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AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA
Republican Establishment Panicking over Trump, Carson; Ben Carson Responds to Donald Trump During Address in S.C.; U.S. Military Targets Jihadi John as Kurds Push ISIS Out of Sinjar. Aired 11:30-12p ET
Aired November 13, 2015 - 11:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:31:19] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: New this morning, a news article has the political world talking, as reportedly the Republican political establishment is panicking over the staying power of Donald Trump and Ben Carson.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: "The Washington Post" reports this morning, less than three months before the kickoff Iowa caucuses, there is growing anxiety bordering on panic among Republican elites about the dominance and durability -- "durability" being the keyword -- of Donald Trump and Ben Carson and widespread bewilderment over how to defeat them. People are now whispering, "The Washington Post" says, people asking Mitt Romney to get back in the race.
Let's talk more about this with CNN political commentators, Paul Begala, and Amanda Carpenter. Paul is a Democratic strategist who worked on the Clinton campaigns; and Amanda is a communications director for Senator Ted Cruz, but also runs a super PAC that supports Hillary Clinton.
Amanda, I want to start with you.
I would like you to be the voice of the Republican establishment "The Washington Post" is talking about. Are you panicked? How panicked are you about the durability of Ben Carson and Donald Trump right now?
AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Listen, it is potentially a problem, but I would love to see some names associated with these people who are allegedly considering a "Draft Romney" movement because they would be ridiculed. There's no way grassroots conservatives would go along with a Romney campaign after he couldn't beat Obama in the last election.
BERMAN: Forget about Romney for a second. What about the idea that Ben Carson and Donald Trump are here to stay and people haven't figured out a way to beat them yet.
CARPENTER: What you're seeing in these stories is a freak-out by Republican establishment by candidates, Jeb Bush, John Kasich, who aren't competitive in this election so they are freaking out. They are trying to figure out a plan "B" but the better option is to get on board with a Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio who has a chance to win the nomination, a solid conservative, rather than going back and dusting off Mitt Romney who couldn't beat Obama in the last election.
BOLDUAN: Paul, don't forget about Romney. Think about it. What would that do to the race?
PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: The super PAC I advise was the pro-Obama super PAC in the last cycle. I still have ads on the shelf I would be happy to run --
BEGALA: -- detailing some richness and color of Governor Romney's business record.
Listen, Amanda is exactly right. I hope Republicans aren't watching. I hope they are watching the right wing goof ball channels they like. Amanda is exactly right. The problem -- some of it, this is a really good report from really good reporters. I do not denigrate "The Washington Post" story but I remember a few weeks ago columnists saying Democrats were in a full-on freak-out about Hillary dipping in the polls. These things go up and down. What they need to do in the Republican Party is try to address the anger that is driving Mr. Trump and Dr. Carson. That's real. That's what they have to try to address.
BERMAN: I think there is something very interesting about the word "durability," which is what you do from people inside Republicans sphere right now. They can't believe Donald Trump is still there, particularly Donald Trump, because they didn't think he would get in to begin with. They thought he would drop out before the first debate. Once he had his first controversial statement, they thought he would blow up. None of that has happened, Amanda, so it doesn't seem anything can kill him. There's no stake to the heart here.
CARPENTER: I agree with you. It is a concern more conservatives, more establishment types that Donald Trump and Ben Carson have cemented a lead over several months now. What I think it gets to is the fact that I think Donald Trump and Ben Carson are essentially protest votes for many Republican voters who have not yet made up their minds. If you dig into the polls, their support isn't solid. Many people say they're still undecided but right now Donald Trump and Carson are a rebuke to the establishment and an expression of anger and rebuke to the establishment Republicans who are trying to dust off people like Mitt Romney.
[11:35:08] BOLDUAN: I remember, over the summer, Paul, you saying over and over again, you want Donald Trump to stay in as long as possible because you think it will only be better for your candidate. You look at the new CBS/"New York Times" poll asking Democratic primary voters which Republican candidate they think is going to be the most -- biggest challenge to them, they picked Donald Trump. BEGALA: Absolutely. They may be right. Let's tee this up. The
truth is there's an awful lot of talent in the Republican field this time around, which I did not --
BERMAN: Hold on. Paul, Paul. One second here.
We have candidate Ben Carson right now on stage. Will he address the Trump speech last night? Let's listen.
BEN CARSON, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & RETIRED NEUROSURGEON: The people are concerned, not so much about politics as usual, politics of personal distraction. That's what people are sick and tired of. I'm hopeful we reach a level of maturity that we can actually deal with the issues facing us right now and stop getting into the mud and doing things that really don't matter.
SEN. TIM SCOTT, (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Welcome to South Carolina. Good to have you at the town hall. Always good to be in the congressional district of Trey Gowdy. We look forward to hearing your sincere, deep and rich answers to some of the questions pressing on the outside.
And we look forward to answering some of your questions the next few minutes.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Dr. Carson, at the risk of getting into the mud, I did talk to voters who are waiting for you to speak today. They were concerned. A number of them spoke about what Donald Trumped had to say about your redemption story. Given that was a concern, expressed to me by some voters, I wonder how you feel about Donald Trump telling the people in Iowa they would have to be stupid to believe your redemption story.
CARSON: The wonderful thing is it's not really up to me. It's up to the people. They will listen and they will be able to make a decision about whether they want to listen to the usual politics of personal discretion or whether they want to deal with something better.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Are you personally offended by it?
CARSON: Let me put it this way. I expect that kind of thing. That's what's been going on in our country for years that's dragging us in the mud. I don't expect it to change any time soon but I don't have to get into it.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Dr. Carson, as an Americans willing to run for president, with a history, and what President Obama had to deal with a few years ago, how -- what do you say to that being the elephant in the room?
CARSON: I would say the same thing that I would say about any audience that I talk to. The message that I have doesn't change from one audience to the next. I talk about the same things, for instance, several months ago at the National Organization for Latino Elected Officials. I gave them the same message I give anybody else. I gave the same message when I spoke at Al Sharpton's conference that I give anywhere else. I give the same message when I went and spoke at Cornell. Because the issues that involve us as a nation right now, as far as I'm concerned, they're not Democrat or Republican issues. They're not one ideology or another. They go to the essential survival and prosperity of our nation. Those are the things I feel are important and what we need to be talking about. I think they have broad application to every aspect of our society.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE QUESTION)
CARSON: I'm not a politician, so I don't go around with my finger in the air saying, let's see, I can do that? Will that hurt me with this group? That's what politicians do. I'm not a politician. If it hurts me, it hurts me. If it doesn't, it doesn't. I don't think it will.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Dr. Carson in Tuesday's debate you said the Chinese are in Syria. Since then, the White House, Susan Rice, came out and said there's no evidence that the Chinese are in Syria, and that the Chinese military don't like to get involved in conflicts in the Middle East. Do you want to revise or expand your statement?
CARSON: We'll be releasing some material on that before the weekend is over.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Would that material -- where did you get that material from? Can you give us any details about that?
CARSON: I have several sources that I've gotten material from. I'm surprised my sources are better than yours.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Is that something you're going to share with the White House as well? Are you in conversation with them? You're claiming you know more than the White House?
CARSON: They will have the opportunity to see the material.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: When is that going to come out?
[11:40:01] CARSON: Before the weekend is over.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Dr. Carson, Donald Trump spoke for 90 minutes. A lot was about you and some was other aspects of the race. He called the people stupid for falling for your story. Do you think that's representative of the temperament of a commander in chief? Is that what you think the voters want in the White House?
CARSON: Certainly, it wouldn't be a pattern of behavior I would adopt. You know, that's the nice thing about an extended political process like the one that we have. People will have an opportunity to look at all of us, to assess what kind of people we are, and whether, in fact, we would represent them well. It's a good process.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Dr. Carson, you wanted to talk serious policy, so let's do that. Your Medicare plan started out with one thing, as I understand it, a local reporter on the street said you talked to some experts and you revised it. I don't think we have details yet. Some people are confused. What's wrong with Medicare?
CARSON: Well, what I want to do, obviously, I don't want to get rid of Medicare. And I've never said that I wanted to get rid of Medicare. People take these things and run with them and distort them for their own purposes. What I do want is for seniors in our society to have excellent care. Right now when you look at the number of people in Medicare, extremely large number of people, and it's going to be half again as much by 2030. So the system, the way it's working now, it's going to run out of money. It's simply not going to work. Medicare is quite complex. It has part "A," part "B," part "C," part "D." The part that I really particularly like is part "C" where you have a choice, where there is premium support and you can use that to buy private insurance. And the amount of that premium support is actually pretty substantial. So if you're able to buy a policy, what I propose is if you're able to buy a policy that actually costs less than that, that you're happy with it, it also includes catastrophic care, that the extra money should go back into your health savings account. Right now a quarter of that money goes back to the government and the other goes into a nebulous area where they say we're going to help you. But I would like to put it into your health savings account. And I want to integrate the premium support you're getting already with health savings accounts, which hopefully most people will already have in place when they reach the age of eligibility for Medicare. And they can just continue to utilize that.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Dr. Carson, al Costa (ph) was convicted of health care fraud. You were a character witness in testifying to his honesty. In your book, you also said you felt like there should be harsh punishments for people who -- I think you suggested they should face no less than 10 years of prison. And also lose all their personal possessions. Is that a bit of hypocrisy, given you testified for him.
CARSON: Well, I recognize that it would appear that way on the surface. I can tell you that there's a reason he's my closest friend. I know his heart. He's one of the most honest people I've ever met in my entire life. I don't think that case needs to be re-litigated in public. It has been litigated. A penalty has been assessed. It's been served. Whether it's just or not doesn't really matter at this point.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Dr. Carson, Donald Trump last night on CNN compared things you said about having a pathological temper to being a child molester. And said both things are incurable for life. Do you find this appropriate dialogue from your front-runner in the Republican race?
CARSON: It's not the kind of dialogue that I would ever engage in. I'm hopeful maybe his advisers will help him to understand the word "pathological" and recognize that that does not denote incurable. It's not the same. It simply is an adjective that describes something that is highly abnormal and something that, fortunately, I've been able to be delivered from for half a century now. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Last question.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: He called you a child molester. Do you believe he should issue an apology?
CARSON: I don't believe he called me a child molester.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: He compared your pathology to child molestation.
[11:45:11] CARSON: Well, you know, I always find it a little amusing what people in the press like to say. You compare this and, therefore, you said they're the same. I don't buy all that stuff. Those are questions you should ask Donald Trump.
And one last question.
Who should we use for the last question?
SCOTT: Last question.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Dr. Carson what are you going to do to help protect Christian higher education in America?
CARSON: One thing I would do is encourage Congress to become more active. One of the beautiful things that Alexis de Tocqueville found when he came to study in America is that we had a system of checks and balances and separation of powers. He was very impressed with that. And it works extremely well when all three branches are active. When one branch sits back a little bit, like the legislative branch is doing right now, with the exception of these two gentlemen, what happens? The other branches tend to become hyperactive. We have a hyperactive judicial branch and legislative branch. The legislative branch is going to need to actually get involved and do something now to protect the rights, the religious rights, of Americans of faith. And I'm confident that they will do that. Certainly, as president, I would work extremely hard with them to make sure we never have a situation where people's religious freedom is jeopardized.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you. That's it. That's all we have time for.
BOLDUAN: There you have it. Ben Carson in Greenville, South Carolina, with Trey Gowdy by his side, speaking to reporters about a whole lot, as you heard.
BERMAN: He said he was not going to engage in the politics of personal destruction. He said the kind of language Donald Trump used in his speech last night in Iowa, the comparisons between Ben Carson and a child molester, not --
BOLDUAN: Not the kind of dialogue.
BERMAN: -- not the kind of dialogue I would engage in.
Let's bring back CNN political commentators, Paul Begala, Amanda Carpenter.
Paul, you're a Democrat. You have to admire what Ben Carson did just there. He flew at 50,000 feet over what Donald Trump has been doing.
BEGALA: He does. There was a report in his home there is an inscription from Proverbs 24:4 that says, "By humility and fear of the Lord are riches, honor and life." That seems to be the motto of his life. He was showing humility, evoking his Christian faith. This is going to go very well with Dr. Carson's voters.
And yet in the same presser, he planted the seed of further problems. Nia-Malika Henderson from CNN asked him about this nonsense that he says where Syria is somehow placed where the Chinese are now moving in to fight.
BOLDUAN: He said this in the debate on Tuesday.
BEGALA: Right. There's no evidence of that. Nia challenged him on that and he said, oh, yeah, I'm going to show you proof that's better than that national intelligence in the Defense Department and CIA. They don't know anything. I know better. It's a seed. I don't think most people will pick up on it. In a terrific performance, once again, he planted another seed of credibility problems that won't affect his voters but maybe affect the largest electorate.
BOLDUAN: Amanda, what do you think? He -- I think he kind of deflected it. He just says, I'm going to move on. I expect this kind of thing in terms of the criticisms from Trump. I expect this kind of thing. This is what's been happening. This is how politicians act for years. Saying it standing next to Trey Gowdy and Tim Scott, so I wonder what's going through their minds. But what do you think of what Carson is saying there? Is he single-handedly going to be able to change the tone of where this Republican race has gone so far?
CARPENTER: No, but he can choose to engage it. I think the Carson campaign looked at Trump's performance where he's grabbing the belt buckle and saying, go ahead, keep making a fool of yourself, Mr. Trump, I'm going to stick to my story. I agree completely with Paul. What's far more interesting were the matters of substance Dr. Carson did not address. The questions about, you know, where he got these sources about the Chinese in Syria. We need to see that. It reminds me of what he said last weekend when he was asked questions about his biography and said, OK, I'm going to produce someone this weekend. That never happened. So, apparently we're going to get two big stories this weekend. We're going to find out who the sources are for the people in Syria and also find out who is the person that he allegedly stabbed, which I have no reason not to believe that that did happen.
But also, the answer about Medicare. He was asked about his plan for Medicare. He kind of in a very roundabout way said he liked Medicare part "C," which allows people to shop around. That wasn't really an answer. Does that mean he wants to expand that particular program to cover all of Medicare? I have no idea where he's going. As a doctor, I think he has a responsibility to be much more specific on that question, which impacts so many seniors.
[11:50:18] BERMAN: Weekends are big, apparently, for the Ben Carson campaign.
By the weekend, we'll get the source of intelligence that China is involved in Syria, and he says, of the administration, that he's surprised "my sources are better than theirs."
BOLDUAN: Better than there's.
BERMAN: Amanda Carpenter, Paul Begala --
BEGALA: And his sources wear tin hats, apparently.
BOLDUAN: Paul --
BERMAN: Let's wait to see --
BERMAN: Let's wait to see what he comes out with this weekend.
Paul Begala and Amanda Carpenter, thanks so much.
We have new breaking news involving ISIS, the face as ISIS, the man know as Jihadi John. Is he really dead? We have new information from the U.S. military moments ago. Stay with us.
[11:55:11] BERMAN: Just moments ago, U.S. military officials said they have great confidence that a drone strike killed Jihadi John, a man they considered to be the face of ISIS.
Now, this is just one of several fast-moving developments in the fight against ISIS this morning. And the Kurdish forces are claiming that ISIS is on the run after a 48-hour battle for the strategic battle for Sinjar in northern Iraq.
BOLDUAN: Joining us is retired U.S. Army Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, who just returned from Iraq.
General, thank you so much for joining us.
You talk about -- now, we have sources saying they have great confidence that this was Jihadi John. When you take than kind of in the context of what they all means for the fight against the war against ISIS, President Obama, speaking in a new interview to "ABC News," he says this, When it comes to ISIS, we have contained them -- is the word from the president -- saying, they have not gained ground in Iraq and Syria, and they don't see the systemic march of ISIS across the terrain. But he says what we have not been able to completely decapitate their command. We have contained them, the words from President Obama. What does that mean to you in terms of the ultimate goal of degrade and destroy?
BRIG GEN. MARK KIMMITT, U.S. ARMY, RETIRED: What it means is that we have had tactical victories in the near term. But to suggest we've contained or held back the spread or ISIS is disputed by the facts. We have been fighting them for 25 years, and a couple of simple victories, tough victories for the Kurds in Sinjar and the killing of Jihadi John, while are very, very helpful in the near term, in the long-term perspective, that doesn't have much of an effect.
BERMAN: In the near term though, has there been a shift on the ground there in Iraq and Syria, because you have a coordinated campaign, and you call it a tactile victory, but this is a complicated effort. 7,500 Kurdish troops, close U.S. air support, there are new U.S. supplies and equipment in Turkey nearby there. There appears to be an accelerated effort by the coalition and by those Kurdish forces and other forces on the ground.
KIMMITT: Well, that is correct. I don't want to discount what is being done by the coalition inside of Iraq. That is a great success they had in Sinjar. The integration of the coalition power and the Peshmerga fighters on the ground was a classic example of how the air- ground operations should run.
KIMMITT: Again, I am not suggesting that it is not important, but what it suggests is that this is a long war that is going to go well beyond a couple of battles inside of Syria and Iraq.
BOLDUAN: General Mark Kimmitt, always great to see you. General, thank you so much for your time. We really appreciate it.
BOLDUAN: And thank you all for joining us AT THIS HOUR.
BERMAN: "Legal View" with Ashleigh Banfield begins after a quick break.
[11:59:48] ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Ashleigh Banfield, and welcome to "Legal View."
We are going to begin with the breaking news on the war on terror. The American-led coalition fighting to bring down ISIS is chalking up two big wins today. One of them has a wide impact affecting everything happening in Iraq right now. The other is just about one man but a very sadistic man.