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Democrats Boycotting Inauguration; Obamacare at Popular Levels; President Obama's Legacy on Race. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired January 18, 2017 - 08:30   ET


[08:30:00] MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Is she is - she's going to take a strong political stand in the Department of Education, which we know. If you're going to get American reading scores up behind - above 27th, which is where they are -


HOOVER: And math above 17th. This is a political fight. Education reformers actually already tried this. Education policy wonks have tried this. What you need is a political fighter to be able to get in there and buck the unions.

CUOMO: Margaret, Matt, thank you very much for your perspective, as always. See you in Washington.


CUOMO: Alisyn.


President Obama leaving office on a high note. So why are his numbers rising as President-elect Trump's approval rating falls? We get "The Bottom Line" on all of this, next.


CAMEROTA: We are two days away from the inauguration of President- elect Trump and the number of House Democrats boycotting his swearing is now more than 50. The president-elect responding this morning. Listen.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: I think for him to have grandstanded - because I think he just grandstanded, John Lewis, and then you got caught in a very bad lie. So, let's see what happens. As far as other people not going, that's OK because we need seats so badly. I hope they give me their tickets? Are they going to give us their tickets or are they going to give them to other people?

[08:35:02] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're OK with them not going?

TRUMP: No, what happens to their tickets? I hope they're going to give us their tickets. (END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: All right, so that was him obviously responding to the ongoing feud with John Lewis, the congressman. So let's get "The Bottom Line" now with CNN's senior political analyst and senior editor of "The Atlantic," Ron Brownstein.

Good morning, Ron.


CAMEROTA: What do you make of 54 Democrats, House Democrats, now saying that they will sit this one out?

BROWNSTEIN: You know, it's easy to imagine another politician would have responded to John Lewis by tweeting something to the effect of, John Lewis is an American hero. I think he's wrong. I'm disappointed in his language but I hope to prove to him and all Americans that I intend to be the president for everyone in the United States. That would have been another possible response. More like what John McCain did, when John Lewis criticized him in 2008.

Donald Trump did not go that route. And I think it's very revealing of the situation he finds himself. You know, as you've been responding, in the CNN poll, the ABC poll, the CBS poll, he is arriving for his inauguration with, by far, in all likelihood, the lowest approval rating for an incoming president ever, the highest disapproval rating among voters in the opposite party by far ever. And it's not really agenda. I mean he has not put forward a vast amount of agenda. It has been kind of this relentless, truculence and belligerence since the election. The style of essentially letting no criticism go without accusing the criticizer of kind of being personally failed and flawed, that has alienated, I think, and worried a lot of Americans.

Don't forget, even on Election Day, roughly a quarter of his voters said they did not believe he had the temperament to succeed as president. They were willing to give him a chance anyway. They wanted change. They were dubious of Clinton. But for some of those voters, his style and temperament remain a short leash.

CUOMO: Right. But he still got elected.


But let's tap into your known metia (ph), if we're going to use big words like truculence this morning.




CUOMO: What you look inside the numbers of this poll -

BROWNSTEIN: Yes. CUOMO: What do you see that rings true for you about Trump, and do you raise an eyebrow when you see the Obamacare numbers in there, the numbers about the ACA being 45 - what are they, 41 -

CAMEROTA: This is from "The Wall Street Journal" -

CUOMO: Good idea/ bad idea from "The Wall Street Journal"/NBC poll. What do you see in the numbers? What is something that people should take away?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, one thing is that, you know, I think President Obama has clearly benefited both from the rising economy, but also from the comparison to Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton over the last year. And one of the historical ironies is, it has been tougher for a popular outgoing president, Dwight Eisenhower and Bill Clinton say with high job approval, to kind of transfer that to their designated successor than it is for the other way, when you have an outgoing president who's unpopular, whether it's Woodrow Wilson or Harry Truman or Lyndon Johnson, it gets much tougher for their successor.

On the Affordable Care Act, I think the one big thing that's missing from this debate, that's starting to come into focus is, that it's very hard for Republicans to do what they want to do without hurting their own core voters. I mean the - one of the core tradeoffs in the Affordable Care Act was that it asked younger and healthier people to pay more so that older and sicker people with greater health needs would pay less and would be exposed to less financial risk. And all of that risk sharing, the essential benefits package, the mandates on individuals to buy insurance, the limits on how much more you can charge older than younger people, those are all going to be repealed as part of the various Republican plans, at least it's intrinsic in all of the Republican plans. And what that means is that you will be asking older people to pay more at a time when a majority of Donald Trump's votes came from whites over 45. And that, I think, is what I call the Trumpcare conundrum that is a real hurdle for (INAUDIBLE).

By the way, interstate sale of insurance would make that vastly worse because it would make it easier for younger people to buy cheaper policies from less regulated states, leaving only older and sicker people in the states that mandate more benefits, and then you get premiums rising in what's called a death spiral.

CAMEROTA: But, Ron, help us understand this confusing snapshot of where we find ourselves two days out from this inauguration. President Obama's approval numbers are high, at some of the highest of all recent presidents in memory.


CAMEROTA: President-elect Trump is taking office with the lowest approval ratings that anybody can find in recent memory.


CAMEROTA: Obamacare is having its best approval ratings ever since its inception. The election was a repudiation of Obamacare on some level and President Obama -


CAMEROTA: But those numbers are going up. Donald Trump, the winner, his numbers are going down. Are voters just fickle?

CUOMO: Or are the polls bogus?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, I think - well, no - well, look, I mean, you know, polls are polls. I mean I think - I think the - you know, I think the core thing that happened on Election Day was that the Obama coalition wavered a bit, and the Republican - the coalition of voters opposed to him consolidated to a remarkable degree. Roughly 89 percent of the people who disapproved of Obama voted for Donald Trump. Only about 84 percent, 83 percent, 85 percent, I forget the exact number, voted - people who approved of Obama voted for Clinton. That small contrast was enough to allow them to punch through at the weakest point.

[08:40:04] And - but you do have this fundamental division between a country that is at the least deeply closely divided because of largely the way the Democratic coalition is distributed, overly concentrated in the biggest cities. Republicans now are in a position of unified power. So they are trying to execute an enormous change in policy on a very thin political mandate, and that could produce more turbulence over the next two years than it might seem today.

CAMEROTA: Fasten your seatbelt.

Ron Brownstein, thank you.

CUOMO: Doctor of the numbers.

BROWNSTEIN: Thank you.

CUOMO: You know what I mean?


CUOMO: It's really not enough just to see the headlines anymore.

Ron, thank you very much.

So, after eight years, when we elected the first black president of the United States, let's be honest, racial divisions still exist and are still deep. Will things be different in a Trump presidency? If so, how? We discuss next.


CUOMO: Time now for the "Five Things to Know for Your New Day."

Number one, just two days before President-elect Donald Trump takes the oath of office, and in a new interview he says health care will be his top domestic priority.

CAMEROTA: President Obama commuting Chelsea Manning's 35-year sentence down to seven years. The former Army private was convicted in 2010 of leaking government documents to WikiLeaks.

CUOMO: Four of President-elect Trump's cabinet picks will face Senate confirmation hearings this morning. Among them, you've got HHS, Health and Human Services, nominee Tom Price.

[08:45:06] CAMEROTA: President Obama will hold his final press conference at the White House today. A new CNN/ORC poll has Mr. Obama leaving office with a 60 percent approval rating. That's his highest since June of 2009.

CUOMO: Authorities finally arrested the man suspected of killing his pregnant girlfriend and an Orlando police officer. His name is Markeith Loyd. And he was captured in an abandoned house in Florida after a week-long manhunt.

For more on the "Five Things to Know," go to for the latest.

CAMEROTA: All right, President Barack Obama campaigned on hope, but are you better off today than you were eight years ago? Are you more hopeful? Michael Eric Dyson joins us next with his thoughts.


CAMEROTA: We are two days away from President Barack Obama leaving office. What will his legacy be? As the first African-American president, how did he shape race in this country?

Let's discuss with Georgetown University Professor Michael Eric Dyson, who is the author of "Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America," which is on sale in book stores today.

Professor, thanks so much for being here.


CAMEROTA: What is President Obama's legacy as you see it?

DYSON: Well, he's an extraordinary man. I also wrote a book called "The Black Presidency: Barack Obama and the Politics of Race in America," and I assess what his meaning has been to black people, in particular to the issue of race more broadly. But even more universally, the man has been remarkable. He came in and gave us health care. He saved the automobile industry. He certainly made sure that the American economy was on a belter footing. He gave the American image worldwide a better, if you will, representation, high intelligence. What kind of president talks about the books he read? I don't think the incoming administration will necessarily be celebrated for its eloquent tweeting. So I think this man brought a kind of cerebral acuity and a kind of depth and gravitas that has transformed at least the modern presidency in regard to a figure who is both controversial for many people, who opposed him, and yet reached across the aisle with a kind of olive branch as much as he could.

[08:50:36] CUOMO: So there was an expectation when Barack Obama was elected that it would inherently improve race relations because we had broken a barrier.


CUOMO: There is a counterargument which is that, no, because you had an African-American now in a position of power, there would necessarily be reaction formation and you would have an evening to a dip in race relations as a result. How do you see it?

DYSON: That's a pretty insightful analysis there. The thing is, Obama evoked or at least provoked a kind of racial animus that we hadn't seen explicitly expressed in America for quite a while. All the racist jokes against him. Even in police departments. When they looked at Ferguson, some of the police people on duty were making horrible remarks about him. Politicians have said horrible things. They've tried to make them Simeons (ph) and animals and so on. So that kind of racial animus came aboveboard because Obama provoked it because his presence there brought a lot of consternation to people who thought, we shouldn't be involved in this kind of thing as an American citizenry. We want a president who looks like us, not like him. So it did bring to bear some of those things. But Obama also had to deal with police brutality, the resurgence of a vital black movement under Black Lives Matter. So he had to negotiate some very hostile tensions and some contradictions within his own citizenry.

CAMEROTA: And you believe, correct me if I'm wrong, that the election of President-elect Trump was a reaction - or was I guess just more race-based than a lot of other people think?

DYSON: Well, yes. I mean it's - that's not all it was. I mean, obviously, people who were poor and suffering and hurt felt, ironically enough, that a billionaire would be able to identify with them. But let's be honest, a lot of the response against Obama was for no other reason that he was a black man. If you don't like Barack Obama as a black man, there are not too many other brothers you're going to dig because he's nice, he's genu (ph), he's affable. He agrees with people who disagrees with him. I mean that kind of man is extremely rare. So there's no question that part of the animus was driven by his race.

CUOMO: But - but, you know, --

CAMEROTA: But wait a second. I mean the -

CUOMO: Go ahead.

CAMEROTA: Just hold on a second because I mean how did that allow Donald Trump to be elected? In other words, if you're saying that there was some racism that went into electing Donald Trump -

DYSON: Right.

CAMEROTA: Hillary Clinton isn't a black male either. So how does - how can you be sure?

DYSON: Right. But did Hillary Clinton lead the birther movement? The very guy who questioned the legitimacy of Barack Obama as a black man is now the president of the United States of America. You're answering your own question in that sense (ph).

CAMEROTA: And you think - but, hold on, you think that's why people voted for him or they overlooked that because they believed he was going to be helpful to business and make America great?

DYSON: Ah, your faith in the American citizenry is pretty high. They overlooked what? The fact that Donald Trump for two years with lethal intensity continued to assault a sitting president as, quote, "illegitimate," and now thin skinned that he is, can't even take John Lewis saying that you may be illegitimate? Yes, I don't think people overlooked that. I think he ginned up the racial animus. I think he appealed to the worst instincts in our nature. Unlike Lincoln, the better angels of our nature, he appealed to the worst demons in our collective enterprise of thinking about American citizenship and democracy and as a result of that got elected because of demographic destiny. A few states voted for him. He is a very unpopular president going into his own inauguration. And he is a person who is dividing the country and yet - not uniting it. I think the contrast between Obama and him is rather stark.

CUOMO: You have the what and then you have the how much. There are a lot of people who voted out there because they feel we've been weak on ISIS. That's color neutral.

DYSON: Right.

CUOMO: The problems with Obamacare, about keeping your own plan and the rollout, that was color neutral. The feelings about the balance of economic resurgence after 2008, again, color neutral. So while it may have been a portion of what was going on -

DYSON: Right.

CUOMO: How do you see it on balance of how it played?

DYSON: But - but take those three, color neutral and ISIS. Many African-American people said, look, we were introduced to terror long before 9/11, the vicious police forces of America that have victimized us and the way in which white supremacy operated. Number two -

CUOMO: The false equivalency between having Islamic extremists wanting to eradicate the American way of life -

DYSON: Well, look -

CUOMO: To a police versus citizen?

DYSON: Look at this. Rudy Giuliani, and I debated him on "Meet the Press," said, look, you people focus on police killings of black people when that's a small percentage of what happens. Most -

CUOMO: The debate over when he said "you people"?

DYSON: Well, then he said, look, most - he said, however, of the killings are done by black people against black people.

CUOMO: Right.

DYSON: Well, 94 - 93 percent of black people who are killed are killed by black people. But 84 percent of white people who are killed are killed by white people. But let's go on. Let's take his logic to the extreme here. If that's the case, how many people have died from terror in America in the last ten years?

CUOMO: Not many.

DYSON: I don't know, maybe 100?

CUOMO: Not many.

DYSON: Most people have died, not from Muhammed, but Billy Bob, in terms of white people. White on white crime has done far more to damage America than ISIS. So by Rudy Giuliani's logic, we should not be concerned about terror.

[08:55:07] I don't believe that. But I'm saying to you, even in those components you just said are race neutral have a racial segment to them because black people and brown people experience them differently than the larger community. And then finally, think about it, they said, this is the resurgence of a kind of white middle class. There are black middle classes and brown middle classes who did not go for Donald Trump. There are black and brown people who live in rural areas. So, again, the adjective modifies the noun. It makes a difference to talk about white, black, red, working class, yellow working class because it makes a difference in America. Race makes class hurt more.

CAMEROTA: The book again is "Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America."

Professor, thanks so much.

DYSON: Thank you, guys.

CUOMO: A sermon indeed. Professor, always good to hear your thoughts.

DYSON: Thank you, sir.

CUOMO: All right, how about some "Good Stuff" for you, next.

CAMEROTA: Let's do it.


CUOMO: "Good Stuff." A story of confectionary compassion.

CAMEROTA: Oh, I like those.

CUOMO: Loyal customers at an ice cream shop in upstate New York are gathering together to shave the life of the owner of the shop. His name is Rob Zautner and he went into septic shock following emergency surgery.

CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh.

CUOMO: So customers stepped in to raise cash for Rob's medical treatment. Zautner and his family say they are grateful for the generosity.

[09:00:01] CAMEROTA: That is a sweet story on every level.

So, we are going to live tomorrow in Washington, D.C., of course, for Donald Trump's inauguration. We're there also Friday starting extra early at 5:00 a.m. So set your DVR for that.