Return to Transcripts main page


Vice President Biden and President Obama Speak to Democratic National Convention

Aired September 6, 2012 - 23:59   ET


PIERS MORGAN, HOST: Welcome to a special edition of PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT live from the CNN Grill here in Charlotte.

The Democratic national convention just came to a rousing and emotional end. Sounding determined rather than triumphant, President Obama repeatedly asked voters to choose his vision for the future.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No party has a monopoly on wisdom. No democracy works without compromise. I want to get this done, and we can get it done. But when Governor Romney and his friends in Congress tell us we can somehow lower our deficits by spending trillions more on new tax breaks for the wealthy -- well, what did Bill Clinton call it? You do the arithmetic.


OBAMA: You do the math. I refuse to go along with that. And as long as I'm president, I never will!


MORGAN: President Obama a little earlier. Democrats had high hopes for this party in Charlotte. But did they hit the mark? Well, I'm being joined by three people who know better than almost anybody, I would think, my CNN colleagues John King, Gloria Borger, and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a regular visitor to the grill, for which we're very grateful, the chair of the DNC.

John, let me just start with you. Sum up President Obama's speech, put it in context of the week, and indeed, the fortnight that we've had.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: If you've watched every big speech by President Barack Obama, Senator Barack Obama, it was not his greatest speech. I think, in many ways, that was by design. This was a more workmanlike speech, trying to make a case, but it was very smart strategically.

Now, will his new promises be believed? That's an open question. He's an incumbent president, and he's made some mistakes, but I think he was smart to acknowledge his mistakes. He used the word `failings." Strategically, he wanted to convince people, This is a really hard thing I inherited. I need your help. I'm more on your side than the other guy.

He was not terribly specific about what he would do in a second term. I think that is an open question. Some people might say, I want more. However, the Republicans and Governor Romney weren't all that specific, either.

In terms of -- the Republicans did not fundamentally change the race at their convention, so the president came to this convention with a slight advantage. So I think he had a smart speech that was directed at both his strategic and his tactical concerns.

And you add the whole convention up, I think Democrats had some missteps about the platform. Maybe they will reverberate down the road. But overall, Democrats have to leave this town pretty happy. Still a very close election, but Democrats have to leave happy. They had three very good nights, a home run derby of speeches.

MORGAN: I would -- I would go along with that. I mean, I think that, to me, it was nowhere near as rousing, emotional, passionate as Bill Clinton's speech last night. But then there are very few speakers in history that can match that kind of rhetoric.

And he probably placed (ph) it quite deliberately, I think, Barack Obama, slightly less than the messianic nature of some of his early speeches.

I was struck by two things. One, comparing himself to FDR -- quite smart, I thought. You know, FDR, long, painful road to recovery was the clear message. And also quoting Lincoln, a great quote...


MORGAN: I've been driven to my knees many times by the overwhelming conviction I had no place else to go. Two pretty good presidents to compare yourself to.

BORGER: Yes, it is. And the Lincoln quote shows a sort of sense of humility about the office, which is, I think, what you need to do when you're president of the United States.

But if there were a word cloud, you know, about this speech, the word "choice" would have been up there a million times because what the president needed to do -- and they're hammering it. I mean, this is not delicate. They're hammering it. They want this election to be a choice between two visions for the country, not a referendum on the economy. So what he was saying, This is a choice. By the way, I'm the more experienced guy in foreign policy -- a lot of Osama bin Laden tonight.

MORGAN: Well, I...


BORGER: ... haven't heard about.

MORGAN: There were two great quotes for me. One was John Kerry -- Ask bin Laden if he's better off than he was...

BORGER: I know!

MORGAN: ... four years ago, to which the obvious answer is no, he's not. And Joe Biden, the familiar stump cry now, bin Laden dead, General Motors alive. The reason I thought that's significant -- he, as so many of them did, including Barack Obama -- the auto industry -- they're clearly hammering this now, John, aren't they. They are going after that crowd so they can hit Michigan, Ohio, the workers, the car people.

KING: Right. It's -- look, it's an overstatement to say that you had a three-day convention in a 50-state country that was about two states. But the president understands...


KING: ... understands the map. If he can keep Michigan, which is leaning his way now, and if he can win Ohio, which is a toss-up right now, it's almost impossible, almost impossible for Governor Romney to win when you do the piece-by-piece 270 electoral map.

So what are the criticisms of the president? That he's not fighting for the economy by (ph) FDR, admitting his failings, showed some humility. One of the knocks on him is that he's arrogant and distant. So admitting your failings helps.

And then I e-mailed in the middle of the day -- so many of the videos, so many of the speeches referenced bin Laden. I e-mailed a top campaign official saying, I thought you guys conceded this election was about the economy. And they said, This is part of showing he's tough.

BORGER: Here's my...

KING: Because who are you looking for? Reagan Democrats, that sort of white blue-collar workers who traditionally have been told that Democrats are weak.

MORGAN: Well, let's ask Debbie because, I mean, you're in charge of all this over here. So is that a strategy now, not just the economy, hammer home some of the other positives? Barack Obama did save the car industry by common agreement, apart from a few Republicans, and he also did kill bin Laden. I mean, that is a massive tick in the box if you're running for reelection.

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D-FL), DNC CHAIR: That's right. And this is -- presidential elections are about what you've accomplished, and they're also about where we've been.

President Obama's commitment tonight was to talk about where we were and have an honest conversation about how far we've come, you know, and the fact that he inherited the largest set of problems of any president since FDR and made decisions that were hard but right, and that this is a president who didn't, just like Vice President Biden said, who hasn't said, You know what? I've got to do what's politically popular or what's going to improve my chances of success.

MORGAN: Gloria, you wanted to say something.

BORGER: Well, I have a couple of questions, though, about the speech. One is that what Bill Clinton did last night was sort of talk about the gridlock in Washington and bipartisanship and the hope for that in the future. And I think the president didn't do that tonight in a large way, maybe because he doesn't have any hope for it. I don't -- you know, I don't know.

And the other question I have is, was -- and we'll learn it after we see polling, but did he really make a connection with the sense of disappointment that people feel, you know, or did President Clinton do that? I don't -- I -- I...

SCHULTZ: I think that we are coming out of this convention after an electric -- three days of electric current running -- building in a crescendo, leaving our delegates and our activists and our volunteers excited and fired up. And that's what a convention is all about. This was -- unlike what we saw last week...

BORGER: Is this about the base?

SCHULTZ: No. And that...


MORGAN: (INAUDIBLE) all your fortunes (ph) seemed to...

SCHULTZ: This was uplifting...


MORGAN: ... once you put God back into the platform, everything seemed to go swimmingly!


SCHULTZ: This convention was uplifting and positive, and it talked about the two paths and the two visions.

MORGAN: What it is, John, it's a warmup, though, now to the next stage, which is the presidential debates. And the one we're all, I think, champing at the bit for, the vice presidential debate, could be really great TV now.

But in terms of the significance of these debates, given where we are -- the polls are pretty neck and neck. Obama may get a bit of a bounce this week. I'll be surprised if he doesn't. But then we get to those debates. They're going to be crucial, aren't they?

KING: I think the first presidential debate is the biggest night of Mitt Romney's political life now because the Democrats did not stumble here. There are things you can nitpick. Political reporters would say the president didn't give a full-throated embrace of "Obama care," didn't mention it specifically, did (ph) mention somebody's (ph) struggle, (ph) didn't use the word "stimulus" or "Recovery Act," mentioned some of the pluses.

So some people will say he's running from some of his accomplishments. People will legitimately say why not more specifics. But the overarching arc here is the Democrats had very -- three very good nights of produced television. They leave here with energy. They came in with a slight advantage.

Those presidential debates now, especially the first one -- this is -- Mitt Romney -- Mitt Romney has to come to play in that first debate, or else the president has a big chance to...


MORGAN: Gloria, I think -- the reason I think Bill Clinton was so effective -- they've been trying to fact check him all day long...


MORGAN: ... but hardly caught him out on...

BORGER: He fact checks himself, right?

MORGAN: But actually, that is not even a joke. That is a serious thing.

BORGER: It's true.

MORGAN: He clearly did incredibly competently. They've hardly got him on anything. And I think the key message he sent was, Look, in terms of tackling this deficit, one of the big issues for America right now, I went through tough times when I was president. I raised taxes, and we ended up with a great prosperity. I mean, that's a pretty powerful message from a guy who's been right where Barack Obama is...

BORGER: Right.

MORGAN: ... and actually raised some taxes and got the country out of a hole.

BORGER: And the other message was, Give the guy a little time. Have a little patience...


BORGER: ... because his hole was deeper than the hole I was in, and so it's going to take him longer to dig out of it. And I think that's -- if that message got through to disaffected voters, that's going to be a very important...

MORGAN: And what about my gut feeling, which is when I was watching Bill Clinton -- and no offense (ph) because I know that it's all about Barack Obama. But are we going to look for a repealing of the 22nd Amendment?


MORGAN: No, I mean, is there any way we can get Bill back? And if you can't have him, can we have him in Britain to be prime minister?

KING: He would very much like that, and if you would help him do that, he'd also repeal any other amendment so that you could be his vice president, Piers.


BORGER: (INAUDIBLE) reminded of Hillary (INAUDIBLE) you know?


MORGAN: I mean, look, there's no doubt, though, that Bill Clinton's been a massively effective tool this week to promote Barack Obama. I thought it was a masterful speech. And I think Obama did enough with his to really lay the ground now for a 60-day run in to the finish. You got to say at the moment, you're (ph) probably favored (ph), but no time for complacency.

SCHULTZ: Well, we're not taking anything for granted. We're going a sprint for the next 61 days with a focused grass roots people- powered campaign.

Two cases were made this week that there were tough choices, tough decisions that President Obama had the strength and the backbone to make, and that when we have a balanced approach, like what President Clinton did when he was president, you can have sustained prosperity and you can have a successful middle class.

MORGAN: I've got to ask you about Gabby Giffords, an incredibly powerful, emotional moment. I mean, there were Secret Service agents in tears, apparently, watching it. Someone tweeted that just now. Everyone where I was watching was in tears. There you were as her great friend. What a moment.

SCHULTZ: Incredibly special. And you know, Gabby is a beloved figure in America, and for her to come out at our convention and give the Pledge of Allegiance and have such a patriotic, unifying moment, you know, it was just incredibly emotional and I was so proud to...

MORGAN: What did she say when you got backstage?

SCHULTZ: Oh, she actually came backstage and just said, Awesome. She was -- she was really excited.

MORGAN: Was she emotional?

SCHULTZ: She was emotional and excited and actually really fired up. We ran through the Pledge a couple times together, and each time, she did it with such feeling, like she did there. And it was just -- it was an emotional moment for everyone. MORGAN: It was a wonderful, wonderful moment.

SCHULTZ: Yes, it really was.

MORGAN: Send her from all of us our congratulations...

SCHULTZ: I will. I will.

MORGAN: ... because that took some guts to do that.

Let's just talk about the, I think, unparalleled situation where it may be that both presidential candidates' wives made better speeches than they did.

BORGER: Are you surprised?



MORGAN: No, I'm not being sexist. But has this ever happened before, John? You've seen most of them over the last (INAUDIBLE) years.

KING: Look, you had two very incredible communicators. And both of them have grown. If you go back to the 2007 campaign where Governor Romney sought the nomination, Ann Romney was an asset but not quite as effective as she was in this speech. And I think Debbie would cede the point. Ann Romney gave a great speech.

Michelle Obama, who was polarizing a bit in the first campaign -- she said a few things. She was new to the national stage. She probably didn't mean them the way they came across. But (INAUDIBLE) she said, you know, at one point (INAUDIBLE) I've never been more proud of my country, about her husband, and people said, What about landing on the moon? What about winning the Second World War? And she has redeemed herself -- Republicans concede this point -- with her work with military families.

MORGAN: Gloria (INAUDIBLE) argument, given the nature of the discussion.

BORGER: I think both of these women had a job, and I don't know why it's always the woman's job to humanize the husband.


BORGER: But be that as it may.

MORGAN: You do that to John in many ways, I think.

BORGER: (INAUDIBLE) I humanize John all the time. But -- but they had to kind of lift the veil, if you will, talk about who their husbands really are as the chief character witness, which wives are.

SCHULTZ: Well, they also talked about the choices that we have. They also talked about making sure that you don't slam the door behind you when you've moved up to the next rung of ladder of success and that we're all in this together. And Michelle Obama especially, the first lady talked about an appeal to moms across the country who really just want to...


MORGAN: I thought they were both terrific, actually. They're both a great credit, aren't they, to their husbands, their parties and their families and to their country.

Are we ending on a point of consensus? I think we are! John, Gloria, Debbie, thank you all very much.

SCHULTZ: Thank you.

MORGAN: When we come back, what's the one thing that stood out most in the president's speech? Our analysts share their top takeaways coming up ahead.



OBAMA: We don't think the government can solve all of our problems, but we don't think that the government is the source of all of our problems, anymore than our welfare recipients or corporations or unions or immigrants or gays or any other group we're told to blame for our troubles!



MORGAN: One of the reasons the Democrats held their convention here in Charlotte was of course, that we got all these top people here to come and join me in the CNN Grill and have (ph) a pint (ph) at the end of a long couple of weeks.

So welcome to you both. This is Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who's, of course, mayor of Los Angeles, and Jim Rogers, CEO of Duke Energy.

So let's go to you first. We've heard a bit of pro-Democrat and pro-Obama staff. From a business point of view, have you heard anything here that makes you feel infused, encouraged for the future of business under Barack Obama?

JIM ROGERS, CEO, DUKE ENERGY: There's several things, and I see it first through the eyes of someone in the energy sector. His "all of the above," the focus on producing more natural gas, focus on more renewables, the focus on getting a balanced approach and moving more and more towards energy independence -- for a person in the energy sector, that is good news.

MORGAN: Mr. Mayor, it was a commanding week for the party in many ways, certainly not beset by some of the problems the Republicans had with hurricanes and so on, and Clint Eastwood talking to empty chairs. What have you got to improve, though? To guarantee victory, where do you still see a bit of weakness that you have to tighten up on?

ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA (D), MAYOR OF LOS ANGELES: I'm not sure I see weakness. I see strength. But I do -- we all understand that we have to tell the story that the president told tonight, that Bill Clinton told the night before. We're going to have to make it simple.

This was the biggest freefall since the 1930s. We put the brakes on that skid. But now we've got a path forward, and the president laid out that that path is very different from the path that the Republicans want to chart. It's a path based on the values that made America great, investing in the middle class, creating the safety net, job training so that we have the employees for the new economy.

I think we're going to have to knock on doors and get the vote out. That's going to be the most important thing.

MORGAN: We've got new jobs figures coming out tomorrow. What would be good news for Barack Obama, and what would be a warning sign?

ROGERS: I think you have to continue to see an increase in the jobs produced in the private sector. That would be good news for the American people. That would be good news for the president.

MORGAN: Jobs are the key thing still, I think, for many people. Many people lost their jobs or are losing their jobs or are concerned about their jobs. How can he guarantee -- I mean, Mitt Romney's come out and said, I'll bring 12 million people back to work. Barack Obama didn't set any targets we noticed tonight. Are you going to energize the jobs market in a simple way? What do you think the answer is?

VILLARAIGOSA: Well, first of all, when Romney talked about 12 million jobs, he never laid out a plan. The difference between Romney and the president tonight is he did lay out a plan very specifically. In addition to that, Moody Analytics -- not the Democrats, Moody Analytics says if we continue on this path forward, we're going to create 12 million jobs in the next four years.

So we've got to go steady as the course. We've got to accelerate our recovery without question. We've got to make the tough choices to cut the deficit, but we also go to raise the revenues we need to invest in infrastructure, education, R&D, and make sure that we're keeping taxes low on the middle class.

MORGAN: Mr. Mayor, you've done a great job all week. I've been watching you...

VILLARAIGOSA: We've been having fun.

MORGAN: ... doing your hosting duties. I think when I'm off next, you should come and guest host PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT.

(LAUGHTER) MORGAN: (INAUDIBLE) hosting skills.

ROGERS: Let me just say this. As the co-chair of the host committee, I think Charlotte showed very well this week.

MORGAN: So do I.

ROGERS: I think it was punching above its weight, like a great Southern city, and I'm so delighted that you're here and that the whole Democratic Party is here.

MORGAN: Charlotte has been terrific. The Irish bars in particular have been particularly pleasing.


MORGAN: But Tampa -- Tampa, to be fair -- let's be bipartisan -- was also terrific. And Bill Clinton would want me to be bipartisan. He made it very clear.


MORGAN: All the bars are good in Tampa and Charlotte. And Wolf, I know you've been (INAUDIBLE), so back to you.

WOLF BLITZER, HOST, THE SITUATION ROOM: Charlotte's been great. It's been a fabulous, fabulous experience. Piers, thanks very much.

Our analysts are here with their top takeaways from this, the final session of the Democratic national convention. Candy, let's start with you.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, I was thinking, looking at President Obama tonight, that I first interviewed him and Michelle after the 2004 speech that he gave, interviewed them again in 2008. I covered his campaign.

Listening to them here tonight, I'm thinking of whoever it was that said you campaign in poetry and you govern in prose. The poetry doesn't work anymore. There has to be, I think, more prose coming from this.

You were talking about, I think, earlier these -- that you needed a jump-start here. Certainly, this convention jump-started the folks in these rooms. I don't know what it did to the folks out there. I don't know if they heard enough prose tonight from the president to convince them that the next four years in any way, shape or form would be different from the first four.

I think that's a big question mark over this. Very successful convention, I will say, insofar as the folks in the room.

BLITZER: Van, your top takeaway.

VAN JONES, REBUILD THE DREAM, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: (INAUDIBLE) one, this is a party not afraid to fight the culture wars, not afraid at all, full-throated embrace of the cause of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, full embrace of immigrants, full embrace of women's right to choose.

Number two, not afraid to fight any other war. I mean, a very muscular party -- USA, USA. This is not the party of doves who are afraid to be there. This is a new Democratic Party that's very tough on foreign policy.

And I think, lastly, they, I think, successfully kept this thing from being a referendum on Obama. I think they want it to be a choice over values. And as we go forward, if they've won that reframing -- Whose values do you like better, this party's values or the Republican Party's values -- on the economy, I think they were successful with that this week.


ARI FLEISCHER, FMR. BUSH PRESS SECRETARY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think the central issue here is that President Obama's in trouble, but Bill Clinton is not. And by that, I mean Bill Clinton was able -- the only one able to really give what undecided voters are looking for, a reason to think things will be different in four years. President Obama did not do that tonight. I don't think he connected with the undecided voter, and in that sense, that's why I believe his speech really came short.

BLITZER: David Gergen, your top takeaway?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Two. As a native of North Carolina, I'm hugely proud of what Charlotte did. Terrific convention.

Secondly, Wolf, I said last night, you may recall, that the Democrats had had two back-to-back rousing evenings, unexpectedly strong. And if they could have a third, they could potentially break this race open.

I think they did not do that tonight. They fell a little short of that. It's partly because President Obama had to be presidential. So he gave a strong speech, but unlike the Clinton speech, it didn't sweep you off your feet. So I think they wind up as a stronger party in a stronger position, but it's still a very tight race, and that first debate, as you say, is going to really (INAUDIBLE)

BLITZER: I want Candy to weigh in on this because she's good on this kind of stuff. I carefully read the speech as he was delivering it. He rarely deviates from his advance text. He deviated twice today.

Once when he was talking about education, he said, No company should have to look for workers overseas because they couldn't find any with the right skills at home. In the advance text, it said, No company should look for workers in China. They took out the word "China." I don't know exactly why he did that, but we'll discuss that. The other deviation he made when he was talking about this, he said, We believe that a little girl who's offered an escape from poverty by a great teacher or a grant for college could become a founder of -- like Steve Jobs. And he mentioned Steve Jobs by name.

In the advance text, he says, We believe this little girl could be the founder of the next Google. No mention of Google in his actual words, in the advance text. He rarely does that because he's vetted the speech so carefully. What's your assessment?

CROWLEY: You know, I think he probably just broadened it out, rather than just having it Google-specific.

But I think what's interesting of that is that at every turn, this party, as the Republicans did, went to women. Every turn. It wasn't a little boy...


CROWLEY: ... you know, dreaming, it was a little girl dreaming of becoming the next Steve Jobs or becoming the next president...

BLITZER: The next founder of Google.

CROWLEY: ... next founder of Google or however he said it. The interesting part there is just that they just -- both these parties just pounded home -- and you know why? Because you can't win without the female vote.

BLITZER: And it's interesting he mentioned Steve Jobs -- he mentioned Steve Jobs, and most of the work that Apple does is where?

CROWLEY: In China.

BLITZER: Yes, in China.



BLITZER: Look, I want to thank all of our analysts, our reporters. I also want you to know that our CNN Politics Facebook page is -- we have the answers to tonight's question, "Who gave the best speech of the Democratic convention?" 2 percent of you say Vice President Biden, according to this, 62 percent say former president Bill Clinton, 28 percent say President Obama, 8 percent say the first lady. Remember, Clinton wins in this little survey. It is not a scientific survey, to be sure.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. President Obama's 2012 Democratic national convention speech in its entirety is just ahead.