"Face the Nation" transcript: October 23, 2011
Below is a rush transcript of "Face the Nation" on October 23, 2011, hosted by CBS News chief Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer. The guests are Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, CBS News political analyst John Dickerson and GOP strategist Kevin Madden.
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For transcripts from previous 2011 broadcasts click here.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Today on FACE THE NATION, the war winds down. The campaign heats up.
PRESIDENT BARRACK OBAMA: As promised, the rest of our troops in Iraq will come home by the end of the year.
BOB SCHIEFFER: According to the polls that's exactly what a majority of Americans wanted to hear, but the leading Republican candidates went ballistic.
HERMAN CAIN: I think it's going to leave a big vacuum in Iraq.
MITT ROMNEY: We were going to have a presence in Iraq going forward. That was part of our objective and this President has failed to deliver.
GOVERNOR RICK PERRY: The last thing that you want to do is put those men and women's lives in peril. And I think that's what the President's done.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Was the President just playing politics or did he even have a choice? We'll hear from two of the Republicans--Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum. We'll get their thoughts and the other campaign news.
And speaking of Iraq, we got a peek at Newsweek's exclusive report on former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's new book. We'll discuss that with our round table of CBS News political analyst John Dickerson, and Mitt Romney's advisor Kevin Madden. Then I'll have a final thought about Robert Pierpont, the long-time CBS correspondent who died yesterday.
It's all ahead on FACE THE NATION.
ANNOUNCER: From CBS News in Washington, FACE THE NATION with Bob Schieffer.
BOB SCHIEFFER: And good morning again. We begin this morning with Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann. She's in Des Moines. Miss Bachmann, you and the other Republican candidates had withering criticism when the President announced he was bringing the troops home from Iraq. But Secretary of State Clinton says this morning Republicans should have made those complaints to former President Bush when he struck that deal during his administration to bring them home at the end of this year. What's your response to that?
REPRESENTATIVE MICHELE BACHMANN (Republican Presidential Candidate/R-Minnesota): Well, President Obama has been in office now for two and a half years, three and a half years. And he's had plenty of time to be able to deal with this situation. And, of course, events change on the ground. This decision seems to me that it-- it was more politically based than military based. If you look at every time we've deposed a dictator, the United States has always left troops behind to be able to enforce the fragile peace. In this case, once we're finished in Iraq, we'll have more troops in Honduras than we'll be leaving behind in Iraq. And, of course, the problem is there will be an Iran waiting in the wings until the United States is gone. And then Iran will exert its dominance and influence in this region. That's not good for anyone. And here the United States has expended forty-four hundred lives over eight hundred billion dollars in toil and blood and treasure. And while we're on the way out, we're being kicked out by the very people that we liberated.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Well that's just the point here. If-- if they don't want us there and the conditions they laid down suggest they don't want us there, how can you really help people who don't want your help?
REPRESENTATIVE MICHELE BACHMANN: Well again the-- the problem is we've-- we've put a lot of deposit into this situation with Iraq. And to think that we are so disrespected and they-- they have so little fear of the United States that there would be nothing that we would gain from this, that's why I've called on President Obama to return to the negotiating table. The-- the Obama administration has said they've gotten everything they wanted. They got exactly nothing. I believe that Iraq should reimburse the United States fully for the amount of money that we have spent to liberate these people. They are not a poor country. They're a wealthy country. And I think that they need to do that because what we will be leaving behind is a nation that is very fragile and will be subject to dominance by Iran and their influence in the region. That's not good.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Do you-- do you think, Congresswoman, that the American people with the budget situation the way it is really want to keep a large contingent of American troops in Iraq indefinitely?
REPRESENTATIVE MICHELE BACHMANN: Oh, of course, not. No one wants to do that. But again this is for a temporary transition. We're going from the point of leaving to leaving zero troops behind. You can't find an example where we've done that historically. When we've secured a peace, it's usually very fragile during the transition period. And there is a-- an American presence that's required to ensure that peace. This is zero. This isn't even-- remember, the military had requested fifteen to eighteen thousand troops. That's what the generals had requested. It seems more political based than it does military based, this decision.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, let me-- let me just--
REPRESENTATIVE MICHELE BACHMANN (overlapping): So it's more like a ge-- it's more like a General Axelrod is making this decision to take the troops down to zero.
BOB SCHIEFFER: But-- but let me ask you this. The conditions that the Iraqis laid down, that our troops would have no immunity there, that if they wanted to, they could arrest any American soldier and just throw him into jail. Would you as President have left American troops in that country under those conditions?
REPRESENTATIVE MICHELE BACHMANN: Well, of course, not. No president could. We could not allow our troops to be subject to that. But again we are there as the nation that liberated these people. And that's the thanks that the United States is getting after forty-four hundred lives were expended and over eight hundred billion dollars? And so on the way out, we're being kicked out of the country? I think this is absolutely outrageous what's happened. And I think President Obama clearly is not respected. The United States is not respected. And the President has been a failure when it comes to foreign policy.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Let me ask you, you say failure but just last week, Moammar Qaddafi was killed. Anwar al-Awlaki, the al Qaeda leader, is dead. Osama bin Laden is dead. Doesn't the President have a few things he can point to as accomplishments in foreign policy here?
REPRESENTATIVE MICHELE BACHMANN: Well, of course. I would-- I would agree that the world is better off because all three of those actors are no longer with us. I absolutely agree with that. But I oppose the President putting us into war in Libya. Remem-- don't forget the President has put us into two additional wars. One is Libya and the-- the-- the recent one was at the request of Uganda. And we're now in Central Africa. One thing that we should have learned in the last twelve years is that once we are involved in a foreign involvement, in a foreign entanglement, it's very difficult to get out. And it's usually at a great price. Secretary Gates is the one who said that America had no vital interest in Libya.
BOB SCHIEFFER: But-- but--
REPRESENTATIVE MICHELE BACHMANN (overlapping): And so, yes, the world is better off without Moammar Qaddafi, but there's also a risk. This is just a snapshot in time. We don't know yet, Bob, who will be the true leader in Libya. It could be the Muslim Brotherhood. It could be more extremist elements. Plus, we also know that the MANPADS have gone missing, the shoulder-fired rockets. This is very dangerous in a very dangerous world. And Libya is a very volatile situation.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, you just said to an answer to an earlier question, we always leave troops behind. Shouldn't that argue that if you're saying that that maybe we should figure out some way to leave some treep-- troops there in Libya? Is that what you're saying?
REPRESENTATIVE MICHELLE BACHMANN: What appears that that will not be the case according to the early reports that we're getting. And again my position was that we should not have gone to Libya in the first place. And I opposed President Obama going into Central Africa and to Uganda as well.
BOB SCHIEFFER: All right. Well, it's good to talk a little foreign policy with you this morning, Congresswoman. We haven't talked about that much in this campaign. So thank you for being with us this morning.
REPRESENTATIVE MICHELLE BACHMANN: Thank you, Bob.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Former Senator Rick Santorum is also in Iowa this morning. Good morning, Senator.
RICK SANTORUM (Republican Presidential Candidate/Former Pennsylvania Senator): Good morning, Bob.
BOB SCHIEFFER: I want to ask you first about the Republicans' reaction to the President's announcement that he was bringing the troops home from Iraq. It was scathing for the most part. Yet, I find it very difficult to believe that any American President, Republican or Democrat, would have left American troops there under the conditions that the Iraqis were demanding. In other words, they had no immunity from prosecution. If the Iraqis decided they had done something wrong they could arrest them and throw them into prison. Would you have left American troops there under those circumstances?
RICK SANTORUM: Well, I get-- you know, the reason it was scathing, Bob, is because of the just exactly that--the fact that we have a President who is not able to set conditions and to actually have the kind of influence over the Iraqi government. Now three years the President has had to-- to work with the Iraqi government to try to mold and shape that relationship. And to be in a position where really the Iranians now have more sway over the Iraqi government than the United States just shows the weakness of our-- our diplomatic effort, the weakness of this President, in being able to shape the battlefield if you will. And I think that's the reason people were so upset that, you know, we've lost-- in many respects we've lost control and lost the war in-- in Iraq, because we have Iran having broadened its sphere of influence. And we see what's-- what's going on.
BOB SCHIEFFER: But the conditions that they laid down, the Iraqis seem to be saying we don't want you there anymore. Why would we keep troops--
RICK SANTORUM (overlapping): That's because-- that's--
BOB SCHIEFFER: --there when they say we don't want you?
RICK SANTORUM: I understand. But that's-- that's because we've lost the battle in Iraq with the Iraqi government. We've lost this sphere of influence that-- that we had. Iran-- we have allowed the Iranians by ignoring them, by supporting them. If you look at-- go-- go back two years ago. This was the turning point. Two years ago when we had the opportunity during the Green Revolution where there was a serious revolution, a real threat to the-- to the government of Iran, and the President of the United States unlike what he's done in all the other, quote, "Arab Spring events," subsequent to the Iranian revolution, he sat on the sidelines and did nothing. In fact, tacitly supported the-- the mullahs and Ahmadinejad, and didn't rally behind the people in the street, didn't do anything to try to help them. And so when the time came it was clear he was not going to support that movement.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Well--
RICK SANTORUM (overlapping): He supported the mullahs. And as a result they now have this huge sphere of influence because they know the United States is simply not going to do anything to stop them--
BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, let me ask you this about--
RICK SANTORUM (overlapping): --from going and spreading their venom.
BOB SCHIEFFER: --talking about not doing anything to stop them. Osama bin Laden is dead. Anwar al-Awlaki is dead. Now Moammar Qaddafi is dead. It seems to me like the President's marking up a couple of pretty good things that he can put on the positive side in foreign policy.
RICK SANTORUM: He-- he can. I-- I certainly give him credit for-- for certainly Awlaki and-- and bin Laden. The-- the idea, though, is not looking-- you're looking at one other element. You're not looking at the central core problem which is Iran. And look at what's going on in Syria, another classic example, Bob. Syria is a satellite puppet state of Iran. And here we have Assad brutalizing his people and what did we do? We recognized Assad for the first time with an ambassador. We have not come down and done anything to try to displace Assad--
BOB SCHIEFFER: Would--
RICK SANTORUM (overlapping): --which has been-- he has been--
BOB SCHIEFFER: Would--
RICK SANTORUM (overlapping): --more brutal than anybody else.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Would you-- would you send American troops into Syria then?
RICK SANTORUM: I'm not suggesting we send American troops. But what we should be doing is we should be working very-- very vehemently and vigilantly with the people in Syria. We should be going after Assad in every other way, covertly or otherwise, to show the Iranians that we are-- we are going to stand up to them. There's all sorts of things we can be doing to show an active role in the region. And we're not. And Iran, as a result grows in influence.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Let me ask you a little bit about Republican politics. You've been out to Iowa, to seventy counties out there. You spent a lot of time out there. And yet, Herman Cain continues to score very high in the polls. Do you think Herman Cain is for real? And do you think he is really a conservative, especially on issues like right to life?
RICK SANTORUM: Well, I-- certainly Herman Cain is for real. I mean, Herman has done a-- done a good job in communicating a message. But that message now is-- is being looked at carefully. And I think Herman's being looked at carefully. And if you look at-- at his record as a conservative, as I-- I said to-- this week, I mean, he supported the Wall Street bailout. You know if you want look at the Tea Party, the Tea Party is one of its origins was opposing the Wall Street bailout. And-- and Herman supported the Wall Street bailout; I mean, someone who wants to impose a national sales tax. I don't think conservative-- I haven't met-- talked to one conservative or seen one conservative come out and say, gee, this is a great idea to impose a national sales tax. Even those who supported his plan originally say, you know, it's probably not a good idea. And then you go-- you look at his comments on-- on the issue of life. The issue of the Second Amendment, he gave an interview recently saying this he's for the Second Amendment, but states should be able to-- to put-- to pass whatever laws to control guns. You can't be for-- be pro-life and then say people have a choice to do whatever they want. And this is the kind of seemingly trying to have, you know, be all things to all people. That-- I think conservatives aft-- after they look at his record and look at what he believes in are going to question whether he really is a conviction conservative on particularly some of these moral-cultural issues and-- and Second Amendment issues.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Final question here. You've also been quite critical of the other front-runner, Mister Romney. If Mitt Romney or Herman Cain got the Republican nomination, could you support them?
RICK SANTORUM: Oh, absolutely. I'd support, you know, anybody in the Republican field. I-- I mean, Ron Paul would give me a little indigestion. I'd have to take some antacids on the issue-- on the-- on-- on-- on foreign policy. But other than that, no. I mean, look, they-- they're far superior in many other ways than this President. I would have no problem supporting them. But there is a better candidate out in field, Bob, and you're talking to him this morning.
BOB SCHIEFFER: All right. Well, we have to leave it there. Thank you so much, Senator. Thank you so much.
RICK SANTORUM: Thank you, Bob.
BOB SCHIEFFER: And we'll be back in one minute to talk about Condoleezza Rice's new book and that Republican race for the presidential nomination.
BOB SCHIEFFER: And we're back now with our round table. Kevin Madden is an informal advisor to the Romney campaign. Our political analyst John Dickerson is just back from Iowa. I should say here we did ask also for a representative from the Perry campaign but they never got back to us. We're going to get to 2012 in a minute. But first, we got a look at some excerpts from former Secretary of State Condi Rice's new book, No Higher Honor, from the upcoming issue of Newsweek. According to Newsweek, as national security advisor, Condoleezza Rice had been concerned from the beginning about the lack of Pentagon planning for a post-war Iraq. That is prior to the invasion in 2003. Her attempts, she writes, "...always led to...a rather dismissive handling of the question." She says, "When I finally arranged a briefing on the issue before the President in early February 2002, he started the meeting in a way that completely destroyed any chance of getting an answer." Quote, she says, he says, "This is something Condi has wanted to talk about." "I could immediately see," she says, "That the generals no longer thought it to be a serious question." After that meeting she says her deputy Stephen Hadley commented that he, "...would have resigned after that comment by the President." And that, "The importance of the issue was revealed in the days after the war," she says, "I wondered if Steve had been right," that she should have then resigned. John, we know it was not all love and kisses behind the scenes in the Bush White House but what about all this?
JOHN DICKERSON (CBS News Political Analyst): Well, that's exactly right. You know, you've talked a lot about foreign policy today on the show but mostly in this campaign it's been about domestic issues where a President doesn't have much power. What this book shows us, though, is that actually the most important things that the President does have a direct control over happens in small room with a small group of national security advisors. And so the ability to have a team that works well together, that doesn't get involved in group-think, that's what a President really-- that's an important attribute for a President. And that's the kind of thing that doesn't get talked about much on the campaign trail.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, we already know about Colin Powell and Vice President Cheney. They aired their grievances right here at this table. Newsweek also reports that Rice was increasingly pessimistic about 2006, about the war in Iraq. And she thought the Pentagon was not coming up with any convincing solutions. She writes, "I was skeptical until the day Bob Gates became the secretary of defense." In other words, she lost all confidence in Don Rumsfeld, the secretary of defense. So that's Condoleezza Rice's new book coming out this week. Kevin Madden, let's get back to the campaign trail. Your old boss, Mitt Romney, you were his press secretary in the last campaign, advising him during this campaign. He continues to be up towards the top of the polls but he does not seem to generate any excitement, every time a new flavor comes along. First, it was Michele Bachmann and then it was Rick Perry. They chewed up and then they go down. He still stays in there about twenty-five percent. Is someone who does not excite the Republican electorate going to be able to-- to win in the general election?
KEVIN MADDEN (Republican Political Consultant): Well, look, you know, we have to look at public opinion. It is not an event. It's a process. And I think that because we have a lot of choices here before the voters, the polls are going to go up and down. We've seen the same polls that are now bringing folks like Herman Cain up there with the same polls that brought Rick Perry up. And we saw what happened to Rick Perry over the period, the last month since he's been in-- in-- been in the race. But what's most important is that Governor Romney has had a certain degree of resiliency. He has gone out there and focused like a laser, very acutely on the issue of the economy. And because of that, he's held his own and he's also held a really good spot in the race. And now, here we are sixty days before the first contest in Iowa. And this is where you really get those persuadable voters and you try and grow your support. So I think if we look at the fact that we're at twenty-five percent, I think when you're looking at excitability, there's nothing that excites Republican voters right now more than the prospect of beating Barack Obama. And that's going to be the message that-- that I think the Romney campaign is going to deliver in the next sixty days.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, John, you've just been out in Iowa. What's the deal out there?
JOHN DICKERSON: Well, I was out there with Governor Romney. He was on the western side of the state, sort of in his natural habitat in a local bank and with the Chamber of Commerce. And he was talking only about business. You know, in-- in the last race, he talked a lot about social issues. Sixty percent of the voters in Iowa and the caucuses are evangelicals or claim themselves to be. This time, it was all about business and arguing I'm a business guy. He uses that phrase almost the way the rest of us take breaths to say that he focuses on the economy. And I talk to a Huckabee voter who said I was with Huckabee in 2008 but I'm looking at Romney now because of this question of electability. But he is a stainless steel candidate. If Herman Cain is all passion and Rick-- Rick Perry is passion, Mitt Romney is-- is-- there's just not a warm connection there. And so it's got to all be about electability because these voters, they applaud but they don't jump out of their seats when they hear him.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, so let me just say this. It-- it's also about money, John--
JOHN DICKERSON: Yeah.
BOB SCHIEFFER: --and Rick Perry has raised a whole bunch of money. Can he sustain?
KEVIN MADDEN: Well, look he's-- the first-- the first quarter that he was in, I think he raised about fifteen million dollars. And he's going to need every single penny of that to fix some of the problems that he's had just in the first thirty days in the race. He has a-- ill-- illegal immigration problem in that he bele-- he gave free tuition to illegal immiants-- immigrants down in Texas. He called the building of a fence down the border idiocy. Those are two positions that are firmly at odds with Republicans in this-- in this primary. So he has to-- he's going to need fifteen million dollars just to repair that. But I think going back to John's point, you know, the issue about Governor Romney and how he connects? The number-one anxiety that the American-- that the-- the American electorate and particularly Republicans have is about the economy and because he has that expertise and because he has gone out there and talked about his business sense and his business acumen and also his role as a suces-- successful governor, I think that's where you have a greater connection now than you had in 2008.
BOB SCHIEFFER: And let me ask you, John, about Herman Cain. I'll ask you what I asked Rick Santorum. Can he be for real here?
JOHN DICKERSON: Well, he's for real in the sense that you talk to voters, they-- they're the one that everybody is talking-- he's the one that everybody is talking about. And the polls have shown it. Now, there was a recent poll that showed him thirty-seven percent in Iowa. He has to do well in Iowa because that gives him the spark. You mentioned money. He doesn't have it the way the other two big candidates have it. But the big test about Herman Cain is in Iowa. It's an organizational state. That's what they've told us all along, all these years. He doesn't have much of an organization in Iowa, and that's the real test for him. He has gone there a couple of times, but not enough.
BOB SCHIEFFER: All right. Well, thanks to both of you. I'll be back in a moment with some final thoughts.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Finally today, we received word late last night of the death of Robert Pierpoint, the CBS News White House correspondent, who covered six Presidents during a career of more than forty years at CBS News. Bob's first big assignment was covering the Korean War. And he appeared on the first episode of Edward R. Murrow's See It Now broadcast. He came to the White House beat during the Eisenhower administration and remained there through Jimmy Carter's years. Along the way, he covered Watergate, the Kennedy assassination, and the Iranian hostage crisis. Bob was a great friend of me. And he taught me many a lesson on how to develop sources. As an avid tennis player, he got many of his stories on the court. And one Saturday, he came directly from the court to film a report on the White House lawn. Viewers saw him only from the waste up, but those who saw him full frame figured out quickly where he got the story. When that picture was published, some of the brass thought it undignified. But Bob said he got a pretty good story that day, and the rest of us just loved it. Bob was one of the best of the best. He died from complications after surgery. He was eighty-six.
Back in a minute.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, that's it for today. We always appreciate it when you watch, so thanks for being with us. And we'll see you next week right here on FACE THE NATION.
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