"Face the Nation" transcripts, September 9, 2012: Obama, Ryan, Plouffe
(CBS News) Below is a transcript of "Face the Nation" on September 9, 2012, hosted by CBS News' Norah O'Donnell. Guests include: President Barack Obama, Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan and Obama campaign strategist David Plouffe.
O'DONNELL: Today on Face the Nation, with just two months left until Election Day, the sprint to the finish is on.
The conventions are over and all four candidates are back out on a campaign trail. Scott Kelly sat down with the president yesterday in Florida.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Governor Romney said he wouldn't take a deal with $10 of spending cuts for $1 of -- of revenue increases. And the problem is, the math or the arithmetic, as President Clinton said, doesn't add up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: We'll have some of that interview.
And then we'll talk with Republican Vice Presidential hopeful, Paul Ryan and see what he has to say about that and the president's ability to work with Republicans.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RYAN: Well, I have been more than happy to work with him, but he hasn't been acting on it. You know, what we've learned in his presidency, he says one thing and does another.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: We'll also talk to White House Senior Advisor David Plouffe.
Plus, we'll have a preview of Scott Kelly's 60 Minutes interview with one of the Navy Seals who shot Osama Bin Laden. Then we'll get analog from that and more from David Sanger of the New York Times, Vanity Fair's Dee Dee Myers, Washington Post's Michael Gerson and CBS News Political Director, John Dickerson.
It's all ahead because this is Face the Nation.
ANNOUNCER: And now from CBS News in Washington, Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer. Substituting for Bob Schieffer, Co-Host of CBS This Morning, Norah O'Donnell.
O'DONNELL: Good morning and welcome to Face the Nation, Bob is off today.
But we're joined by Scott Pelley, who is back in New York after a trip to St. Petersburg, Florida, to sit down with President Obama.
Scott, what did the president have to say?
SCOTT PELLEY, CBS NEWS ANCHOR: Norah, great to be with you this morning. The president and Mr. Romney have so many campaign stops in Florida and Ohio, it almost looks like they're running for governor. But we caught up with the president in St. Petersburg, as you said, and one of the things we wanted to ask him about -- excuse me -- is how things would change in a second Obama term. We pointed out to the president, of course, that if he is reelected, it's very likely that John Boehner will still be the Speaker of the House and Paul Ryan will still be the Chairman of the Budget Committee.
So I wanted to know from the president how they would try to achieve a grand bargain on the budget with all of the players remaining the same. Here's a little bit of what the president had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PELLEY: If you win, would you be willing to compromise? What are you will to give in order to complete this grand bargain on the budget that have failed?
OBAMA: Well, I -- keep in mind that the trillion dollars that cut, it was a painful exercise. You know, there are some programs that are worthy but we just can't afford right now. And I'm willing to do more on that front, because as I argued at the convention, those of us who believe that government can be a force for good when it comes to creating opportunity for folks who are willing to work hard and play by the rules to get into the middle class.
We have an obligation to make sure government works and there's still waste there. There's still programs that don't work. There are still ways that we can make it leaner and more efficient. So I'm, you know, more than happy to work with the Republicans.
And what I've said is in reducing our deficits, we can make sure that we cut $2.50 for every $1 of increased revenue.
PELLEY: That's the deal they turned down, Mr. President.
OBAMA: And that -- well and, you know, that's part of what this election's about.
Governor Romney said he wouldn't take a deal with $10 of spending cuts for $1 of revenue increases.
And the problem is the math, or the arithmetic, as President Clinton said, doesn't add up. You can't reduce the deficit unless you take a balanced approach that says we've got to make government leaner and more efficient, but we've also got to ask people like me or Governor Romney who have done better than anybody else over the course of the last decade and who's taxes are just about lower than they've been in the last 50 years to do a little bit more.
And if we go back to the tax rates for folks making more than $250,000 a year, back to the rates that we had under Bill Clinton, we can close the deficit, stabilize the economy, keep taxes on middle class families low, provide the certainty that I think all of us will be looking for and I'm also going, by the way, to make some adjustments to Medicare and Medicaid that would strengthen the programs. But the way to do that is to keep health care costs low. It's not to voucherize programs so that suddenly seniors are the ones who are finding their expenses much higher.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Now there will be more of Scott's interview with President Obama all this week on the CBS Evening News and Scoot will be back later in the broadcast for a preview of tonight's 60 Minutes.
But for reaction to President Obama, we talked to Congressman Paul Ryan from a campaign stop in Fresno, California.
Congressman, thanks for joining us.
RYAN: Good to be with you, Norah.
O'DONNELL: You heard the president say it, he said he is more than happy to work with Republicans. Are you more than happy to work with him?
RYAN: Well, I have been more happy to work with him, but he hasn't been acting like that.
You know, what we've learned in this presidency, he says one thing and does another.
He gave us four budget, Norah, each of which had trillion dollar deficits, none of which ever, ever proposed to actually balance the budget.
His allies in the Senate haven't even given us a budget for three years. So we've passed budgets, we've led.
Mitt Romney and I have offered a specific plan to prevent a debt crisis, to save Medicare and Social Security, to create jobs, to get us growing again.
It's a five point plan for a stronger middle class which is aimed to get us out of this weak recovery we have and get us back to growing our economy like we ought to.
We got a troubling jobs report on Friday, Norah, that said for everybody who got a job, nearly four people stopped looking for a job. This isn't working.
O'DONNELL: Let me...
RYAN: President Obama's rhetoric to the side, it's just not working and that's why we're offering the country a better choice.
O'DONNELL: Well, let me ask you about that better choice, that specific plan that you mentioned. You and Mitt Romney are proposing $5 trillion in tax cuts, you're proposing to increase defense spending by $2 trillion. Explain to me how that adds up and you can cut the deficit?
RYAN: Neither of those are accurate, number one.
Number two, we're talking about revenue neutral tax reform, meaning not losing revenue but changing the way we raise revenue by plugging loopholes and tax shelters that are uniquely enjoyed by higher income earners so that more of their income is subject to taxation so that we can lower tax rates for everybody, family, small businesses, get the economic growth creation.
You know, there's some Democrats who agree with us on this kind of approach to tax reform, unfortunately, it's not President Obama. He's been on the outside looking in on this for a long time.
He's proposing to put a new high tax rate on successful small businesses on top of the current tax code and add even more complexity to the tax code...
O'DONNELL: You're saying that tax (inaudible) Obama Care?
O'DONNELL: That's what you mean by the tax on (inaudible).
RYAN: Well, no, I was talking about the tax he mentioned in his -- that clip that you just played for me, that particular tax increase that he's talking about pays for about 8 percent of his proposed deficit spending.
If you had all of his tax increases, like the Obama Care tax you're talking about, in everyone, they don't even pay for a fifth of his proposed deficit spending.
O'DONNELL: The Tax Policy Center has done an analysis and they say there is no way to pay for the cuts that you've proposed without either increasing the deficit or raising taxes on the middle class because you would have to get rid of deductions and loopholes that benefit the middle class in order to pay for those tax cuts that you're proposing and that increase in defense spending.
RYAN: So the good news for us, Norah, is they didn't actually analyze the Romney Plan. There are five other studies that have. What...
O'DONNELL: There isn't a Romney Plan that's been specific about which deductions and loopholes he's -- will close.
RYAN: Right, so let -- let me -- let me address that.
So one study from Princeton just said that we can accomplish exactly what we're saying to accomplish which is broaden the base, lower rates.
What -- what I mean when I say that is, it's not what loopholes are out there, but who gets them. And we're saying by not having higher income earners utilize these tax shelters, we can lower tax rates on everybody because they pay more of their income to taxation.
Here's the other issue, Norah. We don't want to do this in a backroom deal kind of a way like Obama Care was done.
We want to have a debate out in front, work with Congress, work with the public to find out what are the priorities we want to have in the tax system. And what the numbers do who and what studies back us up is that we can lower tax rates by plugging loopholes and still maintain special preferences from middle class taxpayers, not for higher incomes taxpayers, though.
That's what we want to do, but we don't want to say our way or the highway. What we learned from our experience, my working with Democrats and Congress, Mitt Romney as governor of a Democratic state is that you don't say, here's my plan, take it or leave it, you say here are the outlines of my plan for job creation and economy growth.
O'DONNELL: Let's talk about some of the cuts that have been agreed to. Mitt Romney said in an interview on NBC that Republicans were wrong to agree to a deal last summer that included automatic cuts to defense spending in exchange for this agreement to raise the debt ceiling. He said it was big mistake by Republicans.
He's talking about you because you voted for those cuts, correct?
RYAN: I did, you know why I voted for it? Because I was working to find common ground with Democrats to get a down payment on deficit reduction.
I worked with President Obama to find common ground to get a down payment on deficit reduction. It wasn't a big down payment but it was a step in the right direction.
Here's the issue, Bob Woodward just wrote this in his book, the devastating defense cuts that are now coming due were insisted upon by the Obama Administration so that they would not have to face another debt ceiling increase before the election.
O'DONNELL: But Congressman, that's...
RYAN: That's putting -- that's putting -- that's putting politics out of national security.
More to the point, Norah, I authored the bill, brought it to the floor, and passed it to prevent the president's irresponsible, devastating defense cuts from occurring by cutting wasteful Washington spending in other areas of government to replace these defense cuts.
O'DONNELL: Congressman, these defense cuts are part of the Budget Control Act. You voted for the Budget Control Act. In fact I went and looked, you put on the a statement at the time it was passed and you called it a victory, and you called it a positive step forward.
So, you voted for defense cuts. And now you're criticizing the president for those same defense cuts that you voted for and called a victory.
RYAN: No, no, I have to correct you on this, Norah. I voted for a mechanism that says a sequester will occur if we don't cut $1.2 trillion spending in government. We offered $1.2 trillion in various -- the super committee offered it. We passed in the House a bill to prevent those devastating defense cuts by cutting spending elsewhere. The senate's done nothing. President Obama's done nothing.
I wrote another bill, passed it, got signed into law, Democrats supported us, President Obama If he is not going to help us with a plan to prevent those defense cuts by substituting them from elsewhere, what's his plan for the sequester? He's ignoring the law. He was supposed to give these to us yesterday.
So the problem, Norah, is we've led. We wanted to have a bipartisan agreement. We got that. And the president hasn't fulfilled his end of the bipartisan agreement.
The goal was never that these defense cuts actually occur, the goal is that we get to work and cut spending so that we prevent those defense cuts. We've done that. The president hasn't.
O'DONNELL: Congressman, it's my understanding that as part of the Budget Control Act there was not just the sequestration, the defense sequestration, but there is also $1 trillion in immediate spending cuts, which included the defense cuts, almost $400 billion that were proposed by the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, Mr. Dempsey, as well as Secretary Panetta. And you also voted for those.
And now you're saying that you didn't vote for them?
RYAN: We can get into this nomenclature. I voted for the Budget Control Act but the Obama administration proposed $470 billion in defense cuts. We don't agree with that. Our budget rejected that. And then on top of that is another $500 billion in defense cuts.
O'DONNELL: Right, it's a trillion in defense spending. And you voted for it.
RYAN: No, Norah, I voted for the Budget Control Act.
O'DONNELL: That included defense spending.
RYAN: Norah, you're mistaken.
I do not support the Obama budget. I do not support the Obama $478 billion in cuts. So, number one, that's half of the trillion we don't support. Our budget reflected that.
Number two, we passed legislation to reflect what we want as part of the Budget Control Act, which is to cut spending in other areas of government instead of the Pentagon, that bill is sitting in the senate right now.
President Obama has done nothing to support it, to oppose it. He hasn't even shown us how he's going to implement this sequester. And if you go back and read the tape. If you go back and read Bob Woodward's book, the reason the defense cuts are in the sequester as they are, was that the insistence of the Obama administration. O'DONNELL: Let's turn now to foreign policy.
President Obama said in his convention speech you may have heard. He talked about you and Governor Romney as newcomers to foreign policy to subscribe to a blustering and blundering approach. Do you have a response to that?
RYAN: I think this is what people do when they have nothing else to offer. I think these are the kind of name calling you're going to get from the president. I have more foreign policy experience coming into this job than President Obama did coming into his.
Mitt Romney and I share the view that we need peace through strength, that we need to have a strong national defense. I wrote the bill to prevent the sequester from happening because we think those devastating defense cuts will dramatically weaken our national security. We think the president's been wrong on Iran. And we think he's dragged his feet on Iran, and as a result of his poor Iran policy, they're that much closer to a nuclear weapon.
Now, the president has had some success. Osama bin Laden is a perfect example. But by and large, I think what the president is doing here is he can't run on his record. So he's going to be offering us this kind of rhetoric.
O'DONNELL: Can you explain how do you have more foreign policy experience than Senator Obama did? He was on the foreign relations committee. What is your foreign policy experience?
RYAN: I've been in congress for 14 years. He was in the senate for far, far less time that that. I voted-- you know, Norah, I voted to send men and women to war. I've been to Iraq and Afghanistan. I've met with our troops to get their perspectives. I've been to the funerals. I've talked to the widows. I've talked to the wives, the moms and dads. That's something. That matters.
I take this very seriously. I've done doing this for 14 years.
O'DONNELL: Who do you America's number one enemy is?
RYAN: Well, I think a nuclear Iran is our biggest foreign policy threat today.
O'DONNELL The reason I ask you that is Mitt Romney was criticized during the Democratic National Convention for saying Russia is without question our number one geopolitical foe. So do you disagree with Mitt Romney?
RYAN: No, I think what he was saying was among the other powers -- China and Russia -- that Russia stands a great threat.
Look, I think sending our foreign policy decisions to be cleared through the U.N. security council where we're giving Iran and China -- excuse me, Russia and China, veto clout over us, that's not good policy. So what we have done through our foreign policy for the Obama administration is we've increase the clout in the card of Russia and China. I think that was a mistake.
O'DONNELL: Finally, let me ask you about the time that you gave in terms of when you were asked about running a marathon and you said you had run a two hour and 50-something marathon. It turned out of course it was over four hours. You know, when I first heard that, I thought he must have misspoke or perhaps he didn't remember, but a lot of people-- this keeps coming up. I mean, you are a fitness buff. You are a numbers guy. How did you make that mistake?
RYAN: It was an honest mistake. I was 20 years old. I hurt my back when I was about 23 or 24 and I had to quit running. I herniated a disk in my back. So I just lost perspective on what normal times are.
I ran an ordinary race and I thought the answer I gave was an ordinary time. Obviously, it wasn't. It was 22 years ago. You know, I think that's happening here is the president doesn't have a positive story to say, so they're trying to use this kind of rhetoric. My brother's been busting my chops ever since I said that because he is an actual marathon runner and he's been saying, "are you crazy? That's crazy fast."
Look, it was just an honest mistake.
O'DONNELL: All right. But remember, everybody was criticizing Al Gore when he said he invented the Internet whether fairly or unfairly.
RYAN: 22 years ago -- I stopped running a long time ago because I had these back issues and I lost perspective of what ordinary times are.
O'DONNELL: All right, Congressman Ryan who has run, to be clear, an over four hour marathon. Thank you, congressman. Good to see you. We appreciate it.
RYAN: You too, Norah. Have a good one.
O'DONNELL: And we'll be back in a minute.
O'DONNELL: Joining us now from the campaign trail in Orlando, White House senior adviser David Plouffe.
David, good morning.
DAVID PLOUFFE, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISER: Good morning, Norah.
O'DONNELL: You heard the Congressman Paul Ryan. He says it's the president's job to prevent these devastating cuts to defense that are part of sequestration. Your response.
PLOUFFE: Well, it was interesting to hear Congressman Ryan. I mean, you asked him questions. He voted for the sequester. He voted for the Budget Control Act. He was running away from them with the kind of pace I guess he ran in that fictional marathon you asked him about.
Getting our fiscal house in order, dealing with sequester, is very simple: we need compromise. President Clinton spoke about this, I thought, very eloquently at our convention Wednesday that Barack Obama, President Obama is the one person in Washington who is very committed to compromise. And I think if we can have a balanced approach here, where we cut more spending, we can reform entitlements in a safe way, not by voucherizing Medicare, but getting savings out of the system, and ask a little bit more from the wealthy, we can not only deal with the sequester, we can have a long-term fiscal package here that will really help our economy grow.
O'DONNELL: You heard Paul Ryan mention the new Bob Woodward book called, "The Price of Politics" that the defense cuts, the defense sequestration was put in place at the insistence of the Obama administration. Is that incorrect?
PLOUFFE: Well, first of all, you know, Congressman Ryan, you know, Mitt Romney's running mate, voted for this sequester. As you said he put out a statement praising it. So, you know, they're acting as if they had nothing to do with this. They voted for this.
And this sequester, the way it was dealt with was to make sure that both defense spending as well as domestic programs were part of the sequester is common. It's been used through the years in congressional action. So this is something that was done to force action. Now, Congress is trying -- Republicans in Congress are trying to run away from the responsibility they signed up for.
So, again, at the end of the day, you have got to step back, everyone, whether it's the Simpson-Bowles Commission, other independent analysts who have looked at our fiscal situation, say the only way we're going to solve our deficit challenges is to take a balanced approach.
And so the barrier to solving our fiscal challenges, the barrier to the sequester, is Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, and too many Republicans in Congress, not all, but too many refuse to ask anything of the very wealthy.
They want to put all the burden on the middle class, all the burden on seniors, and that's not the right way forward for our country.
O'DONNELL: David, I'm sure a lot of Americans are sitting at home scratching their heads and saying, boy, this is deja vu all over again, didn't we just have this discussion about the debt ceiling? And the president and Republicans decided to hold hands and jump off this cliff together.
Everybody agreed on these defense cuts, the sequestration, in order to -- as an enforcement mechanism so both sides, the president and the Republicans in Congress, would come back to the table. And, yet, neither side has done that. Where is the president's leadership on this so that this country does not get stuck with another downgrade or something like that that could lead to another recession?
PLOUFFE: Well, you know, you have to step back. Obviously the debt ceiling was not a pleasant situation. One thing that did emerge out of it was we cooperated with the Republicans in Congress and Democrats in Congress to cut over $1 trillion in spending. It's a very significant down payment.
The president has a plan to reduce the deficit by a total of $4 trillion, a balanced approach. You know, we have some deadlines coming up, obviously, after the election. You have got a sequester deadline. You have got tax cuts expiring. Those tend to be forcing actions in Washington.
And I do think one of the messages that is going to come through in this election is the American people want us to compromise and they want a balanced approach. I don't think anybody -- this president has been -- you know, we've taken some heat from our own party for our willingness to compromise.
We have been out there willing to meet them halfway. And that is what is going to be required is you've got -- you know, you might remember during the Republican debates, the Republican candidates for president were asked, if you could get one for 10, $10 in spending cuts for $1 in revenue, would you take it?
Mitt Romney refused to raise his hand. That's not going to be the answer here. We have to have balance.
O'DONNELL: We just finished the Democratic National Convention, a number of big speeches there, Bill Clinton won a lot of praise for his speech. How come Bill Clinton, perhaps, was a better communicator than Barack Obama about drawing differences with the Republican Party?
PLOUFFE: Well, I think the president's speech was extremely well-received by American people. We're not as interested so much in what the pundit gallery has to say. And, you know, some pundits have said good things about the president's speech.
We thought the president's speech met the American people exactly where they're living. You know, tell us where we are and how do we move forward with a middle class economic strategy that's really going to grow the economy and enhance middle class security.
So we looked at our convention as a three-day package. I think the first lady, President Clinton, Vice President Biden, President Obama, I think we come out of our convention with some momentum. This is a close race...
O'DONNELL: Did you get a bounce?
PLOUFFE: ... so you're not going to see -- well, you know, you're not going to see huge swings. I think we definitely are going to help ourselves in terms of turnout. I think Obama supporters are very energized. And I think independent voters, what they saw from the president, from President Clinton, and other speakers was a plan to move forward.
OK, we -- everybody understands we're in a tough economy. That seems to be the Republican message. They just keep on talking about a tough economy. The president has got a plan to move us forward and continue to recover.
What they heard from the Republicans was the same old failed recipes.
O'DONNELL: You're one of the smartest political strategists out there, everyone looks at these national polls and says this race is deadlock. But do you see this race deadlocked? What do you see in the key battleground states? Is President Obama ahead?
PLOUFFE: Well, Norah, we've always assumed that presidential elections in our country tend to be very close. We don't think this one is going to be any exception. We think it's going to be very close in eight or so states.
But we think in the battlegrounds states right now, in Ohio, in Virginia, in Colorado, in Florida, where we are today, we have got a small but important lead. And we think that was enhanced coming out of both of our conventions.
O'DONNELL: David Plouffe, good to see you, thank you so much for joining us.
PLOUFFE: Thanks, Norah.
O'DONNELL: We'll be right back.
O'DONNELL: We'll be back in a moment with more FACE THE NATION, including a preview of tonight's "60 Minutes."
O'DONNELL: Some of our stations will be leaving us now, but for most of you, we'll be back with a preview of Scott Pelley's "60 Minutes" interview with Mark Owen, one of the Navy SEALs who shot Osama bin Laden. And our political "Roundtable."
Stay with us.
O'DONNELL: Welcome back to Face the Nation.
For tonight's 60 minutes, Scott Pelley interviewed Mark Owen, the Navy SEAL who has a new book out called No Easy Day about the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound in Pakistan. Owen, is a fictitious name. He's trying to protect his identity as he reveals that he's one of the SEALs who shot bin Laden.
Tonight, we're going to learn that one of the most important people also involved in the raid was a woman, a CIA analyst named Jen, who briefed the Navy SEALs about the raid. And here's more from tonight's interview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK OWEN, FRM. NAVY SEAL: I can't give her enough credit. I mean, she, in my opinion, she kind of teed up this this whole thing and is just wicked smart, kind of feisty. And she was -- we'd always talk back and forth -- "hey, what do you think the odds of this are? What do you think the odds of that are? Hey, what do you think? Think he's there?
She's like "100 percent. 100 percent he's there."
SCOTT PELLEY, 60 MINUTES: And you thought what?
OWEN: Well, we'll see.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Scott Pelley is back with us to talk about the other big interview he's been working on, this one for tonight's 60 Minutes. And, Scott, what a fascinating detail about all the people involved in this raid. I did not know about this CIA analyst, a woman who briefed these Navy SEALs on just about every detail.
PELLEY: Well, that's exactly right, Norah. She had worked on Osama bin Laden's case, according to Mark Owen, for more than five years when they finally found the house in Abbottabad, Pakistan. She worked on all of that intelligence.
Jen, as you mentioned, is the name that they use in the book, but all of the names in the book -- or at least the names of the operatives in the book -- are fictitious. He changed them all to protect their identities.
But Jen got on the plane with the SEALs in Virginia Beach, Virginia and flies to Afghanistan with them. And that conversation that he's talking in which he says she's 100 percent sure that Osama bin Laden is in the house, that occurs on the airplane as they're flying to Afghanistan.
Of course, you may recall, Norah, that the president and Leon Panetta and others have all said that they were only about 70 percent sure that bin Laden was in the house. No one had ever seen him for sure. No one had ever confirmed that he was there, but this analyst, based on everything she knew, told the SEALs, "look, guys, 100 percent, he's there." And Mark Owen tells us in the 60 Minutes interview tonight that every single thing that she told them turned out to be exactly right.
Scott, what about the timing of this book? Some have suggested, since it comes right in the middle of the presidential campaign, that it has a lot to do with politics. What have you learned?
PELLEY: You know, Mark -- nothing gets under Mark Owen's skin more than that question, I think, because Mark Owen always intended for this book to come out on the anniversary of 9/11, which, of course, is this week.
So it happens to be in the teeth of the presidential campaign. Many people look at almost everything through that lens at this point in time. But Mark Owen says on 60 Minutes tonight, shame on anyone who thinks this is about politics. It has nothing to do with politics. It is just an effort to get the history of the raid straight, and it was time for the 9/11 anniversary.
O'DONNELL: Scott, I have to ask you, Mark Owen, of course, is a fictitious name of this Navy SEAL. And some news organizes have organizations have already revealed his real name. Does that put him in danger and what do you think about that?
PELLEY: Well, you know, Norah this has been, personally, very disturbing development for me. We have been meeting with this man for more than two months, and the single thing that concerned him the most was he didn't want his name to get out, for two reasons.
One, he says this story is not about me, it's about the hundreds of Americans who made this happen. He says in our interview that the SEALs really just took care of the last 40 minutes, but other Americans had worked on this for years.
And the other thing is, of course, his personal safety. I mean, if the enemy knew where he was, who he was, his life would be in jeopardy. Any family members that he might have, including his extended family, might be in jeopardy. So when a news organization put his actual name out, apparently leaked from the pentagon, it was a very disturbing thing. I can't think of a reason that that helps the public's knowledge of these events, that the public has the right to know the names of people who are involved in covert counter-terrorism organizations working on behalf of the United States.
We are not using his real name, even though it's out there and other news organizations have carried it. We are sticking to our promise to him to use the fictitious name that he uses in the book.
O'DONNELL: And on that note, too, Scott, CBS News went to great lengths to protect his identity and the way he looks. Tell us about that, because when you see Mark Owen in this interview, that's not what this Navy SEAL really looks, correct?
PELLEY: Not at all. If you saw the real man you would not recognize him. And in fact, when I saw him with his makeup on, I didn't recognize him.
We at 60 Minutes hired really the best Hollywood makeup artists. And they worked with him for many, many days to perfect a disguise that would change his look entirely. And without getting into a great deal of detail, it took about four or five hours every day before our interviews to transform his appearance into what you see on 60 minutes. He does not look anything like the man that you see.
O'DONNELL: All right, Scott Pelley's full interview, an hour long, on 60 minutes tonight. Scott, thank you so much.
PELLEY: Great to be with you, Norah, thank you.
O'DONNELL: With us now, former Clinton press secretary and Vanity Fair contributing editor Dee Myers, and former Bush speech writer Michael Gerson, now a columnist for the Washington Post. David Sanger is the chief Washington correspondent for the New York Times, and author of the book Confront and Conceal. And last of course but not least, our political director John Dickerson.
Welcome to all of you.
David, let me start with you. It's going to be a full hour tonight on 60 Minutes with Mark Owen and Scott Pelley. The Pentagon says that this Navy SEAL is in material breach of his secrecy agreements with the U.S. government. What do you think of that?
DAVID SANGER, NEW YORK TIMES: Well, Norah, all SEALs, like anybody who conducts classified missions or has access to classified information, sign an agreement with the government. I haven't seen what the agreement says, but I'm willing to believe that the fact that he didn't give the book in advance for clearance probably puts him in some kind of breach.
But the big question is, did he reveal anything in this book that is going to materially hurt the United States? And, you know, the story that he tells is a fascinating one. No one can replicate the idea of going up the steps where bin Laden is at the top. But all the really fascinating debates about the bin Laden raid I think happened -- the political debates that might affect the election -- happened before the raid was approved as the president changed the plan.
And the book doesn't really take you into that. And it doesn't seem to take you that much into their operations.
O'DONNELL: Michael, is there an argument to be made that given the blood and treasure that has been spent in Afghanistan in going after bin Laden, that this is an important historical book and that Americans deserve to know a lot of the details of what happened?
MICHAEL GERSON, FRM. BUSH SPEECH WRITER: I don't know. It depends on whether it's changing and undermining the culture of the military that worked so well in these cases.
When Robert E. Lee was asked to write a memoir, he said, "I refuse to trade on the blood of my men." That's the traditional military attitude towards these kind of things.
I think the tell-all culture is not particularly consistent with the military culture, particularly of special forces where these are unbelievably effective guys, but they're effective because they're quiet. So I think there's something at stake here.
DEE DEE MYERS, FRM. CLINTON PRESS SECRETARY: Yeah, and some of the revealing way -- the training and the organizational structure of these units has been very upsetting to people in the military who guard those secrets as if -- they are national security secrets.
So some of the -- it is a breach of the culture internally, as much as some of the legal concerns.
O'DONNELL: John, let's talk about the political ramifications, if there are any.
You heard Scott Pelley say that Mark Owen resists this idea that this was put out to influence the presidential campaign. It was put out to be on the 9/11 anniversary, which happens this week.
What-- what context do you think it has at all?
JOHN DICKERSON, CBS NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the political context you've got two possibilities. One is that it highlights a great foreign policy accomplishment for the Obama administration, and so this is an area where it's not only does the president lead Mitt Romney on the question of who can handle a crisis, but it also goes to leadership. And one of the questions in this election is which of these two men do you think can be a leader. That's the positive side for the president.
The double play side is this looks like he's trading on the blood of men. And that he looks like he's cheapening the accomplishment and that he's endangering and changing this culture, that the president and his seam get associated with being too rah-rah about bin Laden. We hear Joe Biden...
O'DONNELL: Right, but the president didn't write this book. DICKERSON: He didn't write this book, but it comes into the public conversation. It comes into the public conversation. Joe Biden's line, "bin laden is dead, GM is alive." Bin Laden when he was mentioned and even shown on the screen, the cheers went up like crazy which made some Democrats uncomfortable.
But the book brings the thing back into conversation, which has political upsides but it also has downsides in terms of looking like the president is trying to take too much credit for this.
O'DONNELL: Well, what about that? I mean, clearly jobs and the economy is the number one issue, but Afghanistan is significant. We still have and will at the end of this September, about 70,000 troops in Afghanistan. And what about, John, the contrast in the two conventions? Much was made that Mitt Romney did not mention Afghanistan in his acceptance speech.
DICKERSON: It was extraordinary. I mean usually you go to these convention -- the -- the -- the Democratic Convention, Michelle Obama was introduced by a woman who has four kids serving.
There were special tributes to the Veterans and when that tribute aired, signs went up across the venue, thank you to the Veterans. It was like being at a Republican Convention in the past. And Mitt Romney didn't mention it, first pointed out, at least to me anyway, by Bill Kristol, the conservative columnist who said this was a great omission and Mitt Romney seemed so what unapologetic about not mentioning it.
GERSON: It's worth pointing out, however that I -- the president has immunized himself from criticism on foreign policy through continuity with the previous administration actively doing the war on terror with Special Forces and drones.
His Iran policy, tightening sanctions and other things was really rooted in the -- the era.
Some of the criticisms you can make on foreign policy, not doing enough in Syria, or criticisms of not being interventionists enough and the public doesn't really want to hear those criticisms very much.
So I think the president's been very, very effective in, you know in forestalling criticism on this and making it an advantage and Romney has played into that.
O'DONNELL: Well what about that Dee Dee and what about in President Obama's speech -- acceptance speech where used some of his toughest criticism against Romney and Ryan -- Ryan saying it would be to blundering and blustering foreign policy.
Some thought that that was a little bit too tough or perhaps small for the president in a convention speech.
MYERS: Well I think I think it was a very small part of his convention acceptance speech. And so -- but I do think he wanted to make the point that these guys are amateurs and he did hearken back to the -- the one time we've seen Mitt Romney on a global stage made a rather has of it.
You know criticizing our -- our -- our strongest ally in a -- in a way that he didn't have to, it's like going over to somebody's house and, you know, saying God, you really need to change the carpet. You know, that maybe true, but you don't have to say it out loud.
And he's defended -- Romney has -- has defended that trip in it.
So I think it's just an opportunity for the president to draw a stark contrast; he was very effective.
O'DONNELL: David, we just spoke, of course, with Congressman Ryan and I asked him what he thought was our biggest national security threat. He said Iran -- a nuclear Iran. That's different than what Mitt Romney has said. Right?
SANGER: It is, though what Mitt Romney said was the biggest geopolitical threat the U.S. had, and they make -- make something of a difference here was Russia and you saw President Obama sort of mock that during the -- during the convention speech.
I think that there's two things are underway here. The first is that there is a bit of a continuing debate within the Romney camp about what their foreign policy position should be. You've seen Mr. Romney move on Afghanistan first thing, that U.S. should kill all the Taliban and saying he could live with the 2014 withdrawal date.
You've seen on Iran, he's made the argument as you heard the Congressman say today, that the president has been weak on Iran. Well, the president, I think, can argue that the sanctions are significantly stronger that they were during the Bush era.
And then, of course, there's the part he couldn't talk about, Olympic Games, not the one that just ended in London, but instead the covert operation again Iran's nuclear program, started in the Bush Administration as -- as -- as we pointed out here, but accelerated considerably in Obama's time.
The difficulty I think that the Republicans are running into right now, Norah, is that want the president was attempting to do during the convention was move the Democrats to the position of being the national security party for the first time, really since Eisenhower was in office. That has not been -- been the case.
MYERS: And I -- kind of ironically or not traditionally the -- is one of Obama's strong suits in polling, right, if you look across -- it's not the economy, it's foreign policy and that's a switch.
SANGER: They probably pushed the Bin Laden stuff a little bit too much. You know, in the course of going to do that, but I think they have made a convincing argument at a time that the country really feels like it's wrapped up in two different wars that it does not -- that -- that many people don't want to see a big, broad foreign policy that involved sending hundreds of thousands of troops in the countries again. O'DONNELL: All right, I know we've got a lot to talk about in the larger political map, the state of this, who has the advantage after these two conventions.
We'll back with more from our panel in one minute.
O'DONNELL: All right, we're back now with our political panel and John has promised, let's talk about where this race; two months to Election Day, the conventions now history. Who has the advantage?
DICKERSON: I think, talking both Romney and Obama on the -- Obama has a little bit of an advantage. He's getting a little bit of a bump coming out of his -- his convention. Although the wet blanket of the jobs numbers on Friday make everybody pretty tentative about seeing want kind of size of bump he's got.
The president has a better map, as they say, which is say if you look at the battleground states that they're competing in, the president doesn't have to win all nine. He is doing well in states that went for George Bush, so he's tending to play on Republican turf, so the map looks a little bit better for him there.
And, you know, voting's starting in Iowa very soon, in less than three weeks. Though it's one thing to keep in mind as we watch them travel and as we think about Election Day, some of this voting is going to start much earlier than in the beginning of November.
GERSON: I -- I think it is -- it's a fairly stable race if you look at the last few months, but not stable in a way that's very favorable to Romney.
On his best days, he's even with the president. On his worst days, he's three or four points behind.
The ads haven't changed that, the Ryan choice didn't change that, his convention address did not change that.
He has dwindling opportunities to change the fundamental dynamics of this race which puts tremendous pressure on the debate...
GERSON: ... in October.
He not only has to reassure people, he's got to persuade them to change their view in any way. That's a tough thing to do.
DICKERSON: Talking to a top Romney advisor, that first debate they think is the key one of the three because after that, impressions have been made, voting has taken place.
O'DONNELL: Yeah, but Dee Dee, do you want to say that in your campaign? Put all those expectations on one debate? It puts a lot of pressure on your candidate. MYERS: No, and I -- I don't think they would have started out, but that's where they've ended up.
And I think part of what we're seeing in this convention bounce scenario is, the Republicans actually talked pretty openly that they expected a big bounce and the reason was they didn't invest a lot of time in June, July burnishing his bio and introducing people to him. They said aren't paying attention, we're going to introduce him in August at the convention and we'll go from there.
Well, that didn't work. and so it maybe that the Obama strategy which was to go negative on Romney earlier to define him -- to define what somebody out of touch with the middle class who doesn't care about ordinary people may be proving effective.
The -- there's only day of polling after the Friday jobs numbers, but it didn't show any measurable effect of that. And so I think Obama is in a strong position going forward.
O'DONNELL: Well, as David Plouffe just said on our broadcast, they believe they have a small but important lead in a number of these battleground states. And even Romney advisors privately acknowledge that a state like Ohio is leaning in the president's direct and no Republican has won the presidency without Ohio.
Certainly Mitt Romney could win without Ohio but then he would have to win a lot of other states, John, right, that are out of reach.
DICKERSON: You have to basically win the other eight. He'd have to run the table if he lost Ohio.
MYERS: And he's behind in -- in -- in states they know they have to win like New Mexico and Nevada and Virginia, a very, very tight race and the president's slightly ahead.
O'DONNELL: David, you've covered a number of -- of White House and you see where this race is going kind of in the final two months. What is it that Romney could do to break through -- I mean the Obama people keep saying, we're -- been able to keep a lid on Romney's rise and that's why they feel good about it.
SANGER: Like one of the fascinating things is that one thing that doesn't seem to be working for him right now is spending huge amounts of money. I mean this has been the media preservation act of 2012, more money spent on more advertising that's moved polls less than I think anybody could -- could imagine.
MYERS: That Karl Rove would say in the main street media, so...
SANGER: It is -- it so somewhat remarkable. He's got, I think tow big challenges. One is to leap on the events that happen between now and the election, and there are still some predictable out there.
We've seen most of the economic number, we haven't seen them all. But the second thing is, you've got a lot of things happening in the world that he's going to have to leap on to make the case that the president is mismanaging.
Syria is one, Iran is another, if he's relaxed against Iran that could be -- could be a third.
And so it could be that -- that what ends up dominating the discussion of the last few weeks is something that we're not seeing right now.
GERSON: I would only add that Obama has two challenges out there, too, that I think they recognize. One of them is he's pursuing a base strategy, so turnout of your own people really matters. And there is an enthusiasm gap that they measure and are concerned about, among minority groups others that support the president that they have to take seriously.
The second one is whether just the overall economic numbers, which we just saw, act as a wet blanket on this, and kind of create a ceiling below 50 percent for the president that makes it just hard for him to get those incremental gains going forward. That could be a real challenge for him.
MYERS: But there may be an enthusiasm gap, there is also an infrastructure gap that favors the president. They have invested millions of dollars in the previous months, months when Romney couldn't because he was still trying to win a primary, in very sophisticated voter targeting and turnout.
They know not only who the undecided voters are but why they're undecided. They're not that interested or they're on the fence over a couple of issues.
GERSON: They're trying to make up for enthusiasm with organization.
GERSON: And that could partially work, but I think enthusiasm is better.
MYERS: But there isn't genuine enthusiasm about Romney.
DICKERSON: Well, no, but he does have a little bit more room to move with those swing voters. Now there aren't many swing voters...
MYERS: There aren't many.
DICKERSON: But he still has room the chance to define himself and a plan for the future. He hasn't done...
MYERS: But he is not going to win those three to one.
DICKERSON: Well, that's -- he has to win a lot of them and there have to be enough of them. And that's the big challenge. But he still -- he could still make some room. It hasn't totally shut off, whereas with the president, there is a bit of a limit put on him by this constant bad economic news.
SANGER: And the big limit that I think that he has not sort of leapt through -- Romney has not leapt through here, is that the president in his convention speech did not do a very good job of laying out what -- how the second term would differ from the first term.
And this gives an opening to Romney to say, here is a real economic plan. So far, we haven't seen either candidate, you know, do that. In fact I can't remember two less memorable convention speeches than these two.
O'DONNELL: All right, so we're all looking forward to October, and that first time we will see Barack Obama and Mitt Romney next to each other debating these important issues.
We'll be back in a moment with this week's "FACE THE NATION Google Hangout."
O'DONNELL: The national polls show the campaign in a dead heat, but for most of the country, the election is already settled as nearly 40 states are safely in the president's or Governor Romney's column. It's voters in eight to 10 battleground states who will actually determine this race.
Well, this week we brought in some top polling experts to talk about those states for our "FACE THE NATION Google Hangout."
O'DONNELL: Doug, have we seen in any of those key battleground states where Mitt Romney has a lead?
DOUG SCHWARTZ, QUINNIPIAC UNIVERSITY POLL: One, and that's in Colorado. So in five out of the six, Obama has a lead. It's generally a small lead, except for Pennsylvania, which most analysts now are thinking pretty safely blue.
Looking at Florida, our most recent poll two weeks ago, it was a 3-point lead for Obama. Virginia, 4-point lead. And Ohio, 6-point lead.
ANDREW SMITH, UNIVERSITY OF NEW HAMPSHIRE SURVEY CENTER: The reason they're battleground states is because the states are pretty evenly balanced between Republicans and Democrats. And that small percentage of voters, usually the ones who are moderates or independents, people who don't pay much attention to politics, those are the ones that are up for grabs, still.
O'DONNELL: Anthony, can Mitt Romney win if he takes just Colorado and North Carolina away from Barack Obama? ANTHONY SALVANTO, CBS ELECTIONS DIRECTOR: No. I think he has got to probably win Florida, probably win Ohio, at least one of those. You know, he does have a few paths to victory, even without a couple of those big states, but it just becomes much harder for him.
O'DONNELL: And we'll be right back.
O'DONNELL: That's it for us today. Bob will be back next Sunday, and I'll see you tomorrow on "CBS This Morning."
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