Face the Nation Transcripts February 9, 2014: King, Durbin, Ayotte

 

DICKERSON: It used to be something, you went overseas after college. It shouldn't be a perk of becoming an ambassador.

(LAUGHTER)

But the money point here is crucial as we get into another presidential season, which seems -- they never seem to stop. But there are people out there who are raising lots of money for candidates in the hope that they're going to get put in one of these jobs. And it goes back to the influence of money and politics.

MAZZETTI: It's not the worst thing in the world that this becomes an issue. I mean, I think it's embarrassing to the administration, but it's important that it shows, sort of, this behind-the-scenes how people get ambassador jobs. And there are great ambassadors out there, but there are also -- you should do your homework. I don't think you have to have gone to the country before becoming the ambassador, but you should do your homework. You should read the paper.

SCHIEFFER: Kind of know where it is.

MAZZETTI: You should know where it is, yes. You should know...

(LAUGHTER)

You should know the type of government it has.

BRENNAN: Well, look at how celebrated Caroline Kennedy is as the new ambassador to Japan right now. She's not a career foreign service officer. But, exactly, as you say, it's that proximity to the president...

SCHIEFFER: She's also made a couple of very controversial statements.

BRENNAN: She has. She has. But she's -- she can pick up the phone and call the president, and for the receiving country, that's important.

SCHIEFFER: Let's talk about Syria, what -- bad stuff going on there.

MAZZETTI: It continues to get worse when you didn't think it could. And it stays out of the news at times, but the war doesn't end. And it's, sort of, I think the last time a lot of Americans checked in was last summer, fall, when President Obama was threatening a military strike after a chemical weapons attack, pulled back after going to Congress, or saying he was going to go to Congress and then they struck this deal for chemical weapons, that Assad was going to give in -- give up his chemical weapons. Well, since we last checked, he hasn't been doing that; he's missed deadlines; and the war continues. And there's this real question in the administration, "Well, what do we do now?" I mean we have, sort of, taken back this threat of force; how do you gain leverage over Assad? The last round of talks that happened in Geneva really didn't go anywhere. And so they are going back, in the administration, to this question of, well, what can we do; what are our options? Because there is still this impulse on Obama's part not to get involved.

GOLDBERG: Right, and the nature of the story has changed in the last couple of weeks, in fact, because the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, a couple weeks ago, on the Hill in open testimony, said that, you know, they have some proof that some of the Al Qaida-affiliated groups in Syria that are fighting the Assad regime have the aspiration of attacking U.S. targets. So this story is moving out of the humanitarian catastrophe column or the "this is bad for our regional allies" column into a kind of pre-9/11 Afghanistan story. It's like the Al Qaeda is operating here and thinking about hurting Americans, well, then you have a whole set of other options that you're going to have to contemplate, because that's a direct national security threat. And we haven't really been talking about that very much.

(CROSSTALK)

GOLDBERG: So it's surprised people.

BRENNAN: The new Homeland Security chief connected those dots, saying that there is a perceived threat to the homeland because of some of these foreign fighters in Syria possibly coming back here, recruits who went -- it's become a magnet for extremists and there could be some reverberations back here.

SCHIEFFER: And some news from Iran.

GOLDBERG: Yes, the Iranian navy is approaching the shores of the -- it's like that old movie "The Russians are Coming," I think. You know, there is different factions in Iran; some are trying to continue their charm offensive in advance of the upcoming nuclear negotiations. Someone in the Iranian government decided it would be a good idea to send a destroyer, an Iranian destroyer to approach the coast of the United States.

SCHIEFFER: What?

GOLDBERG: Yes. And I think this destroyer was -- it's an old refurbished American destroyer; I don't know where it is or if this is actually happening, but they've made this quote-unquote "threat." I think Iran undermines its image if Americans get a glimpse of the Iranian navy because there's couple of old rickety boats that the average fisherman, charter fisherman out of Key West could probably handle.But they are -- they're -- they believe that America shouldn't be in the Gulf and therefore it's sort of a tit-for-tat thing. We're going to send our navy to your shores to show you that we mean business. But it doesn't exactly threaten the --

SCHIEFFER: I hope you're going to keep us informed if you -- when you see --

GOLDBERG: I'm going to go out. I'm getting on a Boston whaler and approach them see what happens.

(LAUGHTER) SCHIEFFER: Well, listen, I want to thank all of you a lot for some very serious things we've talked about this morning, some maybe not quite that serious. But fun to have you here and I hope you'll come back. We'll be back in a minute. I'll have some thoughts about my old friend, Marty Plessner.

SCHIEFFER: Well, we lost a true original last week, Martin Plessner. He was a pioneer at exit polling and other election innovations, and for many years he was the political director at CBS News. He died at the age of 87. Marty knew more politicians, political operatives, insiders, outsiders and hangers-on than any one person I ever knew. Better yet, they knew him. Even after he retired in 1997 he was still the person I would call if I wanted to track down someone connected with a campaign. Marty was not like the others or anyone else I ever knew. He was as bad at driving a car as he was good at politics. To him, rules of the road were simply suggestions. He thought traffic lights were some sort of roadside decorations. When he offered you a ride, you'd get a good political discussion, but it was safer to take the cab. And no wonder. As far as I could tell, he thought little about anything but politics. Someone once said if the Russians launched a nuclear missile attack, Marty would focus on the political fallout. He was not the most orderly of thinkers. He once filed a half- eaten plate of fried chicken on a shelf of political notebooks. It was found months later. But when it came to politics he could remember details that most of us forgot or never knew. He was the encyclopedia of little-known facts and details that set a story apart. When polling became an important part of politics, it was Marty who coined the phrase "too close to call." He was also just a wonderful guy and great late-night company to be in when reporters got together on the campaign trail. He will not be soon forgotten.

SCHIEFFER: Well, that's it for us today. And on this programming note, we say goodbye. The head of the U.S. delegation to Sochi, Janet Napolitano, will be among the guests on "CBS THIS MORNING" tomorrow morning at 7:00 am Eastern time. We'll see you right here next week on FACE THE NATION.



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