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CNN Covers Democratic National Convention; Former First Lady Michelle Obama Rips Trump During Historic Convention Speech; Sen. Bernie Sanders Stands For The Country. Aired 11p-12a ET
Aired August 17, 2020 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHELLE OBAMA, FORMER FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: And if we want a chance to pursue any of these goals, any of these most basic requirements for a functioning society, we have to vote for Joe Biden in numbers that cannot be ignored because, right now, folks who know they cannot win fair and square at the ballot box are doing everything they can to stop us from voting. They're closing down polling places in minority neighborhoods. They're purging voter rolls. They're sending people out to intimidate voters and they're lying about the security of our ballots.
These tactics are not new. But this is not the time to withhold our votes in protest or play games with candidates who have no chance of winning. We have got to vote like we did in 2008 and 2012.
We've got to show up with the same level of passion and hope for Joe Biden. We've got to vote early, in person if we can, we've got to request our mail-in ballots right now, tonight, and send them back immediately and follow up to make sure they're received, and then make sure our friends and families do the same.
We have got to grab our comfortable shoes, put on our masks, pack a brown bag dinner and maybe breakfast too, because we've got to be willing to stand in line all night if we have to.
Look, we have already sacrificed so much this year. So many of you are already going that extra mile. Even when you're exhausted, you're mustering up unimaginable courage to put on those scrubs and give our loved ones a fighting chance. Even when you're anxious, you're delivering those packages, stocking those shelves and doing all that essential work so that all of us can keep moving forward.
Even when it all feels so overwhelming, working parents are somehow piecing it all together without child care, teachers are getting creative so that our kids can still learn and grow.
Our young people are desperately fighting to pursue their dreams. And when the horrors of systemic racism shook our country and our consciences, millions of Americans of every age, every background rose up to march for each other, crying out for justice and progress. This is who we still are, compassionate, resilient, decent people
whose fortunes are bound up with one another. And it is well past time for our leaders to once again reflect our truth.
So, it is up to us to add our voices and our votes to the course of history, echoing heroes like John Lewis who said, when you see something that is not right, you must say something. You must do something. That is the truest form of empathy, not just feeling, but doing. Not just for ourselves or our kids but for everyone, for all our kids.
And if we want to keep the possibility of progress alive in our time, if we want to be able to look our children in the eye after this election, we have got to reassert our place in American history. And we have got to do everything we can to elect my friend Joe Biden as the next president of the United States. Thank you, all. God bless.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Truly extraordinary moment in American political history. The former first lady of the United States delivering a powerful speech not only, of course, supporting Joe Biden for president of the United States but directly launching a very, very powerful attack on the current president of the United States, saying he's the wrong president for our country, he's way in, she says, over his head. Jake, what do you think?
JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, before I get to any of the content, we should just acknowledge that the former first lady is one of the most effective speakers in American politics today.
I mean, she was reading that from a teleprompter, and the way she speaks is, you know, strong enough to give any politician a run for his or her money. In fact, if I can be so bold, she's a more effective speaker than Vice President Joe Biden is when reading from a teleprompter.
But beyond that, we've never heard this country, a former first lady or current first lady, speak this starkly about the candidate that she is not supporting. She painted, first of all, a very dystopian picture of the United States, and I know there are a lot of people out there who probably recognize that dystopia right now. But it's just not the kind of thing you hear first ladies talk about.
She talked about white supremacists bearing torches and children being stripped from their families and thrown into cages, pepper spray and tear gas used for a photo-op, all stories that we lived through and can remember, but it's not typically the kind of picture that a first lady is known to make.
The other thing I would say is her criticisms of President Trump were not about his policies. They were about his lack of character. She talked about chaos. She talked about division. She alluded to racism. She talked about his lack of empathy. She said as you noted, the wrong president for our time. She said, he was in out of her head -- in over his head. He simply cannot be who we need him to be.
And then she used his own words, Trump's own words, you might remember in that Axios interview, he said, it is what it is, referring to the now 170,000 dead Americans we have due to coronavirus, and Michelle Obama used those words against him. It is what it is describing him.
So, really, I mean, it's an historic speech in any regard, both in terms of the scene she painted of the United States right now, and also what she had to say about the current president of the United States.
BLITZER: Yes, she certainly did. Dana, go ahead.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you know, absolutely, and on that note, what struck me was how much she went for the jugular on Donald Trump, not just in her sort of blanket assessment, poor assessment of him, but she knew where to hit him where it hurts, talking about the fact that he lost the national popular vote by nearly 3 million votes. We know that that is something that bothers the president almost as much as anything.
And also talking about the fact that he barely won the Electoral College, that he won a margin that averaged just one or two votes per precinct. So, she didn't just go after him, but she went after him in a way that she really knew would bug him.
The other thing that was really striking as a parent is the way that she was trying to reach out to parents, about as Jake was saying, the morality and the character that people tried to teach their kids. And how she argued that that completely flies in the face of what they see in the White House.
That kids are thinking that parents are just not telling them the truth, or lying to them when they explain what is right and wrong. And that is certainly a way that she's trying to reach out to people. Especially she emphasized that she is not somebody who likes politics at all.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, you could really hear the frustration in her voice, you could see it in her face, and I think that that's why made this so powerful. You know, one of the things that really struck me was hearing her say something that we've heard her say in her post-presidency life about the power of voting. She was speaking directly to Democrats who she said maybe didn't think that their vote counted in 2016 and decided to stay home.
It's a direct reference to these narrow margins in the battleground states that President Trump won by, but it was also really speaking to this moment that we're in right now in which Democrats are looking around at President Trump's comments on voting, and they're worried that he's not going to accept the results of the election.
She said pretty clearly tonight, which I think is really extraordinary, that it has to be a margin of victory for Joe Biden that cannot be ignored.
I think that was really striking to hear her say that. It's a nod to this concern that is now becoming more widespread among Democrats about whether or not President Trump is going to actually accept the results of the election if he were to lose.
BLITZER: Truly extraordinary moment. I've covered a lot of Democratic and Republican political conventions. Anderson, I have never, never heard a first lady of the United States, a current first lady or a former first lady, speak about a sitting president of the United States the way Michelle Obama just did.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Yes. And David Axelrod, as Jake Tapper was saying, it wasn't based on policy issues, though certainly they would disagree on those, it was really -- it was a portrait of the president of his character and his character failings, and his lack of compassion, his lack of attention, his lack of caring and capabilities.
DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Without question, and also setting up the contrast with Joe Biden, which is such an important part of this week for him.
Listen, let me say that I've watched Michelle Obama's evolution as a public figure. She spoke a lot of truths in this speech. I think the truest of all is when she said she hates politics. She doesn't speak like a politician, she doesn't think like a politician, and that's one of the reasons why she's such a powerful communicator.
This was not a speech in political terms. This was a moral speech, a speech from the standpoint of a mother, of a concerned citizen, and it felt that way. And I've seen it many times before. She became a great closer within the Obama campaigns because of that, because she speaks with a moral authority few in politics can summon.
COOPER: Nia-Malika Henderson, have you heard a speech like this? I mean, it's certainly from a first lady, I agree with Wolf, I certainly haven't.
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: No, there hasn't been a speech like this and if you think about Michelle Obama, she's somebody who really sort of avoided politics.
She said that in her speech and she really kind of, I think, wanted to reserve her capital, her political capital in some ways for moments like this. Sometimes she would say she wanted to reserve it to make the best case for her husband, and here you see her tonight using all of her political capital.
She's also this kind of pop culture figure who also kind of comes across as your favorite next-door neighbor. And so here she was, speaking so very plainly, using colloquialisms throughout this speech and really I think speaking from the heart in a way that will connect with so many different Americans, urging folks who might not like Joe Biden, right?
He's not perfect, she said at one point, but he's somebody who listens. And I think she also kind of wove in all of the themes from the night about Joe Biden, being a good listener, being somebody who is empathetic, in speaking as someone who has seen the presidency up close and she essentially said listen, Donald Trump has had enough time, and we know now Michelle Obama a bit, he is not up for this job.
COOPER: Gloria Borger, Four years ago Michelle Obama gave a very well- receive speech as well, there were a lot of (inaudible) and you know, obviously the results happen that happened. Does this make much of a difference?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: It's hard to say. So, we'll see who is watching this convention, but I'll tell you that the thing that was so affecting about her was not only that she was emotional and a mother and seemed to be a truth teller, but she had also been in the White House.
And when she started out by saying, you know, you simply cannot fake your way through this job, believe me, I've been there. I understand how complex and compelling the issues are. I understand how difficult these decisions are that this president -- that a president has to make. And this president has had enough time and he can't do it.
And she moved from that to talking about character and about our children and what our children are seeing now every single day, and how families are suffering.
And then she did a very, very potent get out the vote message. Put on your walking shoes right now. Vote early, because as she said, they're sending out people to intimidate voters and they're lying about the security of our ballots.
And for a former first lady to say they're lying about a current president of the United States is really quite something to behold, and you could see and hear the sadness in her voice in a way and the frustration that she has had over these last few years.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think the urgency of now was her message in the sense that you mentioned the speech four years ago. She gave a very good speech at Hillary Clinton's convention, Hillary Clinton herself a former first lady probably wishes she had the urgency of Michelle Obama in rallying the cause.
But the point that she made about many of us four years ago maybe didn't vote. We didn't have the turnout like we did in 2008 or in 2012, because maybe we thought it was over. Maybe we thought Hillary Clinton had an insurmountable lead.
Do not make that mistake again. I think that was a critical part of the message. And just -- who is Michelle Obama? To David's point, she doesn't like politics, right? Donald Trump has a simple strategy here. He's going to try to do to Joe Biden what he did to Hillary Clinton, career politician, part of the problem, status quo, won't change anything, won't fix anything, you don't like us both. That is Donald Trump's strategy.
So, part of all the speakers tonight was to show Joe Biden the man. What Michelle Obama was trying to say is, do not wait. If you plan to vote by mail, get it tonight. Do it right away. Do not delay.
And just think about who she is. If black women turn out in higher numbers that they did in 2016, if suburban women or moms stick with Joe Biden like they did with the Democrats in the House in 2018, Joe Biden is the next president of the United States. So, Michelle Obama can be a great messenger here, and they would be idiots if the Biden campaign, if that's not in an ad within minutes.
COOPER: I want to bring in Van Jones. Van, your thoughts on what we saw.
VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean, it was an extraordinary speech. I mean, she's beautiful. I mean, it was so beautiful. And you know, she wasn't just putting the president down, she was trying to pick the country up. She was speaking like a lot of moms across this country. You know, the heartbreak was there, the hope was there. You know, when she talks about Joe knows the anguish of sitting at a table with an empty chair, I mean, that goes deep.
You know, she was bringing something forward in the country that just hasn't been here for a long time. She talks about what the young people are seeing on their phones, seeing all these shootings, seeing all this disrespect, and the young people are beginning to give up on the country.
So you're seeing one of the most effective communicators in American life putting it all on the table, and it wasn't just putting the president down. And the other thing is you know, she talked about empathy. She wasn't just siding that to Biden. She wasn't saying that Biden -- she says, we all have empathy. That's a feature of this country.
I was just blown away by what she did, and she was building on the incredible performance of a lot of other people, but that was an extraordinary moment, I think, in American life, what she just did for this country.
COOPER: And Andrew Yang, what do you think -- you know a lot of speeches, you've a lot of politicians give speeches?
ANDREW YANG, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Michelle Obama's compelling in part because like David said, she doesn't come across as a politician, she comes across as a mother and a patriot who is concern about what's going on in the country. But I thought Bernie Sanders' speech was one of the most important pieces of tonight, because he seemed very sincere and excited about Joe and Kamala in a way that I did not feel in 2016. You know when you go to a wedding and someone gives a speech and you
always can kind of tell what's going on? But Bernie's speech, I felt like Bernie is ready to get married. And I did not feel like that marriage energy in 2016. So that's an enormous step I think for the Democratic Party's chances of success in the fall.
COOPER: Governor Granholm?
JENNIFER GRANHOLM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I want to pick up on the Michelle Obama's emphasis on empathy. Because what she said is that the White House needs someone who knows someone else's experience has value, too, who understands that there are 330 million lives out there who have worth. That empathy component of what she described and felt and made us feel was woven through the entire convention.
When you talk -- when you saw all of these montages of real people, just regular folks, the Amtrak guy, the fellow at the barber shop who got a call from Joe Biden because of Joe Biden's empathy, the reflection of real people in Joe Biden's experience, it was all tied together in a beautiful bow by Michelle Obama, who finishes with the words that empathy is not just feeling but doing and initiating that call to action. I thought it created an incredible story at this convention tonight, and she was the capper.
COOPER: Scott Jennings, what did you think of Michelle Obama?
SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I'll put my analyst hat on here and I'll say, I looked at these things, conventions in general with an eye towards audience. And there were two audiences basically in this campaign.
The turnout audience, which is huge, and the persuasion audience, which is very, very small, I think, in this campaign. And Michelle Obama went right for the turnout audience. That's what they needed to hear especially after many traditional Democratic constituencies did not vote in 2016.
I suspect her speech was quite effective for that purpose. She is extremely compelling. The big problem for Michelle Obama or with her is that she will outshine Joe Biden by a like a million foot candles or however it is you measure bright lights because there is no way he gets anywhere near her. She is a real talent, Democrats like her, they care about her, and they are actually enthusiastic about her.
The persuasion speech tonight I guess was Kasich, although I thought it was far less effective. I mean, he's on TV tonight saying I don't think Joe Biden will make a sharp left turn and at the bottom of the screen below his head it says, up next Bernie Sanders, which I think says it all and Sanders sort of confirm what I think Republicans are going to argue and that it's his agenda is now mainstream in the Democratic Party. That's his word. He used that word, the mainstreaming of socialism.
[23:20:11] I think you are going to hear Republicans throw that back throughout
the fall. And Sanders, of course, has a bit of both the task. He has to persuade some of his people to vote for Biden. Many has to get a bit turnout. Some of his folks voted Trump last time around and you heard him he made mentioned of that. So those are my big takeaways for the night. There is no question Michelle Obama is quite a talent and did her job tonight.
COOPER: And -- sorry, go ahead.
GRANHOLM: The whole point though about Bernie Sanders -- I'm just sorry, the whole point about putting Bernie Sanders and the Republicans together is to show the size of the tent, that there has been attention, of course, inside the progressive and the moderate wing of the Democratic Party, and now the Republicans who are never- Trumpers or who will come over in the independents.
But that's the whole beauty about having them back to back is that, it is a huge tent, and everyone is welcome, no matter what your political persuasion or your color or your age or your size or who you love. And that is the beauty of democracy, it's the beauty of the U.S., and that is what was reflected in this convention tonight.
COOPER: Andrew, do you think the socialism label will stick? I mean, it's been used against Democrats, so obviously for a long time. I mean, does Joe Biden and Kamala Harris scream socialism to many Americans?
YANG: They really don't, and the fact is most Americans right now realize that we need the government to take a leading role in helping dig us out of the hole that we're in.
And I thought that the series of Meg Whitman and Christy Todd, the other Republican leaders who said they were supporting Joe, I thought, was very effective. I think there was like a permission structure so that if you were a moderate Republican who is trying to figure out if you're going to vote for Trump or not, that you felt like the safe, comfortable thing to do was to head toward Joe and Kamala.
COOPER: Van, I'm sorry, I interrupted you.
JONES: Well, I think a couple things here. First of all, the way I saw Michelle Obama and what she was trying to accomplish, you know, she has two challenges. One is you've got to get these disaffected voters back in. She spoke directly to them. You also have got to figure out a way to get the young people excited, and you have to get all these women. She was doing so much political work with every sentence. It was extraordinary.
She was also building on something. And I don't think that people -- you know, some people we're cynical, you know, we've seen some of this stuff. Those ordinary voices, those regular people talking about their lives, the Amtrak thing was beautiful.
Look, when this thing first started, for me it went from cringy to crying. I was cringing at the first, I thought it was kind of weird what are they doing, some of these things don't make sense, and by the time you got to the end, I was crying. Because that Amtrak story of Joe Biden, just talking -- you can't make that stuff up. That is real stuff. You can't fake character. You can't fake good kids and you can't fake character. And Joe Biden is a good man and it showed.
And then you heard these other -- the woman who was talking about her father who died of COVID because he believed Donald Trump, I mean, if you have a functioning brain stem and a human heart in your body, you can't help but feel the devastation -- when she said there are two Americas, the one where President Trump lives and the one where my father died, but there are stories of the American people that came through tonight.
And I -- listen, they took a bunch of risk from a production point of view. Some of that stuff did not work, but the stuff that worked really broke through.
And I believe that creating a permission structure, as Andrew said, for the Republicans to move over and say, I may not agree with everything Biden does, I sure do not like the left wing of that party, but there is some decency here I want to be associated with.
There is some character here I want to be associated with. There is some empathy, there are some reality here I want to be associated with. They accomplished that tonight despite the hiccups and bumps. Governor?
JENNINGS: And what they are asking people to do Anderson --
Anderson, to pick up on Van's point, what they're asking Republicans to do is lay down all of their deeply held policy views. You like low taxes, you're pro-life, you want less government regulations, you believe in the free market, you're asking Republicans to lay all that down over the argument Van made which is the character argument, and I guess that's the only road they can go down.
And my suspicion is some -- a few might, but at the end of the day my suspicion is most Republicans will go home to Trump, and where the persuasion election really going to be fought is in that sort of, you know, center lane where you have a lot of suburban voters that may vote for Democrat or Republican depending on the election. I just don't see a lot of partisan Republicans (inaudible).
YANG: Republicans are parents too. They want their schools to open --
COOPER: Sorry, go ahead Andrew. Finish off, (inaudible).
YANG: I was just saying like, I don't think it is a policy thing. I mean, Republicans are parents. Their schools may or may not reopen. No one wants a continuation of this.
[23:25:08] You know, Republicans are looking up saying, oh, my gosh, like I'm a
small business owner, my doors like can't stay open. Like no one's looking up trying to argue for a public and orthodoxy in this environment. It's all going out the window. It's one reason why the stimulus bill that put trillions of dollars in the economy was nearly unanimous. We're past the point where you can argue Republican talking points and have any chance of winning.
GRANHOLM: Totally agreed. Totally agree with that. We're also beyond the point of saying, look, it's only persuasion or it's only mobilization. It is both. You have to persuade, you've got to enlarge your base. That's why it's important to create that permission structure. But I have to go back just quickly.
Kristen Urquiza, that's who the person you are talking about was Van, she actually goes to U.S. Berkeley, is a student of my husband's, and her line was I think the most biting of the night and very effective, which is talking about her father who passed of COVID, his only preexisting condition was trusting Donald Trump, and for that he paid with his life. My guess is there are a lot of Republicans, independents and Democrats who have lost loved ones who feel the exact same way.
COOPER: Scott, I do notice that in the Republican orthodoxy you were mentioning, you didn't talk about fiscal responsibility, concern about the deficit or executive orders which used to be, you know, things the Republicans seemed to care about. They now are fully on board with huge government spending even before COVID. I mean, and apparently executive orders now are, you know, ruled by fiat is fine where it wasn't under Obama.
JENNINGS: Yes, I mean, you know. I mean they didn't like when Obama did it, they, you know some like it, some didn't when Trump did it. And the spending I think has obviously ramped up. It's gotten a lot bigger during coronavirus. Andrew mentioned that the coronavirus relief bill passed with nearly unanimous votes even though they ramped up the deficit a lot. It's because there was a realization by both parties that something had to be done.
So, I totally agree that, you know, the rigidity and these ideologies is flexible in a times of crisis. And it has to be. I mean, that's the way both parties have to be, but there is a certain set of principles and values, policy values that you have that causes you to join one party or the other, and you put a guy like Kasich on television to try to argue to lay down all of that -- you know, COVID is going to come and go, we're going to get a vaccine, hopefully, and we'll try to get back to some normalcy in this country.
And when we do, what does the policy landscape look like? And tonight if you're a Republican listening, maybe you're considering this, you heard Bernie Sanders say, my, quote, formally radical agenda is now mainstream in the Democratic Party. So, folks are picking for the next four months, their picking (inaudible), picking for the next four years, and I think there is a day after COVID. (CROSSTALK)
YANG: What they are doing for a post-crisis environment during a crisis is a dead loser. If Republicans are going to get up and say, hey, eventually the coronavirus will fade away, and then don't you want us in charge?
I mean, people are concern about right now. People can't pay their bills, people's schools are closed. People's small businesses that they spent a lifetime building are now shut for good.
So, trying to argue that, hey, eventually the smoke will clear when we're the ones who helped set the House on fire through terrible leadership is going to be such an utterly losing argument, I mean, I certainly hope that's what the Republican convention sounds like.
COOPER: I want to bring in Gloria Borger, David Axelrod. Well, Jeff Zeleny. Jeff Zeleny, Jeff explain where you are, what stood out to you tonight?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, we're in Wilmington, Delaware where of course, Joe Biden will be accepting this nomination on Thursday, Kamala Harris will be delivering her speech on Wednesday.
And there was an interesting tweet after Michelle Obama's speech, it was from Senator Harris. She said, Michelle Obama is speaking truth to power. Donald Trump's not up to the job, Joe Biden is.
But that raised the question of why Senator Harris was not mentioned in that very powerful speech from Michelle Obama where I am told by advisers to the former first lady that she actually recorded that speech before Senator Harris was chosen, so that's why Senator Harris was not mentioned.
This was designed to be a character witness for Joe Biden, certainly a denunciation of the president. But the reason Senator Harris was not mentioned in the speech, it was pre-recorded which also brings to mind that this decision of the vice presidential candidate really was held closed to the best. Even the Obama's did not know about it. That's why Anderson, I'm told she was not mentioned in the speech tonight.
COOPER: Yes. You can tell it was recorded a while ago because she said that there were more than 150,000 deaths in the U.S., which that number obviously now has risen.
ZELENY: Last week, correct.
COOPER: Jeff Zeleny, thanks very much. Gloria Borger, David Axelrod --
COOPER: -- Nia-Malika Henderson, John King. David, you heard the other discussion, what do you think? AXELROD: Well, Anderson, I was interested in Scott's argument that,
you know, while all she was argument was character and that's not going to get people to move. But what's happened because is that character now has a cost or lack of character has a cost.
The president's governing philosophy and or his approach to governance has a real life cost that people can attach to it, and that's been his problem. That's why he's lost ground in this race. So, I think you can be too dismissive of that.
I think that affects people, and I think that's what's really driving some of this -- some of this suburban vote. I think the character argument is very powerful.
And as for Kasich and his role, I don't think it was to persuade people necessarily that Biden was moderate or was conservative like him, I think it was to persuade people that Biden was someone who would work with everyone, who would reach across party lines and other lines in our country and try and find some common ground. And there is a hunger for that after sort of the trenched warfare we've seen.
So, I thought it was wise and it was great architecture for the -- you know, on the parts of the producers of the convention to put all of these folks in that hour and deliver these different messages.
So, I mean, I expect that the Republicans will do what Scott suggests. They'll try and attach Bernie Sanders to Biden. Sanders was careful to say, we don't agree on everything. It was fair -- and you know, we said, what we do agree on, Donald Trump needs to go. So, I think there was a lot of thought given into these -- given to these speeches and to -- and each of them did some work here that is valuable for Joe Biden.
BORGER: Can we just talk about Bernie Sanders for a minute? Because this wasn't some wild speech, I think, that Scott was talking about, this was Bernie Sanders, first of all, raising the stakes for people who love Bernie Sanders, saying that the future of our democracy, our economy and the planet are at stake, number one. And that's why you have to vote for Joe Biden.
And then Bernie Sanders said, I will work with progressives, moderates and conservatives to preserve our nation. And this was a stunning speech, I think, of unity coming from Bernie Sanders when you think of where he was in 2016.
BORGER: And you think of that convention in 2016 when his supporters were not giving up, and they didn't like Hillary Clinton, and Bernie Sanders likes Hillary Clinton. Yes, he said, we didn't agree on Medicare for all, but he does have a good plan. But don't forget the stakes of this election, everyone. And that was the Michelle Obama speech, too.
So, Bernie Sanders started and Michelle Obama finished talking about the stakes. But I do not think -- I have never heard Bernie Sanders like this, and I don't think he could have been any clearer, and I don't think she could have been any clearer, either, and these were, you know. both, obviously, working to get out their voters, particularly Sanders telling his people, you cannot stay home during this election, because it's so important.
COOPER: I did -- John King, I thought there was kind of an interesting tone shift when Bernie Sanders came on. It's sort of like when, you know, you take your first cup of coffee in the morning and the caffeine finally hits your brain.
COOPER: It was sort of a jolt like, wait a minute.
COOPER: This is like, because, I mean, the production of this, there was a lot of, you know, there were music videos -- it wasn't -- obviously it was very unconventional convention.
KING: Yes. But look, Bernie Sanders is intense. So that is -- that is his great appeal. It annoys some people, it offends some people, but that is his great appeal, that is why his supporters love him.
I do think and the previous panel is talking about this. Look, Bernie Sanders would tell you he did everything he could for Hillary Clinton in 2016. We don't have a convention, we're not in the hall. You could feel the tension between the two camps in the hall in 2016, and there is no question that Hillary Clinton believes to this day that Senator Bernie Sanders didn't do enough. He disputes that. And that his people didn't comment to the thing.
To hear Bernie Sanders talk tonight about my movement is still alive --
KING: -- my movement is still great, but he merged it, essentially with the Biden campaign. This was like, we are one team. That is important for a number of reasons. This is about math in the end. You know, this is -- we talk about how complicated this is, and it is complicated.
In the end it's about arithmetic. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote but lost the presidency because she didn't get enough votes in the right places.
So, what did we see tonight? You know, John Kasich, is there a John Kasich movement in America? No. John Kasich couldn't beat Donald Trump in the 2016 primaries, but he got 300,000 votes in Pennsylvania, he got 140,000 votes in North Carolina.
If Joe Biden can get 5,000 of those in Pennsylvania, 5,000 of those in North Carolina, he will be grateful. Right?
[23:35:03] If there is something to it, something to the math out there, and to the argument or debate Andrew and Scott were having. We don't know the answer to that question. We did see in the Democratic primaries, Anderson, Joe Biden was struggling, remember? It was going to be Pete Buttigieg, where was Amy Klobuchar coming from?
And yes, Jim Clyburn was a big part of that helping in South Carolina. But something else happened. The pandemic was starting to take hold and a switch just switched among Democratic voters. They just said, sorry, this is getting serious, that guy has White House experience, and bang. Joe Biden was the nominee overnight. It just happened, a switched flip.
We don't know what Republican voters think because Donald Trump did not have a serious primary challenge. We did not watch as March went into April went into May to see whether Republican voters were moving away from this president. So, we don't know if they are persuadable, enough of them, doesn't take a lot of them.
But we do see Republican Senate candidates in red states or purple states struggling. You do see that in Iowa, in Arizona, in North Carolina, in Georgia. That tells you, and look at the president's polling numbers. Look at the wrong track number in this country right now. The American people are more than open to change. The challenge for this Democratic convention is to convince them push the button. Change.
HENDERSON: And one of the ways we've seen --
AXELROD: Can I just --
COOPER: Nia, go ahead.
HENDERSON: -- one of the ways we've seen -- yes. One of the ways we have seen opinions shift in terms of this country, in terms of another pandemic is around systemic racism. Many of the speakers talked about that.
One of the Republicans who said that he had voted for Donald Trump and it's something that he was ashamed of at this point is now a registered Democrat, and he didn't like the divisive tone from this president.
And you know, Scott Jennings obviously says, well, once COVID is over, it will be all good for this president, but there is a kind of underlying rot to this country that COVID has revealed. Racial inequities, economic inequities that are obviously intertwined, and so that, I think, something that was, you know, sung throughout this convention.
The problems with that, you heard George Floyd's family there talking about the grief that they are feeling. You heard from Clyburn, someone from a different era but most recently visited in Charleston by white supremacy just a few years ago. So, this, I think this idea that it's just COVID, you -- I think you
saw from this convention, all of these speakers wrap in this idea that there is a systemic problem in this country, and it's going to take more than just the end of COVID to deal with all of these problems.
COOPER: Yes. I've got to toss it back to Wolf. Wolf?
BLITZER: All right. Anderson, thank you. The former Republican governor of Ohio, John Kasich is joining us right now. He's a CNN senior political commentator as well.
Governor, thanks so much for joining us. Scott Jennings just said it's hard to believe you when you said in your speech Biden won't go left when Bernie Sanders is speaking right after you. Who is right about Biden? Would it be you or Bernie?
JOHN KASICH, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look, I think the thing about Joe Biden is it's his history. He's not, you know, a left winger, he just isn't. He's a moderate guy. You got to give Bernie a lot of credit. The fact that he said we have one goal, and that is to make sure that Joe Biden wins, and Bernie is always going to have his ability to have his input.
But, you know, Biden at the end -- and think of the platform of what Joe did. He rejected this whole Medicare for all. He believes in trying to deal with this healthcare issue by giving opportunity for more people. He's rejected a number of things that the people who are more liberal than him favor, and Joe has just got to be tough. He's got to demonstrate to people that he's a tough guy, and nobody is going to -- and I said tonight, you know, nobody pushes Joe around. And I think he understands that.
So, look, you know, what they're trying to do is get their act together and move in the same direction towards victory, but then after that you hash it out, and I guarantee you this. Biden will have Republicans at the table. I don't think it will be me, but he will have Republicans at the table and he'll hear diverse opinions.
That's why I made the speech tonight, because he is not somebody who is anything other than a guy that can sit down, listen to people and solve problems. That's my -- that's my view of Joe. That's who he's been all of his lifetime.
BLITZER: Scott, go ahead.
JENNINGS: Yes, I think that the old Joe Biden from years ago, that's a description. You know, he was kind of known as a moderate guy. He was moderate on abortion, for instance. But over time and as he got into this Democratic primary, he really morphed on a lot of these issues.
And you're right about health care. He did resist Sanders on health care. But on abortion, on immigration, on the Second Amendment, go down the line on with all of these other issues that were huge flash points in the Democratic primary.
[23:39:56] Bernie Sanders himself said it right after you tonight, his ideas are now mainstream in the Democratic Party that has nominated Joe Biden, and I find it hard to believe that Joe Biden is going to be able to turn all of those ideas and all the people who support those ideas away if he gets into the White House.
There is enormous pent-up pressure inside the Democratic Party to run those policy items, and I just -- I don't personally believe Joe Biden can resist it, nor will he want to resist it because he's going to have a lot of people around him chirping in his ear that these people got us here and we're going to have to do what they want us to do on policy.
BLITZER: Jake, go ahead.
KASICH: Yes. I would say, look, let me just say the biggest issue in the country right now is nobody is talking to anybody. People are so divided. It's too clench teeth, it's not just politicians anymore, it's people. And we don't get anywhere like that.
And in terms of immigration, I think we need a solution. You know, Joe Biden doesn't favor illegal immigration, but he does favor immigration where people can come into this country, and thank God they can, because most of us wouldn't be here if our grandparents or great- grandparents hadn't been permitted to come here. And we need an immigration solution.
I stood on the stage with Republicans who ran away as fast as they could from the idea that they were trying to work together to come up with a solution. That's not acceptable.
On guns? Hey, on guns, the American people, they want people to keep the Second Amendment, but people want reasonable restrictions on guns. I got to tell you, the Republican Party doesn't get with it and become a party of growth and opportunity, not taking away health care from people, not standing there with, you know, no changes to the gun laws in this country, and if they become negative on immigration, they're not going to win, Scott. They're just not going to.
It's not the party of opportunity that you and I saw under Ronald Reagan and that was 40 years ago. We have a new set of issues on climate, on immigration, on health care. These are all things that matter.
But, you know, I respect the fact that you're concerned that he could be overwhelmed. I happen to think there will be enough people around him, particularly people who are close to him, who will not let that happen. But we'll have to see. You know, I'm hopeful.
TAPPER: Governor, Jake Tapper here. I remember four years ago, the Republican convention was in your home state, Ohio. You were the sitting governor.
KASICH: It was.
TAPPER: You did not attend. KASICH: Yes.
TAPPER: And now here you are four years later actually advocating for the election of the Democratic candidate against the Republican incumbent president.
The president today called you a major loser, the chairman of the Ohio Republican Party said that you turned your back on them. Tell us about the journey emotionally from running for the Republican presidential nomination four years ago to where you are now, advocating for the Democratic nominee? Do you feel alone? Do you feel isolated?
KASICH: Well, I've been alone almost all my lifetime. I've walked a lonely road as a leader. And look, I've had a history of bipartisan deals. I was one of the guys that negotiated the balanced budget agreement which gave us surpluses. I was criticized by some on the right because they said I gave away the store. We only ended up with balanced budget for years and surpluses.
I was able to work with Tim Penney in the early stages of that. I worked are Ron Dellums on Pentagon reform. And you know, as governor, you know, I expanded Medicaid, and now you see all these other people, all these other Republicans or voters, instituting Medicaid reform.
I am a conservative who believes that government is a last resort, not a first resort, but I also think, Jake, that government is necessary at times. It's not the enemy of people.
So, what's -- what I'm disappointed in is that we didn't see the president when he got elected bring people together. And what I'm most concerned. I know this. Never in my entire political career, 30 years, that I ever see us make progress when all we did was fight. And I don't agree with Joe on a bunch of stuff. And that's cool, but I think he'll listen, and I think we can get along.
BASH: Hey, Governor, it's Dana Bash.
First of all, are you going to campaign for Joe Biden beyond what you did tonight?
KASICH: Well, I think what I did tonight was pretty significant, so I have to take care of tonight in terms of what I'm going to do in the future. I don't really know what that means. I have a lot of things going on, and one of those responsibilities is with CNN. And let me tell you, when I see the other party do things I don't like, you know, Dana, I'm willing to call that out, too.
BASH: We know you are.
KASICH: But I just have to see how things go. Yes, that's fine too.
BASH: I also want to follow up on something you said just before to Scott, which is you were talking about the fact that maybe Joe Biden would have a Republican around the table in his cabinet, but I don't think it will be me. Why not? You don't want to serve in a Biden presidency?
KASICH: I don't have any -- I have no interest in going back to Washington. I have a good life.
KASICH: I want to continue to speak out and try to shake things.
BASH: You wouldn't be secretary or anything?
KASICH: Nothing I can think of. You know, how about you? If you go, maybe I'll be your deputy, that's all I can say, Dana.
But I'm really not seeking anything. You know, some people have written to me and said, there must be something in this for you. There is nothing in this for me, and as my friends tell other people who wonder about me, they say John Kasich hasn't switched swim lanes. This is the way he's always been.
He talks to his friends, he considers things, he reflects and then he makes a decision. And so, politics, I'm not hampered by my party. My party has been my vehicle, it's never been my master.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Governor Kasich, it's Abby Phillip.
You know, I hear you talk about your party and I've heard you say before that you're a Republican, you're not going to change your party affiliation, but it does seem like the Republican Party is with Trump by and large if you look at the poll numbers.
PHILLIP: So, I mean, do you see more Republicans coming out for Biden or against Trump leading up to November, especially those who are in political office right now and stand to lose a lot if they break with Trump?
KASICH: I can't -- I cannot tell you about who is going to do what who is in political office, but there is a whole bunch of people that are going to come out. You saw some of them tonight. You had Susan Molinari, very, very effective. You saw the lady that founded eBay. You know, she's very effective. Christine Todd Whitman, I mean, come on, this is a -- she's a powerhouse. She's so impressing.
You know, so Meg Whitman who ran eBay, she's another one. And you're going to see others that are going to come out and say that this is not the way to fix America. It doesn't mean that they're abandoning their party.
Look, we have to see where the party goes. The party is just -- I'm very disappointed in them. I'm disappointed in their silence and I'm disappointed in an agenda that doesn't seem to be very positive.
For example, how do you -- how do you take away health care from 20 million people and you don't have a replacement? That's absurd. So, look, call it like you see it, the Democrats, my criticism for them, sometimes, you know, they get too extreme.
They punish, they want -- they want -- some in party want to punish success. They want to say because somebody has built a great company, we ought to get rid of it. I don't buy that. So, we'll see where it goes.
You know, I've always sort of felt that if, Abby, if the situation is that I don't -- if there's not the support in the Republican Party or the Democratic Party, there will a third party. Who knows where we're going to go? It's an exciting time, though, in America. The problem is -- the problem is the division and the hatred that exists even in families and between friends. That's what makes me sad for our country.
BLITZER: And, Governor Kasich, as somebody who has covered you for a long time, going back to when you were a member of the House of Representatives on the budget committee, I'm a second source. I can confirm what you said about who you are and where you're coming from, because I watched you in those days leading up to a balanced budget and all of that.
Thanks very much for joining us --
KASICH: Wolf, can I say one last -- I want to just say -- can I just one last thing? I think we all in America have to reflect on the fact that we have eroded, in many respects, faith on God. I was -- I was beginning -- I was excited at the beginning of the program tonight that they had a prayer and all that.
Look, if you believe in God, then you believe in the two great commandments. Love your neighbor as you love yourself. Love God, and everybody is made in the image of God, so therefore we don't have the right to cancel them. If we get that, we can stop a lot of the antipathy and a lot of the anger and hatred in this country. Something to reflect on.
BLITZER: All right. A good point. Governor, thank you very much.
Anderson, I keep coming back to what Michelle Obama said at one point, she said, and I think these were powerful words. If you think things cannot possibly get worse, trust me, they can. Strong words from the former first lady.
COOPER: Yes. A warning of what may be to come. I want to play actually some more of what Michelle Obama had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Let me be as honest and clear as I possibly can. Donald Trump is the wrong president for our country. He has had more than enough time to prove that he can do the job, but he is clearly in over his head. He cannot meet this moment. He simply cannot be who we need him to be for us. It is what it is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Van Jones, it's interesting, her delivery is really fascinating to me. It's sort of, even though it's obviously, you know, something that she's written out or written out with others, or whatever, however she -- whatever her process is, and it's on teleprompter, there is -- she has this ability where it is very natural, as if she's just thinking about it as she is saying it, and she didn't even -- a lot of people when they would have used the it is what it is, they would have said, as the president once said. She just kind of put it out there, and if you know, you know.
COOPER: You know, she has a very unique talent.
JONES: You know, she does stuff on a microphone that you just don't see. I mean, she has all the presence of a talk show host, she's got the timing of a comedian, she gets the cadences sometimes of a preacher, but it's all sort of like relaxed into this very intimate way of talking.
And one of the ways you know she's one of the most powerful people in the world. Donald Trump has no nickname for Michelle Obama. Donald Trump very rarely even says her name. She kicks his butt every single time she gets in front of a microphone, in front of a crowd. He acts like nothing is happening. Nothing to see here, folks. He doesn't want to mess with Michelle.
So that just gives you a sense of what she is bringing to the table as communicator
COOPER: You know, Governor Granholm, before this night I was very curious to see what this thing would actually look like. And clearly, there was more emphasis, I think, on the producing of the latter part of the second hour, the first hour.
I mean, are -- do we know, are they going to continue with that sort of a format, throughout the rest of the week? Because there were, clearly, some things that, you know, did not work, from a television standpoint.
GRANHOLM: Well, from a TV standpoint, obviously, when you are mixing up pre-recorded things with live things, it's -- there were a little bit of jumps, et cetera. I think people can forgive that.
The first part, I think, you know, if you have Bruce Springsteen recording the rising of a montage of real people, that was the first -- that was the second moment of goosebumps for me. The first was all those little -- (CROSSTALK)
COOPER: Well, they didn't actually have Bruce Springsteen.
GRANHOLM: -- kind of commonwealth youth choir.
COOPER: They just had Bruce Springsteen's song. It was like a music fare.
GRANHOLM: Right. Right. But he was in there, you could see --
JONES: He was in there -- he was in there for 10 seconds.
GRANHOLM: -- he was in it. He was featured in it.
COOPER: OK. I missed that part.
GRANHOLM: Yes, he was in there. Yes. Yes. And then, you had all these kids from 50 states and the seven territories --
GRANHOLM: -- who were all seeing components of National Anthem. I mean, from the jump --
COOPER: Yes, I thought that was powerful.
GRANHOLM: It was. And from the jump it demonstrate --
COOPER: But I mean, there were a lot -- I mean, there were a lot of -- you know, Eva Longoria interviewing people on a remote. That's a hard thing to do, even if they are the most compelling people on the planet. I mean, it's just a difficult thing.
COOPER: I'm not sure it plays to the strengths of what a Democratic convention is supposed to be, or any convention.
GRANHOLM: Well, I mean, so, some of the stuff maybe worked and some worked less. And I think they're going to learn in round two. I love the fact that all four of the nights are going to be moderated by women, different women. And that's very exciting.
I mean, Kerry Washington is going to be moderating a night. Julia Louis-Dreyfus is going to be moderating. I think it's going to be -- they'll all bring their own different style to it.
GRANHOLM: And I'm not exactly sure how it's going to lay out. But the bottom line is that this format allowed for different venues, a huge number of people that would not, otherwise, normally participate in a Democratic convention, the entire country, all 50 states, represented in this format.
So, I mean, it's not traditional. You don't have the balloon drop. You don't have all the applause. But you definitely had shorter speeches --
GRANHOLM: -- and you definitely had the ability to include more people and I think that's good.
COOPER: Andrew, it is true that, often, one forgets, in a regular convention, you have a lot of people who, I guess, have to be allowed to speak, for whatever reason. And so, there is a lot of sort of checking the box like, all right, we got that person to speak for five minutes and they went over their time, and now the other person. So, I mean, it did avoid all of that.
YANG: Well, I like what Van said where they had to take some risks with the production because this is uncharted territory. And the fact is, it's difficult to project, in a compelling way when there is no audience. It's one of the benefits of having a standard convention crowd.
It's a little bit like professional sports where the sports and the crowd, the audience ends up comprising this very compelling backdrop. And it makes all the action see much more dramatic. It's the same thing when you're speaking. And having spoken to very, very small gatherings, very small gatherings in my case, but also, and also arenas full of people. You can feed off that energy. And it's a very different backdrop. It's a different set of skills, frankly.
And it's one reason why having stars, like Bernie and Michelle Obama is so important, because they can make a message incredibly powerful and compelling, really, with no crowd present. And so, in a way, it's raising the bar for speakers, which is something that I actually empathize with the speakers on.
COOPER: Yes. Well, I also thought having an emcee and I guess it will be a different person every night. And you know, Eva Longoria is a very talented, you know, it does help with the flow of it. I'm very curious to see how the Republicans choose to do their convention. Because, again, this is uncharted territory and it is fascinating to watch.
Let's play some of what Bernie Sanders said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): Under this administration, authoritarianism has taken root in our country.
I, and my family, and many of yours, know the insidious way authoritarianism destroys democracy, decency, and humanity.
As long as I am here, I will work with progressives, with moderates and, yes, with conservatives, to preserve this nation from a threat that so many of our heroes fought and died to defeat.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: David Axelrod, I thought Bernie Sanders was not only reaching out to his supporters to try to bring them on board, he was trying to kind of emphasize the -- what is at stake.
AXELROD: You know, what struck me about him, and this is one of Bernie Sanders' strengths is he is a very authentic person. He wasn't going to get up there and make a case that he didn't believe. He acknowledged that there were differences with Joe Biden. But I think he, fundamentally, believes what you just heard.
He believes that Trump is -- is an authoritarian. And that this is an existential threat to the country. And he made the argument, with passion, and it will motivate his base. And it may motivate beyond his base.
I suspect the organizers were expecting a little bit more of an economic argument from him, if there was anything that was missing from that second hour, it was more of that. And they thought he would provide that. But what he did provide was, I think, very powerful. They have to be very happy with what he did.
As Gloria mentioned earlier, this is such a contrast to 2016 when it did feel, as if he was being coerced into -- into speaking at the convention. And there was restiveness on the floor among his supporters. This was a totally cohesive endorsement, embrace, and argument on his part. And that's going to -- that will benefit Joe Biden, moving forward.
BORGER: If I were Joe Biden, I'd be very happy with Bernie Sanders' speech. And I think that the Biden campaign has really gone out of its way to sort of weave together the Sanders' folks and the Biden folks. Not only in terms of the platform but also being inclusive in a lot of ways, including in this speech.
And I think, again, you know, to the point that Sanders views this as a threat to democracy and existential threat. He had a great line. He said, Nero fiddled while Rome burned, but Trump golfs. You know, for Bernie Sanders --
BORGER: -- that's a pretty good line. And -- but -- but it was -- it was -- folks, wake up. We got to get real, here. It was Bernie Sanders, in an odd way, saying be pragmatic and get out and vote for this guy.
HENDERSON: Yes. And almost one of his final lines. We must come together to defeat Donald Trump.
HENDERSON: The price of failure is too great to imagine. He touched on policy, a little bit, raising the minimum wage, climate change, healthcare a bit, but that sort of urgency that you've got to come together.
And you saw Michelle Obama do something similar, when she said, you know, don't vote for someone who has no chance of winning, which is what, in many ways, happened to Hillary Clinton in 2016. So, I think Gloria is right that they are happy with this speech, the two closers tonight, Bernie Sanders, as well as Michelle Obama.
KING: And part, Anderson --
AXELROD: I think the whole -- I think the whole -- I think the whole -- I'm sorry, John.
COOPER: John, go ahead.
KING: I was just going to say part of the message tonight, the threat is so big, we must all come together. Whether it's Governor Kasich, whether it's former Congresswoman Molinari, whether it's Bernie Sanders, we must all come together and put aside our differences.
But where Bernie Sanders can critical here is because he is an activist. He is an organizer. His movement out there is very real. They are more present in the digital space than the Biden campaign. The Biden campaign is ramping up in that space, they're doing a better job now than they were three or four months ago.
But Sanders is very well oiled in that space. And in campaign when you can't knock on doors, when you can't have big rallies, where you're going to need people to get your early votes, make sure they turn in and track them. If those organizers come to the table with more energy and they actually work. They don't just -- let's just say the Bernie Sanders people who voted for Hillary Clinton last time might have said, but I'll do it.
If they actually work for Biden and use their digital tools, use their organizing and activism, they can be a giant asset.
AXELROD: Yes. I also think that from a storytelling aspect. And that's the way you have to look at these conventions. What is the ark of the story? Are they -- is it successfully told?
They accomplished two things tonight. One is they connected the great crises in our country to the experience of people, Donald Trump's failures to the experience of people.
And then the second thing -- and I can't overstate the importance of this -- they gave some dimension to Joe Biden. They told his story in different ways. That -- that film about his Amtrak travels said so much more than the words themselves about who he was.
And so, you're talking -- you see him as someone whose activities as a public official, link up to his commitments to people. And that's a great contrast with Trump.
So, I think you're going to watch for the rest of this week, them fleshing out the portrait of Biden culminating in his own speech on Thursday night. And that will be a great accomplishment going into next week when the Republicans will try and take him apart.
COOPER: Yes, that's it for us and the "Brady Bunch." I feel like Alice. We've got -- what a reference -- we've got much more ahead of the Democratic Convention. Chris Cuomo and Don Lemon pick up our coverage right now.