Face the Nation Transcript August 14, 2016: Collins, Ridge, Cohen, Hayden

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, talks with CBS' "Face the Nation" on August 14, 2016.

JOHN DICKERSON, CBS HOST: Today on FACE THE NATION: Things are getting bleaker for Donald Trump, and a closer look at what makes a successful president.

Plus, the city of Milwaukee erupts overnight in violence, following the shooting death of an armed man by police.

It's been another week of zigs and zags for Donald Trump, incendiary comments and then backtracking, sort of.

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DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks, although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is. I don't know.

ISIS is honoring President Obama. He is the founder of ISIS. He is the founder of ISIS.

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DICKERSON: Trump says he's just kidding, but Republicans worry they're headed for defeat. And even the candidate acknowledges the tough road ahead.

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TRUMP: You know, the Republicans do have a tougher path, just so you know. Not my fault. Not my fault.

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DICKERSON: And increasingly raises the possibility of losing.

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TRUMP: Can you imagine -- can you imagine how badly I will feel if I spent all of that money, all of this energy, all of this time, and lost. I will never, ever forgive the people of Connecticut. I will never forgive the people of Florida and Pennsylvania and Ohio. But I love them anyway. We will see. I think we're going to do very well.

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DICKERSON: Hillary Clinton has her own problems, as new e-mails surface that show a cozy relationship between the State Department and the Clinton Foundation.

We have got new Battleground Tracker numbers.

Republican Senator Susan Collins tells us why she's not supporting Trump.

And we will have a discussion of presidential attributes. Just what skills does a candidate need in the nation's top job?

It's all ahead on FACE THE NATION.

(AUDIO GAP)

CBS News Milwaukee affiliate WDJT reporter Amanda Porterfield filed this report from last night's scene.

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AMANDA PORTERFIELD, WDJT REPORTER: We have video of people setting dumpsters on fire and throwing bricks at buses as they were driving by. In fact, a crowd of people, a large crowd of, I would say about 50 people, crowded around our news car.

They started cursing at us, calling us names, telling us that we're not from here. We're hearing profanities against police. We have had pictures of police cars that have been smashed with bricks, one allegedly set on fire.

There have been reports of a gas station and possibly another building set on fire. Our news crews have been out there. They came back bloodied and bruised. People attacked them. They were robbed down to their shoes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DICKERSON: Turning to campaign 2016, we have new battleground tracker numbers from three key states, starting with Florida.

Hillary Clinton leads Donald Trump by five points, 45 to 40 percent. Georgia is traditionally a red state, but, at this point in the campaign, it's closer than usual. Hillary Clinton is down just four points. You would expect her to be down by more. Donald Trump is at 45, and Clinton at 41.

And New Hampshire seems to be moving towards the blue column. Hillary Clinton now leads Donald Trump 45 to 36.

There are only 85 days left until the election, so we turn to CBS News director of elections Anthony Salvanto.

Anthony, what -- give us a sense of your feeling about the overall picture of the election right now.

ANTHONY SALVANTO, CBS NEWS ELECTIONS DIRECTOR: When you look across all the states, John, Hillary Clinton now has a big enough lead in enough of these battleground states that, if she can hold it in fall -- and that's an if -- then she's in position to get elected, to win.

You know, what you see in battleground after battleground now -- and New Hampshire is a perfect example. We add that to Virginia, like we saw last week. When we do these polls -- and we expect them to be close, because they're always close -- and she's got this big edge. And if she holds it in the fall, we might not actually call them battlegrounds anymore.

For Donald Trump, what this sets up for him is, he doesn't just have to flip a close state here and there in order to win. He now has to actually actively go out and reverse big leads in a lot of states in order to be in position for him to win come fall.

DICKERSON: So, it's a steeper climb for him in these traditional states, or if they fall off contention altogether, that means his path to victory is really narrow.

SALVANTO: It's really narrow.

And I will give you an example out of New Hampshire of just how tough this looks from here. So, we asked people who aren't voting for Donald Trump, would you consider voting for him? And among women, with whom he is down almost 20 points anyway, women who are not voting for him, the number who say, yes, they would consider it is zero. And the number who say maybe is 9 percent.

So, if you're at zero in the number of people who will consider you going forward, that just emphasizes what a tough hill it is.

DICKERSON: And so what's his big challenge, Donald Trump's big challenge, right now in the polls, as you see it?

SALVANTO: Well, he's got a couple.

And one is, he's behind schedule, if you will, in rallying his own base, his own partisans. There's Republicans who have fallen away. They haven't all shifted en masse to Hillary Clinton. They're more undecided, unsure.

But he is at -- in the mid-70s, about 70-odd percent among Republicans, whereas you compare that to Hillary Clinton, who is up, for example, in New Hampshire, at 93 percent of Democrats. So, we're in a very partisan environment anyway. You have to get in the 90s with your base. So, that just emphasizes one key challenge to Trump.

DICKERSON: So, just this week, the conversation was Donald Trump and heartburn in Republican ranks. Your poll numbers seem to suggest that is showing up in the regular old people, in terms of not sticking with him.

SALVANTO: Yes.

And it's so different from the primaries, because, in the primaries, the voters said they didn't care what Republican leaders said and did about Donald Trump. But, here, you have got a much larger electorate that tells you in the polls that they do care somewhat.

DICKERSON: What's his other challenge?

SALVANTO: He's got -- when you look at the number of people who are willing to swing, who are going back and forth, it's very small.

It's still very small, because those undecideds have at this point shifted to Hillary Clinton. In fact, here's another small number for you. The number of folks who say that they feel like they have two good choices in this in this race is 1 percent.

Now, that's not to say Hillary Clinton isn't without some issues of her own. In fact, if I told you a couple of months ago that she'd be trailing Donald Trump in some of these states on ability to fix the economy, on honest and trustworthy, you might say she'd be trailing.

But, in fact, it's these honest and it's these judgment and temperament questions that Trump has been facing that are showing up in the polls. And that particular -- in particular, is what's weighing him down.

DICKERSON: So, while Hillary Clinton has lots of weakness, voters are picking temperament as the thing that for them right now -- and it's hurting Donald Trump -- that's the thing that's guiding their vote the most.

SALVANTO: Exactly.

You have got seven in 10 folks in Florida, for example, who feel like he does not have the judgment and temperament to be president. And that's really serving as an anchor on him. And Hillary Clinton is also beating him there, as she has been, on the commander in chief test.

So that's where the campaign has gone. When you see those other metrics, like fixing the economy, you see in some sense for Donald Trump the campaign that might have been or that might still be if he were to shift the focus to emphasize on those issues.

But, as long as it's on that temperament and judgment, that's what's become an anchor for him.

DICKERSON: Final question. This week, Donald Trump said some exciting things, then said, I was kidding.

How do voters -- how are they parsing his more incendiary comments?

SALVANTO: Well, we asked about that, and most of them feel it's irresponsible.

There's only a minority that feel like he's joking. And among his supporters, they say they think he's telling it like it is. But that's only 20-odd percent. And so when you see a majority saying that they feel like that's -- those are irresponsible comments, that he's not joking, that then goes to that judgment and temperament metric that's become such the emphasis here.

DICKERSON: All right, Anthony Salvanto, thanks, as always. We will see you again real soon.

SALVANTO: Thanks, John.

DICKERSON: We're joined now by Republican Senator Susan Collins, who joins us from Portland, Maine.

Senator, last week, you wrote in "The Washington Post" that you could not support Donald Trump. You said you realized that Donald Trump was never going to change.

What tipped it for you?

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: The tipping point for me was when he attacked the parents of the fallen soldier.

It was inexplicable to me that anyone, much less a presidential candidate, would not honor the sacrifice and empathize with a family who lost a son in war. Instead, he attacked them and attacked their religion.

It was still a difficult a decision for me, because I'm a lifelong Republican, and I wanted to and expected to be able to support our party's nominee. But the barrage of cruel comments and the attacks on people who are vulnerable and unable to fight back really troubled me.

DICKERSON: So, what you have talked about is what some of his supporters would say is his kind of blunt way of behaving, what's going to be responsible for allowing him to shake up Washington, and he's not a lifelong politician, so, you know, maybe he's a little rough, but that comes with some good sides.

So, why are they -- why are they wrong in making that case?

COLLINS: When you look at the challenges that we're facing at home and abroad, we need a president who has the judgment, the temperament, the knowledge, and the self-control to lead our country and to be the symbol of our country.

I know that it is appealing to people that Donald Trump has jettisoned the politically correct, stilted campaign speeches that frustrate voters. But the problem is that there's a big difference between that and treating people with respect and common decency.

And there's where, in my judgment, Donald Trump has failed. DICKERSON: So, when you made this decision to write about this, this week, did you let the Trump campaign know or the Republican National Committee know or anything like that?

COLLINS: I did let the Republican National Committee know. And I placed a call to Reince Priebus. And I also let the Senate majority leader know and our state party leaders know.

DICKERSON: Did they try and talk you out of it?

COLLINS: No, I think they understood that this was a decision that I, like many Americans, really struggled with.

Donald Trump was not my choice in the primary. And I always expected that he would evolve and change and that we would see a new Donald Trump after the primary. Instead, the constant barrage of the ill-informed and cruel comments continued. And that is just not what we need to heal the divisions in our country right now.

DICKERSON: One of the criticisms of those who have taken the stance that you have is that you're basically helping to elect Hillary Clinton. What's your response to that?

COLLINS: If I were helping to elect Hillary Clinton, I would have endorsed her, I would be working for her, and I would be voting for her. I'm not doing any of those things.

I, unfortunately, cannot support either major party candidate. And I'm taking a look at the Libertarian ticket, because it's headed by two former Republican governors who are very successful governors. If Bill Weld were the head of that ticket, it would be the easier choice for me, because I know him well and respect him a great deal.

So, I may go that route, or I may end up writing in the name of the person that I think is best qualified to be our next president.

DICKERSON: If -- as a senator, will you make the case then -- I know you're not voting for Hillary Clinton -- will you make the case then that it's important to have a Republican Senate as a check against Hillary Clinton if it looks like she's going to be the president?

COLLINS: I certainly will.

I have assured party leaders that I'm going to continue to work for Republican candidates all across this country. I believe it's essential that we have a Republican Senate and a Republican House. And I'm going to do all that I can to bring that about. That is absolutely an important check on whomever becomes the next president.

DICKERSON: All right, Senator Collins, thanks so much for being with us.

COLLINS: Thank you, John.

DICKERSON: And we're going to step back now and talk about the presidency with some who have actually served in administrations. What skills make a good president is what we're looking for here. If we know that, maybe we will know what to look for in the candidates asking for the job.

Tom Ridge is the former Republican governor of Pennsylvania and served as the first homeland security secretary when it was formed after 9/11. William Cohen is a former Republican senator from Maine who served as defense secretary under Democrat Bill Clinton. He is now a consultant and sits on the CBS Board of Directors. Retired Air Force General Michael Hayden served as head of the NSA and the CIA, and is now a principal with the Chertoff Group here in Washington.

Rosa Brooks was a senior adviser to the undersecretary of defense for policy earlier in the Obama administration. And she now has a book out, "How Everything Became War and the Military Became Everything." And former Utah Republican Governor Mike Leavitt, who served as secretary of health and human services and head of the EPA, he joins us from Salt Lake City.

Governor, I want to start with you.

If we think of the campaign as a job interview, and you are all here to elect this -- or, I should say, hire this new president, what are you going to look for? What should you look for?

MICHAEL LEAVITT, FORMER SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: A good metaphor to think about the White House and the job of the presidency would be an air traffic controller with 500 planes in the air at any given moment, all of which think they're about ready to run out of fuel or need to make an emergency landing.

There's a lot happening. There's a lot of voices. And you need a person who has the temperament -- that's a word that's been used a lot today -- that has the ability to operate in an orderly way, that has a history of making good decisions for fire, and that can deal with it in an atmosphere where there's going to be a lot of conflicting voices and people saying unpleasant things about him or her, and that -- and respond to them in an appropriate fashion.

DICKERSON: Secretary Ridge, what are you looking for?

TOM RIDGE, FORMER U.S. HOMELAND SECURITY CHIEF: Well, in addition to everything that Michael said, I think someone who has the leadership qualities that combine respect from the body politic, Republicans and Democrats alike, someone who projects an empathy and a humanity.

I remember what Jack Kemp used to say. People don't care what you know until they know that you care. And we need somebody that kind of projects that image to Americans.

And we need a president -- frankly, we need a candidate who is the same person as a candidate and as a president. And I think that's the challenge with one of the candidates we have.

And, then, ultimately, we need someone that is decisive, with good intuition, with really good intuition, who can distill -- Mike mentioned all these challenges. It's the most complex 21st century. I don't think any president will have ever inherited a more complex world, whether it's the global economy, the scourge of terrorism, the digital forevermore.

And we need somebody who is willing to listen to different points of view and be decisive once he -- he or she decides to make that decision.

DICKERSON: Secretary Cohen, what is your...

WILLIAM COHEN, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I would say he should have or she should have access to good information and exercise judgment wisely, so someone who thinks deeply about serious issues and who speaks clearly and uses language to educate, to inspire, and not to inflame.

And I would say that a commander in chief, given all the complexities involved, you need to have a group of people who are also wise, seasoned, and will give you advice and not be simply yes men and women, but be willing to challenge you on crucial issues, to say that you are wrong and need to change.

So, it requires a number of things, but I think having facts, information, knowledge, wisdom, and the ability to change your mind based upon the advice that you're getting from other people.

DICKERSON: Rosa, from your perspective, what do you think the..

ROSA BROOKS, AUTHOR: You know, in 2008, when I was comparing, as a Democrat, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, and everyone said Clinton's experienced, Obama's inexperienced, I thought, oh, experience doesn't matter. We need fresh faces. We need fresh ideas.

And I have sort of come to regret feeling that way after working inside the government for a while, that we have this great government which is sometimes badly broken, but has these pockets of brilliance and wonderfulness in it.

And if you don't understand all the levers that make that government work or not work, and how to get the best out of the people, many of whom are talented people, some of whom are not, who work in the federal government, it's really hard to get things done.

And the same is true, I think, for the Hill. I think I have come to believe that experience in understanding the nitty-gritty aspects of what makes government work is really vital.

DICKERSON: General, what's your contribution?

GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN (RET.), FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Well, first off, let me second all the ideas that have been put out there.

But I boil it down to my most critical conversations with the president, which have been about covert action. And, here, that temperament, honesty, integrity thing really matters, because when you're talking to the president about a covert, I mean, it's covert for a reason, because, frankly, operationally, ethically, legally, the course ahead isn't all that clear.

And so when I'm talking to a president about that, I'm representing all the men and women at the Central Intelligence Agency. I want to know that I'm talking to a decent human being. I want to know that I'm talking to someone who broadly reflects the values of the country that we want to defend.

DICKERSON: All right, we will come back and we will talk about that decision-making moment in a second.

But we have got to take a break, and we will be back with more from our panel.

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DICKERSON: And we're back now with more on what attributes make a great president.

Secretary Cohen, I want to ask you about this idea that telling a president no. Time and again, people say that's a crucial thing, is getting somebody -- talk about that a little bit -- who can tell a president no.

COHEN: Well, I have worked with five presidents during my career.

Four of those five, I was able to meet with them and present an alternative idea. It goes back to Jimmy Carter. President Carter made a campaign pledge, for example, that he was going to pull 5,000 troops out of South Korea.

I had just come back from meeting with the president of South Korea, along with Senator Nunn and Hart and John Glenn. And we met with President Carter and said, this could, in fact, trip a wire by you pulling those 5,000 troops out.

To his credit, he listened to us, and he changed. That was one example of being able to go to a president and say, Mr. President, you're making a mistake.

And that's -- I could give you an example with President Reagan and certainly Bill Clinton as well, and having that ability to go to President Clinton and say, Mr. President, we need more, or we need to do this, and he would be willing to listen to me.

DICKERSON: Secretary Ridge, in campaigns, when you talk about decision-making and what a president can do, it seems like they can wave a wand and things will happen. Give us a sense of how decisions get made, the pace and timing inside in the real world.

RIDGE: Yes, I think a couple of things.

I wanted to add just a quick thought to what Bill said. The moment that the president has to make a decision, he's going to get advice yea and nay. And I remember, recall an incident when President Bush was getting -- and I don't know that you were there, General -- conflicting security information about a potential terrorist threat involving commercial aviation.

The information was about -- some thought it was a serious threat and a credible threat. Other people didn't think it was serious, credible. Finally, he listened to every word. He listened to every word. He distilled it down to the least common denominator. Would any of you get on that plane?

So, you need an intuition and an introspection that I think is really critical in that decision-making process. The process itself, I think, is somewhat -- sometimes, I think it's too slow. The events of the 21st century move a lot more quickly than I think the traditional decision-making process in the White House works.

Sometimes, you have the assistant principals, and then the principals meet. And then you get the secretaries to meet. And then it could take months for decision-making for a memorandum or a recommendation to the president.

One of the things I think the president in the 21st century has to do, got to expedite that process, because the 21st century world, I think, moves a lot more quickly than the decision-making process or the information-gathering process that has traditionally been in the White House.

DICKERSON: Governor Leavitt, you worked on the transition with Mitt Romney, if he were to be elected.

He was a businessman. You have been a businessman. Is it possible to take those disruptive and the efficiencies of business and get them into government where -- to break through some of the bureaucracy?

LEAVITT: A willingness to make crisp decisions is an important personal attribute.

On the other hand, government works differently than business. In business, you're often able to make decisions based on your own intuition, where, in government, there's an old phrase, no matter how thin the pancake, there's always two sides.

(LAUGHTER)

LEAVITT: A willingness to listen to those sides, and have the discipline.

I remember, one day in the Oval Office, I had a meeting, and I had a moment with the president. And I thought, there's another matter I want to talk to him about. I want to push my point of view. And to his credit, he said: Let's let the process unfold here. I would like to see it at all once.

That's the kind of discipline that good decision-making -- when you have all of those decisions swirling at any given time, yes, there are moments of emergency, but there's a lot of deliberate decision- making that takes place because there's so much there, and it's happening all simultaneously.

There has to be an order about it and a person willing to operate within that order and delegate to many other people parts that can be, but waiting for that essential moment when you have the information and can make the right decision.

DICKERSON: All right, thank you, Governor.

We're going to be right back, flip some more pancakes.

(LAUGHTER)

DICKERSON: But, for the moment, we will take a break.

Stay with us.

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DICKERSON: There's a lot more FACE THE NATION ahead, more presidential attributes and more politics.

Don't go away.

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DICKERSON: Some of our CBS stations are leaving us now, but for most of you, we will be right back with a lot more FACE THE NATION.

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DICKERSON: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION. I'm John Dickerson.

We pick up on where we left off on presidential attributes with former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, former Defense Secretary William Cohen, former head of the NSA and CIA, Mike Hayden, former Pentagon council Rosa Brooks, and from Salt Lake City, the former governor of Utah, Mike Leavitt.

Rosa, I want to start with you. You write in your book, "How Everything Became War and the Military Became Everything," about decision making and presidents aren't just -- they don't sometimes just get options "a" and options "b." They are sometime decisions that never get to them because they get stuck in the bureaucracy. Talk about that a little bit.

BROOKS: Yes, the -- the U.S. government's executive branch is like an iceberg and the president and the cabinet are sort of at the very top of the iceberg, but most of the government is way below and the president never meets the people and there's no reason he necessarily should. But you've got all this stuff going on at lower levels, but it's kind of like a giant machine to weed out nuance before it ever gets to the decision makers. So a lot of the time when the president's sitting there and he's sitting there with his cabinet -- and you've all been in these situations -- by that time so much has been lost -- sometimes for good reason because somebody realized early on, that's a bad idea, let's not -- let's not get that up to the president. But sometimes for the dumbest reason, like it didn't fit in the bullet points, there was only going to be one page and it sort of didn't make it on to that page. So I think it's very, very hard, if you are an inexperienced president, you don't know who to ask, you don't know who to go back to and how to say, you know what, I bet there was more stuff. I want to see that.

And I think this is the point that you made, that if you don't know where the more stuff is and how to access it, you find yourself facing two choices, both of which may be dumb.

RIDGE: And, you know, and sometimes -- if you don't mind -- sometimes in the effort to build a consensus recommendation --

BROOKS: Right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

RIDGE: To the president, the tendency is, we all want to be in unity --

BROOKS: Right.

RIDGE: To give the president advice. And you need a president who says, if you can't -- I'm not interested in consensus at the lowest common denominator. Tell me what I need to know. And if it's a tough decision, "a," "b," and "c," I'll make the decision.

DICKERSON: General, when -- there's been some reporting recently that -- with CENTCOM and I --

HAYDEN: Right.

DICKERSON: Information on ISIS.

HAYDEN: Right.

DICKERSON: So how does a president know what they don't know when they're not -- when it's never getting to them? How do we -- and as we're thinking about a campaign, what should we look for in -- in the kind of management skills of a candidate, that they know about their blind spots or where there might be potential blind spots?

HAYDEN: So, as Rosa said, he's got to poke, he's got to pull. And the more experienced you are, the -- the better equipped you are to do that. But let me give you a slightly different phenomenon, all right, and that's when the bureaucracy actually works well and goes into the president -- and this happens in intelligence from time to time -- it goes into the president with a conclusion about which they have great confidence that cuts across the president's personality, his policy, or his politics. Frankly, I think that happened a bit in the current administration with the growth of ISIS, kind of slowed in need (ph) there as that -- that threat developed. I know it happened with me. When we went in there in late '07, with an estimate that, frankly, I think still stands, that the Iranians had stopped a narrow part of their nuclear weapons program, the weaponization of -- of the nuclear device, you could not get more unhappy information in front of President Bush and Vice President Cheney. And I'm --

DICKERSON: They didn't want to hear it?

HAYDEN: Lord knows they challenged it.

DICKERSON: Yes.

HAYDEN: But we stood our ground. And at the end, not only did the estimate stand, but because the president had been relying on a previous estimate that had said something different and had made that public, he directed that we make this estimate -- with which I think he still had some doubts -- he insisted we make that public, too.

DICKERSON: So people, they've got to be able to hear news they don't want to hear?

HAYDEN: Yes.

DICKERSON: Governor Leavitt, let me ask you about hiring. When I asked President Obama about these questions of attributes, he said, you have to realize that there's a whole group of people you hire who then go and make decision that may never get to you. How important is hiring in terms of what this next president is going to do, and that -- that sets up their ability to perform in office?

LEAVITT: It's a very important point. When you hire a president, you don't hire just one person. It's a -- a team game, if you will. Nearly 4,000 people come in following a president, and they make a lot of decisions. But at the -- in the final analysis, when all of that boils up, I was in -- in the Oval Office one day and President Bush said, "look, they call this the Oval Office because there are no corners to hide in." Ultimately, the decision had to be his. And I think that was the -- the point.

All of this rolls up to the point that many of the decision are able to be made by others, but in the final analysis, the president of the United States sets the tone, not just whether they will listen to information that's hostile to their original point of view, but whether those who actually come in that team of 4,000 will.

DICKERSON: Yes.

BROOKS: I think that's absolutely right, if I can jump in on that for a second. I remember feeling early on in this administration, when I was at the Pentagon, tremendous frustration on some issues where I felt like, President Obama, if only he knew, he would make the right decision. He has these staff gatekeepers who weren't letting these important issues get to him. And I realized after a certain point, he's got these people there because he wants them there. You know, that, ultimately, presidents choose the staff they want, and they choose the staff who will enable them or not enable them to be in a bubble.

DICKERSON: Right. RIDGE: See good -- good leaders attract good people, empower them to do whatever they do within that leader's vision. And the nature of government is so large, you really do have to rely upon them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

BROOKS: Yes.

RIDGE: That's just the way it is.

DICKERSON: Secretary Cohen, as -- you were in the Senate for 18 years. You know about politics and communicating.

COHEN: Right.

DICKERSON: What role does that play in terms of the importance of presidential communication? Let's talk about it externally, and then maybe somebody else can weigh in, in terms of internal communications.

COHEN: OK, well let me emphasize what Tom Ridge talked about earlier, that what you want in a president is someone who has empathy, compassion, understanding for the problems of the average person. In this country, we have a deep racial divide. You can only look at what's taking place in Ferguson, Missouri, in Chicago, in Baltimore, in terms of the divide between the black community and the police community that serves them. There are rebellions taking place.

And I recall when President Bush 41 was traveling out to California in the wake of the Rodney King beatings and the rebellion that was taking place out there, he asked me, "how should I address this? How would you recommend?" And so he was a president of the United States asking me how to approach this subject. And language becomes important.

I think when it comes to Donald Trump, he uses language to -- he uses language to divide, to demean, and ultimately to divert. He's diverting attention from the big issues, and it forces you, in the media, to be chasing everything down a rabbit hole. What did he mean? Was it sarcastic? Was it sincere? Was it delphically ambiguous? How do we find out? And we go around, around.

Meanwhile, you've got issues with Turkey and Russia. You've got issue in terms of what the Russians are doing in Syria. You've got a bigger issue going in terms of how are you going to handle -- how would you ever recommend giving nuclear weapons or providing them to Japan and South Korea? These are the big issues and yet we're talking about his latest comment about what he would do under these circumstances or whether we're cheating in Philadelphia or elsewhere.

DICKERSON: Let me ask you, Secretary Ridge, based on your time, also, you spent time in the House. Donald Trump also is a negotiator, deal maker. He's had some considerable success getting to yes. Who knows how he gets there. He has a talent for getting to yes. Isn't that -- isn't that something Washington needs pretty badly?

RIDGE: Well, I think -- I think there's a difference between dealmaker and being a consensus builder. And sometimes when I listen to some people, it reminds me of a -- of a -- I think it was in the 10 Commandments, Yul Brynner turned to one of his aides and said, "let it be written, let it be done." I think one of the presidential qualities we need is we need somebody that is a -- that is a practition (ph), who understands the constitutional process, who's willing to engage the House and the Senate. From time to time I worry about a government that gets -- becomes very ideological. Leaders become ideological. So it's either my way or the highway. The everyman, the men and women that make America work, they're looking for leadership that understands the complexities of their world, the challenges that they face, and is willing to bring people together to build consensus.

Ronald Reagan was great at that. He and Tip, divergent point of view, they did it. President Bush 41 told me last year in the 25th anniversary of the AD, one of his proudest moments was signing the Americans with Disabilities Act because it brought Republicans and Democrats together. Everything we do big in this country has normally been around a consensus of both parties, and I think that's what Americans are looking for, leaderships, it's aspirational, that builds a consensus around solving big problems and not just talking about them.

DICKERSON: Governor Leavitt, they -- Secretary Ridge has made the case for the old, you know, bringing people together, but there's a feeling in the land that that just doesn't cut it anymore and that somebody does need to come in, who might not have the niceties of the establishment, but can, you know, break through and --and -- and get some things done with a different skill set. What's -- what's wrong with that argument?

LEAVITT: The skill set of the 21st century requires collaborative leadership, and that means the ability to bring people together and find their common purpose. There are times when you simply have to step forward and show the direction. But in a democracy like ours, what's been missing is that Washington has been -- has become all about preparing for the next election and controlling the news cycle because you're sure if you had complete control, you would do the right thing. These other people won't. Well, the reality is, that's true for both. And a president who can bring people together to find that common solution is what's been missing. And I think what people yearn for. And I -- I -- there -- there is a culture of divide that's really borne in our politics. It used to be that winning an election, you'd get -- keep your base and ride the middle enough that you could win. Now we have enough apathy in the middle that people get elected by lighting up their base. And enough that they can have the votes required. That's a -- that's a -- that's a change in the American politic, but it does require a new kind of leader, I think, for the 21st century.

DICKERSON: All right, we're going to have to end it there. Thanks to all of you for helping us sort through a little bit about what a president does so we can make better choices.

We'll be right back to talk about the highs and lows of the week in -- this week and what's happening next week. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DICKERSON: Now for our politics panel. Dan Balz is chief correspondent at "The Washington Post." Michael Scherer is Washington bureau chief at "Time Magazine," which ran a controversial story on Donald Trump this week. He's melting down there on the cover. Audie Cornish is host of "All Things Considered" at NPR News. And Michael Gerson is columnist for "The Washington Post."

Dan Balz, I want to start with you. You wrote, "if Donald Trump were deliberately trying to avoid winning the election, he could hardly be doing a better job."

DAN BALZ, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, I think the reason for that is this this is a change environment in this election. And by his own actions, Trump is drawing attention away from the vulnerabilities of Secretary Clinton on to himself by one controversial statement after another.

And there's a pattern to that. I mean the pattern is, he makes a statement, there's several days of damaging coverage, he rolls it back, he sort of doesn't roll it back. So he keeps the story going. And in some ways, he creates another diversion to get out of the previous diversion. So he -- he is not focusing on the things that he might focus on if he were to really be serious about trying to win this campaign.

DICKERSON: Michael, in the -- in the piece in "Time" in the interview with Donald Trump, several times he seems to go -- he says, you know, my advisers want me to behave the way Dan's talk about, a traditional campaign, doing the things you're supposed to do, prosecuting the case against your opponent and staying on message, and he -- he -- it's like he's wearing an itchy shirt. He keeps trying to get out of that and be -- be himself. And today we tweeted, "I am what I am."

MICHAEL SCHERER, "TIME MAGAZINE": Yes, what he told us was, "so far I like the way I ran in the primaries better." Even though he's not running in the primaries. It's a different electorate. He has to run differently.

Trump is caught here in a vice. From the beginning, he has always trusted his own gut. And his gut did something that pretty much no one at this table or no one in Washington thought he could do, which is win the Republican primary. And he was proved right. The problem is, it's not going to work a second time. And he, in order to start running a more disciplined campaign, has to work against his own instincts. He has to stop talking about himself, in a race in which both candidates are way under water and the country doesn't like them. if you're talking about that candidate, they're probably losing. He needs to focus things on Clinton. It's very hard for him to do. And he needs to find a way to keep his brand, which is probably more important to him than winning the election, the idea that Trump is who Trump is, and cater it in a way that doesn't turn off a majority of the country, which he's doing right now.

And he's struggling. I mean in our interview, he was struggling. If you see him at rallies, he's struggling. He's like -- it's almost like a -- a public therapy session he's having with the American people now in which he's trying really hard to figure out how he can become the candidate everyone's telling him he needed to be, without losing the person he -- he clearly loves very much.

DICKERSON: All right, Audie, where do you think we are in the campaign? Newt Gingrich compared Donald Trump to -- to Harry Truman in 1948. He was saying, you know, he's an outsider candidate, he's a scrappy fighter, he's not doing things the traditional way, trying to conjure memories of, you know, Dewy defeats Truman. In other words, the great comeback. Is Donald Trump in that bad a position? Is he in need of a big comeback, or is this just a temporary little hiccup here?

AUDIE CORNISH, NPR: I still think he's still playing to the rooms where he is most enjoying support, right? He's still playing to these people in the rallies. I don't know if Donald Trump has met a voter who is ambivalent, undecided, needs convincing, right? He either talks to people who are hostile -- protesters, the media, biased and also hostile, right, according to him-and people who love him. So I think he has zero concept of what to do with people who need to be convinced. And so his sense of needing to turn it around, I think is not there. Experts and people in the beltway can certainly sit around and say, "wow, he's really got to do "x," "y," and "z"." But he looks around a rally and a room full of people who adore him and he says, why shouldn't I stick with my gut?"

DICKERSON: (INAUDIBLE).

MICHAEL GERSON, "WASHINGTON POST": Yes, and it's even more complicated than that because he has not solidified Republicans in the same way he needs to. Hillary Clinton, you know, faced a tough battle with Sanders, but she's 90-plus now among Democrats. Pretty consistently, Trump is in the low 80s. He has to change that in order to be competitive in this election. A lot of those people are Republican women, a lot of them college educated, who he is not appealing to in anyway. In fact, driving them away.

DICKERSON: Dan, there was reporting this week about a letter written to the RNC from 70 Republicans -- strategists, some who had been in the political game, some who are not so recently, saying, well, the RNC should cut Donald Trump lose and focus on the Senate and House candidacies. That's not that easy to do, is it?

BALZ: No, it isn't that easy to do. I mean, "a," it's premature. I mean we're only in August. We're not in late September or mid- October, for one. And as -- as people within the party who have experience with this will tell you, if you start to do that now, the money's going to dry up. Donald Trump is helping them to raise a lot of money. And -- and if they say, well, we're going to take it and send it elsewhere, he's going to say, well, we're going to stop raising money. So the resources won't actually be there. I mean it's -- it's a much more complicated question than simply saying, well, let's do this, and everything else will remain equal.

DICKERSON: Yes, as somebody put it to me, you can't go to the big, fancy dinner and then kick out the rich guy. You still have to pay the bill. They need that -- they still need that money that he's raising for them.

Michael, I was struck in -- in the interview with Donald Trump when you asked about black and Latino voters. His answer is he basically -- it seemed like he said, basically, all I can do is tell the truth. In other words, he's going to run his campaign. There's not going to be like a special outreach. What's your sense of this? We talked about wanting to know his gut, but the stuff you have to do to win a campaign.

SCHERER: Right. You know, it was this big shift from -- during the primaries. We've asked him about that same voting bloc last year, and he was very confident because he would always say, I'm winning Republican Hispanics in Nevada. He'd always cite this one Nevada poll. It's clearly not happening. It's clearly not working. And I think that answer, it was sort of a rare moment of modesty from Trump. It sort of -- he's coming to acknowledge this.

Now, I think we're saying all these things about how he's in trouble. The polls show the seeds of how he could at least narrow this margin. In your battleground poll in Florida, less than a third of people said he had the temperament to be president, which is a terrible number, but he's still winning on fixing the economy. He's still winning on change. If he can focus the conversation away from himself and his own fitness for office, there's -- there's a real path here for him to at least narrow.

DICKERSON: And, Audie, on that point, are we in the -- in the press kind of going overboard on the Trump hyperbole, which is to say, when he says, you know, Obama was the founder of ISIS, does he have less room to be hyperbolic than other candidates who say things that are totally hyperbolic and nobody take -- you know, nobody takes them that seriously.

CORNISH: Right.

DICKERSON: But he's being fact checked. I mean --

CORNISH: No, I've been thinking about this, this week, because I think we are cranking up the outrage machine at a rapid pace. And the thing about Trump that I maybe disagree with Dan a little bit is that when he says something, right, that people say is controversial, he now forces everyone to repeat the falsehood, to, quote/unquote, fact check it, to normalize and contextualize it for him, right? You see a lot of kind of conversations that say, well, what you really meant was this and that. And he can kind of say, oh, no, maybe, just kidding. The media's doing all the work of explaining things for him and normalizing some things that might, in another context, be considered socially unacceptable.

GERSON: And I think it's deeper than just gaffes. He's not showing --

CORNISH: Well, some gaffes are like unintentional. GERSON: Right. Well, but he's -- he's not showing empathy. He -- when someone opposes him, he has to degrade them. He has to dehumanize them. That -- when you go after gold star families, when you go, you know, after a judge, a federal -- a judge in your case, that's different than going after Jeb Bush, OK. It shows that you like empathy. And that, I think, is a real problem for him. He has based his life on the notion that -- not to be a loser. He now is facing the prospect of being one of the biggest losers in American history. I don't know how he adjusts to that. We have not seen how he adjusts to that. It could be a major factor.

SCHERER: The danger is that he adjusts to it by saying, the whole process was rigged --

GERSON: Right.

SCHERER: And then afterwards delegitimizing the democratic process --

GERSON: Right.

SCHERER: Which could be really hazardous for the country.

DICKERSON: Well, that's right, Dan, he -- he mentioned, when he was in Pennsylvania, he said, the only way it would be the case that I -- that he would lose Pennsylvania is if the system was been rigged. This is a state a Republican hasn't won since 1988.

BALZ: Right. It -- it is -- it is a dangerous step that he's taking and I'm sure there are people who are saying to him, "do not do that." I mean I don't know this for a fact but it would not shock me that Reince Priebus, in their constant conversations, is saying, "don't go there. Don't do that." But it -- it is a -- it is a risky strategy, as Michael said, to in a sense delegitimize in advance the outcome of an election in which you may be on the losing side.

DICKERSON: Michael Gerson, well, let's talk about Hillary Clinton for a minute. Everybody has been saying there is things that Donald Trump could be talking about with Hillary Clinton, and there are some more e-mails this week showing a cozy relationship between the Clinton Foundation and the State Department.

GERSON: Well, there's a significant portion of her support that doesn't think she's honest and trustworthy. I mean when you look at these numbers, there -- that is a vulnerability. She is a vulnerable candidate. We could have a WikiLeaks, you know, something damaging come out. We could have a U.S. attorney do something in these cases. You know, there are a lot of factors out here. But she is the luckiest politician in the world to face the opposition she has because she's not a great candidate. She does have significant vulnerabilities. I think Republicans are kicking themselves in this circumstance because they know they could have a competitive race at this point.

DICKERSON: What did you make of the e-mails, Audie?

CORNISH: Well, I think it's interesting. There is -- both candidates are struggling with something, which is that there's a difference between commanding media attention and controlling it. You know, ask Kanye West and Taylor Swift. You know, like you think you can have people on your idea of what the narrative will be and that will change on your pretty swiftly. You'll face a backlash pretty swiftly.

And I think with Clinton, sometimes things that fly out of her mouth fit a narrative that people already have, her doubters already have, which is, can I trust you? Or does it seem like every time you say something, I need to go back and -- and check -- do a line-by-line copy edit to figure out --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) --

CORNISH: Yes, to parse it out. And it's the opposite with Trump. You know, I think in the era of tabloid media, people know what a loose cannon looks like, right? And so if he says things that fit the -- the narrative of a person who can't control themselves, that's something voters can recognize, even if they think the media's bias.

DICKERSON: You know, a White House veteran made a point to me about Hillary Clinton and her difficulty with communicating. It's not just about the campaign. When she governors, if she's not doing a press conference, if she has these difficulties, that will have an effect on her ability to communicate with the country.

BALZ: I think you're absolutely right and I think that the way she has conducted herself in some of those ways in this campaign will make her ability to govern all the more difficult if she becomes the president. I mean an inability to acknowledge and admit a real mistake is clearly part of her character.

DICKERSON: All right, thanks to all of you. We're going to have to leave it there.

And we'll be right back.

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DICKERSON: That's it for us today. Thanks for watching. If you missed any part of the show or just want to watch it again, FACE THE NATION is now available on cable system through on-demand.

Until next week, for FACE THE NATION, I'm John Dickerson.