Watch CBSN Live

Face the Nation July 2, 2017 Transcript: Mike Lee, Holly Williams Notebook, Summer Reads Panel

JOHN DICKERSON, CBS HOST: Today on FACE THE NATION on this holiday weekend: anger over health care and a new assault on the media from the president.

Plus, our summer book and film panels focus on new works about president and wars, both past and present.

Members of Congress went home to face the all-too-familiar anger from constituents after Senate Republicans missed their deadline for passing a health care bill, and as Republican leaders struggle to come up with a compromise that will attract right, left and center within the party.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: I'm sitting there with a Rubik's Cube, trying to figure out how to twist the dial to get to 50.


DICKERSON: He's not getting much help from President Trump, who suggested scrapping the effort and whose summer Twitter storm attacking the media went far enough to earn criticism from both parties.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The fake media tried to stop us from going to the White House, but I'm president, and they're not.



DICKERSON: We will talk to a key conservative in the health care negotiations, Utah's Mike Lee.

We will also get an update on the U.S.-backed forces' fight to retake the ISIS stronghold in Raqqa in Syria with our Holly Williams and take a look at a group of Syrian citizen journalists using social media to defeat ISIS.

Plus, we will talk with the authors of two new books set during World War II and look at revealing new books about Presidents Nixon and Obama.

And, as always, we will have plenty of political analysis. It's all coming up on FACE THE NATION.

Good morning, and happy Fourth of July weekend. And welcome to FACE THE NATION.

This past week started with a win for president, as the Supreme Court lifted the block on parts of his travel ban, but setbacks and confusion on health care and an ugly outburst from the president dominated the rest of the week.

As Majority Leader Mitch McConnell struggled to find a health care bill that could pass, Democratic offers to help craft a bipartisan bill were dismissed by the president as insincere.

Thursday morning, the president embarked on a Twitter rampage, attacking two cable talk show hosts' mental states, intellect, and appearance. This time, there was bipartisan agreement that he had gone too far.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: It's inappropriate, beneath the office, and not helpful.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is not normal for a grown man to be so consumed with petty vitriol

QUESTION: Mr. President, do you regret your tweets this morning at all?


DICKERSON: And that it was a distraction from important business, like the South Korea president's trip to Washington.

Late in the week, the president undermined the Senate majority leader's efforts, suggesting Congress split health care reform into two parts. He tweeted, "If Republican senators are unable to pass what they are working on now, they should immediately repeal and then replace at a later date."

All this as members of the House and Senate went home for the holiday.

Our guest last week, Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy...


SEN. BILL CASSIDY (R), LOUISIANA: There are things in this bill which adversely affect my state.


DICKERSON: ... got an earful from his constituents.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, step on their necks by kicking them off their health care at this point, that's cruel, sir.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, what you need do is you need to go back to Washington, so we can see you stand up for the people who are here, saying, we need your help.



DICKERSON: And we begin today with are Utah Republican Senator Mike Lee, who is in Salt Lake City.

He has a new book out, "Written Out of History: The Forgotten Founders Who Fought Big Government."

Welcome, Senator.

I'm going to start with health care.

The majority leader has had trouble getting 50 votes. You're pushing something called the Consumer Freedom Act. How will that get a majority of your Republican colleagues?

SEN. MIKE LEE (R), UTAH: Look, this bill, the one we have been discussing in the Senate, has bailouts for insurance companies. It has hundreds of bills of dollars in tax relief for the affluent.

It even has some provisions for the poor. Who it leaves out are the forgotten man, the forgotten woman, those earning a combined household income of $75,000 or so, who have been left behind. And these are the people who helped propel President Trump to victory last November.

We need to do more to help them and to make sure that they're able to purchase the kind of health care they want, the kind of health care that's affordable for their families.

DICKERSON: So, as I understand it, what you're proposing would allow states to have insurance companies that had none of Obamacare mandates as long as they kept one plan that would still have those parts of Obamacare that people like, the protections for preexisting conditions and the essential health benefits.

The criticism is that, if you leave just one plan, that it ends up getting all the sickest patients, the premiums go through the roof, and while premiums go down for other people who are healthier, that you create essentially the classic death spiral.

LEE: Well, the death spiral is what we see with Obamacare right now.

And the fact is that by guaranteeing them at least one Obamacare- compliant plan, we're guaranteeing them exactly what they have now by giving them more options, options that would inevitably unleash free market forces that would in turn bring down the cost of health care. That's what we want to do.

As to those who would be on the Obamacare-compliant plans still, there are ways of funding those. There are ways of making sure that those don't go into a downward spiral.

DICKERSON: So, how would that work? Because the ways of funding them at the moment are subsidies that are tied to a percentage of your income, so that premiums don't get too high. Is that what you're suggesting?

Because the problem here, of course, is that, if premiums do get very, very high, that people will then be priced out, and you will have the sickest people unable to get insurance.

LEE: That's right.

And there are concerns with that. But we have to remember that, for those who were underneath the 350 percent of federal poverty level line, those people would see their subsidies go up, as their costs went up in the insurance pools.

And so we think those people would be essentially held harmless. And we would see other people, other people who would avail themselves of free market forces, being able to unite with an insurance company wanting to sell them a policy that they want to buy and a policy they could afford.

DICKERSON: Let me get at a place in the politics here where some of your Republican colleagues are very nervous, which is that there would be one Obamacare sort of vestigial plan that would have protections for preexisting conditions, but they worry that only one plan that would do so would really not be protection for preexisting conditions because those premiums would be so high.

And they think that is just politically something that can't be sold to your Republican colleagues. Do you have an answer for that?

LEE: Well, yes.

First of all, this is no different really than what they have right now, where people have access to a plan, a plan that very often they can't afford, a plan whose premiums are too high, a plan with a deductible so high that they can't really use the policy.

We have got to do something to reinject free market forces into this environment. And, look, if we can't get this done, I have made clear that if we can bring free market forces to bear, we can bring down costs for middle-class Americans.

But if, politically, for some reason, we can't get that done, what we ought to do is get back to what I have been suggesting for the last six months, which is to push full repeal and then embark on a iterative, step-by-step process to decide what comes next.


LEE: This is consistent with basically every Republican who has campaigned for federal office over the last seven years has promised to do.

This is consistent with what we did in December of 2015. And this is probably what we ought to be doing now, if we can't save this effort.

DICKERSON: If Republicans can't agree on a replacement option at the moment, why would they be able to agree on one in the future?

LEE: Well, if we adopted a measure, if we passed a measure repealing Obamacare, we put a delayed implementation measure in there, with the understanding that, at that point, after passing the repeal measure, we would undertake this step-by-step process of deciding what comes next, I think it's easier.

Sometimes, when you lump too many things into one piece of legislation, you doom its likelihood of success. And I fear that that might be where we are today. And I think that explains a lot about what President Trump was talking about in his tweet the other day, what Senator Sasse mentioned his series of communications on Friday.

And I think it's very much worth considering. It's consistent with what I have thought would be better, a more-likely-to-succeed legislative strategy, over the last six months.

DICKERSON: Let me move on to your book, "Written Out of History."

It's an argument about what's been lost. Explain to us what has been lost and why that is important now.

LEE: What has been lost are the stories of our early forgotten founders, those who taught us about things like federalism, about separation of powers.

One of the things that we have lost today is the understanding that not all power is supposed to be vested in the federal government. I tell the story of eight forgotten founders, people like Canasatego, an Iroquois Indiana chief, who taught Benjamin Franklin about federalism, about the idea that you can form a confederacy in which the central power has only limited powers and local control is retained.

Benjamin Franklin then taught those principles to the other founders, who worked those principles into the Constitution. We have forgotten about Canasatego, in large part because we have forgotten about federalism.

And yet, as we see from these discussions about health care today, there's never been a time in American history when we have needed federalism more. This is neither Republican nor Democratic. It's neither liberal nor conservative.

This is simply American. It's a constitutional value, one that would work well today and one that would allow more Americans to get more of what they want out of governments and less of what they don't want.

That's why I wrote "Written Out of History," is I want the American people to be able to reconnect with these stories of these forgotten founders.

DICKERSON: Let me ask you another -- as somebody who has been thinking about the founders and their standards and keeping them freshly in mind, the founders talked a lot about the virtue of their president.

Evaluate, based on your view of the standards the founders set for virtue, the current behavior of the president this week.

LEE: Look, the president of the United States is a unique man.

He campaigned on a very aggressive platform that involved draining the swamp. The president takes a unique approach, one that differs from many of his predecessors.

It's not going to do any good for me or anyone else to come in and just comment on things we might not like about his Twitter behavior. The best thing we can do when we want to elevate civil dialogue in our American political discourse is to do whatever we can to make sure that we treat others kindly, with dignity and respect.

And that's what I intend to do.

DICKERSON: All right, Senator Lee, thanks so much for being with us. Happy Fourth of July.

LEE: Thank you.

DICKERSON: And we turn now to our political panel.

Ruth Marcus is a columnist and deputy editorial page editor for "The Washington Post." Ezra Klein is co-founder and editor in chief of Lanhee Chen is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. And Michael Graham is a columnist for "The Boston Herald."

Lanhee, I want to start with you.

There seem to be three Republican approaches to health care. There's McConnell, who is trying to get a bargain or some kind of deal. The president says, just repeal it. And you heard Mike Lee mention that. But then Mike Lee also has this other deal of a vestigial Obamacare plan and then free market, free, open insurance plans.

Any of those a route to success?

LANHEE CHEN, FORMER POLICY DIRECTOR, MITT ROMNEY CAMPAIGN: Well, I have deep concerns about two out of the three of those approaches.

Let me just say, I think Senator Lee' approach, he is trying to get at state flexibility. He's trying to get at the sort of federalist notion. I think McConnell's bill does that.

I think the concerns you raised in the interview are very appropriate. In other words, what is going to happen to the health of those insurance marketplaces and the affordability of health insurance if, effectively, you're punting everyone that's got a preexisting condition into one plan, and then not really subsidizing that plan appropriately?

With respect to the idea of repeal and delay, I think this is an awful game of chicken. What is to say that they're able to get agreement in the future? What is to say, by the way -- they're not going to have budget reconciliation to use again if they do it that way.

So, they're going to do need to figure out, is there a pathway to a replacement plan that includes 60 votes? I just think that is unlikely.

Senator McConnell, on the other hand, has tried to put together a bunch of disparate pieces. It's not a perfect bill, by any means, but I think it accomplishes a lot of what Republicans have been trying to deal -- to do in this process and repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act.

DICKERSON: Ezra, what's your thoughts about where we are right now?

EZRA KLEIN, CO-FOUNDER, VOX: So, I think the question you have to back up is to ask, what problems are we actually trying to solve and who is trying to solve them?

So, there's one problem, which is, how do you get 50 votes in the Senate? How do you get 50 Republican votes in the Senate? But then you get the question of well,, what are those 50 votes trying to do?

You have a caucus of relatively moderate Republican senators who say they're worried about deductibles, that they're worried Medicaid, that they're worried the health of insurance markets.

Then you have a caucus of more conservative Republicans senators who say they're fundamentally about worried about Obamacare's architecture remaining in place.

What Senator Lee is offering is a plan that the cost of it would be destroying individual insurance markets, more or less, as Lanhee says, and as you said in the interview. But the upside would be, Obamacare's architecture would become vestigial. There would no longer be the centrality of federal insurance regulations in state markets.

I think the question -- so, I think the only plausible path here is really McConnell's, because you're going to need to get 50. And I don't think the other versions can do that.

But he has a real issue. They have a bill right now that, as it is written, poor people cannot afford insurance. You're looking at insurance with $6,000 deductibles when you make $10,000. So, they're going to try to put a little bit more money there. But are they really going to get to something that, when CBO looks at it, when just does normal people look at it, they're looking at something they actually like, looking at something that folks like Senator Bill Cassidy can defend when they go home to their districts?


And, then, Michael, so, on the one hand, you have that problem that Ezra outlines, and then the Mike Lee side of it, which is, isn't the primary driver here that Republicans have promised for seven years to repeal this, and that if the McConnell bill passes, it's not repeal?


The thing that they should have done the first day Trump was in office was sign the "I Now Repeal the Obamacare Act," and have it just be blank underneath that, with a date, and then just go on and move on.

That's where -- when Senator Sasse kind of pushed this out, he pointed out that that's something that Paul Ryan was talking about back in March. Just do something.

I agree that the idea that Collins and Rand Paul are going to find some connection, some magic rom-com moment, this is like flinging yourself off the top of the Empire State Building and saying, before I get to the first floor, I will know how to fly.


Ruth, there's one other idea, which is that the Democrats could join together with Republicans and come up with a bipartisan bill. You had Governor Hickenlooper, a Democrat from Colorado, and John Kasich, an Ohio Republican, saying they want a -- they had an idea for bipartisan health care reform.

But what are your thoughts about the prospects of that?

RUTH MARCUS, "THE WASHINGTON POST": The prospects from that are not -- are that it can't happen now, it can't happen yet.

It is totally possible to imagine that happening down the road. But the McConnell effort, which I agree with what everybody else has said, which is the only kind of practical solution to the problem, needs to either succeed first or fail first. And I think that the problem with Senator McConnell's Rubik's Cube analogy is that, with the Rubik's Cube, you know there's a solution. With this, you don't know that there's a solution where you can turn the dials enough to get the 50 votes that you need, because you have a bunch of different efforts going on at once.

There -- we talked about this as an effort originally to get rid of Obamacare, but that's not what it's doing. It's not simply not getting rid of Obamacare. It is also completely overhauling, changing, dismantling Medicaid, which is not what people were sold.

And so once you start doing that, you start -- you start to lose people on the right because you're still reinforcing Obamacare, and you start to lose people in the center, moderates, because you're undoing the Medicaid that a lot of their voters rely on.

You can -- there's few things to watch. You can get rid of the surtax on wealthy people's income. You can add some opioid money. Whether that is going to be enough to secure the votes you need still really an open question at this point.

DICKERSON: All right, we're going to take a pause there. We need to take a break.

But we will be right back in a minute with more from our panel.


DICKERSON: And we're back with our panel.

Ezra, you had a point.

KLEIN: So, I think there's an important thing to remember about the Obamacare repeal and replace promise, which is that it didn't end there.

When Republicans went to their voters and said we're going to repeal and replace Obamacare, they didn't stop the sentence. They said, we're going to take away what you don't like.

I was on this show when Senator Mitch McConnell was on it, and he said Obamacare has left 25 million uninsured, its deductibles are too high, its co-pays are too high, its premiums are too high. People are in bad insurance that they cannot afford to use.

They cannot pass an Obamacare repeal and replace bill that makes every single one of those problems worse, it goes and gives people more of what they don't like about Obamacare. And that's the bigger problem they need to solve, because, right now, their bills do increase deductibles, they do increase co-pays, they do lead to more people being uninsured.

And that's not keeping their promise. Their promise to people is not they will take Obamacare and replace it with something worse. It was that they will make it better.


CHEN: Yes, but let me just say, fundamentally, I think this points to how difficult of an issue health care is, because all of these things have interactive effects, right?

If you talk about deductibles, that is going to be related to co- payments and cost-sharing, and, ultimately, it's going to be related to affordability of health care. But that's what Republicans should try to do is to focus on affordability.

Even in their dialogue and their rhetoric, that needs to be the focus. They get caught up in all of these other things. If they would focus on affordability -- and, in the long run, by the way, CBO does show that this bill is going to have some positive effects on premiums. That's where they need to be headed and focused.

DICKERSON: Speaking of getting caught up in other things, the president, Ruth, was focused less on health care and more on the press.

There was this attack against the hosts of "Morning Joe." What do you make of all of this?

MARCUS: I'm trying to come up with the right adjective, appalling, disappointing, and not surprising, except that this one really did seem to hit a new low, in the sense that we have heard the president engage in these sort of sexist tweets before, where he's attacking women for their looks.

And this one was a great combination of looks and age, which I'm getting a little personal on that.


MARCUS: And -- but we haven't seen him do quite that as president.

Will that change anybody's behavior? I think we heard from Senator Lee that it really won't. It's, "I'm appalled by the president's behavior, and I'm withdrawing everything, except for my support for his agenda."

I'm stealing from my colleague Alex Petri. I...

DICKERSON: Michael, let me get your thoughts about this as a strategic move.

The president obviously thinks this is a very smart idea. Towards what end?


GRAHAM: I talked to a Trump supporter this weekend who said, is Trump -- were his comments idiotic? Yes. But were they justified? Yes.

And my reply is, justified idiocy is still idiocy. This is a dumb move.

But ask yourself, why do so many Americans stick with him when he's doing these awful things? And I -- not to harp on the East Coast liberal media, et cetera, but I was conservative talk show host in Boston. I know what it's like to wake up every day with a target painted on your back.

And there are millions of people, like my evangelical Christian parents in South Carolina, who would never back a man like Donald Trump, who are sticking with Trump. His numbers among evangelicals are huge, because they sense that there's somebody out there who wants to hurt them, who is from the early morning shows to "Saturday Night Live."

They are under attack. And this guy's enemy is their enemy. And that's why they stick with him.

DICKERSON: And, Lanhee, at the White House, the deputy spokesperson said basically people knew this is what they were going to get with Donald Trump.

There was a lot of this in his history. And so that sort of supports Michael's point, which is, this is basically what people knew was a part of the package.

CHEN: Yes.

And I think we have seen this sort of behavior over and over and over again. To expect something else is insanity, I really think.

So, what it comes down to in my mind is the president's ability to advance the conservative agenda. And is that going to be affected? Certainly, health care is the first salvo in all of that. If they can't get health care done, what's going to happen to tax reform, what happens to infrastructure, what happens to immigration, all these issues down the line?

And, ultimately, the first referendum on the president, the first real referendum on the president, will happen next November. And we will have to see whether there's a diminished ability then for the president to continue to make his case, to continue to get away with what he's doing, in essence, if Republicans cannot move an agenda.

DICKERSON: All right, we're going to have end it there.

Thanks to all of you.

And we will be right back.


DICKERSON: Turning now to the battle against ISIS.

As U.S.-backed forces come closer to fully retaking Mosul from ISIS in Iraq, CBS News foreign correspondent Holly Williams is behind the scenes in another front, in Raqqa, Syria, where efforts to retake the ISIS stronghold are also in full force.

She filed this report earlier.


HOLLY WILLIAMS, CBS NEWS FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We been covering ISIS and the rise of its so-called caliphate, or Islamic State, for more than three years now.

But this was our first look inside Raqqa, the extremists' self- proclaimed capital.

We walked into the city, a neighborhood emptied of civilians, where American-backed fighters known as the Syrian Democratic Forces are clawing back ground from ISIS one block at a time.

ISIS is now surrounded in Raqqa. An estimated 2,500 fighters are being pummeled by U.S. airstrikes. But, as they did in Mosul, they're choosing to wreak more death, rather than surrendering.

When part of our team went forward, there were spotted by an ISIS sniper.


WILLIAMS: Our producer, Omar Adbul Katar (ph), had to run for cover.


MAN: Keep going! Keep going! Keep going! Keep going!

WILLIAMS: As America's Syrian allies close in on ISIS from the north, they're already planning for a future without the extremists, appointing local councils to govern towns retaken from ISIS.

Just north of Raqqa, we watched them releasing 81 men and boys accused of being ISIS fighters. They had been rehabilitated, they told us, after defecting or being captured, and this was a public show of forgiveness in full view of the television cameras.


WILLIAMS: With a handshake and a free cookie, the prisoners were reunited with their families.

Ziham al-Dandan (ph) told us her 15-year-old son, Hamry (ph), ran off to join ISIS four months ago.

"I advise every mother to stop their kids from joining ISIS," she said. "I wasn't sure I would ever see him again."

But even now the Islamic State is rapidly losing territory, nobody here thinks that retaking Raqqa will spell the end of ISIS. At this U.S. military logistics hub in Northern Syria, they rolled out a dirt airstrip, building for a long stay. There are officially around 500 U.S. troops now in Syria, though the real number is thought to be much higher.

Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend is the commander of the U.S.- led coalition to fight ISIS.

LT. GEN. STEPHEN TOWNSEND, U.S. ARMY: I think U.S. troops will start leaving Syria when ISIS is defeated.

WILLIAMS (on camera): But ISIS will surely turn into an insurgency when they have lost all of their territory.

TOWNSEND: Yes, I think that's the next stage of ISIS. We call that ISIS 2.0, an insurgency rule. So, I think we will still be here dealing with that problem set for a while.

WILLIAMS (voice-over): The caliphate is crumbling, but that won't kill ISIS or its ideology.


DICKERSON: Our Holly Williams reporting from Syria.

We will be back in a moment.


DICKERSON: And we will be right back with a lot more FACE THE NATION, including our summer book panel.

Stay with us.



We turn now to the upcoming documentary, "City of Ghosts," which focuses on a very unusual group of citizen journalists putting their lives on the line in the fight against ISIS in Syria. Let's take a quick look at a preview.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The men and women of Raqqa is being slaughtered silently by real journalistic heroes. They work in secret and under constant threats, reporting on the depredations of ISIS in their home city. Some have fled in fear for their own lives. Even in exhale, they are in no way safe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We use satellite internet. (INAUDIBLE) the signal with vehicles that drive around.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We had to turn the spotlight on our city and that's when the real war began between ISIS and us.


DICKERSON: Matthew Heineman is the director of the film and he's here with one of the subjects of the film, Syrian journalist and one of the founders of the group Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently, Abdal Aziz Alhamza.

Aziz, I want to start with you. You were just a college student that wasn't active in politics. So how did you get involved in this?

ABDAL AZIZ "AZIZ" ALHAMZA, RAQQA IS BEING SLAUGHTERED SILENTLY: Yes. So like I had no political background at all. And when the Syrian revolution started. I decided to be part of it because of the corruption of the Syrian government. So I went to the street. The Syrian government prevented most of the media organization to come to the (INAUDIBLE) and cover what's going on. So I, with my mobile phone, I decided to film what's going on. And most of the Syrian (INAUDIBLE) threat or protests terror decided to do the same. And later on we came together, we gathered together to establish (INAUDIBLE) media centers (ph) organization to reporter what's going on.

DICKERSON: In the film it said there are 17 of these correspondents. How do you keep them safe? What kind of threat are they under?

ALHAMZA: So they are working in dangerous conditions. But, for us, it was like a duty or something that we should to do because ISIS did the same as the government, so they prevented all the media organization to come. So after we started in a month, ISIS executed one of our friends because they stopped him at a checkpoint. They found videos, photos and many stuff and our logo on his laptop and the way that we were communicating was like through FaceBook. And it was like not as if (INAUDIBLE). Later on, after the first execution, we decided to be more careful. So most of our colleagues inside, they came to Turkey, they got training then they went back and there's (INAUDIBLE) who couldn't make it, they had the training online. And after that first execution, we didn't lose any of our colleagues in Raqqa. So the rest of the execution was like our family members in Raqqa and former colleagues in Turkey.

DICKERSON: Matt, how did you hear about this operation?

MATTHEW HEINEMAN, DIRECTOR, "CITY OF GHOSTS": ISIS was starting to become front page news and I started reading graciously about this -- this group and this phenomenon and trying to understand it and see if there's a film to be made. And then I read this article by David Remnick in "The New Yorker" about this group and just right when I read it, I knew that this was my story.

DICKERSON: In -- in terms of an audience takeaway from this film, what's the -- what's the message? Other than the amazing footage.

HEINEMAN: Yes, I mean, I -- I think, intellectually, when I began the film, I was just fascinated by this sort of war of ideas, this war of propaganda, this informational war between our BSS on one hand and ISIS' slick propaganda on the other. That's what initially drew me to the film. But the film became much more than that for me. It became a story of these guys being on the run after -- after members of their group were killed repeating this story and the immigrant story. It became a story of rising naturalism in Europe where they eventually settled. It became a story of trauma and the cumulative effects of trauma. And so I think, with this film, I really wanted to put a human face to this topic. It so often gets relegated to -- to headlines or stats or photos.

DICKERSON: Aziz, you talked about this as your duty to keep going despite the safety concerns. Why do you feel it's your duty?

ALHAMZA: Because, look, first, after ISIS took over our city, they started to spread their propaganda everywhere. They were able to recruit many people. And like we knew that what they were talking about or what they are talking about it were like mostly rumors, fake news, and no one couldn't -- like and we started towards like international media organization taking ISIS as a source. So all of us, we used to war (ph) as activist journalists against the Syrian regime, the Syrian government. So we decided like to complete our work to be against the Syrian government and ISIS. And we started like to report the news. Before we started Googling Raqqa, you will have only ISIS video, only ISIS propaganda. Right now we've come first after Wikipedia. So we were able like to make a change with this war and --

DICKERSON: Now, you're talked about the battle of ideas. What's the state of that battle of ideas?

HEINEMAN: Right now we're on the sort of precious of this battle for -- for Raqqa. The international coalition and the Syrian democratic forces are -- are -- are invading Raqqa, trying to oust ISIS from the city. But I think one of the things that Aziz and his colleagues have taught me in making this film is that bombs are not going to fix this issue. Weapons are not going to fix this issue. There's a whole generation of children and people all across the world that have been indoctrinated by this ideology. And so we as -- as a society, as -- as government, as corporations need to find a way to combat this. And I think the work that RBSS is doing is truly amazing. As -- as one step in that battle.


DICKERSON: All right, Matt and Aziz, thank you very much.

Their film, "City of Ghosts," opens in New York City on July 7th and in select theaters nationwide on July 14th.

We'll be back in a moment.


DICKERSON: In honor of this holiday weekend, we gathered for authors with new books out. Lynne Olson is the author of "Last Hope Island." We're also joined by Sally Freeman. Her book is "The Jersey Brothers." Both of these books are set in the World War II era. Now we fast forward a little bit to more recent history and welcome "New York Times" White House correspondent Peter Baker. His new book is "Obama: The Call of History." And John Farrell's latest is "Nixon: The Life." Sally, let's start with you. Tell us the story of Barton, Bill and Benny

SALLY MOTT FREEMAN, "THE JERSEY BROTHERS": Well, this is actually a family story. Three brothers from New Jersey, my father, Bill, my uncles Barton and Benny, all Naval officers. And when war broke out, they were on three different continents. My father set up the White House Map Room for President Roosevelt. Benny was the gunnery officer on the USS Enterprise, which barely escaped Pearl Harbor, and Barton, whom the older two thought that they had arranged to keep out of harm's way, a supply core officer, helped him get his commission, had been sent to the Philippians and was wounded and listed as missing. And the story is really about the search by the older two for the youngest, although it has many tears. He was sort of a Rudy-like character who sort of an underachiever, everyone adored him and they were so worried and fretted, even as he, in prison camp, came into his own and built a role for himself and he was a moral sort of support beam for all the other ensigns he was imprisoned with.

DICKERSON: So now let's go to Europe in -- in World War II. What is "Last Hope Island"?

LYNNE OLSON, "LAST HOPE ISLAND": "Last Hope Island" is England. It's the story -- it's a story that really hasn't been told. It's about England opening its doors to the leaders and the military of seven occupied countries from Europe after the Germans had concurred them. And it's counter to the prevailing myth that we've actually created by Winston Churchill that England -- plucky little England stood alone, you know, from the middle of 1940, after the German blitz (INAUDIBLE) of western Europe until 1941 when the U.S. and the Soviet Union were reluctantly catapulted into war.

And that's not true. I make that clear in the book. These Europeans who came there, they escaped, they helped England survive, and then they went on to make enormous contributions to the overall allied victory.

DICKERSON: Jack, everybody these days is saying, Richard Nixon, his pension for secrecy, his populism. And -- and in the comparing it to Donald Trump.


DICKERSON: In the Trump campaign they would -- they compared his speech at the convention to Nixon's in '68. Where do you see the similarities and the differences?

FARRELL: There's a great similarity in the investigation and the actual crime. I mean they both -- the alleged crimes were break-in at the Democratic National Party headquarters. There's very little comparison, I think, between the two individuals. There's a little bit of similarity in listening to Nixon's tapes and reading President Trump's tweets in that you're seeing sort of the unvarnished presidential id (ph) and future biographers and historians are just going to have, you know, down on their knees praying to God thanks every night because President Trump insists on tweeting at a time when nobody writes letters or keeps diaries anymore. And a slight, very slight comparison in their ability to tap what I call the politics of grievance, which is to look out into their audience and find resentment and actually turn that into votes.


Peter, tell me about the two different timelines of history. When we do it day-to-day, of course we get everything right and it's perfectly in context. But -- but when you write about history, you step back. And the things that everybody was obsessed with --


DICKERSON: Were not obsessions. And the things people missed at the time turn out to be the turning points.


One of the things I've discover in writing books about presidents that I actually covered is how little we really understand at the time. We get the biggest part of the story I think more or less right. In fact, often I discover that, you know, at the time some spokesperson will say, well, your story is totally wrong. We're not fighting about this. And then later you do back to do book research and you realize, not only they were fighting about it, they were, you know, dogs and cats. They hate each other.

DICKERSON: That's right, lamps were being thrown.

BAKER: But there's so much more to being discovered about every president. You can go back to Nixon's presidency. You can go back to FDR's presidency. There's still -- we're still learning new things. Well, we learned new things about George W. Bush, I hope, in "Days of Fire." We learned some things about Obama in this book. But that only first drafts of history, in effect. The great thing about presidents are, we continue to rediscover them, reevaluate them and learn new things.

DICKERSON: Sally, I want to talk now about character. What struck me about Bill is Bill is in the map room --


DICKERSON: And knows what's coming with his two brothers. He knows what they're going to face and he -- he doesn't tell them. He can't do anything about it.



FREEMAN: Before every engagement, every lopsided battle where Enterprise went to battle, the ships that had be destroyed at anchor and the fleet and Enterprise with a surrey band of oilers and, you know, patched together destroyers behind them would go to launch for the Doolittle Raid, would go -- would head for Midway, would -- all those hit-and-run battles early in the war. And Bill knew about every one and he couldn't warn his brother. And President Roosevelt knew he had two brothers in theater. He asked about them every day. Every time he came to the map room he would ask. And my father liked to say, even with my Republican background, I can't help but like the guy. And it was war and you didn't do that. You didn't convey those secrets.

DICKERSON: Lynne, even about Churchill and then -- but also de Gaulle in this book --


DICKERSON: Comes sort of age. Is there something you can put your finger on, either with Churchill or de Gaulle, and say, this is what leaders of men all should have?

OLSON: They were very different. They hated each other at times. They had the most amazing screaming matches. People were afraid they were going to kill each other, but they were very alike in many ways and they were true leaders. They knew from childhood that they were going to save their countries. They were absolutely convinced. both of them. In -- in both cases, nobody expected them to. You know, they -- nobody expected Britain to survive after 1940. Nobody expected France to come back. But those men were determined that that was going to happen.

DICKERSON: Yes, an extraordinary sense of nationalism.

Jack, after Nixon, give me your sense -- his character was relatively clean going into the presidency? Or do we have that wrong? I mean where -- I guess what I'm looking for is, where do you put the pin in his developments?

FARRELL: So Nixon comes home, he gets elected to the U.S. Congress and George Marshall goes to Harvard Yard and announces that there's going to be this plan for the Marshall plan to bring back Europe, to bring back France so that there is going to be a France. And in Richard Nixon's southern California district, the right wing hated that. His backers hated that. His mentor wrote -- writes him a letter saying, you stay out of this. This is -- this is horrible.

But Nixon has gone over on a trip to Europe. He has seen the bombed out cities. He's had little German kids come up to him trying to sell their father's war metals to him to get enough money to feed the family. And he comes back and he decides that, you know, what the famous Edmund Burke thing about, do I owe my constituency my judgement or do I owe them my -- their obedience? And he decides it's judge and he campaign for nine straight months in his district and transforms it. He doesn't just win reelection on the Republican ticket. He wins the Democratic nomination as well. An amazing, amazing story about Richard Nixon. That's the good side.

The bad side is, the day it turns, the day the pin goes in, as you said, John, is the night of 1960, when he believes that the Kennedys have stolen the election from him and this brings forth this torrent of resentment, and he decides then, and his daughter Julie confirmed to me that that was the moment when he decided he was not going to be out spent, he was not going to be out cheated, he was not going to be out Kennedy-ed again and he would do whatever it take. Whatever they did, he would match it.

DICKERSON: Peter, did you come to an essential understanding after the work you did on President Obama? His character was off -- he was often portrayed as Spock, as kind of aloof.

BAKER: Right.

DICKERSON: You could make the case that President Trump is, in a sense, an answer to President Obama in the sense that he talked about being a man of action, whereas President Obama said, I like to know about something before I talk about it.

BAKER: Right.

DICKERSON: Was that his essential character or the other people who said, you know, he could do the compulsory acts of smooshing, it's just that the people he was working with didn't want to be smooshed. So it wasn't' that he was incapable, characterlogically (ph), it just was the circumstances he was in.

BAKER: Well, I just don't think -- I don't think it's his nature. He's an intellectually driven person. He's not a Hale (ph) fellow, well met kind of politician. Unlike say both George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, who got energy off of other people, who got energy off of crowds, like FDR clearly, like Nixon I think in some ways, Obama had a more reserved personality that wasn't generated by other people. And so he saw all of it as fake. He saw the whole media construct that he should be smooshing with Congress more and having them to the White House to watch the Super Bowl as a fake, nonsensical Washington thing. They're not going to vote for me just because I give them popcorn to watch a movie. And he had a point. I mean, obviously, you know, politicians vote their interests and they vote their constituents often, and even if they do sometimes substitute their own judgment. But I do think that we see, through history, that personal interactions do matter and that that was something he just didn't buy into. And I think he suffered as a result. There were moments where he could have potentially made a difference had he been more willing to play the game. It wasn't his thing.

DICKERSON: Sally, you wrote about your father, who you knew, but then you wrote about as a character too.

FREEMAN: Yes. Yes.

DICKERSON: I did a similar thing about my mother and found at the end that I knew the person I wrote about better than the person who I knew as a person.

FREEMAN: Oh, absolutely.

DICKERSON: Did you find that to be the case?

FREEMAN: Yes. Absolutely. I mean there were -- there were hints of this. Whenever my father would talk about his time during World War II, his time with Churchill, his time with Roosevelt and in the map room, he became wistful it a way that he wasn't as -- normally as a person. It was a little bit of a window on the emotional man. He was deeply affected by those three years in World War II.

And I wanted to know that person. And it was really when my parents had retired to Charlottesville, after his long career in Washington, and we were organizing papers and I found a stack of files, correspondent files, his Naval intelligence files, his White House correspondence files, behind a file cabinet and I found some photographs I had never seen of the three brothers together. And in those files, in one section of them was the beginning of this search for this younger brother, which when he talked about it and became wistful, in later conversations he would -- you could tell that this was a deeply emotional passage for him. Whenever we talked about it as children or young adults or full adults, the explanations never squared, we just knew that whatever happened had affected him and we wanted to know more because otherwise we didn't really see the emotional side of this man. So that is part of what drove me.

DICKERSON: Jack, you've written about a lot of big characters. What was it like to have Richard Nixon in your head versus Tip O'Neill or some of the other figures?

FARRELL: Not as bad as expected. I did two liberal heroes, I did Clarence Darrow and Tip O'Neill. In their case, I had to govern my affection. And with Nixon's case, going in, I had to govern my -- at least skepticism. I was struck by the fact that his -- his former aids and the people who knew him were so protective about him. There was this emotional feeling that -- that nobody understood this guy. You need to start off on zero before you go off to right or left. And, of course, that's what a good biographer should do.

He had a lot of wonderful qualities. He had -- there are heart- wrenching moments, you know, in the book talking about Richard Nixon the guy, and yet, you know, this awful flaw which ended up bringing the country to what Barry Goldwater said was one of the worst crises in -- in our history. And he should never be forgiven, as Goldwater said. So it's tough to live with anybody for six years, but -- but Nixon always kept me on my toes. He was -- he was always -- he was a challenge.

DICKERSON: Peter, you've written about Clinton, Bush, Obama. Do you have a theory of the presidency that has -- that is emerged?

BAKER: I had a theory that has now been blown to shreds.


BAKER: My theory was that the presidents were more alike than not. That we make them out to be these very different characters because of politics, because of ideology, because of the necessities of the political narrative. And the fact that Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama had much more in common than they would ever want to admit, right? (INAUDIBLE) people. But the dynamic, the paratives (ph), the desires and motives were not that different. And then along comes Donald Trump and I have to say, my conception of the presidency has changed entirely. He's so different than those other three that I t makes me think that it's not always the same. That maybe they are very vast differences in the -- in the -- in the nature of people in that office, or at least there is now.

DICKERSON: Lynne, reading your book, I mean the stories of Britain and its reluctance to be tied to Europe, I mean it's happening right now.

OLSON: Absolutely. Absolutely. And -- and, you know, the ironic thing is that thanks to what happened to all these European leaders coming to London, that was the beginning of the European Union. London served as the seed (ph) bed of the European Union. If it had -- if -- if those leaders had not gathered in London, if they had not been forced to work together, to socialize together, to get to know each other, the European Union wouldn't -- wouldn't exist today. And the ironic thing is, they wanted Britain to lead that drive. They wanted Britain to be the leader of the unification campaign. Winston Churchill and the Brits, because of their insularity, their historical insularity, said no. And as a result, history was changed forever.

DICKERSON: Wonderful. Thank you all so much for being here. This was a delight. And, everybody, I hope you enjoy all of their books.

OLSON: Thank you.

FREEMAN: Thank you.


DICKERSON: One of the great coincidences in American history took place on the 4th of July 191 years ago. Two of the country's founders died on the same day, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. One was its author, Thomas Jefferson, the third president. The other was John Adams, a signer of the Declaration and the country's second leader.

Also amazing was that they died friends because they had once been vicious enemies. They had worked together forging the nation, won the pen, won the voice of independence. But by 1800, they competed for the presidency in a campaign far uglier than ours today. Jefferson employed one of the greatest hatchet men in politics, James Callender, who attacked President Adams so viciously that Adams threw Callender in jail. He lost anyway.

Jefferson and Adams didn't communicate for 11 years until a mutual friend reminded them of their past, calling them the North and South Poles of the American Revolution. It didn't take much. "A letter from you calls up recollections very dear to my mind," wrote Jefferson. "It carries me back to the times when beset with difficulties and dangerous we were fellow laborers in the same cause." They exchanged 150 letters after that.

What allowed them to knock off the crust of hatred was their love for a shared set of values. The Jefferson and Adams reconciliation matched their hopes for the nation. America would be able to survive the bad spells, partisanship and pride and abuse of power, because its citizens would keep their commitment to freedom, equality and justice and pull the country back on track.

The risky experiment is now 241 years old, only because each generation fault keep faith with the foundation that Jefferson and Adams laid.

Happy 4th of July.

For FACE THE NATION, I'm John Dickerson. We'll see you next week.

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.