By Howard Cohen
WASHINGTON (CBS News) - Turmoil in the Middle East and the 40th anniversary of Richard Nixon's resignation dominated the discussion this week on "Face the Nation."
President Obama ordered the US military to carry out airstrikes in Iraq on Thursday after the terrorist group ISIS made significant advances in the north, threatening the city of Erbil where many US and western diplomats are based. The group has also killed 500 and trapped thousands of the Yazidi religious minority in the Sinjar Mountains near the border with Syria. The U.S. continues to drop food and other relief supplies over the area.
"Face The Nation" host Bob Schieffer interviewed Sen. Jack Reed, a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. The Rhode Island Democrat said that the airstrikes have destroyed heavy artillery and disrupted convey communication lines. "I think these targeted strikes are very effective," he said. "The Kurds are very aggressive. With this support, I think they will be able to stabilize the situation in the north."
James Jeffrey, former US ambassador to Iraq, also weighed in on the crisis. He said the US would have had a greater stake in the country and more leverage to change the situation if it had kept combat troops in Iraq. The 2011 withdrawal of US forces by President Obama, according to Jeffrey, has led to a weaker Iraqi army and made US counterterrorism operations more difficult.
And in the other big story of past few weeks - the death toll nears 1,000 in the Ebola virus outbreak which has plagued the West African countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. There are now reported cases in Nigeria as well. Dr. Keiji Fukuda, the assistant director general of health security for the World Health Organization, joined us from Geneva. He expects the number of infections to increase: "What is difficult in this situation is that we are dealing with countries with weak health systems. And we are dealing with areas in which practices like good infection prevention and control practices are not the norm in some of the hospitals and in families and communities," Fukuda explained.
Finally, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the Washington Post reporters who broke the Watergate scandal, joined Schieffer on "Face the Nation" for the 40th anniversary weekend of Richard Nixon's resignation. They looked back at the dramatic events that unfolded leading up to Nixon's famous resignation speech.
Although one might have empathy for Nixon, Bernstein said, "you also have to recognize the criminality from the beginning of the presidency to the end of the presidency." Nixon abused his powers to conceal his involvement in the Watergate burglary at the Democratic National Committee's headquarters. Even two years prior to the scandal, Nixon tapped the telephones of 17 reporters and White House aides as part of a broader strategy that targeted his opponents and the anti-war movement.
According to Woodward, maintaining a constant dialogue between advisers and the president is essential to prevent another Watergate. Advisers should "argue with [the president] and say, wait a minute, let's look at all the options." Otherwise, Woodward believes the president becomes isolated in his own bubble.