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Clinton Strategist Talks Clinton, DNC, Wasserman Schultz; Hillary Clinton VFW Speech. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired July 25, 2016 - 11:30   ET


[11:30:00] JOEL BENENSON, CHIEF STRATEGIST, HILLARY FOR AMERICA CAMPAIGN: which one of these people can we count on to create jobs that are going to work for me. Which one of these people can I count on to give the kids I'm raising an education. Which one of these people really had specific plans and the way to bring the country together --


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Joel, is that saying they don't have to trust her to elect her?

BENENSON: It's saying they have to cot on the president to do what they can do to help them in their lives and make the country stronger and safer and I believe Americans know they can count on her because she believes we're stronger together, that we succeed when we lift each other up. And they can't count on Donald Trump to unite this country because --


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Can she win with 68 percent?

BENENSON: If we are the candidate dividing this candidate and making people align, that we have to solve our challenges together to keep us safe and stronger economically and in our security, and Donald Trump continues to be the divisive figure he is, a lot of the numbers you say, he is in very bad shape as well because of his divisiveness. The American people believe we have to do this together. When you stand up and say. "I alone can fix it," it is absolutely the antithesis of what people want in a president. In that poll, I believe, there's a number very high that people say they don't want Donald Trump or they're not comfortable with him being president. There's been other polls out there. People much more so say they'd be embarrassed, afraid with Donald Trump as president than Hillary Clinton. Because they know her message of bringing the country together, getting Americans to work together to help all Americans is how we've always succeed as a country.

BOLDUAN: It all begins today, day one of this convention.

Joel, great to see you. Thank you so much.

BERMAN: You just booked yourself for seven days from now, I just noticed that. (LAUGHTER)


BENENSON: Seven days after the convention.


BOLDUAN: Great to see you, Joel. Thank you so much.

BERMAN: How is Donald Trump, the other guy, counterprogramming right now this convention? New details about his strategy and where he's going. That's next.

BOLDUAN: Also ahead, a new term in this 2016 race, the Hillary standard. Hear why Hillary Clinton said that last night. And what people are saying about what she said.

We're live from Philadelphia.

BERMAN: He said, she said.

BOLDUAN: He said, he said.

BERMAN: They said.

BOLDUAN: CNN Grill. We'll be right back.


BOLDUAN: Let's take you straight to Charlotte, North Carolina, Hillary Clinton speaking at the VFW there. Let's listen in.

CLINTON: Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you very much, Commander, for that very warm welcome. Thanks to your executive Director Bob Wallace and all the men and women of the VFW, of the auxiliary, for your commitments, your service, and your action on behalf of America's veterans.

This is the 117th National Convention. That is quite a legacy. And in that time, the VFW has built a record to be proud of. You have been a moving force behind hallmark achievements, like the creation of the V.A., the passage of the G.I. Bill, the establishment of national monuments dedicated to those who fought in World War II, the Korean War, the war in Vietnam, women in military service and veterans disabled for life.

These monuments are sacred places. I have been to many of them, also to our cemeteries around the world.

CLINTON: People come to sit quietly, maybe lay a flower or a letter or other memento, to reflect on the courage and sacrifice of those who fought for our nation and our ideals.

I don't think it is an overstatement for me to say those memorials might not exist if it weren't for you. So thank you, and thank you for standing up today and every day for veterans' health, for veterans' education, for the right of all veterans to dignity and security.

And thank you for continuing to push our nation to live up to our obligations to those who served.

I've been a direct beneficiary of your expertise and commitment. Some of my top advisers are members of the VFW. I'm grateful to all the veterans and retired military leaders who have shared their knowledge and counsel with me. I especially want to thank the VFW for the close consultation you provided as we worked to put forth our plan to reform the V.A.

Today, I especially want to acknowledge and appreciate retired Marine General John Allen, former deputy commander of the U.S. Central Command and commander of the International Security Assistance Force overseeing NATO troops in Afghanistan. I had the great privilege of working with General Allen, and therefore I am deeply honored that he endorsed me this morning. His confidence in me and that of the other esteemed military leaders who support my campaign means a great deal to me, but it also imposes a high responsibility on me as well.

So I thank you. I thank you for what you've done behind the scenes, as well as in public, to make sure that America keeps our promises, honors our history, and gives our veterans the respect and the opportunities they've earned.

A lot of the issues you have fought for are at stake in this election. America is grappling with big questions. How do we keep our country safe? How do we make the world safer? How do we make sure we give our troops what they need to see their missions through, and when they come home, that they have the support and access to services they need to lead healthy, productive, successful lives?

These challenges matter to me personally not only as the proud daughter of a veteran -- my father, Hugh Rodham, enlisted in the Navy shortly after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. He became a chief petty officer responsible for training thousands of young sailors before they shipped out to sea, mostly to the Pacific theater. After my father died in 1993, I received letters and old photos from men who had served under him, talking about what a difference my dad made in their lives. These are letters that I treasure.

My dad once told me how sad he felt when he left Great Lakes Naval Base and accompanied his trainees to the west coast to join their ships. He knew some of these bright, energetic, young men wouldn't survive. Some of them probably thought it, too. But still, they went to serve because they knew our country needed them.

CLINTON: That's the kind of courage and honor our men and women in uniform demonstrate every single day. I thought a lot about my father's experiences later when I became a senator from New York, serving on the Senate Armed Services Committee and then as secretary of state. I have worked hard over the years on many of the issues you care about and work on every day. I am not a newcomer to these issues. And today, I want to tell you a few of my core beliefs which will guide me if I have the great honor to be elected this fall.

Americans aren't just choosing a president, we are also choosing a commander in chief. the person who decides questions of war and peace, life and death. There's no more solemn or serious a responsibility than that. So you deserve to know what we candidates believe about national security and how we go about making life-or- death calls because they will affect our men and women in uniform first and foremost, and they will affect our veterans.

Let's start here.

I believe the United States of America is an exceptional nation with capabilities that no other country comes close to matching. And we have -- we have the world's greatest military; don't let anyone tell you otherwise.


We also have an economy that is larger, more durable and more entrepreneurial than any other on the planet. And we are guided by values that have long inspired people across the world: a commitment to freedom, and equality, justice and diversity, that fundamental American idea that every single person deserves to be treated decently and with respect, no matter who they are.


I believe in standing with our allies, because they are part of what makes us exceptional. No other country in the world has relationships like we do. Generations of American troops fought and, yes, died to secure those bonds because they knew we were safer with more friends and partners, and fewer adversaries and enemies.


Our men and women in uniform carry that work forward carry that work forward today.

My running mate this election is a wonderful man from Virginia named Tim Kaine. He's a U.S. senator. He was governor of Virginia. Mayor of Richmond, Virginia. If you are not familiar with him yet, I urge you to check him out. He's a great public servant and a terrific guy.

His son is a Marine. His son is actually deploying today to help defend our NATO allies in Europe. That's how committed he is, and many others are, to our alliances.

And we should be, too. After all, America's word has to mean something.

(APPLAUSE) I believe in being firm but wise with our rivals, finding common ground where we can and standing our ground when we must. That's the balance that made it possible for me to work with all kinds of nations, to work to increase pressure on North Korea, to work to stand up to the Chinese in the South China Sea, to work with Russia to conclude the New START Treaty that reduces nuclear stockpile while standing up to them because of their threats to our friends in Eastern Europe.

CLINTON: One thing for certain that you will not ever hear from me is praise for dictators and strongmen who have no love for America.


And yes, I believe with all my heart in democracy, and I believe in diplomacy. It's often the only way to avoid conflicts that can end up exacting a much greater cost.

I believe the most sacred responsibility of a commander in chief is deciding whether to send men and women into battle. I have visited our troops in theaters of war and tension. I know how serious this is. Force -- force must only be used as a last resort, and only with a clear and well thought out strategy.

Our troops deserve nothing less; America expects nothing less. I believe our troops strive to comport themselves with honor. And they deserve a commander in chief who will never order them to commit war crimes.

I believe in listening to our generals and admirals, because they have invaluable knowledge and experiences, and they are doing one of the most important jobs there is -- commanding America's sons and daughters.

As commander in chief, I will always show them respect and hear them out. You will never hear me say that I only listen to myself on national security.


I believe in doing everything we can to meet threats at home and abroad. I know we live in a dangerous world. That's why we need real plans, real strategies to deal with terrorism, including homegrown terrorism. I have worked with experienced people from across different fields, and indeed, across the political spectrum to come up with comprehensive strategies for these and other threats.

I will be ready to get to work on day one. I take nothing more seriously than our security.

Most of all, I believe in American leadership. I believe that who we are as a people, the values that we hold dear, the history that we care about, matters a great deal.

I'm not interested in talking provocatively. I'm not interested in insulting people, including our military. I'm interested in bringing our country together. I'm interested in healing the divisions. We have to protect ourselves against terrorists. To do that we need to lead other countries in stopping ISIS, Al Qaida and other radical jihadist groups.

We shouldn't leave that to the rest of the world to figure out on their own. That won't keep us safe. We need a strong global economy, because it's good for American jobs and exports. That means we should lead in setting and enforcing the rules.

If we retreat on either security or the economy, behind some kind of imaginary wall, we will have lost our leadership, our purpose, our chance to prevail in the 21st century.

And if America doesn't lead, we leave behind a vacuum. And that will either cause chaos or enable other countries to rush in to fill that void.

Then they will be the ones making decisions about American lives, jobs and safety. And the choices -- make no mistake about it -- might well not be to our benefit. That's not an outcome we can live with.

I have set forth plans and strategies for dealing with these threats. I know how challenging it will be to meet the difficulties that we face in the world today.

CLINTON: But you see, I have confidence. I have optimism. I don't understand people who trash-talk about America; who talk about us as being in decline; who act as though we are not yet the greatest country that has ever been created on the face of the Earth for all of history.

If you want somebody who will scapegoat other people, peddle fear and smear, I'm not your candidate. I'm interested in bringing everybody together, rolling up our sleeves and getting to work to solve our problems.

That's why in the Senate, I worked closely with Republicans. Now, as some of you might know, I have been, oh, the recipient of numerous political attacks for a very long time. I've learned to live with that. I have, as Eleanor Roosevelt advised many years ago, if a woman wants to be in the public arena, you better develop skin as thick as the hide of a rhinocerous.


So when I got to the Senate, I didn't say, "Oh, I'm only going to talk to Democrats; I'm not going to work with Republicans." How silly would that be? I was elected to represent the great Empire State, and I wanted to do everything I could to produce results for the people who honored me by electing me to be their senator.

So I worked with Republicans to increase the benefits paid to family members of the fallen; to expand veterans' access to military health insurance; to make sure that all members of the reserves and national guard and their families had access to TRICARE military health benefits, even when they were not deployed.

I introduced the Heroes At Home Act to establish new services for military members and veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries. I fought successfully in 2007 to amend the 2007 Defense Appropriation Act to establish a training program for family caregivers helping their loved ones with TBI.

I did all of this because I had met so many wonderful people who were struggling -- struggling because they lost a son or a daughter, a mother, a father, a wife or a husband; struggling because their loved one came home and didn't have the care that he or she needed. They deserve more support from all of us, and I fortunately was in a position to advocate for them.

I joined forces with Senator John McCain to personally raise money for the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, which helped build a state- of-the-art rehab facility in San Antonio to help our seriously wounded servicemembers coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan.

And let me just say, it was a pleasure to work with Senator McCain on that project and many others. I believe that he and all American prisoners of war are heroes and deserve the respect that that entails.


As president, I will build on the work I've done. We're going to have a 21st century Department of Veteran Affairs that delivers world- class care. Like you, I was outraged by the V.A. scandals, people waiting months, even years for things like wheelchairs and basic medications; some even dying while languishing on a wait list for an appointment. Heartbreaking, and absolutely unacceptable.

CLINTON: That's why I have put forth a detailed plan about what I would do as president to revamp the V.A. It will be one of my highest priorities. But I will tell you this, we are not going to privatize the V.A. We are going to reform it and make it work for every single veteran in America.


We will ensure access to timely quality care, improve the coordination of care, which is, as you know, a huge problem still. Improve care for women veterans who are often underserved.


Tackle and at long last end the epidemic of veteran suicides by expanding access to mental health care, erasing the stigma that still prevents too many from getting the help they need.

I know this is a high priority for the VFW and other veterans service organizations. And I will do everything in my power to support you in this critical work. And we are going to help more veterans looking for jobs, with expanded tax credits for businesses that hire veterans, more support to veterans who want to start their own businesses, better certification and credentialing programs.

So, the work that veterans did on active duty will be understood and respected as they compete for jobs in the civilian sector that they deserve to be considered for and hired to perform.


And I'm going to crack down on companies that prey on or discriminate against veterans. They should be ashamed of themselves. And we are going to hold them accountable. We will also follow the lead of cities like New Orleans, Houston, Philadelphia and Las Vegas, which have worked to end veteran homelessness.


We have lessons to learn from them. Many more cities are making progress toward that same goal. We should support them and end the tragedy of veteran homelessness once and for all.

And I will protect, preserve and defend the post-9/11 G.I. bill. It has opened doors of opportunity to more than one million veterans and family members. Unfortunately, there are some Republicans in Congress chipping

away at it. That's not just wrong, it is shortsighted. This program helps us recruit and retain the all-volunteer force we need to protect our country. And it's a way to invest in families and our shared future.

We should protect and strengthen it, not let anyone erode it.

So yes, I have plans to do all this and more, including supporting military spouses as they seek to build careers, including standing with women, standing with LGBT veterans to make sure they get the support they have earned.

You can go to my website -- and I hope you will -- and read all the details. I hope you will, not only because I want you to know, but there's a lot of expertise in this room. And I want your ideas, too.

I have this old-fashioned notion. You run for president, you should tell people what you want to do as specifically as possible, so they can actually make up their minds. And then, you should be held accountable as to whether or not you deliver results.

So here's my bottom line. This is something that I care deeply about. But I know a lot of veterans still feel invisible, powerless, like their country has forgotten them.

That is just totally wrong. It's unacceptable, and we have to work together to make sure we end that.

Now, we can disagree about the details. I'm sure we will from time to time. You see, I actually believe, as someone who has been in public life and public service, it's better if we have honest candid conversations. That's the best way in a democracy for us to come up with the best solutions.

CLINTON: But we should be guided by our values.

We can all agree that our troops deserve serious strategic leadership. We can all agree we have to be serious and committed in addressing the complex challenges we face here at home and around the world. Beneath whatever disagreements we might have as a country about how to get where we need to go, surely we can start listening to one another again, respecting one another, our individual experiences that bring so much to the debate.

My father made sure I understood that the freedoms and rights we enjoy as Americans didn't come out of thin air. People sacrificed for them, fought, bled and died for them. People like you, and the generations of soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen who have made our country strong, proud and free.

All of you, every one who has served deserve our thanks, and more importantly, our respect. And you deserve a country, and a president and commander in chief who honor your service, not just with words, but with deeds.

That's what the VFW has stood for, to make sure America lives up to that standard. And as president, I will be working alongside you, as I did as senator, to make sure that we produce results.

I know this is the first time that one of our two major parties has ever nominated a woman. And I know that it takes a little getting used to, even for me.

But here's what I want you to know. I will get up every single day in the White House, doing everything I possibly can to protect our country, to treat our men and women in uniform with the care and concern and respect they deserve, to make good on our nation's promises to our veterans.

That's how I was raised. That's what I have done. And I promise you, that's what I will do.

Thank you, VFW. God bless you and god bless the United States of America.

Thank you all very much.


[11:53:55] BERMAN: Charlotte, North Carolina, Hillary Clinton speaking to the VFW in Charlotte, North Carolina. Really interesting speech. It started out sober and subtle. But by the end, it was flat-out trolling Donald Trump, though not by name, mostly on issues of national security. One example, she says I don't understand who people who trash-talk America. She called the United States the greatest country in the history of the world. Several other examples also. Very interesting.

BOLDUAN: She says you'll never hear me say I only listen to myself on national security. Clearly, getting to Trump there.

Let's talk about this now with CNN political commentators, Scottie Nell Hughes, a Trump supporter; and S.E. Cupp; as well as Kevin Madden, a senior adviser to Mitt Romney's 2012 campaign; and Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, who is a Hillary Clinton surrogate.

Thank you, guys, so much for being here.

Mayor, as John was saying, it was a sober speech but, make no mistake, who she was going at towards the end of it. She was going after Donald Trump. What do you make of the tone, the message?

PHILIP LEVINE, MIAMI BEACH MAYOR & HILLARY CLINTON SURROGATE: Well, I think it's very important. Secretary Clinton is talking about bringing our country together. That's what this week is about. I'm not sure Donald Trump could hear her speech because I understand he is working on the Trump Moscow -- the new condo project he's working on, which will be another failed project from Donald Trump.


[11:55:17] LEVINE: Secretary Clinton is about bringing our country together and moving us forward. What we saw at that Republican convention, Kate, that was Nick at Night, that was TNT, that was yesterday's news. We are about bringing the country forward and about keeping NATO alive, keeping NATO securing Europe. My god, I wouldn't be planning my European vacation for next year based on what Donald Trump has been saying. Secretary Clinton understands America security important, and please, don't talk to bad about our country.

BERMAN: Kevin Madden, she drew sharp specifics throughout the speech. She mentioned Tim Kaine, the vice presidential candidate, his son is headed to Europe right now as a Marine to serve in Romania to work and defend NATO. Seems Clinton is trying to paint herself as the serious one on national security.

KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yeah, and she made some very strong points designed to appeal to swing voters. But on pure performance, I'm struck by how ineffective she is when making these points. What you get from Donald Trump and why I think Trump is winning on terrorism questions when you look at the polls is strength and resolve and clarity. Clinton is kind of reading the words but not really doing so in a way that excites a lot of voters. The relateability thing that she really needs, she's missing right now.

BOLDUAN: But the one thin she has done successful in the past, S.E., is using his own words against him.

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. Sometimes she does that successfully. There were a couple of instances in this speech. One is calling him out for praising brutal dictators. She had a brush on that in the past. I think she had praise for Bashar al Assad at one point, and Vladimir Putin, so I wouldn't get too cute with it, if I were her.

But I think what Kevin is talking about is the sense in the country that people are afraid of terrorism. This idea that she is going to bring people together is almost beside the point and why I think Trump is resonating. I don't like Trump's policies, but the problem he is identifying are the problems the country is talking about. She kind of misses the mark when she says our military is the best. Of course, that's true. We are going to be great and solve these problems together. I've worked with Democrats to do it. I think the American people want to hear you're as outraged and as afraid as they have about these problems.

BERMAN: She's pointing out the problem of what people are afraid of but the subtext is you should be afraid of Trump handling them.

CUPP: This could have been an opportunity for policy and, instead, it was an opportunity to troll Donald Trump.

BERMAN: Scottie, she brought up several specific points here. I don't think she misrepresented Trump's position. She talked about NATO. She said she would always stand with NATO. Trump has made clear that wouldn't necessarily always stand with NATO. He has said I listen to myself before I listen --


CUPP: And the shows.

BERMAN: Yeah, and the shows.


These are true things Donald Trump has said.

SCOTTIE NELL HUGHES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: They are true. But I think Hillary missed her audience. She was speaking to veterans, VFW. This is the same crowd that back in October of 2015 she said the V.A. scandal was overblown, and despite -- they had lots of surveys saying veterans were happy with the hospital system. Those words right there are the ones that will resonate with the crowd that she is in. Back in May, "The Military Times" came out and said that they favored Trump 2-1 over Hillary Clinton. Just because of the way she handled the scandal. She hasn't admitted it until now. She has not listed specifically how she will stand with veterans, which was the crowd she's addressing today.

CUPP: Interestingly, at the RNC, Donald Trump did not mention the troops once in his speech.

BERMAN: OK, guys, stick around.

We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.


[12:00:07] BERMAN: All right, joining us now, Sean Spicer, the communications director and chief strategist for the Republican National Committee on enemy territory.