CNN’s Gloria Borger joined me in the second hour of today’s program:
HH: So pleased to welcome for the first time to the program Gloria Borger, CNN’s chief political correspondent, I see her often on The Lead and on the Situation Room in my show prep. Gloria, welcome to the program, great to speak with you.
GB: Great to speak with you, great to be here.
HH: Now you know, we may work together this fall. I’m going to do one or more debates with CNN as a questioner.
GB: I know.
HH: And you might be on the panel up there. And so I always have to ask when people come on the show the first time, I have two routine questions which I always ask. The first is have you read The Looming Tower?
HH: Okay, please, I’m going to send you one before we get together.
HH: And then do you think Alger Hiss was a communist?
GB: Do I think Alger Hiss was a communist? That’s an interesting question. Alger Hiss? Yeah, I guess, sure.
GB: There you are. Did I get it right?
HH: Yes, you did.
HH: Cass Sunstein, Cass Sunstein, the president senior advisor for several years…
HH: …writes, this is still, he wrote this about six months ago, this is still the most important question for a generation underlying whether or not they’ve come to grips with history, which is why I always, and a lot of younger people don’t even know who he is, Gloria. So…
GB: And I’m not sure I’ve come to grips with history, so there you go.
HH: Well, it’s well said. Hey, I want to play for you a couple of bits of audio. The first is the President yesterday. Now this is about, I know my CNN friends like Jake and others don’t like to criticize other networks, but the President did. And I’d love to get your reaction. It’s a lengthy quote. Let me…
HH: Let me play it for the audience. Here’s the President, I think at Georgetown yesterday.
BO: There’s always been a strain in American politics where you’ve got the middle class, and the question has been who are you mad at if you’re struggling, if you’re working, but you don’t seem to be getting ahead. And over the last 40 years, sadly, I think there’s been an effort to either make folks mad at folks at the top, or to make be mad at folks at the bottom. And I think the effort to suggest that the poor are sponges, leeches, or don’t want to work, are lazy, you know, or undeserving, got traction. And look, it’s still being propagated. I mean, I have to say that if you watch Fox News on a regular basis, it is a constant menu. They will find, like folks who make me mad, and I don’t know where they find them, right? They’re all like, like I don’t want to work. I just want a free Obama phone or whatever. And that becomes an entire narrative, right, that gets worked up. And very rarely do you hear an interview of a waitress, which is much more typical who’s raising a couple of kids, and is doing everything right, but still can’t pay the bills. And so if we’re going to change how John Boehner and Mitch McConnell think, we’re going to have to change how our body politick thinks, which means we’re going to have to change how the media reports on these issues, and how people’s impressions of what it’s like to struggle in this economy looks like, and how budgets connect to that. And that’s a hard process, because that requires a much broader conversation than typically we have.
HH: Gloria Borger, what do you make of that?
GB: Well, I think Fox is the President’s favorite bone to pick, and I think he does it at every opportunity, because he’s talking to a very receptive audience. And they’re willing to laugh at him about that. As you’ve noted before, I’m not going to take a swipe at Fox News. Charles Krauthammer and many folks are good friends of mine who work at Fox News. But I think what’s interesting to me about the President, when he came into office, and I spent a lot of time talking to people who work for him, yeah, the word is you know, we don’t pay attention to the cable chatter. Remember that phrase?
HH: Oh, yes.
GB: Cable chatter. And it seems to me that they pay an awful lot of attention over at the White House to the cable chatter, because for better or worse, whether you’re at Fox News or whether you’re at CNN or whatever, the conversations that are being had on our network, on your radio show, over at Fox, are the water cooler conversations that people in the country are having. So it’s not just cable chatter. The President is talking about it all the time. And by the way, it sounds like he actually pays an awful lot of attention to Fox News. And so you know, when he leaves office, I think he’ll still be, I think he’ll still be talking about it.
HH: Yeah, now I divide the world into those who are purely objective reporters. I count your colleague, Jake Tapper and Bret Baier as two fo the finest down the middle…
HH: …Wolf Blitzer, Anderson Cooper, they’re right down the middle. They’re not supposed to have opinions. They probe, they push. But I know when Sean Hannity comes on what I’m getting, and I know when I come on what I’m getting. And I know when lefties come on what they’re selling. I’m not quite sure where you are, Gloria Borger.
GB: Okay, so let me tell you what I am.
HH: All right.
GB: This is what I will tell you what I am. I am a reporter. I am an analyst. So I will write a column, for example, at CNN. I wrote a column for many years at U.S. News and World Report.
GB: And I call it reported analysis. So there are many times, for example, where I like to be a little unpredictable, to tell you the truth, where I will, I talk to everybody, Hugh, because that’s my job, on both sides of the aisle, and hope I have respect on both sides of the aisle. But you know, I sort of tell you where I come down on any particular issue. You know, today, we’ve spent a lot of time at CNN thinking and talking about Jeb Bush, for example, and his sort of penchant for making some mistakes early on in this campaign. And you mentioned Sean Hannity, where he tried to clean it up and he really didn’t clean it up yesterday, because he was defending his brother on Iraq. So I’d kind of like to describe myself as a reporter first and foremost.
HH: Okay, now in terms of reporting, let’s talk about Marco Rubio’s speech earlier today. Marco Rubio gave a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations.
HH: Here’s a little soundbyte of it for the benefit of the audience.
MR: When America has the mightiest Army and Navy and Air Force and Marine Corps and Coast Guard and the intelligence community in the world, the result is more peace, not more conflict. To ensure our strength never falters, we must always plan ahead. It takes forethought to design, and many years to build the capabilities we may need at a moment’s notice. So to restore American strength, my first priority will be to adequately fund our military. This would be a priority even in times of peace and stability, though the world today is neither peaceful nor stable.
HH: Now Gloria Borger, that is very much a Reaganesque tone.
HH: And he is aiming for that niche. How is he doing in hitting that mark?
GB: You know, I think Marco Rubio is really someone to watch. I think he’s a first-term Senator, and after Barack Obama, there are a lot of people scratching their heads about why would we ever do that again. And I think that Republicans in particular were complaining about the lack of experience of a first-term Senator, and now they’ve got, what, three or four running, okay, if you count Lindsey Graham. And so I think there is always a big hurdle, particularly when you’re talking about foreign policy, and particularly when you’re likely to be running against Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State. However, in Marco Rubio’s case, he is someone I believe you ought to watch, because he is a generation optimistic, like Reagan was, and he is somebody who has spent the last couple of years studying, being briefed, getting ready. I think he’s had some missteps, particularly within the Republican party on the issue of immigration, of course, as you well know, which he had to backtrack on. But I think Rubio has been very careful, and very smart about this. And I would watch him. One other reason I would watch him is that if you look at the polling as closely as we do over here, he’s everybody’s second choice.
GB: And that’s a bad place to be right now.
HH: As people stumble, sure.
GB: Right, because he’s kind of acceptable to a lot of groups within the Republican Party. And as long as people don’t find anything hugely objectionable about him at this point, you know, that’s kind of exactly where they want to be.
HH: Yeah, everywhere I go, people say I wish, I want Walker and Rubio, Rubio/Walker, I don’t care which order they’re in.
HH: But of course, the Bush machine, you’ve been talking about it all day, we have a minute to the break, Gloria Borger, you know, they can take a couple of steps back and then come out of the gate with $100 million dollars and erase all that, can’t they?
GB: Yeah, they can, well, I’m not saying they can erase it, but you know what? You can have all the money in the world. You’ve got to have a good candidate. And I think what we’re seeing with Jeb right now is that he’s a little rusty. He’s trying to figure out a way to get over the big brother thing, right, the whole dynasty issue. And he’s been stumbling a bit. One thing in watching Bush closely is that he’s very good at kind of Q&A’s, he prides himself on being very good on that. But he’s not go great at giving the big speech. And he has less room for error, in many ways, even though he’s going to raise an awful lot of money, because people know who he is, just in the same way that Hillary Clinton doesn’t have a lot of space for error, because we know her.
HH: About whom we will speak when we come back from break.
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HH: You’re not a Wizards fan, are you, Gloria?
GB: You know, I’m a Natties fan. Wolf Blitzer, the biggest Wizards fan ever. I am a Wizards fan, but I am a Natties devotee. And that’s how I know Charles Krauthammer, because we got to games together.
HH: All right, when you see Wolf, tell him the Cavs are coming, and not to get his hopes up, because every single time…
GB: Oh, I know. He was disappointed the other night.
HH: Hillary Clinton has fallen. I had Peter Schweizer on yesterday, whose book, Clinton Cash, is everywhere. She’s fallen about 15 points in the latest New Hampshire survey.
HH: Is she bleeding out? Or can they allow her to bleed out? I had to use the Weekend At Bernie’s analogy on Meet The Press a few weeks ago, because I don’t really know that they’ve got an alternative.
GB: No, I think, look, she is the likely Democratic nominee, and Democrats need to rally around her, because they don’t have anything else. What strikes me in this campaign is that the Democrats are acting like Republicans, and Republicans are acting like a bunch of Democrats. The Democrats hardly ever reach back into a past generation for a nominee. If you fail as a Democratic nominee, you’re teaching somewhere at a small university in New England, and you’re not, you don’t ever had a comeback. The Democrats look for the shiny new thing, right? The Republicans are usually the ones who go back to the establishment. And instead, they’ve got a lineup of what, more than a dozen candidates at this point, which has some new faces, some interesting people in it. So the kind of roles are completely reversed. And so Hillary Clinton is the establishment choice of the Democratic Party, and look, I would assume, to answer your question about polling, that when you’ve been Secretary of State, and you were kind of out of the political realm for years traveling the globe, your poll numbers generally go up. And when you get back into the realm of politics, your poll numbers go down. That’s just going to happen. People are going to look at you through a different lens, who didn’t look at you that way before. Now some people always did look at her through that lens, but all I’m saying is that accounts for the poll numbers going down. The question I have about Hillary Clinton is this question, and I don’t know if it’s yet reflected in the polls. The more people see here, will they like her less? Or will they decide they like her more, because some people wear well, and some people don’t.
HH: Gloria Borger, if Jeb is “a little bit rusty”, Hillary is the blinking Tin Man after a typhoon without an oilcan.
GB: Exactly. Exactly.
HH: How does she, she’s terrible. How does she get better?
GB: Well, you know, the thing is she is married, I would say, to one of the best transactional politicians of our time, right? And it’s very difficult when you compare anyone to Bill Clinton. And Hillary has a different, it’s an interesting situation. Let me put it to you this way. And I think it’s something one of her pollsters says, which is she’s the most famous person in the world you don’t know. She comes across as evasive. She’s never really lifted the veil, right? We’ve seen her for 30 years in public life. We’ve seen her, you know, through the White House, first as first lady of Arkansas, then at the White House, then through all the scandals, through the impeachment, and you saw her defend her husband, and you watched what she did. But did you ever get a sense that you kind of knew her?
HH: Well, I don’t, but then again, that’s not to be expected, given that I’m center-right.
HH: But I’ll tell you something. Maria Hinojosa, who was on Meet The Press with me, NPR journalist, fine journalist…
HH: When the sell-by date rhetoric is used, it makes her mad as a woman, because she thinks it’s sexist, and she thinks it is an unfair standard. Do you agree with…
GB: I think, look, you know, it’s not age, but it’s what, no, I don’t like the sell-by date. I agree with her. I think that’s ridiculous, and I think women, you know, are judged very differently from men, which is why we all dye our hair, right?
HH: That’s why I like my white hair. I love my white hair. Go ahead.
GB: Okay, well, right, but you’re a guy.
GB: Okay, I don’t love my white hair. But I do believe that what you’re seeing that’s so interesting is generational, I would call it, because Jeb Bush, in a way, is reaching back a generation as well. You mentioned Marco Rubio before, young, vibrant, right?
GB: Each party, you know, I’m not saying Jeb is a likely nominee by a long shot, by the way, but it’s odd for the Democrats to go back a generation. Normally, you know, they are the ones with the new guy, Barack Obama, right?
GB: And so I don’t want anybody to be ageist about men or women, but I think generational politics is with us, because of ideas.
HH: You touched on something. I don’t think it’s her age. I think we are weary of someone who’s been in the public life for 30 years. And you are a, you’re a tried and true Beltway person. I always joke with Fred Barnes as being Beltway Fred Barnes, and Guy Benson’s a young Beltway Guy.
HH: And Gloria Borger is Gloria Beltway Borger. I mean, you’re all Beltway people.
HH: Don’t you get weary of the same people? I live out in California for a reason. Aren’t you weary of Hillary?
GB: Are you weary of all those Hollywood people? Or no?
HH: No, I stay down in Orange County. I stay away from those people.
GB: Okay, well, that’s why. Now you know, here’s an interesting thing about the way the world in Washington has changed, which is that there used to be people who came to Washington and stayed for a generation. And I’m one of those. I mean, I love Washington. I love covering politics. I just, I find politicians very interesting people to cover, and I think there are lots of them with interesting ideas, believe it or not. But what’s happened in Washington is that people are coming and going a lot faster. Term limits was never passed, as you know, but people have self-limited, because they don’t want to be a part of it, because as you know, the popularity of Congress is down to, what, 9%? People don’t think they can be productive here in the way they used to be productive, right?
GB: And they’d rather do other things. And if they want to serve, there are many other ways to serve your nation. So it’s a generational thing. I mean, I think, you know, Hillary Clinton’s age, if she is healthy and up to the job, should not be an issue, just the way it shouldn’t be an issue for Jeb Bush, right? Or Mike Huckabee, or whoever, or whoever it is.
HH: Now Gloria, I am very interested, it’s your first appearance, and you passed the two questions. But where are you from? Where did you grow up?
GB: Okay, New Rochelle, New York, I’m a Westchester girl.
GB: And but moved to D.C. like almost right out of college, and I worked for the Washington Star…
HH: Oh, sure.
GB: …which was an older newspaper, yeah, so I was a city reporter, metro desk on the Washington Star. In fact, I worked with Fred Barnes on the Washington Star. He was sort of the big White House correspondent…
HH: Sure, before the New Republic years, yeah.
GB: …exactly, and I was kind of the cub reporter on the Washington Star. There were a lot of us who came out of that great newspaper. So I come out of newspaper experience, and then you know, U.S. News, and then Newsweek, and you know, so…
HH: So I love the news business. I couldn’t do anything but the news business.
GB: Me, either.
HH: I’m curious if you think this is the most, well, let me hold one more segment with Gloria Borger from CNN.
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HH: Gloria, when I went to break, you’ve covered a lot of presidential campaigns at U.S. News and World Report, the Washington Star, etc. Has there ever been a field as deep and as interesting as the Republican field is broad and deep?
GB: No, not, you know, not in my experience covering it. Look, I think you had a very broad field when Mitt Romney ran, and we saw what happened there. But I think the ideas and the disagreements among Republicans make it so interesting to me, because they’re actually talking about idea. And they’re talking about, they’re spending a lot of time now talking about Hillary Clinton, of course, because it’s easier to bash her than it is to bash each other. But what I’m looking forward to in the debate, and you’re doing one of the debates, and I’m wondering how many people are going to be able to get up on that stage, but that’s a whole other…
HH: Stadium seating. That’s what I’m recommending.
GB: That’s a whole other story, right?
GB: And that’s going to be frustrating, I’m sure, for the candidates, as well as the questioners. But I do think it’s a, you know, this is what happens when you’ve been out of the White House, and ideas percolate up, and people decide that they have something to say, and that the Republican Party has put itself on the couch in the therapist’s office, and has taken a look at itself and what it needs to do, and you know, what is striking to me, I was just, I just interviewed John Kasich not too long ago. What is striking to me when I spoke with him about, I said some conservatives believe you’re not conservative enough, that you took the President’s Medicaid money on Obamacare, and he said you know what, nobody defines conservative at this point. This is what we’re going to do in this election. Nobody’s going to define what that means until we’ve had this debate. And I thought, you know what, that’s why I love doing this, because that’s an interesting discussion I want to listen to.
HH: Yeah, and let me close with that. How did you like, I’m a Buckeye, so I like John Kasich, and he’s a friend, and he’s a wonderful interview, right?
GB: Yes, he’s a great interview. He’s, as you know, dipping his toe in, and look, I covered him when he was, okay, now I’m going to date myself, but I covered him when he was Budget Committee chairman.
HH: Oh, my gosh.
GB: Don’t tell anyone.
GB: And so I’ve known him for quite some time. And you know, his big thing is balancing the budget. He’s still such a budget hawk. But you know, here’s the interesting thing about John Kasich. He won with 64% of the vote in the state of Ohio, as you know, didn’t have a tough opponent, but he won 60% of women, and he won 26% of minorities.
HH: Yeah, he won 86 out of 88 counties.
GB: That’s right.
HH: He carried Trumbull County, my hometown, which is a blue-collar steel town, union town.
HH: He carried Youngstown. I mean, it was astonishing. He carried Cuyahoga County. I don’t know where he lost. Honestly, it must be like the rotten burrows of old England. But…
GB: I know, so he’s, you know, he’s an interesting person to have on that stage. Whether he makes it or not, or decides to officially get in or not, I do not know, but I think he’s an interesting voice to have in the Republican Party right now.
HH: And you’re an interesting guest to have. Gloria Borger, I hope you come back often before this election is over, and I’ll see you if not before in CNN land.
GB: Thank you, I will. Thank so you so much.
HH: Thank you.
End of interview.