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Senator Paul Vs. Governor Perry; Racism & Obama's Critics

Aired July 14, 2014 - 18:30   ET


PAUL BEGALA, CNN GUEST CO-HOST: Wolf, thank you for that. Stay safe here in Jerusalem.

Meanwhile, here in America, two Republican wannabe presidential candidates are busy calling each other names.

NEWT GINGRICH, CNN CO-HOST: But they both have something the Obama White House desperately lacks -- real ideas.

The debate starts now.


ANNOUNCER: Tonight on CROSSFIRE: political war hits Washington. Rick Perry versus Rand Paul on Iraq.

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's a preamble to be ready to rumble.

ANNOUNCER: And Eric Holder versus Sarah Palin.

On the left, Paul Begala. On the right, Newt Gingrich.

In the CROSSFIRE, Neera Tanden, a Democratic strategist, and Tim Phillips, a Republican strategist.

Summer's political heat. Plus, the outrage of the day -- tonight on CROSSFIRE.


GINGRICH: Welcome to CROSSFIRE. I'm Newt Gingrich on the right.

BEGALA: And I am Paul Begala on the left.

In the CROSSFIRE tonight, a pair of terrific political strategists to discuss a battle of Republican heavyweights.

In the right corner, Senator Rand Paul, an eye doctor, an eye doctor, I put it in that because I couldn't say ophthalmologist. Anyway, an eye doctor who some call a neo-isolationist.

In the far right corner, who's sporting a new pair of hipster frames, Governor Rick Perry, who has called for reinvading Iraq, because, you know, it worked so well the last time. Senator Paul has a medical degree from Duke, Governor Perry was on

scholastic probation at Texas A&M where he studied animal sciences.

Senator Paul says Governor Perry is, quote, "dead wrong" about national security. Rick Perry in turn says Senator Paul seems curiously blind.

It seems to me they're both right.


GINGRICH: Well, you know, it's interesting because in some ways, each of them has I think an important point to make.

But it also strikes me, we need a national debate about what's happened since 9/11. I personally believe the strategies in both parties have failed. I think the world is getting more dangerous. Just look at Wolf in Jerusalem and then look at what's happened with ISIS, what the attorney general said over the weekend, that he stays awake at night worrying about attacks coming out of ISIS. Look at the Crimea.

So, I think it's good to have somebody serious starting a real debate. Compare that to Hillary Clinton's three weeks of not really rich, I'm sort of rich, I'm actually poor. I can't explain how I couldn't get even a mortgage.

I like what the Republicans are doing better even if it means we're arguing.

In the CROSSFIRE, Neera Tanden, president of the Center of American Progress, and Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity.

And let me start, Neera, by asking you this. You know, in 2008, there was a genuine debate, Hillary was on one side, Barack was on the other.

There was real substance. It was not some shallow thing. And the country I think had to engage in some very serious challenges.

Isn't it in fact healthy for us right now to begin to have a serious national security debate looking at the totality of where we are and what's going on?

NEERA TANDEN, CENTER OF AMERICAN PROGRESS: I'm always for a healthy debate. I think what's fascinating about the debate between Rand Paul and Rick Perry is just the level of schism in the Republican Party over these really fundamental issues.

You know, it's not just they're having a debate at a high level. They're really name-calling relatively early. I mean, if I said these things about one of them, it would make news or something. But the fact they're attacking each other so early, in kind of personal terms, what I thought was fascinating about Rand Paul is how much he said he agreed with President Obama on Iraq. I thought that really creates a problem for the extreme right who does seem to want to invade Iraq again. And, you know, I think that lays out a big distinction.

GINGRICH: But it's more than just, again, scoring points. The fact is, ISIS is a huge problem now in the western part of Iraq and in Northern Syria. The fact is that our policy in Ukraine is in a shambles. The fact is that we -- you're seeing the policy that we had in Israel is in a shambles. You've just had the Mexican and Guatemalan presidents hold a joint press conference to announce they were going to facilitate more young people reaching the American border in what could hardly be seen as a friendly gesture.

I mean, shouldn't the Democrats also be having a serious foreign policy debate? Is this policy -- are you so comfortable with the administration policy that it doesn't need to be debated?

TANDEN: Well, we will have a debate on foreign policy issues in a presidential campaign. What I think is notable is how early people are taking the gloves off against each other, just shows how divisive these issues are within the Republican Party.

And I'd say, look, the world is a more dangerous place. ISIS is a terrible threat to the global order. But I think on an issue like Crimea, Ukraine, the Russians we've seen over the last several weeks back off on the more aggressive actions and I think the sanctions are having an effect.

Now, I agree with you the world is a complicated place. That's why I agree that people who have experience in these issues, who have led on these issues will have a good discussion in the future.

BEGALA: Right. And, Tim, firs, thanks for coming by.

TIM PHILLIPS, AMERICAN FOR PROSPERITY: You bet. Good to see you again.

BEGALA: Love seeing you. Let's not overhype this. This is not exactly Thomas Jefferson debating John Adams, OK? These are rick Perry who got put on earth to read talking points and have salon quality hair. But he's one --


PHILLIPS: Come on.

BEGALA: I'm jealous. I'm jealous.

But what both of them are doing, it's so interesting to me, they go right for the big R, President Reagan, right? Who is a hero to so many Republicans, I understand it.

But if you look at the op-eds both men have written, we have a scorecard. Nobody mentions Abraham Lincoln, probably the greatest president ever, happened to be a Republican, or Teddy Roosevelt or Franklin Roosevelt or George W. Bush, who was the most recent Republican president. But 11 times, Rand Paul mentions Reagan in two op-eds. Rick Perry in one op-ed and a comment gets nine. Who's got the claim to the Reagan legacy? The truth is I think it's

very mixed, right? Reagan didn't go off willy-nilly invading countries with no threat to America, like G.W. did. The only country he ever invaded was Granada, which is too small for Club Med, right? So, who's got the better of the claim here? Rand Paul?

PHILLIPS: The truth is no one does. There will never be another Reagan and neither one of these gentlemen do. Here is why I would rather have where we stand rather than what the left has. We have two guys having a debate. They have dueling op-eds. They've got President Obama's six-year record of failure.

I'm stunned to hear that Ukraine is suddenly a success? Crimea was invaded, digested and now they're calling it a success?

BEGALA: Neither this --


PHILLIPS: But when you look at what is happening with this administration's foreign policy it's a failure. There's no way around it, whether it's Syria, whether it's what's happening in Israel right now, whether it's Russia, and Crimea, or whether what you see on the border. This is just a dustup between two gentlemen who are running for president.

I think that's a healthy thing for the party --

BEGALA: I think the debate is frankly less than between them and President Obama than them and President Bush.


BEGALA: Rick Perry says he wants to put troops back into Iraq, right? He campaigned on that in 2012. Did not do very well.

Rand Paul says the war was wrong then and it is wrong now. Who's right?

PHILLIPS: But, Paul --

BEGALA: I mean, who do you think? You're like the most powerful guy in the Republican Party.


BEGALA: You got like $10 trillions to spend --

PHILLIPS: It doesn't matter.

BEGALA: Come on.

PHILLIPS: No, it doesn't. It's a dustup via two guys running for president. Three years from now --

BEGALA: The biggest foreign policy debacle of the last 50 years is Bush in Iraq.

PHILLIPS: The biggest foreign policy in what's happening right now. This is a debacle.

TANDEN: Come on. Come on.


PHILLIPS: I'm not going to choose between two guys running for president in three years. The public is going to look and judge 2016 based on the president's foreign policy record, and it is a disastrous record. You know that.

TANDEN: OK, I think what's actually interesting -- I think what's actually interesting about the dustup between the two of them is how hard Senator Paul went up against George Bush. I mean, he was deeply critical of that policy. Did you read --

PHILLIPS: Hillary and Barack never did that.

TANDEN: Did you read that?

PHILLIPS: Hillary never attacked --


TANDEN: I just think it was fascinating that he was much harsher towards George W. Bush than President Obama.

He's nicer to President Obama than to President Bush.


GINGRICH: Sure. But let me ask you about a second abou8t where we are right this minute. I mean, taking, for example, the Ukraine and Crimea -- I mean, can you really claim this is a successful foreign policy?

TANDEN: No. I'm -- my point is that there is challenges across the world. It is a very difficult world. It is not like it's an easy 1, 2, 3. The thing that I think is fascinating about senator Paul's piece is he says he agrees with President Obama about these issues, about the exact posture we've taken in Iraq. They have the same position. In fact, he says Governor Perry has the same position as President Obama.

GNGRICH: You may be hurting Rand Paul more than Rick Perry.

PHILLIPS: I know. You're devious here.


GINGRICH: Let's look at this one more time. This is the sixth year of a presidency. We've had the four-year Hillary secretary of state, followed by her 800-page book in which I think the only thing she explicit disagrees with the president is that she would have been more of an interventionist in Syria.

So, you look at all of this stuff. If it is not a successful policy -- I'm not asking you to say it's a failed policy -- but shouldn't we be having a national debate about how you're going to handle Putin, how are you going to handle the Middle East?

TANDEN: Absolutely. And you know what I think is fascinating actually is the Republican Party's view is to invade and criticize, right, or agree. You know, if we want to have a good discussion about what we should do, I think these two op-eds actually show the problems and complications.

Senator Paul, to his credit, say --

GINGRICH: And your alternative is to avoid and do neither.

TANDEN: No, of course not!

GINGRICH: Let me -- OK. Next, next -- next, the real reason why Americans are angry with President Obama and it has nothing to do with the Attorney General Eric Holder's excuses.

But first, today's CROSSFIRE quiz, which president appointed the first African-American to his cabinet? Was it Andrew Johnson, Dwight Eisenhower or Lyndon Johnson? We'll have the answer when we get back.


GINGRICH: Welcome back.

Here's the answer to our CROSSFIRE quiz. Lyndon Johnson appointed the first African-American cabinet secretary.

Now, let me share with you a picture of that and encapsulates the state of the Obama administration. Amid scandals over the border, the Veterans Administration, the IRS, crises in Iraq, Syria, and Crimea, the president who wouldn't go to the border because he says he doesn't do photo ops, is playing pool in Colorado. He also dropped by a brewery to drink a beer, and while working a line (ph), shook hands with a man dressed as a horse.

Now, is there any wonder then that Attorney General Eric Holder is complaining about what he perceives as disrespect toward himself and his boss? But he's mistaking the motive.


ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL: There's a certain level of vehemence, it seems to me, that's directed at me, directed at the president. There's a certain racial component to this for some people. I don't think this is a thing, it's a main driver. But for some, there's a racial animus.


GINGRICH: You know, some maybe, but, sorry, Mr. Attorney General, it isn't race that upsets the overwhelming majority of your critics. It's the fact that you and the president are utterly incompetent.

In the CROSSFIRE tonight, Neera Tanden and Tim Phillips.

And, Neera, let me -- you're a loyalist, you're smart, you run a serious policy operation. You're the kind of person who actually would be competent in these kind of jobs.

When you wake up in the morning and you scan from the border, all these other things, the V.A. which is melting down, we have a map at Gingrich Productions that has 54 different V.A. sites now that have scandals, 54 sites. You look at the IRS, which last year sent $4 billion in false refunds around the world, including 353 checks to one house in Shanghai.

I mean, doesn't it make you wonder how this administration could have this many different things going wrong simultaneously?

TANDEN: You know -- I mean, I think each one of these issues can be taken in turn. I think the issues raised by the attorney general, I can't say what motivates the opposition the president has, but I think the president has experienced a kinds of ahistoric opposition. I mean, we're at the level of opposition that's even much greater than during the Clinton administration, previous administration. So --

GINGRICH: Worse than Nixon?

TANDEN: You know, I mean, Nixon did some things wrong here and there, I think. I mean, come on, man!


BEGALA: I do. Newt is the historian.

But let me give you some ancient history.


BEGALA: I'm a person of faith. I don't believe there's any perfection this side of glory. OK? So, of course --

PHILLIPS: I share that with you, by the way.

BEGALA: Of course, there's challenges. There always will be here on earth.

But do you remember the guy who was there before, the guy who obliterated the Clinton surplus, who ignored the warnings before 9/11 and then botched the war in Afghanistan, lied us into a war in Iraq and destroyed the global economy. I mean, I hate like hell when what's going on in V.A., but you can't really compare, can you, to President Bush to President Obama?

PHILLIPS: Paul, as I understand, this is a family program. It's 6:30 in the evening, a lot of kids are watching, or I would read you a list of the things the left called George W. Bush. I mean, come on, they used the Hitler and Nazi slurs in a consistent basis. The left did, the anti-war movement especially. There's always --

BEGALA: Always wrong when that's done.

PHILLIPS: I think about Clinton and the gentleman you served. He was called things that were beyond the pale. He was. It was wrong then and it's wrong now.

BEGALA: I like name-calling because I'm an American. We're robust type (ph).

PHILLIPS: But it goes beyond the pale.

BEGALA: But it's something different. Certainly, you're right about Hitler stuff. Anybody who used that is always wrong. You're right. Good point.

But look at some of the things that have been said about our president. And this is -- he just -- Eric Holder said some, not all. It's like he's got two Ivy League degrees and he's got PhD in the obvious, Eric Holder.


BEGALA: Obviously some of the hatred. Look at some of the pictures we just picked up from the Interwebs, many of which we didn't want to show our viewers.

But here is a charming T-shirt. "Put the white back in the White House."

Then there's sign, "Kenyan, go home," directed at our president born in Hawaii, by the way.

Here's some restaurant saying that the White house smells like collard greens and fried chicken. They never said that about Bill Clinton or George W. Bush.

So some of this animus -- Eric is right.

GINGRICH: They could have said about the Clinton, they smelled like collard greens and fried chicken.


PHILLIPS: But the attorney general did say that the vast majority, or the majority or most off it is based on policy and ideology. I went back and read the transcript. He did say that. So, I'm given him a little bit of a pass there. But I do think back to what George W. Bush was called and the things he was attacked on, and it's never right to bring up race, or anything like that. And when it happens, we ought to call it out.

But the vast majority of the opposition, the 99.9 percent, is based on the failures of this administration.

GINGRICH: But let me clarify a different angle, which is actually a parallelism between Bush and Obama. Sometimes in second terms, presidents just get snake bit and things start to go wrong. Think about Katrina, the president flying overlooking down, the landing, a whole range of things.

I was really struck and I'm picking on this because it's so symbolic that the president after all this foo faah (ph) in Colorado would say I didn't go to the border because I don't do photo ops. Now, it's a sort of stuff that you get into, it's a little bit like Hillary saying, we were so poor, we couldn't get a mortgage.

BEGALA: Well, that's a statement of fact.



PHILLIPS: They have lots of houses but who's counting the houses.

GINGRICH: But she's signing an $8 million book deal.

BEGALA: Well, she was compounded (ph) by the Ken Starr (INAUDIBLE) right into, beyond bankruptcy. They were $10 million to $12 million in debt. It's a statement of fact.

Now, politically, unhelpful, but it's simply a statement of fact. But this question that I think -- I think you're right. He was very careful about what he said. He wasn't trying to be incendiary, but I think he was stating the obvious.

There are some, however, who are not really -- or maybe they are on the fringe, I don't know. But the vice presidential candidate for the Republican Party in 2008, Sarah Palin, has called for the impeachment of our president. Now, you don't go along with that, do you?

PHILLIPS: No, I don't. I think that nothing he's done rises to that level. And I think the speaker was right about that, what he said.

I do think his executive orders have gone too far and there's measures being taken to address that. But, no, I don't think most folks in office or most folks in general are looking at impeachment of this president. I don't think he should be.

We can beat him on the issues and I think we are. I look at where the public views this president. He's down in George W. Bush territory. I mean, the Gallup poll has him around 44 percent job approval, 54 percent disapproval. The American public is looking at his leadership and where he's taking us and they don't like it, Paul, and they shouldn't, it's not working.

GINGRICH: And the intense -- actually, I suspect the intensity of the language against Obama is not as intense as the intensity of language was against George W. Bush. If you went back and actually looked at how intensely the left disliked him, and that was then compounded by the war, it was really extraordinary.

I mean, you may remember there was an ad run that implied that he was in favor of having drug somebody to death in chains behind a car. This was a TV commercial.

TANDEN: Yes, I don't remember --

BEGALA: I remember the ad very well. That's not what the ad said actually. It was surviving children, I believe, of the man who had been lynched in Texas and they said when he refused to support a hate crimes bill, it compounded their pain and made them feel it all the worse. My clear recollection of that ad.

GINGRICH: But also it may have been by an independent group. But it showed chains.

PHILLIPS: Paul, just one thing about this president, though, and this administration. They tend -- they always want to find villains to hold up and say, look, it's not about our policies, it's about these awful people doing bad things to us and that's so hurtful and wrong. I think the American people after six years are fed up with it. They're not buying these excuses. The first three or four years it was always Bush, right? It's always the "kick me" sign and let's go Bush.


BEGALA: The next 50 or 60 years, it's never going to Bush. I'm never going to stop. At my funeral, they're going to play a negative ad about Bush, I promise. We will never in my lifetime recover from the damage that man and his team did.

PHILLIPS: It's just -- that line of attack is not working anymore. That's why his numbers are so bad. But they always get the villain routine going and I don't think folks are buying it.

BEGALA: All right. Tim, hang on just a second.

Stay here with us at home as well, because we want you to weigh in on today's Fireback question. Get this: Do you agree with Eric Holder that there is some racial animus toward himself and President Obama? Tweet yes or no using the #crossfire. We will have the results for you right after the break, and also the outrage of the day.

Believe it or not, Newt and I actually agree on something.

PHILLIPS: I want to hear that.


GINGRICH: Welcome back.

Now, it's time for the outrage of the day.

I'm outraged because the planet is pretending it's business as usual while Israel is under attack. More than a thousand rockets have been launched at Israel. Yet all we hear are calls for Israel to show restraint. If the United States had 1,000 rockets fired at us, would we show any restraint? Of course not. We would annihilate whoever did it. BEGALA: You're exactly right. And as any legitimate country has the

most important thing of that country is the right to self defense. I will say a reason a terrorist group claims the legitimacy of government in Gaza is because George W. Bush forced elections there against the will of people who knew better in Israel.

GINGRICH: And it was probably bush's fault for helping create Israel in the 1940s.

BEGALA: No, but definitely Bush's fault for pushing this election.

GINGRICH: He's probably on the wrong side of the civil war.

BEGALA: He did push that election.


BEGALA: No, but he did. It's a simple fact that he pushed -- he and Dr. Condoleezza Rice, our secretary of state at the time, pushed elections in there and oh, my gosh, Gaza is now ruled by a terrorist group. Thanks, Mr. President.

Let us check on our Fireback results. Do you agree with the Attorney General Eric Holder that there is some racial animus toward himself and our president? Right now, 58 percent of you say yes, 42 percent of you say no.

Tim, what do you think?

PHILLIPS: I think most Americans are going to judge this administration based on the policies, and the policies of this administration are a failure for the country.

BEGALA: Neera?

TANDEN: I agree with the poll.


BEGALA: OK, very quick.

Thanks very much to Neera Tanden of the Center for American Progress, and Tim Phillips from Americans for Prosperity.

The debate, of course, continues online endlessly at as well as on Facebook and the Twitters.

From the left, I'm Paul Begala.

GINGRICH: From the right, I'm Newt Gingrich.

Join us tomorrow for another edition of CROSSFIRE.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.