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AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA

Ben Carson Talks Republican Race; A Look at Republican Race; "The '80s": The Reagan Revolution. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired April 7, 2016 - 11:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[11:30:00] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: -- the fact that he's charged with misdemeanor assault of a reporter at a campaign event, the other candidates think that Corey should step down.

DR. BEN CARSON, (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & DONALD TRUMP SURROGATE & RETIRED NEUROSURGEON: Well, what I would say is we have ISIS and radical Islamic terrorists trying to kill us. We have a financial situation that threatens the foundation of this country. We've got internal strife. These are the things that are important. And if we concentrate more on those, I think we'll head in the right direction.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: You did say to move on, that there is a game going on right now. By that, I think you mean the hunt to pick up delegates. In order to become the nominee, you have to win that game and play it well. You were just in South Dakota playing that delegate game. Who is playing the game with the better team right now? Give me an assessment of what the Cruz team looks like on the ground. After Minnesota, people said they're sharp.

CARSON: There's no question that Senator Cruz has an effective ground game. Has had for several months. It provides an advantage. Other people, including Mr. Trump, will have to adjust to that and begin to catch up. There's no question about it. He does recognize that. And the appropriate adjustments are being made. It's like any organism that is going to survive, if there's a change in the environment, you have to adapt to it or you perish.

BOLDUAN: What's your role in the organism, to continue with your description? You went to North Dakota to fight for delegates, to plead for delegate support. What's your role in the delegate fight going forward?

CARSON: Well, you know, my role, quite frankly, is to try to help. You know, I've talked with Donald Trump. We both want to save America. We want to do whatever we can to save America. Some people think it doesn't need saving and is doing fine, but if we look at where you've been and where we are now and where we're heading, yes, we absolutely are in trouble. I think most people would recognize that. I will do what I can do to help save it. And I happen to believe that of the people who are running, that he's the one who is most likely to do it, because I think that part of our problem is, whether their Democrats or Republicans, we've had people who are part of the system, who can be controlled by the system, and that is why people in Washington, many of them, and many of the elites, don't like Donald Trump, because he's not one that they can control.

BERMAN: You say he's the one most likely to do it. Clearly, you're endorsing him and working hard for him across the country. I want to give you a chance to clarify a statement you made in an interview over the weekend where you said while he might be good, he's not the best, or there are probably people who would be better. You said, "Nobody believes in the government anymore. Everybody believes that we are weak. We are weak on the world stage. We're not doing things that make sense economically. And he's probably the person most likely to do that. Are there better people? Probably. But one of the things we have to do is broaden the pool from which we select our people."

Do you think there are better people out there to be a better president than Donald Trump?

CARSON: I don't think you have to really think about that. It doesn't matter what you're doing. There are better people than me at neurosurgery. There are better people than you being a broadcaster. There are better people at everything. But we have to utilize what we have. We have to make the best of it and improve it to the point where it is capable of being successful. That's what we should do in every field and in every endeavor. That's one of the reasons that I've spent so much time in the educational arena trying to get the most out of each one of our students, each of our citizens, because they will contribute to the strength and fabric of our country.

BOLDUAN: When you say, "there are probably better people out there," did you have someone in mind?

CARSON: I don't think that's a useful place to go. But it's an obvious statement.

BOLDUAN: You brought it up.

CARSON: Just like I would say -- if you drop a brick off of a building, it's going to fall. Obviously, there's always going to be someone who is better at virtually anything. It doesn't mean that you're not good. But of course, there are always better people at anything. That should be an obvious statement.

BOLDUAN: The only reason -- you brought it up in this interview. That's the only reason we're asking for clarification if you had anybody in mind.

CARSON: Something is really happening here that the sound has deteriorated to the point where I can't hear you. You think I'm making excuses, but it's true.

(LAUGHTER)

BOLDUAN: Are you making an excuse, doctor?

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: I'm happy to talk a lot louder if need be.

BERMAN: We trust you, Doctor. We're only asking if you had someone in mind. Do you have people in mind or how could he be better?

[11:35:08] CARSON: Well, that second part is a good question. How can any candidate be better? There's always more things to learn. There's always the possibility of trying to learn more about the constituency, the constituency being everybody, every demographic in our country, and working on trying to allow them to be successful. What kinds of policies do we have that allow everybody to succeed? Not picking one group or another group. And this has been the problem for several decades now depending on who is in office. This becomes your favorite group or that becomes your favorite group. The American people should be your favorite group, and the policies that we have should be the ones that favor everybody.

BOLDUAN: Dr. Ben Carson, I hope you can hear me now.

(LAUGHTER)

Thank you so much for joining us. Let's continue the conversation

CARSON: Always a pleasure.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

CARSON: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Glad he could hear that time.

BERMAN: We'll talk much more about this. And I'm going to call my lawyer.

We'll be back in a moment.

BERMAN: You've been charged, and I'm a better broadcaster than you.

(LAUGHTER)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:40:48] BOLDUAN: Well, welcome back. Let's continue the conversation. Let's bring in Kayleigh McEnany, a CNN political commentator and a Donald Trump supporter; Matt Lewis, a CNN political commentator and a senior contributor to "The Daily Caller" and Ron Nehring, national spokesman for the Ted Cruz campaign.

Great to see you all. Thank you for joining us.

Ron, first to you.

"Politico" did reporting saying Cruz would be meeting with Rudy Giuliani.

RON NEHRING, NATIONAL SPOKESMAN, TED CRUZ PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: That's not true. That's an inaccurate report.

BOLDUAN: Was there ever a talk of a meeting? Was it cancelled?

NEHRING: Nothing that I'm aware of. All I know it's an inaccurate report. It should have been pulled out.

BERMAN: No meeting, not today, no how. Would you like a Rudy Giuliani meeting?

NEHRING: I don't know how many times you're going to ask the same question. There's no truth to that story. I don't know the origin of the story. Senator Cruz is having a successful rally in Upstate New York and is campaigning vigorously in the state and will be back in New York several times between now and the primary.

BOLDUAN: One of the things we were talking, Kayleigh, with Dr. Ben Carson, who was just on, is the talk of a campaign shakeup or changes within the Donald Trump campaign. We know that he's made some for hires. They say it's because they need to staff up as the campaign moves along. What's your view?

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think, unfortunately, the way the rules are set up is it's delegate focused rather than what the people have to say. I think given that those are the rules, I think it's important for Donald Trump to shift the strategy to bring in people who understand the delegate process. Ted Cruz is very adept at navigating this terrain. So I think it's good news to hear of them bringing in news people. Unfortunately, that's the way it works.

BOLDUAN: You think it has to do with the loss in Wisconsin? It's in direct response to that?

MCENANY: Partially, but I don't think Trump is worried going forward. He's ahead in New York by 31 points and in Pennsylvania by 18. He has a very friendly map coming up.

BERMAN: You think he needs to do a better job? You think the campaign needs to do a better job than it has to date in the delegate game?

MCENANY: At courting delegates. Unfortunately, it's about -- CNN was reporting last week, maybe you could even bribe delegates. So unfortunately, the name of the game is --

BERMAN: Kind of.

MCENANY: -- courting delegates and bringing delegates to your side. I'm not saying any of the campaigns are doing that, but that's allowed by the rules. Instead of focusing on the people, you have to focus on the delegates.

BOLDUAN: On what happened in Wisconsin, Matt -- Manu Raju has great reporting about the fact that despite the win, you're not seeing the rush of Republicans on the Hill, especially in the Senate, to get behind Ted Cruz. And this is -- we're in April at this point. If they're going to make -- they could probably get on board if they want to try to change the way the race is going if they think it will have impact. Do you think they should be offering support? Should Ted Cruz be courting their support more aggressively?

MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's sort of an interesting question. On one hand, Cruz has branded himself as an outsider. I don't think he wants to become the establishment candidate. If Senators were to get on board with Ted Cruz, in a way, it might undermine Ted Cruz. Maybe this is them being smart or strategic, and trying to help Ted Cruz become the sort of the non Trump alternative. There's the other possibility, of course, which is to say a lot of them don't like Cruz and some may hold grudges against Ted Cruz, and they may be hoping that he plays the spoiler, sort of deprives Donald Trump from getting the 1237 delegates. Some of them may hope to have the white knight candidate emerge at a convention. I think that's naive of them, but maybe some of them hope for that.

BERMAN: That, Donald Trump would call the Trojan horse strategy, something we've heard before.

Ron Nehring, if Mitch McConnell called Senator Cruz and said, I want to endorse you, would Cruz accept the endorsement.

NEHRING: We're happy to accept the e endorsement from the broad spectrum of the Republican Party. Everyone is welcome in Senator Cruz's campaign, and that's why he has the support of five former candidates for president in this election cycle that have all gotten behind him.

I think one thing that's important to note is endorsements from Capitol Hill have not exactly been the determining factor in the primary elections so far. In fact, one thing that's been made clear is that Republican primary voters are interested in candidates who challenge the status quo and are not satisfied with the leadership of either party in Washington, D.C. That's why Senator Cruz has been doing well, and that's a major factor of why he's consolidated that support in Wisconsin and produced the big victory. And what we said would happen has happened, and that's as the field has narrowed from 17 down to a two-person race, our numbers have gone up. We had that decisive win in Wisconsin. That's the bigger dynamic here.

I have no doubt there are plenty of people in Washington, D.C., who will sweat over who is endorsed, but for the voters, there are more important issues they're concerned about, and that's been driving their votes.

[11:41:00] BOLDUAN: So, Ron, do you just say -- what's the conversation within the campaign? Do you say thanks, but no thanks, if someone like Mitch McConnell says I'm here to back you?

NEHRING: I already said that we support anybody who wants to come onboard for the campaign. We're happy to have them.

BOLDUAN: Great. Just clarifying.

NEHRING: That's exactly what I said. We welcome everybody's support. That's how you build a majority. Politics is a game of addition. That's part of the reason why Donald Trump has such a problem right now. He has such a ceiling. Donald Trump does not recognize that politics is a game of addition. It's about building a majority. He has a vocal minority that he cannot grow beyond, because he is trapped in the brand that he has created for himself that limits his ability to grow forward.

By contrast, Senator Cruz's numbers have been growing substantially. And that's part of the reason why we have had four victories in a row, Utah, Colorado, North Dakota, and now Wisconsin. We're adding people and growing the campaign continually and growing our coalition while Donald Trump is stuck.

BERMAN: Quickly, Matt Lewis, John Kasich campaigning across the state of New York today. What's the current state of the John Kasich campaign?

LEWIS: He has one win in Ohio and fewer delegates than Rubio. He came in fourth place in a three-man race not that long ago. But there's an argument as to whether or not John Kasich helps or hurts Cruz. I think he probably helps him. I think having John Kasich in the race, on balance, probably makes it harder for Donald Trump to get the delegates he'll need to get to clinch the nomination. So I think if you're Cruz, it's a big argument and debate, but I think John Kasich is probably a net positive for the Never Trump movement.

BOLDUAN: Kayleigh, Matt, Ron, thank you to you all. Appreciate it.

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: We have a programming note. We will hear from Senator Ted Cruz himself. He'll join CNN tonight on Erin Burnett, "OutFront," at 7:00 eastern time, only on CNN.

BOLDUAN: Also, we have breaking news out of Brussels regarding the Brussels terror attacks. They don't know where he is now, but police do know where the third airport bombing suspect went in the immediate aftermath of that attack. More details coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[11:52:34] ROGER MUDD, ANCHOR, THE HISTORY CHANNEL: The assassination attempt and the aftermath elevated Ronald Reagan's to a new high. The latest NBC News/Associated Press poll shows that his job rating jumped 10 points.

H.W. BRAND, AUTHOR: Reagan understood that he was getting this sort of sympathy reaction. Everybody was rooting for him all of a sudden because they didn't want him to die, didn't want to lose a president. So without missing a step, he goes right into what the message is, we've got to get this tax-and-spending bill passed and we've got to do it now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Speaker! The president of the United States!

(APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was just like the movies. Reagan was a true American hero.

MUDD: The president looking very jovial, very healthy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: In tonight's episode of "The '80s," the CNN original series goes behind-the-scenes at the Reagan White House and it explores the nation's response to the assassination attempt of President Reagan in 1981.

BERMAN: Want to bring in Kate Andersen Brower, author of the book, "First Women: The Grace and Power of America's First Ladies," out next week, and she also covered the White House for "Bloomberg News" and "Business Week," and wrote the smash hit book, "The Residence".

Thanks for being with us.

Along those lines, the assassination of Reagan was one of the seminal moments of the '80s. It kicked off the Reagan presidency. It happened so early in the administration. What was going on inside the White House residence after that?

KATE ANDERSEN BROWER, AUTHOR: You know, Nancy Reagan referred to the year after the assassination attempt as the lost year. She was so devastated by what has happened. And in fact, they really had a true love story. I mean, ushers told me they would go into the residence and find the president and first lady sitting there holding hands watching "Who's the Boss" late at night together. There was a genuine love story.

And what's interesting, too, Nancy Reagan and the Reagans did a lot to bring glamour back to the White House. And this is something other first ladies appreciated. Like Jackie Kennedy really appreciated the fact that Nancy Reagan invited Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra to the White House. And certainly Nancy was aware she was derided in the press as being this imperial first lady, called Queen Nancy, and she said she knew she won unpopularity contests among first ladies, but she was OK with that. She really wanted to bring glamour back to the White House after the Carters, where she thought they really didn't do enough.

BOLDUAN: And, Kate, you have described -- she's -- you say she's, you know, self-proclaimed worrier, Nancy Reagan was. How did that change, or how did that impact how the first family operated after that assassination attempt?

[11:55:10] BROWER: She took complete control, which is interesting. She was very unapologetic about it. She would sit in meetings. Advisers said she was the human resources department for her president's cabinet and she really wanted to protect him. She had Don Regan fired as chief of staff. She felt he was over scheduling President Reagan, that Reagan needed to rest after he had surgery, because he had colon surgery also later on in the administration. So for her, it was all about protecting her husband. And she said, if there was an issue, she stepped in and she made no apologies for it. So in a way, she was a role model.

And it's interesting also that Hillary Clinton defended Nancy Reagan. Nancy Reagan was criticized for purchasing hundreds of thousands of dollars of China. And Hillary Clinton said, you know, she was doing -- she was bringing China to the White House. We didn't have a full set of China to use at a state dinner if it weren't for Nancy Reagan.

BERMAN: Kate Andersen Brower, thank you for being with us. A big fan of your book. Appreciate it.

BROWER: Thank you.

BERMAN: You can catch the all-new episode of "The '80s" tonight at 9:00 eastern, only here on CNN.

BOLDUAN: Coming up next, Bernie Sanders doubling down in his claim Hillary Clinton is not qualified, trying to clarify today, dialing back. Maybe not dialing back. Hillary Clinton is also responding.

Stay with us.

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