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Face the Nation September 17, 2017 Transcript: Tillerson, McCain, Burns, Novick

JOHN DICKERSON: Today on FACE THE NATION, tensions between North Korea and the rest of the world build as President Trump says we're not out of options.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I am more confident than ever that our options in addressing this threat are both effective and overwhelming.

JOHN DICKERSON: But what are those options? We'll talk with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Plus, Senate Armed Services Committee chairman John McCain as the President prepares to take center stage at the United Nations this week. Plus, we'll preview Ken Burns and Lynn Novick's ten-part documentary, The Vietnam War, which premieres tonight on PBS. We'll ask what lessons were learned in turbulent times then that can help us now. And, finally, news and political analysis. A week after Hurricane Irma devastated Florida, residents of the Keys are finally able to return to the hardest hit neighborhoods. Protests spark over the acquittal of a white policeman who shot a black man in St. Louis. On the political front, President Trump continues to huddle with top Democrats in the hopes of making a deal to cover the children of undocumented immigrants sparking anger among some in his own party.

It's all coming up on FACE THE NATION.

Good morning and welcome to FACE THE NATION. I'm John Dickerson. We'll get to the story that dominated news coverage most of last week that of the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. But there's a lot of other news coming up this morning and so we're going to begin by talking to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Mister Secretary, welcome. Let me start with the Paris climate Accord. The Wall Street Journal reported that the administration was looking for a way to stay in it, but in June President Trump said, it was time to exit. So what is the administration position?

REX TILLERSON (Secretary of State): Well, the position is being led and developed by Gary Cohn over at the National Economic Council. And I think, if you recall, the President also said, look, we are willing to work with partners in the Paris climate accord if we can construct a set of terms that we believe is fair and balanced for the American people and recognizes our economy-- our economy, our economic interest relative to others, in particular, the second largest economy in the world, China. If you look at those targets and terms of the Paris climate accord, they were just really out of balance for the two largest economies. So I think the plan is for director Cohn to consider other ways in which we can work with partners in the Paris climate accord. We want to be productive, we want to be helpful. The U.S. has actually has a tremendous track record on reducing our own greenhouse gas emissions.

JOHN DICKERSON: So there's a chance that-- that if things get worked out both on the voluntary side from the U.S., voluntary restrictions for the U.S. that it could change, but then also with China-- there's a chance the U.S. could stay in the accord, is that right?

REX TILLERSON: I think under the right conditions, the President said he's open to finding those conditions where we can remain engaged with others on what we all agree is still a challenging issue.

JOHN DICKERSON: All right. Let's move on to North Korea. The-- this week the U.N. increased sanctions against North Korea but then North Korea fired another missile. So what's next?

REX TILLERSON: Well, first, I think it's important to understand the policy of the United States, John, towards North Korea is to deny North Korea possession of a nuclear weapon and the ability to deliver that weapon. Our strategy has been to undertake this peaceful pressure campaign we call it, enabled by the four nos. The four nos being that we do not seek regime change, we do not seek a regime collapse, we do not seek an accelerated reunification of the peninsula, and we do not seek a reason to send our forces north of the demilitarized zone. So the peaceful pressure campaign is built around putting together the largest and strongest international coalition we can to send the same message to North Korea and to North Korea's neighbors China and Russia that this is the policy of the rest of the world. And you've seen that expressed now in two unanimous Security Council resolutions to impose the strictest sanctions ever. All of that designed to bring North Korea to the table for constructive, productive dialogue. If our diplomatic efforts fail, though, our military option, will be-- will be the only one left. So all of this is backed up by a very strong and resolute military option but be clear we seek a peaceful solution to this.

JOHN DICKERSON: So, going back to those four nos, those are message to North Korea that un-- despite the fact North Korea says that the U.S. has aggressive aims, the United States doesn't have aggressive aims, you've been clear about that, you've been clear again this morning they're not getting the message, are they?

REX TILLERSON: No, it's also a message to assure China that that is also the U.S. policy as well because, as you well know, China has concerns about a regime collapse in particular and the impact it might have along their border. So this is also to assure the government of China that that is not our agenda, either. In an effort to bring them as part of our effort, and they have joined us in these most recent sanctions both at the U.N., we believe China and Russia as well can bring a lot of pressure to bear on North Korea.

JOHN DICKERSON: You've said that China and Russia need to take direct action. What direct action does China need to take?

REX TILLERSON: Well, there are two particular economic revenue streams to the North Koreans are quite important to their ability to fund their weapons programs and to maintain their economic activity just within their own country. One, of course, is energy. No economy can function if it does not have access to energy. China is the principle supplier of oil to North Korea. They have cut off oil supplies in the past when things got bad. We're asking China to use that leverage they have with North Korea to influence them. And in the case of Russia it's foreign labors.


REX TILLERSON: Russia has over thirty thousand foreign laborers from North Korea. Those wages all go back to the regime in North Korea.

JOHN DICKERSON: China says if they cut off the oil it will lead to that collapse that they worry about. Is there anything the U.S. can do to allay their fears?

REX TILLERSON: What we've said to them is, look, you have the best information, you have your hand on the bow. You set the bow where you think it's going to create the-- the message that you want to send to this regime that they must change the path they're on. So we're leaving it in China's hands at this point.

JOHN DICKERSON: And-- and why not just start talks now, China, Russia, France, have all said the U.S. should-- should solve this with talks at the diplomatic table.

REX TILLERSON: Well, I'm waiting for the regime in North Korea to give us some indication that they're prepared to have constructive, productive talks. We have tried a couple of times to signal to them that we're ready when they're ready. And they have responded with more missile launches and a nuclear test. All they need to do to let us know they're ready to talk is to just stop these tests, stop those provocative actions, and let's lower the-- the threat level and the rhetoric.

JOHN DICKERSON: Do they need to stop them, you know, give them two weeks or something or they need to say we are going to stop. Does it have to be a verbal promise?

REX TILLERSON: Well, I've said in the past, John, that we'll know it when we see it in terms of their seriousness.

JOHN DICKERSON: If China doesn't-- in terms of seriousness, if China doesn't do what you think is necessary either on this oil question or anything else are trade measures in order to punish China to put pressure on China?

REX TILLERSON: Well, the President has been very clear that he views this threat of North Korea as ever growing, and as we've watched each missile test and each nuclear test their program is advancing. It's advancing technologically and it's advancing as capabilities. We've said from the beginning we don't have a lot of time left. We don't have a runway left to land this plane on, so we need China's assistance to bring them to the table.

JOHN DICKERSON: Let me-- this week the President is going out to the United Nations. He's going to speak. He has talked about an America First policy. That's what he's talked about in office. The United Nations is a collective action group. How does America at first fit into a group-- an organization that exists through collective action?

REX TILLERSON: Well, I think it's a very important week for the President up to the U.N. General Assembly. There's two aspects of-- of his participation up there. One is his major speech that he will give through the General Assembly. The world will be listening; the American people will be listening. And the message he's going to deliver in that speech is first he's going to promote and advocate for the strength of democratic values. He's going to reinforce that it is those shared values that bind our alliances together. And that have kept the world a stable place. So he is going to be advocating for those values and the protection of those values. And then he's going to be making the case that those values are under attack. They're under attack from threats that we just spoke about in North Korea. They're under attack from threats of Iranian destabilizing efforts. They're under attack by others who would undermine our democratic values. So he is going to be very clear in terms of his view that that is what brings us together. That's what binds these nations together, makes us most powerful, and also creates a stable world. And then he is going to address these specific threats of North Korea, Iran, terrorism, global terrorism, and why it is important that all of us come together and confront these as a unified body. I think he does believe the United Nations can be a very important instrument of addressing these threats to the world, but I think he also takes the view that the United Nations has fallen short and he wants to motivate them in that regard.

JOHN DICKERSON: Let me ask you about Iran. The President has till the fifteenth of October to notify Congress whether Iran is in compliance with the nuclear deal arranged by the previous administration. You say they are not in compliance. The British foreign minister says they are. Are there any other people who are part of that deal who believe that Iran is not in compliance with the nuclear deal?

REX TILLERSON: Well, my view on the nuclear deal is they are in technical compliance of the nuclear arrangement. But if you go back and read the preamble to the JCPO, the nuclear agreement, there, clearly, was an expectation between the parties. The negotiators from the Western parties as well as Iran that by dealing with this nuclear threat we would lower the tension between Iran and the rest of the world and we would create conditions for Iran to rejoin the community of nations as a productive country that wants stability and wants peace and wants prosperity in the region. That's why all these sanctions were lifted. But since the nuclear deal has been concluded what we have witnessed is Iran has stepped up these destabilizing activities in Yemen, stepped up its destabilizing activities in Syria. It exports arms to Hezbollah and other terrorist groups; and it continues to conduct a very active ballistic missile program. None of that I believe is consistent with that preamble commitment that was made by everyone.

JOHN DICKERSON: Very quickly, though, there not a nuclear power; you're dealing with North Korea why not do one thing at a time, why take on-- potentially, take on Iran on that question. Why not leave that for another day. You've got a pretty serious thing with North Korea right in front of you.

REX TILLERSON: Well, I think it's important when you consider the Iranian relationship and how we view it. As I said, I have said to others in Europe, consider our full breadth of our relationship. And this is what the President has said as well, look, we have a lot of issues with Iran, they're a yard-- a yard long, the nuclear issue is only one foot of that yard. We have two feet of other issues that we must deal with and it has to do with Iran's destabilizing activities.

JOHN DICKERSON: Very quickly on Cuba--senators suggested closing down the embassy there. Should that happen?

REX TILLERSON: We have it under evaluation. It's a very serious issue with respect to the harm that certain individuals have suffered. We've brought some of those people home. It's under review.

JOHN DICKERSON: All right. Mister Secretary, thank you so much for your time.

REX TILLERSON: My pleasure.

JOHN DICKERSON: And we'll be back in one minute with Arizona Senator John McCain.


JOHN DICKERSON: And we're back with the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee--Senator John McCain. Senator, welcome. Your reaction to the secretary of state, the U.S. wants to sit down at the table with North Korea but North Korea doesn't stop testing.

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R-Arizona/Armed Services Committee/@SenJohnMcCain): Well, you know, it's-- this is one of the longest standing crises that we have faced three previous administrations have tried to make deals with North Korea in order to stop the steady progress they have been making towards the acquisition of nuclear power-- excuse me, nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them. And I'm-- I'm all for us going back to the table. But I'm not sure that we aren't facing a serious situation here of two options, one, a nuclear-armed North Korea or war with North Korea as-- as I-- so we would prevent them from the further acquisition. So it seems to me China is very important and, yet, we can't revisit that same old scenario we had before. So we're going to have to do a number of things, including incredible emphasis on missile--


SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: --defense in South Korea. And our own missile defense system since there is the scenario, you never know exactly where it is, where they could strike the United States of America and Alaska. That is both of those are unacceptable options. So, I think missile defense, I think trying to influence China to-- to reign in their behavior--which China has never done, this is probably one of the most serious international crises, national security crises we face.

JOHN DICKERSON: Give me your assessment of the administration. Secretary Tillerson suggested today that all of this is backed up by a swift military capability. Everybody has talked how tough those options are. But give me your sense of how soon that capability could be put into operation. I mean, other analysts have said it would take a long time for the U.S. to-- to actually move militarily. What's your sense of the timeline?

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: I think it's difficult but I think we are making sure that we have the capability as far as militarily in South Korea but also the emphasis now has to be on missile defense to a large degree. I-- I have great confidence in our capability to develop counter-missile capability. We don't have that right now. When some analysts are saying that they have already the capability to hit the United States of America.

JOHN DICKERSON: You're working very hard on the defense reauthorization in the Senate.


JOHN DICKERSON: Let me ask you about this. There have been a number of incidents, eight so far this summer, including one on the USS John McCain named after your father and grandfather. You said this on the Senate floor this week: This is you--"We are killing more of our own people in training than our enemies are in combat. Why is that happening?

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: It's because of a thing called sequestration and our failure over the last eight years to make sure our military is prepared, equipped, trained. Whenever you cut defense capabilities the first thing that goes is the training and the readiness and-- because that's easy enough to cancel if it's a new weapon system or something of significant impact then that's a lot harder. So the first thing that goes is that. And so our readiness continues to suffer and the training that-- that they need very badly is not there. And I would add to that, adding on all this political correctness stuff with a shrinking military, when you really look at the-- how much time they have in actual training and readiness it's continued to shrink. So we have accident after accident after accident. We are killing more Americans in uniform in training than we are in engagement with the enemy. That's-- that's not acceptable.

JOHN DICKERSON: Can that be fixed in the defense reauthorization that you're working on?

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: It can be fixed in the defense authorization as far as authorizing. The appropriations, the money side is still on the decline and we have to fix that and I would quote, no less a expert than the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who said, "If we don't turn this around within five years our adversaries will have caught up with us in capabilities." We don't want to do that. And we don't want to do that to the young men and women who are serving. Look, when we don't fund them adequately, and I'm sure I get a little heated about this, we don't fund them adequately, we put their lives in danger. That's what the service chiefs have told us. Don't we have a responsibility to these young men and women and their families. I called the families of the ten that were killed on the USS McCain. I'll tell you that is one of the most heartbreaking things that-- that you can do. And so if we're going to ask young men and women to voluntarily serve in the military we better-- our part of the bargain is to provide them as much as we can and as much as they need in order to operate in the most safe manner.

JOHN DICKERSON: You supported on Friday a bill that would prevent President Trump from implementing a ban on transgender.


JOHN DICKERSON: What-- give me your thinking on that.

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: First of all, I think that transgender people are in the military and to somehow tell them along with the DREAMers that they have to leave the military, which is short of qualified personnel, I believe that a study-- I know that a study is going on right now conducted by General Mattis as to the whole issue. One, we wait until that is completed. And, finally, what do we tell those young men and women who are transgender that are serving, that they're-- that they're out? Same thing with the DREAMers. There's nine hundred DREAMers in Iraq and Afghanistan right now, what if we tell them-- what were we going to go go to them and say, hey, pack up, you have to go back to El Salvador?


SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: That-- that's just not fair.

JOHN DICKERSON: Quickly two other issues.


JOHN DICKERSON: One, the President is working on bipartisan approach, what do you make of that?

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: I'm interested in that, of course. We-- this President is always full of surprises. But the problem is, John, it shouldn't be bipartisanship. It should be both Republican, Democrat and the President. So, yes, he surprised the Republicans with the deal that he made with Chuck and Nancy-- with Chuck and Nancy. What it should take place is the three of them, both leaders Republican and Democrat and the President sit down and say, okay, we got a problem here. We need to fix it. And that means that we can come up with all three of us in one solid proposal. Why did-- why did Obamacare fail? Obamacare was ram through with Democrats votes only. Are we going to ram through our proposal with-- with Democrats and the President? That's not the way to do it. We got to go back, if I could just say again, the way to do this is have a bill, put it through the committee. We have Patty Murray and Lamar Alexander doing fine, bring it to the floor. Have debate, have amendments, we passed our bill twenty-seven to nothing for the Armed Services Committee.

JOHN DICKERSON: --senator. I'm sorry. Thank you, Senator. We've run out of time.

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: I had more to say.

JOHN DICKERSON: We will get you back then.


JOHN DICKERSON: We'll be back in a moment with Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, co-directors of the new PBS film The Vietnam War. Stay with us.

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: And don't miss it.


JOHN DICKERSON: Tonight the ten-part documentary series The Vietnam War premiers on PBS. Joining us now co-directors Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. Ken and Lynn, there's been a lot done on The Vietnam War, but what's so interesting you've done is tell the story of the North Vietnamese as well. So I want to play a compelling clip of an American soldier and a North Vietnamese and then talk to you about it after we watch it. Take a look.

(Begin VT)

JOHN MUSGRAVE: Every major contact I remember with the NVA was initiated by them ambushing us. They wouldn't hit us unless they outnumbered us and we were fighting in their yard. They knew the ground, we didn't. They were just really good.

(Man #1 speaking foreign language)

MAN #2: The North Vietnamese carried Soviet-made seemingly indestructible AK-47s. The Marines had to fight with newly issued M-16 rifles that had for a time a potentially fatal design flaw. They needed constant cleaning and often jammed in the middle of firefights.

JOHN MUSGRAVE: Their rifles worked, ours didn't. The M-16 was a piece of (EXPLETIVE DELETED) you can't throw your bullets at the enemy and have them be effective. And that rifle malfunctioned on us repeatedly.

(Man #3 speaking foreign language)

JOHN MUSGRAVE: My hatred for them was pure. Pure. I hated them so much and I was so scared of them. Boy, I was terrified of them. And the scarier I got the more I hated them.

(Man #3 speaking foreign language)

(End VT)

JOHN DICKERSON: There's so much going on in there. Ken, the-- the interweaning meeting of the North, was that was that always the plan?

KEN BURNS (The Vietnam War/@KenBurns): Yes. And, you know, I think that when Americans talk about the Vietnam War, which we do a lot or also ignore it we tend to talk only about ourselves. But if we really want to understand it, ask the fundamental or try to answer the fundamental question what happened, you've got to triangulate, you've got to know what's going on. And we have many battles in which you've got South Vietnamese soldiers and American advisors or-- or their counterparts and Viet Cong or North Vietnamese, you have to get in there and understand what they're thinking. And the amazing thing in this film is just how similar our Marines and Army guys sound to Viet Cong and the NVA.

JOHN DICKERSON: Well, I want to, Lynn, ask you about that similarity. When you were doing the interviews was that-- what struck you when you were talking to both sides?

LYNN NOVICK (The Vietnam War/@LynnNovick): You know-- yes. Sarah Botstein and I had the chance to go to Vietnam multiple times to do a lot of these interviews there with people who have fought on the winning side and we kept hearing the same echoes of things that American soldiers experienced. And there was just a willingness and openness to tell their story in a way that they never speak about it in Vietnam, which is the human story, what the war was really like. The war there is sort of this grand-- sort of victorious narrative without people in it. And the people who survived wanted the next generation to know how terrible it was, how difficult it was. And they are very interested in communicating with each other and with Americans at this point. So we were the beneficiaries of that openness. It was incredible.

JOHN DICKERSON: Any questions from one side to the other through your work?

LYNN NOVICK: Yes. They were very interested to know, you know, what was it like for the Americans. Do they know where we were? We know where they were, you know, sort of just what-- what were the conditions that they fought in. There was a lot of back and forth. We would love to put them all in a room together and we have in the film as Ken was saying.

JOHN DICKERSON: All right. We're going to continue this conversation but we need to take a quick break, so we'll take a break and we'll be back in our second half hour with much more from Ken Burns and Lynn Novick.

If your station does not continue immediately with FACE THE NATION we will have the second part of our interview on our website,, just as quickly as we can.


JOHN DICKERSON: We'll be right back with a lot more FACE THE NATION, including more on The Vietnam War and our political panel and an update on how Florida is recovering from Hurricane Irma. Stay with us.


JOHN DICKERSON: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION. We continue our conversation with The Vietnam War filmmakers Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. Ken, I want to pick up on what Lynn was saying about the two sides in this film.

KEN BURNS: Yeah. I think that reconciliation is possible within our two countries where we're both divided as well as between the two countries where we seem to have at least superficially solved the distance between us. And we had a North Vietnamese soldier that we interviewed who'd come actually to New Hampshire where we were editing and made some comments. We put him into the film and he had a chance recently when Lynn took the film back to Vietnam to look at it. He said, you know, "When I was in the Army through the propaganda I saw the demonstrations that were taking place against the war in the United States as a sign of our weakness as a country, and their superiority because they had a kind of monolithic sense of morale and purpose. But he said, "I realize now that that was a sign of your strength. That he didn't have that luxury of being able to say, you know what, I disagree without ending up in our reeducation camp or worse." And I think, for us, Americans who are still torn on the bias about Vietnam to realize that from the distance of our enemy they can actually now appreciate all of the things that were going on with us might help us all heal.

JOHN DICKERSON: All right. Lynn, let me ask you about the American presidency and this war. You so beautifully chart that many presidents of both parties--


JOHN DICKERSON: --who were a part of this, what-- what was the state of the American presidency through the Vietnam War?

LYNN NOVICK: We think that you can really see a sea change between when the war began or when the-- or America got involved in Vietnam. This is right after World War II and that was the Truman administration, the Eisenhower administration, (INDISTINCT) Johnson-- Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon that, you know, there was a sense that we believed in our leaders, that they were good people, that they knew what they were doing, that they were competent, that they would do what was in the best interest of the nation, that they would not lie to the people, they would tell the truth, you know, and that they would sort of carry on the nation's business in the best possible way. And that just eroded and eroded and eroded. You had sort of a credibility gap where the public began to doubt that they were getting the true story under Johnson. And it-- it sort of metastasized into terrible cynicism under Nixon that we cannot trust our presidents, that they don't tell us the truth, that they are not doing the right thing and that, you know, just sort of a pox on both their houses--


LYNN NOVICK: --and that's sort of where we are now. It's become sort of from naive idealist, sort of faith to skepticism to cynicism. And that's a disturbing thing. And you hear this in the audio tapes that we were able to include in the film, when you hear our presidents speaking privately, especially Johnson and Nixon about what they really think about the war, which is they have terrible doubts, they have no confidence, they want to get out, they don't see the point. And they go out on television the next day and say everything is going great.

JOHN DICKERSON: Ken, this is-- it's about a decision that becomes in a sense irrevocable--


JOHN DICKERSON: --and has its own momentum.

KEN BURNS: It does.

JOHN DICKERSON: Give me your sense of that and also as a filmmaker, how do you take those of us who weren't living in that moment back to it because now Vietnam it just-- it connotes failure--


JOHN DICKERSON: --for people.

KEN BURNS: Exactly.

JOHN DICKERSON: Like how did they not know this was going to be a disaster? How do you convey that to people?

KEN BURNS: Well-- well, you know what, good storytelling someone once told me is, and then, and then, and then. And so you just start at the beginning, and you ask certain questions of the Truman administration and they're making decisions based on domestic political considerations, which is a polite way you know, of saying, will I get re-elected? And Eisenhower and Kennedy and Johnson, and Nixon, what's interesting for-- for us filmmakers, maybe it's too much inside baseball is that, we're trying to sort of manage a combination of a bottom-up and a top-down way of communicating history. Ordinary-- so-called ordinary folks at the granular level of combat as you saw in that first clip. But then also we've got the president sort of supposedly top down, thirty thousand feet--


KEN BURNS: --with our best interests and here you're hearing in the intimacy of the tapes, particularly, the Johnson and Nixon tapes, the exact opposite not only of what they're saying but it explodes this notion of the great men and returns them to the same very human level as everyone else we're dealing with. So you're perceiving this momentum that all of them know exactly that this is not going to work out. That-- that as, you know, we have a strategy of not losing rather than winning or any articulation of particular goals that would represent winning. And then they're also saying one thing in public, and another in private, but you can get at their-- their-- their humanity and their failures, at the same time, our ordinary witnesses are betraying the same sorts of complications. John Musgrave, you know, I hated them and I feared them at the same time.

JOHN DICKERSON: All right. Lynn, what was it like to have the Vietnam War in your head for this length of time?

LYNN NOVICK: Well, I think it's true for Ken and me and our writer, Geoff Ward, our producer, Sarah Botstein, we-- none of us got a whole lot of sleep over the course of this. We sort of-- it was a 24/7 obsession. And it was devastating. I mean it was devastating and it was deeply inspiring. It was devastating to think of the lives lost, American fifty-eight thousand lives, Vietnamese, three million lives, three hundred thousand are still missing in Vietnam. So to try to absorb the meaning of that was totally devastating. Every time we go to the wall, we cry. Every time we think about what happened in Vietnam, we cry. And, yet, we were also just deeply moved and sort of inspired by the courage of the people who shared their stories with us, you know, that they sort of-- some in the inner resources to speak about things that were deeply troubling. And to see them living and breathing and, you know, able to function and tell us what happened to them. People who lost a son, people who lost a friend, people who were wounded horribly just-- they survived. And here they are and that's incredible.

JOHN DICKERSON: How did they do that? I mean they're so calm in these descriptions.

KEN BURNS: What-- what you want to do is try to go in and listen, I mean, too often now in a kind of journalistic dynamic you've got a set of questions, you're-- you're not-- it isn't really listening because what we want to do is hear something in a tick of the voice or a twitch of a cheek and don't have just a couple of minutes, we have, you know, an hour or two hours to sit with them and hear that that question number seven may, in fact, have a B, C, D, E, F, G thing and, suddenly, you're down a wormhole that we, and, more importantly, they, weren't completely sure they were going to go to. And so there's nothing more satisfying professionally than to be witness to sort of express memory for the first time. And some of these people had stories. I won't say practiced ever. It's impossible in The Vietnam War to have this practiced. But some of them I think surprised themselves by the way the moment the memory overtook them. And it's sad that, you know, you fight wars twice--


KEN BURNS: --once on the battlefield and once in memory. And if you've got your camera there and you're sensitive to it, you can sometimes see the-- the-- the conflict, and it's not always between armies it's within a particular person, that's-- that kind of growth and that kind of development is something you want to capture, too, and so many of the seventy-nine people you meet on camera in the film undergo profound psychological and emotional changes as a result of this war and, thankfully, gratefully, they were willing to share that transformation with us.

JOHN DICKERSON: Lynn, what surprised you the most in the process?

LYNN NOVICK: Well, I-- I was devastated to find the sense that our leadership never really had confidence that the war could be won from the very beginning, and to think about all the lives lost and all the terrible suffering that people went through both here and in Vietnam. And-- and I-- I think I didn't expect that. I thought there would have been some moments along the way. And I think understanding how deeply complicated the war still is in Vietnam, you know, they want-- the-- the-- the Vietnamese government and the Vietnamese people that are on the winning side are now to this day reckoning with the losses they suffered and asking questions about what it means some of the same questions we asked. And that surprised us. We really didn't know that there would be this sense of, was it worth it, what price did we pay? Were our leaders doing the right thing? The same questions we ask they're asking in Vietnam. And that-- that was revelatory for sure.

JOHN DICKERSON: All right. We're going to have to leave it there. Thank you both so very much. It's an amazing piece of work. And tonight it will air on PBS at 8:00 P.M. Eastern, The Vietnam War. And we'll be right back.


JOHN DICKERSON: It's time now for our political panel. Susan Page is the Washington bureau chief for USA Today. Jeffrey Goldberg is the editor-in-chief at The Atlantic. We're also joined by Slate Magazine's chief political correspondent and CBS News political analyst Jamelle Bouie. And Ramesh Ponnuru, who is a senior editor at The National Review. Jeffrey, I want to start with you with the secretary of state's comments on North Korea. What-- what did you make of this?

JEFFREY GOLDBERG (The Atlantic/@JeffreyGoldberg): He's walking a line, obviously. He-- the-- the thing that's interesting about his position is that you-- you see that this administration still believes that the leader of North Korea is someone who could possibly be negotiated with, they-- they still believe that China has some capability of pressuring the North Koreans. These are-- these are huge questions. And people like me who've watched this for twenty years see new administrations come in and believe that they can move this issue. And I'm-- I'm a little bit surprised that they believe they can move the issue to the degree they-- they think. But, on the other hand, they are talking in a rational, reasonable way, understanding that the military option is really not much of an option if you're in South Korea, if you're in Japan, obviously. And so he's-- he's walking a line. But I don't predict great success out of this-- this-- this plan.

JOHN DICKERSON: Ramesh, it-- it-- it does seem difficult to kind of try and figure out, we're a few weeks away from fire and fury, which was President Trump's said that if North Korea threatened again it would see fire and fury. But secretary of state while saying there's a military option is clearly still working the diplomatic, very clear at the first to say we don't want a regime change in North Korea, which is a clear signal to them. What do you make of where things are now? This is the latest iteration of a-- of a pattern, really.

RAMESH PONNURU (National Review/@RameshPonnuru/Bloomberg View): Right. And I think that the secretary of state's call for a de-escalation of rhetoric is particularly interesting in light of the President's earlier comments about fire and fury. Look, I-- I think he's-- he's conceding that the attempts we have made to send a message that they need to calm down and stop saber-rattling have not gotten through. And so it does-- it does have a little bit of a disconcerting sense of spinning of the wheels.

JEFFREY GOLDBERG: Just a quick point on that, you know, he talks about the four nos, but the South Koreans, our allies, just this week let it be known that they have a decapitation plan at the ready. In other words, a violent removal of North Korea's leadership. So the North Koreans, I'm sure, are not hearing Rex Tillerson, they're hearing about the decapitation plan.

JOHN DICKERSON: And-- and, Susan, they're going to hear from the President, they are hearing from the President in tweets and other places, what do you expect the President goes to the General Assembly next week to speak to the world, what do you-- how do you see that in this context?

SUSAN PAGE (USA Today): The number one issue he faces is North Korea and today he labels the leader of North Korea "Rocket Man" in a tweet, which I am sure is not something that Rocket Man finds amusing, right?

JEFFREY GOLDBERG: It's not easily translatable either.

SUSAN PAGE: It's not really--


SUSAN PAGE: It's not a diplomatic--

JOHN DICKERSON: Although he's a fan of Western music and so (INDISTINCT)--


JOHN DICKERSON: --could be available--


JOHN DICKERSON: --trying to explain what's going on.

SUSAN PAGE: You know the trouble with pursuing endlessly through several administrations trying to deal with a nuclear North Korea is that they're just closer and closer and closer to being in a really devastating position with their nuclear arsenal. So the-- the ground-- the groundwork on-- the ground on which this-- this is being played just gets more and more dangerous with this just the same options that we've had from the start.

JOHN DICKERSON: Jamelle, let me pivot here to the President's negotiating with another group, which is to say the Democrats this week. What-- where are we at the end of the week in terms of what the President may or may not have agreed to or negotiated with the Democratic leaders and then what Republicans are doing with that news?

JAMELLE BOUIE (Slate Magazine/@jbouie/CBS News Political Analyst): Well, I'm not sure that Democrats are entirely certain of what they've negotiated with the President but so far what-- what seems to have happened the President has made a commitment to do something on DACA on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the DREAMers. And Democrats believe that they are on the path to some sort of permanent solution for those-- for those immigrants. And the-- the trade here is a permanent solution and-- and-- and for border security, for spending on what the President has labeled sort of upgrading the fences and existing walls on the border. That I think is-- is-- may-- may happen. Republicans, obviously, are not happy about this, although Republican lawmakers have said that they're interested in a permanent solution. What I think is interesting about all of this is the activists response to the Democratic negotiations, this worry that to get this deal Democrats will be-- will be bolstering a hard-line immigration status quo on the border. And so there are-- there are rumblings that some activists don't want this kind of deal if that's what it takes to get a permanent solution for--

JOHN DICKERSON: The Democratic activists.

JAMELLE BOUIE: --the Democratic activists.

SUSAN PAGE: I don't know. You know this is-- we always knew that when President Trump was elected with this different kind of coalition that it was possible he could govern as a third party president.


SUSAN PAGE: And I think that's what we're-- we've been seeing in the last few weeks. And this alarms I think some activist Democrats but, boy, more alarms I think Republicans who figured we'd accept President Trump and all the uncertainties that it created if it meant we could get our priorities signed into law and that's what is in question now.

RAMESH PONNURU: I mean what's so-- see I-- I actually kind of disagree with that because the border wall that Trump appears to be giving up he's not asking for that, at least as part of this deal. That's not-- it's not as though Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan are enthusiastic about that. That wasn't a priority for the Republican Party establishment that was a priority for Trump's base, specifically.


RAMESH PONNURU: And I think a lot of congressional Republicans who are fine with legal status for this group of illegal immigrants who were brought here in most case as children, that's not a problem for the congressional establishment, that's more of a problem for Trump's very distinctive base. They are the ones that he seems to be selling out.

JAMELLE BOUIE: What's so interesting about all of this is that, no-- it seems like, no one is happy here. On one hand President Trump has not been able to advance a traditional Republican agenda like I think some Republicans hoped. On the other hand he is betraying this core base of his that hoped on immigration restrictionism.

SUSAN PAGE: Well, let me just disagree with you. You know who is happy here? Americans who look at this and say, you know, for sixteen years--

JEFFREY GOLDBERG: They are playing the role of optimists over here, yeah.




SUSAN PAGE: Americans look at this and say nothing gets done. Sixteen years they debated about DREAMers, now is-- does it get done. We got through raising the debt ceiling and funding the government at least for a couple of months with no big fight, hurricane relief. I think this is exactly what people have been so frustrated about Washington that nothing ever seemed to get done because no one was happy with making a deal.

JOHN DICKERSON: So-- so Jeffrey, is this letting Trump be Trump?

JEFFREY GOLDBERG: Letting Trump be Trump allows him to tweet abnormally let's say, and-- and then make normal deals with people he actually likes. One of the things that's interesting, I think-- I think normal Trump or letting Trump be Trump is-- is recognizing the fact that he likes Chuck Schumer more than he likes Mitch McConnell. Now that's not a betrayal in his mind because he doesn't care about Mitch McConnell; he doesn't care about Paul Ryan. He does care about the base. And so I think there's always a limit on-- on-- on how far he'll go as long as the base becomes activated against him on the issue of the wall which is highly symbolic. You already hear the Trump people, by the way, talking and going back to this idea of normalcy. They're talking in a more normal way about, well, it's not really a wall, (INDISTINCT) can be fence and some things we already have in place. Trump is being Trump in the sense that we can't predict what tomorrow will bring and we can't predict what the next tweet will bring.

JOHN DICKERSON: Ramesh, let me stick to policy a tiny bit here in this context which is-- all right the President has-- has the beginnings of a deal here, but Republicans, obviously, want other things. There are other pieces in play, what are they, what should people pay attention to but also does this mean the President now has to be the negotiator through all the complicated pieces as he works with Democrats, Republicans, with himself, his base?

RAMESH PONNURU: Mm-Hm. Well, different Republicans want different things. Some would like policy where it's mandatory for employers to use E-Verify to make sure that their new hires are legally resident in the United States. If the wall is gone then there are other things that people want to look at in terms of border security. As for whether Trump is going to negotiate this, what's interesting is we use this language about negotiation and deal but we're also unused to actual deals being made in Washington, DC. But we haven't noticed that, in fact, the debt ceiling was not a negotiation, it was not a deal. That was just Trump saying I agree with the Democratic position.


RAMESH PONNURU: And so far we have a somewhat more specific agreement between Trump and the congressional Democrats on legalizing DREAMers and everything about the things that Trump might want from the Democrats is vague and up in the air.

JOHN DICKERSON: Susan, how do you see this playing out for Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell who have sometimes been on the receiving end of bad news from the President. They would have to manage a bill through here. How does-- what's this look like going forward?

SUSAN PAGE: Well, they'd have to agree to bring a bill forward. I mean, that is not-- President maybe a little fuzzy on this. It's not always clear but-- but Paul Ryan and-- and Mitch McConnell will determine what gets debated on the-- on the-- in Congress. And so he needs them-- he needs them to at least cooperate. But they're pretty-- especially Mitch McConnell pretty pragmatic, pretty strategic. You know, I assume-- I assume it's going to be hard for either of them to just-- just defy the President. One-- one other thing it's a little bit like triangulation in the Clinton administration where Clinton worked with the Republicans who were on the rise in Congress, and that worked until Clinton faced impeachment and he needed to be a Democrat again. And we should never forget that this Russia investigation is proceeding, we don't know where that goes. There may be a time when President Trump really needs to be a Republican again.

JEFFREY GOLDBERG: There's an-- one of the many interesting moments, a small point, but one of the many interesting moments in the last week is that it seemed as if Trump had forgotten that the Republicans control the House and the Senate. And-- and-- and he is post partisan or nonpartisan or whatever you want to call it but-- but they will remind him over time. They will remind him that they're in charge of those bodies.

JOHN DICKERSON: Jamelle, going back to your point about the Democratic base, Gerry Connolly a Virginia Democrat told Politico--"There must be both political and moral limitations to how far they're willing to go with the President. And I was struck this week the President had kind of two positions on-- on what happened in Charlottesville." He signed legislation condemning the white supremacists. On the other hand, he again returned to this idea there are both sides. That notion of both sides is this moral piece that Connolly is talking about.

JAMELLE BOUIE: Right. I think that is the core dilemma right now for Democrats we find themselves and I think the somewhat unexpected position of being able to, essentially, dictate terms to President Trump and have Trump accept them. If that's the case then why shouldn't you kind of working towards a practical goal not taking advantage of that. On the other hand, when the President is unwilling to make firm condemnations of white supremacists when the President until very recently employed advisors who worked or ran websites that sort of facilitated those kinds of groups, working-- delivering a political victory or policy victory to the President isn't some still working about political victory as well; and then you're stuck in the situation where you're practical accomplishments in the bolstering someone who morally you have this profound disagreement. And so I'm not really sure how Democrats square that circle but I think it is a real dilemma and I think on the activist level, liberal activists, progressive activists are very wary of this-- this turn.

JEFFREY GOLDBERG: Chuck Schumer is, obviously, comfortable making deals with Donald Trump. The base of Chuck Schumer's party--


JEFFREY GOLDBERG: --not going to be so comfortable.

JOHN DICKERSON: Right. Ramesh, what did you make the President met with Tim Scott. Tim Scott trying to talk to him. African American senator, Republican from South Carolina about these issues. What was the net result of that interaction do you think?

RAMESH PONNURU: You know it's not clear because it was after that meeting that the--


RAMESH PONNURU:  --President went out again and-- and talked about both sides. And one of the things that I think that suggests is that even though President Trump has been getting very favorable publicity for working with the Democrats he cannot resist relitigating this previous episode where he got very, very bad press. He just has to have the last word in on that argument.

JOHN DICKERSON: Right. And now we have violence in-- in Saint Louis, which is going to perhaps provide another flashpoint moment for this question of race in America. Thank you to all of you. We're out of time. We'll be back in a moment to take a look at how Florida is recovering from Hurricane Irma.


JOHN DICKERSON: It's been a week since Hurricane Irma made landfall in the Florida Keys. CBS News national correspondent Manuel Bojorquez is in Marathon, Florida, with an update.

MANUEL BOJORQUEZ (CBS News National Correspondent): Well, John, as people start to return home they will find, in many cases, that their homes are gone. FEMA estimates that twenty-five percent of homes here in the Florida Keys were destroyed by Hurricane Irma and a large number have heavy damage. Now to be clear not all parts of the Florida Keys look like this. Some parts escaped the worst of Irma but in neighborhoods like this, it could be months even years, before people can completely rebuild.

JOHN DICKERSON: Manuel, what is the greatest need throughout Florida right now?

MANUEL BOJORQUEZ: Well, it will be a financial one going forward as people try to get back on their feet. Not only insurance claims but also seeking assistance from FEMA. You can hear right now still some of the resources being deployed to help people. Helicopters and navy ships are being positioned just off the Keys. But we should tell you that a week out from the hurricane hitting here there are still pockets of South Florida that do not have power and here in Monroe County there are areas that lack clean running water, fuel and food. The governor of Florida, Rick Scott, said he's already spoken with the President and FEMA about what he considers the most pressing need going forward for the island chain, and that, of course, is housing.

JOHN DICKERSON: And, Manuel, what-- at this point do people think about the government response, are they giving it a grade?

MANUEL BOJORQUEZ: Not a grade just yet, if you will. No response is ever going to be considered perfect and there were certainly people who decided to ride out the storm who would say they faced a few days of desperation waiting for food and water. But from what we could see the preparation and cooperation between local, state, and federal officials really did pay off. And we're talking about state officials urging people to evacuate as early as possible and also from the federal government all five branches of the military being prepositioned in areas nearby so that after the storm passed they could try to get to some of the hard-hit areas and deliver food and water as quickly as possible. The big question, of course, going forward will be how people view the government's role in the recovery phase.

JOHN DICKERSON: Manuel Bojorquez. Thanks so much, Manuel. And we'll be back in a moment.


JOHN DICKERSON: That's it for us today. Thanks for watching. Until next week for FACE THE NATION. I'm John Dickerson.transcript 

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