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CNN's Cuomo Thinks Dems Should Focus on ObamaCare; 'On Better Ground' Than GOP

How hopeful is CNN's Chris Cuomo about ObamaCare? He would still rather defend the law's problems, if he were a Democrat, than pivot to the debt ceiling as a distraction.

"The Democrats going on a three-week campaign tour for Obamacare instead of just dealing with the hard legislative work they need to do down there right now? I'll take that trade," Cuomo asserted on Tuesday's New Day. "[I]f I'm a Democrat down there in Washington, I take the problems with Obamacare over negotiating with you as a Republican about the debt ceiling."

[Video below. Audio here.]

The current health care system is so flawed, Cuomo insisted, that if ObamaCare doesn't prove to be better the Democrats won't survive 2014:

"I think I'm on better ground. You know why? Because the health care system as it exists in this country, as anybody knows, stinks. So if you can't be better than that with Obamacare, you're going to get out there anyway."

Recently, Cuomo lamented that the Supreme Court hearing on the birth control mandate was a "distraction" to fixing the law; he also wondered if the backlash to millions losing their insurance plans wasn't a GOP "straw man" planted to "distract" the media.

The CNN panel pummeled GOP Sen. John Cornyn (Tex.) for saying "the current administration has taken lying to a new level." Political analyst John Avlon called the statement "outrageous," "willful historical ignorance," and "offensive talking down to the American people," even though President Obama has indeed lied repeatedly about ObamaCare and Benghazi.

And the discussion turned to whacking the Tea Party. "Republicans have been doing this for all of the cycles since the Tea Party came about and before," co-host Kate Bolduan said. Avlon added, "when we're in a cycle right now in American politics where you think the smart thing is to be irresponsible and inflammatory, that's revealing and it's really, really pathetic and sad and dangerous."

Below is a transcript of the segment, which aired on New Day on December 3 at 6:27 a.m. EST:

KATE BOLDUAN: Welcome back to New Day. Let's get going with our political gut check of the morning. Now that the health care Web site is working for the majority of users, the Obama administration is launching a three-week push to remind Americans about the benefits of Obamacare. So, can they change the conversation around the President's signature domestic achievement? And also this, a senior Republican senator is calling out the White House and this is how. Listen.

(Audio Clip)

Sen. JOHN CORNYN (R-Tex.): I think the current administration has taken lying to a new level.

(End Video Clip)

BOLDUAN: Let's talk about all of it with John Avlon, CNN political analyst and the executive editor of "The Daily Beast," joining us here. Let's talk about John Cornyn in just a second. But I want to get your take on the new push by the White House. Three weeks, every day, they're going to have a new message, it's either coming from the White House or somewhere else, touting the benefits of the law. They did this leading up to the launch of the law. We know what happened. So, is this going to work? What are they going – what are they going to accomplish?

JOHN AVLON, CNN political analyst: This is the ObamaCare advent calendar. I saw earlier this morning, someone mailed one to Berman and it's good. So we're going to stick with it. Look, what they're trying to do is change the narrative. I mean, one of the fascinating facts about this law, the signature law, is it has been terribly explained from the get-go. It's been a communications failure, and a lot of folks have really fixated on the negative, essentially the Republicans have won that spin war. So here's an attempt by the administration to start making a positive case. Best day would have been three months ago, three years ago, this is probably better than nothing. But this is defense, make no mistake about it.

BOLDUAN: Because the poll numbers have shown that he's taken a hit. So if the spin war has been winning against him, I guess maybe it only makes sense that he fights that spin war head on.

AVLON: Because people actually don't really know what's in the bill. That's a failure of the administration. But you need to try to correct it. Otherwise, you're defined by your political enemies. And that's always a losing position.

BOLDUAN: So, let's talk about John Cornyn.

CUOMO: That's actually an interesting point for segue because –  

(Laughter)

BOLDUAN: Yeah, it's true.

So, John Cornyn, number two Republican in the Senate, he – played what he said. He was tying the Benghazi controversy to Obamacare and talking about how the White House has taking lying to a whole new level. This comes on the heels of him tweeting after the interim deal with Iran was announced. What did he tweet? He tweeted, "Amazing that the White House – what the White House will do to distract attention from Obamacare."

AVLON: Man, I mean, that was –

BOLDUAN: I mean, he's known to be critical but –

AVLON: But here's the thing, that John Cornyn is essentially a reasonable guy. He runs the Republican Senatorial Committee. He has been at war with the Tea Party. The Tea Party has criticized him intensely for not being extreme enough and backing, quote-unquote, "establishment candidates."

Look, this statement is outrageous for at least two different reasons, and it's revealing for two reasons. First of all, lying to a whole new level? It's not just that he's admitting that presidents lie and people in Washington lie. That's not really a news flash.

It's the historical, the willful historical ignorance of saying something like that, when you live through Watergate, as a man like John Cornyn did, to show just no historical memory, to immediately elevate for partisan purposes the Obama administration of the worst lying in American presidential history is ignorant, and therefore, it's offensive talking down to the American people.

Second thing is this, for Republicans right now, if they're trying to win a Republican primary, they're rewarded for being irresponsible. They are not rewarded for being responsible. So, you throw little red meat. You say things like they are taking lying to a whole new level or after you greet a possible Iran deal is distracting from Obamacare. In his heart, John Cornyn probably knows these things aren't true. What's sad is that he thinks they're politically important to protect his right flank in a primary against the Ted Cruzes of the U.S. Senate.

CUOMO: Ironically, they'll hurt him in the primary. Because the more you whip up the anger on the fringe of that party the more it's going to work against Cornyn, because he's seen as a moderate, he's seen as somebody who doesn't embrace those Tea Party values to their satisfaction. So, the more he makes that the level of play, the more I think it's going to hurt him.

AVLON: I hear what you're saying, but he, of course, is trying to inoculate himself. He's trying to say, see, look, I can be just as inflammatory as you, I can be just as unhinged as you, I am one of you. At that point –  

BOLDUAN: Republicans have been doing this for all of the cycles since the Tea Party came about and before.

AVLON: That's exactly right. And it is a profound point. Usually when you're aspiring to higher office, especially the presidency, we saw this in 2012, you're rewarded for being responsible. But when we're in a cycle right now in American politics where you think the smart thing is to be irresponsible and inflammatory, that's revealing and it's really, really pathetic and sad and dangerous.

CUOMO: But he did use the right word. I think it's funny that he didn't say lying is wrong. We should never lie. He just said, "They took it to a new level", which I think of course reflects his perspective being down there in D.C. But he also used a word that I think is really important here when he was discussing whether or not – what we're doing, what our focus is, distraction is the word he used. And that's the perfect word, because they are completely distracted by Obamacare.

It's a problem. They have to fix it. They're not working on the fix. They're working on the distraction. They're not working on debt, they're not working on the debt ceiling, they're not working on immigration. They're working on this one little fight. And I really think it more and more that we watch it, it's out of convenience for both sides. For both sides. The Democrats going on a three-week campaign tour for Obamacare instead of just dealing with the hard legislative work they need to do down there right now? I'll take that trade.

AVLON: But there's the thing. To avoid a shutdown –  

(Crosstalk)

CUOMO: I'll take the trade. I'll take the trade. I'll take Obamacare – if I'm a Democrat down there in Washington, I take the problems with Obamacare over negotiating with you as a Republican about the debt ceiling. I take it. I think I'm on better ground. You know why? Because the health care system as it exists in this country, as anybody knows, stinks. So if you can't be better than that with Obamacare, you're going to get out there anyway.

— Matt Hadro is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center. Follow Matt Hadro on Twitter.