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Tamara Keith and Amy Walter on Democratic divides in the 2020 contest

NPR's Tamara Keith and Amy Walter from the Cook Political Report join Lisa Desjardins to discuss the week’s political news, including the widening 2020 field as Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., announces her presidential campaign, plus why top Democrats reprimanded a freshman lawmaker of their own party.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And that brings us to Politics Monday. I'm joined by our regular team, Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and Tamara Keith of NPR.

    Hello to both of you.

    So, they're off and running. There are nine, and we expect more to come.

  • Amy Walter:

    Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Amy, what do we see here?

    We see Amy Klobuchar. She's clearly not in Southern California, you know, in a driving snowstorm in Minnesota. How is she setting herself apart from these…

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Amy Walter:

    Yes.

    It has been — it was really interesting watching and listening to Elizabeth Warren one day and the next to listen to Amy Klobuchar.

    Elizabeth Warren is saying unequivocally the only way to make change is to make really significant structural change. And she says over and over again, I'm not talking about going around the edges here, people. I'm talking about blowing the system up and really reforming it, and, of course, talking about it as the system being rigged and bringing it back to — structurally reforming it for regular middle-class people.

    Amy Klobuchar really talked much more about overcoming obstacles, right, not blowing up the system, as much as trying to fix some of the obstacles within the system.

    And so this is the dynamic that seems to be growing right now, which is, can you be a dynamic candidate that can appeal to a liberal base of Democratic voters, while also being pragmatic, right? Can you be moderate in your temperament and tone, while also being progressive in your policies?

    And Warren is on the side with Bernie Sanders, certainly, of the, we need to shake it all up and be aggressive in our change and structural — right, changing the structural ways in which we do things in this country.

    Klobuchar fits more into the camp of doing it in a much more moderate way, although they all have pretty liberal voting records.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So is it more about tone and about style, Tam, than it is about substance at this point?

  • Tamara Keith:

    In a lot of ways, all of the Democratic candidates more or less agree on the big ideas.

    And it's small things around the edges where they disagree on policy. But they have taken very different approaches to President Trump and to sort of the case that they're making for themselves. Some of these candidates are not mentioning Trump by name. Like, Cory Booker talks about the president. He doesn't talk about Trump.

    And he's not attacking Trump. He's — Cory Booker is doing sort of the, we need to heal America idea, whereas Elizabeth Warren certainly went after the president in a way that almost seemed designed to get his attention and to get him to go after her again.

    So…

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And he goes after her.

  • Tamara Keith:

    Right.

    And then you have someone like Sherrod Brown, who isn't officially running for president yet, but who was campaigning in New Hampshire this weekend — or listening in New Hampshire this weekend, whatever it is before you're actually a candidate.

    And he is — he's talking about himself and talking about valuing work. And he and Klobuchar are both in the category of potential candidates or candidates who are saying, hey, look, I'm from the Midwest. That blue wall that Donald Trump knocked down, I would like to build it back up again.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And speaking of taking on the president, Amy, Beto O'Rourke…

  • Amy Walter:

    That's right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    … who ran and lost to knock off Ted Cruz in the Senate from Texas, is having a counter-rally while the president's in El Paso, tonight.

  • Amy Walter:

    Right.

    And Beto O'Rourke has sort of set himself up in many ways to be that — in between those two candidates, right? I'm going to be inspiring, but I'm also going to be unifying. I'm not going to make this about Donald Trump. He ran his campaign in Texas for the Senate at, I'm not going to go negative on Ted Cruz. I'm going to make it all about voting for something, rather than against something.

    But here he's taking a pretty significant stand against the president, as the president has a rally in El Paso. This is a counter-rally. And it also goes to show you that Beto O'Rourke is very serious about his potential 2016 candidacy — 2020 candidacy. Wow, 2016.

  • Tamara Keith:

    Flashback.

  • Amy Walter:

    I can't…

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But we now have to have note cards to keep up with all of these candidates, and the fact that — five women, four men.

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    I do want to — speaking of divides in the party among Democrats, Tam, we saw today what happens in the aftermath of this.

    Freshman Congresswoman Ilhan Omar from Minnesota had been already in the middle of a controversy over remarks that were considered anti-Semitic. She defended herself. But today you had the leadership, the congressional leadership, Democratic leadership in Congress, coming down and reprimanding her.

    And she ended up apologizing. What does this say about an issue or a — something that has been very important to Democratic voters, being close to Israel? What does it say about where we are on that, where Democrats are?

  • Tamara Keith:

    Well, and this comes in the wake of a pretty significant controversy over anti-Semitism among the organizers of the Women's March.

    So, in some ways, the ground was already plowed for this conversation. I think — there's a quote I want to read you from a statement that Adam Schiff, a California Democrat, put out about this. This wasn't part of the official statement. It was his own statement, but I think it kind of sums up where Democrats are on this.

  • He says:

    "If we don't raise the alarm when members of our own party use anti-Semitic language, we forfeit the right to criticize when members of the other party do so."

    And certainly Democrats have taken that stance on a lot of issues, on sexual harassment or MeToo type issues, on Ralph Northam, the governor of Virginia. Democrats are — they want to be able to say, we don't think this is right. And so they are saying it about their own.

  • Amy Walter:

    Yes, I think that's a good point.

    But it also does go to show the diversity of the Democratic Caucus, which they see in the one side as a plus, right? Look at our caucus. We're so diverse. We have all these members from so many different religious backgrounds and from different race and ethnicity.

    But the more diverse you get, then the harder it is to keep everybody on the same page, especially on some of these issues.

    And the issue of the BDS, which is the boycott, divest, sanction Israel movement, has been picking up a whole lot of steam, especially on the Democratic side. And we saw that this came to a head in the Senate, where you had a number of Democrats voting against a bill that they agreed with in principle on criticizing the president's Syria moves.

    Actually, they like the idea that the president is pulling troops out of Syria. What they didn't like about the bill is that it included sanctions on people who and companies that were doing work with this BDS movement.

    And that just goes to show once again this balancing act that Democrats have to have between keeping, as you said, their traditional relationship with Israel, the Jewish community, very big supporters of Democratic candidates…

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Very important to the party.

  • Amy Walter:

    … but also a growing group of voters within their caucus, especially younger voters, who see human rights as a very significant issue, and see Israel as abusive of human rights.

    Keeping that balance is going to be something that the leadership is going to be dealing with, not just in the House, but also in this presidential campaign.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So are we going to — that was my last question. Is this going to have some sort of lasting effect? Is it going to have repercussions inside the campaign?

  • Tamara Keith:

    I think that the 2020 candidates are going to be asked about this.

    But whether it remains salient months down the line is not really clear right now. The other thing is that there are divides among the American Jewish community about how they feel about Israel, very big divides that are playing out among Democratic lawmakers.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And you saw that in some of the reactions today, what was going on?

  • Amy Walter:

    Yes, that's exactly…

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Although some of what the congresswoman had to say brought together people of all spectrums.

  • Tamara Keith:

    That's right. There are certain things that…

  • Amy Walter:

    It's one thing talking about the policy. It's another thing when it's about making personal attacks.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Amy Walter, Tamara Keith, thank you very much.

  • Tamara Keith:

    You're welcome.

  • Amy Walter:

    You're welcome.

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