JOHN DICKERSON, CBS HOST: Today on FACE THE NATION: The president shakes up his staff, after a tumultuous week, and threatens Senate Republicans after they failed to pass a health care bill.
Word that Chief of Staff Reince Priebus had been replaced by Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly came in the form of a tweet from the president. He spoke in the driving rain at Andrews Air Force Base.
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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Reince is a good man. John Kelly will do a fantastic job. General Kelly has been a star.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DICKERSON: The president had also called Priebus a star. That star fell as Mr. Trump became irritated with the messiness of his administration.
With the hiring of Anthony Scaramucci, whose contempt for Priebus went public in an interview last week, it quickly became clear the White House would not be big enough for the two men.
Priebus wasn't the only one publicly shamed by an administration official. Attorney General Jeff Sessions got it from the very top.
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TRUMP: I'm very disappointed with the attorney general. But we will see what happens. Time will tell. Time will tell.
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DICKERSON: Unlike the chief of staff, Sessions is refusing to quit.
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JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, it's kind of hurtful, but the president of the United States is a strong leader.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DICKERSON: Not strong enough to convince Republican senators to pass a health care bill. The president tweeted that the loss made Senate Republicans look like fools. He threatened to take away their health care and criticize them openly.
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TRUMP: Boy, oh, boy, they have been working that one for seven years. Can you believe that? The swamp.
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DICKERSON: Some Republicans have had enough.
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SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I will not vote for this bill as it is today.
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DICKERSON: Ailing John McCain stunned Washington, as he joined two other GOP senators and cast the final no vote, dooming this round of efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare.
McCain not the only one to say enough is enough. We will hear from his Arizona colleague, Jeff Flake, whose stunning new book, "Conscience of a Conservative," says the Republican Party has lost its way in the age of Trump.
Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein will also be with us.
And we will assess the president's job performance. Here is how he sees himself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: With the exception of the late, great Abraham Lincoln, I can be more presidential than any president that's ever held this office. That, I can tell you.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DICKERSON: But do his supporters feel he's presidential or temperamental? We have surprising new Nation Tracker poll numbers, plus plenty of political analysis on the week and more.
It's all coming up on FACE THE NATION.
Good morning, and welcome to FACE THE NATION. We got a lot to get to today, but we want to begin with our White House team, chief White House correspondent Major Garrett and White House and senior foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Brennan.
Margaret, I want to start with you.
North Korea, this news of an ICBM test, what is the U.S. response so far?
MARGARET BRENNAN, CBS NEWS WHITE HOUSE AND SENIOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, we've seen a show of force from the United States, some saber-rattling in direct response to North Korea.
And you have a fly-over. You have had a missile test immediately after the North Korean test, jointly with South Korean forces. All of this is meant to dissuade further tests.
But, look, this is the second intercontinental ballistic missile test in a month. And this one flew longer and for farther distance than the previous one on July 4. And this seems to be, according to outside experts, demonstrating that this missile, because it went 3,700 kilometers into space, that kind of energy shows it could hit the continental United States.
The Pentagon won't confirm this at this point. The Pentagon also won't confirm or comment on the fact -- on the status of whether they have been able to miniaturize a nuclear tip to put on that missile.
But these numbers, this analysis is really causing some deep concern that North Korea is progressing faster and much more rapidly towards the ability to actually arm a nuclear missile.
DICKERSON: So, Major, the president's response.
He has been working on getting the Chinese to put pressure on the North Koreans, but he has tweeted recently: "We will no longer allow this to continue. China could easily solve -- could easily solve this problem."
Before, he had said, well, he understood it wasn't so easy. What's the president...
MAJOR GARRETT, CBS NEWS CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, if there's a culture of a bureaucracy more immune from improvisational and impetuous nature of Twitter than China, I don't know what it is.
GARRETT: China does not think of this term, these difficulties in terms of presidential tweets or momentary thoughts from the president of the United States.
It has, as the president has conceded occasionally, lots of diverse interests involved here. And it is trying to apply as much pressure as it can against North Korea. But it is clear, as Margaret indicated, that North Korea is not only moving faster, but more aggressively than it ever has under any other previous administration.
And that makes this within the counsels of the White House and Pentagon the number one strategic challenge for this president, at a time when what the White House is radiating, not just to our country, but to the world, an atmosphere of instability at minimum, chaos at maximum. These things are colliding at just about the worst time.
DICKERSON: Let me ask you, Major, about Reince Priebus, the chief of staff. He is gone.
Was he ever given a chance to do his job?
GARRETT: Initially, yes.
But one of the problems for this White House is the president himself, in the sense that he does not adhere to any traditional or even historically rational organizational system for his own White House.
He likes the idea that five or six different people walk into the West Wing every day believing they are, for a moment, the effective chief of staff. He likes that rivalry, that embedded, intense competition.
But what it does is, it prevents any sort of flow of ideas, policies, debate and projection out to the rest of the administration what the White House intends to do, and how it wants it to be explained to the country.
DICKERSON: So, Margaret, Secretary Kelly is now first among equals. What is his role? What is he going to do? What does he have to do?
BRENNAN: Well, look, if you're betting that a general is going to clean this up and institute a chain of command, much as he would like to, it's going to require a culture shift from what Major just described.
And it's not clear that the president is going to do that. Does Anthony Scaramucci, does Kellyanne Conway all of a sudden no longer have the right to walk into the Oval, but first check in with the chief of staff? I don't know that's that is actually going to change.
But for General Kelly, it's going to be really interesting to watch him. How does his insertion there change the ability to interact with Capitol Hill? He doesn't have political experience,? He's talked in ways that say he doesn't really have a lot of favor or like dealing either with the press or with politicians.
He likes policy and getting things done. How do you match that with the job requirements there? And how is he going to interact with, say, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, who is a three- star to his four?
How does that interact? How does that institute and affect some of the foreign policy challenges that are very, very real?
DICKERSON: And final question to you, Major.
One of the jobs of the chief of staff is to tell the president no. Anthony Scaramucci has said, no, we need this president to be more like President Trump.
GARRETT: Be told yes all the time, and yes in big, bold letters, as if there is any lack of big, bold letters in the White House saying yes to the president.
The other issue for General Kelly will be the assumption going in, you can see this in some of the commentary, Well, the president loves generals, he respects them, and he deals with them.
Well, look at the most recent evidence. His general who is the defense secretary completely taken by surprise by this transgender announcement, a show of, at minimum, disrespect and disorganization. H.R. McMaster keeps coming in and out of the president's favor, his national security adviser, a former general who can never really know what his actual status with the president is.
So, you can assume that there's this deference and respect to generals, but it hasn't played out. And as Margaret said, this is about the culture of the president and how he treats his job and those around him. And if that doesn't change, more of the same.
DICKERSON: All right, Major, Margaret, thanks so much.
We turn now to the increasingly strained relations between Senate Republicans and the president, made worse this week by Republican defections on health care and the president's continued criticism of his attorney general, former Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions.
The man the president calls beleaguered got a strong show of support from his former colleague Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, who tweeted: "Committee agenda is set. A.G., no way," meaning no time for confirming a new one.
South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham made his case to reporters.
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SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: If Jeff Sessions is fired, there will be holy hell to pay. Any effort to go after Mueller could be the beginning of the end of the Trump presidency, unless Mueller did something wrong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DICKERSON: Nebraska's Ben Sasse went to the Senate floor.
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SEN. BEN SASSE (R), NEBRASKA: If you are thinking of making a recess appointment to push out the attorney general, forget about it. The presidency isn't a bull, and this country isn't a china shop.
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DICKERSON: As did John McCain, who delivered a blistering speech about government dysfunction.
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SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: We're getting nothing done, my friends. We're getting nothing done. Whether or not we are of the same party, we are not the president's subordinates. We are his equal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DICKERSON: And that brings us to the other senator from Arizona, Jeff Flake, who "The New York Times" columnist David Brooks writes is sunny and kind in a time when politics has become a blood sport.
He joins us today to talk about his new book, "Conscience of a Conservative: A Rejection of Destructive Politics and a Return to Principle."
SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: Thanks for having me on.
DICKERSON: Why did you write the book?
FLAKE: I felt that, just like Goldwater had felt in his time, 56 years ago, when he wrote the original ""Conscience of Conservative," that the party had lost its way.
And I think, similarly today, the party's lost its way. We have given into nativism and protectionism. And I think that, if we're going to be a governing party in the future, and a majority party, we have got to go back to traditional conservatism, limited government, economic freedom, individual responsibility, respect for free trade. Those are the principles that made us who we are.
DICKERSON: One of the things you write in the book is: "It is not enough to be conservative anymore. You have to be vicious."
What do you mean by that?
FLAKE: Well, if you look at the politics of today, the tape from last week at the White House and the language that was used then, and we have seen, unfortunately, too many examples of members of Congress and other elected officials using language, referring to your opponents in ways that you would have never done before, ascribing the worst motives to your opponents and assuming that other Americans are the enemy.
And that is just not the way it used to be. And I don't think it can be that way in the future.
DICKERSON: Is it your view that those -- that kind of behavior is --well, it's bad on its own terms, but is also getting in the way, it's blocking out?
FLAKE: You bet. You bet.
I mean, there are big issues that we have got to solve. You talked about North Korea, the difficult foreign policy things that we have to do.
But that and deficit, for example, health care reform, these are things that can't be done by one party. We have just seen the limits of what one party can do. Even if you change the rules of the Senate, which we should not do, there are limits to what one party can do.
If we're going to solve this debt problem, $20 trillion of debt we have -- we're going to be running deficits -- deficits again over a trillion dollars soon. Those require both parties sitting together and sharing the risk. And it's hard to imagine that can happen when we're ascribing the worst motives to our opponents.
DICKERSON: In the book, you obviously talk about the president, and we will get to that.
But you say in the book, "but Donald Trump is not the source code for our obsession with the politics of personal destruction. Our crisis has many fathers. Among them is New Gingrich, the modern progenitor of that school of politics."
FLAKE: Well, I got to Congress in 2001, myself and Mike Pence, actually. We had run think tanks, conservative think tanks, in the '90s. We got elected together. And we sat next to each other early on, on the floor.
I remember him saying that he felt like that we were Minutemen called up to the battlefront, only to be told the revolution of ideas was over. And we have given into kind of the politics of personal destruction, and quickly to a lot of spending and other things that really, I think, made the ground fertile for the type of politics that we have today.
And that's unfortunate. I think we, as Republicans, kind of gave away the limited government mantle when we spent like crazy in 2000, 2006 while Republicans had the majority in both houses and the White House. And then that forced us to delve into the wedge issues, like flag burning, or the case of Terri Schiavo or things like that.
And now we have, I think, taken up a banner that is not familiar to us. It's one of intense nationalism and nativism and sometimes xenophobia.
DICKERSON: Why -- what you're arguing here for is the standards that people maintain regardless.
DICKERSON: Why is it so hard to stick to that standard?
FLAKE: Well, I think, with around-the-clock media coverage and social media now, it all kind of drives us apart.
And it -- I think certainly the modern media culture values those who yell the loudest. And so the tougher path is, frankly, to have the kind of demeanor that some people might call bullying, but you have got to move ahead and tackle the policy issues. And the problem is, this is very much getting in the way of us solving the problems that we have got to solve.
DICKERSON: And making the case for those conservative ideas.
You also say this about character. "We cannot claim to place the highest premium on character, then abruptly sauce suspend the importance of character in the most vital civic decision that we make. When we excuse on our side what we attack on the other, then we're hypocrites. If we do that as practice, then we're corrupt. If we continually accept this conduct as elected officials, then perhaps we shouldn't be elected officials."
Are Republican leaders complicit in this, if they don't call out their president?
FLAKE: I do think so. I think that, obviously, the last thing you want to do is wake up every morning and see a tweet and think, I'm just -- it's tough not to just say, I'm not going to respond, and we can't respond to everything.
But there are times when you have to stand up and say, I'm sorry, this is wrong. And there are truths that are self-evident. And you have got to stand up and call whether it's the White House or other elected officials to task when they're not doing what they should.
And I do think that we bear the responsibility, if we're elected officials, to do that.
DICKERSON: What I hear from Republican leaders is, sure, they may get a little uncomfortable with things the president does, but he is able to sign tax reform, health care if it passes, and other things that are part of core conservative principles.
And so while they may have some quibbles with the way he behaves, he is the pathway to get some things passed that are -- that would help in terms of conservative ideas.
FLAKE: Well, there are some things that the president has done that I have agreed with wholeheartedly. His agreement and working with us on the regulatory state and making sure that regulations don't hamper business growth, that's been a boon to the economy.
I think his ideas on tax reform, he has good instincts there. The appointment of -- nomination of Neil Gorsuch was great and other federal judges who have been nominated. So, there are some good things.
But then these attacks on trade, and I think that we have got to realize that we are in a globalized society. We're only 5 percent of the world's population, only 20 percent of the world's economic output. We have got to trade to grow.
And I think that we have got to recognize, as elected officials, we have got to stand up for what we know is right.
DICKERSON: What then -- how does party change itself? If I'm Republican, what do I do? How do you go forward?
FLAKE: One, I think it has to start with demeanor. We have to model behavior that we would be proud that our kids are watching, because, like I said, we're not going to tackle the big issues.
In the book, I talk about how, when our chief military officials, General Mattis, also Bob Gates, when he was still in position, were asked what the biggest problems were, they didn't talk about North Korea or Iran or the Middle East. They said the lack of civility and the lack of people getting along here in Congress, and that turning inward.
We are the biggest problem here. And until we fix that, until we recognize that we have got to get together, whether it's on health care or taxes, if we want to move ahead on those issues and have something that the president can sign, I would submit we better start looking across the aisle and saying, how can we do this together?
DICKERSON: In the current health care debate, why not have done that in this debate?
FLAKE: I think we all knew we would get there eventually. There are only so many things you can do just as one party.
We're arriving there a little quicker than we thought. I had hoped that we could keep a vehicle ready that we could use to move along more quickly. So, I was disappointed when it died last week.
Having said that, I'm glad to see that now we're talking about sitting down with our colleagues, going back to committee, going back to what we call regular order, and letting the committees and the experts deal with it, and bringing the public in more than we have before.
So, I hope that that's the case, and that will be certainly good for us and good for the country.
DICKERSON: All right, Senator Flake, thank you so much.
FLAKE: Thank you.
DICKERSON: And we will be looking for you tomorrow on "CBS THIS MORNING," where we will be able to hear more about the book.
And, for all of you, we will be back in one moment.
DICKERSON: And we're joining now by the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, California Senator Dianne Feinstein.
I want to start with the other committee you're on, the Senate Intelligence Committee, on this question of North Korea.
You know the intelligence. What do you make of the latest moves by North Korea?
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, I make it as a clear and present danger to the United States.
I have spent time on the intelligence and at the briefings and done as much reading as I possibly could. And I'm convinced that North Korea has never moved at the speed that this leader has to develop an ICBM, to put solid fuel, to have an interesting launch device, and to have a trajectory which, as of the latest analysis, would enable it to go about 6,000 miles, and maybe even hit as far east as Chicago.
We can't have that. To me, it points out the danger in isolating a country, that they go to the science and technical know-how to show their brute force, not to handle the isolation.
I think the only solution is a diplomatic one. I'm very disappointed in China's response, that it has not been firmer or more helpful. And I think that the administration -- and this is one of the reasons that I hope General Kelly will be able to be effective, even beyond a chief of staff, is to begin some very negotiation with the North and stop this program.
DICKERSON: Let me move on to health care, which fell apart this week in the Senate.
Often, in these instances, a group of bipartisan senators goes somewhere, maybe in quiet room...
DICKERSON: ... and try and work.
Is that happening at all? Is there any chance that that could emerge out of this failure this week?
FEINSTEIN: Well, the vote just happened. So we don't know that right now.
But I think there's a big lesson learned in this, John. You can't take a bill as big as this one, write it with a select group of people in a backroom, not let one of the political parties even see it until the Friday before a vote comes up, and think that this bill is going to pass.
And you can't take 16 million people, 15 million people, 20 million people -- those were the three bills -- and remove them from health care.
And this skinny bill, you know, would see premiums begin to go up 20 percent next year. So, my view is that we have to go regular order. Have the hearings, enable the -- and begin with some of the specifics where we know we need to change.
DICKERSON: Let me ask you, though. Republicans say, the reason you can't work with Democrats is that, the minute we start to talk, Democrats say, you must include the individual mandate. And for Republicans, that's a deal-breaker.
So they say, basically, there's no reason to talk because of this big obstacle of the individual mandate.
FEINSTEIN: I will give you a reason to talk. The reason to talk is the insurance industry and what's happening across the United States. And it's a very serious thing, because you got more than a million people who want to participate in the exchanges who are without carriers.
And you got several million who only have a -- don't have a choice of insurance carriers. Now, I think we need to take a look at this. What is wrong? Is it the fact that insurance is levied based on individual state mandates, and so you have all 50 states to deal with?
Should there be regional marketplaces or one marketplace with specific federal guidance rules for this? We need to look at that. And you have real problems with the subsidies for people under $47,000. You earn $48,000, and you get nothing, and your insurance can cost you $800 to $1,000 a month, over 20 percent of the income at $50,000 a year.
DICKERSON: Let me ask you now quickly, before we go, is on Jeff Sessions, your former colleague senator.
What do you make of the president's conversations with him? Chuck Grassley, your colleague on the Republican -- ranking -- on the Senate said, no -- no attorney general confirmation hearings.
FEINSTEIN: Well, Chairman Grassley has put the bit between his teeth and said that there will be no hearings, Mr. President, if you go ahead and fire Jeff Sessions.
I think there has been sufficient opposition for the president not to do so, unless, of course, what he really intends is to end up firing Mueller, which could well be the beginning of the end of his presidency.
DICKERSON: All right, Senator, we're going to have to leave it there.
Thank you so much for being with us.
FEINSTEIN: Thank you.
DICKERSON: And we will be back in a moment.
DICKERSON: A quick programming note. CBSN -- that's our digital network -- is premiering a special edition of "CBSN: On Assignment" in prime time on CBS television tomorrow night at 10:00 Eastern.
We hope you will tune in.
DICKERSON: And we will be right back with a lot more FACE THE NATION.
Stay with us.
DICKERSON: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION.
Over the last six months we've monitored groups of Americans and their thoughts about the Trump administration, Congress and our country. In our CBS News nation tracker, a joint survey project with YOUGOV, CBS News elections and survey's director Anthony Salvanto joins us to discuss some of these findings.
Anthony, it's a delight to have you back.
Six months ago you started a project and identified four groups. But -- and we'll get to those groups in a moment.
But one of the things that strikes me about these new findings is that you found one item that really kind of splits the group in two. What is that?
ANTHONY SALVANTO, CBS NEWS ELECTIONS AND SURVEYS DIRECTOR: Yes, and it's really the personal evaluations of the president. You know, what we've seen over time is that the president started off with a very wide range of potential support, but it's been moving, slowly but steadily, towards more opposition. And it's really about whether or not they like seeing what they see as combativeness and the fighting.
He's got this core group of loyal supporters that like him taking on people he -- that they think deserve it, that like him taking on the media. But everybody else, that same fighting is exactly what they don't like. They perceive him as creating unnecessary drama. They describe him more as temperamental than presidential. And most people describe what they see from the administration then as chaos.
So what happens is, that that's what's really driving things more a little bit away from it.
DICKERSON: And we'll describe the different ways in which that gets in the way in a moment.
But another big finding, before we get into those four groups, is I was struck about people's feelings about the economy. The president has essentially argued, if everybody would just look at the economy and the market and the jobs and how well thing are going, that he would more broadly be -- people would have a better view of him, but that doesn't seem to be what you found in your numbers.
SALVANTO: They do give him credit for the economy.
SALVANTO: Most people give him at least some credit for the economy. They do think manufacturing jobs are coming back. But for a lot of people, that's not enough. And those personal evaluations are kind of outweighing what they do see is economic progress.
DICKERSON: Right. So it's not that they don't know, it's that they know and they're weighing something else more -- more strongly.
All right, now, the four groups.
We'll start with the core supporters. These are the one that president said he could shoot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue and still have their support. What's their temperature?
SALVANTO: Right. Well, they're the only group that actually likes and wants him to do more tweeting. And what that -- what -- these folks see the world in terms of them and their way of life being a threat, and they see the president as a defender of it. So they say that they are loyal to him, above other party labels, above, you know, other political labels.
And when they see that, and they see this thing in cultural terms as well, it engenders this steadfast loyalty to the president. And then everything else is just kind of tactics for them. So they not only like the tweeting, but they like him making Democrats mad. And they don't want him negotiating with anybody else. And so what they're seeing is that fight. But their group is also getting smaller as it intensifies, as it -- as it hangs on, the back and forth.
DICKERSON: Give us a sense of how big they are.
SALVANTO: They're under a fifth of the country now. They were just over a fifth when this started and now it's gone down to 18 percent.
DICKERSON: So, 18 percent.
All right, so let's move on then to the second group. And these are the ones that were conditional. They really liked the policies that the president supported. And where -- where are they now in their feelings?
SALVANTO: Yes. When these folks kind of unpack their adjectives and talk about what they're seeing, they use word like distracted. And that word distracted is important because they want policy outcomes from this administration. They're not as -- as keen on the sort of cultural divides. So they don't see the president as working on those problems day and night. And so what they're seeing is they are still with the president. They are still supportive. But it's more about them rooting for him than liking what they're seeing. And they're much less likely than the believers to say that they like his personal behavior.
DICKERSON: So this group, the second group, the conditional group, they like lower taxes, lower regulation, all of the standard greatest hits of -- but they think the president is getting in his own way?
SALVANTO: Exactly. Much more traditional conservative in that respect. A little worried about the U.S. role in the world and where he's placing it, but still saying that they're going to be patient with the administration.
Look, it's like being a sports fan and you're saying your team isn't playing well, but they're -- it's still your team. That's -- that's where these folks are.
DICKERSON: And they haven't yet left the stadium.
SALVANTO: And they haven't -- it's still early.
All right, now the third group, these are the kind of the curious. They were -- they were flirting with perhaps supporting the president. Where are they in there?
SALVANTO: Yes. They've been steady moving towards more opposition. These are the folks who still, and started out, saying that they wanted to find a reason to support the president. But, you know, unlike Washington terms where we mighty valuate things and how much legislation is passed or who fills what job, these folks are also looking to see, what changes in my life? And they haven't seen anything change in their life.
Health care seemed to have an impact here. When people felt like they didn't understand what the president wanted or didn't understand what was in the Republican's plans, they kind of defaulted and said, well, he's not fighting for people like me. And so what's happened is they've kind of moved away more towards opposition because they don't see those results, even though they want to find a reason -- they want to find a reason to support him.
DICKERSON: So when the president talks about how productive he's been, this group says, yes, but not for me.
SALVANTO: Not for me.
DICKERSON: Let me ask you finally about the last group, the resisters. These are on the total opposite end of the true believers. What's new, if anything, about them?
SALVANTO: Well, this group has been steady growing. Now they're more than 40 percent of the -- of the country. And what you see here is, as folks who were on the fence move a little bit more into this -- this steadfast opposition group, they describe what they're seeing as frightening.
But what really jumps out at you is what they see is at stake as well. So in this way it's -- they're sort of a polar opposite of that loyal support group, that feeling of frightening may be exactly what the loyal Trump supporters want them to feel, but what they're seeing is they think the future of democracy is at stake. They are not rooting for the president to succeed. They don't want -- because they think that would be, as they say it, dangerous. So that group is -- is fairly hard in their opposition. It also sort of tells you about how things might be increasingly intractable going forward.
DICKERSON: All right, Anthony Salvanto, thanks, as always.
And we'll be right back with our political panel.
DICKERSON: And we're back with our political panel.
Ruth Marcus is a "Washington Post" columnist and the deputy editorial page editor. Ben Domenech is the founder and publisher of "The Federalist." We're also joined by our chief congressional correspondent, Nancy Cordes, and David Nakamura, who covers the White House for "The Washington Post."
David, I want to start with you.
Last Sunday we were here talking about a new communications director at the White House. Now we're talking about a new chief of staff. The organizational chart is rumbling. Where are things in the White House?
DAVID NAKAMURA, "THE WASHINGTON POST": You guys talked a little about this. I think the biggest thing for incoming Chief of Staff Kelly is to establish more direct lines of communication and a little bit less chaos in the West Wing and Oval Office itself. I mean this is a president, I think Major Garrett touched on it earlier in your show, that people can kind of walk in, carte blanche, into the West -- into the Oval Office and President Trump likes that. He likes to hear different opinions. But I think most chiefs of staff, one of their biggest jobs is to control access to the president so that he has a little bit clearer channels.
And I think this -- you know, the idea that a general, a four- star general, would instill that kind of discipline is what we're looking at. But as you said before, the biggest challenge, though, is Trump himself, because he does like that and, obviously, Trump's own -- he's also been calling around at off hours to friends outside the White House in New York and other place to get input.
DICKERSON: And, Ruth, this is -- this is not the first. We had this -- also the deputy chief of staff is gone from the White House, communications director, press secretary, national security advisor and the FBI director from this administration. So it's -- this is a pattern.
RUTH MARCUS, "THE WASHINGTON POST": And counting.
DICKERSON: Right. Right.
MARCUS: Yes. And in one sense that actually might strengthen General Kelly's hand because you can't -- how many more can you afford to lose? Maybe in Trump world you can just keep on running through them. But clearly an ally of the White House told me yesterday, Trump has left denial. So he's not in the denial phase, I'm told anymore, where he thinks this is all going great and he's signing executive orders and everything is just hunky dory.
But there are stages, as we know. So has he gotten to acceptance? And I think David puts his finger on the really important thing, which is, General Kelly could impose some order and discipline. It can't get any worse, right, as we saw this week on this crazy, chaotic White House. But can he get President Trump to change? Does President Trump want to change? Is President Trump capable of changing? I talked to lot of former White House chiefs of staff yesterday. I heard the word "patch" a lot. You can patch this but you can't necessarily fix it.
DICKERSON: Ben, if moving to the acceptance stage is important, we also heard Anthony Scaramucci say, let Trump be Trump. What they used to say about Ronald Reagan. Is that just what you say publicly and then you fix things underneath it? What's the -- what's the remedy here? White Houses are allowed to stumble. So what do you do to fix it, do you think?
BEN DOMENECH, "THE FEDERALIST": Well, I think that this is a significant step. It's potentially a turning point at the -- in the early stages of this administration. A pivotal way from perhaps loyalty to a GOP establishment, which had been injected into this White House after a campaign in which they were very often at odds.
But Reince Priebus was a very effective RNC leader. He obviously rebuilt the party after financial troubles and contributed certainly to Donald Trump's win.
But as the chief of staff, he really had no legislative or executive experience beforehand and it showed. They were planning to have him early on play as more significant role because of his relationship -- close relationship with Paul Ryan. But after the legislative failures that you've seen come out of the Congress in the early going of this administration, I think this is a potential pivot away from being as close to the GOP -- the GOP establishment with -- leadership within Washington and potentially a willingness to be more of the kind of president that Donald Trump kind of indicated he was going to be before he won. One who was going to disrupt potentially the policy discussions that we have.
I think General Kelly is going to have a significant task before him in terms of reorganization, in terms much setting up lines of command, and we'll see what happens once he starts Monday how firm of a hand he holds when it comes to that organizational chart.
DICKERSON: Nancy, this notion of disruption and moving away from the Republican Party, that would have to give heartburn to the Republican leaders in Congress because they would be the principle target. And we see the president targeting those Republicans saying two different things. One, kind of reminding everyone of their failure on health care, and, two, saying you've got to move to 51 votes in the Senate, get rid of the 60 vote threshold. How do you see it? You spend a lot of time on The Hill.
NANCY CORDES, CBS NEWS CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, on one hand, they have a lot of respect for General Kelly. And if anyone could impose order, it would be him.
On the other hand, they're not incredibly optimistic. I mean this is a president who hired a four star general and Anthony Scaramucci in the same week. They could not be more different. One incredibly destabilizing, obviously.
And so while they have a lot of faith in Kelly, they believe that this is a president who isn't interested in any one telling him what to do. In fact, we know in the past avoid telling him what he should do because he will often subversively do the opposite. And so, you know, their -- they liked Reince Priebus. They were very vocal about that. They didn't think that he did anything wrong. They're welcoming of General Kelly, but there's probably a reason why Kelly reportedly turned down the president's offer to be chief of staff a number of times before he finally said yes.
DICKERSON: And we know about that piece of information because someone leaked it, David, which takes me to my next question. And appreciate the transition, Nancy.
The question of leaks. Anthony Scaramucci was in an interview with "The New Yorker" infuriated about the leak question. So is that going to get fixed?
NAKAMURA: Well, look, I mean this was -- this came after this private dinner at the White House with Fox News executives and Scaramucci went -- left the meeting and learned that it had been already reported by the reporter from "The New Yorker" and -- and sort of flipped out, called him and thought maybe that he was off the record, but that there had been nothing said about that, and all this became public.
And what's interesting is I think Scaramucci was taking that line because he recognized that Donald Trump is -- is really upset about what he sees as unfair leaks on the Russian investigation, on other, you know, scandals around the presidency. And so this thing did not seem to be that quite -- that big a deal. But I think you saw Scaramucci try and ingratiate himself with the boss.
But all this goes back to -- a little bit to what you said in the previous segment, as the president's approval ratings continue to crater, the White House seems to be coalescing, or certain the president, around sort of just appeal directly to the base. And so the president is going to continue tweeting, continue to get the -- this kind of message out, that he's -- you know, that he's under attack, under assault, which plays well with this small segment that is still loyal to him.
DICKERSON: Ben, leaks, getting rid of leaks in a White House.
DOMENECH: Well --
DICKERSON: I cannot be done.
DOMENECH: It certainly can't be done. But I don't think that it was helped by the fact that you had a lot of people in this White House who really were not in part of Trump's sort of corner during the primary and during the general process. There were a lot of people who were there who, frankly, Reince Priebus and others at the RNC, had brought over, who I think did not feel at home within this White House, objected to a lot of the things that they were doing.
And I think that General Kelly's task is actually going to not -- not so much focus on the leaking part of it, but on the organizational part in determining, you know, who's getting information that -- that shouldn't be getting that information. You know, how -- why do we have kind of this -- this sieve effect of people fighting all the time in proxy wars within the press. That's not something that can be solved overnight.
I was struck -- Rush, just before you -- Anthony Scaramucci said this week that people who are in the White House who thought they had to protect the president from the country. That's a grim view of the people in the White House.
MARCUS: And kind of illustrative of where we are. I thought that was one of the most interesting things that was said this week and I actually kind of felt better about it. I want people who feel like they need to protect the country from the president there because the president is -- and these are the things that's going to be the hardest for General Kelly to fix.
The president is impulsive. The president has very little in the way of attention span. The president is undisciplined. The president, not only does not want to be controlled, he chafes and reacts to control by showing people that they can't control him.
So this -- this focus on leaks, every White House has leaks. No White House likes leaks. No White House can end leaks.
The reason there are leaks in this White House is that the president has deliberately set up a White House with factions, with division. And he not only tolerates that, to some extent he encourages that. And to the extent that those -- that mazing tirade by Anthony Scaramucci fed into and reflected things that the president likes, this sort of toughness, that illustrates the continuing problem that General Kelly and that President Trump are going to face.
DICKERSON: Right. So when you have factions, people are constantly still fighting that war and they take it into the pages of the newspaper so that they can win in that factional fight.
Nancy, let me ask you and get your thoughts on Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, former senator, who you've covered.
I was struck that Chairman Grassley of the Judiciary Committee said, no.
CORDES: No side (ph).
DICKERSON: I mean the pushback from Republicans was quite amazing.
CORDES: Right. And Senator Flake said to you earlier on this broadcast that we have to pick our battles. We can't fight against the president on everything. But this is one of those issues where Republicans almost universally thought, a, this was incredibly unfair what the president was doing to Jeff Sessions, and, b, politically very risky. And so they wanted to send him a message, don't do this, you are getting yourself into a lot of trouble.
But at the same time, they do still have that core of supporters that Anthony Salvanto just talked about and so they don't want to speak out directly against the president on every issue. So, yes, you had your Lindsey Graham saying this could be the end of the Trump presidency if he does this, but most of them spoke out in favor of Jeff Sessions, saying, we think he's done a great job. They didn't say the president is being incredibly unfair to Sessions for potentially very personal reasons.
NAKAMURA: Well, what's interesting too, though, is Sessions appeals to that same base that are a lot of Trump's biggest supporters. And you saw Breitbart, you know, really go after the president on this sort of, you know, attacking Sessions based on the idea that Sessions is doing a lot for that agenda, which is, it's getting tough on immigration, getting tough on crime. And so you're seeing the same appeal being made to the same base of Trump supporters that also largely support a lot of that agenda, a lot of what Sessions is trying to do.
DOMENECH: You know, I think that it's going to be interesting to see what comes out of this. The president is a fan of -- of sending messages via the press to -- toward people, but I'm not sure that in this case it's indicative of an interest in actually booting Sessions from his position. It seems to be more the gripe that he has is frankly that he doesn't believe that Sessions should have recused himself and he believes that if he was going to recuse himself in this manner that he should have told the president at the time that he was picking him. And that's a gripe that he's repeatedly said.
I don't think, though, that in this case you're going to see him actually take the step of pushing him out, in part because so many Republicans responded so quickly and so vociferously to what he had to say.
DICKERSON: What do you think that message is, Ruth, if he's sending it to his other colleagues? If this isn't actually going at Sessions -- but, I mean, what's -- what -- what dos he hope for from sending this message, do you think?
MARCUS: Well, I think he had hoped at the start of the week that the attorney general would get the message and leave gently. But -- and who would have bet against that? I mean it seemed obvious that this marriage couldn't be saved and this situation couldn't continue. But then we saw -- and this was a number -- one of number of rebuke that the president suffered this week. He was rebuked by the Boy Scouts for his speech. He was rebuked by police chiefs and police officers for encouraging violence. He was rebuked by his own military for -- by -- by inaction for tweeting about transgender without working it through the process. He was rebuked by the Senate on health care and he was also very sharply rebuked by the Senate on his attorney general.
Maybe he'll hear some of this. Maybe General Kelly will help him hear some of this. TBD.
DICKERSON: Nancy, let me switch to health care. What happens to it now? It died in the Senate on this round. Is there a new round? What's --
CORDES: It's never completely dead. It's always there sort of in a coma and potentially could be resuscitated. So, the Senate majority leader has made it very clear he's moving on to other issues. There's a lot on the Senate's plate that they need to get done. But certainly going forward, if Republicans somehow could figure out some plan that could bring together 51 Republicans, they would -- they would bring it back to the Senate floor.
However, you know, they've made several tries this week. They're -- they set their sights lower and lower and lower and they still never got there. And so, you know, there are a number of Republicans, including Senator Flake and others who have said, OK, we've tried that. Let's try working with Democrats now on a package of fixes for Obamacare. But there are lot of Republicans, especially those in the House, who are not ready to go there yet.
DOMENECH: But let's -- but let's not get past this week without understanding whose fault this is. If you go back to the original sin of the way that we talk about Obamacare, there are two essential falsehoods that we need to understand. First was from the president himself, who promised that you would be able to keep your doctor, your plan, and that your premiums would go down. If those things had happened, Obamacare today would be completely unsolvable and would be extremely popular.
The next was the Republican promise in 2010 when they started campaigning on repealing and replacing Obamacare. At the same time, the current commander in chief was firing Sinbad on "Celebrity Apprentice." They formed that and chose to campaign on repeal and replace for the following seven years, and they did so to great electoral affect. When, in reality, about half of the caucus in the Senate, and perhaps even more, was totally unwilling to ever get to full repeal and replace.
And if you want an example of that, just look this week at the behavior of someone like Rob Portman. Seven out of the 10 top employers in the state of Ohio are insurers or hospital systems. They depend on tax exemptions and on subsidies flowing to them. He was never going to get to "yes" on a repeal that included reform or restriction of any of the Medicaid expansion that was enacted under Obamacare.
And skinny repeal itself, had it passed, would have been a failure. It would have been an expression of rolling back just eight of the 419 provisions of Obamacare. That is not repeal. And it certainly is not replace.
This is a failure that is at the core of the Republican experience and the last several years and it depends on the fact that they chose to lie.
DICKERSON: All right, we have just 10 second left.
I know you were just with Senator McCain. Can you give us a quick --
DOMENECH: I can just tell you that he is in Sedona with his family. He is courageous and stubborn and he is ready to fight this with every fiber of his being.
DICKERSON: All right. Thanks to all of you.
And we'll be right back at a look at Russian detachment (ph).
DICKERSON: Friday night a video rocketed through social media. It was of the president shaking hands with people invited to attend a health care speech at the White House Monday.
A little boy was there in a wheelchair and the president passed him by. People sent around the video as proof of President Trump's shriveled spirit. He would not even stoop and notice a child in a wheelchair.
This was unfair to the president. In reality, the first thing the president had done upon entering the room was stop, bend over and talk to the child.
This isn't about this one incident, it's about an instinct. Snap judgments like this are corroding our culture. We're so ready for evidence to confirm the absolute worst about an opponent, it snuffs out our charity.
To show that the president lacked generosity, those who passed around the clip were themselves being ungenerous. A moment of reflection might have caused people to wonder whether, as is so often the case, the picture or the sound bite was incomplete or misleading.
White house Communication Director Anthony Scaramucci weaponized this instinct last week when he accused Reince Priebus of leaking his financial disclosure form. It wasn't a leak. The information was publicly available. But who paused to learn that when it was more fun to just believe it was a sinister leak.
Some might point out the president has often shown a lack of generosity himself. He has. Even this week to his own attorney general.
But this is no excuse. Standards either exist or they don't. They don't exist only to help your team abuse the competition. Dropping standards to win is also diminishing our public life. Most people who passed around that clip would agree. That's the generous way to look at it.
Back in a moment.
DICKERSON: That's it for us today. Thanks for watching. Until next week, for FACE THE NATION, I'm John Dickerson.