Face the Nation transcripts December 22, 2013: Morell, Garrett, Brennan, Cordes, Martin


BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, I would say that would be the understatement of the year that it will become a political topic. I think Capitol Hill would explode if-- if the President somehow decided to give amnesty. I mean can you imagine, every single Democrat running for re-election would have to be answered the question, do you think the President is right to give amnesty to Edward Snowden? I think it would create a political situation that would simply be untenable.

NANCY CORDES (CBS News Congressional Correspondent): Not to mention the red meat that it would give to Republicans--

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, exactly.

NANCY CORDES: --as they go into this election year. And it’s been really fascinating to watch the evolution on Capitol Hill over the course of the year on this issue. The very beginning, you know, when these revelations first came out from Snowden, the overwhelming reaction was, how dare he. Bring him back. He’s a traitor. And I think a lot of people still feel that way. But as they started to hear from their constituents about what they felt was an intrusion into their privacy, you saw more and more members join the few who had been out there in the beginning, the Ron Wydens, the Rand Pauls, saying, we think that this program needs to be reined in. We’re not comfortable with it. And that’s why when these new recommendations came out this week about the NSA, they were sort of like, uh-hun, yeah, that’s about what we thought. You know, there are a lot of members who are glad that this is being tackled.


DAVID MARTIN: You know the President has said this is a conversation we needed to have. Raise your hand if you think we would have this conversation without Edward Snowden.

MAJOR GARRETT: Impossible.

DAVID MARTIN: He-- it-- it’s hard to know what to think about-- about the guy. Is he a traitor or is he a whistleblower who did the American public a service? And you-- you can preach that flat around. I-- I find it inconceivable that he will be granted blanket amnesty. But a plea bargain to a lesser sentence, I could see.

BOB SCHIEFFER: I-- I think, David, the president is going to have to be very, very careful about this because after all, what would this say to the next person who thinks maybe it would be a good idea to dump a bun of-- bunch of information out there when he would say, oh, okay, well I can go ahead and do this and in the end they will forgive me or something. I just don’t think-- I just don’t think that will happen. What do you think, Margaret?

MARGARET BRENNAN (CBS News State Department Correspondent): Well, I think there are two sort of bigger takeaways from this entire incident which is, one, add to the list of things that Russia can say has helped make it a player of consequence once again on the world stage, and certainly taking in Edward Snowden was one of them. And, secondly, perhaps, more profoundly in terms of long-term implication will be the damage to alliance management. Alliance management is one of the key foreign policy tools of this administration. That means just getting everyone on board at the same time whether it's about Iran, whether it’s about any of the other challenges out there. And this really undermines trust along the lines of our European partners and others around the world.

MAJOR GARRETT: And one of the things significant that was learned this week that the American public can digest on its own. In Judge Leon’s ruling where he said it was likely unconstitutional, this blanket holding and collection of data. He said the government given many opportunities could not cite a single instance when this surveillance stopped or thwarted an emerging terrorist attack. The panel’s recommendations also said we have not found, conclusively, whether this has stopped a terrorist attack from happening. That’s not information the American public had before. And that’s going to increase the intensity of this debate, the utility of this particular kind of surveillance and what role Edward Snowden played in releasing.

DAVID MARTIN: But Mike Morell will tell you that if this metadata program had been in effect on September 10, 2001, it would have stopped or had a very good chance of stopping 9/11. So, even though, there is no case where this-- this one program was the difference between a successful and unsuccessful attack, there is evidence out there that it is useful.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Let’s talk about the year in Washington. I must say I find-- I can’t think of a worse year that Washington has gone through, with the possible exception of Watergate, of course, which is kind of off by itself. What is going to happen on Obamacare now, Nancy? Is-- is this program going to finally happen? I mean is it-- is it going to-- are people going to be enrolled or there are still problems?

NANCY CORDES: Well, I think our first test will be January first when people have their new insurance programs that they go to the hospital, if they go to their doctor, are they going to be able to get reimbursed, are they going to be able to see the doctor that they want to see and it's really still an open question. And this is really a challenge I think, in particular, it’s an understatement for Democrats who are really in a bind. I mean-- they have supported this, they have taken the slings and arrows on Obamacare for four years now. So they can’t turn their backs on it, you know, it’s-- their main accomplishment, and it’s the President’s main accomplishment. On the other hand they do need to show that they think the program needs to be fixed. And going into an election year, every single one of them at some point in the past few years has said, if you like your doctor, you can keep him. If you like your plan, you can keep it. And you have to know that every Republican has found them saying that they've got the tape and they’re going to be turning that into ads come this fall.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Of course, the other big story of the year was the shutdown of the government. I guess we're not going to see another of those for a while.

MAJOR GARRETT: No, we have two years of budget peace and that really is a reflection of the politics of exhaustion. The White House was exhausted by the Obamacare rollout fiasco. Republicans were exhausted by the shutdown and getting nothing out of it. And the speaker, John Boehner, told his members we're not going to get anything out of this. They said, Mister Speaker, run into the buzz saw yet again. He did one last time and then, as we saw to create this two years of budget peace, said, never again. And not only am I going to say never again I'm going to call out critics who want me to run into that buzz saw again. Those politics are over. So I would say this was a down year for as far as production, but it ended in a way that offers some degree of optimism for the White House and Capitol Hill that some things can get done. The National Defense Authorization Act was passed. It's a huge piece of legislation that would give the Pentagon some certainty for a while. Two years of budget peace also allows a shutdown scenario to be completely wiped off the boards. The one last remaining element is do we have a default crisis, every political indicator at the White House and the Hill suggests we won’t. So, though, it was a dreadful year, productively, it ended in a way that gives both sides some sense that a midterm year will be a problem.