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Day One of the Democratic National Convention; Interview with Debbie Wasserman Schultz

Aired September 4, 2012 - 23:59   ET


PIERS MORGAN, HOST: Good evening, and welcome to Charlotte's hottest hotspot, quite literally, the CNN Grill, where we all (INAUDIBLE) so hot in here, where the political elite meet sometimes over a beer or two.

So I'm here with two trusted drinkers, John King and Gloria Borger. Also bring in top Democrats from Patrick Kennedy to Ed Rendell. Plus reaction from the other side and a member of Mitt Romney's inner circle, and my political all-star panel will mix it up a bit later.

But we begin, where else, with the speeches, some great stuff tonight, including rising star San Antonio mayor Julian Castro, who tossed out a little red meat in his keynote. I interviewed him tonight, along with his brother, Joaquin. We'll get to that in a moment.

But the big buzz tonight was, of course, the first lady, Michelle Obama, the Democrats' not so secret weapon.


MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: Barack knows what it means when a family struggles. He knows what it means to want something more for your kids and grandkids. Barack knows the American dream because he's lived it, and he wants...


OBAMA: ... everyone in this country -- everyone to have the same opportunity, no matter who we are or where we're from or what we look like or who we love.



MORGAN: Who better to break down Michelle Obama's speech than the people with me now, John King and Gloria Borger. First of all, apologies for the heat in here. It's like being in a sauna, isn't it.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You've attracted quite a crowd...


MORGAN: ... the sizzling energy bouncing off the place. GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: It is. It is.

MORGAN: And we had the Castro brothers, who are very dynamic and very impressive, I thought, tonight. We'll come to them in a moment.

Michelle Obama, I thought, knocked it out of the park, as you Americans would say. Gloria, what did you think?

BORGER: Yes, I thought she did. I think if you were sort of a couch potato Democrat and you're sitting at home and you're not sure you really like the president anymore and you don't have the same passion for him, she was talking to you tonight. And she said to you, Well, if people can go serve overseas, the least thing we can do is go vote. So she made the case. She also said he's the same fellow I loved 23 years ago, and he's the same guy you loved four years ago.

MORGAN: I mean, she looked sensational, I thought, if it's not too sexist to observe on how the first lady dressed. But she looked amazing.

Secondly, I thought that she really hit the right tone. It crying out for exactly what she gave, not just the audience in the room but the audience at home. And she's a vote winner, isn't she.

KING: Well, that's her biggest audience is the audience at home. Look, the Democrats come here knowing there's a bit of an enthusiasm gap right now. The Republicans have an edge when it comes to voter enthusiasm. When you look at polls of registered voters, the president's ahead. When you look at polls of likely voters, now Governor Romney has pulled ahead. Why? There's some disillusionment out there.

You had a tough economy. You don't have the perfect storm President Obama had four years ago. What was she doing (INAUDIBLE) we have to work like we never did before.

She touched every constituency, African-Americans -- they keynote speaker (INAUDIBLE) he worked on Latinos. They talked about gay rights. They talked about military families. And you had Deval Patrick chastise Democrats who are running away from the president.

But the first lady's message was, Look, we have to work harder this time, because they don't have the magic of 2008. He's been an incumbent for four years in a very difficult economy. He's not the aspirational, inspirational guy of four years ago. What she is trying to make the case is that he's fighting for you. Maybe the economy hasn't been great for you, but he's fighting for you. The other guy doesn't get you. That was tonight's big theme.

MORGAN: What I thought, Gloria, overall was that the poor Republicans -- I mean, it's not their fault, but they had to put up with the hurricane, which was taking all the attention away on the first day.

BORGER: Exactly. Exactly.

MORGAN: And even the second day to a large degree. The Democrats have come here. They launched off tonight with a spectacular line-up of speakers. And I thought -- I made notes (ph) right (ph) along (ph). You know, Cory Booker, Deval Patrick, Ted Strickland, Julian Castro. Before we even got to Michelle Obama, you'd had four really big...

BORGER: Oh, yes.

MORGAN: ... successful speeches.

BORGER: I don't know whether the Democrats give great speeches or have better speech writers, but there were a lot of really good speeches here this evening.

MORGAN: And a coherent message.

BORGER: And a coherent message. And also, I think we got the feeling in Tampa -- don't forget hat Mitt Romney was not everyone's first choice. Mitt Romney was a lot of people's second choice sitting in that room.

Tonight, this was, it's going to be the renomination of a president, a sitting president of the United States. And so the enthusiasm and the passion was there inside the room. It's a bigger convention, as other folks have pointed out. So there was more energy in the room to begin with. And then you had these great speakers. And nobody was really saying, Look at me, I'm going to be the next president of the United States -- at least not yet.

MORGAN: Although Julian Castro I thought made a real bid to be the first Latino, potentially, president of the United States.

KING: Julian Castro, Deval Patrick, Governor O'Malley -- there's no question there will be a lot of talk here about 2016. But the main focus...

BORGER: Not yet.

KING: ... is on 2012 without a doubt. The Democrats were not mistake-free today. Their platform doesn't mention God. They changed that from four years ago. Their platform changes language about Israel, saying that Israel -- Jerusalem is (SIC) the capital and that Israel is our strongest ally. A lot of people going to scratch their heads, saying, Why would you make those changes? It's the same candidate, Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012.

MORGAN: Why did they...

KING: Why would you make those changes? Well, we're trying to get answers on that, and that's one of the things (INAUDIBLE) tell you...


MORGAN: If you're going to remove one word from a 40-page (INAUDIBLE) why would you also remove the word God? I mean, why would you deliberately allow the Republicans to come in and go to all their base and say, Look at this guy! He's removed the word God! BORGER: We don't know the answer to that.

KING: Somebody or somebodies made a mistake and somebody or somebodies in the campaign didn't catch it. There's no question.

But in terms of the show they put on tonight, the show the American people saw tonight, without a doubt, they did a very good show.

Here's my question. He's an incumbent president. Do people believe it? Do they listen to speeches or do they look at the unemployment rate? Do they listen to speeches or do their own legs (ph) feel tired about the circumstances of their lives (INAUDIBLE) But in terms of the TV production, you're better at this than I am, they put on a good show.

BORGER: Or do they say, You know what? We heard this all four years ago. There were people in there chanting, "Yes we can" again. And do they say, You know what? We've been through that already. And are they cynical? Because these were not cynical speeches, these were uplifting speeches and people maybe...


MORGAN: ... a pretty good start for the Democrats.

BORGER: Very good start. I think very good start.

KING: For what they need to do this week, for them a very good start.

BORGER: Absolutely.

MORGAN: Thanks, both, very much indeed.

As I said, tonight featured one of the Democrat (SIC) Party's rising stars, San Antonio mayor Julian Castro. I spoke with Mayor Castro and his twin brother Joaquin earlier tonight. You may be seeing double. I certainly was. But here's how you work it out. Mayor Castro is in the blue tie. His brother Joaquin is in the purple tie.


MORGAN: What does the American dream really mean, do you think? How do you reinforce the kind of story that you guys can tell America?

JULIAN CASTRO (D), SAN ANTONIO MAYOR: Well, it means that there's this -- as Joaquin has said many times -- he's campaigning for Congress these days -- but this sort of infrastructure of opportunity, of strong public schools, of good universities, of student aid, of those things that it takes to experience opportunity in America. And America has been the land of opportunity.

And so it's -- our family is, I think, one example of that, but there are so many other examples. And the importance of tonight and of this election is which one of these candidates is going to insure that America remains unquestionably the land of opportunity in the coming years. And tonight, my speech was about why I'm convinced that's President Barack Obama.

MORGAN: I mean, you gave Mitt Romney a few good zingers.


MORGAN: I loved the one about, you know, you just got to ask your parents for the money. Gee, I wish I'd thought of that! We were all having a chuckle about it. But there was a clear line tonight drawn by almost every speaker...


MORGAN: ... the difference between Mitt Romney's relationship with the electorate, particularly in terms of his personal wealth, and you guys. You're obviously a good illustration of that, perhaps more than the Obamas, in many ways.

But how much do you think that is going to come into play as a key factor at the election? Do you think the American people are going to look at Barack Obama and Mitt Romney and say, This guy's a wealthy guy. He's out of touch with us. I prefer to go with the devil I know, who's admitted he's only done half the job, really. What do you think?

JULIAN CASTRO: Well, what I think is that when folks compare where the nation was when President Obama took office -- and you heard several speakers say that -- losing 750,000 to 800,000 jobs a month, and then you compare where we are now, of 29 straight months of private sector job growth, 4.5 million new jobs -- that I'm confident he's going to lay out the case very convincingly for why, even though we haven't made the -- we're not where we want to be. We have made significant progress.

And that means something very real for people's lives -- you know, more students that are able to go to college, more folks now that are able to get back to work. We see that in Texas. So I don't think anybody would say that we're where we want to be, but we're better positioned as a nation than we were in January of 2009.

MORGAN: A lot of fuss (ph) tonight about your speech, as I say, electrified everybody, prompting some people to say, Wow, we haven't heard a speech like that since Barack Obama in 2004. This guy could be president. Now, either of you could end up...


JOAQUIN CASTRO (D), TEXAS STATE REPRESENTATIVE: If he becomes president, I need Secret Service protection.


MORGAN: (INAUDIBLE) my overriding question is if Barack Obama thought he had a problem with a name like Barack Obama becoming president, the first President Castro...

JULIAN CASTRO: Oh, that'd be tough! MORGAN: ... of the United States of America is quite a moment.

JULIAN CASTRO: Yes, it's never going to happen. But I do grant you that Florida would be pretty hard.


MORGAN: Listen, congratulations.

JULIAN CASTRO: Thank you very much.

MORGAN: It's really a ground-breaking speech.

JULIAN CASTRO: I really appreciate it.

MORGAN: People very excited, and may the best man win (INAUDIBLE)


MORGAN: The Castro brothers. I've got a feeling you might be hearing a little bit more from at least one of them, probably both of them, actually, over the next few years.

We've got two special guests now, the former governor of Pennsylvania, Ed Rendell, the former governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico. Welcome to you both, a brace of Democrat governors.

(INAUDIBLE) first night, I thought. Let's start with you, Governor.

ED RENDELL (D), FMR. PENNSYLVANIA GOVERNOR: Great first night. Mayor Castro was unbelievable. And Michelle Obama did something very important. She cemented the likability gap. Americans are loath to change presidents. They've done it twice in recent years. But when they like the family -- and she painted a picture of Barack Obama as a great -- not just a good but a great family man, and her likability in her own right is through the roof.

MORGAN: (INAUDIBLE) I mean, that was a spectacular performance tonight.

BILL RICHARDSON (D), FMR. NEW MEXICO GOVERNOR: I think she's the most -- probably the most popular person in the country. She showed Barack that he's a father. He's a parent. He struggles, to give him four more years.

But you know, Julian Castro -- he's the new Obama of the Democratic Party with that speech -- Hispanic, growing minority. San Antonio, economic growth, mayor. They stole the show. It's a great start.

MORGAN: Yes, I found him a fascinating character, Julian Castro, because the story's incredibly inspiring. His brother and he are -- they're obviously a great act together. They light up a camera. They light up a convention hall. They're a couple of rock stars, aren't they.

RENDELL: They are. And he has a great way of speaking. When he delivered that line about Governor Romney and health care, it was hysterical! It was hysterical.

MORGAN: Let's move to the wider picture here, which is the Republicans had a bit of a tricky start to their convention. Hurricanes were flying and so on. This has been a very disciplined start by the party. Are you pleased to see that?

RICHARDSON: I am. And I think that the carping and the whining that you heard from some wings of the party is over -- the unified party. But I think the president and the convention is just in appealing to the base. I think there's a recognition that we got to speak to the next four years, the economic plan, that we also have to recognize that this election will be settled in a few states. It's got to be up to minorities, women, independent voters and young voters. And we got to get them motivated again.

MORGAN: This whole mixed picture we've been getting about, Is America better off than it was four years ago -- wouldn't it be more honest for everyone to get together and say, Look, here's the reality. We're better off than we were three-and-a-half years ago because for the first half of that first year, it was hell on earth.

RENDELL: No question, the country is better off, significantly better off. Stock market's doubled. We're gaining jobs instead of losing almost a million jobs a month. We've got health care for a lot of Americans. We're doing great in many ways.

There are individual Americans who are hurting, but we've got the history in perspective, where we where and where we are today. There's been significant progress -- not enough, and the president's got to chart out in his speech how he's going to get us the next few steps.

MORGAN: Final question for you. We got a couple of big tribute videos tonight, Jimmy Carter and also for Teddy Kennedy. What did you make of that?

RICHARDSON: Well, I think that to have Jimmy Carter -- I think he emphasizes foreign policy, and I think President Obama has a very good foreign policy. He got rid of al Qaeda. He did bin Laden in -- free trade agreements, agreements with Russia on nuclear weapons, the Arab spring, Libya. He's a good foreign policy president. Jimmy Carter, the Camp David agreements, talking about peace and human rights, I think gives that strong validation to President Obama's foreign policy.

RENDELL: I think that was very important because Governor Romney made a very good speech, but the weakest part of his speech was foreign policy -- Iran, Russia. If I'm an independent voter, I'm saying, What in God's name is he talking about?

MORGAN: Governor Rendell, Governor Richardson, thank you both very much.

RICHARDSON: Thank you.

MORGAN: We're going to come back after this short break with two people to talk about the Teddy Kennedy tribute (INAUDIBLE) better than almost anybody else. One is his son and one is his nephew.



SEN. TED KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I've never shied away from being called a liberal. But what I have done is stand up for my beliefs.


MORGAN: A clip from tonight's emotional DNC tribute to the late senator Ted Kennedy. And joining me now, Senator Kennedy's son, Patrick Kennedy. He's also a former congressman from Rhode Island. And Patrick's cousin, Mark Shriver, the senior vice president of Save the Children and author of "A Good Man: Rediscovering My Father, Sargent Shriver," also CNN contributor Ryan Lizza.

Welcome to all three of you, to this rather crazy bar tonight. It's boiling hot. What are all those people tweeting saying is there something wrong with me? It's just the heat. I can't blame the fact I've got this big red English head!

Anyway (INAUDIBLE) interview. Very moving, I thought, the tribute to your father, Patrick. What did you make of it, watching from wherever you were in the convention hall?

PATRICK KENNEDY (D), FMR. RHODE ISLAND CONGRESSMAN: Well, it was bittersweet, once (ph) because he wasn't there to be there in person, but he was there in spirit. And that was also moving because we could feel the power of his presence. All the people who fought for health care reform, we're all behind the president because he delivered on health care reform.

And anyway, I was just honored to be there, Piers. And my whole family feels such an honor to have this chance to hear the good will towards him. But we understand the only way to advance this cause is to advance the president's cause because the president is the one who is in charge of public policy. And the difference between this president and what we'd have under President Romney is stark.

MORGAN: Mark, the moment that made me chuckle most, in the middle of what was a very moving tribute, the throwback to the debate between, you know, Teddy Kennedy and Mitt Romney, when you saw a very young, handsome Mitt Romney bestowing (ph) the great virtues of a pro-choice abortion policy, obviously completely the opposite to what he now espouses.

The Republicans are crying foul saying that was a bit naughty. You know, shouldn't have been using that old footage. What did you make of it?

MARK SHRIVER, SENIOR VP U.S. PROGRAMS, SAVE THE CHILDREN: Well, you know, I guess I share your sense of irony on that. I mean, it was an incredible scene. I thought, as Patrick said, it was a beautiful tribute, a great tribute for the Edward M. Kennedy Institute also this afternoon. But as Patrick said, the president is really driving that policy forward. I really got the sense from listen to the people, all the speakers tonight talking about the impact that "Obama care" has had in their lives -- that young woman who came out and talked about her child having those open heart surgeries really tugged on my heart strings.

You know, I'm a father of three young kids. My wife, Jean (ph), and I, if that ever happened in our house -- I didn't even know that existed. And to hear her tell it so beautifully and poignantly, really see the positive impact of the legislation that Uncle Teddy worked on for so many years, and then Patrick -- they've done such a great job on the mental health parity issue -- was really -- it was a great night.

MORGAN: Ryan, obviously, I thought a terrific endorsement. The videos, I thought, were superb both for Teddy Kennedy and also for Jimmy Carter, you know, who is a maligned (ph) figure, in many ways. But I have met him. I've interviewed him. I find him a great character. If I look anything like as good as he does at 87, I'll be very, very happy.

What did you make of tonight in totality? And more importantly, you wrote a big piece this week about President Clinton and President Obama's relationship. And tomorrow night, we're going to have the big speech from President Clinton. What are your thoughts?

RYAN LIZZA, "THE NEW YORKER": Well, first, on Kennedy, I mean, it's interesting how much the end of his life was wrapped up in the most important moment of Obama's life, right? Kennedy gave Obama a very important endorsement in the primaries. And frankly, I'm not so sure Obama would have pursued health care without the push from Ted Kennedy early on in the administration, really staked his presidency on Ted Kennedy's number one priority.

On Clinton tomorrow night -- you know, presidents and -- current presidents and previous presidents always have really fraught relationships. Bill Clinton did not have a good relationship with Jimmy Carter. He felt like Carter freelanced all the time.

And Obama, after the vicious primaries of 2008, where it got really, really personal between President Clinton and then Senator Obama, they had a lot to overcome. And there really wasn't much of a reaching out or a relationship all through 2009 and most of 2010.

MORGAN: (INAUDIBLE) all on the golf course, wasn't it? They all got together, whacked a few golf balls...

LIZZA: What happened was one of Obama's political advisers called one of Bill Clinton close advisers and said, Hey, we want you to go do some campaign events. They said, No, no, no. That's not how it works. You want Bill Clinton to go do some campaign events, you've got to build a relationship between these two guys. Let's get them out on the golf course.

MORGAN: Is it better now? LIZZA: It's better, but I'll be honest. Nobody on either side of this relationship tried to argue to me that these two guys are good friends, and sometimes they would argue the opposite. So it's a complicated relationship. It's a mutually advantageous relationship.

MORGAN: But they kind of need each other, don't they, I think.

JULIAN CASTRO: They need each other, right? Bill Clinton, along with Michelle Obama, are the only two people, national political figures, Democrats, whose approval ratings are in the 60s. So it's a no- brainer for Obama to get this guy on his team out there making the case for him.

MORGAN: And finally, Ryan, there's a very wonderfully mischievous part of your piece suggesting that Doug Band, who's Clinton's right- hand man, was going to vote Mitt Romney. He's furiously denied this.


MORGAN: Doesn't mean very much...


LIZZA: ... he wouldn't deny it to me. So two Democrats, very, very knowledgeable about this, told me that he regularly says that he's going to vote for Mitt Romney. When I asked Band to go on the record and dispute this, he wouldn't do it. Today, after, I understand, some pressure from people in the Clinton world, he came out and said that he does support President Obama.

MORGAN: But you're standing 100 percent by your story.

LIZZA: Standing by the fact that two Democrats said he said this, and he would not deny -- he would not go on the record with a response to me.

MORGAN: Ryan, Mark, Patrick, thank you all very much for coming on.


MORGAN: Coming next: Democrats on the attack. I'll talk to the chairwoman of the DNC, Debbie Wasserman Schultz.



JULIAN CASTRO: Mitt Romney quite simply doesn't get it. A few months ago, he visited a university in Ohio and gave students there a little entrepreneurial advice. Start a business, he said. But how? Borrow money, if you have to, from your parents, he told them. Gee, why didn't I think of that?


(END VIDEO CLIP) MORGAN: The Democratic Party's rising new star, San Antonio mayor Julian Castro, firing up the crowd and attacking Mitt Romney as he delivered tonight's keynote address.

Joining me now is Florida congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chairman -- chairwoman, I should say, of the DNC. Welcome.


MORGAN: You kicked all this off. And I've got to say, most neutral observers thought (ph) pretty good tonight, that a lot of good speeches, that Mr. Castro, who I interviewed earlier, particularly effective, and also Michelle Obama obviously brought the house down. What was your -- your feeling when you finished up?

SCHULTZ: Pride. I'm so proud of our leadership. I'm proud that this is a convention that we kicked off as the most open and inclusive convention that, really, American politics has seen.

And the story that Michelle Obama and Julian Castro told tonight essentially said if you work hard and play by the rules, then everyone in America deserves an opportunity to be successful. And compare that to the idea that it's only people who already are successful that should be able to have someone go to bat for them.

MORGAN: Some weird omissions from the Democratic platform, which no one can quite understand how or why this happened or what the intention was because all it seems to have done is rattle cages (INAUDIBLE) rattled. No mention of the word God, even though there was last time and there is about 10 times in the Republican platform. Why is that?

SCHULTZ: Well, we have a commitment through all faith traditions that our values are reflected in our policy, and that means that we should look out for the least of these, that we should fight for the middle class, that we should help everyone in America have an opportunity to be successful and...

MORGAN: Right, but was the word "God" deliberately taken out, or was it a mistake?

SCHULTZ: Oh, of course not. Of course not.

MORGAN: It was a mistake?

SCHULTZ: We have a platform that actually reflects the values of many faith traditions and...


MORGAN: The thing is, somebody has deliberately taken out the word "God" because it was in the last one.

SCHULTZ: I can assure you that no one has deliberately taken God out of our platform.

MORGAN: So it was an accident.

SCHULTZ: What I can tell you is that our...

MORGAN: It's either deliberate or an accident.

SCHULTZ: ... policies and our values are reflected...

MORGAN: Are you being (INAUDIBLE)

SCHULTZ: ... in many faith traditions, and that's what our platform is all about.

MORGAN: OK, what about the other strange comments which came out about Israel and Jerusalem? "Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel" was in 2008 platform, no longer there. And also this idea that Israel was the closest ally of America in the Middle East -- that's also come out. Why would they come out (INAUDIBLE)

SCHULTZ: Throughout our platform, it is very clear that President Obama and Democrats are committed to maintaining a strong U.S.-Israel relationship, maintaining Israel and supporting Israel as a Jewish and democratic state and ensuring that we have the strongest possible language, much stronger than the language the Republicans have used, on ensuring that Iran can never achieve a nuclear weapon.

Our platform actually says that we are committed to insuring that we use all the instrumentation available to us to ensure that Iran never achieves a nuclear weapon. The Republicans simply say all options are on the table. So in words and in deeds, President Obama has stood by Israel and always will.

MORGAN: Mitt Romeny is 4 percent up in the polls in North Carolina. Are you worried about that?

SCHULTZ: We are focused on continuing to run the most significant dynamic grassroots presidential campaign. We've been here in North Carolina since before 2008 and we've never left. And we have an incredible grassroots operation here. Our voter registration drives have been incredibly successful, so we're focused on the next 63 days and making sure we can help use the people power that we get and the momentum we get out of this convention to carry Barack Obama back to the White House.

MORGAN: And finally, you tried to arrange for Michelle Obama to make speeches every hour on the hour every day?

SCHULTZ: Wouldn't that be nice?

MORGAN: I'd be gathering around her.

SCHULTZ: She really spoke from her heart tonight, spoke as a mom and as a fellow mom, I completely identified with what she was talking about because we all want what's best for our children and we want someone in the White House going to bat for their future every single day like Barack Obama has been. MORGAN: Well, her husband may be a divisive figure, as always goes with being the president, but his wife seems to be universally popular. And that is a rare thing to see. Debbie?

SCHULTZ: Deservedly so.

MORGAN: It was lovely to see you.

SCHULTZ: Thanks, Piers.

MORGAN: Thank you. Coming next, the Romeny camp will fire back. I will talk with a senior member of Mitt Romney's inner circle, Communications Director Gail Gitcho.


MORGAN: We're back here live in the CNN Grill where it's very, very hot, rather like the politics that are burning tonight. A lot of anger from Republicans. Bound to be, isn't there? Day one of the Democratic Convention, they're going to be furious. Who better to be furious than Gail Gitcho? She's Mitt Romeny's communication director. Gail, what are you furious about? You're bound to be about something.

GAIL GITCHO, MITT ROMNEY'S COMMUNICATION DIRECTOR: I think that Michelle Obama gave a great speech tonight but there are some really big takeaways from the Democratic National Convention and that's what you didn't hear tonight. First of all, you didn't hear President Obama or any of his surrogates tonight talking about the fact that Americans are not better off than they were four years ago. There's been all kinds of discussion over the last couple of days about whether we are better off than we were four years ago. And the reason that we went six hours without having one person --

MORGAN: Would you agree, as I said earlier, would you agree that we are better off than we were three and a half years ago?

GITCHO: No, because we still have 23 million people unemployed and I think that if you were going --

MORGAN: For the first half year of Barack Obama's reign was just a financial meltdown of catastrophic proportions brought on by eight years, I'm going to argue, of Republican administration.

GITCHO: But let's go back and look at his promises. We can look at his promises from his convention speech four years ago where he said he was going to create more jobs, that he was going to get the debt down. And Piers, just today, I think it's very symbolic of something you didn't hear today, and that's the national debt reached 16 trillion dollars. And that's very substantial. And you did not hear the Democrats talking about how they're going to get that debt down for our children and grandchildren.

MORGAN: Okay, but if we're going to get into the nitty gritty of broken promises, we did see an extraordinary bit of video in the Teddy Kennedy tribute which had your guy, Mitt Romeny, apparently saying on the record, in a debate, he's pro-choice when it comes to abortion. You know, what surprised me is not that he flip-flopped on that because we know about that. He was 47 years old. I'm 47 years old. Much as I'd love to be a spring chicken, I'm not. I'm a fully rounded adult. Is it really conceivable that his view just evolved? Or is it a lot more likely that it was for political expedience?

GITCHO: Well, a couple of things there, Piers. First of all, none of this is new. Governor Romeny is pro-life. He will govern as a pro- life president. Everybody has been very clear on the fact that he's pro-life. And if you're talking about changing positions, then look at President Obama has done with gay marriage. He became president campaigning on the fact that he believed that marriage was between a man and a woman and now he's for gay marriage.

MORGAN: Was it wrong of Democrats to use that footage, do you think, in a video to Senator Kennedy?

GITCHO: No, but you would have to ask -- I think that we have a lot bigger problems to worry about than what the Democrats are doing with their web videos. But what I'll tell you is what wasn't seen in there is that, despite the political differences, which there are many if not most, if not all between Governor Romeny and Ted Kennedy, was that they have a mutual respect for each other, even after a very hard- fought Senate race in Massachusetts back in the '90s.

MORGAN: When you are Mitt Romeny's communication director and you're here in Charlotte, North Carolina in the middle of thousands of Democrats, is it a lonely place to find yourself, Gail?

GITCHO: No, we're talking about the things that the Democrats aren't. What you didn't hear, again, tonight, Piers, is any Democrat talking about whether or not we're better off because they can't talk about if we're better off, because we're not.

MORGAN: Well, their argument is now that they inherited the mother of all policies and you don't dispute that?

GITCHO: Sure, you're going to see blaming, you're going to see scapegoats. This is not about running against President Bush. If they wanted to run against President Bush, then they are eight years too late. President Bush is not on the ballot. You will continue to hear these excuses, this blame-shifting, this scapegoating, because they have no record to run on and President Obama has no plans in the future to fix it.

MORGAN: Finally, Gail. Mrs. Obama's dress? A win?

GITCHO: Oh, great. Great dress, great speech; she's a great First Lady.

MORGAN: We'll end on a happy note of contented agreement. Happy to see you again.

GITCHO: Nice to see you too.

MORGAN: Take care. When we come back, my all-star panel. Well, they're always an all-star panel, but tonight particularly all-star. We're going to get into all these issues and find out what the truth is, if we can.


MORGAN: Welcome back to the CNN Grill here in Charlotte in North Carolina. It is still boiling hot outside and in. So is all the political gossip and intrigue. Here's my all- star panel: Rick Grenell, who is Mitt Romney's foreign policy spokesman; Katie Pavlich, she's a news editor of and author of "Fast and Furious: Barack Obama's Bloodiest Scandal and the Shameless Cover-up"; Hilary Rosen, CNN contributor; and Van Jones, the president of the "Rebuild the Dream" movement and author of "Rebuild the Dream". Welcome to you all. I'm guessing (INAUDIBLE). You're both a bit cheesed off, well, and you two are thinking "Yes."


MORGAN: Boys and girls did well tonight.

JONES: I'm in love again.

MORGAN: Well, Van, Let me start with you because I wasn't in this morning on CNN. You actually got quite emotional about the prospect of a Michelle Obama speech and what it meant. Having watched it now, what did you think?

JONES: It was more powerful than I thought. I was there in the hall -- it was like a revival. I remember when I was a kid, you know, we would go to church in the summertime and people have been lackadaisical about our faith, and then you would have somebody to come out and just restore the faith. And that's what she -- she was a mom-in-chief, she was a revivalist-in-chief. I think for African- Americans to see her, you know, she's been villified. People have said and written terrible books about her, said terrible things about her. For her to come out there with the dignity and the grace and really setting a new bar for oratory in the convention, not just for women or first ladies, period. It was powerful.

MORGAN: Well, but Henry, I thought the irony is the two best speeches so far, arguably, were Ann Romeny and now Michelle Obama.

HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I think that's right, although I think Julian Castro did a great job too. But, you know, Michelle Obama didn't just talk about the heart, which I think we saw from Ann Romney; she actualyl talked about policy and what Barack Obama has done for the country and why it's good for families, why it's good for America. That was an unusual thing for a First Lady to come out and do sort of a litany of how policy is connected to people's lives. I thought that was really impressive.

MORGAN: Now, Rick, if you were there with Governor Romeny, you would've been thinking, "Dammit. Day One, we got a hurricane and they get a different hurricane." They get a verbal hurricane, of the best possible kind from a series of great speakers building up to Michelle Obama. Not a good day for Republicans, you could say.

RICHARD GRENELL, FORMER ROMNEY FOREIGN POLICY SPOKESMAN: I actually think Michelle did a great job. I've been to a lot of revivals. I think the difference is that we've heard a lot of this before and the Democrats have to be very careful that they cannot replicate 2008. I'm here in Charlotte, I don't feel that energy that we did in 2008. I think they've got be very careful. The other thing I would say is they have a big problem on their hands right now with Israel. The platform does not say that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. That was in 2008.

MORGAN: I thought some of the omissions in the platform were -- we'll come to that in a moment. That was an odd thing to me. They left out the word God, which to me just seemed needlessly clumsy. And the Israel stuff I thought was just really odd, to change the wording and make those kind of omissions in a platform? Just a great some kind of fiori (ph). I didn't get it.

GRENELL: Where it was in 2008, it's not here now. And the spin is that AIPAC signed off on it, which now we're finding out AIPAC did not sign off on it. So I think the Democrats tomorrow are going to have to answer "What happened to their platform on Israel?"

KATIE PAVLICH, NEWS EDITOR, TOWNHALL.COM AND AUTHOR: I think, too, going back to Michelle Obama's speech, I think she did a great job. However, she did talk about President Obama's record in a very vague sense. And she did discuss how she -- how President Obama needs more time, but she didn't talk about why. She didn't talk about the fact that we reached $16 trillion in debt today. She didn't talk about the fact that women's unemployment rate has jumped a percentage point under President Obama. She didn't talk about the poverty rate going up under President Obama. She did talk about personal experiences but she didn't get into what her husband's record is.

MORGAN: She's his wife. She's not going to stand on a platform in front of billions of people and start banging on about all the negatives, is she?

PAVLICH: Right, right. But if she is going to talk about why he needs more time, well, why does he need more time? That's a question they're going to have to answer.

MORGAN: But did you feel uncomfortable as a woman watching Mitt Romeny, age 47 in that particular video, espousing the great joys of pro-choice for women for abortion?

PAVLICH: You know what I felt uncomfortable with? That at a convention that stands for women and is fighting this so-called war on women, they would would pick Ted Kennedy, who left a woman in his car to drown, to be the person in that video.

ROSEN: Oh come on, stop. Come on.

MORGAN: Well, that's a bit below the belt, I think. Hilary?

ROSEN: Well, you know, one of the things we saw with the Democrats this weekend and it goes to the platform it's this is not sort of a, you know, point by point soft to the right wing the way the Republican platform has been. The Democratic platform is broadly supporting the middle class. We don't have a platform that we're running away from like Mitt Romney did. And I think what we saw tonight was the very clear choice that voters are going to face, right? It's -- Julian Castro said, it not about government but government can help. It's student loans; it's public education. Those sorts of things you cannot ignore in a new economy and that's something we haven't seen --

MORGAN: Right. Julian Castro, I interviewed him and his brother here. Very, very impressive. Amazing story. The idea that these two young lads have come effectively from an orphaned young woman, their grandmother who came to San Antonio from Mexico with nothing and had to get away from school halfway through her schooling to try to find some money for the family, there are these two boys. They went to Stanford and Harvard and they're potentially both future presidential candidates.

JONES: Here's where I think we have some common ground. I think if we're looking for common ground, both parties understand that the American Dream is under threat. You saw both parties trying to tell American Dream stories. Everybody was talking about them. If it wasn't them, it was their parent, it was their great-grandparent. Somebody had to be that American Dream carrier. I think that's important to recognize that both parties understand the dream is under threat and we have different visions about how -- what to do about it. But I tell you what, when it comes to authenticity, I was moved by Mitt Romeny's speech. I was certainly Ann Romeny's speech. But the authenticity scale when Michelle Obama starts talking about her story, when those Castro brothers talk about their story, it just resonates differently but I'm glad that both parties recognize the dream's under threat and both of us want to move the ball.

GRENELL: There is a difference in that. I agree that both parties want to promote the idea that if you work hard in America, you can actually succeed. The difference is this party here, the Democrats, are really trying to say that government has a fundamental hand in that process where I think the Republicans are just simply saying that's not true.

ROSEN: Well, I think you're right. We are saying government has a fundamental hand. Not the only hand. That's very important.

MORGAN: I don't want you all agreeing with each other; that's not what I'm here at all. Let's take a short break. I'm going to stop you because you're agreeing too much. We're going regroup, have a beer. I'm going to have a quick cold showerr to get rid of all of this heat. It's coming not just from here but from the panelists.

And we're back to answer the question, "Is America better off or not because of Barack Obama?" Now it could get really hot.


MORGAN: We're back with my all-star panel, Rick Granell, Katie Pavlich, Hilary Rosen, and Van Jones. So you've all been squabbling away on the break, very nicely coming to the boil. Let's get to the crux of what this whole election can come down to, this very uncomfortable question: "Is America better off or not because of four years of Barack Obama?"

My argument would have been from them, you know what, the first six months were a nightmare but since then, you've been better off. But because they've it a four-year assessment, from the point of election to now, the stats really don't work for Barack Obama. On most common ground that you look at to compare like with like, he's not in good shape. Hilary, how do you dispute the fact that it doesn't look like we are in better shape in America?

ROSEN: Well, there are stats on both sides. We look at the all time high stock market, we look at GDP growth up, we looked at - we were hemorrhaging 800,000 jobs a month; now we're growing. Not enough but 130 --

MORGAN: Unemployment has gone up. Gas prices have soared. I mean, they are key economic dynamics which look terrible.

ROSEN: Yes, on both sides. And here's the point.

MORGAN: Well, only one side's in government.

JONES: Now that's not true.

ROSEN: I mean both sides. Some numbers are worse; some numbers are better, but here's a key point. Democrats would be stupid if we tried to tell people how they feel. So the best we're going to do, I think, is to say you know what? We do not want to go back to where we were in 2008. We do not want to go back to the policies that brought us there and we don't want to go back to the situation we were where the banks were out of control, where war was out of control and tax cuts were out of control.

MORGAN: I mean, there's a point there. Poor old President Obama. He wakes up the day after he gets elected and suddenly remembers, God almighty, we're in two wars, the worst financial crisis since the Great Depressio depression. This the mother of all --

PAVLICH: He ran for President to fix the problem and he hasn't fixed the problem. There are 23 people million out of work. The food stamp count is at all record high. People at the gas pump can feel it. And President Obama has tried to tell people that everything is okay and his closest advisors have said, "You can't tell people that everything is okay because they know it's not okay and they're going to think you're lying to them."

MORGAN: Well I don't think he's saying everything's okay. What I think he's saying is, "Look, it is slowly improving." The question is how --

PAVLICH: But it's not, though.

GRANELL: Unemployment has gone up. They've downgraded our economy.

MORGAN: But clearly the number of new jobs created over the last two years is a sign of improvement. The stock market performance is a sign of economic prosperity compared to where it was. GRANELL: The Democrats controlled the House, the Senate, and the White House for two years.

JONES: With unprecedented filibusters, though. With unprecedneted filibusters.

GRANELL: Yes, but that's such an excuse. Really. You could do anything that you want. Nancy Pelosi could wake up and put any piece of legislation on the table and they would have had to vote on it. If they didn't like it, the President can --

MORGAN: But Rick, Rick, what about the undeniable reality that the Republicans have done everything they can to stymie this guy? They made it clear very publicly very early on we're going to do everything we can make him a one-term president.

GRANELL: I think they're proven the be right. Unemployment has increased and we've had a downgrade on our economy. I think if we'd tried what the Republicans had offered, we wouldn't be in this mess.

PAVLICH: To say that the Republicans are the problem here, the Democrats still have the Senate, they still have the White House. Republicans have passed multiple budgets. The Senate hasn't introduced a budget for more than 1200 days, which has a direct impact on job growth in this country.

JONES: Let me get in here.

MORGAN: Van, get in there.

JONES: Let me get in here. Let me just say a couple things. First of all, we don't actually have a dictatorship; we have a democracy. We have two parties. One party says they're the party of individual responsibility. They need to take some responsibility for the fact that Republicans have been acting like Lucy holding the ball and every time Obama tries to kick it, they move the ball. Republicans have not voted for their own policies when it comes to tax cuts for small businesses, tax breaks for 98 percent of Americans. So both parties have to take some responsibility here, number one.

Number two, you know, I think the truth that nobody wants to say on either side -- some Americans are doing better and some Americans are not. It's the income inequality that makes this thing hard to talk about. Some are doing better, some are doing worse and that's the reality of it.

MORGAN: Okay, look, I'm afraid we've got to leave it there. But you can come back. That's the beauty of this panel. We'll have you back later in the week if you're all available, if you're not still squabbling in the street. Anyway, thank you for now.

I'll be back tomorrow with CNN's live coverage of the Democratic National Convention, plus my interview with Republican Vice- Presidential nominee, Paul Ryan. I've also got a date with Eva Longoria in prime time tomorrow night.