This is the transcript for the January 17, 2016 edition of Face the Nation. Guests included Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Marco Rubio, John Kasich, Robin Wright, Margaret Brennan, Gerald Seib, Molly Ball, Michael Gerson and Tavis Smiley.
JOHN DICKERSON, CBS HOST: Today on FACE THE NATION: Fifteen days until they start voting in Iowa and 23 until they start voting in New Hampshire, and it's getting feisty on the campaign trail.
Donald Trump and Ted Cruz have stopped being friendly.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He finally went off the wagon a little bit and went a little crazy.
TRUMP: And it's very -- he's being a great hypocrite.
SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald has a lot of nervous energy. And for whatever reason, Donald doesn't react well when he's going down in the polls.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DICKERSON: And on the Democratic side, the surprising surge of Bernie Sanders continues, causing Hillary Clinton to scramble. We caught up with Bernie Sanders in Vermont.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And we think we have a good chance to pull off what will amount to, I think you will agree, one of the great political upsets in modern history.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DICKERSON: Not if Hillary Clinton can help it. We will hear from Clinton this morning as she prepares to confront Sanders in tonight's Democratic debate in Charleston.
We will check in with Republican candidates Marco Rubio and John Kasich, both battling it out to stay alive after the voting begins.
It's all coming up on FACE THE NATION. Good morning, and welcome to FACE THE NATION. I'm John Dickerson.
Breaking news this morning. Three Americans, including ""Washington Post" reporter Jason Rezaian, have departed Tehran, part of a prisoner exchange with Iran announced on the day sanctions were lifted on that country as a part of the Iranian nuclear deal.
And this video shows three of the Iranians just released in Houston. This is a swap that's already sparked controversy on the campaign trail.
And we start with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is in Charleston this morning.
Good morning, Secretary Clinton.
After this prisoner exchange, Senator Marco Rubio said -- quote -- "If you take an American hostage, Barack Obama will cut a deal with you, whether it's Bowe Bergdahl, what he did with the Castro brothers, and now what he's done with Iran."
Your reaction to that?
HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I think it's just typical political rhetoric, and it overlooks some very basic, important issues.
Number one, we always try to get Americans back who are unjustly held. I certainly did when I was secretary of state. And when I was a senator, I advocated for the Bush administration to do the same for people who have been unlawfully held in foreign countries.
Secondly, the important news here is that the Iranian agreement to put a lid on the nuclear weapons program of Iran is being implemented. The Iranians have so far fulfilled their side of the bargain by destroying centrifuges, by shipping out 98 percent or so of their enriched uranium out of their country, even making one of their plutonium reactors under construction no longer able to be ever used because they have poured cement into it.
So, the real issue here is, if you're committed to making the world safer and to show strong American leadership, you have to engage in patient, persistent diplomacy with people who are not your friends. They are on the other side of a lot of the issues and values that you hold very dear, and that is certainly true for the United States.
DICKERSON: Former FBI agent Robert Levinson is still in Iran. Do you believe that the Iranians know where he is? And, if so, why wasn't he a part of this deal?
CLINTON: Well, I regret deeply that Robert Levinson was not on his way home either. And I hope and expect that the Iranians will continue to be pressed very, very hard to give up any information they have and, if possible, to return Bob Levinson to his home and family.
DICKERSON: Switching to the topic of gun control, you have said Bernie Sanders should vote or support the idea of lifting the immunity block on gun manufacturers. He now says he will support the legislation you have pushed him to. So, hasn't he done what you wanted him to do?
CLINTON: Well, I am pleased that Senator Sanders has flip- flopped on legal immunity for gun makers and sellers. Now I hope he will also join members of Congress to change what's called the Charleston loophole that enabled the killer in Charleston to get the gun that he used to murder nine people at Bible study here in Mother Emanuel Church. That's something else Senator Sanders has supported that we need to change.
So, now I'm calling on him to also flip-flop in the right direction and sign on the legislation to change the Charleston loophole.
DICKERSON: You at once in 1939 when you were first lady supported in testimony in front of the Senate Finance Committee a 25 percent tax on guns. You're not supporting that now or promoting that now.
How have you evolved over the years in terms of your support for the Second Amendment?
CLINTON: Well, I do support the Second Amendment. That has always been understood.
I just believe that, like any amendment to our Constitution, there are reasonable steps that can be taken. We have reasonable restrictions on certain kind of speech or certain forms of assembly. And for goodness sakes, we ought to be smart enough and do so consistent with the Constitution, to have more gun safety measures to try to save some of the 33,000 lives that we lose to gun violence every single year.
This is something that I have spoken out about, that I have advocated for right now. I think there is a consensus in the country on comprehensive background checks, closing the gun show loophole, closing the online and Charleston loopholes, reversing the immunity given to the gun industry, certainly prohibiting would-be terrorists on the no-fly zone from buying guns.
That's kind of the commonsense approach that we should be working to achieve.
DICKERSON: I would like to ask you about these stories out of Flint, Michigan. Lead levels in the water have created an emergency there. Senator Sanders called for Rick Snyder, the governor, to resign. What is your feeling?
CLINTON: Well, John, this is an issue I have been involved in now for a couple of weeks. I am horrified by what has happened in Flint. I started calling for immediate action, calling for federal intervention. I sent two of my top campaign aides to meet with the mayor of Flint. As you may know, I appeared on a show this past week and demanded that Governor Snyder ask for the help that Michigan needs to deal with the horrible consequences that children and their families are facing in Flint.
And I saw that Governor Snyder turned around within two hours and finally asked for the help that he should have asked for some weeks ago. I don't want to get caught up in the political back and forth here. I want to help the people of Flint.
And I particularly want a comprehensive health analysis of what's happened to these children. Lead is a poison. It destroys your brain. It interferes with your learning and your behavior. Whatever it takes for Michigan and the federal government to come together, through FEMA, through Health and Human Services, the EPA, whatever it takes, we now have to fix the problem and help these kids and especially their health and education development probably for years to come.
DICKERSON: On the topic of health care back at the national level, you -- your daughter, Chelsea Clinton, said that Senator Sanders' universal health care plan will dismantle Obamacare, dismantle Children's Health Insurance Program, and a series of other things it would dismantle.
Aren't -- isn't she and your campaign not taking into account that those things would be replaced by an actual plan that Senator Sanders has put forward?
CLINTON: Well, I think it's very confusing, because he hasn't put forward a plan.
And the only way we know what it is he's advocating for comes from looking at the nine bills that he's introduced in the House and Senate and Congress. And in those bills, every kind of health care is rolled all up together, and handed over to the states, which bear a financial responsibility to match what the federal government provides in order to administer health care.
So, it's not a traditional kind of single-payer system, as I understand it. It is a state-based system, kind of similar to Medicaid, if you will. And I do think there are very legitimate questions that can be raised, and because we don't have an up-to-date plan from Senator Sanders, all of us trying to figure out what it would mean for everybody to be put into that new system.
DICKERSON: All right.
Well, Senator -- excuse me -- Secretary Clinton, I know that will be debated this evening when you're on the stage with Senator Sanders.
We thank you for being with us.
CLINTON: Great to talk to you again, John.
DICKERSON: And now we turn to Bernie Sanders, who we caught up with in his hometown of Burlington, Vermont, Friday.
DICKERSON: Hillary Clinton, she said, because she understands Wall Street, she can -- and she told me this last week -- regulate Wall Street. And she said, it's kind of like Nixon going to China.
SANDERS: Well, it's not Nixon going to China. That is exactly the opposite.
Nixon was a vehement anti-communist who went to China. Hillary Clinton is somebody who has received significant sums of money from Wall Street.
DICKERSON: But she said she went to Wall Street told and them to cut it out in...
SANDERS: Right, cut it out.
Well, you know what? Cutting it out is not good enough. I will give you an example. I will just give you an example. Literally today, Goldman Sachs, it was announced, is paying a $5 billion fine, $5 billion for their duplicitous work on subprime mortgages, five billion bucks.
And what the American people are seeing is huge bailout for Wall Street, while the middle class continues to disappear.
DICKERSON: Switch to taxes for a moment. Your tax plan -- you haven't put out your rates for personal income. Republicans say they could be as high as 90 percent.
SANDERS: Well, that's a lie. I know.
SANDERS: Trump said that over and over again.
I don't want to shock you on this one, John. Just because Donald Trump says it may not be exactly the truth. That happens to be a total lie. We will get it out.
But let me talk about that, because we have probably put out more information on taxes than any other candidate already. And what we are saying is that we're going to end this outrageous provision that allows big money interests like Wall Street firms to park their profits in the Cayman Islands and other tax havens not in a given year, in a given year, pay a nickel in taxes. We're going to end that.
Wall Street may not like it, but we are going to impose a tax on Wall Street speculation, so that we can make public colleges and universities tuition-free and substantially lower interest rates on student loans. So, we have already put out a number of tax proposals, I believe more than any other candidate, which will help us transform American society, demand that the wealthy and large corporations start paying their fair share of taxes.
DICKERSON: So, we will see rates from you soon enough?
SANDERS: You will see that, absolutely. But it is not -- this is nonsense.
DICKERSON: You have raised questions about Hillary Clinton's plan for paid family and medical leave.
DICKERSON: What is your concern?
SANDERS: Well, here is the concern.
She doesn't have a plan. That's the concern.
DICKERSON: She could say the same thing to you about taxes. You -- we're still waiting to get your rates.
SANDERS: Wait. But there's a difference. We have -- we have presented, I think, more specific tax proposals than any other candidate.
But in terms of family and medical leave, here is what you got. The United States is the only major country on Earth that does not guarantee paid family and medical leave. Now, there is a bill in the Senate, and what it says is, we will guarantee three months paid family and medical leave. Is it free? Of course it's not free.
We will -- and the cost of it will be about $1.61, $1.61 a week for the average American worker. I think that's a pretty good investment. Hillary Clinton chooses not to support that legislation.
DICKERSON: But she has her own plan. And her plan is to tax people who...
SANDERS: Oh, no kidding? I had not quite seen that plan.
DICKERSON: Well, it's out there.
SANDERS: No, it's not out there.
DICKERSON: And, in fact, it says -- it says that she will take the money from taxing those people who benefited from the economic inequalities, which sounds like a Bernie Sanders plan.
SANDERS: Well, it's not a Bernie Sanders plan. Doesn't go anywhere far enough. It's not a plan. It's a vague idea. If you want something to be long-lasting, and where the people have ownership of it, they know nothing is free. You're going to have to pay something for it. When you do something like a vague idea, oh, we're going to tax the wealthy on this one, it could disappear tomorrow.
DICKERSON: Health care. When you hear Chelsea Clinton say, as she did this week, that you want to dismantle Obamacare, dismantle the Children's Health Insurance Program, dismantle Medicare, dismantle private insurance
SANDERS: I know, leave millions and millions of people out there with no health insurance at all.
Yes, I have only been spending my entire life making sure that as many people as possible get health insurance. That is just an unfortunate statement that Chelsea Clinton made.
The Affordable Care Act, which I helped write, which I voted for, supported, has done some good things, no question. But we have got to go beyond that. We have got to join the rest of the industrialized world, health care for all as a right. And we can save the middle- class families thousands of dollars a year in their health care costs.
DICKERSON: Donald Trump says, unless he wins, all of his efforts will be wasted.
Do you feel the same way? Or do you feel like, already, you have had an interim achievement?
SANDERS: We started this campaign, as you well know, at like 3 percent in the polls. We are now ahead in New Hampshire. I think we're closing the gap in Iowa. I think we have a good chance to win both those states. I think we have a good chance to win this election.
And I think the reason that we are going to win is that people are sick and tired of status quo politics and economics. They want a president who has the guts to stand up to the billionaire class and start representing working families.
DICKERSON: When you were at the State of the Union, did you think, that might be me up there?
SANDERS: Actually, the thought did cross my mind, honestly.
SANDERS: It did.
And it's a very humbling experience, feeling. But we're running hard to win. We think we have a good chance in Iowa and New Hampshire. And we think we have a good chance to pull off what will amount to, I think you will agree, one of the great political upsets in modern history.
DICKERSON: Did you just think about it, and that's it, or did you start making plans?
SANDERS: Yes, well, I was jotting down my inaugural speech. No, not quite.
SANDERS: It's a long way to go before we talk about an inaugural speech, before we toss State of the Union speeches in.
DICKERSON: You have suggested you are the more electable Democrat in a general election.
SANDERS: Yes. Yes.
DICKERSON: What is it about you, Bernie Sanders, that makes you more electable?
SANDERS: I think we have an appeal to young people, to working- class Republicans, to Democrats obviously, to independents.
I think what we are seeing in the Sanders campaign is a great deal of energy and excitement. It will translate into a large voter turnout. Large voter turnout not only means winning the presidency. It means recapturing the Senate, doing well in the House, winning governor seats all over the country.
DICKERSON: There's a perception that you have a weakness on foreign affairs.
Is that something you need to improve as a skill to be president, or are people just misinformed about...
SANDERS: Well, I don't think I have a weakness on foreign affairs.
Is it true that Hillary Clinton was secretary of state for four years? Yes, of course. Does that give her a great deal of experience in foreign affairs? Obviously, it does. But it's not just experience. It's judgment. I voted against -- not only did I vote against the war in Iraq. I helped lead the opposition to the war.
Hillary Clinton voted for that war, one of the worst foreign policy blunders in the modern history of the United States. So, you know what? Judgment counts when you are talking about foreign affairs.
DICKERSON: You have said Donald Trump is a pathological liar.
DICKERSON: Why specifically?
SANDERS: Well, I will give you one example. And there are many.
Goes around telling people that I want to raise their taxes by 90 percent. That's a lie. Never said that. It's not true. Number two, more importantly, he's trying to divide this nation. And he tells us that the Mexicans who are coming into this country are drug dealers, they're rapists, they're criminals. And that's just a lie.
But, even worse, he goes around saying, I, Donald Trump, I saw on television thousands of Muslims celebrating on 9/11 when the Twin Towers went down.
It's a lie. There is no evidence. There was never anything on television. It never happened. He has not apologized. He keeps saying it. That is a pathological lie.
DICKERSON: All right, Senator Sanders, thanks very much.
SANDERS: Thank you very much, John.
DICKERSON: Our full conversation with Bernie Sanders is on our Web site at facethenation.com.
We will back in a minute to hear from the Republicans.
DICKERSON: Turning now to the Republicans, we spoke with Florida Senator Marco Rubio in Sioux Center, Iowa, earlier.
We began by asking him about the prisoner swap.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, first, let me say, they're not prisoners. These people that were being held were hostages. None of them had violated any real laws. And, in fact, some of them weren't even charged.
One of them was a reporter. The other one was a pastor. And they had done nothing.
And let me just say, Bob Levinson is still missing. The Iranians know where he is, or we believe they do. And they're not being cooperative about that. We should not forget Mr. Levinson and his situation.
But going back to the point, these people were hostages. The people America is releasing, they were convicted in a court of law after due process of helping violate sanctions. The president has pardoned them in exchange for a release of hostages which had done nothing wrong.
And it proves once again that now nations and enemies of America around the world know that there's a price for Americans. If you take an American hostage, Barack Obama will cut a deal for -- with you, whether it's Bergdahl, what he did with the Castro brothers and now what he's done with Iran.
DICKERSON: What about...
RUBIO: We're happy they're coming home, but they never should have been held prisoner in the first place.
DICKERSON: What about the quick resolution of the 10 sailors? Earlier last week, John Kerry, secretary of state, said that is another instance in which diplomacy helped solve that faster than it would have in the past.
RUBIO: Well, again, imagine if those sailors had wandered into Israeli waters or Egyptian waters. We never would have heard about it, because there wouldn't have been an instant -- an -- a thing going on there, an incident.
They would have had their motor repaired and sent back on their way, instead of what happened. Iran grabbed them, put them on their knees, put their hands behind their head, forced them to apologize on video, made the female sailor wear a burka, filmed them in captivity in that room, all in an effort to show how powerful they are how and how weak we are in a huge propaganda score.
This is not the act -- they are not our allies. They're not our friends. And, ultimately, they released them, but only after achieving what they wanted from it. And that is to prove that if they wanted to, they can grab American sailors and subject them to this treatment.
DICKERSON: Let me ask you about propaganda.
President Obama, in his State of the Union, said that, with ISIS, when Republicans say it's too grave a threat, it plays right into their hands. You said it's a clash of civilization. So, are you playing into their hands, as the president has charged?
RUBIO: I think playing into their hands would be to ignore the reality of what ISIS has become.
ISIS is not just some group of radicals on the back of pickup trucks. This is a group that's grown in both influence and sophistication. They have a very sophisticated propaganda program that are recruiting foreign fighters. They have a sophisticated understanding of foreign immigration practices.
You have seen how they have been able to insert people into Europe using the refugee crisis. This is a group that control significant territory in Iraq and in Syria. This is a serious threat. Can we defeat them? Absolutely, but only if we have a real war against them, which is to find them and destroy them. And if you capture any of them alive, send them to Guantanamo and find out everything they know.
DICKERSON: You said this threat has changed the nature of the immigration debate.
You said during the debate this week it is dramatically different than it was 24 months ago. But during the immigration debate in the Senate that you were very much a part of, there were two amendments, one that dealt with visa overstays because of possible terrorists using that visa overstays, and another one about securing the border first before any kind of a deal.
You voted against both of those. Weren't people worried about security at the time, and not just because of ISIS in terms of terrorist threats?
RUBIO: Well, let me correct -- yes, let me correct you about those amendments, because they had already been dealt with in other amendments.
For example, John Cornyn had an amendment on the border, which I supported actually. I also sponsored or was a co-sponsor of the largest border surge in American history, 20,000 new border agents, completing 700 miles of fencing. As part of that, there was a biometric entry-exit tracking system that is required to prevent visa overstays, so we could identify people that had overstayed, know where they were, and be able to remove them from the country.
All of that was either dealt with or about to be dealt with in the amendments that I supported.
DICKERSON: So, the threat was a not new...
RUBIO: But as far as this -- well, it's a different threat. We clearly have in the past always had terrorist groups that have had an interest, but we have never had a group like ISIS that has in-depth understanding of foreign immigration practices.
For example, we know that one of the killers in San Bernardino entered the U.S. on a fiancee visa, something that most Americans didn't even know existed. And that process broke down. We didn't have the refugee crisis that we're now facing.
We have always had terrorist groups, but even al Qaeda and some of the other groups that are out there are regionally based. They strike at America, as they have in the past on different occasions, but their focus was primarily on the Middle East.
This is a group that has global ambitions, of conquering and flying the black flag of ISIS over the White House. So, the ISIS situation is dramatically different from any other terror threat we have ever faced. It's the most active, sophisticated, well-funded terrorist group we have ever confronted. And they need to be defeated. Either they win or we win. And when I'm president, we're going to win this battle.
DICKERSON: Let me ask you about becoming president, a political question.
There are a lot of people who are nervous about Ted Cruz and are nervous about Donald Trump and would like to coalesce around one candidate. But there are lot of other candidates that you're competing with. Why not just make the argument and say, don't vote for anybody else because we will split the vote, back me as an alternative to Ted Cruz and to Donald Trump?
RUBIO: Well, actually, I have been saying now for awhile I believe I'm only one in the primary field that can unite the Republican Party, which is critical, but also attract new voters who haven't voted for us in the past.
But I believe I am best positioned to take our principles of conservatism and convince people that haven't voted for us in a quarter-century that we're a better choice than the other party.
And I know this. Hillary Clinton does not want to run against me. Their attacks are constant from their campaign. If I am -- I cannot wait to run against her. If I'm our nominee, we will defeat her and we're going to turn this country around.
DICKERSON: There's been a lot of people buying firearms recently. And you bought one on Christmas Eve. Why?
RUBIO: Well, first of all, I'm not home very often. And so that was one of the few days that I was there.
Second, I have a right to protect my family. And that's why I was previously a firearm holder as well. This was an additional one.
And, again, I think many Americans around the country feel the same way. I'm a strong supporter of the Second Amendment. I have a right to protect my family if someone were to come after us. In fact, if ISIS were to visit us or our communities at any moment, the last line of defense between ISIS and my family is the ability that I have to protect my family from them or from a criminal or anyone else who seeks to do us harm. Millions of Americans feel that way.
DICKERSON: All right, Senator Marco Rubio, thanks for being with us.
RUBIO: Thank you.
DICKERSON: And we will be right back.
DICKERSON: We have got another presidential candidate coming up. Ohio Governor John Kasich is standing by.
And we will be back in a moment. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
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.
Stay with us.
DICKERSON: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION. I'm John Dickerson.
President Obama appeared in the cabinet room this morning and spoke about the Iranian nuclear deal implementation and the prisoner exchange.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The United States has never been afraid to pursue diplomacy with our adversaries. And as president, I decided that a strong, confident America could advance our national security by engaging directly with the Iranian government.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DICKERSON: Now we want to go to Republican presidential candidate and governor, John Kasich, who joins us now from Columbus, Ohio.
Governor, you've talked about the importance of diplomacy. So how do you evaluate this recent release of prisoners and of -- and, in addition, the 10 sailors who were released earlier this week?
GOV. JOHN KASICH (R-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, John, you know, it's sort of funny. I woke up this morning and it's interesting that I would be thinking about the Iran deal as I was getting ready to come over here. And -- the Iran nuclear deal. And I'm sort of sick to my stomach about it because what's going to happen is, Iran's going to get a ton of money. And this money they can use, you know, to spread a lot of trouble in the Middle East. In fact, there have been reports from some other Arab countries that they're actually more worried about the economic gains of Iran than they are what -- what they think is the potential development of a weapon. I mean I've heard this from various people.
Look, I -- I just think it was a terrible deal, what they did there. And in terms of the release, I'm glad these people are out, but, you know, they were -- they were there on trumped up charges. I mean you know that reporter who was held there for a very long time, who every journalist in America said, you know, was falsely taken, you know, they -- they Trump up charges and it's a bad situation. We're glad they're out, but -- excuse me, we don't want to have the Iranians just grabbing people and then trying to get their -- their own people out. But we ought to focus now on this Iran deal. And, John, my sense if, I were president today, I would be meeting with every one of our allies around the world and saying, we're going to monitor this deal. And if they violate one crossed "t" or one dotted "i," we need to slap the sanctions back on.
What I'm concerned about is, if they violate the deal, you know, money's going to talk and some of these countries are going to continue to just move forward and excuse Iran, and that's just simply not a good development. And it's -- it's a bad deal, period, end of story.
DICKERSON: And so very briefly, before we move on, you don't think that this diplomacy, the release here, is a beneficial result of that deal and all the negotiations that were put in? That's the argument that Secretary Kerry is making.
KASICH: Well, look, I mean the fact that they're communicating, you know, and these folks got released, I guess you could make an argument like that. But let's go back to the reporter who was arrested under trumped up charges. I mean, you remember, I was down at that White House correspondents dinner where every single speaker called on -- on the president and Iran to -- to just get that -- get that gentleman out of there, and they have. But, I mean, the guy had -- it was no business being held. So where's the great victory here, John?
KASICH: The great victory is for the families. I mean I'm thrilled for the families that their relatives have been released, but --
KASICH: I mean, to say this was some great thing I just think is overstating it by a -- by a long shot.
DICKERSON: Let's talk about politics. You're moving up in New Hampshire. Are you going to win?
KASICH: Well, look, I -- I got three endorsements here within the last 24 hours of three significant newspapers in New Hampshire. I'm running second in three out of four polls. And, you know, I want to be a story. I just got to have John Dickerson talking about me the day after the primary. And if that happens, then people are going to finally begin to hear me. You know, right now, you know, I'm low in the national polls. People don't know me. But, you know, we're doing OK and we're doing really, really well in New Hampshire. And we got -- I mean there's no question the greatest round game in that state of any campaign, and maybe one of the greatest ground games they've seen in modern political times.
DICKERSON: The --
KASICH: Our people are everywhere. It's impressive.
DICKERSON: "The National Review," there's an article saying you should maybe be Donald Trump's vice president pick. What's that a sign of in terms of -- you're in the conversation, but they think you should be his vice president.
KASICH: Obviously people who have too much time on their hands, didn't have anything else to write about.
DICKERSON: You're doing well in New Hampshire. Do you have the structure to be able to continue on, long slog, after New Hampshire?
KASICH: Well, we -- you know, we have -- we have people on the ground in South Carolina. We've got people on the ground in Nevada. Trent Lott in Mississippi is my chairman. Greg Harper, the congressman, we're going to -- you know, we have the best organization in Mississippi. I've got the governor in Alabama. And we're doing well in other southern states. We're on the ballot now in over 30 states.
And, John, then at some point it's going to come -- go to Illinois, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Who do you think's going to win there? So, yes, I mean, we will move forward. And, look, people didn't think I was going to get in. They didn't think I'd make the debates. They didn't think I'd make the money and look at what's happened. So we're like the little engine that can. So keep an eye on us and, if we come out of New Hampshire as a story, I'm just going to tell you, John, I believe I'll be the nominee.
DICKERSON: I want to ask you about something -- Governor Nikki Haley of South Carolina, we were just talking about that state, and her response to the State of the Union, she said, "today we live in a time of threats like few others in recent memory. During anxious time it can be tempting to follow the siren call of the angriest voices. We must resist that temptation." What was your reaction to that?
KASICH: Loved it. Loved her comments.
You know, the other thing is, John, I don't know if you noticed the debates. You know, I travel around and people say, you know, you're the adult, you're the one that makes sense, you're the one with the experience, how do we get you more attention, how do we get you more time? Look, in this campaign, I'm very proud of it. And I'm proud of it because we're raising the bar.
You know, what happens today in American politics is that if you don't yell or say something really extreme, the media ignores you. So I said one little funny thing about Bernie Sanders. I said, well, you know, Bernie's the nominee, we'll win all 50 states. That got more attention than everything else I said in the debate.
DICKERSON: All right --
KASICH: But, you know what, at the end, the people -- the people themselves, they do good analysis. That's why we're rising in New Hampshire.
DICKERSON: All right --
KASICH: That's why we're going to do so well.
DICKERSON: OK. Senator Kasich, the little engine, we'll see you at the depot. Thanks very much.
KASICH: Governor. Governor. Stop downgrading me. Governor.
DICKERSON: Sorry. Sorry, governor. I apologize. I got senators coming and going over here. Thanks, governor. We've got lot more coming up.
KASICH: I might start talking about Bob Schieffer if you keep it up, Dickerson.
DICKERSON: All right, governor. Stay with us.
KASICH: We'll see you.
DICKERSON: Joining us now for some analysis on the developments involving Iran and the United States are Robin Wright, a fellow at the Wilson Center here in Washington, she's also a contributor for "The New Yorker," and CBS News foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Brennan is also with us.
Robin, I want to start with you. Two big deals happened yesterday. Coordinated, not coordinated, the release of the prisoners and the lifting of the sanctions?
ROBIN WRIGHT, WILSON CENTER: Well, two and a half years ago the United States initiated this diplomacy with Iran on its controversial nuclear program. And at every session the Americans brought up the cases of the Americans imprisoned in Iran. And after a year of kind of getting no place, they realized they better establish a secret second channel with a different set of players. It was so secret that even other members of the nuclear team didn't know about it. And it was supposed to be a parallel track, but to move at their own pace. In the end, one -- the momentum of one influenced the momentum of the other and they came to fruition at the same time.
DICKERSON: Margaret, the sanctions have been lifted. Now this swap has happened. Where are -- where is the United States now in the -- with respect to this deal but also its relationship with Iran?
MARGARET BRENNAN, CBS NEWS FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's the big question. I mean who other than John Kerry can pick up the phone and speak to the Iranians right now? There still are no diplomatic relations with Iran. So this is really, in so many ways, a test case. Let's see how this deal plays out, if inspections are unfettered, if, over the next 10 years, all -- all the Iranians do what they have promised to do. But it's really a question of, do you look at this two ways. One, the Iranians have made a business of hostage taking. You could argue that has paid off to their benefit. This secret channel with Iran started in the first place over three hikers who were taken prisoner many years ago.
DICKERSON: And that's the argument essentially that Marco Rubio makes.
BRENNAN: Right. And John Kasich hinted at that as well.
Or you can look at it and say, this is a triumph of the moderates in Iran really persuading the supreme leader that this is a track they should pursue. The thing -- if you go with that argument, it's kind of hard to conclude that thought at this point because this was not an ideological deal. This was an economic choice by Iran. So it's kind of too hard to tell yet if this is really a new age. It's certainly a new stage that we're at in the U.S./Iranian relations.
DICKERSON: Robin, Secretary Kerry, when this deal was announced, said, we are going to continue to be as hard on Iran on those other issues as we ever have been. Well, this question of testing missiles, intercontinental ballistic missiles from Iran, what's the test there, to see if the United States really is being as hard on them as they said they would be after this deal was agreed to?
WRIGHT: Well, Iran conducted missile tests in October and November, which were in violation of a U.N. resolution. And so as a result, the United States has today imposed new sanctions for those missile tests. And the message is, look, we do want to move into a different era, we do want to clean the deck on our past disputes and disarm Iran from the most deadly weapon in the world. So they've made progress on that front, but they are -- the United States message is, we're going to be -- continue to be tough and we will impose new sanctions when warranted. And that's exactly what they've done.
DICKERSON: Margaret, what's the reaction been in the region? When this deal was signed, there was a lot of Republican saying that Israel is going to make moves on its own, other nations in the region, Sunni nations, are going to react. Where are things -- what do we know about that reaction?
BRENNAN: Right. Well, up until this point this has all been an argument about a piece of paper. Now the deal actually has to, you know, play out. And so this is going to be the test case over whether those arguments about, you know, Iran sort of getting this big payday, which, by the way, Iran says only about 30 billion of 100 billion is going to be liquid for them. A lot of it's tied up. So it's not necessarily the payday that some would argue they are getting.
However, money's spongable (ph). Who knows how that money is going to be invested in other ways for Iran. And so it's going to -- to be a sort of a wait and see. But there is some truth to this argument that whether it's Saudi Arabia, whether it's Israel, whether it's others, they are less worried about the nuclear program than they are about the empowerment of Iran to continue to interfere and meddle in the region, and that is still a problem for the United States. So it is interesting to have the White House say earlier this week that now what happens with Syria is another test for Iran. Can they be helpful on the diplomacy to end the war, the civil war in Syria, which they are direct players in on the ground? And so that's the next sort of test. But it's still unclear, when President Obama leaves office, what is the relationship the United States is going to have with Iran?
DICKERSON: Yes, and they are wondering, who's going to pick up that relationship.
DICKERSON: Who -- the point of our election, Robin, before we go, we have about 30 seconds or so. A former research assistant of yours is one of those released.
WRIGHT: Yes, he worked for me in 2009. A gregarious young man who spent many years in Afghanistan, as well as in Iraqi Kurdistan. He'd actually been to Iran on vacation, thought it was interesting. He had learned a bit of Farsi in Afghanistan and wanted to go back to take an intensive language class. He was just finishing up his four month course when he was picked up in early December.
DICKERSON: Amazing. Thank you, Robin, for being here and great piece in "The New Yorker."
Margaret, thank you also for helping us understand this.
We'll be right back with our political panel.
DICKERSON: Tavis Smiley is the host of "The Tavis Smiley Show" on PBS and has a new book out, "The Covenant with Black America: Ten Years Later," Michael Gerson is a columnist for "The Washington Post." We're also joined by Molly Ball of "The Atlantic" and Washington bureau chief of "The Wall Street Journal" Gerry Seib.
Gerry, let me start with you. Set the stage for us tonight. The Democrats are having a debate in Charleston. Set it up for us.
GERALD SEIB, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": Well, first of all, I think we're in a new phase of this race. And you really have two races going on. There's a national race where Hillary Clinton is still in very good shape. We have a new poll out today that shows her leading nationally among Democrats by 25 points. But there state races in Iowa and New Hampshire that in the short term matter a lot more than the national picture and there Bernie Sanders has basically evened thing up, so they have to fight.
I don't think Hillary Clinton wanted to get into fights with Bernie Sanders. She wants that energized base that he represents to be with her in a few months within she presumably gets the nomination. But now she has no choice. So they will be arguing about Wall Street, who's tougher on Wall Street, and they'll be arguing about gun control, who's tougher on gun controls. These are litmus test issues for that base that Bernie Sanders talks to all the time.
DICKERSON: Molly, is it close because of something Bernie Sanders has done or something Hillary Clinton has not done?
MOLLY BALL, "THE ATLANTIC": Yes. I think it's -- I think it's both of those things. I think you have, number one, an attempt to sort of coronate a fundamental -- a candidate who fundamentally doesn't inspire the Democratic base, especially where the Democratic base is today. The Democratic base is in a much different mood than it was eight years ago when they were just hoping to get rid of George W. Bush. This is a real -- there's -- there's a real sort of rising liberal tide in America. There is a really -- a real sense that they want to push a progressive agenda. And so Bernie Sanders has become the sort of unlikely messenger for that and -- in a way that he didn't expect, in a way that I didn't expect. And it -- and so it has to do with Hillary's deficiencies, it has to do with what Bernie is offering, and -- and -- and the consistent message that he represents, having talked about these issues for decades.
DICKERSON: Tavis, do you think there's something Hillary Clinton should have done? There's a -- she's at the stage now where she's getting a lot of second guessing articles appearing in "The Washington Post," "The New York Times." Is there something she should have done, seen this coming and taken on Sanders earlier or something?
TAVIS SMILEY, "THE TAVIS SMILEY SHOW": I wonder how she must feel. In 2008 she gets blindsided by a black guy from the left and in 2016 she's blinded by an old white guy from the left. So she didn't see it coming either time, number one. But I think in this particular react, what Molly basically said a moment ago, that she's out of step in some records with the electorate and Bernie Sanders is tapped into something, particularly around the issue of poverty, and income equality, and economic immobility that people are responding too.
What she should have done perhaps is to be a bit more progressive on those issues. I got in trouble a year or so ago when I suggested in asking -- after being asked a question about whether or not she ought to be challenged when we thought this was going to be a coronation as opposed to an election. I said I wanted to be challenged from the left, number one, because it will make her a better candidate in the -- in the general, number one. Number two, it might make her a little less hawkish in her policy positions. But, number three, it's going to make her a bit more progressive on these issues that she ought to be addressing. So I'm glad that Bernie at least has made it a race. And if you're a black voter, and I think black voters are going to help decide this Democratic nomination, obviously, you love the fact that you vote for once matters and people are fighting over you.
DICKERSON: Yes, she's more progressive, but also more hawkish.
DICKERSON: Michael Gerson, Bernie Sanders says he is the electable candidate in the general election. Republicans I talked to, and the candidates say this, that if they ran against Bernie Sanders -- John Kasich said, we'd win all 50 states.
MICHAEL GERSON, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Yes.
DICKERSON: What's your assessment?
GERSON: Well, I -- I agree with that because this is -- would be very much a Jeremy Corbin (ph) moment, you know, over in Britain, the labor party has chosen a leftist because they wanted to vote against Blair-ism. They wanted to reject the middle ground positioning. And if Democrats were to do -- you know, pick Sanders, they would be much in that same position. But I think the interesting thing about Hillary Clinton though is how poorly she's doing among young voters, among young women voters, which is just extraordinary. She's losing in large numbers millennial voters to Sanders. So she's got some real, real problem.
DICKERSON: Molly, Secretary Clinton would like the debate right now to be about guns. Is Bernie Sanders, who has shifted his position just in the last few days on this question of immunity, is he in trouble on that issue? Is she -- does she have an opportunity there?
BALL: I this she's put him in a very tough spot on this issue and it's clearly, you know, a political ploy, but it's an effective one because this is the one issue where Bernie Sanders is significantly out of step with that liberal base that he otherwise is so in tune with. And he faced an impossible choice. He had to either flip flop, change his position that he's had for a long time and thereby get rid of his image for consistency and --and for being ideological rather than political, or he had to stick with the position that's very unpopular on an issue that Democrats care about more and more. We've seen Democrats really get energized around this issue of gun control, that they really sort of put in the deep freeze for the past decade because of the thought that it was hurting them in rural America.
And so, you know, given the choice between, as Hillary said earlier on this show, flip flopping to the right position, or sticking with an unpopular position, he finally gave in. And that's -- that's been very interesting. And I think you're going to see her nail him on that by saying, look, this -- this -- this man who you see is so pure is just another politician on this issue.
DICKERSON: And Bernie Sanders will just talk about Wall Street.
SEIB: Exactly. And as we -- we had a story in the -- in "The Journal yesterday in which we said, the difference between them is that they both want to go after Wall Street, but Bernie Sanders wants to do it with a mallet and she wants to do it with a scalpel. He's saying basically break up the big banks, send people to jail if necessary, and she's saying, let's regulate smarter, let's do Dodd Frank plus, let's do all the smart things. And so she's got the, you know, the ten point plan and he's got the one point plan. And this happens to be a year where the one point plan seems to be more effective than it would have been otherwise.
BALL: Well, and, remember --
GERSON: But -- but if --
BALL: In the last Democratic debate, he really made her squirm on this and she did not have a good answer. This is when she came back with 9/11 to the question about Wall Street.
DICKERSON: Yes. Right.
GERSON: But if the question is who's more anti-Wall Street, Hillary Clinton's not going to win that. She didn't choose to go back and represent Arkansas, she represented New York State in the U.S. Senate. She -- those are her people. She is associated with them. And she is going to have to move to other issues in order to -- to win the debate.
DICKERSON: Tavis, I want to ask you a question about your book and -- and this lead in the water in Flint, Michigan. There is a sentence here in chapter nine assuring environmental justice for all. It reads, "if a community happens to be poor, black or of color, it receives less protection than does an affluent white community." Flint has a majority African-American community. Do you think that's what's happening there?
SMILEY: I think it's a case in point. I think that when you are politically, economically, or socially disenfranchised and you're forced to live in certain pockets in this country, this is precisely what happens. And then you get -- you get treated like an afterthought. When you raise the issue that something is wrong with the water, people don't take you seriously. And so on the environment, on health, on education, on some of the other issues, African- Americans and poor people continue to lag behind.
This book points out that in the last 10 years, since the original text (ph) came out, black people have lost ground in every major economic indicator category. Every major category, black voters, the president's most loyal constituency, have lost ground and the environment's just one of those issues. So environmental racism is real and we're going to see these cases come up more and more and more. We saw it -- we see it in Porter Ranch (ph), not exactly a poor community, out in California, where I live. But in poor communities, this is an old story. It's making national news right now. The timing is right, wrong, but right in terms of a presidential election. But these incidents happen all the time, they just don't get this kind of exposure.
DICKERSON: And maybe they will in the debate tonight.
SMILEY: I hope so.
DICKERSON: Let's switch over to the Republicans. Michael Gerson, the Trump and Cruz friendship has gone through a dissolution. Where do you think that fight is, and where is the Republican race right now?
GERSON: Well, I think, unfortunately from my perspective, Donald Trump had his best debate. There's no -- there's very little question about that. And particularly on this question of New York values, he very much bested Ted Cruz, who was left in the split screen clapping for, you know, Trump, which was kind of an assertion of dominance. So that -- that -- it's engaged now. A lot of Republicans, however, you know, think of this as the Iran-Iraq War. They want them both to lose, right? And someone to come in a third lane that can challenge these two very developed constituencies right now.
DICKERSON: That third lane is quite -- quite crowded, isn't it?
SEIB: Quite crowded and it's getting mean in that third lane. That's the big problem that the establishment people around this town are worried about, which is to say, well, maybe Marco Rubio will emerge or maybe Chris Christie will emerge, or, you know, maybe John Kasich will emerge, but they're all busy sort of slicing each other up right now. And, meanwhile, Ted Cruz and -- and -- and Donald Trump kind of proceed down the path in their own lanes.
SMILEY: To Gerry -- I'm sorry.
SMILEY: No, I was going to say, somebody had better emerge because --
SMILEY: As we -- as we -- we -- we all have to admit this today, and we know this in -- in the politics, that Republicans can continue to win gubernatorial races, senatorial races, congressional races, but the -- their presidency will continue to vehicles them if they can't find a way to expand their base and Cruz and Donald Trump do not expand the base. So in some regard it's much ado about nothing unless somebody that emerges that can expand the base.
SEIB: No, I was just going to make one final point, which is that you -- we have to remember that this picture, like all these pictures, can change radically once voters start having a say. You know, the two weeks before New Hampshire and Iowa and the two weeks after can look quite different. And we never are quite sure how.
DICKERSON: Molly, to Tavis' point about the expansion of the party, we saw something kind of extraordinary this week. There is a race going on, on the one hand, between Republican candidates and then Nikki Haley gave a response to the State of the Union in which she said very warm things about undocumented workers, saying that they shouldn't be treated harshly, and then she also talked about anger taking over too much in the -- it seemed like the Republican Party was sending a message to its own party.
BALL: It really -- it was really profound to see the president in the end of his State of the Union saying that we shouldn't listen to these voices calling us to tribalism and so on. And then the Republican response, the official Republican response, not just some random Republican politician, really sounding the same note. There is a sense in which the professional political class collectively is panicked by the forces that they see Trump having unleashed, and that they see Cruz also sort of riding along with.
Now, Cruz is extremely well positioned here and I am not convinced that Trump actually won that exchange with Cruz in the debate because the -- the goodwill that Ted Cruz has with the sort of talk radio faction that's been giving Donald Trump a free pass is going to really help him now that those two are in conflict.
DICKERSON: Last 20 seconds to you, Michael.
GERSON: Yes, we're -- we concentrate on the horse race -- horse race element here, but there are big issues at stake. Is the Republican Party going to be the party of exclusion? They're really deciding whether this is normal, whether this is acceptable. And I -- you know, I think that's where we need to focus.
DICKERSON: OK. Great. Thanks, Michael. Thanks to all of you.
We'll be right back.
DICKERSON: Today. Thanks for watching.
We leave you today with someone that both Republicans and Democrats can support, Bei Bei the Bei Bei panda who made his public debut here in Washington last week.