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Jake Tapper On Debate Prep And The Purpose Of Debates

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I began the show with Jake Tapper who will be moderating the first CNN debate in which I am asking questions at the Reagan Library on September 16:




HH: I begin this hour with CNN anchor Jake Tapper. He is of course the host of The Lead. He is the host of the State of the Union on the weekends. He is the moderator of the Reagan Library debate in which I will be participating at his side as a questioner. Jake, good to have you. Welcome. It’s always a pleasure.

JT: Good to talk to you again. I don’t how much to disclose, but you and I had brunch on Sunday.

HH: We should! We should be completely transparent. We were talking talking debate prep on Sunday and we have a non-master plan, but it was good to at least talk about it. More on that in a second. I have to begin this show, Jake, by asking you about a non-political story, though. Maybe my favorite story of the day.


HH: Geno Smith, the Jets’ starting quarterback will miss at least the next six to ten weeks after sustaining a broken jaw when he was punched by a teammate in the locker room today, said Todd Bowles. How often does that happen in CNN?

JT: (laughs) I have never about it happening in CNN, but I. . . I’m generally of the feeling that there should be more pugilism in journalism.

HH: Yes (laughs).

JT: There should be more punching out.

HH: I don’t think I’ve ever heard of your own starter going down for six to ten weeks because of a fight in the locker room, but I know Jets fans listen to this show at AM 970 The Answer and I know that they’re despairing at this hour, but, you know, it happens in everything, I guess, you have to watch out for the cold-cut. Let’s talk about the debate. CNN announced [the invitees] today. How’s the reaction to them?

JT: Great. I mean, my understanding is that as of now, Nancy Reagan has invited sixteen candidates who have made the cut as of know in terms of polls. And we’ll be having a couple different debates at the Reagan Museum and Library. And I haven’t heard any blowback at all, Hugh.

HH: No, it means Jim Gilmore is probably not being invited in and Jim might be upset, but that’s the only thing I might imagine. I also – this is different – they’re gonna go back-to-back. CNN is going to run these back-to-back with you and me and the other participants all there sort of standing around and shuffling in and off of the stage.

JT: Yeah, and I think it’ll be good for us to get our feet wet a little bit with the under-card and then plunge into the main event.

HH: Are you surprised by the change in polls we saw today. Bloomberg, New Hampshire – John Kasich joins me [next hour]. He is now in third place tied with Jeb Bush behind Donald Trump. Donald Trump in first place in Iowa with Scott Walker in second place. And in all the polls, Carly Fiorina is shooting up. Are you surprised?

JT: I’m not surprised, and I have to say – just as a political junkie – I love the election cycle (chuckles). It’s just so unpredictable. To be completely honest, I was kind of anticipating that this was going to be a very predictable Jeb Bush and Hilary Clinton ploddingly marched to the nominations and it’s not that. You have Bernie Sanders and the “Black Lives” movement causing a ruckus on the left and on the right you have the wild-card Donald Trump who is now the front-runner. You have Carly Fiorina shooting up. John Kasich shooting up. Jeb Bush, who everybody thought would be far and away the front-runner by now, he’s in seventh place in Iowa. He’s very holding onto second place in New Hampshire. John Kasich really actually basically tied with him within the margin of error – one point behind. It’s really exciting. It’s really fun. It makes the debates more consequential. And just as a political junkie, you know, it’s a thrill.

HH: Now I think that twenty-four million people watch on Thursday night. I think we’ll have more than that because there will be another month of rising tension and the participation of Democrats. Let me play for our audience a couple of Hilary Clinton polls from last night. Here’s Hilary Clinton first talking about Donald Trump.

HC: It’s entertainment! I mean, look. It’s all entertainment! You know, I think he’s having the time of his life. You know, being up on that stage, saying whatever he wants to say. Getting people excited both for and against him. I didn’t know him that well. I mean, I knew him. I knew him and I happen to be planning to be in Florida and I thought it be fun to go to his wedding because it’s always entertaining. Now that he’s running for president – it’s a little more troubling.

HH: Now Jake Tapper, I have no favorites in this race, I have no disfavorites in this race, but I’m glad that people watch. I have to think a lot of those twenty-four milllion tuned in because Donald Trump was on the stage. Do you agree with that?

JT: I think that’s fair to say. He brings a wild-card element to the election. You know, somebody asked me today if I was sick of covering Trump and I thought about and the answer is no! It’s just a mystery – what he’s gonna say next. What he’s gonna do next. What’s the reaction gonna be from the political world. How his opponents are gonna deal with him. They seem to have no idea what to do now that a couple of them – Rick Perry and Lindsey Graham – you know, directly went after him and he went right back and Rick Perry, to be quite honest, he only went down in the polls – I don’t know if that’s why – but it didn’t help him. Nobody seems to know what to do. I mean, Scott Walker went after him a little bit – accusing him of being a Democrat. Now that Trump has surpassed Scott Walker in his firewall state, Iowa – Walker now in second place being Donald Trump, it’s just a mystery. I don’t know how this is going to end. Everybody keeps saying “Oh, well, there’s no way he’s gonna get the nomination. Really?”

HH: Really! That’s why asked Carly Fiorina yesterday and today with John Kasich confirmed what I suspect – whether they would endorse him if he’s the nominee – and Carly said yes and John Kasich would say yes and they all would say yes. Marco Rubio said he’s just not gonna talk about Trump, but that’s gonna be harder to do. I want him to talk about Hilary and here’s Hilary talking about Rubio, cut number two. . .

HC: All these women that I have fought for. Worked for. Stood up for. Advocated for. And want to be a president – who may not have the opportunity to defend themselves, who may lose the right to exercise a personal choice if certain of the Republicans were to be successful. I don’t want that forgotten. So yes, I know it makes great TV. I think the guy went way overboard. Offensive, outrageous – pick your adjective – but what Marco Rubio said has as much of an impact in terms of where the Republican party is today as anybody else on that stage and it is deeply troubling and it should be to the press, not just to those of us who have been doing this work for so long.

HH: Now Jake Tapper, Hilary was talking about Trump, but she pivoted out and drove off the highway and made a right turn so that she can run over Marco Rubio. What’s that tell you?

JT: Well, there’s two things. I find it furious that Hilary Clinton would think that it’s the role of the press to take a position on what Marco Rubio had to say about his views on abortion. I mean, Marco Rubio has his views that he does not believe in abortion even in cases of rape and incest. But as a minority view in this country, but it is a view. I don’t why the media should find it outrageous. Certainly we should report on it, but it’s a political and religious and spiritual and moral position. It’s not something for us to be outraged about. So that’s one. Two, you know, for a long time, Democrats have said that Marco Rubio – at least on paper – seemed like the most troubling candidate in terms of who could beat Hilary. He is young and attractive. He’s Latino. He comes from a battleground state. He is a great speaker. Very eloquent. And an impressive guy when you know him. So the fact that she would single him [out] there – as opposed to say, Mike Huckabee, who has the same position and in some polls is actually above Marco Rubio. But Hilary Clinton probably doesn’t perceive him as much of a threat. But, you know, I think that’s pretty telling.

HH: It is pretty telling. Here is something that Jake Tapper said yesterday after our brunch on Sunday which I found very useful for people to hear. Jake said it on his show yesterday.

JT: Here are some of the issues. Just some of the ones that Republicans would like the media and political worlds and voters to be discussing today. Democrats in Congress coming out against President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran. The head of the Iranian Quds forces traveling to Russia, violating a UN embargo. The cyber attack on the Joint Chiefs of Staffs, perhaps conducted by Russia. Lingering questions about why Hilary Clinton used the private email server and why she deleted emails from it. The Black Lives Matters protesters who interrupted socialist senator Sander’s well-attended rally in Seattle over the weekend. Now, what the media and political worlds and voters are discussing instead – whether or not Donald Trump was insinuating that a female Fox News anchor was aggressive in her debate questions last week because she was menstruating.

HH: Jake Tapper, you summed up nicely the problem we face here. We need to be fair next month, but we also have to be of the news and we also have to be about the Republican primary voter. It’s tricky.

JT: Yeah, and look, I’m not excusing not covering those stories. Every one of those stories I’ve covered, including, on that show, on Monday, I covered – we interviewed Brad Sherman, the congressman – a Democrat from California – who is against the Iran deal. I’m not saying we shouldn’t debate them or discuss them. But certainly, Donald Trump has – and this is a problem for a lot of Republicans right now – is they don’t want the world. . . I think people understand why we are discussing it. Certainly, when Eric Erickson of RedState disinvites Donald Trump and you know, I figure, will like Megyn Kelly, who is so popular among so many Republicans and conservatives, is attacked by Donald Trump and the questions about what he said and we could all say. You know, very few people would debate whether or not that Trump – people would rather be talking about other things. And that’s one of the issues that Republicans are considering a boom.

HH: That it is a boom and we have to cover it and we have to do so fairly. And joyfully, actually. Always a pleasure, Jake Tapper. I’ll be right back on the Hugh Hewitt Show.

End of interview


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