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Face the Nation Transcripts February 23, 2014: McCain, Jindal, O’Malley

 SCHIEFFER: Governor, it's a pleasure to have you here today. Good luck while you're here. And I'll be interested to see what you do say to the president to how that comes out when you all meet with him.

JINDAL: Thank you, Bob. Thank you for having me.

SCHIEFFER: Let's go to the other side of the table, Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley.

Governor, let me just start where he left off. Are you thinking about running for the Democratic nomination for president?

O'MALLEY: I'm looking at that. But the most immediate responsibility I have is to Govern Maryland well. And through difficult times, we've made our public schools the number one in the country and have achieved the best level of job creation of any state in the Mid-Atlantic.

And that's really what it's about. When every state succeeds then America succeeds. And democratic governors believe in doing the right thing, the things that work to strengthen our middle class so that we can grow our economy.

SCHIEFFER: One of the things that does not appear to run or had hard time even getting off the floor and getting started, was the president's health care plan. This -- there's no other way to look at it. This roll out was a disaster.

Where are are you on that and how much do you think that's going to hurt Democrats?

O'MALLEY: Well, as a state we were looking to sign up 260,000 people. Right now we're about 200,000 that have signed up. The kick off of the web sites was certainly rocky. We squibbed the kickoff

SCHIEFFER: But it was more than rocky.

O'MALLEY: Oh, absolutely. But the main goal here -- and Bob, I'm sure with any new program, whether you go back to the start of Social Security or Medicare or Medicaid, there are always problems. But the goal is to cover more people so that we can improve the wellness of our people and not have the constantly escalating costs of health care.

SCHIEFFER: Where do you think it is right now?

O'MALLEY: Where do I think, what, health care reform is?

SCHIEFFER: Yeah, I mean, this whole plan, is this thing going to work or are they going to have to start over?

O'MALLEY: Oh, I think it's going much better. And it will continue to improve.

Look, the main goal here and larger battle is to bring down the costs of health care which is keeping us from being a more productive job generating country. You can't put dollars in to job creation if every year you're cutting checks, small businesses, medium business, large for 17, 15, 18 percent increase in your health care. So that's the goal. And we'll achieve that goal by working together and making this work.

SCHIEFFER: Do you think that Democrats, very many Democrats will ask the president to come and campaign for them now? Because I hear a lot of them don't want him in their states now because this thing is so unpopular.

I'm not saying it's good or bad, I'm not saying we need it or don't need it, I'm just saying it is very unpopular among a lot of people across the country.

O'MALLEY: Well, I think the perceptions of the Affordable Care Act will greatly change once the enrollment period comes to close by the end of March. By the end of March, you will see most states hitting their goals, you'll see our country having extended health care with more people. And all of those that have been scared and frightened that somehow something is going to happen to their health care will realize that those scare tactics were not true, that those were just falsehoods pedaled by the ideological right.

SCHIEFFER: You said something that got a lot of people's attention not so long ago by Chris Christie, you said well, he's great entertainment value if he decides to run for president but you didn't think he had very good record besides that. That was before this bridge business came up.

Do you think he's still a viable candidate for the Republicans?

O'MALLEY: Oh, I don't know. I will leave the Republican choice to the Republicans.

I can tell you this, in our state we believe in doing things in Maryland that work to create jobs and strengthen our middle class, to build up our schools, to empower our teachers not to vilify them or bully them. My differences with Chris Christie are many on policy choices. And in terms much the current, excuse me, Justice Department probe and other investigations I'll leave that to the people of New Jersey and the Justice Department to figure out.

SCHIEFFER: Talk a little bit about what is going on in Washington now. Governor Jindal all said there is a disconnect between Washington and the rest of the country, do you see that?

O'MALLEY: Well, I think the greatest disconnect is really between the ideologues that have taken over the once proud party of Abraham Lincoln and made it impossible for our congress are that the vast majority of us, Democrats and Republicans throughout the country, agree make sense like pay the country's bills, pass comprehensive immigration reform, do the common sense things.

I mean, shutting our country down does not help job growth. Selling America short does not help us build a better future for our kids. And these are the things that the Tea Party Republicans have brought to our congress and made it very difficult for Mr. Boehner and other Republicans even to enact the sort of reasonable compromise that all of us took for granted in years past.

SCHIEFFER: Well, you know, governor, I'm sure you would concede that you have those on the left who would take the party as far as that way as some of the Tea Party folks want to take the Republican Party on the right.

I mean, when the president comes out and says he's not going to touch entitlement reform that's like waving a red flag in front of a bull to the Republicans? I mean a -- I -- have we given up on trying to get anything done and compromising on anything?

O'MALLEY: No, I think there are good things that we can still do. I mean recently, they were able to enact at least a budget deal for the four -- you know, for the next year. They were able to pass a farm bill.

But the fact of the matter is that President Obama has reduced average annual spending increases to their smallest levels of any president since Dwight Eisenhower.

The problem here is not that somehow seniors are getting too many benefits in terms of Social Security. The problem is our country's future is being choked by this ideological commitment to greater tax cuts for the very wealthiest of Americans. And that's hurting our country, it's hurting our ability to make progress and it's hurting middle class wages.

That's why so many Democratic governors are pushing for an increase in the minimum wage.

And yet, you see many Republican ideologues saying, oh, we can't do that, somehow if a person is actually able to lift their family through their hard work out of poverty with a -- a better minimum wage, that that somehow is an affront to their trickle down ideology. And -- and the fact is, prosperity is grown from the middle out and the middle up.

SCHIEFFER: Let me just go back to what we started with and that is the coming presidential campaign in 2016.

If Hillary Clinton is the nominee -- if Hillary Clinton runs, would you also -- would you still run?

O'MALLEY: I think the most important question for any of us who feel that we have something to offer for our country's future is to offer those ideas and to put those ideas out there and, most importantly, to ask the right questions, questions like what will it take to make sure that our middle class is growing again so we can grow our economy?

And that's what I'm going to be doing. And what the other candidates may or may not do is their choice.

SCHIEFFER: All right, Governor, thank you so much for being here.

O'MALLEY: Bob, thank you.

SCHIEFFER: And we'll be back in one minute with some personal thoughts.

SCHIEFFER: The thing about the news is you can never know where it's going. But lately, it's falling into an all too familiar pattern.

How many Sundays have we started this broadcast the way we did today, with some terrible story from overseas, while back home, there's an equally important story competing for attention?

The overseas stories change, but here is the worrisome part. The story here is always just more of the same old same old, yet another variation of how Washington doesn't work.

"The New York Times" columnist, Tom Friedman, remarked the other day that Silicon Valley is the place where ideas come to be launched. Washington is the place they come to die.

But it is worse than that. As we saw last week, Washington has now given up on even trying to make the old ideas work. It is only February, but the way I read it, the president's retreat from entitlement reform, coupled with the Republican retreat on immigration reform, all but makes it official -- Washington is done for the year. Expect nothing else of consequence to happen here.

As a rule, not much gets done anyway in an election year, but Washington is off to its earliest start ever.

Now, wait a minute, can you really get an early start on doing nothing?

Sure you can, in Washington.

Back in a minute.

SCHIEFFER: And stay with us for our political panel. Will have "The Washington Post's" Dan Balz, Jonathan Martin of "The New York Times," Amy Walter of "The Cook Political Report" and our own CBS News political director, John Dickerson, plus a lot more.

SCHIEFFER: And welcome back to FACE THE NATION. We have an all- star lineup of political reporters today: the chief correspondent for "The Washington Post", Dan Balz; we welcome jonathan Martin, who's the national political correspondent for "The Times" and we have Amy Walter, national editor of "The Cook Political Report" and it wouldn't be a political panel without our own John Dickerson. We have to pay him anyway.


SCHIEFFER: We're glad to have you, John.

Jon, welcome, your first appearance here on FACE THE NATION.

You were the one that Bobby Jindal first said to, the Republicans have got to stop being the stupid party.


SCHIEFFER: And it was interesting to hear what he had to say today when I asked him did he think they would stop.

MARTIN: Well, there are current examples of the fact that you still have those comments. Mike Huckabee a couple of weeks ago talking about women's libidos, for example.

And when that kind of thing happens, Democrats are gleeful. Because it's exactly the kind of fodder that they want and especially in a midterm year when turnout typically drops to elevate their own base, the African Americans, Hispanics, young voters, women.

And so that -- those are the kind of comments that you see party leaders like Jindal cringe when they hear because they want this election, Bob, to be entirely about ObamaCare implementation ,the state of the economy, President Obama's overall popularity.

And any time the Democrats have an opportunity to change the topic, it scares the Republicans.

Amy Walter, national editor of "The Cook Political Report": And yet makes it great for somebody like a governor, like Bobby Jindal, to have the focus on how dysfunctional Washington Republicans are. They get to make the case, well, this is why you need to elect a governor in 2016. Forget about all those guys who are trying to run from Washington, we're the people that are solving the problems and we aren't making the same mistakes.

JOHN DICKERSON, CBS NEWS POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And that's one of the reasons you see so little happening in Congress. There are two ways to fix being what Governor Jindal called the stupid party.

One is to say smarter things. The other is to not get into the kinds of debates in which people have -- say stupid things. And so when you see Republican not deciding to take on immigration, in the same way Democrats are not taking on trade, they're not taking on the increase in the cost of living, on Social Security and other measures.

Both sides have decided we're not going to take any risks because we don't want to say anything that's going to get us shooting at each other when we want to all be shooting at the other side. But that leads to what you say, which is, achievements in becoming the most do- nothingest Congress.

SCHIEFFER: But, you know within they say we're not going to do any of these things, you have what happened in the Senate, where Ted Cruz goes in there and forces Republicans, who were going to be able to vote against raising the debt ceiling. He made them vote and they had to vote yes to break the filibuster.

So there is a disconnect, I think, Dan.

DAN BALZ, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, there's a disconnect and there's a division within the Republican Party, just as there are some divisions within the Democratic Party. But the Republicans are trying to sort out what kind of a party they want to be, not just philosophically but stylistically.

And I think that that's the big battle that we're seeing playing out.

And as Amy said, governors have got one version of this, which is don't look at Washington, look at what we're doing in the states. I mean what is going on in the states is really important right now because you have, at this point in history, more states than we've had in many, many years under unified control of either Republicans or Democrats.

And they're going in different directions. And so the country can look at Washington and say, we have no idea what they're doing because they're not doing anything. And you can look at the states and say, this is the Republican model and this is the Democratic model and that's what's going to be on display in these state races this year.

MARTIN: And the polarization that we see in Washington and often lamented (ph) in Washington is very -- and the state capitals, too. In fact, it's even on more vivid display in the state capitals, as Dan said, you've got these liberal states and conservative states which are pursuing some pretty remarkably different policy agendas. And it leads to the fact that we increasingly have two different countries.

SCHIEFFER: What about, we're going to have elections here, the off-year elections.

How is that shaking down, Amy?

WALTER: Well, this is not a great year to be a Democrat. It's usually not a great year to be the party in the White House in a second term, midterm, right?

But when you look at the playing field, the seats that Democrats have to defend in the Senate are very tough. They are in very, very deep red states. The economy is doing better than it was four years ago, but it's not great. The president's numbers are obviously much lower than they were, even going into the 2012 election.

So it's setting up not particularly well for Democrats. What they're hoping --


SCHIEFFER: And you haven't mentioned the health care.

WALTER: Right, I haven't -- you're right. I haven't even mentioned that the issue environment. This is why you're seeing, to Jonathan's point about changing the subject, this is why you're seeing Democrats talking incessantly about things like the minimum wage.

They want to make this debate about economic inequality: they want it to look a lot like 2012, where it was. Democrats were the people looking out for you; we're on your side. Republicans are the ones on the side of big business and big insurance. If they can make that debate --