Americans do think that there should be a limitation when you know a baby feels pain as you're taking its life at 15 weeks. I think that's where -- Republicans are saying this. They're saying this is a consensus position. You're seeing many of the candidates for president saying that.
And they're welcoming the Democrats, why don't you meet us here? It is a personal issue.
BASH: So, just one last question on this. You're saying 15 weeks.
There are candidates who are running for president who say six weeks. Is that too far?
MCDANIEL: There's candidates who are doing different things in their states, and that's what their state will allow.
But I think everybody's saying to the Democrats, listen, I'm pro-life.
BASH: What about... MCDANIEL: I'm proud to be pro-life, but how about you come meet us?
BASH: What about a federal ban?
MCDANIEL: That's a policy issue, and that's going to be up to the politicians to decide that.
I don't think that you can just say it's a states issue. I think we're going to have to talk about this.
BASH: Former President Trump, who is the far and away front-runner, said in a -- what was supposed to be a Veterans Day message -- quote -- "In honor of our great veterans on Veterans Day, we pledge to you that we will root out the communist, Marxist, fascist and radical left thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country."
And then he went on. I mean, vermin in a Veterans Day message? How is that different from the now-infamous deplorables comment that Hillary Clinton made?
MCDANIEL: I'm not going to talk about candidates that are in a contested primary.
That's -- you can talk to him about what he's saying.
BASH: Will you condemn that?
MCDANIEL: You can talk to him about what he's saying. I haven't seen the whole speech. But what I will say is...
BASH: No, it was a post on social media.
MCDANIEL: Obviously, we support our veterans.
And we're in a primary right now. And the RNC is doing our best to make sure we're getting our candidates visibility, as we are taking on Biden. And this is what I hear every day, Dana. People can't afford groceries. They can't afford to fill their car up with gas. They think this country is on the wrong track.
They want to see our party fight for them, and they want to see us win in November.
BASH: If those are the issues, if you end up having Donald Trump as your nominee, and if he is convicted of a crime, do you believe that he would be the appropriate nominee for the Republican Party?
MCDANIEL: Whoever the voters choose is the appropriate nominee.
BASH: Even if he's a convicted criminal?
MCDANIEL: I know this is newsworthy, but, as party chair, I'm going to support who the voters choose.
And, yes, if they choose Donald Trump -- the voters are looking at this, and they think there is a two-tiered system of justice. They don't believe a lot of the things that are coming out in this. And they're making these decisions. And you're seeing that reflected in the polls.
BASH: Before we go, there's another presidential debate coming up.
BASH: Given where we are with Donald Trump, again, far and ahead in every single poll in every single state, do you still see value in presidential debates with the candidates who make the stage?
MCDANIEL: I do.
And I actually think some of the things we have done with this debate process have been very instrumental. We started with 14 candidates. In 2015, going into Iowa, there were still two stages. There were still 10 candidates in that race.
We're now down to five on the debate stage with stricter polling criteria and small-dollar donor limits. I think that's been good. It's also helping us engage our volunteers. We have signed up 30,000 through these debates.
BASH: So will you have debates, commit to debates through the first two nominating contests, Iowa, New Hampshire?
MCDANIEL: We're taking debate at a time, and we're going to continue to evaluate.
BASH: Ronna McDaniel, thank you so much for being here.
MCDANIEL: Thanks for having me.
BASH: Up next: Is Joe Manchin going to run for president? And could my next guest join him on the ticket?
Larry Hogan and David Axelrod -- he's not the one who would be on the ticket -- they will join me after a quick break.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE")
JAMES AUSTIN JOHNSON, ACTOR: How adorable.
JOHNSON: They actually think they have got a chance, sad in some ways, but, in other ways, funny.
JOHNSON: Can you believe it, folks? Ninety-one indictments, four trials, and I'm still the best choice. (END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: The "SNL" treatment there.
Here with me now to talk about a huge political week, former Obama senior adviser David Axelrod and former Republican Governor of Maryland Larry Hogan.
Thanks to both of you for being here.
Governor Hogan, I will start with you.
The senator from West Virginia, Joe Manchin, seems to be eying the possibility of joining the No Labels unity ticket. What do you think about that, as somebody who is involved with No Labels? And might you join him?
FMR. GOV. LARRY HOGAN (R-MD): Would Joe's been involved in No Labels for a long time.
I have got a tremendous amount of respect for him, and I think this was a tough decision for him. But I think he made the right decision, after looking at the possibility of not winning a reelection in West Virginia.
I'm not sure whether -- look, one thing Joe Manchin is pretty good at is staying in the center of attention, and he definitely wants to continue, like I do, continue to be a part of the discussion. But I'm not sure whether all of this hype this week is going to turn into a presidential campaign or not, frankly.
BASH: Should it?
HOGAN: Look, I think that we have got two really weak potential nominees.
And, frankly, I keep saying that I'm hopeful that we can nominate -- the Republican Party can nominate someone other than Donald Trump. And that's what I'm working toward.
And, quite frankly, I agree with David Axelrod that maybe -- I probably will go further than him and say that Joe Biden is probably -- is not the strongest nominee for the Democrats, that it's probably in his best interest and his family's and the party's and the country's if he were to step aside.
DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He did go farther than me.
AXELROD: What I said was he ought to think about it. And he ought to think about it only because there are certain -- I
have no concerns about polls a year out. I mean, you have to look at them and analyze them and adjust. But I was in a situation as a strategist for Barack Obama in 2011 where we were facing some difficult polls.
The one number in the polling that was concerning and in the CNN poll that followed after "The New York Times" poll had to do with age. And that's one thing you can't reverse. And no matter how effective Joe Biden is behind the scenes, in front of the camera, what he's projecting is causing people concerns.
AXELROD: And that's worrisome.
But, listen, if Larry -- Larry's working hard to get a different nominee than Donald Trump, he's got to work harder...
HOGAN: Yes. Well, that's true. I'm...
AXELROD: ... because, right now, it -- the high likelihood is that he's going to be the nominee of the Republican Party.
And it's -- look, there are about 70 percent of the people in America that do not want Joe Biden or Donald Trump to be president. And I think that's why you're seeing all of these other potentials. It's why there are currently three other Democrats who are already running against Biden in the general election.
And now we're talking about potentially having a fourth. But there are an awful lot of people that just are looking for some other alternative. And I think we're a long way off from Super Tuesday.
HOGAN: But I really -- I think we don't know what it's going to look like.
AXELROD: Well, one of my concerns, Dana and Larry, is that this isn't a normal election.
And notwithstanding what I said about Joe Biden, because I think he's done some extraordinary things as president and has a record to run on, but on the other side is Donald Trump. And he's not a normal candidate. And the stakes are not normal stakes. This is not a choice between people with differing philosophies.
AXELROD: This is a choice between a candidate who believes in democracy and a candidate who does not.
(CROSSTALK) HOGAN: But, David, in spite of that, though...
AXELROD: And so I worry about this third -- Larry, let me just finish.
AXELROD: Go ahead, Larry.
HOGAN: Well, in spite of that, though, Joe Biden is losing nearly in every single poll in every single key state.
And you currently have a Democrat, Kennedy, pulling 22 to 24 percent of the vote.
BASH: Well, I want to get in there on this. Let me get in there on this.
HOGAN: So, it's not really about what No Labels might do. You have Cornel West. You have got Jill Stein.
AXELROD: Let's give Dana a word.
HOGAN: Yes, go ahead, please, Dana.
BASH: I want to just follow up to what both of you are talking about, but what you started to say, David, about you're clearly concerned about a third-party run and how much that would hurt Joe Biden and help Donald Trump if he is the nominee.
BASH: Before that even happens, there is another threat inside the Democratic Party.
I'm not saying that Joe Biden has any real threat to lose the nomination at this point, but I just want you to listen to what Minnesota Congressman and Democratic presidential candidate Dean Phillips, who is now running, as I mentioned, told Kasie Hunt in New Hampshire. '
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DEAN PHILLIPS (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Bidenomics is not working. I respect the president. I want to make it very clear. He's a good man. He saved our country. I think in 2020 he was probably the only Democrat who could have beaten Donald Trump.
I think, in 2024, he may be among the only ones that will lose to him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Does he have a point?
HOGAN: I agree with that completely.
AXELROD: Well, look, first of all, the odd thing about what -- the odd thing about what he was saying is that he has supported almost everything that Joe Biden has done in the Congress. So I don't know if he's -- that's sort of a self-entitlement.
Look, I said what I said. I think that there's one issue that is hanging over him. The country's in a sour mood, no doubt about it. It's hard to be an incumbent, and it's been in a sour mood since before he was elected. There are concerns about inflation. That's a problem. Those can be overcome.
And I think, with Donald Trump on the other end, he can still win this election. But the age issue is difficult. And so -- and Phillips is trying to exploit that. I believe Joe Biden's going to be the nominee of the Democratic Party.
And, right now, you were getting to the third-party point. My concern is that Joe -- that Donald Trump has a high floor and a low ceiling. And you throw a bunch of third-party candidates in there, and you are making it much more likely that he wins the election.
BASH: And, Governor, talk to that, because I don't know that there are many Republicans who disliked Donald Trump more than you do.
Would you do anything to get a candidate, if it's yourself or somebody else, into the race that would effectively give the presidency back to Donald Trump?
HOGAN: Look, I have no -- no desire whatsoever to enable Donald Trump. I'm doing everything I possibly can to stop Donald Trump.
But, again, I will reiterate what I said earlier. We're not -- we're talking about a third party and what Joe Manchin or I or others might do. There are already three candidates running in the general election as independents, and they're all Democrats.
So I don't know why all the focus is on No Labels. There's a guy right now getting 22 percent that's a Democrat that he ought to be concerned about.
BASH: Yes, all the focus isn't there. But just my question is, would you want to add to that?
HOGAN: No. I think Joe Manchin and I and others have said over and over and over again that we would not do this to be a spoiler. We'd only be in it to win it.
BASH: All right, thanks to you both. Appreciate it, nice, lively discussion.
AXELROD: Good to see you, Dana.
HOGAN: Thank you.
AXELROD: See you, Larry.
BASH: And I have been looking at to a frightening explosion in antisemitism, especially on college campuses, including a violent incident involving two students at Tulane University.
BASH (voice-over): Violence erupted when a pro-Palestinian demonstrator in the back of a pickup truck started to lighten Israeli flag on fire.
DYLAN MANN, COLLEGE STUDENT: A student on the Jewish side, he ran and he tried to get back the flag to save it from being burned. There were two kids in the back of the truck.
One was holding the Israeli flag and one was holding a Palestinian flag on a very large pole. Once the Jewish student was able to retrieve the flag back, he started getting bashed over the head repeatedly with that pole.
And when I saw that, that's when I ran in. I was trying to just get him out of the situation.
BASH: Then Dylan was beaten and attacked by two older men he says we're not college-aged.
MANN: I was completely blindsided by a man with a megaphone, who hit me very viciously over the nose, which broke my nose. I went into complete shock.
I went -- I went deaf for a couple of seconds, that -- like, I seemed like I went blind maybe for a second.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Be sure to tune in to my hour-long special tonight on antisemitism in America, where I examine not only the what is happening, but the why.
It's "THE WHOLE STORY WITH ANDERSON COOPER." It airs tonight at 9:00 p.m.
Thank you so much for watching this Sunday morning with us.
Fareed Zakaria will talk to the U.N. secretary-general about the situation in the Middle East next.