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Is the Republican Establishment Taking Trump Seriously?; The Politics of Super Bowl 50; Obama Back in Springfield, Illinois; Counting Down to Super Tuesday. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired February 10, 2016 - 23:00   ET


[23:00:00] DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: This is CNN TONIGHT, I'm Don Lemon.

Is the Republican establishment ready to take Trump seriously? I'll ask former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, tonight. He weighs in on Trump's impact on the GOP rates.

And President Obama goes back to the city where he launched his presidential campaign nine years ago talking about his political achievements and failures. There's a lot to get to in the hour ahead.

So, next stops on the campaign trail, South Carolina and Nevada as we count down to Super Tuesday on March 1st.

Joining me now is McKay Coppins, Senior Political Writer for "BuzzFeed News." McKay, good to have you.

The outsiders, Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders were victorious in New Hampshire last night. How rattled is the establishment on both sides?

MCKAY COPPINS, BUZZFEED NEWS' SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER: I think it's somewhere between rattled and outright panic from what I understand. I mean, I spent last night at Marco Rubio's primary rally.

Remember that just a few days ago before his kind of debate stage meltdown, he was seen as a surging candidate. Somebody who was going to come in a strong second, possibly even challenge Donald Trump for first place in New Hampshire. Finally, kind of consolidate the establishment support and become the Republican Party standard bearer to take on Donald Trump.

That didn't happen. And not only did that not happen, Donald Trump won by 20 points. He was 20 points ahead of the next closest candidate, John Kasich of Ohio, who has no real path to the nomination as far as I can tell.

The establishment people that I talked to are saying that, you know, this is complete chaos, this is the worst possible situation we could see ourselves in coming out of New Hampshire. And now, we're in South Carolina, these campaigns have decamped for the Palmetto state, which is kind of a notoriously toxic political scene with a long history of dirty tricks and whisper campaigns and rumor mongering. And I think that there's a lot of concern that the establishment candidates, John Kasich, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio are going to spend the whole time down here bludgeoning each other while Donald Trump continues to kind of skate above the fray and nominate the primary.

LEMON: So answer this for me before we move on. So, you said that John Kasich doesn't have a clear path at all to the nomination. You don't see him as viable. He's not the anti-Trump in this?

COPPINS: I mean, never say never. I mean, the problem that John Kasich has is that he based his entire candidacy around New Hampshire and talking about, "Oh I could win Democrats. I should be running as a Democrat," joking about that. You know, in some ways, taking very moderate stances on issues. That plays well in the Granite State and not so much in a primary races where Democrats and independents can't vote.

The other issue is that he doesn't have any money and he doesn't have really any political infrastructure. So, unless he can somehow convince a lot of donors that he is viable, I just don't see him as being kind of the power house that's available to take on ...

LEMON: OK. All right, McKay, so listen, you have some interesting report. I thought it was very interesting on Marco Rubio specifically that he has a tendency to panic in a crisis. Can you explain that and how is he handled things since his poor debate performance led to a fifth place finish last night?

COPPINS: Yeah. So I write about this in my book. It dates all the way back to kind of early in his life. You know, you have to remember, Marco Rubio comes from a kind of immigrant parents. He had a working class background. He really had to hustle for everything he's gotten in his career.

And what his friends and allies and advisers tell me is that, you know, while that kind of -- that status anxiety has fueled a lot of his ambition and drive. It also, at key moments of kind of high pressure and high tension in his career, can cause him to panic.

One example that they bring up was during the 2010, his kind of long- shot bid for the Senate in Florida. Even the most kind of minor gentle attacks from Charlie Crist, who was his opponent at the time, would cause him to just spiral into this kind of self-doubt, and anxiety and concern. And his advisers were constantly having to, kind of, talk him off the ledge.

Now, look, people change, people grow up. He's obviously very young for somebody who's gotten as far as he is. I've also been told by his advisers that he's been actively working on this. He's been trying to keep his kind of anxiety in check.

But why I think it is relevant is because, you know, on the debate stage when he had that kind of mini meltdown, a lot of people who knew him said, you know, that is -- that's Marco.

LEMON: That would explain ... COPPINS: When he's faced with a high-stress situation.

LEMON: Does that explain the water thing?

COPPINS: He can sometimes like he is -- yes, exactly, right. He can have his --

[23:05:00] Now, but the thing is, going forward, the big question is, Can he keep that in check, and while he's kind of locked in this really intense hand-to-hand combat down here in South Carolina, as I suspect the next 9 or 10 days is going to provide, will he be able to, you know, show that he can keep his cool, he can stay on message, stay on track.

If he's able to do that, I think that's the biggest question mark in terms of where his campaign goes from here.

LEMON: I think and also, this campaign is about authenticity. If he just admitted that to the voters, they may accept him and understand him more. Thank you, McKay Coppins, appreciate it.

COPPINS: Thank you. Thanks.

LEMON: Donald Trump's candidacy shaking up the Republican Party. And I want to talk about this with Rudy Giuliani. In addition to being Chairman and CEO of Giuliani Partners and the former Mayor of New York City, of course, Rudy Giuliani now adds another title, Global Chairman of Cyber Security and Crisis Management and Senior Adviser to the Executive Chairman of Greenberg Traurig, so welcome.

Again, that is a long title and it's good to have you here. So, let's start.


LEMON: Yeah. You do and you do a lot of stuff. As well as, you know, many people compare you to Donald Trump.

They say you have a lot in common, you know each other very well, you're both straight shooters, you're straight talking New Yorkers who have been criticized by the establishment for not being "true conservatives". Some people say you're Mavericks. Why is he having so much success you think this election cycle?

GIULIANI: For exactly what you just said. I think the American people are starved for someone who tells what they think, says it the way he believes it.

Even I think sometimes, when people disagree with him and I know people who do. But, they tell me, "Boy, we respect him because he's finally cutting through this political correctness. And maybe we needed somebody to do that where, you know, we can't communicate with each other anymore".

LEMON: What do you mean about that, we can't communicate with each other anymore? GUILIANI: Well, because if we say something slightly sensitive and you're going to be accused of being feminist or racist or sexist, all right. When he was accused of being sexist, I thought that was brilliant. He turned it around on Hillary and said, "What do you mean I'm a sexist? You protected your husband against all those allegations. And you're the one who says that if a woman is a victim, she should be believed, except for the women that your husband took advantage of."

I mean, who would say that other than a guy, you know, like Donald who is a straight shooter?

LEMON: So, let's talk about that. Because he has said some things that some people would consider nasty or controversial about women as you just mentioned, minorities, other language that some consider vulgar in the campaign trail. Some people say he is thin skinned to criticism. People have concerns about his temperament. So you understand those concerns?

GUILIANI: Oh, I do. Yeah. Some of the things I disagreed with, you know. I didn't agree with the comment on Senator McCain. Senator McCain is one of my heroes, but he kind of clarify that. They talk to each other. You might noticed that Senator McCain came to his defense when attack Senator Cruz. So, I think that sort of behind us.

You also have to attribute some of that the first couple of months that Donald Trump, the first being a candidate, having been on reality guy and a salesman.

I think maybe the first couple of months, he said some things that he would say a little different right now as a much more sophisticated candidate. But still, he's going to tell you maybe in slightly more sensitive language what he really believes.

LEMON: Let's talk about -- let's get back to the campaign trail and what's happening right now, OK, because this was a big win last night in New Hampshire.


LEMON: Right. Does the establishment finally have to realize that Trump is for real?

GUILIANI: Yes. Here was the big question about Donald, including for me, Don, I'll tell you. He registered very, very well in the polls. I've seen people register well in polls and then it doesn't convert itself into votes.

So, when Iowa happened and he -- a couple of Iowa polls had him at about 28 and he came in at 24, there was a little concern that maybe the polls were being driven by his celebrity status, not his ability to gets votes.

What New Hampshire establishes is he can over perform. He was only at 30 percent in the polls. He got 34 percent of the vote. So, that's a real following that he has. And I think if the Republican Party doesn't recognize that, they're making a terrible mistake.

LEMON: The other candidates don't seem to be able to make a dent. Who else do you like besides Donald Trump?

GUILIANI: Well, I like Bush a lot. And he's been a friend as long as Donald. And I think, Bush, whatever problems Jeb Bush has are communication. They're not knowledge, background, experience, ability to do the job, temperament to do the job.

[23:09:59] And I don't even get it, because I've seen him, I campaigned with him, I don't know, at least 30 to 40 times. Then he can also be a very dynamic campaigner.

And somehow, maybe being thinking he was the front runner here, he kind of. But I don't count Bush out, I don't count Rubio out, even though he had that bad moment that Chris Christie very artfully produced. I thought that was one of the most brilliant cross examination segment I ever saw. And I don't count Kasich out. I think those are your people.

I have the most trouble with Cruz because he's too far right for me. And you know I'm a moderate Republican. And that gets a little too far out to the right.

LEMON: What makes him too far to the right, Mr. Mayor?

GUILIANI: I think the fact that he sort of -- Rubio actually points this out. He like sets the definition of what it is to be a conservative. And if you don't agree with him on everything, you're not a conservative, only he is.

And that sort of defies the guy he talks about a lot but never worked for. But I did, Ronald Reagan.

Ronald Reagan used to say, my 80 percent friend is not my 20 percent enemy. And if we can agree -- if we can agree on seven out of eight things, let's get it done and let's forget about the other thing we don't agree on.

LEMON: It sounds like ...

GUILIANI: I don't see that improve.

LEMON: Hey listen, can you give me a quick prediction beyond as we get into Super Tuesday, what do you think is going to happen?

GUILIANI: Well, I think it's going to come down to Donald. I think it's going to be Cruz. I think it's going to be Bush and Rubio.

LEMON: And that's it.

GUILIANI: And Kasich is the vice president. LEMON: Mayor Giuliani, back after the break. And I'm going ask him why he is upset about Beyonce's performance during the Super Bowl Half-time Show, which he called anti-police.

This is a conversation you don't want to miss.


[23:15:27] LEMON: Back now with Rudy Giuliani. He is one of more than 100 million people around the world to watch Super Bowl 50. And that didn't just include football. Beyonce's half-time performance drew praise from many, but has also met with harsh criticism.

And it came on the heels of a release of her new video, "Formation". Take a look.


LEMON: Can I ask you something that's happening? And this is really, it is pop culture related, its law enforcement related, because I know you have been speaking out about it this week, and of course that Beyonce's performance of the half-time at the Super Bowl. You've been very critical of her. Why is that?

GIULIANI: Well, first of all, you have to understand there's a lot of emotion attached to it. I was at the bedside of 42 police officers before September 11, who lost their lives protecting the people of New York City. And most of the lives that they saved in New York were black lives.

And under me and under my police department, we save more African- American lives than all these people in the Black Lives Matter movement combined, by efficient, fair, decent policing.

The New York City Police Department is a nonwhite majority police department. And if it weren't for the New York City Police Department, there'd be thousands and thousands of dead, young black kids in New York that these people who are creating this terrible situation for the police where they're putting a target on their back don't realize.

I don't think they're doing it on purpose. I know they had other agendas and -- but to see people dressed up like the Black Panthers, who assassinated police officers, we want to go back to the Black Panthers? I mean, I don't know. Well, that got me disturbed.

LEMON: Well, two things Mr. Giuliani, there -- many artists have taken stances before. I happened to see Sting last night. He takes social stances. I've seen other artists take on stances on social and political issues.

She's not the first person to do it. And because someone says is critical of a bad part of policing, we know that most police officers, they're good police officers, does that necessarily make them anti- police? GIULIANI: At a time in which police officers have a target on their back, when you only emphasize the few infinitesimal small number of situations in which police officers kill people as opposed to the enormous number of times in when people are killed by other people and in the African-American community, it's African-Americans killing African-Americans, I think this is not just any time.

This is a time in which police officers feel and if you go talk to them around America, they'll tell you this. They have a target on their back.

I have two police officers in New York City, Detective Ramos and Detective Liu who were assassinated. They were assassinating, protecting an African-American housing development.

One guy happens to be Hispanic and the other guy happens to be Chinese, by the way.

So, excuse me if I'm a little emotional about it. I've seen too many cops die saving the lives of people. And maybe some emphases should be given to that. And at a moment like that with 90 million people watching you to not at least give the other side of the story, when that's the side of the story that really is saving lives, not a bunch of that, you know, political rhetoric.

Look, the reality is, the way in which most people are killed in this country are by other people, not by cops.

LEMON: Mr. Mayor ...

GIULIANI: Our cops save a lot more lives than they cost.

LEMON: Your point is well-taken and I think many people understand that police officers have tough jobs and of course the two officers who were assassinated here in New York City, our hearts go after them.

But, by the same token that you're saying, I want you understand this. But, you're saying that maybe Beyonce should be more sensitive to another side of it.

Do you think that you should be more sensitive to another side as well that there -- because it sounds like you're saying that there isn't a problem with police officers and African-Americans?

GIULIANI: I am not.


[23:19:59] GIULIANI: Don, you're looking at somebody who put 70 police officers in jail, a lot more than Beyonce ever did. I prosecuted police officers, I put them in jail. I put them in jail for long periods of time when they were corrupt, when they were brutal.

When one police officer was engaged in an active brutality, when I was mayor, he went to jail for 25 years. There's nobody tougher on police than I am.

I expect them to act above and beyond what other people act. But I happen to know that most of them do that.

And at the time like this, maybe it might not be a bad idea for people who have the kind of fame and celebrity that she has to teach everyone, not only in her community but in every other community to respect the police, to respect the uniform, not to make it appear as if they're the enemy. But to respect the uniform of our police officers, of our military.

That's the way I was brought up. That's a lot safer way to bring up your child, by the way. And that part of it.

And to see that in the middle of an NFL football game without any suggestion that we should respect the people who had saved our lives and the people have their lives on the line trying to save our lives. That offended me in an emotional way because I have been at the bedside of so many police officers who have died. Had four uncles that were police officers and had a cousin who was shot in the line of duty.

LEMON: Let me ask you this, Mr. Mayor. I'm sorry that happened to your family and that you had to witness that. There are many things I'm sure you witnessed as, you know, as mayor and as a leader, as a politician that many others don't get to see.

So then, if you had a chance to sit down with Beyonce or members of the Black Lives Matter Movement, how would you bridge the gap, how would you work with them to bring it together where more lives can be safe that you both can understand each other?

GUILIANI: Well, I wish I would have the opportunity to do that. First of all, I have them come take a look at my police department. I still consider it mine. It hasn't been mine for 20 years. But I'm the one who initiated the program with Peter O'Neill to bring more minorities into the New York City Police Department.

When I inherited the New York City Police Department, it was a majority white police department. When I turned it over, it was a non-majority nothing police department. It was pretty equal percentages of white, black, Hispanic, Asian. I deliberately did that.

I'd like them to come and take a look at how the police department really operates. I'd like them to go talk to the people I used to go talk to in the housing developments in New York. African-Americans who would ask me for more police officers to protect them, the way detectives Ramos and Liu were protecting that housing development the day they died.

LEMON: So what would you say to them? What would do you if you were at the table with them?

GUILIANI: That's what I would do. I would say to them, "Let's go, let's go, let's go talk to these police officers. How about you spend the night riding with them and see what they go through and what they're trying to do.''

What they're trying to do is that, they're trying to stop one group of guys from killing another group of guys, who happen to usually be the same race. That's what they're doing. That's why they're out there. Of course you get a few that are bad.

And they probably would have never met someone who put more bad cops in jail than me. They probably don't know anybody that put as many bad cops in jail as me.

They also don't know anybody who saved more black lives than I did with the policing that I did in New York. How about thousands?

LEMON: Yeah.

GUILIANI: When I came into office, there were 1,900 murders in New York, when I left it was down to 500. 70 to 75 percent of those murders were of black people.

LEMON: Mr. Mayor, I appreciate your candor and coming on and explaining this. And you always take the tough questions and you answer. Thank you so much.

GUILIANI: Thank you.

LEMON: The former mayor, never want to mince words.

Up next, reaction to Rudy Giuliani's breakdown of Beyonce's performance and the policing in America.


[23:27:52] LEMON: So the former mayor of New York City, Rudy Giuliani, never want to back down from tough questions and always want to express his opinions honestly.

So joining me now to talk about Beyonce's Super Bowl performance and what kind of statement it made, and to talk about that interview honestly is Michael Nutter, the former mayor of Philadelphia and Van Jones, CNN Political Commentator.

And, Mayor, I'm so glad you could hang around and do this. Thank you so much. OK.

So, you heard Mayor Giuliani. You're also a mayor of a major city, with its share of violence.


LEMON: And you know this issue very well from both sides. Is he right that police officers have targets on their back and that this video and performance don't help?

NUTTER: Well, I would say this, and as the mayor mentioned and I have -- during my time, I lost a number of police officers to violence. We saw -- shortly after went out of officers, the gentleman walk right up to a police car officer and shoot Police Officer Hartnett. Fortunately, he survived that and acted in a heroic fashion.

So this is very serious business, and policing, and public service and first responders, some of the most dangerous jobs in the world.

First, you know, I didn't know that Mayor Giuliani was now, you know, kind of a pop music culture critic. I think there's place in this world for artists and artistry.

There are some who have ill feelings, no question. There are some very bad people on the streets of America who target police officers. There's some significant amount of tension in the community about police and community relations.

But the overwhelming majority of people do, in fact, respect police officers, know that their job is tough. And when something happens to them, they call 911 and they want a professional police officer to show up.

So, you know, I think sometimes, you know, we need to back up a little bit, not take things so seriously and then appreciate the artistry.

LEMON: So but then ...

NUTTER: Maybe the mayor does not fully understanding the power of Beyonce, a strong black woman who is taking control of her life and her career and is dealing with a very serious issue.

[23:30:02] And the issue itself needs to be dealt with which, Don, you tried to ask the mayor about that. And for my view, he kind of blew it off.

LEMON: Yeah. So, Van, he's saying that an artist has a responsibility and that Beyonce didn't tell both sides of the story. Does she have that responsibility as an artist to do that with an audience as big as the Super Bowl?

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, she doesn't have any more responsibility than he has. I mean, he sat here for two segments and barely addressed the fact that for a year or two now on this show, on this network, we have seen African-American young man, after African- American young woman, people grieving over these killings.

Now, if he can't find his way as an esteemed mayor of America to tell both sides of the story, I don't know why he's going to pick on Beyonce.

Beyonce did a beautiful job, she did a brilliant job, she's speaking for a generation. And here's the problem I have with everything he said. He positioned himself as this great champion and savior of the black community. This great champion and savior of black youth. You know what, when you're the champion and savior of a group, you tend to have a relationship with them.

LEMON: He said that police officers, he said that his police officers have saved more black lives than Black Lives Matter does or will. Does he have a point? JONES: Hey, listen, I am -- my dad was a cop in the military. My

uncle, Milton Douglas Jones (ph) just retired from the Memphis City police force. I'm from a law enforcement family. It is in fact true that law enforcement saves lives everyday. That's not the point.

He also point -- the point is, though, that when you have a pattern and a practice now where the ones who do horrible things don't go to jail, he talked about the 70 he put in jail. I've never heard that number before. When he ran for president, he wasn't bragging about putting 70 cops in jail. It's the first time I've ever heard him say that.

But, there are a number of cops who are not going to jail.

Listen, I think it's unfortunate that one of our most esteemed and respected and revered and the legendary political leaders, after two years now, can't find it in his heart to understand why a young artist would want to speak out about this issue. It's shocking to me.

NUTTER: Don, my problem with the interview was probably similar to some extent to Van. That mayor basically laid out a case that the ends justify the means, that whatever was going on in New York City and that, you know, lives were saved. But in the meantime, you may, in fact, have destroyed, you know, decades of relationship between the police and African-American community, communities of color.

But since lives were saved, you know, in the mayor's view, it sounds like everything else is secondary to that. And that's just not how things can be.

LEMON: That's going to have to be the last word.

Thank you Mayor Nutter, appreciate -- again, appreciate you sticking around. You as well, Van Jones, and we'll have you both back on. Of course, this conversation is going to continue beyond what the former mayor Rudy Giuliani has to say about this. So thanks again.

Coming up, President Barack Obama makes a personal and reflective speech about his presidency, accentuating his achievements but also his failures as well.



LEMON: President Barack Obama in Springfield, Illinois today at the very site where he launched his presidential campaign nine years ago, delivering a personal speech highlighting his achievement and acknowledging his shortcomings. Look.


BARACK OBAMA, U.S. PRESIDENT: Next year, I'll still hold the most important title of all, and that's the title of citizen.

And as an American citizen, I understand that our progress is not inevitable. Our progress has never been inevitable, it must be fought for and one by all of us, with the kind of patriotism that our fellow Illinoisan, Adlai Stevenson once described not as a short frenzied outburst of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.

It required a citizenship and a sense that we are one.

And today, that kind of citizenship is threatened by a poisonous political climate that pushes people away from participating in our public life.

It turns folks off. It discourages them, makes them cynical. And when that happens, more powerful and extreme voices fill the void. When that happens, progress stalls.

One thing I've learned is folks don't change.

So, trying to find common ground doesn't make me less of a Democrat or less of a progressive. It means I'm trying to get stuff done.

And the same applies to a Republican, who heaven forbid might agree with me on a particular issue. Or, if I said America's great, decided to stand during the State of the Union. It's not a controversial proposition.

You're not going to get in trouble. But the fact that that's hard to do, that is a testament to how difficult our politics has become, because the folks are worried, "Well, I'm going to get yelled at by here, this blogger is going to write back", or you know, "This talk show host is going to talk about me and suddenly I've got a challenger and calling me a rhino or a, you know, the -- not a real progressive."

And I've got daughters that are getting older now. And one of the most important things about being a parent, I think, is for them just seeing what you do not when you're out in public, not when you're dealing with somebody important but just how do you do -- how do you treat people generally.

[23:40:11] And it makes me much more mindful. I want to live up to their expectations.

And in that same way, I want this democracy to live up to the people's expectations. We can't move forward if all we do is tear each other down. And the political incentives, as they are today, too often rewards that kind of behavior. That's what gets attention.

So, it will require some courage just to act the way our parents taught us to act. It shouldn't, but in this political environment, apparently, it does.

We've got to insist to do better from each other, for each other. Rather than reward those who would disenfranchise any segment of America, we've got to insist that everybody arm themselves with information and facts and that they vote. If 99 percent of us voted, it wouldn't matter how much the 1 percent spends on our elections.


LEMON: Yeah. Joining me now is Douglas Brinkley, CNN's Presidential Historian and Bob Beckel, author of I Should Be Dead: My life Surviving Politics, TV and Addiction.

Doug, it's amazing to see -- when someone sees how the sausage is made because he's really explaining to the American people, "This is how the sausage is made." He's letting you in on this secret, which is not really that much of a secret.

But, I found his speech to be very interesting in that respect today.

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, it is. I mean, Barack Obama is really preaching the gospel of civility right after Donald Trump won New Hampshire.

There's a contrast of styles between Trump and the President there.

I thought that it was historical moment for the President, a journey down memory lane going back to Springfield, Illinois in the General Assembly. There, he had Valerie Jarrett and David Axelrod on his side.

And it made me realized, Don, at every month now, the last, you know, February he's President, the last March, the last April. And I think he's deeply disappointed that he's not been able to help make the public discourse less poisonous, as he put it.

I think he thinks that's the most failed part of his presidency.

LEMON: Part of that was his mission nine years ago today when he announced that he was going to run for president.

Today, he gave that speech. Why do you have think that -- do you think it was -- does it feel like an early farewell speech to you?

BRINKLEY: It did. I thought it was almost a bit like a farewell address. But I think this president is going do a few farewell addresses.

I promise you it will be a big speech about why we need to be kinder and continue their immigration policy, you know, the big farewell address about climate change, dangers in the 21st century.

And of course, you're going to have a big political speech by Barack Obama in Philadelphia, which for the Democratic National Convention.

So, I think he simply decided to do a number of this kind of reflective speeches before the final farewell address in next January.

LEMON: Bob Beckel, you and I were sitting here watching that. And, you know, you said, "Boy, how he's aged." And I said, "Mostly in the air".

BOB BECKEL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yeah, right. LEMON: But he's also grown a lot more comfortable and more confident

over the years in front of the crowd and addressing what he thinks is important.

BECKEL: Yeah. I agree. But I -- you know, I don't think it was a coincidence that he said what he said today and they scheduled this after the day after the New Hampshire primary.

That was a direct shot at Donald Trump and rightfully so in the Republicans. I mean, the Republicans have not given Obama a single break from the time he got in office.

It mean, some of the stuff that he passed, Obama can't get a single vote from Republicans. So, and I -- you know, I think what he's saying here is lay in the ground. He's playing into presidential politics well and he understands this polarization has got to end, or at least get moved a little bit so that people have a chance to digest what's going on here.

LEMON: Douglas Brinkley, as a historian, a presidential historian, when you look at the anger and the populous, the rejection of the establishment in both parties, is there another time in our history that you can compare to this?

BRINKLEY: Well, you get these moments when both sides -- you know, in the 19th century, people, they used to have caning incidents in Capitol Hill, where Senators would take canes and beat each other and scream at each other and of course, it led to a civil war.

Usually, we'd come together on something like World War II when we're all in it together. But, the Vietnam War divided the country between hawks and doves, much like you're having, you know, in this country now between the 99 percent versus one crowd or as Wall Street to blame or the federal government to blame.

But it is definitely an era of acrimony right now, yet President Obama is trying to be the cool agent. That's the word always assigned to him, Mr. Unflappable.

[23:45:04] And I thought he gave a very smart speech on civility today but alas, by New Hampshire is gobbling up all of the news, so it's become a bit of a back of the bookend story.

LEMON: Yeah. I don't know. Would you prefer a caning or the kind of stuff that's happening?

BECKEL: Well, I'm aware of that issue but, you know.

BRINKLEY: I know, I'm pining for the days of caning. It's better than the age of sort of mad blogging and, yeah.

BECKEL: But, you know, I've said this many times but really, these populous movements have been through American politics from the very beginning of American politics. And they come in cycles.

I mean, just going back to William Jennings Bryan, the theft. You go on through it, and Ross Perot, God forbid, and now Donald Trump.

And, you know, they're taking advantage of an electorate that is angry. And both -- that he and Sanders both are digging into it.

LEMON: Yeah. Douglas Brinkley, always a pleasure. I'll see you soon. Thank you very much.

BRINKLEY: OK. Thanks, Don.

LEMON: All right. Bob, make sure you stay with me because we're going to have a lot more to talk about -- on President Obama, what he said today and how it could impact the race between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.


LEMON: More now on President Barack Obama's Illinois homecoming today where he confronted his failures to fix America's politics.

[23:50:05] Back with me now, Bob Beckel and CNN Contributor Bakari Sellers joins me now.

Bakari, for the second time in a month, the President has highlighted that he thinks he failed to unite Washington.

Does this surprise you?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: No, it doesn't. I mean, what we're seeing is a very humble president who recognizes that at seven years into his term, that there are still some things that he wish he could have gotten. It's the epitome of the American dream.

He wanted the language to be less visceral, the rancor to be toned down.

And what he sees now is a Bernie Sanders campaign and a Donald Trump campaign which have tapped into an angst, which has tapped into a worry.

And all of us, I mean, even myself included, I mean, sometimes I have to take a step back and realize that my language in this political discourse is not what it should be. And I'm not absolutely certain how we got there.

LEMON: How so?

SELLERS: But I know this is something that weighs on -- this is something that weighs on Barack Obama's heart.

LEMON: You think that sometimes you say things that you shouldn't say or that you're too inflammatory, or?

SELLERS: No. I don't necessarily think it's too inflammatory. But, we began to let our emotions cloud our better judgment.

I mean, for me, just to harp back on a little earlier segment, you know, we're talking about African-American young men who are dieing in the street. And those type of emotions build up and it's so much going on around us that I think that we need to let cooler heads prevail on both sides of the aisle, all races.

And I think that Barack Obama is a transformational president and he recognizes that in his last few months, this is something that maybe he can give a shot at as well.

LEMON: Very well put, Bakari. And it takes -- and it tells in the big person to admit the things that you just a minute told us and I appreciate that.

Do you think, Bob, that the President is trying to make a point to the American voters that the world looks differently when you're sitting in the Oval Office ...

BECKEL: Oh, sure.

LEMON: ... (inaudible) what I said. How the -- when you know how the sausage is made, you see it differently than other people do.

BECKEL: Exactly. You know, it's not that Obama didn't try with Republicans ...

LEMON: He certainly tried.

BECKEL: ... when he first he got in ...

LEMON: And people say way too much.

BECKEL: Yeah. I mean, it end -- yeah, he hung in there too long, I think. I mean, after a while, you get no votes from him and you're going to say, "Hey, probably not going to get this."

LEMON: The conversation that liberals would say and people would call her would say, "They don't like you, President Obama. Why do you keep trying to work with them?'' That was a big criticism. Bakari, I'm sure you know that. But, Bob, continue.

BECKEL: But, you know, big things, big legislation, whether it's a civil rights actor or any big piece of legislation has always been bipartisan until Obama got his ...

LEMON: Exactly.

BECKEL: ... health care program and without Republican support.

But I think he was sending a message out, I think it was very supportive in some ways of Hillary Clinton, direct shot at Donald Trump. But you know, you look at those Sanders and Trump people, when Hillary Clinton came up on the screen, the Sanders people were booing her. You know, I mean, and accusing her of being a conservative.


BECKEL: It is one thing she's not as a conservative. LEMON: He also took a shot at the media and not just television, the

print, you know, social media, online bloggers, all of that where he's talking about the fractured structure of the media, where he talked about Fox News on the right and then the left the Huffington Post. Listen.


OBAMA: They don't have a common basis for what's true and what's not.

I mean, if I listen to some of these conservative pundits, I wouldn't vote for me either. I sounded like a scary guy.

You've got advocacy groups that, frankly, sometimes benefit from keeping their members agitated as much as possible, assured of the righteousness of their cause. Unlimited dark money, money that nobody knows where it's coming from, who's paying, drowns out ordinary voices.


LEMON: Bakari, you were just speaking to that and that's from all groups, left and right.

SELLERS: I mean, it's amazing. Have you ever listened to, I mean, Republican talk radio sometimes, traveling, especially here in the deep south, some of the things that are said, some of the comments that are made.

You look at the Republican frontrunner who literally went on a tantrum and imitated a reporter who has a disability, who calls people racist.

I mean, on our side, on the Democratic side, you have people get out of hand. And, I was just thinking about what Bob said, we need less of the rancor and more of what we actually did here in South Carolina this year, which is both sides coming together during the time of grief and actually having a bipartisan effort to take the symbol of bigotry and hate, taking conservative flag down.

And I know to many viewers that that may not mean a lot, but to those of us in South Carolina, it was a sigh of freedom. It was where we could just cheer for something good. But that all came about because we came together.

And I think the President recognizes that and hit that tone. Whether or not it's going to be successful, unfortunately, I'm bit jaded, I don't think so, because it's going to be drown out by this ridiculousness we have that's our presidential politics ...

LEMON: Quick response, Bob, and then I have a question for both of you ...

BECKEL: Well, first of all, I think Obama's problem with the press started when you interviewed him in 2006 and that's been there forward, it was a problem.

[23:55:03] LEMON: This is before he was running.

BECKEL: You know, I understand, but you set a precedent for him. And he thought he get a break from you, but he didn't.

You know, I think that's -- I think that's right. But, you know, these things come together in South Carolina around big major tragic events.

LEMON: Yeah.

BECKEL: And, it's just too bad we have to wait for a tragic event to bring it together.

LEMON: I have to ask both of you. Do you think that he's going to endorse Hillary Clinton, I think if, of course, he has to, but when -- do you think that's going to happen, if he does?

BECKEL: Right after Super Tuesday, I think probably in -- sometime in mid-March, I would guess. I mean, he can't -- he cannot have Bernie Sanders work down and get this nomination. I mean, (inaudible) on him.

So, he's got to step in here at some point and he's also going to take on Trump.

LEMON: Yeah. Go ahead, Bakari.

SELLERS: I think that he's -- even Jay Carney came out today and said that he -- that Barack Obama would love a Clinton presidency. I think we're already starting to see them hug and dance. And we'll see what happens after March 1st gets here.

Bernie Sanders' path is no narrow as we talked about early, that once that path gets squeezed enough, I think Barack Obama can come in and we can bring our party together and Bernie can give a heck of a speech at the ...

LEMON: Gentlemen ...

BECKEL: Just one thing ...

LEMON: All right, hurry up.

BECKEL: I was just going to say, they say that Barack Obama is going to be a problem for Hillary Clinton if she's the nominee. Ridiculous.

LEMON: Yeah.

BECKEL: It's a big asset for her.

LEMON: Thank you. We'll be right back.

SELLERS: Thank you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) LEMON: CNN will be simulcasting tomorrow night's PBS NewsHour Democratic presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 9:00 Eastern. And make sure you tuned in.

That's it for us tonight. I'll see you back here on Friday night.

"AC360" starts right now.