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Analysis of President Barack Obama's State of the Union Address; Republican Response

Aired January 20, 2015 - 22:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The president of the United States, clearly emboldened, seemingly a lot more confident delivering a very, very strong speech, outlining so many of the core principles of the Democratic base.

The president clearly very warmly received by the Democrats, not so much by the Republican majority in the House and the Senate.

I think it's fair to say, Jake Tapper, as we see the president, he's been spending some time walking through the aisles, saying goodbye to members of the House and Senate, members of his Cabinet, members of the Joint Chiefs.

If he had delivered this speech in the weeks and months leading up to the midterm elections, maybe it wouldn't have been such a disaster for the Democrats.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR, "THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER": Wow, would have, should have, could have, he -- it certainly was a much more optimistic message than we heard from a lot of the Democratic candidates on the stump. One much more focused on the economy, one much more optimistic.

Remember, one of the reasons that President Obama was elected in 2008 and re-elected in 2012 is because of the optimism that he is able to project. In fact he reminded the American people of the first time most of them probably saw him, giving that there are no red states or blue states speech during the 2004 Democratic National Convention.

And he ended his State of the Union speech this evening reminding people of who that guy was back in 2004, the one who wanted to unify the country. He said he acknowledged that he has not been able to change the tone to improve the tone, but he said he still longs to do that, he still wants to unite the country.

BLITZER: And he reminded the American people, he reminded the Congress, where the country was economically six years ago when he took office, the disaster he inherited and how much of this improved over these past six years, and he went through point by point on the deficit, on the stock market, on job creation, economic growth.

And he also did not shy away from Obamacare and the Affordable Care Act, making the point that it has turned out to be such a bonanza for 10 million Americans. TAPPER: Well, and he also pointed out that there were some parts of

his legacy that if members of Congress, and if the Republican House and Senate brought him bills to try to un-do them, he would veto the legislation specifically doing away with Obamacare, taking away their health insurance, unraveling the new rules on Wall Street, the rules that passed in the first couple of years of his term, or refighting past battles on immigration. He issues veto threats specifically.

BLITZER: And on Iran sanctions as well. If the Congress were to move ahead with new sanctions against Iran, he specifically said he would veto that legislation.

I don't know about you, Jake, I don't remember a State of the Union address where I heard a president issue so many veto threats to the Republican majority, to -- the opposite party in the United States Congress.

TAPPER: That's right. Except of course that the Iran sanctions bill is not just from Republicans, it's his fellow Democrats who are pushing that as well.

In terms of other firsts, it's the first time, I believe, that the words -- and this is just a sign of the times kind of thing. First time that the words Instagram, lesbian, bisexual or transgender have ever been uttered in the State of the Union address and the first time that a president has ever called for lifting the embargo against Cuba in the State of the Union address.

Those are all firsts as well.

BLITZER: Yes. He's -- since losing in the midterm election, the Democrats, the president has really been emboldened to go forward with these executive actions whether on immigration or Cuba or whether climate change as far as the agreement with China is concerned.

A lot of Democrats are thrilled, but, you know what, the Republicans are not very happy right now, and they say his latest initiative to go ahead and raise taxes on rich people on financial institutions in order to pay for new tax breaks, more income for the middle class, they say that is a non-starter. It's not going anywhere.

TAPPER: That's right. There were of course a lot of moments where everybody was able to stand and applause. At one point, he said if you need something done, hire a veteran. A lot of his messages about the fighting men and women in this country were applauded. He pointed out that for the first time since 9/11, the combat mission in Afghanistan is over. He noted that six years ago there were nearly 180,000 American troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, and today, fewer than 15,000 remain.

BLITZER: Yes, but he also seemed to suggest that the U.S. is really winning on this war on terrorism. Here, I think, he was on more questionable ground to be sure, because it looks right now that ISIS in Iraq and Syria still very powerful, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, in Yemen, still very powerful, and these other al Qaeda groups rather going forward in Somalia or in -- or elsewhere in Africa, North Africa.

They seem to be very formidable, they represent not only a significant threat to people in the Middle East and North Africa but in Europe and potentially here in the United States as well.

TAPPER: Of course, most of the speech, the body of the speech was a very progressive, very liberal economic message about trying to help the middle class. He did have some moments where he talked about infrastructure, but generally speaking the first part of his speech, the first third, I'd say, was about new tax cuts, about the $3,000 per child per year, paid sick leave or paid maternity leave, raising the minimum wage, lowering the cost of community college to zero.

A wish list for a progressive president getting any of those items through Congress, especially this Congress is going to be very difficult.

BLITZER: And I think it's fair to say had he put forward all these new initiatives before the midterm elections, was afraid to do so because he feared it could hurt Democrats who were up in a tough reelection or election season. As a result, he didn't do any of those things before the midterms, but now after the midterms two years to go he feels emboldened, almost liberated, ready to move on with these new very progressive or very liberal initiatives.

TAPPER: You can see the president making his way out, schmoozing with people, complimenting their ties, thanking them for their work.

BLITZER: There he is with Steve Israel. The congressman has been right behind him.

Anderson, this is an important night for the president of the United States. Key question now, is it really going to be make much of a difference given the fact the Republicans have significant majorities in the House and now the Senate.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR, AC 360: An important night for the president and for his supporters. The president said the nation has turned the corner on hard times.

We're going to play some of the most powerful lines from his address, but I want to go to Van Jones and all our panelists for quick take. We're obviously going to be bringing you the Republican response in just a few moments, but I want to try to get some quick takes on what you heard.

I heard you saying Obama is back.

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Obama is back. Obama is back. That is the guy in 2008 and 2012. He's back. The first time you ever heard him talk about unions, again transgender, bisexual, his basic passage. But the economic message of we're going to help you out now. He moved from the economy is strong, it can get better, it's going to be more fair, that is the Obama that wins elections.

And Republicans now on the back foot. This is the president in full engagement mode. And the Republicans, let's see what they say, but that is -- that is Barack Obama back.

COOPER: S.E. Cupp, do you feel on the back for you?

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't -- I don't join Van in that enthusiasm. But I will agree, you know, the criticisms of Democrats leading up to the 2014 midterms was that they didn't have a cohesive economic message, and I heard one tonight. It's not one obviously I agreed with, or that Republicans are going to agree with. But it was a more cohesive message.

I think Wolf alluded to his comments on terror. And I am positive those will have struck some Republicans as incredibly off-key. This is an administration that has underestimated ISIS and said al Qaeda has been decimated, you know, has had a very questionable foreign policy, and the world is a very dangerous place right now, and he seemed to take a bit of a victory lap on terror, and I think that's going to strike some Republicans as really untouched.

COOPER: Jay Carney, you've listened to all of the president's (INAUDIBLE)?

JAY CARNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I was struck by the end, and the sense that he was back not so much on the economic message which I knew he would make and I think he's right on. But he returned to some of the themes that Americans first heard from him, and in 2004, and again in 2008, and 2012, and I -- you know, I got a text from a friend who is not a partisan Democrat at all, but he did vote for Obama twice. And he said that's why I voted for him. What I heard in his last 10 minutes.

Now he was partisan in the sense that the solutions he proposed to the problems were his solutions.

CUPP: Yes.

CARNEY: They were progressive, but the problem is now being diagnosed in the same way by Republicans and Democrats. The economy is growing, but not everybody is sharing in the growth. We need to do something about it. So he's saying, here's my plan, and I think he's not going to want to hear what Republicans are going to offer.

COOPER: Mike Rogers, what did you hear tonight?

MIKE ROGERS, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY COMMENTATOR: I heard the Colorado speech when he was running for president, right, after his nomination and that concerns me, because one of the hallmarks of this president is he has very poor relationships with Congress. He had poor relationships with Democrats in Congress and he had poor relationships with pro-Republicans in Congress.

And I thought this speech was an opportunity for him to step up to say, all right, we have some differences, but we have common goals. How do we improve the middle class. Nobody is saying that's not a good idea. How he gets there, you know, calling for more spending and more programs, probably isn't going to excite Republicans, but he did it in the first three-quarters of that speech in a very partisan way. And I understand what he was trying to do. He was trying to evoke all

those images of 2008, as Van said. The problem is, it's not 2008 and we have two years left, and you have a big majority in both the House and the Senate with Republicans. I think it's a bad way to start if you actually want to accomplish something.

COOPER: John King?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's the first act in this latest round of divided government. And the first act of yet a very significantly left of center speech delivered by a president to a Congress that is now much more right of center after the election that just happened a couple of months ago. So they are operating on very different parallel universes, if you will, right now. But it's only the first act.

And I think the president was planting his flags, the Republican response, as we got them during the speech, as Chairman Rogers said, were all no way, Mr. President, you're ignoring the results of the election, but it is the first act. And we'll see how this plays out.

COOPER: Before I go to you, Gloria, I just want to play one of the moments that obviously is going to be get a lot of play from the speech.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: America for all that we have endured, for all the grit and hard work required to come back, for all the tasks that lie ahead, know this. The shadow of crisis has passed. And the State of the Union is strong.


COOPER: As we wait for the Republican response, Gloria Borger, what did you hear tonight?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, this is obviously a president who's been waiting a long time to actually say those words. And I think in looking at him, he looked kind of liberated tonight.

I think he was saying to Washington, I'm over you. OK. I am telling you what I told you when I first ran to office, which is there is no red America or there is no blue America, and he said, you know, I'm over this, I want to go back to where I was, but I also think he told the Congress there is good news here. I'm not used to hearing that from him.

And what I think he's done is deliver a big promissory note to the American people which is, it is going to continue to get better. He put that on the table. If it doesn't, the Democrats could have hell to pay.

COOPER: There were also lighter moment and some adlib moments. Here's one of the lighter moments. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I have no more campaigns to run. My only agenda --



I know, because I won both of them.



COOPER: They're responding, obviously, Michael, the applause when he said he had no more campaigns to run.

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST, SMERCONISH: You know, when I read the script before he began his remarks, I said to myself, I wonder if that will be an applause line for some to cheer when he says no more elections. He was very loose tonight. That was self-evident.

He struck me as an individual whose party had just taken control of the House and Senate, not someone whose party just got hammered.

COOPER: I had the exact same thought.


SMERCONISH: You know, two months ago. I have to say, I wondered in advance how was he going to sell his proposal to combat income inequality without sounding as if he scored the redistribution of all wealth, and the answer, I think, is offer very few specifics. Because there were more specifics offered in the media in the last 48 hours than there were in the speech on that matter.

BORGER: And I think that's been an important part of the rollout, and maybe it's because Jay Carney is not over at the White House anymore?

JAY CARNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. They were too specific back then, right?


BORGER: Way too specific when Jay was there.

But they've been rolling this out to try and give all of their proposals a certain amount of context so you wouldn't just say, OK, tax increases on the wealthy to pay for what?


BORGER: To pay for free community college, so we sort of got a lot of that out of the way.

SMERCONISH: It's hard to oppose it the way he presented it. COOPER: John --

BORGER: I do think on foreign --

KING: The big stuff doesn't pass in Washington. You make your proposals in January, the big stuff doesn't pass until hopefully August and September, sometimes up against the government shutdown deadline in October. But if they're actually going to do it the way the Republican leadership says they will do it, through regular order -- regular budget, haven't done that in Washington since Bill Clinton, mind you, but they say that's what they're going to do.

Then the negotiating will take place in late July, August and September. What the president was doing tonight was just laying down his markers and pleasing his base. The Republicans are going to be say, he's in denial, Anderson, because what they is, look back not just at last November, but the last -- six years. And they say this is a much redder America, 31 Republican governors, post-World War II high in the House, 54 Republican Senate seats, all those state legislative seats. So the Republicans say, yes, there is a red America.

CARNEY: The thing is, I know that -- the view is that this is a partisan speech, but I promise you that almost all of those initiatives test 73rd, which is in our world parlance for 70 percent of the American people would support them.

BORGER: And you wouldn't be polling those initiatives, would you, at the White House?

CARNEY: And it's possible that they may have been polled.



CARNEY: But --


CARNEY: Here's the thing, what the president did was frame the debate that we're going to have now over the economy which isn't how do we pull it out of recession, because we're out of recession. It isn't how to grow the economy because we're growing the economy. It isn't how to cut the deficit because we're cutting the deficit faster than in history. It's how do we make those benefits felt by average Americans.

JONES: And there's one number --

CARNEY: And so he took a turn. I don't think it was the most elegant phrase, but middle class economic, so it's like this is my turf. I'm for the middle class.

COOPER: We're just seconds away from the Republican response. I want to go to Wolf and Jake. BLITZER: It's going to be a very difficult challenge. It's always a

difficult challenge for the -- for the Republican response, or if there's a Republican president, for the Democratic response.

The president spoke for nearly an hour, Jake. The Republican response is a lot shorter, and it's a different venue, if you will, so it's always a little bit more difficult.

Joni Ernst, the senator from Iowa will be delivering the Republican response.

TAPPER: She's a freshman senator from Iowa, just elected. She is a former pig farmer and is known for turning a blue state red. She is somebody the Republicans feel is a rising star in the party and they want to show off who she is.

BLITZER: And here she is right now, Joni Ernst.

ERNST: Good evening.

I'm Joni Ernst. As a mother, a soldier and a newly elected senator from the great State of Iowa, I am proud to speak with you tonight.

A few moments ago, we heard the president lay out his vision for the year to come. Even if we may not always agree, it's important to hear different points of view in this great country. We appreciate the president sharing his.

Tonight, though, rather than respond to a speech, I'd like to talk about your priorities. I'd like to have a conversation about the new Republican Congress you just elected and how we plan to make Washington focus on your concerns again.

We heard the message you sent in November, loud and clear. And now we're getting to work to change the direction Washington has been taking our country.

The new Republican Congress also understands how difficult these past six years have been. For many of us, the sting of the economy and the frustration with Washington's dysfunction weren't things we had to read about. We felt them every day.

We felt them in Red Oak, the little town in southwestern Iowa where I grew up and am still proud to call home today.

As a young girl, I plowed the fields of our family farm. I worked construction with my dad. To save for college, I worked the morning biscuit line at Hardees.

We were raised to live simply, not to waste. It was a lesson my mother taught me every rainy morning.

You see, growing up, I had only one good pair of shoes. So on rainy school days, my mom would slip plastic bread bags over them to keep them dry. But I was never embarrassed, because the school bus would be filled with rows and rows of young Iowans with bread bags slipped over their feet.

Our parents may not have had much, but they worked hard for what they did have.

These days though, many families feel like they're working harder and harder with less and less to show for it, not just in Red Oak, but across the country.

We see our neighbors agonize over stagnant wages and lost jobs. We see the hurt caused by canceled healthcare plans and higher monthly insurance bills. We see too many moms and dads put their own dreams on hold while growing more fearful about the kind of future they'll be able to leave to their children.

Americans have been hurting, but when we demanded solutions, too often Washington responded with the same stale mindset that led to failed policies like Obamacare. It's a mindset that gave us political talking points, not serious solutions.

That's why the new Republican majority you elected started by reforming Congress to make it function again. And now, we're working hard to pass the kind of serious job-creation ideas you deserve.

One you've probably heard about is the Keystone jobs bill. President Obama has been delaying this bipartisan infrastructure project for years, even though many members of his party, unions and a strong majority of Americans support it. the president's own State Department has said Keystone's construction could support thousands of jobs and pump billions into our economy and do it with minimal environmental impact.

We worked with Democrats to pass this bill through the House. We're doing the same now in the Senate.

President Obama will soon have a decision to make: will he sign the bill, or block good American jobs?

There's a lot we can achieve if we work together.

Let's tear down trade barriers in places like Europe and the Pacific. Let's sell more of what we make and grow in America over there so we can boost manufacturing, wages and jobs right here, at home.

Let's simplify America's outdated and loophole-ridden tax code. Republicans think tax filing should be easier for you, not just the well-connected. So let's iron out loopholes to lower rates and create jobs, not pay for more government spending.

the president has already expressed some support for these kinds of ideas. We're calling on him now to cooperate to pass them.

You'll see a lot of serious work in this new Congress. Some of it will occur where I stand tonight, in the Armed Services Committee room. This is where I'll join committee colleagues, Republicans and Democrats, to discuss ways to support our exceptional military and its mission. This is where we'll debate strategies to confront terrorism and the threats posed by Al Qaeda, ISIL and those radicalized by them.

We know threats like these can't just be wished away. We've been reminded of terrorism's reach both at home and abroad, most recently in France and Nigeria, but also in places like Canada and Australia. Our hearts go out to all the innocent victims of terrorism and their loved ones. We can only imagine the depth of their grief.

For two decades, I've proudly worn our nation's uniform: today, as a lieutenant colonel in the Iowa Army National Guard. While deployed overseas with some of America's finest men and women, I've seen just how dangerous these kinds of threats can be.

The forces of violence and oppression don't care about the innocent. We need a comprehensive plan to defeat them.

We must also honor America's veterans. These men and women have sacrificed so much in defense of our freedoms and our way of life. They deserve nothing less than the benefits they were promised and a quality of care we can be all be proud of.

These are important issues the new Congress plans to address.

We'll also keep fighting to repeal and replace a health care law that's hurt so many hardworking families.

We'll work to correct executive overreach.

We'll propose ideas that aim to cut wasteful spending and balance the budget, with meaningful reforms, not higher taxes like the president has proposed.

We'll advance solutions to prevent the kind of cyberattacks we've seen recently.

We'll work to confront Iran's nuclear ambitions.

And we'll defend life, because protecting our most vulnerable is an important measure of any society.

Congress is back to work on your behalf, ready to make Washington focus on your concerns again.

We know America faces big challenges. But history has shown there's nothing our nation and our people can't accomplish.

Just look at my parents and grandparents. They had very little to call their own except the sweat on their brow and the dirt on their hands. But they worked, they sacrificed, and they dreamed big dreams for their children and grandchildren. And because they did, an ordinary Iowan like me has had some truly extraordinary opportunities -- because they showed me that you don't need to come from wealth or privilege to make a difference. You just need the freedom to dream big and a whole lot of hard work.

The new Republican Congress you elected is working to make Washington understand that too. And with a little cooperation from the president, we can get Washington working again.

Thank you for allowing me to speak with you tonight. May God bless this great country of ours, the brave Americans serving in uniform on our behalf, and you, the hardworking men and women who make the United States of America the greatest nation the world has ever known.

BLITZER: All right, so there she is, the Republican Senator from Iowa Joni Ernst, with a 10 minute Republican response, to the president who spoke for nearly one hour and she made it clear that on several of these key issues, Jake Tapper, the Republicans and the Democrats do not see eye to eye.

TAPPER: On Obamacare, on the Keystone -- which you call the Keystone jobs bill, on abortion, but there were some areas where she talked about agreement -- potential agreement. One of them being possibly tax reform, and another one being trade which is interesting, we haven't really spoken that much about. This is an area where President Obama faces real opposition in the House and Senate, from Democrats and potentially, supports from Republicans. She did talk about trade as an area where they could work together and in addition of course, President Obama making all these tax proposals, there are possibly of some room for a compromise on the tax reform.

BLITZER: Yeah. On Anderson Cooper, she also made it abundantly clear the Republicans would not gonna support any tax increases on the wealthy or big business, there could be some loopholes that could be eradicated, but they are not going with what the president has in mind.

COOPER: And there is a lot more to talk about. We want to also look at our President Obama's speech on race tonight. The comments he made. I want to play those for you and then talk about them with the panel.


different takes on the events of Ferguson and New York. But, surely we can understand a father who fears his son can't walk home without being harassed, and surely we can understand the wife who won't rest until the police officer she married walks through the front door at the end of the shift.


OBAMA: And surely we can agree that it's a good thing that for the first time in 40 years the crime rate and the incarceration rate have come down together, and use it as a starting point for Democrats and Republicans, community leaders and law enforcement to reform America's criminal justice system so that it protects and serves all of us. (APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: Again, the topic, the president has spoken about some times

before and always kind of trying to strike a middle ground.


COOPER: I am sorry. I am told that we have a problem with your mic. Jay Carney, I mean, we've heard this president speak about race before, I'm want to hear about your thoughts on what he said tonight.

JAY CARNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I thought it was very balance, I thought that it's very important for him to acknowledge that we may not agree all the time, on the causes or the problems, but one thing that we can agree on is that, there are just thousands and thousands of police officers out there working hard to keep us safe, and that it is an absolutely concern when mothers and fathers have to worry about their children being harass on the streets, I think that's a safe middle ground. And then he want to Van was talking about earlier, which is where we can actually work together, Republicans and Democrats and get some things done.

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That was really important, you know. First of all, I could say, my father was a cop in the military, my uncle just retired from the (inaudible) police force safely, and thank God. African-Americans want better policing, we're not anti- police, we're anti-police brutality, we're anti-racial profiling, and so we've been talking pass each other. The president I think hit it exactly right. And most importantly when he said, it's time for criminal justice reform, Republicans stood up. Noticed that, there is some common ground on solutions here, we may not agree on the causes of the problem, but there's common ground on solutions -- and he did a great job.

COOPER: Mike Rogers, is there a role for the president to play in this?

MIKE ROGERS, FORMER HOUSE INTELLIGENCE CHAIRMAN: You know, I think the most important role he can play is to reduce tensions everywhere where there's a problem. He has a unique role to play here. I hope he takes a stronger stance about to reducing those tensions. I am not so eager that he finds the middle ground, we're all gonna be able to get in the lane there, he needs does need to reduce tension. And we also need to start talking about the education reform in areas where there is lack of access. If the one major hurdle for these neighborhoods is access to quality education, we can change that, we can come together on that. Some of these other issues only serve to raised tensions with no real solution underneath it.

COOPER: Does lowering tensions though, does that actually help the overall problem, does that actually solve the problem?

JONES: The great thing about -- you have these people like Cory Booker, Rand Paul who are coming together and putting forward real solution, I think that's really good. On the education stuff, I -- listen, I would love to hear, hear if the Republicans can support the president trying to make more education available to. Community college stuff -- that was a very important point he made. It used to be that high school was not available to everybody. America is strong economy now, because we opened up the high school, should we open up community college? I thought that is straight middle class (inaudible) stuff.

ROGERS: And I completely agree with -- except for this one point. Graduation rates are still too low in urban centers.

CARNEY: Agree that.

ROGERS: And if we don't start focusing on that, we're gonna -- we can talk around the problems all day long. If we don't get kids access to quality education, and the whole -- the whole environment encourages them to get an education? We were never gonna fix the problem.

S.E. CUPP, SNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It seems that if everybody from the president to Republican 2016 (inaudible) everyone just discover poverty. And so everyone's talking about it, and I think to both of your points, had the president tonight talked about poverty. And given maybe some shoutouts to Republicans who are interest in solving poverty like Paul Ryan, like Mitt Romney, instead of -- you know, assailing them for their attempts, even if they don't agree on the solutions. I think that would have been a really nice overture to the Republicans to say, this is an important issue, I believe you want to work on it, let's find some common ground.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: And can I just say we're waiting for the justice department to release the probe of Ferguson and the president did not talk about that tonight.

COOPER: Probably so. Dana Bash is standing by in Statuary hall. Dana, are you getting reaction tonight?

DANA BASH, CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. We have a member of the Democratic leadership Senator Chuck Schumer of New York.


BASH: Good evening, your first time in many years being in the minority here, instead of the majority. How is it -- do you think the president have, should have a sense of freedom?

SCHUMER: Yes. I saw it, he was -- he was --

BASH: I mean political freedom.

SCHUMER: He -- really felt strong and good. He -- his feelings conveyed what he feels about America, we are back on the rebound, and we are uplift. He appealed to the better natures -- better angels of the nature. Very little partisanship in the speech, rather saying, hear a things I believe in to lift the middle class, you may believe in a few different things, but let's come together and try to get it done. It was one of the most optimistic speeches he gave, the one of the strongest speeches and not partisan. Saying, let's work together for the good things. The Republicans were sort of stuck. Joni Ernst were insulted about the pipeline as a jobs bill, it creates 35 jobs. Today, she voted against an amendment that says let's make this deal in the U.S. to create American jobs. So, he's -- he's able to talk in an uplifting way, and they're stuck with their special interests so they can't do what, they say they want to do. In their best bet if they want to get something done is to work with him.

BASH: OK. So, you have to -- it's up to you. I mean, you have to roll your sleeves up and actually work with Republicans...

SCHUMER: Oh, yeah.

BASH: To get done with you just described he talked about.

SCHUMER: Some of it.

BASH: Give me -- give me an example of when you're gonna sit down with the Republican leader and what you are gonna do first together.

SCHUMER: For instance, when we were last in the minority George Bush was president, we passed one of my bills that I was most proud of, making college tuition deductible, making college tuition get a credit. Republicans are for tax breaks. I think we can improve on that and there are Republicans who are interested in doing that. We talked about some of the ideas he's had for child tax credits, were proposed by Ryan.

BASH: Right.

SCHUMER: So, he's trying to figure out --

BASH: But I just talked to Paul Ryan and he -- what Republicans are concerned about is that he wants to pay for it by raising taxes on the wealthy, is there a middle ground there?

SCHUMER: You know, I think that who knows what -- if we can find the middle ground, what Republicans says it's gonna raise taxes, what they don't say is, he wants to close loopholes on the very wealthy few. If the president keeps at it, some of them may come along on that. Some of them have said in the past that some of these loopholes are uncalled for. They won't raise the top rate or -- you know, they won't raise any of the rates, so I don't think they will go for his capital gains, but in closing certain loopholes they may. Another place where we could get together, cyber security, sounded pretty good. Criminal justice reform, sounded pretty good.

BASH: And a lot of these things have been solved. You are saying -- under your leadership, it's been -- I mean, not you particularly, but Democratic leadership has been solved. So now you are in the minority and you are ready to do it?

SCHUMER: ... stop for security. Republicans blocked it because big business didn't want it. Now, big business after Sony is interested, that's the real chance to get something done. I've just talked tonight with Lindsey Graham on the trade. There are a good number of Republicans who want trade but want to come down tougher on China. We could come together on that...

BASH: And there are a lot of -- and talk about trade, there are a lot of Democrats who were not happy with the president said on free trade, How do you gonna convince them?

SCHUMER: If we do some tough legislation alongside TPA that really cracks done on China, the greatest violator. That's in the spirit of TPA, he mentioned it tonight, getting the other countries in the orb and then showing American workers that we're gonna not just mollycoddle China, which this administration is done too much of -- we can get something done.

BASH: One last question on Iran. The president made it clear he does not want you all to impose new sanctions on Iran, you gonna listen to him or you gonna go on your own way?

SCHUMER: OK. The president asked for -- he agrees we need tougher sanctions, the question is timing.

BASH: Right.

SCHUMER: And that's something we gonna have to sit and discuss...

BASH: We want to do it sooner, correct?

SCHUMER: Well, he had said he needs until March that's something Democrats and Republicans are exploring.

BASH: OK. Thank you very much. Thank you, Senator.

SCHUMER: Thank you, Dana.

BASH: It's nice to see you. Back to you.

COOPER: We don't hear the word mollycoddle enough in the world of politics.


COOPER: Now that the speeches are over, we're standing by for the first results from our instant digital test, we'll see how people who watched president's address, responded online ion real time. We'll see the president's high points and low points, with lines going up and down. We are also standing by for the first results for instant telephone poll of Americans who watched the president's speech tonight. I want to go back to the panel. Senator-elect Ernst, you know, it is a thankless job giving the response. We have seen rising star (ph) the Democratic Party and the Republican Party stubble when doing -- I want to hear your thoughts on how she did tonight --

CUPP: Simply I mean. But you couldn't see it, but she was wearing camouflaged high heels.


CUPP: And they tweeted the picture out. I mean, she was -- I thought she was great, she was a star, there was a little bayou, we got a little over background, which was great, people like to hear that. She -- I thought sounded like a happy warrior, she talked about the new Republican -- your new Republican majority getting back to work for you. I thought it was a really sort of positive fresh-faced spin on -- this new Congress. I thought -- I thought it sold.

JONES: Because you can blow yourself up.

CUPP: Yeah --


JONES: But do -- you just look at --

CUPP: Can you say Bobby Jindal, OK?

JONES: Jindal, Rubio that is a tough job. Listen, I think that the personal story about the bags on the shoes, I think that worked, I think she survived. Therefore, she's gonna be stronger...

CARNEY: But she --

JONES: But, I did not agree with the word she said.


CARNEY: She was strong on -- the theme of -- you know, putting and you're the past, because she's new...

CUPP: Yeah.

CARNEY: And if she's gonna saying, we're new Congress, or you gridlock on the past and now we have an opportunity to fix what was broken, because she knows, and pollsters have told her. Republicans are unpopular, Congress is unpopular -- everybody is unpopular. So she's trying to establish something new.

COOPER: Let -- let's listen --

CARNEY: And it was very wise.

COOPER: Let's listen to her talking about the gridlock and then Mike Rogers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: Just over a decade ago, I gave a speech in Boston where I said,

there was no liberal America or conservative America, and black America or white America, but a United States of America. I said this because, I have seen it in my own life, in the nations the gives someone like me -- it changed. Because I grew up in Hawaii, a melting pot of racism customs, because I made Illinois my home, the state of small town, rich farmland, one of the world's greatest cities, a microcosm of the country where Democrats, Republicans and independents, good people of every ethnicities in every faith, sharing certain bedrock values. Over the past six years the pundits have pointed out more than once, that my presidency hasn't delivered on this vision. How ironic they say that our politics seems more divided than ever. It's held up as proof not just of my own flaws, of which there are many. But also as proof that the division, itself, is misguided, naive, that there are too many people in this town who actually benefit from the partisanship and gridlock for us to ever do anything about it. I know how tempting such cynicism may be. But I still think that the cynics are wrong. I still believe that we are one people.


OBAMA: I still believe that the together we can do great things even when the odds are long.


OBAMA: I believe it --

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: That is are President Obama there talking about gridlock. Mike

Rogers want to hear you on this. (ph)

ROGERS: I just wanted to say, here's somebody who was a state senator and a part time legislator, not that long ago. An Iraq veteran, a colonel in the National Guard who I just thought knocked it out of the park tonight. She took the rhetoric of the lofty rhetoric of the president and sometimes that was really good and powerful on his messaging and brought it back to the reality of real people in place like Iowa, when she talked about Redwood, I thought that was effective, and I expect to see a lot.

BORGER: But what she showed to me is that -- there are at least two different universes that -- we were looked at tonight. I mean, she said, we won, we heard you, and the president said that it doesn't matter, this is what I'm -- this is what I'm gonna do. She's talking about smaller government, she's talking about deficit reduction, she didn't quite mention entitlement reform -- nobody did tonight, I might add.

COOPER: Very interesting.

BORGER: Very interesting. But, they are just living in two different worlds, it wasn't kind of a rebuttal, it was just a separate speech.

ROGERS: Because she brought home the rhetoric is great. I'm for everybody. This was an, I'm for everyone speech, especially if you are on the left and center. And what she did is to say, listen, I lived -- I've lived through the policies of the last six years and growing up in my life...

BORGER: Right.

ROGERS: And this is how it impacted me. I thought that was a powerful way to bring it back to reality.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: She is a living, breathing example of the changes in our politics. There she is a newly elected Republican senator from Iowa who was not supposed to win, the Democrats was supposed to hold that seat in the state that launched Barrack Obama's national political career. America has changed when in the Obama years, and now this is the tug of war, I think -- so the negative you could say is it proves to Gloria's point (inaudible). The president makes his case, Joni Ernst says, no way. You could take the negative that way, but you could try to take a positive out of this. This town needs a circuit breaker. First, they have to do some small things to prove they can work together, to get to the big stuffs? That's months down the line if they can build some trust.


KING: But what did she say? She said, we want to create jobs. We want to help working families, what the president say? We want to create -- I want create jobs. I want to help working families. So, they're talking about the same things, what the Republicans are saying is Mr. President. But they didn't say and maybe the way they could say it, if they want this town be a little bit more diplomatic, is to say Mr. President, you have the right ideas and the right intentions, the wrong policies. We think we have better policies, the president would say, no, you don't. And then try to work it out.


COOPER: But I mean -- were talking about gridlock tonight. Is there anything that should make anybody believe this next year is gonna be any different from the gridlock?

BORGER: Can they walk and chew gum at the same time? Is the question. Can they disagree on the issue of whether you raise taxes on the wealthy or did you cut taxes for example, which is what Senator Ernst was talking about. But can they disagree on that and can they get together on the things like trade, on infrastructure roads and bridges, that kind of thing.

COOPER: Michael, can they?

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST, SMERCONISH: No, they can't. And I think when you get into the substance beyond the lofty language that was offered by the president tonight that's where we gonna find out that the conflict still exists. If I can just say about Joni Ernst, it though she did well, I thought she was polish, I thought that she made a fine presentation. I also think that the bar is very low...



SMERCONISH: For these. If this is the equivalent of the Sports Illustrated course, if you are an athlete. Just once, I'd love to see somebody sit there with a legal pad like this, and say, you know, I made a few notes and I pulled out five items that I like to respond to. I'm not being critical of her, they're all this way. But she began by saying I'm not going to respond...

BORGER: Yeah. SMERCONISH: To what he just said. And I think it would be very effective, someone like Mike Rogers, who can think on his feet, could pull that off, and just once I'd like to see it happen.



COOPER: And over to you, Mike.

ROGERS: Nobody -- I got my 10 minutes?

SMERCONISH: It's hilarious and in gridlock.

CARNEY: There are some areas. First of all, the president supports these trade agreements. Republicans in Congress supports these trade agreements. If -- they are passed, he'll sign them. That would cost the president politically h in his own party...

COOPER: Sure will.

CARNEY: But he is willing to do it. That's -- one are. Infrastructure is another area. A corporate tax reform is another area. The question is that these are all areas that are basically playing on the Republican turf. So, in return for -- you know, him bleeding a little bit on this with his party, he's gonna -- he is going to need from Republicans something back. Maybe investments in infrastructure or maybe --


CARNEY: Some money --

JONES: I think regressive Democrats need to be very, very clear on this. When he went on the trade little jaunt, he did in that speech, he did not get one a piece applause from Republicans or Democrats. If the president moves in that direction -- he thought us we gonna believe with the base. That is the one area the base cannot go with him on, because the trade deals are on the table are not acceptable.


ROGERS: ...going into this, first couple of months. There is one thing that will get the Republicans and the Democrats together. I didn't think president was very strong on this, but that's the -- the authority for action in Syria.

CUPP: Yes.

ROGERS: And he will get --

CUPP: Right.

ROGERS: A lot of support, he will have to up his game on explaining to the American people why, which is not his strong suit on these issue, but it is an issue will Republicans will stand with him, and Democrats will stand with him...

CUPP: Right.

ROGERS: And I think it will show an act of good faith for the American people. It is a huge issue of which president really didn't deal with them.

CUPP: And there is a stronger appetite right now, than there has been in the past for more aggressive stance around the world. Because we just saw the assassination of the American journalist, we just saw what happened in France. It's --visible right now.

COOPER: When you talk about more aggressive American stance, what are you talking about?

CUPP: Well, I think there's -- there's probably room to -- of course, I mean talk to Bob Menendez, talk to Democrats for whom there is room to convince the American people that we maybe need to put some boots on the ground in Syria, boots on the ground in Iraq. I mean, we have boots on the ground we're just not calling it that.

COOPER: You are trying to put the American back to Iraq.

CUPP: Yes.


CARNEY: I think it's almost on n support for that. And I think of that --

KING: It was interesting enough to see President Barack Obama to his credit, as to the authorization for the United States Congress...

CUPP: Right.

KING: But you think after the way he got into international politics he wants to be talking about boots on the ground? In the Middle East this last two years...


CARNEY: Re-assert the fact that the numbers have come way down in terms of the servicemen and women in Iraq and Afghanistan, way, way down. As a positive and I -- it's not just how he felt in 2007 or 2008 -- it's how we feel today. But I -- I want to make another point, because ultimately, the reason that the presidents numbers are up is the economy. Ultimately, the reason why we're gonna see winners and losers of this debate this year and in 2016 is gonna be about the economy. And while -- I thought Senator Ernst was excellent, that presentation -- perfect. When she got to the bit of the substance she got to, the Republican plan? Is the same thing they have been talking about for years, the Keystone pipeline? Is just -- it's not enough. And if they want it --


CARNEY: If they want it --

BORGER: Complete Republican plan.

CARNEY: But -- but the problem is, so what is it? Is it the budget -- is it the Ryan budget? Because I know Democrats would love to have that debate again, because they will kill the Republicans --

ROGERS: That's the Republican plan.


ROGERS: I think you're kind of leading into it -- she had 10 minutes, so I think she used as an example, one area of which they believe and the Republicans in the House and the Senate believe could create jobs in the economy, I have to believe I think they are right on this. And so, I think it was one of those areas that shows, listen, this is about working people, and when the teamsters, when the unions are supporting the building of this pipeline...


ROGERS: The president is -- you know, the people who actually build the pipeline are for the pipeline. I think that's pretty interesting. These are good high-paying jobs that are the part of the middle-class, and I think it just tried to highlight the two different directions Republican will take. We want people working. They want a government program to help them. I think that's a big difference.

COOPER: We're waiting these poll numbers. I wanna go Wolf and Jake (inaudible) panel ahead, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Stand by guys, because we are continue to assess what we just heard, not only form the President of the United States but also from Republican Senator Joni Ernst. This is a president, by all accounts who was supremely confident tonight, almost cocky in his way in dealing with this Republican majority in the House and the Senate.

TAPPER: He's not known for having a small ego. Very few president's of NER. I think there was question is how was President Obama going to come to the State of the Union -- of there's a real contrast here. You have all this good economic news and you also have this Congress that is entirely in Republican control elected just in November. And there was a very interesting fun moment that a lot of people on social immediate are reacting to in which the president -- let a little bit of his confidence show. Let's run that clip.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: I have no more campaigns to run. My only agenda --


OBAMA: I know, because I won both of them.


OBAMA: Yeah.


(END VIDEO CLIP) TAPPER: There you have, the president responding to some -- you know

sarcastic applause from Republicans, he doesn't -- he doesn't gonna respond --


TAPPER: Yes, there was obviously an ad-lib.

BLITZER: He obviously wanted to respond and he made -- made his point. He has been elected president of the United States and then re- elected, President of the United States to the dismay of a lot of those Republicans in the Republicans who were sitting out there, the majority. As well, there were other moments that were sort of unusual.

TAPPER: Well, there are other moments that were sort of unusual. There was one other things I wanted to get at which is that Mitt Romney responded to the president on Facebook, a lot of people wondering about whether or not Mitt Romney is gonna run for president again. He's now talking about Mitt Romney saying that the fact that the president was speaking before a Congress just elected, that represents American call for, and Mr. Romney assessment. Smaller government and lower taxes and yet, gave the -- speech he gave shows that the president in his you, is more interested in politics than leadership, more intent on winning elections than on winning progress. So that was a point in remark, and I think a lot of political that they were that Romney is weighing in and taking the tea leaves the (inaudible) --

BLITZER: The fact -- the fact that Mitt Romney responding so quickly, immediately to what the president had to say in the State of the Union Address suggests that he is very serious about running for the Republican nomination.

TAPPER: He thinks his response, before the official Republican response from Senator Joni Ernst. He gave his own response, almost like in a Romney in campaign in waiting response.

BLITZER: Yeah, he's obviously making it clear. He -- Jeb Bush, so many other Republican were there. 15 or 20 Republicans who are thinking of running for president of the United States, and they are all gonna be giving their response. But this is a president --I think you will agree who's gonna spend the next two years going after Republicans knowing that on most of these issues he's not gonna win.

TAPPER: That is right. And in fact, the president made it very clear, that if they brought him some items of legislation, health care and other things, he would veto those points of legislation. He would veto attempts to undo health care, Obamacare and more.

BLITZER: And the president issuing several veto threats tonight -- a very unusual in the State of the Union Address. Our coverage, special coverage, continues.