"Face the Nation" transcript: December 25, 2011

Below is a rush transcript of "Face the Nation" on December 25, 2011, hosted by CBS News chief Washington correspondent and "Face the Nation" anchor Bob Schieffer. The guests are: CBS News Correspondent Elizabeth Palmer, CBS News Chief White House Correspondent Norah O'Donnell, CBS News Political Director John Dickerson, CBS News Congressional Correspondent Nancy Cordes, CBS News National Security Correspondent David Martin, CBS News Justice and Homeland Security Correspondent Bob Orr and CBS News Senior Business Correspondent Anthony Mason.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Today on FACE THE NATION looking back on an extraordinary year as we covered it and looking ahead to what comes next.

It was a year that began on a sad and shocking note. Our second broadcast of the year began this way.

On an awful day in Tucson, a young Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords lies gravely wounded, shot through the head. Giffords would survive but continues a long rehabilitation.

The end of January was the beginning of an onslaught afar.

Today on FACE THE NATION, Egypt in crisis. Across the Middle East demonstrators took to the streets as one regime after another fell. Mubarak left Egypt. Qaddafi would die in Libya.

REPRESENTATIVE JOHN MCCAIN (R-Arizona): These winds of change that are blowing, I think that I would be a little less cocky in the Kremlin with my KGB cronies today if I were Vladimir Putin.

BOB SCHIEFFER: By the middle of March attention shifted to another unimaginable story. Japan was overwhelmed by a triple disaster--first an earthquake, then a tsunami, and a melt down at one of the country's nuclear reactors

And then the biggest news of all.

Today on FACE THE NATION, Osama bin Laden is dead. What next for the war on terror? Evidence seized when bin Laden was killed suggests he was still running al Qaeda from his hideout in Pakistan.

In a bizarre turn of events back home, a New York congressman named Anthony Weiner had to resign after sending out inappropriate pictures of himself in his underwear to young women. By then politics was heating up and the economy became the story in a way none of us wanted to hear.

Bad just got worse. Now what? It is an embarrassment. And that's just the half of it. U.S. securities are no longer the safest place to invest your money.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Newt Gingrich announced for President and when he tried to explain a four-hundred-thousand-dollar bill at Tiffany's Jewelry, the late night comics had a field day. It looked like his campaign was over. But he recovered and goes into the Iowa caucuses as one of the favorites.

Former members of the Bush administration came out with books. And the former vice president admitted he said a couple of things that might make former Secretary of State Powell's head explode. Powell came on FACE THE NATION to say his head was fine, thanks.

COLIN POWELL (Former Secretary of State): The kind of headline you might see one of the supermarket tabloids write. I think Dick overshot the runway with that kind of comment and if that's how he plans to sell his book.

BOB SCHIEFFER: All the Republican candidates but Romney and Perry came to our table. During a Herman Cain visit, we got into it over his campaign ad that featured his campaign manager taking a drag on a cigarette

Was it meant to be funny?

HERMAN CAIN: It was meant to be informative. The bit on the end, we didn't know whether it was going to be funny to some people or whether they were going to ignore it or whatever the case may be.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, let me just tell you it's not funny to me.

Cain then urged young people not to smoke.

HERMAN CAIN: So I'm not--

BOB SCHIEFFER: It's not a cool thing to do.

HERMAN CAIN: It was not a cool thing to do.

BOB SCHIEFFER: The campaign rolled on with first one, then another candidate climbing to the top of the polls. Congress didn't accomplish much of anything except record low approval ratings. And most of the problems we had at the beginning of the year are still with us. With a year like that, how could anyone predict what next year will bring?

GOVERNOR RICK PERRRY(R-Texas): Oops.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Not to worry. We'll try as we bring together our correspondents to review the past and look to the future because this is FACE THE NATION.

ANNOUNCER: From CBS News in Washington, FACE THE NATION with Bob Schieffer.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, good morning again and welcome to FACE THE NATION and our annual CBS News correspondent roundtable. Joining me here in the studio, chief White House correspondent Norah O'Donnell, political director John Dickerson, congressional correspondent Nancy Cordes, national security correspondent David Martin, and justice and homeland security correspondent Bob Orr. In New York, our senior business correspondent Anthony Mason and in London correspondent Elizabeth Palmer.

Elizabeth, I'm going start with you because one of the most dramatic moments on FACE THE NATION this year was when Egypt suddenly erupted, everything was in turmoil there. And when we switched to you here's what happened.

ELIZABETH PALMER (January 30, 2011): There's reason to-- to believe that the looters are un-uniformed police who have kept their weapons and turned into thugs. And in fact it maybe--

(Plane flying close by overhead)

BOB SCHIEFFER: You were not dive bombed as it turned out, Elizabeth. They were just flying over for show. But how is it these days in-- in Egypt? We know what happened that day. Where are we today in that part of the world?

ELIZABETH PALMER (correspondent): Well, shortly after that incident, Mubarak was forced to step down. And since then Egypt has been lurching very uncertainly toward electing a government. But the problem is the military doesn't really want to let go of power. So we've had round after round of violence and-- and-- and chaos really. And the big winners so far are the Islamists, the political party representing the Muslim-- Muslim religion are--look-- set to form the next government. So it's highly unstable.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Bob Orr, the biggest story of the year in my view was the killing of Osama bin Laden. How is the war on terror these days?

BOB ORR (Justice & Homeland Security Correspondent): Well, that was a game-changer when it comes to core al Qaeda, Bob. The network put together by bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri over a decade ago was pre-eminent in planning attacks against the West. Getting bin Laden was crucial if this country was going-- going to bring down al Qaeda. And I think now we can say, we can start to envision the death throes of the core part of that network. That's all good news. Core al Qaeda is probably not capable of a 9/11-style attack anymore. But the bad news is this ideology has kind of flattened out and moved across a number of continents. So we have hot spots in Yemen, hot spots in Somalia and North Africa. So the threat goes on. It's just a little different.

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