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Obama Says Trump Unfit to be Commander-in-Chief; Republican Leaders Urging Trump to Get Back on Message; Clint Eastwood Weighs in on Political Race. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired August 4, 2016 - 22:00   ET


[22:00:00] JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: That does it for us now. Thanks for watching. Time now for CNN TONIGHT with Don Lemon.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Happy birthday, Mr. President. Top of his game. President Barack Obama taking on Donald Trump again.

This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.

The president throwing some serious shade at the republican candidate's claim that the November election will be rigged.


BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA PRESIDENT: Of course the election will not rigged. What does that mean? That's ridiculous. That doesn't make any sense. And I don't think anybody would take that seriously.

If Mr. Trump is up 10 or 15 points on Election Day and ends up losing, then maybe he can raise some questions. That doesn't seem to be the case at the moment.


LEMON: President Barack Obama addressing Trump's claim as well as topics ranging from ISIS to Iran at a news conference today.

I want to bring in White House correspondent, Michelle Kosinski, Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, and our senior political analyst, Mr. David Gergen.

Glad to have all of you this evening. Michelle, I'm going to start with you. The president was asked about Trump's assertion that the election might be rigged against him. Let's listen to a longer version of that.


OBAMA: It is -- I don't even really know where to start on answering this question. Of course the elections will not be rigged. What does that mean? The federal government doesn't run the election process.

States and cities and communities all across the country they are the ones who set up the voting systems and the voting booths.

And if Mr. Trump is suggesting that there is a conspiracy theory that is being propagated across the country including in places like Texas, where typically it's not democrats who are in charge of voting booths, that's ridiculous. That doesn't make any sense.

I think all of us at some point in our lives have played sports or maybe just played in a schoolyard or a sandbox. Sometimes folks if they lose they start complaining that they get cheated.

But I've never heard of somebody complained by being cheated before the game was over. Or before the score is even tallied. So, my suggestion would be, you know, go out there and try to win the election.

If Mr. Trump is up 10 or 15 points on Election Day and ends up losing then, you know, maybe he can raise some questions.


LEMON: Yes. And then he said but that doesn't appear to be the case right now. An obvious swipe at the poll numbers who have recently released poll numbers where Trump is down.

Michelle, what did you make of the president's tone here today coming out, you know, of a meeting at the Pentagon?

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Right. I don't know that it fully carried over just looking at the president and in that one piece but at times his tone was mocking and ridiculing him, just a hint of that.

And that's a thing that we have seen from the president recently in other cases, but often it's before a very friendly crowd where the crowd is having a good time, the president will making joking kind of digs or these sort of snide remarks that are funny to the crowd.

So, it was interesting to see him do that in this setting. I mean, this was mainly about ISIS, following a meeting with his National Security Council that these were serious questions.

But this is another time where the president seemed to relish delivering those digs to Donald Trump, although we got a hint too that he's not going to do this all the time.

I mean, during his press conference he did refer back to two days ago where during another press conference he pretty much let loose on Donald Trump more than we've heard before.

And today, he referred back to that and a few times said, well, you know, I made myself clear two days ago, I don't really need to comment further. So, that's a question. How much more is he going to dig Donald Trump and republicans in general, as he has, down the road as we get closer to the election?

LEMON: And to Barbara Starr now. Barbara, you had the opportunity to ask the president a couple of questions including whether Trump could be trusted with the America's nuclear weapons. Here's how the president responded.


OBAMA: I've made this point already multiple times. Just listen to what Mr. Trump has to say and make your own judgment with respect to how confident you feel about his ability to manage things like our nuclear triad.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: With respect, but you've suggested that you're not confident.

OBAMA: I obviously have a very strong opinion about the tw candidates who are running here. One is very positive and one is not so much. This is serious business.

[22:04:59] And the person who is in the Oval Office and our secretary of defense and our joint chiefs of staff and our outstanding men and women in uniform report to.

They are counting on somebody who has the temperament and good judgment to be able to make decisions to keep America safe. And that should be very much on the minds of voters when they go into the voting booth in November.


LEMON: He went in depth there, Barbara, but he didn't seem like he wanted to go as far as he did earlier in the week saying that Trump was unfit to be president.

STARR: Well, I think that's right. I think that's Michelle who is also in the room and I think all the reporters in the room basically heard the same thing. But on the question of nuclear weapons, you know, the president's point that it's serious business, it just doesn't get more serious.

There are a lot of concerns that you hear with defense and national security experts, does Donald Trump fully understand the gravity of nuclear weapons? He can explain that for himself whether he understands it or not.

But he's also talked off and under in the campaign about the possibility that he would potentially support the notion of other countries, especially near North Korea getting nuclear weapons to defend themselves, potentially causing a lot of concern about a nuclear arms race.

So, it isn't even just so much that question of the finger on the button, so to speak, but the overall climate in the world. Does -- both do. Both candidates fully understand the nuclear climate right now and the question of arms control and who has nuclear weapons and who the United States is trying to keep from getting nuclear weapons or more nuclear weapons, that's North Korea, that's around down the road. These are very serious issues. LEMON: David Gergen, sitting here and watching this and we've been

talking about the president to me or his approval rating is at 54 percent. By the way, it's his birthday. What a day for him.


DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Fifty five -- 54 percent at 55 years old.

LEMON: Yes. He seems pretty comfortable and pretty confident. Why do you think his numbers are so high now?

GERGEN: Well, he's been, you know, he was mired in the mid-40s for a long time, and even the low-40s and then a few months ago he began to rise, and got up to 45, 46, 48, and 49.

I think he got a bounce out of the democratic convention just as Hillary Clinton did but I think there's also something else going on, Don. I think increasingly voters are looking at him with a certain amount of nostalgia.

You know, they see the alternatives, especially Trump and they think, you know, we've got a pretty good deal going now compared to what may be coming. I think that's helping him.

So, I think -- I think people are -- it often happens for a two-term president that toward the end of your time in office, people begin to miss you a little bit and I think that's higher in his case than we've seen.

It's lifted him up and it's politically important. Because to a significant degree, the person who -- if you've been in for two terms, the person who runs after you like George H.W. Bush did after Reagan, you know, Reagan's high numbers pulled Bush up.

And if he had low numbers, it would have push Bush down, pull him down. And I think that's going to be -- Barack Obama right now is reinforcing Hillary's strength. He's giving her more strength. And that's significant...


LEMON: So, he's going to help her.

GERGEN: Oh, I think right now. Things could change.


GERGEN: But right now we've had a dramatic change -- turn in this -- in this campaign over the last 10 days.

LEMON: Yes. Hey, Barbara, I want to get back to you. Because the president was asked about his decision to send a plane, you know, this has been controversial, plane loaded with $400 million of cash to Iran, which his opponents are calling a ransom payment. Listen to this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAM: The -- it's been interesting to watch the story surface. Some of you may recall we announced these payments in January; many months ago there wasn't a secret. We announce them to all of you.

Josh did a briefing on them that this wasn't some nefarious deal. That we have a policy that we don't pay ransom.

And the notion that we would somehow start now in this high-profile way and announce it to the world, even though as we're looking into the faces of other hostage families whose loved ones are being held hostage and say to them that we don't pay ransom defies logic.

The reason that we had to give them cash is precisely because we are so strict in maintaining sanctions and we do not have a banking relationship with Iran that we couldn't send them a check. And we could not wire the money.

And it is not at all clear to me why it is that cash as opposed to a check or a wire transfer has made this into a news story.


[22:10:05] So, Barbara, prisoners released on the same day that Iran got their money. I mean, is there -- the timing does seem suspect. Is there a real concern here though?

STARR: Well, certainly republicans are making a case about all of this, concern that it's cash, concerned that that could help Iran transfer that cash to terrorist groups like Hezbollah, concern that the Iranians now will think they could get money for hostages.

There are two other Americans being held by Iran. The White House is absolutely adamant that it is not a ransom that this had been in the works for some time.

But look, you're going to have your skeptics, aren't you, where they are. Probably one of those cases where people have their minds made up and not very likely to change what they think about it.

LEMON: Michelle, so the president is pushing back on this, but that's not stopping Donald Trump from again saying he saw a video of the money exchanged but there is no video. No video has surfaced, right?

KOSINSKI: Apparently not. I mean, nobody has seen it. No one has said that they've seen this video except for Donald Trump. And even after reports have debunked this video, and apparently at one point somebody within his campaign agreed that it was a different -- it was video of the prisoners being released in a different location, a different plane.

But even a day later, Donald Trump still today, was saying that have you seen that video with the cash and the plane? So, that seems to be his story and he's sticking to it. LEMON: He's sticking to it. David Gergen, help me out here. So, is

there -- the timing does seem suspect. But is this believable? Is it a coincidence sort of that they were working on?

GERGEN: Oh, come on. No, it's not a coincidence. And look, I don't think it's that big a deal. The Iranians have been advertising to everybody in sight that it was ransom. They clearly under negotiations they wanted the money. You know, and before they were going to give up the prisoners.

So, and obviously had the money eased the way. It looks like a lot ransom to a lot of people in the world, but it's extremely important. He did. They did announce it. The New York Times had a piece back in mid-January. David Sanger, you know, a big piece about this deal, this $400 million plus interest. And they didn't make any secret of that.

LEMON: He said while we were in there talking to them and negotiating other things, since the door was open, we got in as much as possible.

GERGEN: Absolutely. But something else is really important. This was money they gave us to buy some military equipment. We never delivered it because it Shah. And so we sat with the $400 million. It's their money.

What they're asking for was their money back plus interest. And we always intended to give it back. It was a question on how we are going to mitigate it out. They wanted to take us to The Hague and they thought they'd get a lot more money, you know.

So, I think there is something. If you give somebody money that's their money, it doesn't quite -- it's not quite ransom, right? That's fresh money. Ransom -- so, I think it's not going to be a lasting issue.

LEMON: But it's part of the deal. And some are seeing it as ransom.


LEMON: OK. So, let's talk about this new poll out.


LEMON: Hillary Clinton widening her lead, 48 to 33 percent. This is a new McClatchy/Marist poll

GERGEN: It's a respected poll, too.

LEMON: A respected pol. And the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll has Hillary up by 9 -- 9 points.


LEMON: What's your take on these numbers?

GERGEN: I think the numbers are very dangerous for Donald Trump. Look, a lot of people believe that this will close as we get close to Nov -- October, you know, just the evolution of clock.

I think there's another way that this could go. And you sometimes see in elections. Now this is a moment coming out of the convention when people take a fresh look at the candidates, opinions start to crystallize and during that period of time things can harden up.

There is every possibility this thing is going to widen even more. I mean, the Clinton forces are not saying, oh, wow, look at this, it's going to narrow down. They're trying to aggressively see if they could build the lead more.

They are already pulling their ads in a place like Virginia which was a swing -- a major, major swing state.


GERGEN: And putting them in another state they didn't think they can get. They're looking for a landslide.

LEMON: Yes. Thank you, all. Thank you, Michelle.

GERGEN: Thank you.

LEMON: Thank you, Barbara. Thank you, David Gergen. I appreciate it.

Up next, wait until you hear what Fareed Zakaria calls Trump. Do the letters B.S. ring a bell? And wait until you see what legendary Hollywood tough guy Clint Eastwood is saying about society.


LEMON: trust me you want to watch this segment.

President Barack Obama says Donald Trump is unfit to be commander-in- chief. He's calling on voters to listen to what the GOP candidate says and decide for themselves about Trump's temperament and judgment.

Here is what I want you to watch. Because I want to bring in CNN's Fareed Zakaria, host of "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS" right here on CNN. Fareed, welcome.

You wrote an article in The Washington Post. It's called "The unbearable stench of Trump's B.S." Strong language. And we'll go on to talk about it, but why did you write it?

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST, "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS": yes. I had to get through a few hurdles to get them to agree to do it. Because I was trying to think about what it is about Trump that is so distinctive.

When you watch him, you know, this thing of "I met Putin. Oh, actually I didn't meet him." I watched this video. "Oh, maybe the video didn't exist." Which you realize that his whole mode of operation is really a B.S. artist.

You know, there's a distinction though as I talk about an essay by an eminent, for instance, philosopher who says that the distinction between telling lies and telling B.S. With lies, you intentionally trying to falsify the truth.

With B.S. you don't tell what the truth is or what lies are. This is just a great act that you're -- you know, it's like a vervoer (Ph) performance. And Trump is sort of surprised that people call him on it. He was like, well, actually, you haven't met Putin. He's like who cares, you know. And that's what...


LEMON: Are you saying he doesn't know he's lying?

ZAKARIA: I think he's convinced himself that in a case like that, look, I'm a big shot, I went to Russia, I could have met Putin, you know, it would have been -- the fact that it actually didn't happen is irrelevant.


ZAKARIA: You know, he look -- he constantly talks about his book "The Art of the Deal" as the biggest, bestseller of all time. There is no category by which that statement is true, right? But in his view -- I mean, it sold a lot of books, you know.

LEMON: All right. Here's what you write. You said "Liars and truth tellers are both acutely aware of the facts and truths," is what you said, "But a bullshit artist has lost all connection with reality, he pays no attention to the truth. A lot of people say Trump is a flat out liar."

Why do you -- why do you disagree with that? Do you disagree with that? What makes him a B.A. artist?

[22:20:00] ZAKARIA: I do. Because it's pathological, clearly. He's getting into trouble week after week, sometimes day after day, because he's saying these things that are plainly contradicted by the facts.

Look at the one that you just discussed, this video that he claims to have watched, which he alone in the world has seen, just like he alone in the world found that video of Muslims in Jersey City cheering, right? So, he keeps doing it almost day after day. There is something that...


LEMON: Let's listen and say that.

ZAKARIA: Yes, absolutely.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The tape was made, right? You saw that with the airplane coming in, nice plane. And the airplane coming in and the money coming off, I guess, right? That was given to us, has to be, by the Iranians and you know why the tape was given to us? Because they want to embarrass our country. Who would ever think that

they would be taking all of this money off the plane and then providing us with a tape?


LEMON: So, as you said, by all accounts there is no such video. Why does he keep talking about this video? Is it that his people won't believe him and so it props him up? Why does he keep on...


ZAKARIA: I think that he goes into these halls, these audiences, he's a salesman and he feeds off the energy that the sales -- that, you know, that the crowd has and he starts riffing and he improvises and in that context, I think he's done it his whole life.

Whether he was selling a condo, whether he was selling a membership to a golf course, this is his mode. That's what I mean, it's different from lying. Lies, truth, facts are irrelevant. He's making up some grand story, which is all fine if you're selling, you know, memberships to a golf course.

but when you're doing it with the presidency of the United States, when you're talking about nuclear security, when you're talking about deterrence, it is scary as hell because he literally is making it up as he goes along.

LEMON: OK. Let me ask you this. So, if what you say is true and then, you know, I did something last night where he said something about, you know, something the press did or whatever and I showed the videotape of it and it proves that he was -- it showed that he was not telling the truth about it.

So, then what is it about the American public that allows this to happen? Because usually the worst thing for an individual is if someone lies to your face you're like, wow, how can I trust this person? You lied to my face. How is he getting away with this among a certain demographic?

ZAKARIA: You know, it is the great puzzle of this election honestly. I mean, we -- I think we all, you know, when we look back at it, we will wonder how did this happen, how did somebody who would just a series of falsehoods, fabrications, hyperbole get away with it, why was it the public didn't care?

If you had taken one of these things, if George W. Bush had talked about having watched a video of cash going off a plane in Iran and it turned out that the whole thing was wrong, that the plane wasn't in Iran, there was no cash on it, it would have been the end of his candidacy.


LEMON: Most people, not just George W. Bush.

ZAKARIA: But I mean, just as an example.

LEMON: As an example.


LEMON: But, it doesn't -- as the president said the other day, this isn't something that's, you know, episodic, this is something that happens a lot. You and I have interviewed politicians. We know politicians embellish, they don't always tell the truth.

This is something that's at a grander -- even exponential level. Almost every week there's something that is not true coming from the candidate or for this campaign.

ZAKARIA: That's why I say it's pathological. He can't -- he can't stop himself. This is what he's done his whole life. If you read the interview, the story with the New Yorker by the guy who actually wrote "The Art of the Deal," his first book, he says he doesn't really distinguish between truth and falsehood. He's just -- he's just, you know, selling.

And when he's selling, that's the mode he's in. And that's what's scary about it. It's almost -- you know, when Richard Nixon was telling a lie, he knew he was telling a lie. He was doing it intentionally, purposefully to fool you to trick you. With Trump, you don't know what he's doing.

LEMON: Our Fareed Zakaria is now the host of GPS, you wrote an article at the Washington Post called "The unbearable stench of Trump's B.S." Thank you very much, fared. I appreciate it.

When we come right back, is it panic among the chickens? Why Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standard says the Republican Party is in an absolute turmoil right now.


LEMON: Republican leaders urging Donald Trump to get back on message now and to focus on Hillary Clinton's record.

I want to talk about this with Matt Schlapp, he is the chairman of the American Conservative Union who is a former political director for President George W. Bush; and Bill Kristol, the editor of the Weekly Standard.

Gentlemen, thanks for coming in this evening. Matt, you first. It's been a rocky few days for the Trump campaign. The poll numbers in key battleground states show it Clinton now leads Trump point by 9 points in Michigan, 13 points in Pennsylvania, 15 points in New Hampshire. There's 96 days to go. How does he turn this around?

MATT SCHLAPP, FORMER GEORGE W. BUSH POLITICAL DIRECTOR: You know, I'm a veteran of two presidential campaigns. You have times when you just have terrible weeks and I think it's fair to say Donald Trump has had a bad seven or so days.

And at these moments people start to panic. You have to field all these phone calls when people saying oh, my God, oh, my God.

And I -- but I think it's fair to say that every poll shows the same thing, which is the number one issue for the American voter is jobs and the economy followed closely by the fact that they're concerned about our national security with the rise of Islamic terrorism.

And the third problem is I think Washington is broken. And what's funny in a lot of these polls that have happened over the course of the last three months is Donald Trump often leads in all three of those important issue areas.

And what he did over the course of the last seven days is he didn't talk about those three issues, he talked about all these other extraneous issues. And when you do that in politics, you send confusing messages to voters.

And now we're seeing it play out in these polls. If he gets back on the main message of the economy, fighting terrorism, taking on a broken Washington, explaining how Hillary Clinton is not equipped to fix any of those problems...


LEMON: He can turn it around.

SCHLAPP: ... I still think this is a race that he can win.

LEMON: OK. Bill, you're out with a new article for the Weekly Standard, it's titled "Panic among chickens." Here is what your message is to your GOP brethren -- brother and now panicking over Donald Trump.

[22:30:07] You say, "They should get no credit for whining to the press and complaining to their peers so long as they continue to support for president the individual who is the very cause of their whining, their complaining, and their panic. The only act they should get credit for is withdrawing their support for the candidate. If they were to do so, as late in the day as we are, many things are still possible."

After this week are you saying to your party I told you so? Is that what's going on?

BILL KRISTOL, THE WEEKLY STANDARD EDITOR: No, because I still think there's hope. I mean, I think, look, Matt is right. That if you just look at the issues there's plenty of room for republican to win this year. People aren't happy with the economy of President Obama.

There's plenty of criticism we made of his foreign policy to Secretary Clinton. But, Matt is wrong. The top issue when you vote for president is the candidate I'm considering voting for capable, qualified, fit to be president?

And the voters are concluding correctly, unfortunately, that Donald Trump is not so qualified. And therefore, that they can dislike Obama's economy, that they can dislike Clinton not telling the truth about the e-mails, they can just throw all sorts of things about the democrats; they're not going to vote for Donald Trump.

And they're right not to vote for Donald Trump. Because the number one thing you do have to think about when you go into the voting booth is this person I'm voting for qualified fit and fit to be president of the United States.

That's what's so disappointing for a conservative republican like me about this year. Was it a winnable election, it's not winnable under Donald Trump. I say that with some -- I think that's true. And I'm reassuring that the American public seeing the real Donald Trump, that's what we've been seeing for the last week.

It's not like he's off message. This is the message. Donald Trump is Donald Trump. He is the message and he is an unacceptable message.

LEMON: Matt?

SCHLAPP: The problem with what Bill is saying is that we went all across this country and had primaries and caucuses, and I'm a conservative like Bill is a conservative and conservatives dominate these -- that the primary process on the republican side.

And they gave Donald Trump more votes than anybody -- anybody who has ever run for the republican nomination before. I have to have some humility over the fact that this is the choice that republicans made. And I don't think that qualifications...


KRISTOL: They made a horrible mistake, Matt. They made a horrible mistake.

SCHLAPP: ... I think that, but I think that qualifications come down to very basic questions about the Constitution, and then after that we're having an ideological conversation about the direction of the country. I don't know how you could do anything that helps Hillary Clinton get into that Oval Office.

KRISTOL: Because Donald Trump is more dangerous. I'm not for Hillary Clinton; I'm against both of them. And I think we'll still see a chance hopefully to have other candidates emerge. It's not too late. It's getting awfully late.

And it would have been a lot less late two months ago if all these cowardly and pathetic republicans hadn't decided...


LEMON: So, who is it's...

KRISTOL: Oh, gee, I know better, I know better. But privately talking to you, guys.

LEMON: So, Bill, if it's not too late, then who?

SCHLAPP: Right. I mean, come on. KRISTOL: It's a big country, lots of people can come forward, they can still get on the ballot in some states and...


LEMON: Like who? I mean, do you have a name?

KRISTOL: I know of a couple people who are very seriously considering it but I'm not going to -- I let them out. I wish Mitt Romney would do it, I wish senior people would do it who don't need -- who wouldn't have such difficulty getting publicity.

SCHLAPP: But we had 17. Here's the thing.

LEMON: And we had Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney, back in 2012.


SCHLAPP: I'm sorry, I'm sorry. We had 17 -- we had 17 and Donald Trump -- this is what's fundamentally flawed here is that...


KRISTOL: There's nothing flawed here.

LEMON: One at a time, please. Go ahead, Matt.

SCHLAPP: ... we went all around the country with 17 candidates and Donald Trump beat them all, Bill. And so, why would we at the very end say, oh, my God, this is some kind of a fluke.

LEMON: Let him respond.

SCHLAPP: ... that happened out of nowhere, we got to find someone new? It would be interesting...


LEMON: Go ahead, Bill.

SCHLAPP:'s a fundamental screw you to the voter if you do that.

BRISTOL: It's a fundamental mistake for the Republican Party, not a majority for a plurality of the republican voters to nominate Donald Trump. People are seeing that now. It's a free country.

People are entitled to run as independents. But again, let me talk why do this republican office holders. Obviously Trump is the nominee. I'm not challenging that. Why did this republican office holders still they had to do what they know is wrong and that you what's wrong in private.

But in public they felt they had to go along, they had to bend the knee. Paul Ryan, a man I respect very much. Why is he even pretending to support Donald Trump?


LEMON: Hey, quickly, let me get this in there.

KRISTOL: He doesn't think Donald Trump should be president of the United States.

LEMON: Hold on, I want to play this. This is Paul Ryan today. Listen to this.


REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), U.S. SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: None of these things are ever blank checks. That goes with any situation in any kind of race. But right now I think it's important that the voters -- you know, he won the delegates, he won the thing fair and square. It's just that simple.



LEMON: He's also suggesting that his endorsement is not concrete as well. But, go on.

KRISTOL: He won the delegates, fine. He's the republican nominee. Paul Ryan is an individual, he's an American. He has to make a decision. Am I comfortable, do I think it's the right thing for the country to support Donald Trump.


KRISTOL: I believe Paul Ryan in his heart believes Donald Trump should not be president. But he's made a bunch of calculations some of them for good motives.

LEMON: I've got to go.


SCHLAPP: But he also knows that Hillary Clinton shouldn't be president.

LEMON: Thank you both.

KRISTOL: That's why we need a third choice. I got to have to.

LEMON: Coming up, Clinton Eastwood known for his bluntness both on screen and off but what he says about the American society and the November election may still come as a surprise. We'll be right back.


LEMON: This season got a whole of people riled up. Hollywood tough guy Clint Eastwood never one to hold back his political views. And he is weighing in on the race for the White House. You may be surprised at what he's calling America this days. Here's is CNN's Brynn Gingras.


BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It may not be a full endorsement but we certainly know who Clint Eastwood wants in the White House. In an interview with Esquire magazine, Hollywood's tough guy takes a political tough line scolding, well, society.

Eastwood says "Trump is on to something because secretly everybody is getting tired of political correctness. Kissing up. That's the kiss- ass generation we're in right now, everybody's walking on egg shells."

The controversial comments has seem to come under the heading of nostalgia for the 86-year-old actor, but they echo some pockets of present day voters and some Trump supporters across the country calling for a simpler time.

Critics say they are just plain racist. Eastward said when he was growing up, you could say a lot more and not be called racist. That's why Trump will get his vote in November, because the billionaire real estate mogul is the opposite of P.C.

[22:40:02] "What Trump is on to is he's just saying what's on his mind," Eastwood said in the interview. Esquire writer Michael Hainey spoke with CNN's Brooke Baldwin about the parallels between both men.

MICHAEL HAINEY, ESQUIRE MAGAZINE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: I think he must be practicing the Clint Squint. You know, Clint is a guy who he just sort of calls it like it is.

GINGRAS: The blunt opinion is not unusual for the conservative actor who notoriously talked to an empty chair during his 2012 republican convention speech.

CLINT EASTWOOD, ACTOR: You know, what do you mean shut up?

GINGRAS: He's not alone. Other Hollywood types have evoked the same rugged spirit of America Jon Voight, Duck Dynasty's Willie Robertson and Scott Baio who stumped for Trump this year in Cleveland.

SCOTT BAIO, ACTOR & TRUMP SUPPORTER: Folks, our country right now is in a very bad spot. You can feel it.

GINGRAS: Back to Eastwood, he called both presidential candidates "boring," in the interview. But in the end favors Trump over Clinton because, quote, "She's declared that she's going to follow in Obama's footsteps."

Brynn Gingras, CNN, New York,


LEMON: All right. I want to discuss this now with Charles Blow, the op-ed columnist for the New York Times, and also with me is Michael Hainey, the executive director -- director of editorial for Esquire magazine who we saw in the piece. He is joining us now, and actor Graham Beckel.

It's nice to see all of you on. And, Michael, you interview Clint Eastwood talks about political correctness, condemning what he calls the "kiss ass generation" we're in right now. We're really a -- he says, "We're really in pussy generation." Why does he think Trump is so refreshing?

HAINEY: Well, I think what you see with Clint right now and you saw him on (Inaudible) also I'm a cover with him, you're seeing I think maybe a microcosm of a lot of the debate that's happening in this country right now to across generation, right.

And I think I mean, because he's a father and a son two different -- two different generations. And I think he sort of looks that, you know, someone what he says, he's sort of like, yes, grandpa, I like what you're saying. I still respect you but I'm over here politically with these other things.

LEMON: And, Charles, did he go too far?

CHARLES BLOW, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I'm just blown away by the euphemisms we're using right now. Like Clint Eastwood is saying he calls it like it is, he's just saying what's on his mind. No, that's not what it is, right.

So, if -- in the interview he says, you know, some of the things I used to say and some of the things Trump is saying, the people say are not racist, we didn't used to call it racist. That doesn't mean it wasn't, right?

And this idea that he says later that, you know, people should just get over it. It is fascinating to me, and in fact, supremely insulting when people who were never subjects of the bitterness and pain and subjugation of racism to tell people who were you then should just get over it.

LEMON: Political correctness.

And in fact, and to cast -- no, political correctness has become this blanket that people throw over everything they want to say, or want to do...


LEMON: When they want to make an excuse for it.

BLOW: Right. They want to normalize it, right. It's not even just making an excuse for it. They want -- I want my innermost darkest things in me that I want to get out to be able to come out and to be able to be normalized and people not to look at that and say that is necessarily a negative for me.

LEMON: Yes. Graham, you take what Clint Eastwood said, you said into context his age, the times in Hollywood. Hollywood and the times. Explain what you mean by that.

For Graham, sorry.

HAINEY: I'm sorry.

GRAHAM BECKEL, ACTOR: Yes. Clint is 86 years old, lives in Hollywood and kissing ass is a, you know, it's the currency of the realm, everybody in Hollywood kisses ass except people with a tremendous amount of integrity, he being one, Warren Beatty, Tommy Lee Jones, Morgan Freeman, people from the left and the right, some people have integrity, Clint Eastwood is one of them.

And I love the popping you guys are doing with this corn, overrating this some of kind of racist thing about it. I think that's a -- it's dim witted and slam goes...


LEMON: How is -- how is it -- how is it overrating -- how is it being overrated and racist. Explain to me.

BECKEL: What -- didn't somebody just saying that what Clint was saying was racist? Did I not hear that?

LEMON: But I want you to explain how it's being racist by pointing that out.

BECKEL: OK, well, to the extent that all that is political correctness, Clint Eastwood kind of transcends political correctness as far as I'm concerned.

And, you know, I was working with him in San Quentin Prison, we were doing a movie and we had heavy guards around, there's a lot of guards and right before our lunch they all took off and Clint led the crew and the cast through the yard.

There were 800 prisoners in that yard. And they were black, they were white, they were Hispanic, Asian.

[22:45:01] Whatever God has ever made the visage of man was in that yard. It was utterly silent. That man walked into the middle of that crowd and everybody suddenly burst into applause and they were cheering him. Why? Because he's the masculine ideal. He's the guy who tells it like it is.

LEMON: OK. So, Graham, but what does that have to do with this question...


BECKEL: I don't -- I don't get what the racist question is.

LEMON: OK. Maybe the...

BECKEL: The post-colonial victims, I don't get it. Sorry.

LEMON: Blow? BLOW: No, you don't ask me to answer that. I don't know what this man

is talking about. I mean, these are Clint's own words, right. We have to rest, I say these are his words.


HAINEY: Everyone's been rendered speechless.

BLOW: he said them. I don't even what that is.


BLOW: But he said these words. I let you talk and ramble on, whatever you were saying. Now it's my turn.

BECKEL: Thank you very much.

BLOW: Yes. You're welcome.

BECKEL: You're that good.

BLOW: You're welcome. I do that all the time. And Clint said, in his won words that the things that Trump are saying now some people call racist, and that Clint says in his own words that when he said similar things when he was younger, it wasn't called racist. That's what he says.

And then he says later in the piece that people should just get over it. Those are his words. Those are not mine. Those are not the people at Esquire's. Clint Eastwood said those words.

LEMON: Yes. So, I'm trying to figure out though, Graham, what is being, you know, overly masculine, or being masculine, what does that have to do with racism? And what's the connection? I don't get it.

BECKEL: You know, I read that entire article on the subject of race; it didn't particularly enter in as a feature or fabric of it. And, Charles, how many -- how many black soldiers spent the winter with George Washington at Valley Forge?

BLOW: I don't think that you're the interviewer. I think Don is. You want to say something, say it. Otherwise don't ask me questions, because I'm not answering them.


I don't know who you are, where you came from, what gives you the authority to ask me any questions. It's not going to happen. If you want to ask a question, ask it to Don. He's the host of this show. If Don wants to ask me a question, he can ask it directly to me. Don't talk to me like that.

LEMON: What I'm trying to get to here - stand by. What is -- what is your point? What are you trying to get to with -- what's your point here? But not asking questions. What's your point?

BECKEL: Are you talking to me now, Don?

LEMON: Yes, I am.

BECKEL: OK. This whole subject of race and around the election, that's one issue. Clint Eastwood in the context of this article is quite something else. That was a feature of it that was a part of it certainly.

But that wasn't the substance of it. You know, why is it -- you know, I always judge people on would they have spent the winter with Washington, anybody who is running for president.

And nobody lately has had that quality particularly. Why is it that they had to ask Trump about women at the top and not find out what the body of his knowledge was?

How many black soldiers spent the winter with Washington at Valley Forge? It's a perfectly legitimate question. The answer is 700.


BECKEL: Period.

LEMON: Anybody -- so let's get back to the article. Charles, Clint also brought up the anger over Trump's comments about Judge Curiel. Here's what he said, "He's a racist now because he's talked about this judge. And yes, it's a dumb thing to say, I mean, to predicate your opinion on the fact that the guy was born to Mexican parents or something, he said a lot of dumb things. So have all of them. Both sides. But everybody, the press and everybody's going on, oh, well, he's, you know, that's racist. And they're making a big hoodoo out of it. Just bleeping get over it. It's a sad time in history."

Which -- OK. We'll get to that when we come back. We'll be right back.


LEMON: So, we're now with Charles Blow, with Michael Hainey who wrote this article in Esquire magazine and also Graham Beckel. By the way, Graham Beckel is a conservative activist, he is an actor, and he also happens to be the brother of our very own Bob Beckel.

So, again, we're having a conversation here. We're trying to figure what's going on. We're talking about this article in Esquire magazine with Clint Eastwood and his son.

So, it appears to me, Michael, that Charles Blow is saying -- that Graham is saying, well, he can say whatever he want and he should be applauded for saying it. And just because Charles is saying just because he says it doesn't mean it's not racist, right.

I think that just because again, that he says it doesn't mean that it's not racist. It's like when I'm on the airplane and I'm in jeans and the little old lady asks me to get her food and I'm in first class. Doesn't mean that, you know, just because she's 80 or 70 years old, it's still kind of racist that she assumes that I'm the flight attendant. And I think that's what's happening with Clint Eastwood.

HAINEY: I see -- I see the third rail coming right through you.


HAINEY: Look, I think Clint, it's a guy who is speaking off the cuff. He's of a different generation and I think as I said, I think he's like a lot of guys right now in America, they're trying to sort of figure out what's happened to their America, right.

But he also comes around at the end of the interview when he says, look, I wish people will all start like, knock it off -- well, I think he say knock it off, like he's sort of like he just says I'm bored by the left, I'm bored by the right. I think we could all start like working together.

I think he's from that generation just like, I don't understand this, let's just -- where's the common ground now.

LEMON: But is that an excuse of being -- one must be self-aware, regardless of the age that you are. You have to be aware that America no longer exist. This is not Pleasantville from the 50s. That era that he's talking about no longer exists, Charles.

BLOW: Look, I believe -- you know, I'm a big believer in free speech, say whatever you want.

LEMON: Yes, absolutely.

BLOW: I can take offense.

LEMON: Right.

BLOW: I can choose not to patronize your movies, I can choose to write whatever I want as a rebuttal, I can choose to be upset about it.

[22:55:03] Those are all my choices also under the umbrella of free speech. If people want to be able to say what they want and not have anybody object to it, respond to it in any way, that's just not the way free speech works in America.

And I think that what a lot of people are basically saying is I want to feel comfortable to say what I want without the retort. And that's simply not the way that it works, particularly on kind of this third world -- third rail issues like race.

Say it. Not because I'm a big boy, I can take it, whatever you say. I will respond to it and I hope that you can take what I say in response.

LEMON: Graham, I'll give you the last word here. I'm not sure how to -- what would you like to say?

BECKEL: I don't know. I'm not going to sit here and have Clint Eastwood's brilliant career underlined with some albeit subtle accusation of racism. It's not right. It's just not right. I understand it's a stock in trade but it's just not right. That's all I got to say, Don. Thanks.

LEMON: OK. Thank you, Graham. Thank you, Michael. Thank you, Charles.

BLOW: You're welcome.

LEMON: Just ahead, we're going to crunch the numbers. New polls out tonight show Hillary Clinton leading Donald Trump in key states. What's driving her surge and what does Trump need to do it?