Up Close: Biden rails against gun violence, race for NYC mayor grows

In this episode of Up Close, Bill Ritter and guests discuss President Biden's push to make gun control one of his big agenda items.

Video Transcript

REPORTER: This is Eyewitness News UpClose with Bill Ritter.

BILL RITTER: President Biden calling it an epidemic that has to stop. This time, not talking about the coronavirus. He was talking about the insanity of gun violence. He called it an international embarrassment, but it's more of a national disgrace. Americans killing Americans, again this week. Can this country finally ban assault weapons and make it tougher for people to buy all weapons? US Senator Cory Booker in New Jersey offers his take on gun control and rebuilding the economy.

Plus, he's never been elected to any public office, but corporate executive Ray McGuire says typical politicians are maybe not what New York needs for the next mayor of the nation's busiest and economically most important city. Mr. McGuire makes his case this morning, as one of many candidates who want to be the city's 110th mayor.

And good morning, everyone. Welcome to UpClose. I'm Bill Ritter. How to turn the country's economy around, jumpstarted out of the pandemic-caused recession. Are tax hikes the way to go? How about a New Deal kind of program, like President Roosevelt's back in the Depression, which helped the country climb out of that economic depression nearly 90 years ago? US Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, our first guest this morning. I talked to him earlier and started with the president's new attempt to control guns.

CORY BOOKER: Look, we have a grievous level of carnage in our country that no other nation on the planet earth is seeing. Other countries have mental health challenges, violent video games-- everything we have, we are the singular country with death rates, murder rates, suicide rates, with guns that just have not been seen before in humanity within a nation that has peace within its borders. And so Joe Biden wants to act. The challenge he's going to have is Congress. So he took actions-- as he said, a first step-- that are going to make people safer.

And so for his-- within 100 days, for him to come out with this agenda, there are things here that can save lives. But he himself is admitting that there's more to do and many of us believe-- especially when the majority of Americans believe in larger steps like assault weapons bans and gun licensing and more-- he is part of the movement that I hope is going to make much bigger change when it comes to gun safety.

BILL RITTER: It seems to me-- just a novice observer, Senator-- that the president wants to get assault weapons banned-- like there used to be in this country-- but he doesn't want to do it on executive orders, he wants Congress to do it.

CORY BOOKER: Yeah, I'm not even sure if the law will allow him to do it in the executive order. When he was leading and getting it done, he was a Senator. And that's one of the areas we're going to have to get it done. And I'm frustrated now by the filibuster. I think the filibuster is a tool that is getting away from-- not getting in the way of partisan work, getting in the way of doing the things in America that most of us-- 70%, 80%-- agree on, from raising the minimum wage all the way to common sense gun safety.

We've got to stop allowing a minority of Senators who represent a minority of Americans to undermine the overwhelming common well.

BILL RITTER: Well as long as you're on the filibuster and not getting things done-- especially in the US Senate, we're talking about-- let's talk about rebuilding this economy. You have said in the past on this show that this is an opportunity for the country to maybe reframe how our economy works, level the playing field, try to really do things that bring back a middle class. Is that possible given the current political situation? And are you worried that in your state, New Jersey, and in the state where I live, New York, that taxes are going so high that some people who are not Uber-wealthy-- not the gazillionares and the billionaires-- but just upper middle class people are going to say, hey, we don't want to be taxed at 14% and 15% by our state. We're going to be out of here. Do you worry about that?

CORY BOOKER: So let me take those one at a time. First and foremost, we are seeing a president and the Senate that I'm in take massive strides to try and rebalance our economy. Just by passing the expanded earned income tax credit and child tax credit-- remember, 0% of that goes to the wealthiest, while Donald Trump's tax plan, 65% of it went to the top 20%-- it is a massive middle class relief effort that is going to bring thousands of dollars into every family's home with children, and more.

So we are doing things already through the American Recovery Act-- at people's kitchen table doing their budgets, they're going to see things are better. But God, you put your finger on something that has me fired up, which is, we are donor states, New York and New Jersey. We send more to the federal government than we get back. When Donald Trump paid for his tax plan-- the majority of the benefits go into the wealthy-- one of the ways he paid for that was by taking away the state and local tax deduction that hurts states like New York and New Jersey.

And so of course, I'm fired up that we lost-- working class, middle class families-- lost that tax deduction. And it is very important for me and the New Jersey delegation-- and I've talked to Chuck Schumer about this-- that we get that state and local tax deduction back to give yet another break towards middle class families in New Jersey and New York.

BILL RITTER: Just to repeat what-- that means that's all state and local taxes. That's the state income tax and the state property taxes we could deduct. And now that's limited to just $10,000 across the board for people in the high-tax states and high property value states of New Jersey and Connecticut and New York-- the tri-state-- that cost middle class people a ton of money, thousands and thousands of dollars. What are the odds of that coming back? Because it doesn't seem to be-- you talk about it, Senator Schumer talks about it, says he wants to get it back. But a lot of people-- for both parties-- are not talking about that.

CORY BOOKER: So what gives me hope is the fact that it is a very narrow House and it is a very narrow Senate. And so all of us, from me to colleagues of mine like Josh Gottheimer, we've all made it clear that this is at the highest level of our priorities. And if you're going to need our support, you've got to pay attention to areas like ours-- New Jersey and New York-- that have really bled for the overall federal government. Because it's not just our taxes we pay, we're also one of the most economically productive regions in our country.

But again, the fact that I am fighting-- now I got Biden on my team, we're going to be more successful than we were in the last four years-- but just look at our infrastructure. I mean, the tunnels under the Hudson. If you use New Jersey Transit, if you ride by rail, the rail corridor-- that's the busiest in North America, it goes from Boston to D.C., through New York and New Jersey-- I'm not exaggerating, it runs half an hour slower than it did in the 60s. Compare that with our competitive nations. I mean, China built 18,000 miles of high-speed rail.

We need to invest, because every dollar invested in infrastructure in our region returns multiples of return-- $2, $3 for every dollar you invest in infrastructure-- in the New York, New Jersey region.

BILL RITTER: That timing, too-- the slower trains-- that includes and that takes into account the Acela, which is supposed to be a lot faster. Isn't it time? I mean, this is what you're saying-- your money and your party are saying-- this is like a New Deal kind of philosophy. And we've got to get infrastructure, public jobs. Doesn't matter how, we're already trillions of dollars in debt. We've got to get people working again.

CORY BOOKER: Yeah, and let's not make this partisan. It's partisan in D.C., but it's not partisan in America. We know that people overwhelmingly favor big, big investments in infrastructure, research and development, and also in human power, like broadband extension and the kind of things that make all Americans more competitive. And you're right. It's, like, three things that should be going on. Number one, we need infrastructure improvements. Number two, the cost of capital is so low right now, of all the time to be borrowing money to do this, it's now. And then number three, you said it, the big word that every elected leader and I've been-- since I was a mayor, I've been using this word-- jobs.

Really good union middle class jobs. So right now in the economy, to be investing that money in the economy, to be getting the return on investment in terms of economic growth, to be doing it at a time it's fiscally responsible, and to be creating thousands and thousands of jobs. Let's do what Republican President Eisenhower did and do it bigger and bolder and really help America get in front of its competitor nations as being the 21st century nation with the best infrastructure.

BILL RITTER: Eisenhower, of course, creating the interstate transit system and really getting the highways going. As a final topic-- in about a minute we have left, Senator Booker-- let me talk about the-- or ask you about the vaccination program and what's happening. The numbers for COVID are, as Dr. Fauci says, plateauing at a very high level. This thing is not over. The top five states in this country with a new variant COVID cases include New York and New Jersey.

CORY BOOKER: So we are in the best of times and the worst of times. The worst of times because we're not out of this pandemic, it is still wretched, it is still causing death and sickness and hurting our economy. We've got to get out of it. The best of times because this is the clearest and closest we've been to the end of this thing. We could see it but we can't let up now. We've got to do the things we know keep us healthy and safe. From just social distancing, from just the kind of practices-- wearing a mask-- that are going to help us. So we can't get too tired that we're not doing that.

And then the last thing is, get the vaccine. Get the vaccine. Get the vaccine, please.

BILL RITTER: And you know, a lot of people say wearing these things, these masks, is just like listening to Big Brother. We still have a very divided country in so many basic levels, Senator.

CORY BOOKER: And we got we got to create a more beloved community. We're all in this together. There's only one way out. And forgive me, you probably never had somebody do this on your show, but I just have to insult you. I came on your show willingly, but you have a tie, I don't. You have hair, I don't. I just feel like you invited me here and I'm-- you're just overwhelming me with all the things you have going in your aesthetic that I don't have in mine.

BILL RITTER: That is so superficial. When it comes to substance, there's no-- you haven't let us down. Senator Booker, thank you for once again coming on UpClose and making your case. Appreciate it.

CORY BOOKER: Thank you. Wear masks, get vaccinated. Let's get out of this.

BILL RITTER: And I'll shave my head tonight, OK? How's that?

CORY BOOKER: All right, thank you. Thank you, Bill.

BILL RITTER: Thank you, Senator. Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey. Coming up next on UpClose, we continue interviewing the candidates who want to be the next mayor of New York. This time, it's Ray McGuire, the successful financial executive who makes his case to be the 110th mayor of the country's biggest city.

Welcome back to UpClose. It's not hyperbole to say the 110th mayor-- whoever she or he is, and who gets elected in November-- the 110th mayor of New York will face, perhaps, more challenges than any other incoming mayor in the history of the city, including 9/11. So many people out of work. So many people have left the city. So many businesses have shut down. So many who can't afford their rent or their mortgage, or food for their families. So many who are homeless. A pandemic full of problems and a recession that will take some time to recover from. So many want this job.

One of them, our guest this morning, Ray McGuire. He's a former executive of Citicorp with experience in the world of business and now making his first venture into the world of politics. And Mr McGuire, we welcome you to UpClose.

RAY MCGUIRE: Hello, Mr. Ritter. How are you today? It's great to be with you on this wonderful morning.

BILL RITTER: Well thank you. And I know we had to talk-- you asked me to call you Ray-- and we try to keep a little more formal-- but I can call you Ray. You have to call me Bill, please. But if you're elected mayor, we will call you Mr. Mayor. So Mr. McGuire sounds comfortable and if that's all right with you, we'll push ahead. Why do you want to be mayor, Ray?

RAY MCGUIRE: You know, I love this city, Bill. I came to the city four decades ago. I had three things-- I had a great education, I had a lot of debt, and I had no money. And this city's been great to me personally. It's where I met my lovely wife, Crystal, who's an author and does documentary films. We have three children. We got Leo, who is eight, Ella, who's 18, who's been recently admitted to one of the colleges of her choices, and Cole, who's 20, who was drafted first round into the NBA and now is a starting point guard for the Orlando Magic.

So it's been great to me personally. And professionally, it's given me extraordinary opportunity to perform, to open doors, to kick down doors, quite candidly, because when I came into the business in which I've been, there was nobody who looked like me. So I've been able to manage budgets larger than most state budgets and negotiate large transactions and lead in moments of crisis. As you know, the great financial recession, when I was in a leadership position, leading Citi forward.

BILL RITTER: The last successful businessman to run and become mayor was a man named Bloomberg. The man before him had not been elected to any office, either, Rudy Giuliani. So there is an argument to be made. And certainly, we had a president for four years, recently, who had no electoral experience as well. What are you going to do when politics comes up and you don't have any experience with that?

RAY MCGUIRE: You know, politics is just politics in a different venue, isn't it? I've had to navigate politics-- you can imagine-- being a 6' 4", 200-plus-pound black man in a world of corporate finance, where when I entered the business there were one or two people on the planet who looked like me. So if there's anybody who's had the experience of competing and managing through politics in one of the most competitive industries that exist anywhere, it's me. So will I be able to navigate? Yes.

Do I know the language that's necessary to navigate? Yes. It is simply the language of the streets and the language of the suites. Or as my Latin American brother would say, from the barrio to the boardroom.

BILL RITTER: There you go. And you sort of went there. And like a lot of New Yorkers, you came with nothing except an education and a head full of dreams, and you acquired them. And I guess now, your position would be you want to give back. Eight years ago, Bill de Blasio campaigned for mayor for his first term on the theme that we cannot put up and cannot tolerate anymore, a tale of two cities. One of the haves and the other with the have nots. I think, arguably, you could argue-- in large part because of this recession caused by the pandemic-- that it's worse now than ever before. How do you begin to cure it? When we talk about the have nots, many of them are people who look like you, African-Americans.

RAY MCGUIRE: So one of the reasons I'm doing this, Bill, is because of what you just stated. We have not had equal opportunity, in none of this administration, in the areas that I've identified, in a document that essentially shows the impact of the 400 years-- especially the past 20 years-- of systemic inequities in education, in economics, in health care and the criminal justice system, our city's going backwards. And what New Yorkers are telling me every day is that we want something different. They want a leader in whom they can believe, in whom they can trust, who understands their experiences, and who's got a proven track record of leading.

The same old political solutions will not apply in the midst of the crisis. We need something new, we need something different. We need someone who's got a proven track record, not somebody who's coming into a position that because they've been in the political world for-- I don't know, half a dozen to two dozen years-- that they all now want to get promoted into this. We can't do that.

BILL RITTER: There are, as you know, a lot of people, a lot of people in New York who have left during the pandemic and have not yet returned. The estimates may be as high as 4%. Many of them that are upper middle class, many of them that are truly wealthy. How do you get them back and how do you get them back when a lot of people who are running for office these days-- and including one who's in the governor's mansion right now in Albany-- has pushed for and gotten a pretty sizable tax increase for people making more than a million dollars. How are you going to bring them back? How do you convince them to stay? And is that the answer?

RAY MCGUIRE: Let's be clear. What Senator Schumer-- and the president-- Senator Schumer has delivered-- and other leaders, Congressman Jeffries is another-- what they delivered to this city was an avalanche of funds to the state and to the city. We did not need to tax. That was not necessary. We have the resources now to begin to-- when we come together-- we have the resources to begin to tackle the most difficult issues in this crisis. And so to add tax onto that, to have people feel very alienated from the city. We need all the city. And my plan is to have the greatest, most inclusive economic comeback in the history of this city, which means we're going to come together.

I need all businesses, I need all taxpayers to come together to solve the issues. We know the problem. We have the solutions. We need the leadership in order to do this. But we got to bridge this divide. It's too big now.

BILL RITTER: It seems to me, if I recall rightly-- for his 12 years in office, and certainly for the first eight-- Mayor Bloomberg, who had his share of very wealthy liberal friends leaned on them and got them to support things in the city. Mr. De Blasio has not done that. Seems to be sort of repelled by people with any money, and did not approach them to help out. And I think a lot of people who are very liberal and very rich or very well-off felt like they were sort of left out of contributing. How would you deal with that issue? Because it's a sensitive issue and it's a sensitive issue among many of your fellow candidates.

RAY MCGUIRE: You know, we've become too divisive. The narrative is a divisive narrative. We need all New Yorkers. We need the people who have the resources to come along with the people who have the ideas and who may not have the resources, but we need the best of New York. This divisive language has done just that. It's not a tale of two cities, it's a tale of a fractured city. And unless we have the right leadership that invites public-private partnerships-- and yes, gives those who have the resources to come and invest in areas where we don't have the resources-- each of us is going to pay a pretty huge price. We're paying a huge price.

So we don't need that divisive language, the skirmishes that get into something that is much more divisive than what's necessary. We have to stamp it out. We can't tolerate that. We're too far into the crisis, it's too close. This is a dangerous period in time in the history of this city. We need to come together.

BILL RITTER: Final question, and it's one you could spend an hour answering. I need you to do it in about 45 seconds or maybe 30. One the divisive things that have hit this city in the last 10 years is the death of Eric Garner at the hands of a New York police officer who put a chokehold on him and he died. In your ads-- your main ads-- you have featured Mr. Garner's mother, Gwen Carr. Why that selection and what message do you think it sends?

RAY MCGUIRE: The selection of Mrs. Gwen Carr-- with whom I was able to travel to Minneapolis, along with Governor David Paterson and Reverend Al Sharpton-- that selection is a choice by a mother, a leader in the community who says she surveyed all the candidates, and the one whom she thinks is best positioned with the best values with the best track record to lead this city forward, where she's experienced so much pain, is Ray McGuire. So it's about the future. It's about shared prosperity. It's about us coming together, which is what that record-- which is what her endorsement reflects, which is what the commercial is intended to reflect. It's the best of New York coming together.

BILL RITTER: There are most people, I would imagine, do not want to become the mayor of New York or even try. You are trying that and we wish you good luck. And if you're elected, we wish you good luck as well. Thanks for coming on UpClose and making your case.

RAY MCGUIRE: Thank you very much for having me, Bill. Thanks for all that you do.

BILL RITTER: All right. Thank you, Mr. Ray McGuire. By the way, we plan to continue our interviews with the leading candidates for mayor of New York. This is the fourth one so far. We hope you find them informative. We think you're going to find the next segment informative, too. Coming up on UpClose, our political team weighs in on President Biden's push to make gun control one of his big agenda items. We'll be right back.

Welcome back to UpClose. Let's get right to This Week in Politics and our political team. Political director for ABC News Rick Klein and political consultant Hank Sheinkopf. Gentlemen, welcome once again to UpClose. 81 days on this Sunday morning that we're airing, that's how long President Biden has been in office. He's made some pretty bold moves with executive actions. He took actions-- Rick, we'll start with you-- on gun control. It was not groundbreaking, by any stretch. A lot of people were disappointed he didn't ban assault weapons, but he really can't do that either. What kind of grade would you give him? It came at an opportune time with all these shootings this week.

RICK KLEIN: Yeah. Unfortunately, it's an issue that won't leave the news and it was forced upon Biden in a way. He had some vows to put before Congress an assault weapons ban, as well as universal background checks on day one. He hasn't done that and he's come under some fire, some criticism, for being a little late to the game on that. But he is doing what he can on executive actions. My question is, what kind of emphasis does he give it from here, because it will fade from the headlines. There will be other things to talk about and other big priority agenda items to talk about.

The real action could be on Capitol Hill. And looking at the political landscape, there's no reason there couldn't be more. The NRA is weakened, quite literally in court--

BILL RITTER: They're bankrupt.

RICK KLEIN: --the last couple of days. Bankruptcy, court, yes. And there is broad bipartisan support in Congress and beyond for some reforms like universal background checks. So the pieces are there, but whether Biden makes it a big priority and whether he can get it over the finish line is the big question now.

BILL RITTER: This has been a conundrum for presidents dating back forever, Hank.

HANK SHEINKOPF: It certainly has, but Biden's mistake here is making it his own issue. It ought to be the issue that he throws to Congress and demands that they take action on, and effectively dares them. Why? Because if he can't deliver on this one-- and he set himself up so he can't deliver because he doesn't have the juice or the power to do it-- by the way, he'll wear it. And the other things he's done will not have the same value.

BILL RITTER: Interesting. Let me talk about taxes very briefly, Rick. Because you saw this week that the budget for New York now makes New Yorkers paying the highest income taxes in the country. Is this-- and you got a liberal governor who may be under fire, but he's certainly campaigning for this budget. What's that going to do for a city, especially that-- it wants people to come back. People with money who left, we want them to come back.

RICK KLEIN: It's hard to see how this doesn't slow things down, and those are among the trade-offs that a lot of municipalities are making right now. And I think with the discussion now on the infrastructure bill, it makes more urgent the discussions around the state and local tax deductions, that cap being raised-- a big priority, I know, for lawmakers in the tri-state region. And it's going to be an issue everywhere because more broadly, if you want to pay for big new things, you're going to have to raise taxes.

The Biden proposals are on infrastructure, do that. The New York state budget does that and it's going to mean people that live in wealthier parts of the country are going to pay more, whether or not you consider them wealthy.

BILL RITTER: Let's talk about one other headline in the news, Hank, and that is Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz in trouble. One of his associates, apparently, going to flip on him and make a deal with federal prosecutors. Can this man survive, with allegations that he ran some sort of sex trafficking ring?

HANK SHEINKOPF: He cannot survive. This looks more like an organized crime ring than a man serving in Congress. There's something insane about the whole thing. Frankly, his connections to Trump won't help him at all and this is just another stain on the Congress. Well speaking of Mr. Trump, Rick, you wrote a column on Friday for ABC that went on digital. It was very interesting. It talked about, basically, this weekend is a Trump weekend in Florida, plotting the future for all of the people who still support him.

RICK KLEIN: It's remarkable. The Republican National Committee and two outside groups that are trying to raise money off of the sidelines around President Trump have decided to descend on Florida, in and around his properties at Mar-a-Lago and Doral, trying to rebuild the party. And there was an open question a few months ago, Bill, about what kind of role, if any, President Trump would have in rebuilding the party. People like Liz Cheney said he shouldn't have a role at all. Clearly, that question has been answered three months after January 6th and the terrible events then. His poll, his gravitational pull, remains extremely strong, and I think you can see it across the political landscape.

BILL RITTER: And he's doing it kind of quietly, Hank. You've got about 15 seconds, if I could ask you that.

HANK SHEINKOPF: There's nothing quiet about Donald Trump. He's plotting and scheming and when he shows up, there will be a massive explosion.

BILL RITTER: Oh. Politically speaking, of course. Not literally speaking. All right.

HANK SHEINKOPF: Politically speaking, of course.

BILL RITTER: OK. Hank Sheinkopf, Rick Klein, gentlemen, thank you for your insights once again into UpClose.

RICK KLEIN: Thanks, Bill.

BILL RITTER: On that note, it's going to do it for this edition of UpClose. Tiempo with Joe Torres is coming up next. If you missed any of today's programs, no worries, I'm going to post it right there on my Facebook page. That will happen tomorrow. Thank you all for watching. I'm Bill Ritter, and from all of us here at channel seven, we wish you health and peace, and let's take care of each other.