Watch CBS News

Full transcript: Face the Nation on January 14, 2018

1/14: Face The Nation
1/14: Face The Nation 47:05

Read more transcripts from Face the Nation here.

JOHN DICKERSON, HOST: Today on FACE THE NATION: President Trump`s vulgar closed-door comments about African countries and Haiti prompt charges of racism and make relations between Republicans and Democrats even worse.

Can Congress work together to head off a government shutdown this week and find a way to protect the children of illegal immigrants?

And a terrifying false alarm.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is not a drill.


DICKERSON: About an imminent missile attack in Hawaii sparks outrage and raises questions about preparedness in case of the real thing.

We will talk to key members of the Senate, including Republicans Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Cory Gardner of California, plus West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin.

And as the one-year anniversary of the Trump administration approaches, we will have a CBS News/YouGov Nation Tracker poll that explains why the president has lost support, plus plenty of political analysis on the news of the week.

It`s all just ahead on FACE THE NATION.

Good morning, and welcome to FACE THE NATION. I`m John Dickerson.

Yesterday was anything but a good morning in the state of Hawaii, where an emergency alert went out to residents and tourists warning a missile was headed their way. Today, there is outrage about the incident, that it happened in the first place and that it took so long to send out a second alert saying it was a false alarm.

CBS News correspondent David Begnaud is in Honolulu.

David, good morning.


Put yourself in the shoes of the people walking around the island yesterday. The alert comes out on the cell phone saying there`s a missile inbound to Hawaii. People were abandoning their vehicles on the freeway. One family put their children in a manhole.

And before officials could get out a second alert saying, no, no, no, this is a false alarm, the first alert spread like wildfire on social media. People panicked.


BEGNAUD (voice-over): The false alarm sent people running in Hawaii, frantically searching for cover.

The warning came around 8:00 Saturday morning. State emergency officials texted it to cell phones: "Ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii." It scrolled across televisions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A missile may impact on land or sea within minutes. This is not a drill."

BEGNAUD: And played on radios.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you are outdoors, seek immediate shelter in a building.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The kids are crying, and nobody really knew what to do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When we got the alarm, we actually were terrified.

BEGNAUD: It took more than 30 minutes for officials to let people know that they had made a mistake and there was no threat. The governor blamed an employee who pushed the wrong button during a shift change.

GOV. DAVID IGE (D), HAWAII: What happened today was totally unacceptable. And many in our community was deeply affected by this. And I`m sorry.


BEGNAUD: You know, John, one reason it was so frightening for people here is because, in Hawaii, they have been practicing monthly air raid drills with sirens preparing for a possible attack from North Korea.

So, when the alert went out yesterday, you had a lot of people who thought, this is the real deal.

DICKERSON: David Begnaud for us in Honolulu -- David, thanks.

Joining us now is Arkansas Republican Senator Tom Cotton, a member of the Armed Services and Intelligence Committee, who attended the immigration meeting with the president.

And we`re going to talk about that meeting in a moment.

But, first, we want to get your thoughts, Senator, on this false alarm in Hawaii. We have heard a lot about the imminent threat from North Korea.

Shouldn`t the system be a little bit better? And, also, the president`s reaction was to talk about fake news. But is there a presidential role to kind of focus the mind on this issue?

SEN. TOM COTTON (R), ARKANSAS: Well, good morning, John.

First off, I want to express my regret to every family and every person in Hawaii who was scared by this alarm and took some fairly drastic steps.

I think it`s appropriate that we give the government of Hawaii a little bit longer to get to the actual facts and release those, figure out what went wrong here. If it really is the case that a single employee could hit the wrong button and send out this kind of alert, obviously, that system needs to be redesigned.

But the broader context is that we have had to deal with North Korea going back 25 years. That put them on the path to nuclear weapons. That was a bad decision, just like the deal with Iran is putting them on a path to nuclear weapons. We ought not let nuclear weapons be proliferated, because -- and then once they do get proliferated, like they are in North Korea, we have to have a robust missile defense system.

And that`s why it`s so important that we pass a government funding bill that funds missile defense systems both at the takeoff phase on the Korean Peninsula, but also when they`re at the peak in the atmosphere, as we have on West Coast, because the simple fact of the matter is, once the missile gets close to its target, there`s a limited number of options that we have. That`s why missile defense is critical.

DICKERSON: Quickly on this, is this a state thing? Should it be a federal issue in terms of these warning -- warning systems?

COTTON: Well, the military obviously has, through Northern Command, a very thorough early warning system.

And the military never detected any kind of launch. Obviously, the states might want to reconsider the way their emergency management system works, and link that more closely to the United States military.

I think it is appropriate for state emergency management systems, though, to have these kind of alerts, in addition to hurricanes and floods and earthquakes and so forth.

DICKERSON: All right, let`s move on to immigration.

You were in the Oval Office meeting that has gotten a lot of attention where the president reportedly used a vulgar and derogatory term. Also there was Senator Perdue. He talked to ABC "This Week," and I want to get your thoughts about what he said and what he told to George Stephanopoulos.

Let`s watch.


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: Senator Durbin has been very clear. Senator Graham has told others that the reports were basically accurate.

Are you saying the president did not use the word that has been so widely reported?

SEN. DAVID PERDUE (R), GEORGIA: I`m telling you he did not use that word, George, and I`m telling it`s a close misrepresentation. How many times do you want me to say that?


DICKERSON: Senator, your view on this that he said this word?

COTTON: Yes, John, I didn`t hear that word either.

I certainly didn`t hear what Senator Durbin has said repeatedly. Senator Durbin has a history of misrepresenting what happens in White House meetings, though, so perhaps we shouldn`t be surprised by that.

Here is what did I hear. And here is the point.

DICKERSON: Just -- sorry to interrupt.

You didn`t hear the word or it was not said? Because Senator Graham also told Senator Scott, your Republican colleague, that this is what happened. Senator Flake was in a subsequent meeting right afterwards, where he was told by people in the meeting this happened.

So, just to button that up, you`re saying it did not happen, or you haven`t -- or you just don`t recall?

COTTON: I didn`t hear it. And I was sitting no further away from Donald Trump than Dick Durbin was.

DICKERSON: But it...

COTTON: And I know what Dick Durbin has said about Donald -- about the president`s repeated statements is incorrect.

DICKERSON: So, Durbin -- was Durbin lying?

COTTON: Senator Durbin has misrepresented what happened in White House meetings before, and he was corrected by Obama administration officials by it.

But here is the point, John. We have an immigration system today that treats people based on where they`re from or who they`re related to, not who they are. That`s not the system we need.

When Senator Durbin and Senator Graham came to the Oval Office and proposed not to fix that system, but to expand it, to create more quotas, more set-asides for other countries, yes, senator -- or the president reacted with pretty tough language, as he said, because we want to move to a system that treats people for who they are, not where they`re from.

DICKERSON: But isn`t that precisely the problem here, is that the president in the sentiment, leaving aside the word, the sentiment behind it, which Senator Graham thought was strong enough that he rebutted it, according to accounts of the meeting, the sentiment is to treat people based on where they come from, not who they are.

COTTON: No, the...

DICKERSON: The countries they come from, these African countries or Haiti.

So that`s treating people in a big old basket, not as who they actually are. And that was the sentiment -- forgetting the word for a moment, that`s the sentiment the president was expressing.

COTTON: John, it`s the exact opposite. That`s what Senator Durbin and Senator Graham are doing.

What I`m trying to do and Senator Perdue wants to do, what the president said he supports is treat people for who they are. That`s why we want to move to a skill-based system, so if you`re a doctor or a scientist or a computer programmer, it shouldn`t matter whether you come from Nigeria or Norway or any other country on this Earth.

Today, though, we have system that rewards ties of blood, ties of kin, ties of clan. That`s one of the most un-American immigration systems I can imagine. That`s why we`re trying to fix it.

DICKERSON: The president and White House officials have said -- leaving the word aside, they said he used strong language.

Help me understand the strong sentiment about why people who come from African countries and Haiti should not be allowed in and the strong sentiment for why people from Norway should be allowed in. What`s the policy sentiment the president is supporting there, if not to put people in baskets based upon...

COTTON: John the point is that country of origin quotas are arbitrary, and they treat people based on where they`re from, not who they are.

Today, for instance, over 300,000 Indians are waiting to immigrate to this country. They can`t do because we have arbitrary caps on the countries from which people come.

If you change our immigration system to a skills-based system that respects and treats people for who they are as individuals, as opposed to residents of a certain country...


COTTON: ... or relatives of certain people in the United States, it`s a system that is more in keeping with American values.

DICKERSON: So, then, in this notion of American values, which is what is at the heart of this debate, because people what need to know is that their president isn`t judging people on the color of their skin, but based on those skills that you talked about.

So, can you say then that the president, in your conversations, in this specific one, was not grouping people based on the countries they came from, that that was -- sentiment was nowhere in anything he said, not the words, but the sentiment from him, that that was absent from his mind or anything he said?

COTTON: No, John, what Senator Durbin and Senator Graham propose is to expand our country of origin and quota-based system.

The president reacted strongly against that, as he should, and I do as well, because we want to get away from a country of origin system that treats people as Nigerians or Norwegians, and treats them as individuals, as doctors and scientists and computer programmers and so forth.

DICKERSON: I understand your sentiment. And you`re quite clear on that.

But the president`s sentiment, you`re saying, in all these meetings, there was never an instance in which he did what you`re saying...


DICKERSON: ... where he grouped people in that fashion.

COTTON: Well, John -- and -- and -- John, in his -- in his tweets, in his interviews, in his public statements just Tuesday, when we had the large meeting in the Cabinet room, he repeatedly insists that we need to move to a skills-based system.

DICKERSON: But you were in the room where it happened.

So, you`re saying, in that room, you didn`t hear any of this sort of lumping everybody together? Is that what you`re saying?

COTTON: I did not hear derogatory comments about...

DICKERSON: But the sentiment.

COTTON: ... about -- about individuals or persons, no.


So, you -- this sentiment is totally phony as well that is attributed to him?



Senator Cotton, thank you for helping us nail all that down.

COTTON: Thank you, John.

DICKERSON: We turn now to Republican Senator Cory Gardner, who joins us from his family`s tractor dealership in Yuma, Colorado.

Senator, thanks so much for being with us.

You heard Senator Cotton say this was not the sentiment or the word that was used. Nevertheless, "The Wall Street Journal" has a headline that says that this moment may imperil a deal on DACA.

What do you think? Where do you think things stand between Republicans and Democrats who are trying to put a deal together here?

SEN. CORY GARDNER (R), COLORADO: You know, I wasn`t in that meeting with the president. I was in the previous meeting earlier this week, where we talked about -- last week, on Tuesday, where we talked about putting a deal together that reflected the four priorities of the president.

And I think that we can do this. In fact, working together with a group of people, we have put a solution in front of the president, in front of our colleagues, a solution that would end the diversity -- the diversity visa lottery, a solution that would start addressing chain migration amongst the DACA children.

It would put a solution together for DACA. It would address the other issues on security, the border wall system that the president wanted. So, I think we`re -- we put together a very responsible plan. And I hope that we can build on that.

But, look, it`s unbecoming comments. And I hope that we can move beyond that. And I hope that what we see are Republicans and Democrats coming together, not to fight politics, but to actually come up with a solution to address this challenge before us.

DICKERSON: Do you think -- just this word obviously rocketed around this week. It`s also obviously now an international point of conversation.

If Senator Cotton is right and Senator Perdue is right and Senator Durbin made this up, that`s a pretty extraordinary thing. You have now got people in the president`s own party saying it`s a racist comment. If another senator makes up something that causes people to come to that judgment, that`s a pretty serious thing.

GARDNER: Well, look, I`m not going to get into who said what said, but what was reported is unacceptable.

But what we have to do is not let that define this moment. Look, we have a very, very serious challenge in front of us. It`s a challenge the president laid out very clearly this past week. It`s a challenge that I think members of the House and the Senate, Republicans and Democrats, want to address and have to address.

And so we can`t let this moment`s politics defeat the important policy choices ahead of us.

Look, we have put together a very responsible plan. And if people want to better that, if people want to approve that, then let`s do that. Look, so much of what I hear talks about the second part of this conversation that the president talked about can be in phase two of the immigration debate.

What we`re dealing with right now are children who were brought here as children through a very young age, no fault of their own. That`s what we can address. We can address the border wall system that the president talked about. We can address this issue of chain migration, as the president says, and we have done that.

We have broken or stopped, put an end to the diversity visa that the president had asked for. That was a bipartisan solution. And if people want to do better, we can.

Look, I just am so worried that what happens in Washington is this. People let the politics of the moment. They go to their collective corners, their respective corners, and then they stop talking about the policy that we have to address.

This is a chance for us to prove to the American people that we can help meet what the president talked about, do them in a way that is beneficial to border security, that improves border security, do it in a way that addresses these children who were brought here through no fault of their own, and actually have a solution that America can be proud of.

DICKERSON: Do you think Democrats are going to act in good -- well, A, have they acted in good faith in the negotiations you`re talking about primarily?

And then, secondarily, after we have gotten to this Oval Office moment, there are lot of Democrats who are trying to make all Republicans pay for it.

Is that -- do you think the other side of this negotiation is going to avoid the politics you have just described?

GARDNER: Look, I have no doubt that there are probably people on the Republican side of the aisle who may not want a solution on this. There are probably some on Democratic side of the aisle who don`t want a solution on this.

They would rather have those things to fight about, to fight over. But that`s not where a lot of the Democrats that I have been working with are. That`s not where the Republicans that I have been working with are.

Where we are is trying to find a real solution, because we know that most Americans agree our immigration system is broken. They know we can do better than what we are doing right now. And this first four-part deal that we have put together starts to begin -- it begins to address the challenge in front of us.

This isn`t going to solve everything at once. But it does solve a very important piece, and then we can build trust with the American people that we have done our jobs, we have improved security, we have fixed the challenge these dreamers face. And we can do it in way that the president signs with the majority of Republican and Democratic support.

And let the people who want to play politics, let them play politics, but that`s not what this moment is about.

DICKERSON: And the president, in that meeting that you were at, the public meeting, suggested -- he said, I will sign whatever you bring to me. I will take the heat.

He seemed to be kind of on the side of the argument you`re now making. Has that sentiment, as expressed in that meeting, survived the sausage-making process? And -- because it sounds what you`re describing is what he wants, and, therefore, he should sign it quickly.

GARDNER: Well, to the president`s credit, every time I have had a conversation with him in recent months, he`s talked about a need to find a solution on this DACA population of -- this hundreds of thousands of people in America that are a part of DACA right now.

He`s talked about the need to bring a solution for the dreamers. He`s talked about working together to do it. So, I have no reason to doubt him even today, despite the blowup that we had this past week.

I do think he`s sincere. And I do think sincere people, with letting our better angels, prevail will come together with a solution. So, this is a chance for us to say, hey, look, we`re not going to let this moment leave us without a solution.

DICKERSON: We have talked a lot about politics getting control of things.

But you are in charge of helping Republicans get elected in politics. There was a town hall where Senator Grassley, Republican from Iowa, held back in Iowa. And "The Des Moines Register" said it was basically focused entirely on the president, one person asking if the senator felt like he was being held hostage by President Trump.

How is it going to be for Republicans running with President Trump as president in these elections that you`re in charge of?

GARDNER: Well, I think people are fired up, and that`s good.

People are engaged in politics. There`s people engaged in levels -- at levels they have never been engaged before, people on both sides of the aisle that supported President Trump who had never been involved in politics before, people who may be on the left side of the political spectrum who are engaged in activities they have never been engaged before.

That`s good. But what we can`t do is try to shout each other down, to continue to fail to listen to each other, to listen to the legitimate concerns that people have.


GARDNER: Look, there are people who oppose a wall. There are people who support the wall. They don`t do it necessarily because they have evil or hate in their heart.

They do it because they have legitimate concerns.

DICKERSON: All right.

GARDNER: It`s time we listened to each other in this country and do the right thing.

DICKERSON: OK, Senator, we`re going to have to end it there.

We will be talking about 2018 again. Thanks so much for being with us.

GARDNER: Thank you.

DICKERSON: And we will be back in one moment with West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin.

Stay with us.


DICKERSON: And we`re back with Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, who joins us from Charleston, West Virginia.

Welcome, Senator.

Where do you think things are on this...

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: Thanks, John, for having me.

DICKERSON: ... on this negotiation over DACA and the dreamers?

MANCHIN: I`m encouraged.

First of all, we have a bipartisan recommendation, a bipartisan legislation that`s been worked out after they sat down last week with the president. And it seems to do everything that was asked of them.

I would be very, very encouraged that hopefully all of my colleagues are going to look at this in a very positive way. And if the president said what he said as far as, you give me something in a bipartisan way, something you work out, and I will sign it, we hope to get that done and move on.

But this is -- all the hyper that`s going on around it is unbelievable to me.

DICKERSON: Well, when you say it`s unbelievable, what is unbelievable?

MANCHIN: Well, first of all, someone saying that Senator Durbin or Senator Graham is going to make something up that the president of the United States has said, and thinking that they would do that in order to gin up people on one way or another, that`s wrong.

Senator Durbin and Senator Graham -- I don`t believe that any senator would walk in and make something up so atrocious as that and say this is what was said, when it wasn`t said.

So, we have got to move on. I mean, if it was said in whatever content, it was said. It was hurtful. It`s harmful. It shouldn`t have been said. But let`s move on. Don`t let it stop the whole procedure.

DICKERSON: Some Democrats would like to use this to kind of push Republicans, make them answer for it, be -- particularly use it as way to gain more leverage over getting what they want for policy reasons. Obviously, also, they want to use it to politically hurt the president and his party.

MANCHIN: John, listen, that`s wrong, too.

If my fellow colleagues and Democrats in the caucus want to do something with that, that`s wrong. That doesn`t fix anything.

We have a shutdown looming. We have to make sure this government runs and operates in a functional way. It takes all of us working as Americans.

I take an oath to represent everybody in West Virginia. I don`t take an oath just to represent people on the Democrat side who support me or people on the Republican side who might be opposed to me or whatever. I`m representing all of them.

And we have got to move this country forward. We`re the hope of the world. When you look -- and I heard my friend Lindsey Graham saying, America, we`re not just a country of race. We`re a country of ideas, of hopes and dreams all over the world.

Why can`t we espouse and do that and make that dream come true? People have to have that opportunity. We need more border security, John.

In 19 -- I mean, in 2013, 68 senators, John, Democrats and Republicans, voted for a mammoth overhaul to immigration. John, we had $42 billion that was going to be spent for border security. That did include more wall. It included technology, more border agents.

It did everything to secure our border down. And the people coming here, we should know they`re coming for the right reason. But they also should be coming for the dream of America. We can`t shut that down, nor should we.

But we should be much more selective, careful, and use every ounce of technology to prevent people coming for the wrong reason.

DICKERSON: Let me ask you about this.

This negotiation here is going to be like any negotiation this year, which is going to require 60 votes. You`re always on the top of the list of people the president would need to get those 60 votes in the Senate.

How much outreach have you gotten either from Republicans or the White House on anything in this new landscape, where they`re going to need to get nine Democrats to pass anything?

MANCHIN: Well, first of all, John, I`m glad that we`re back in regular order.

Regular order in the Senate is not the same regular order in the House. The House operates on a simple majority; 218 Democrats or 218 Republicans can do whatever they want to without even considering the other side.

We saw what happened when we tried to operate under the budget reconciliation gimmick with health care repeal and then with the tax cuts. There was no outreach to Democrats, trying to work with Democrats, even myself, being very centrist, more of a conservative nature. None at all.

Now they need nine. I`m going to be there when it`s right. I will be an honest broker when I think there is something that we can do better, and I won`t be against something for the sake of politics.

If I`m going to be against something, it`s because I think there`s a better way to improve it. That`s what I`m going to do, John. And I think we can.

We can get more than nine or 10 Democrats. I think we can have an overall majority, hopefully of 60, 65 or 70, Democrats and Republicans working together. We`re not going to get the extremes. That`s never going to happen.

DICKERSON: Let me ask you, speaking of extremes, government funding looks like it`s going to run out here.

Is there going to be a deal on that, are we headed for another one of these moments?

MANCHIN: Well, first of all, John, shame on any of us if we sit here and say, OK, we`re going to let it run out for the sake of politics and shut the government down.

None of us should be sitting there, none of us even should be representing the good states that we represent, such as West Virginia and Colorado and Arkansas, if we allow that to happen. There`s no sense for that to happen.

We can come to an agreement. The president has to stand firm and say, listen, this is a bipartisan deal.

And I truly believe -- and I have said this -- every time I have been in the presence of president of the United States, President Trump, I always felt that he wanted to do things in bipartisan.

I think that, after we leave the meeting, then the hard core comes at him, the hard core of the base, the extremes, come hard at him and changes things a little bit.

I think he`s going to stand firm, we`re going to get something done and move forward, and it`s going to be good for our country.

DICKERSON: Thirty seconds, Senator.

There`s an important issue at stake which some people think is fighting over, which is for funding for the CHIP program to help the children of the working poor.

MANCHIN: Oh, my.

DICKERSON: That`s important to West Virginia, so isn`t that worth having a fight over to get that funding?

MANCHIN: Oh, that is important. Trust me, we`re going to get funding for CHIP.

But allow it to string on 100 days, when it expired 100 days ago, I have got 50,000 West Virginia children. This is wrong, so wrong. Where is your priorities? Where is your values? These are the children.

And if you can`t get the children a healthy start, then who are we as a country?


MANCHIN: So, this needs to be done. They shouldn`t play politics with it.

DICKERSON: All right. Senator, we`re going to have to end it there. We`re out of time.

Thanks so much for being with us.

MANCHIN: Thanks, John.

DICKERSON: And we will be right back.


DICKERSON: Coming up, results from our CBS News/YouGov Nation Tracker poll. We will take look at the state of the nation and what Trump supporters think about him one year into his administration.


DICKERSON: And we will be right back with a lot more FACE THE NATION.

Stay with us.



Ahead of the first anniversary of the Trump administration, we have CBS News UGOV nation tracker poll results. CBS News elections and surveys director Anthony Salvanto joins us to break down the data.

Welcome, Anthony. It`s always great to have you back.

Let`s start just with the headlines of this survey. What`s the headline?

ANTHONY SALVANTO, CBS NEWS ELECTIONS AND SURVEYS DIRECTOR: Well, people think the economy is doing better than it was a year ago. But that`s not how they`re evaluating the president. They`re evaluating him personally and whether or not they like how he`s handling himself personally. You know, in fact, a year ago we asked people how they would look at this president and that was what they said they were going to look at.

Over time there`s a bit of a what might have been to his approval ratings in that we had this middle group of the country, who at the start said that they were either conditionally supporting the president or they weren`t supporting him but they were looking for a reason to come over to his side. Well, that middle group has shrunk over time and it`s moved toward the polls where he`s got a small group of very firm supporters and a now larger group of very firm opponents, whom we`ve called resisters.

Well, as people have moved to those polls and as they`ve moved towards resistance, you talk to them and they say, they admit the economy`s doing better. They think manufacturing jobs are returning. But when they evaluate the president, they use words like they`re embarrassed. They don`t like how he`s handling himself. And that`s what affects their judgment.

DICKERSON: And these are people you`ve looked at over the course of a year. I mean this is -- you`ve been looking at the country for a year. And this is a view you`ve taken over a long period of time. Those who were conditionally potentially open to supporting the president, was the economy what they were looking for from him? What was -- what was causing them to get over those personal hurdles in the first place?

SALVANTO: Yes, the conditional were more focused on policy. The conditionals said, not just cut my taxes, not just bring manufacturing jobs back, they`ve said that those things are happening. But, at the same time, then you talk to them about the political fights that they see going on. They don`t like those as much. They don`t like the tweeting. They never have. They would rather see things focused on policy. His best numbers came when he started cutting deals with Democrats.

Now, look, by definition, you`re going to bring over more people if you do that. But for those conditional supporters, those were the kinds of things that they were looking for. When they got it, things moved up. But, at the same time, those folks who were more on the fence, who were looking for a reason to support, they feel like the president is disrespected people like them. And it underscores just how personal this has been for a lot of folks.

DICKERSON: And so it feels like the personal focus of all these responses has put an asterisk on or changed James Carville`s famous thing that it`s the economy stupid. That if you can get the economy right, everything else falls into place.

Let me ask you about this. What is the country now, going into the next year, what are they -- what are their priorities, what are they concerned about?

SALVANTO: Yes, well, we talked about this. We asked people, if you could give the State of the Union, what would you say? And while they would say the economy is doing better, most folks said that they felt like we were divided.

And back to this point about the personal being involved. The president`s opponents feel like not just he`s disrespected them, but for many they feel like he`s working against their group in particular. A lot of our African-American respondents felt like the president was working against their group. A lot of folks felt like he was working against their economic class. Remember, we saw a lot of people vote for the president because they thought that he would do well by folks who had been left behind by the new economy. Well that`s only at best mixed. There are a lot of folks who feel like he hasn`t addressed the needs of folks who are more working class that sort of moved them away. Again, very personal. Very group based.

DICKERSON: Well -- so if it`s -- people are feeling personal and they feel like the president is threatening their group, there is, though, that group of core supporters who think finally somebody speaking for me about this president. How big is that group, the group the president, you know, once referred to by saying, I could shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue and still have support. How big is that group and is it at the -- at the same size that it was a year ago when you started this project?

SALVANTO: It is a little bit smaller, but not much. It is 18 percent now. Now, these are the core of the core. We`ve labeled them the believers. They think things are going terrifically. They believe that the president is making their culture and their way of life safer. They think that he is, and they say that he is, bringing back jobs. All of those things are going well.

Now, the big difference for them is that they seem to relish the political fights that they see while others, including his other conditional supporters, do not. They prioritize taking on the media, taking on -- they want him to investigate Hillary Clinton. That`s what they see going forward. And that really separates them from the rest of the group. So as it`s gotten a little bit smaller, it`s gotten a little more intense.

DICKERSON: Let`s talk about Democrats for a moment. They see big chances in 2018 to take advantage of this unhappiness with the president. Let`s -- first of all, the unhappiness about the president. Where is his overall approval rating and what do you find about that?

SALVANTO: His overall approval rating has been in the high 30s throughout his presidency. In fact, if you look historically at the history of the CBS News poll, we have not seen a president whose numbers have moved so little in the course of the first year. Most of them move much more. That tells you a story about polarization. It tells you a story about division and how folks don`t, you know, don`t -- don`t change the way they`re thinking very often.

But, at the same time, you know, if you -- look at the Democrats. And as we head into a midterm year, they cannot -- the numbers are clear, they cannot simply be default choice for people who don`t like the president. When we ask folks if they`d consider voting for a Republican who was not liked (ph), who was more independent from the president, another third of folks of independents say that they would.

So the Democrats are still in play there with a group that could consider somebody, you know, more moderate or could consider what they will do. And when you ask folks, what do you think the Democrats will do if they take power, people are split and they say, will they go after the president or will they try to work with the president and they get more potential votes from people who say they will try to work with the president.

DICKERSON: So there`s a danger for Democrats making this all about Donald Trump because there are some voters who want to see them work with the president.

All right, Anthony, thanks so much for being with us.

SALVANTO: Thanks, John.

DICKERSON: And we`ll be right back with our panel.


DICKERSON: And we`re joined now by our panel.

Susan Page is the Washington bureau chief of "USA Today." Jamelle Bouie is the chief political correspondent for "Slate" magazine and a CBS News political analyst. Amy Walter is the national editor at "The Cook Political Report." And Jonah Goldberg is a senior editor at "The National Review."

Welcome to all of you.

Susan, I want to start with you first.

We have this scene in the Oval Office which had everybody using a word we`re not going to use, but vulgar and derogatory term that both Senator Durbin said the president used and Senator Graham has said the president used, but Tom Cotton said doesn`t remember it. Senator Perdue was in the room said it was not used. Where are we?

SUSAN PAGE, "USA TODAY": This is really quite extraordinary. Here we`re talking about the president -- credible reports that the president used a term so inflammatory, so offensive that we can`t say it on air and to a bipartisan group of senators that wasn`t just with his best friend and a casual conversation.

This is shocking. And I think one of the things that is perhaps most alarming to the White House is the degree to which the president`s credibility has eroded such that we are inclined to believe -- I think most of Washington`s inclined to believe Senator Durbin and Senator Graham rather than the president. It took the White House 12 hours to decide to dispute that the language was used.

And this has huge repercussions for the effort to reach a deal in Washington. Democrats are now -- are they going to make a deal with a president who would use a term like that. And real global repercussions too. This is -- we`ve heard provocative language before, but this strikes me as being pretty serious.

AMY WALTER, "COOK POLITICAL REPORT": Yes, I think that`s exactly right, the idea about any deal getting done on almost anything for the next year, whether it`s infrastructure or whether it`s immigration. If the president one day is saying, I want a bill of love publically and talking about bringing in Chuck and Nancy and we`re going to work this all out, and then behind closed doors, with a bipartisan group says this, if you`re a Democrat, even one who wants to work with the president, you say, well, I don`t know what I can trust. How can I possibly -- the trust gap has been completely eroded over the course of the year. Now it`s almost gone. And, you`re right, it puts Democrats also in the position of saying, how can we negotiate with somebody and go back to our base and say, yes, I`m going to work with somebody who says these things about other people who are in this country.

JONAH GOLDBERG, "NATIONAL REVIEW": There`s a slight (ph) problem. Not just the problem for the Democrats. There`s a problem for Republicans where -- and conservative commentators who, in the first 12 hours before the White House decided to deny this and when reportedly Donald Trump was calling friends and bragging about it, people were going out there defending the fecal crater comments on the grounds that, oh, of course it`s absolutely true, thus blurring the lines between the Republican Party and the worst aspects of Trumpism.

And now -- so now you have this problem where they now pull back and say, no, no, no, we`re denying it. So you have this really weird position which is sort of a -- a miniature, classic example of how Trump leaves so many people out to try, where Senator Purdue says, at first, I didn`t hear it. And now he says I -- I heard them not say it. I heard him not say it. It`s very difficult to figure out how you can say I didn`t hear something and then say I affirmatively heard that he didn`t say something. And you see -- you end up leaving a lot of people looking like fools or desperate like Cory Gardner was earlier of trying to sort of -- or as Senator Cotton was, trying to argue the merits of a policy that is so at odds with the rhetoric of a president.

JAMELLE BOUIE, "SLATE" MAGAZINE: Right. I mean Senator Cotton maintained that what President Trump wants is an immigration system that treats people based on who they are, the skills they bring, themselves as individuals. But the president`s remarks were basically this ecological judgement, that if you come from a country that he believes is a poor, unworthy country, then you are a poor, unworthy person who does not deserve to be in this country. And to then contrast that with a white European country is to make remarks that are so, in my mind, incredibly clear about the meaning that it`s somewhat bewildering to me that anyone could even dispute what the meaning was.

GOLDBERG: It`s also worth pointing out that the Nigerians and a lot of the Africans who come here are actually better educated than even the Norwegians who come here, or the native-born Americans here. And that`s sort of the problem with the disconnect with (INAUDIBLE).

PAGE: You know, the politically most surprising, shocking thing I heard Senator Cotton say was to suggest that Senator Durbin made this up for political gains and that he is known to have misrepresented White House conversations in the past. What kind of meeting are we going to see in the Senate this week as they try to get this year -- this weekend deadline to fund the government. Just who is going to feel like, let`s join hands and avoid a shut down?

DICKERSON: That`s right. So Cotton and Purdue have made that claim because Purdue said that to George Stephanopoulos.

Also, Amy, Senator Cotton seemed to also to go one step further in our conversation because he said, leaving the word aside, he said the president did not group people in this fashion no matter what. And -- which is a little bit at odds with what the White House has said, which is he had strong sentiment but not the specific word.

WALTER: That`s right.

DICKERSON: Now Senator Cotton is saying the sentiment wasn`t even there, which is -- seems to me to be taking this further.

WALTER: Well, and, once again, we are not talking about policy, we`re talking about personality. And that`s what makes any kind of compromise or any kind of work done in Congress at all impossible. That the merits of the actual legislation, which, by the way, has been handled in the past. There was a bill passed in the United States Senate with Republican support in 2013 that addressed this chain migration, family migration issue, that addressed border security, that addressed many of the issues that are coming up once again, which do need to be handled in a bipartisan way. They were handled. Obviously they never made it to the House and it never passed. But this idea that Democrats are trying to do this simply to embarrass the White House or to make the president look bad or that we can even have a conversation about this policy. We could, if the president weren`t part of the conversation. And that`s impossible.

BOUIE: I think it -- I think it`s probably going to be hard to overstate how much Democratic voters and liberal activists and Democratic base voters are just going to want to have nothing to do with an immigration deal because with these remarks and with other remarks the president`s reportedly make -- reportedly made, this signals that immigration reform for the president isn`t about finding a more rational system for doing this.

WALTER: Right.

BOUIE: It`s primarily a way of punishing people that the president believes do not deserve to be here. And if that is -- if that is the -- if that is the frame with which the president is acting, then I cannot imagine a (INAUDIBLE) going to be able to go back to African-American leaders or Latino leaders and say we cut a deal with him.

GOLDBERG: That`s the whole -- the largest delimit for conservatives like me and for Republicans. I`m not 100 percent on Tom Cotton`s plan, but I like Tom Cotton`s plan and I have no problem with a skills-based immigration plan. But if you`re arguing for a stills-based immigration plan, which is actually contradictory to the things Trump allegedly said.

But if you`re doing it in the context of defending President Trump`s comments, you`re immediately, for reasonable people, Democrats, independents, even Republicans, basically making the argument that this is the immigration plan that Donald Trump wants because Donald Trump doesn`t like these countries. Even though I don`t think Donald Trump understands that this immigration plan contradicts this sweeping generalization of Africans and Haitians and El Salvadorians because it would actually let in skills-based, you know, immigrants from these countries.

But it all gets muddied up and shows the corrupting power that Trump has over the Republican Party because it ends up being a defense of his personality and his statements rather than any serious argument about policy.

DICKERSON: And, Susan, some didn`t go this far. Paul Ryan said it was unfortunate this language. So that`s not the danger that Jonah is talking about, which is defending, but it`s also -- it`s not -- it`s not -- I mean if the language is true, it`s more than unfortunate.

PAGE: Yes. Yes. Well, once again, we see -- it`s actually been a surprise to me the reluctance of Republican leaders, including Paul Ryan, who has a history on racial issue that is a positive and admirable one, the reluctance that they continue to show about being very critical of Donald Trump when he says things that are -- that are so provocative.

And I think there are Republicans -- the only Republicans who are willing to do this are Republicans who don`t plan to run for office again, like Jeff Flake, for instance, in Arizona. And I think that is a sign that the Republican Party is now the party of Trump. If you`re going to run as a Republican, you better not be too much at odds with President Trump.

WALTER: Well, this idea, too, that the party can separate itself from the president. To Jonah`s point, it makes it very difficult now for any of these Republicans who are going to try to run as a -- I`m just going to be a check on the president, or I can criticize the president but hold my own. It is really hard. Everything that now passes Congress or doesn`t pass Congress gets the name Trump labeled on it. And you now have to defend both the president and the policy.

BOUIE: I say just a sort of related aside here. What`s a little funny about all of this is that there is this hesitancy on part of Republican leaders to just flatly label what President Trump said as racist, that it was a racist thing to say, that it sort of signals racism that comes from his rhetoric. So there`s a hesitancy to say that.

But in the immediate aftermath of the remarks, the White House -- reports from inside the White House said that some White House officials thought this would play well with Trump`s base, that Trump supporters thought this was -- might think this was swell. And, if that`s the case, then there really shouldn`t be as much hesitancy as there seems to be about labeling it racism.

DICKERSON: We`re going to pick it up on that when we come bac, but we need to take a short break right now. We`ll be right back with more from our panel.


DICKERSON: We`re back with our panel.

Jonah, I want to go -- pick up on what Jamelle was saying. The -- the -- let me look at it this way. I`m a Republican and I say, OK, you know, maybe salty language not the best way to put it, but he passed tax cuts. The president got some -- lots and lots of judicial nominees through. He`s cutting regulations all over the place. So, you know, lots of achievements and, you know, this is just part of his roughness. But, boy, he`s put points on the board.

GOLDBERG: I mean he has put points on the board. I mean what has two thumbs and likes tax cuts and conservative judicial appointments? This guy.

But the larger problem is that the rhetoric and the drama of the presidency turns off more people than it attracts. And politics ultimately is about addition, not subtraction. And Donald Trump is a divisive president for the country, but the relevant point, asking in your hypothetical Republican situation, is that he`s a divisive person in the Republican Party. And as we saw, we were saying during the break, this is what Jamelle was pointing out, Alabama was only possible -- the Doug Jones victory was only possible because a lot of suburban Republican voters were just so embarrassed about Roy Moore.

That same dynamic, I think, applies -- we saw it in the poll numbers earlier -- across the Republican Party. A lot of Republican voters who like these specific things are embarrassed, they`re demoralized, they don`t want to have to defend Donald Trump at work or at their kids` school and it creates -- and meanwhile, he energizes Democrats and liberals in profound ways, which I just think is setting the kindling for a huge prairie fire in 2018.

PAGE: Now, Cory Gardner, who, of course, is heading the Senate campaign committee for the Republicans said in your interview, people are fired up. Yes, Democratic people are fired up.


PAGE: And we`ve seen in every election we`ve had this year Democrats outperforming what we would expect them in terms of turnout. And that is probably the best possible news for Democrats heading into the midterm.

DICKERSON: Are -- is the House now, Democrats need 24 seats --


DICKERSON: To pick up 24 seats to have control of the House. Where is that stand in the prognostication business?

WALTER: In the prognostication world, it looks like a better chance than not that the House flips. And a lot of it is due to this intensity. The base is important if the base is bigger. Right now, in your own poll, the hard core base is 18 percent.

DICKERSON: The hard core Trump base.

WALTER: The hard core Trump base is not enough.

And the other question that I`ve been looking at too is, where are independents? We talk a lot about Trump winning the base. But, remember, in -- even in 2016, he lost the national vote, but he won independents. He took 46 percent of independents. He`s only getting a third of those voters now.

What we`ve seen in past wave elections is, one side`s fired up, the other side`s not. That`s important, as Susan pointed out. But independents break overwhelmingly for the other party. And in this case, if the independents give the Republican candidates 30 -- only 30-something percent, you can`t win in that -- you can`t win an election while only carrying that percent of the people (ph).

GOLDBERG: And that`s particularly true with a lot of retirements, right, because the open seats are more likely to go against the president`s party.


WALTER: That`s right.

BOUIE: And it doesn`t just endanger Republican control of the House. It endangers Republican control of the Senate. It`s still unlikely that Democrats win the Senate. They have a very high, uphill battle. But it`s more likely than it was last year. It`s more likely than it was six months ago that Democrats can pull the hat trick and win the Senate, and in which case that completely just cripples any Republican agenda for the next, you know, next election cycle.

DICKERSON: Susan, what do you think of the argument, following on what Jamelle said, if I`m a Republican I could imagine, well, if Democrats take control, they`re going to impeach the president and therefor use that as the thing to scare Republicans to the -- to the ballot box. Do you think that`s an effective strategy or is it the only strategy?

PAGE: Well, I think it is probably true. I think it is probably correct that if Democrats gain the House, there are going to be a lot of Democrats elected with the idea that they`re going to go after the president in a serious way. And that could be trouble for the Democrats down the road. We`ve seen with President Clinton`s impeachment, it does not necessarily serve interest, even if you can show that there was wrongdoing or misconduct.

I think the Republicans I talked to -- I may be curious if you feel this way too -- the Republicans I talked to think the House is gone. They think it is unlikely they can hold the House. And the question Republicans now face is, what are the longer term consequences of the presidency of Donald Trump and whether attitudes towards African-Americans and Hispanics and to millennials are going to guarantee Republicans trouble going four and eight and 12 and 20 years down the road.

WALTER: Well, that was the argument that we had after the 2012 election, right? No Republican can possibly win only by putting together a coalition of older white Americans. And then Donald Trump proves that wrong.

This is the other challenge for Republicans, for this president. He has run for president exactly one time, as he points out, and he won. And nothing that he`s doing now is any different from what he did in 2016 and there`s no reason to do anything different than he did in 2016 because it was successful. It got him through the primaries. It got him through a general election. Why should he possibly change that. Unless or until there are consequences, I don`t think it`s ever going to change.

GOLDBERG: Yes, but that`s the -- but that`s the problem. There are consequences, right? I mean I -- I take you point, he hasn`t changed --

WALTER: Yes, that`s right.

GOLDBERG: He hasn`t pivoted. And you`re waiting for the pivot, it`s like waiting for Gudeau (ph).

But the fact is, is that the behavior he did on the campaign trail, which was interesting and it worked against Hillary Clinton, who was a particularly problematic candidate for the Democrats, is unpresidential in a president. And so his approval ratings, his support, all of that has plummeted. And normally when president`s approval ratings plummet, they change their behavior and they start reaching out. And so I think that is the consequence, his approval rating is so low that it`s dangerous for Republicans, but he seems unwilling to get off this idea that all he needed to do was please the base.


GOLDBERG: Which is just strange to me.

BOUIE: And I think long term there really is a chance that these -- this rising electorate does turn decisively against -- against Donald Trump. The -- years ago I want to say David Frome (ph) said that young voters, people my age, who grew up during the Bush administration, be voting against George W. Bush for the rest of their lives. And I think we`re going to have a generation like that for Donald Trump voting against Donald Trump for the rest of their lives.

DICKERSON: We`re going to have to end it there. It is not the rest of our lives, but is the rest of this show.

Thanks for our panel and we`ll be right back.


JONAH GOLDBERG: He hasn't pivoted, you know, waiting for the pivot is like waiting for Godot. But the fact is is that the behavior he did on the campaign trail which was interesting and-- and it worked against Hillary Clinton, who was particularly a problematic candidate for the Democrats, is unpresidential in a President. And so his approval ratings, his-- his support all of that has plummeted. And, normally, when President's approval ratings plummet they change their behavior and they start reaching out. And so I think that is the consequence, his approval rating is so low that's dangerous for Republicans. But he seems unwilling to get off this idea that all he needs to do is please the base.


JONAH GOLDBER: Which is just strange to me.

JAMELLE BOUIE: And I think long term there really is a chance that these-- this rising electorate does turn decisively against-- against Donald Trump. Years ago I want to say David from-- said that young voters, people my age who grew up during the Bush administration be voting against George W. Bush for the rest of their lives. I think we're going to have a generation like that for Donald Trump voting against Donald Trump for the rest of their lives.

JOHN DICKERSON: We're going to have to end it there. It is not the rest of our lives. But it is the rest of this show. Thanks for our panel and we'll be right back.


JOHN DICKERSON: That's it for us today. Thanks for watching. I'll see you tomorrow on CBS THIS MORNING along with Gayle King and Norah O'Donnell. And I'll see you next Sunday right here on FACE THE NATION.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.