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Face the Nation Transcripts December 21, 2014: Graham, Rubio, Brooks

The latest on the tragic shooting of two NYPD officers, the cyberattack on Sony by North Korea, the decision to normalize U.S.-Cuba relations, and more
December 21: Brooks, Graham, and Hollen 45:43

(CBS News) -- Below is a transcript from the December 21, 2014 edition of Face the Nation. Guests included Cornell William Brooks, Don Dahler, Macro Rubio, Lindsey Graham, Chris Van Hollen, Margaret Brennan, Jan Crawford, John Dickerson, David Martin, Nancy Cordes and Major Garrett.

BOB SCHIEFFER, HOST: I'm Bob Schieffer.

And today on FACE THE NATION: The Eric Garner case has taken another tragic turn. Now two police officers are dead.

New York patrolmen Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu were shot and killed at point-blank range while sitting in their police car by a deranged gunman apparently seeking revenge for Garner's death.

NYPD Commissioner William Bratton:


WILLIAM BRATTON, NEW YORK CITY POLICE COMMISSIONER: Two of New York's finest were shot and killed with no warning, no provocation. They were quite simply assassinated.


SCHIEFFER: We will get latest and talk to NAACP president Cornell William Brooks.

Next, perspective on the week's other big stories, the Sony hacking case and change in Cuba policy, from Republican Senators Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham and Democratic Congressman Chris Van Hollen.

Plus, the CBS News tradition, an end-of-the-year roundup with our CBS News correspondents.

Sixty years of news,because this is FACE THE NATION.

Good morning again. And we begin with a New York story.

CBS News correspondent Don Dahler is there -- Don.


Officers Liu and Ramos were sitting in their squad car in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn yesterday afternoon when police say 28-year-old Ismaaiyl Brinsley walked up, took a shooter's stance, and opened fire numerous times, killing both officers.

Brinsley then ran to a nearby subway station, where he took his own life as police were closing in. Earlier that morning, police in Baltimore say Brinsley shot and wounded his ex-girlfriend. Now, he posted numerous messages on Instagram warning of his plans, including one that said, "Putting wings on pigs today. Shoot the police."

This follow weeks of protest over the failure of various grand juries to indict officers involved in deaths of black men. Some of those protests here in the city turned violent. And the police union chief, Pat Lynch, part of blame for that violence squarely on the shoulders of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, whom he says is more sympathetic to the protesters than the police.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PATRICK LYNCH, PRESIDENT, PATROLMEN'S BENEVOLENT ASSOCIATION: There's blood on many hands tonight. That blood on the hands starts on the steps of city hall in the office of the mayor.


DAHLER: And today police all across the city as well as country are mourning the loss of two of their own.

Now, the family of Eric Garner, the man who died in police custody while he was being arrested for selling loose cigarettes, has condemned the shootings. And they will be taking part in a press conference here in Harlem later today with the Reverend Al Sharpton -- Bob.

SCHIEFFER: Don, thank you so much.

Both President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder condemned the killings and urge calm.

For more now, we turn to the head of the NAACP, Cornell William Brooks.

Mr. Brooks, I want to ask you first, you heard what the head of the police union just said. The former governor of New York, George Pataki, he's a Republican, sent out a tweet also very critical of Democratic Mayor de Blasio. He said -- and these are his words -- "We're sickened by these barbaric acts which sadly are predictable outcome of divisive anti-cop rhetoric of Attorney General Eric Holder and Bill de Blasio."

Is that fair?


First of all, on behalf of the NAACP, I extend my condolences to the families of these police officers.

I don't believe it's fair because to link the criminal insanity of a lone gunman to the peaceful protests and aspirations of many people across the country, including the attorney general, the mayor, and even the president, is simply not fair.

SCHIEFFER: Well, this does appear, as you say, to be a deranged man. But are these shootings somehow a step backwards in the effort to try to get this thing right?

BROOKS: I believe it's certainly not a step forward.

The fact of the matter is, in this country, we have a violence problem. Think about it this way. The tears of the families of these police officers and the tears of Eric Garner's family and Michael Brown's family aren't shed in law enforcement blue, racially, black or brown. They're colorless. They're tragic and unnecessary. We have a violence problem. And the policies that we're pushing for protect not only the public, but police officers and the families that they hope to go to at the end of the day who are members of the public.

SCHIEFFER: What can be done? What should be done now?

BROOKS: Well, certainly we have got to push for reform in policing. But that is a part of a larger challenge of addressing violence in this country.

We can certainly push for federal, municipal and state legislation. But we have got to be clear here. It is simply wrong to violate the Sixth Commandment in terms of thou shall not kill, whether you're wearing a law -- a police officer's uniform or civilian clothes. That's, quite simply, wrong.

SCHIEFFER: Mr. Brooks, we want to thank you for coming in and coming in on short notice this morning. Thank you so much.


BROOKS: Thank you.

SCHIEFFER: And we turn now to the other big stories of the week, the hacking of Sony and the repercussions, and, of course, the president's surprise announcement about changing relations with Cuba.

And we welcome Senator Marco Rubio of Florida.

Senator, let me ask you first about this Sony situation. You, last week, asked the president -- quote -- "to undo the damage to freedom of speech and expression" caused by Sony's decision not to release this movie.

What exactly do you want him to do?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: Well, first of all, I think the president in his end-of-year press conference alluded to the fact that there will be response and a strong one and a measured one, but one that's reciprocal. And I will support that.

Now, obviously, the tactics of that is something I probably wouldn't discuss on air, but suffice it to say that I do think this needs to be responded to in multiple ways, first, obviously, to the response that the president is thinking through.

But, second, I think it's important that that movie be played, that that movie be seen. I don't even know if it's a good movie, but I think it's now important that that happen, that we figure out way to get that out there so Americans can watch it.

It's unacceptable that this attack not just on our country, not just on a business located in America, but on our constitutional freedoms, if it's unresponded to, if it stays the way it is now, it is going to be an incentive for others to try and do the exact same thing in the future.

SCHIEFFER: Well, the head of the Republican Party, Reince Priebus, said the Republican Party will ask people to buy a ticket to that movie. Is that a good idea?

RUBIO: Yes, I think as many Americans as possible that can show that we're not going to be deterred by these sort of attacks, the better off we're all going to be.

Now, the problem Sony is saying is that no movie theaters want to show it because of that threat that was made about hurting people at these movie theaters. but I think it's critical that whether it's downloading it on a streaming video platform or actually having people open up their facilities so that folks can watch this movie, I think it's an important part of our response that we show that we're not going to allow these attacks to infringe upon our First Amendment -- our constitutional rights.

SCHIEFFER: The North Koreans have warned that there will be repercussions if we take any kind of action in response. They're saying they should -- that we should join them in investigating this. Should that be taken seriously?

RUBIO: No, it shouldn't.

Look, the North Koreans, first of all, it's not even a government. It's a criminal syndicate that controls territory and need to be treated as such. Now, unfortunately, they possess nuclear weapons and are led by an irrational leader. So, all that needs to be taken into account.

You North Korea is going to be a growing problem for the foreseeable future. You have a person running that country that is mentally unstable, but also someone that is fully capable of overestimating his own strength and ends up miscalculating and creating a real catastrophe, not just vis-a-vis South Korea, but also Japan and the United States.

This is a very serious threat. It's not just a cyber-threat. I think North Korea has the potential to become a source of huge instability in the next few months here.

SCHIEFFER: Let me ask you about Cuba. You obviously are very much against this and have made that known. You were the first person out to say the president is wrong in doing this.

You have opposed it for a long, long time. but can you and other Republicans who oppose this, can you stop this from happening? And how would you do that?

RUBIO: Well, first of all, it's important to understand why I oppose it.

I am not opposed to changes in Cuba policy. I think we constantly need to examine our foreign policy. I'm opposed to changes like this that have no chance of leading to the result that we want, which is more freedom and more liberty for the Cuban people.

This change is entirely predicated upon with false notion that engagement alone automatically leads to freedom. And I think we have evidence that that is not the case. Look at Vietnam and look at China, countries that we have engaged. They are no more politically free today than they were when that engagement started.

Now, our job is twofold. One, it's important to have oversight how these changes are made. There is existing law that has codified the U.S. embargo. And whatever regulations are now written to implement the president's new policy have to live up to that law.

And beyond it, I think we need to examine, as Cuban the government doesn't make any changes to their human rights record -- they're going to arrest people today. They arrested people yesterday. They're going to continue to crack down on opposition in the island.

We need to hold this administration accountable for these policies changes and if in fact that Cubans do nothing reciprocal to live up to or to open up political space, constantly challenge and reexamine these policy changes the president has made.

SCHIEFFER: Rand Paul, who, like you, is considering whether to run for the Republican nomination for president in 2016, is one of the few Republicans who came out in support of what the president did. He said he thought it was a pretty good idea. What was your reaction to that?

RUBIO: Well, obviously, I disagree.

And he has the right to become a supporter of President Obama's foreign policy. But I think it's premised on the same false notion that engagement alone leads to freedom. It doesn't. We have engagement with Vietnam and China. And while their economies have grown, their political freedoms have not.

Look what China is today 30 years after that engagement. China steals our military and commercial secrets, obviously actively conducts cyber-operations against the United States. And, internally, their people have no religious, no freedom -- freedoms, no freedom of speech, no unfettered access to the Internet.

SCHIEFFER: Let me just ask you this question then, Senator. Do you think it would be a good idea for us to break relations with China?

RUBIO: Well, first of all, comparing China to Cuba is not really a comparable analogy, because China is the second largest economy in the world. They have the third largest nuclear arsenal on the planet. They are the most populous nation on the planet.

So, obviously, from a geopolitical perspective, our approach to China by necessity has to be different from a small impoverished island of 13 million people. When it comes to Cuba, a neighbor of ours, our foreign policy actually has a very realistic opportunity of helping further the cause of freedom and liberty on the island. And, in fact, what Cuba offers that China and Vietnam did not is the opportunity to engage with a real and vibrant civil society on the island. And they were not consulted. They were completely ignored and left out of this equation and they rightfully feel betrayed.

SCHIEFFER: All right, well, Senator, thank you so much. We appreciate it.

RUBIO: Thank you.

SCHIEFFER: And now on this very busy morning, we go to Republican Senator Lindsey Graham. He is in Clemson, South Carolina.

Let me just start at the top here and talk a little bit about this situation in New York, Senator Graham. As a Republican, what do you think about this tweet that George Pataki has put out where he basically called out Democrats Eric Holder and the New York mayor for -- and said some of the blood is on their hands? Do you agree with that?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I blame the shooter, and nobody else.

SCHIEFFER: All right. Any more to add to that?


SCHIEFFER: Do you think that's connected to what has happened in these other cases?

GRAHAM: I think that the mayor of New York has probably undercut his cops and the attorney general is trying to walk a fine line.

What happened in Missouri, I understood why the cop had to defend himself. When you see the video in New York, did that man really have to die? But the tone they're setting around the rhetoric regarding the cops incites crazy people. But I blame the shooter.

SCHIEFFER: Now let's talk a little about this Cuban surprise that we got from President Obama to resume relations with Cuba. You were very much against that.

Some people would argue, Senator Graham, that this is a good place for Americans to be selling American products. We sell a lot of grain down there already. We sell medical products under the heading of humanitarian aid.


SCHIEFFER: Why do you think it's such a bad idea to do that?

GRAHAM: Well, North Korea would be great place to sell products. They don't have anything.

When America engages a country, we do so with our moral voice, just not cigars and rum. So, for the last 50 years, Cuba's gone from being an interventionist communist power in Angola to Grenada, to a backwater, poor dictatorship. And without any reason, we have changed our policy.

Look in your vault of CBS News stories in 2013 and 2014 and show me one where Cuba is becoming more democratic. As to what the Congress will do, Bob, if you are being offered the ambassadorship to Cuba, turn it down because you don't have a snowball's chance in hell of getting confirmed.

The Congress is not going to reinforce this policy. There will be no confirmation of an ambassador to Cuba because the Castro brothers are terrible dictators who deserve no new engagement. They deserve to be condemned and isolated.

And when it comes to funding any proposed embassy in Cuba, I'm in charge of all foreign aid, all State Department funding. I will be the chairman of the Foreign Operations Subcommittee. I will do everything I can to limit to size and scope of this embassy, because you are rewarding people who kidnap Americans and who really are still communists in every way.

SCHIEFFER: Senator, do you think that Cuba at this point in time represents a security threat to America?

GRAHAM: Last year, the Cubans were shipping arms to North Korea in violation of the embargo.

Yes. Cuba to me represents everything that threatens us. And who are we? We believe in freedom and democracy. Are we safe when somebody right off our shores practices totalitarian communism in our backyard? They were actively trying to send weapons to North Korea a year ago. Should we be worried about North Korea? Yes. Should we be worried about Cuba? Yes.

But Iran is watching. I can only imagine what the ayatollahs in Iran must be saying to themselves when our president called the North Korean attack on our way of life, not just a movie, vandalism, and when he reaches out to a communist dictatorship that has done nothing to change.

They must be feeling pretty good about their chance to negotiate a deal with America.

SCHIEFFER: What about North Korea? What should the president do now?

GRAHAM: Make it so hard on the North Koreans, they don't want to do this in the future. Reimpose sanctions lifted by President Bush. Put them back on the state sponsor of terrorism list. Put China on notice that it's just not a movie. It's our way of life.

America is not a building with a symbol, but is a way of life, to do commerce, to make a product and receive a profit, to go and see what you would like, to produce something that is edgy. That's what we're about. And they attacked who we are. And when the president calls this an act of vandalism, that just really bothers me greatly. It is an act of terrorism. And I hope he will respond forcefully, because the Iranians are watching everything this man does. When he draws the line in Syria against Assad and nothing happens to Assad -- he's now saying he's contained Putin.

Putin owns the Crimea, has dismembered the Ukraine. And the only reason Putin is suffering is because gas prices have gone down because of OPEC. Nothing we have done has put Putin in a box. And the Iranians are sizing up Obama. And I don't like the way they view him, because I think he has been weakened, indecisive from one end of the planet to the other.

SCHIEFFER: You're not talking about taking military action against North Korea, are you?

GRAHAM: I'm talking about -- well, you can't attack their First Amendment because they don't have one. I doubt if they have many movie theaters.

I'm talking about putting them in a spot in the world where they are diminished beyond where they are today. I'm talking about consulting with China and holding them accountable. Without China, there is no North Korea. Reimposing sanctions. But what's the next attack coming.

Could it be on our power plants? Could it be on our financial services? This is the first act of cyber-warfare that's really gotten a lot of attention. How the president handles this is very important.

SCHIEFFER: You said recently that if the president, if I remember your words, released anybody else from Guantanamo Bay that you thought maybe impeachment was in order.

GRAHAM: I didn't say impeachment. I said there would be a constitutional crisis. And it is coming.

Senator Kelly Ayotte will introduce legislation in 2015 to put a moratorium on all releases from Guantanamo Bay because of a 30 percent recidivism rate. There are all kind of restrictions on transferring prisoners that the president is ignoring.

Rather than closing Guantanamo Bay, he should be filling up the place because terrorism on the march. I, along with Senator McCain, want to outlaw water-boarding. But this president takes every terrorist, reads them the Miranda rights, gives them a lawyer, and holds them for a few days and puts them in a federal court. We can't gather intelligence.

There will be one hell of a fight between the president and Republicans and Democrats in 2015 over Guantanamo Bay.

SCHIEFFER: All right, we have to leave it there, Senator. Thank you so much.

GRAHAM: Merry Christmas. SCHIEFFER: We will be back in a minute with a top Democrat.


SCHIEFFER: And we're back now with Maryland's Democratic Congressman Chris Van Hollen. He was on that plane that went to Cuba last week to return American Alan Gross.

Well, you heard Lindsey Graham. You heard Marco Rubio. I guess I don't even have to ask you a question. Just ask, what is your response to what they said here?

REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND: Well, Bob, we heard a lot of rhetorical chest-thumping in a very short period of time, but I don't think it actually advances the goals of American foreign policy, whereas what the president did with respect to Cuba does advance our goals.

We know that the policy of the last 54 years has been a total failure, on its own merits, on own standards, that the idea was that we were going to pressure Cuba in a way that would move the Castro brothers out of power, increase more democracy. In fact, the opposite has happened.

We have isolated the Cuban people, but we have actually reinforced and helped sustain the power of the Castro brothers. So, more engagement directly with the Cuban people, more travel, more trade, more ideas back and forth, that will over time, I think, help loosen things up from the bottom up. This isn't going to happen tomorrow.

And we're not expecting a transformation in the views of the Castro brothers, but more engagement will work better than the policy of the last 54 year .

SCHIEFFER: Well, we heard Fidel Castro's brother. He's already said, well, thanks a lot, America, but we're not changing.

VAN HOLLEN: But the theory behind this was not that the Castro brothers were going to suddenly change their views. That was the theory behind the failed policy of the last 54 years, that by putting pressure on the island, that somehow the Castro brothers would say, hey, we're going to have free elections.

That failed. We have a very different concept here. The idea is more direct communication with the Cuban people will over time create more personal freedom and then over time create conditions for more political freedom. It isn't going to happen overnight.

SCHIEFFER: Well, I think that may be the understatement of the year, if what people in the bureaucracy in the State Department and other places around town have been saying, because, while you can say you're going to do this, and say we now have relations, there are a lot of things that Republicans or those who oppose this can do to block this.

This is going to take some doing. And Congress will be called on to vote on a lot of it. How do you get this done?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, first of all, the measures the president announced the other day can take place immediately.

In other words, he can resume diplomatic relations. We can set up an embassy. We can, of course, increase travel, remittances, more trade in the area of telecommunications, which will help open up Cuban to more communication with the outside world. Those are things the president can do right away.

Now, to confirm an ambassador of course needs Senate ratification, so there could be a debate about that. And, clearly, to lift the embargo would require congressional action. And no one believes that is going to happen in the next couple of weeks or maybe even the next year.

But I do believe that greater engagement with the Cuban people and through the private sector in the Cuban economy, which right now is very small, but we can begin to open it up. That's the way you at least get the conditions for more personal freedom over time. Look, we know the last 54 years didn't work.


SCHIEFFER: Yes, but if you don't change that embargo, it's not going to -- not much is going to happen here, is there?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, I think a fair amount can happen immediately in terms of more travel, because now people can travel under a general license, more trade, especially in the area of telecommunications.

The banking system -- the banking connections will change, so that will facilitate greater interaction. But, of course, lifting the embargo remains, I think, the long-term goal. That does require congressional action.

SCHIEFFER: All right.

Well, Senator -- I mean, Congressman, we thank you very much.

VAN HOLLEN: Well, thank you.

SCHIEFFER: I know that was quite a trip for you to go down there.

VAN HOLLEN: Well, thank you.

SCHIEFFER: Thank you. Thank you, Congressman.

We will be right back.


SCHIEFFER: And we have got a lot more FACE THE NATION coming up, including my commentary about saying goodbye to an awful year, 2014, plus our CBS News panel. So, stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHIEFFER: Well, some of our stations are leaving us now, but, most of you, we will be right back with part two of FACE THE NATION.


SCHIEFFER: And welcome back to FACE THE NATION. Joining us now as we continue our 66-year tradition at CBS News, the end of the year correspondents' round up.

Jan Crawford is our chief legal correspondent. Margaret Brennan covers the State Department. David Martin, our national security correspondent. On the other side of the table John Dickerson, our political director, Nancy Cordes, our congressional correspondent and Major Garrett, our chief White House correspondent.

Welcome to you all. You don't look like you've been here 66 years. Glad to have you back.

I always say this is one of my favorite things at CBS News and I can remember when I was first at CBS News, hoping they would invite me to be at the table some time. And it was a long time before they did. Let's talk a little bit about -- well, let's just start with North Korea.

Margaret, what are the president's options really when you come down to it?

MARGARET BRENNAN, CBS NEWS STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: This is bad movie about a bad movie that you have in creating this international incident in some ways.

Diplomatically, the tools are limited. Most likely you put North Korea back on a terror blacklist, a list they were taken off of in 2008 by the Bush administration in an effort to keep them going in what ended up to be failed nuclear talks.

And along with that you get more targeted sanctions, directed at leadership. Keep in mind this country is already very much sanctioned to the hilt.

SCHIEFFER: What about beyond that, David?

Can we take some sort of cyber action? There seems clear to me we do have certain capabilities in that area.

DAVID MARTIN, CBS NEWS CORRESPONDENT: The U.S. certainly has a set of capabilities. The question is, do you want to expose those capabilities on such a puny target as the North Korean infrastructure?

You would be giving away more in your techniques of how you conduct these attacks, I think, than you would be gaining. I think most people believe that the most effective thing you can do is go after the leadership bank accounts that are overseas. The Bush administration did that in 2005 and succeeded in freezing the accounts and North Korea very quickly started to change its behavior enough so that the funds got unfrozen.

Now, since then, the leadership has done a better job of hiding bank accounts. But still I think that is the surest way to make North Korea pay a price for what now the president has called not an act of war but just an act of vandalism.

SCHIEFFER: Well, what does that --

MAJOR GARRETT, CBS NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Let me tell you, Bob, at the White House there was this sort of joke -- speaking to David's point about a cyber counterstrike.

We can attack the one North Korean computer. Someone would say, well, yes, the Atari computer.

So that does suggest that the White House doesn't really view that as a productive line of retaliation, to go after them in a cyber way. This financial mechanism is by far much more important.

But I think the other issue, whenever you deal with North Korea you must deal with our conversations ongoing with China. This becomes a front and center issue in everything that we do with China economically, militarily, in climate, every other conversation now, North Korea has injected itself unhelpfully into that conversation. That complicates things for China.

And I will tell you, in the last 12 months, China has been more helpful than not in dealing with our concerns with North Korea. They have to get back in the game.

SCHIEFFER: John Dickerson, a pretty unusual thing for an American president to go after an American company as he went after Sony, saying they just set a bad example.

JOHN DICKERSON, CBS NEWS POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: He was very forceful about that. He said he wished they would have talked to him first, to give him a little presidential guidance on how to handle the issue, how to deal with their theaters.

He said he recognized that the company had its own interests and legal issues but it was very forceful in that press conference he gave at the end of the year, where he kicked off that -- it was sort of emblematic of the entire press conference; he had a lot of theories about a lot of things. He was much looser than we'd seen before. And that was really one of the strongest examples of that, is his strong position.

SCHIEFFER: How did all this go down on the Hill, Nancy? Of course most of Congress was not here when we found it about most of this.

NANCY CORDES, CBS NEWS CORRESPONDENT: They were gone. But the reaction that we heard from lawmakers is, well, we need to do something. What that something is, there is absolutely no consensus. And I think lawmakers will want to know lot more when they come back from the holidays about what the options are before they get behind one strategy or the other.

SCHIEFFER: What street this year going to be like, Jan? JAN CRAWFORD, CBS NEWS CORRESPONDENT: I think I'll leave the predictions until the end. You look back at so much what's surprising in 2014, what is 2015 going to be like when you talk about North Korea, the president and this new posture?

And I agree with you completely, he seems kind of freed now to do some things that he'd been talking about from the beginning, including closing Guantanamo, which I think will be really interesting to see how forceful he is with that.

Every candidate, including going back to George Bush, had said they wanted to close Guantanamo. The president said that was one of the first things he wanted to do when he took office. It's not so easy. And I don't know legally and politically how he could do it. I don't think he can.

SCHIEFFER: Well, you know, Lindsey Graham has been one of those, you heard what Lindsey, Senator Graham said this morning. He said I think we ought to put more people down there.

CRAWFORD: If you look at that, what Senator Graham said to you, that is what you're going to see on the Hill and going into 2016, Democrats -- do you think Democrats are going to get behind the president wanting to send potentially 60 -- I mean, pretty serious terrorists in the United States.

SCHIEFFER: What do you do with them if you close them down?

That's the question. I mean, I'd think --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- release about half of them.

GARRETT: And we can't try them, either, because of either contaminated evidence or difficulties in presenting that evidence from a national security or a classified perspective. So there is, as the president has said routinely, a real conundrum here.

Where do you put them, how do you try them, do you hold them forever? And if you do, in what way is that consistent with American judicial values?

BRENNAN: Where you could make progress is on the dozens who have already been cleared for transfer. That's what you saw just this weekend with the four Afghans who did go back to Afghanistan.

And diplomats are working on this furiously, trying to resettle them, find a country who will take those who have been cleared of charges or bring them back to the countries where they were taken from in the first place. And you are going to see large numbers transferred --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I agree with that. But that still leaves about half --

Right. So then it becomes what do you do with those. I think the president will try to argue that it's just too expensive, it's $2 million basically an inmate a year to detain them there versus bringing them here.

But I don't think anybody is going to care. Polls show the American people are overwhelmingly opposed to this going into a presidential election. Democrats are not going to want to be on the -- holding the banner of let's bring some terrorists over here.

SCHIEFFER: Speaking of things that are easier said than done, let's talk about the Cuban surprise here. The president says he's going to reestablish relations with Cuba. Obviously there's going to be considerable opposition from Republicans, but I think Republicans will face some hard choices here.

Here you have the U.S. Chamber of Commerce coming out strongly for this. You have the Texas Business Council. There's no more Republican state right now than the state of Texas.

But all of that grain that we're already selling to Cuba as humanitarian aid, it goes through the port of Corpus Christi, Texas. That is the main embarkation point for aid to Cuba.

I think this is going to be something that is going to be debated and I think it's not going to break on party lines.

CORDES: It will. But I think at the end of the day you still have far more Republicans in the House and the Senate who favor placing restrictions and keeping restrictions on Cuba. You do have Republicans from farm states and maybe more Libertarian leaning Republicans like Rand Paul, who feel that, what we've tried hasn't worked. Let's open things up.

But I still think by and large Republicans think we've got to keep restrictions on Cuba until we see some Democratic action. And most importantly the Speaker of the House, John Boehner, and the new Senate leader, Mitch McConnell, both oppose lifting the trade embargo. And as long as that is the state of play, I don't think you're going to see any votes with it.

SCHIEFFER: Margaret, my sense of it is that this came not only as a surprise to most people in Washington, but to lot of people at the State Department.

BRENNAN: Well, this is a policy that many diplomats would privately support and have for some time, though publicly were unable to.

But you're right, having foreign policy negotiations directed out of the White House, not the State Department, did ruffle a few feathers, that's fair to say.

But I think the way to frame this what's actually changed when you talk to people at the State Department who area now going to be on the front lines of that diplomacy, is slow, it is deliberate, it is quiet. This is not about Americans getting on a U.S. airline and bringing back Cuban cigars to sell. This is going to be about, as you rightly said, the business community. That is who is going to benefit up front.

It's going to take another six months before we look at whether Cuba comes off that terror sponsor list and then you might open up more sanctions being lifted. But this is really going to be about migration issues, smaller scale things than the way this is being framed right now.

SCHIEFFER: David, what did they did think about this over at the Pentagon?

MARTIN: Cuba had long receded as a national security threat. So it's not like an opening to Cuba suddenly releases the Pentagon from some great burden of defending against an attack from Cuba. It was always just a nuisance value. So there was -- it was a favorable development but not a game changer in any way for the Pentagon.

SCHIEFFER: You know what I thought was interesting about the president's end of the year news conference? Not a mention of terrorism. ISIS did not come up once. Syria did not really come up. Did immigration come up? I'm trying to remember. I don't think it did. It was mostly about Cuba. It was mostly about...

CORDES: And the irony is...

SCHIEFFER: ... North Korea.

CORDES: ... these big issues came up right at the end of the year, so they kind of dominated the discussion. But I think in the new year, you know, North Korea and even possibly Cuba are going to kind of recede because you have got really pressing issues.

You know, the president is going to want authorization of military force to go against ISIS, that is going to be a huge debate. They're going to be talking about Iran. These are the foreign policy issues that are going to dominate.

GARRETT: And, of course, the president wanted to put a bow, literally, on the economic year for the United States of America. He feels very, very good about that. One truism about that, however, is that the economy improved and Washington had nothing to do with it other than getting out of the way, OK?

None of the president's big domestic initiatives that he proposed in the State of the Union Address got across the finish line, and yet the economy improved. Washington basically didn't scare anybody with the threat of government shutdown or a default, and the economy, using its own means, its own moxie and its own energy, created economic growth and jobs.

And that's a telltale signal, I think, to policymakers in Washington, about what you can and can't do, and the limits of your own aspiration. DICKERSON: So the funny thing will be is, how do they take in that lesson? Because you could see a way in which an improved economy means more money, more revenue coming in, which means you want to have the fight over scarcity and the way we've had it over the last several years, which could encourage more mischief, more efforts to try and actually get some things done.

If the lesson of the last couple of -- of this year is, don't get in the way, they are still all going to be pushing to try to get in the way. And the president will be trying to keep the economy -- you know, his legacy now so tied to that economic upswing as it continues.


SCHIEFFER: Excuse me, let's -- I have to clear my throat. So we're going to take a little break here and we'll be right back.


SCHIEFFER: Back now with our CBS News correspondents roundtable.

Jan Crawford, what is going to happen on the court? Is Justice Ginsburg going to retire?

CRAWFORD: Well, I think we have to take her at her word. She says she's not. She's 81 years old. She recently had a stent put in. But she was, you know, four or five days later right back on the bench. She's an active questioner. And she has made clear that she's not going to give President Obama his third nomination.

She said pretty bluntly, who would be better than me?


CRAWFORD: And from a liberal perspective, I think she's right, particularly with Republicans going in to take over Senate.

So I think President Obama probably has got to be content with making two nominations to the Supreme Court. The interesting question is, the next president. I mean, obviously the Supreme Court is a president's most lasting legacy.

I mean, they're up there for generations affecting American law and life long after a president has left town. In the next president's first term four justices will be in their 80s. So that would give next president a real opportunity to shape the direction of the Supreme Court.

President Obama didn't change the direction of the court. He replaced two liberals with two liberals. But if a conservative or liberal were to retire and the president were of a different ideology, it could turn the direction of that court, which now, of course, is 5- 4 conservative.

SCHIEFFER: Let's talk about Capitol Hill, Nancy Cordes. Who is going to be the leader in the Senate? Will it be Mitch McConnell or will it be Ted Cruz?

CORDES: I think it will be Mitch McConnell. I mean, Ted Cruz can still make all kinds of mischief, but I think his influence has waned. I think some of his fellow Republicans feel that in 2014 he went too far a few times.

In fact, just last week he had to apologize to his fellow Republicans because he tried a maneuver that ended up making them stay in town through the weekend, and you know members of Congress like nothing less than having to stick around here, especially at the holidays.

So I think leader McConnell, the first thing he will do, as he has said, is put Keystone pipeline up for a vote. It has already passed the House and is likely to pass the Senate. And then the big question will be, does the president veto it?

And then I think you'll see a series of jobs bills. Republicans want to rack up some early wins so they'll look to pass some bills that they think can get some Democratic support as well, things like making it easier for veterans to transition in to the civilian workforce, things like restoring the 40-hour work week threshold in Obamacare.

They feel that lot of people have been put onto part-time work because companies are trying to evade that threshold in Obamacare. And so they want to restore that. They think can get some Democratic support for that as well.

SCHIEFFER: And what about the State Department, what will be John Kerry's main priorities? What would he like to leave of his legacy if there would be such a thing?

BRENNAN: I don't know if I could speak for him except for, he really believes in pushing diplomacy on Middle East peace, that is going to be quite difficult until after March when you see those Israeli elections.

Prime Minister Netanyahu has been a difficult ally for this administration, and a difficult ally in the peace process here. And you see the Palestinian position weakening. Mahmoud Abbas doesn't have lot to provide to his people at this point.

SCHIEFFER: Do you think there is any chance there will be an agreement on nuclear matters with Iran?

BRENNAN: I believe that you will by March get a clear read on what is going to be possible. And the hope is really an extension of what we've got. This freeze, partial freeze, and partial sanctions relief is really believed to be a solid deal, as you heard the president defending earlier this morning as well.

SCHIEFFER: And, David, at the Pentagon.

MARTIN: Well, you've still got two wars going. You've got the war against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, and you've got the war against the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

U.S. has flown more than 1,300 airstrikes since August against ISIS targets. And just last week the commander of the operation there said it would take three more years just to get Iraqi army up and equipped and ready to retake all of the ground that has been lost. And that's not saying anything about what goes on in Syria. That's just -- that's Iraq first.

SCHIEFFER: David, let me ask you a question that I've often thought about, and maybe -- I don't know if I know the answer to this or not, but I'd like to get your take on it. You know, we talk about how long it takes to train an Iraqi. In World War II, you know, we sent kids to officer candidate school and we had what they called "90- day wonders."

Three months, they sent them off. They spent less time than that training enlisted people. Why is it that it seems to take so long now?

MARTIN: The difference was in World War II those young men had a reason to fight for their country. The government of Iraq has not given many of the young men in that army reason...

SCHIEFFER: That's the best answer I've heard.

John, 2016, what happens?

DICKERSON: Well, it has started already. I think you're going to have two debates inside both parties. The Democrats are having a big debate in their party about the difference between effective leadership and who really speaks for the party. And the Republicans, you talked about it with McConnell and Cruz, the fight between who is going to try and get things done through the system of Washington, and who speaks for the real principles of the party.

What has been unanswered is what Americans want. In the last election only 22 percent thought the next generation would be better than this one. That used to be the definition of the American dream.

SCHIEFFER: And yet only 37 percent of those people voted.

DICKERSON: Well, there's that. And then you've got the nearly 70 percent who say they think the economic system is tilted towards the wealthy. Those two questions, those two issues are not being scratched by the politicians. And that's going to -- those people are out there looking for answers, and these debates within the parties may or may not speak to those needs.

SCHIEFFER: And so do you think Jeb Bush is automatically the front runner?

DICKERSON: He's a front runner if you can be a front runner with 14 percent. There are a lot of people running. He's got the name that everybody knows.

What's interesting about Jeb Bush is he's running as -- even though everybody knows the name -- he's running as a bomb thrower. He's saying that traditional way Republicans have run presidential campaigns are messed up. And I'm going to run a different kind of campaign, that's a really hard thing to do but he's going to try to do it.

SCHIEFFER: And Hillary Clinton will be the nominee of the Democrats?

DICKERSON: If she chooses to run, she'll almost certainly be the nominee. The question for her what is her campaign about?

SCHIEFFER: All right. Prediction time -- Jan Crawford.

CRAWFORD: I'm going to predict that my beloved Alabama Crimson Tide is going to beat a tough and talented Ohio State team on New Year's Day.


SCHIEFFER: -- now that they don't have to play TCU.


CRAWFORD: I have to say, (INAUDIBLE), sorry we won't be able to place a bet. We're going to win our 16th national championship over Oregon and Florida State.


MARTIN: The U.S. military will succeed in killing Abu Bakr al- Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS. But it won't make much difference.

BRENNAN: Cracks in the coalition against ISIS are a growing frustration among our Arab allies, that there's not a strategy, just a vague vision for Syria. And keep in mind you still have at least two Americans being held there and three Americans being held in Iran. So hostages and how to handle that is going to continue to be an issue for this president.

CORDES: You're going to have Republicans consider a variety of strategies to dismantle major parts of ObamaCare and then you'll probably see them pass a border security bill aimed at going after what the president did on his own on immigration.

GARRETT: President Obama will talk in the State of the Union and push in the early part of next year for trade promotion authority as a prelude to a trade deal with 12 nations in Asia. He will incite the wrath of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party and enjoy it and work with Republican to get it done.

DICKERSON: Republicans will rally around a governor who will be their nominee in 2016 after complaining about a president who was only in the Senate for one year had no executive experience. They're not going to do the same thing.

SCHIEFFER: All right. Well, I want to thank all of you. I want to thank you for being here I'll be right back with some personal thoughts about leaving 2014 behind and you all are a captive audience; you all have to stay and listen.



SCHIEFFER: Finally a little holiday poem.

Holidays hurry; come fast as you can. I'm done with this year, it's all I can stand. Yes, I'm one who thought I'd seen it all. But this was as bad as I can recall. Is it any wonder in a year that's so screwy that topic A in D.C. is a Seth Rogen movie? Some red lines got crossed; the V.A., what a mess. Putin popped off, add that to the stress. The job front got better, not many noticed. But if something went wrong, they blamed it on POTUS. The poor guy got slammed for many a sin; every time he played golf, something else would fall in. The White House forgot to lock the front door. No wonder that guy dropped in to explore. Congress found new ways to dawdle and diddle. If this town caught fire, they'd reach for a fiddle. Mitch the McConnell, just look at him beam, running the Senate, living his dream. But as he figured out, part two of this news is spending more time with his bestie, Ted Cruz. Still, count our blessings; hey, we did survive and who knows what will come of the Cuban surprise. So Merry Christmas all 'round and I wish you good night. But just put this old year way, way out of sight.

Back in a minute.


SCHIEFFER: Thanks, everybody, and we'll see you next week right here on FACE THE NATION.


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