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Face the Nation transcripts January 5, 2014: Reid, King, Salmon

The latest on the 2014 agenda in Washington, from Obamacare to unemployment benefits
The latest on the 2014 agenda in Washington, ... 49:39

(CBS News) Below is a transcript of "Face the Nation" on January 5, 2014, hosted by CBS News' Bob Schieffer. Guests include: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Ariz., Peggy Noonan, David Ignatius, David Sanger, and John Dickerson.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Today on FACE THE NATION, 2014 marks the sixtieth year of this broadcast and we started with one of Washington’s most powerful, but rarely interviewed officials, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

SENATOR HARRY REID: The House will be in order.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Twenty thirteen was not exactly a banner year from Washington. Will this year be any better?

 MAN: No organizational or legislative business will be conducted on this day.

 BOB SCHIEFFER: So it’s official, nothing to report so far. But what are the prospects for immigration reform, cutting the deficit, extending unemployment benefits. What will happen to Obamacare and what about the National Security Agency? We'll ask the Senate’s top Democrat, Harry Reid, who controlled much of the agenda on Capitol Hill. Then we’ll talk to key House Republicans New York’s Peter King and Arizona’s Matt Salmon. We’ll have analysis from Peggy Noonan of the Wall Street Journal, David Ignatius of the Washington Post, David Sanger of the New York Times, and CBS News political director John Dickerson. And in our flashback, how a CBS News crew went to Havana to interview Fidel Castro for FACE THE NATION and got scooped by Ed Sullivan. Sixty years of news because this is FACE THE NATION.

And good morning, again, and before we get to Senator Reid, a quick update on this bitter cold that has two-thirds of the country in its grip from the Midwest to the Northeast and a good part of the South. This cold is expected to set record lows in many parts of the country, some of the coldest weather so far is in the St. Paul, Minneapolis, area and WCCO TV reporter Jamie Yuccas has the latest from there. Jamie.

JAMIE YUCCAS (WCCO-TV): Bob, it is currently nine degrees below zero and it’s only expected to get worse. For the first time in twenty years schools are closed statewide on Monday with lows expected at minus twenty-five. With windchills expected to be around minus seventy degrees, exposed skin can become frostbitten in just minutes, ski hills and ice rinks have closed until Tuesday at the earliest. Today’s Green Bay Packers playoff game could be among one of the coldest NFL games ever played. The temperature at Lambeau Field is expected to be two degrees below zero with windchills at minus thirty when the Packers and San Francisco 49ers kick off. The arctic air will keep its track east as well. By Monday Chicago will likely hit fifteen below. New York and New England will deal with frigid temperatures as residents there continue to dig out from that massive snowstorm. Many heading south to escape the cold could also be out of luck. Atlanta is forecasted to stay in the twenties and those chilly temps could continue into Florida. Highs in the Minneapolis area may reach above zero by Wednesday, but many meteorologists predict that now that we’ve seen these cold temperatures it will just continue through the rest of the winter season, Bob.

BOB SCHIEFFER: All right. Well, thanks, Jamie. Now get inside, quick. Thank you.

JAMIE YUCCAS: Sounds good.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, Washington is seeing some of the lowest temperatures in about twenty years. It is not nine below as it is out there in Minneapolis, but we want to thank Senator Harry Reid for braving the cold to come inside and join us. Senator Reid, thank you.

SENATOR HARRY REID (Majority Leader/D-Nevada): Really my pleasure.

BOB SCHIEFFER: We'll see you very often. We hope we’ll see you often, though, during this-- this New Year. Let’s start out by talking about unemployment benefits that ran out for 1.3 million Americans in December. You have said, the President has said this is going to be one of the priority items here. It’s also going to cost twenty-six million dollars for the year, Republicans are already saying, no way, unless you agree to somehow offset that with spending cuts, are you willing to negotiate on that?

SENATOR HARRY REID: This is typical for Republican members of Congress. Not Republicans, but Republican members of Congress. The vast majority of American people believe that unemployment benefits should be extended. Never with unemployment like this have we ever even considered not extending them and John McCain's chief economic advisor during his presidential campaign Mark Zandi said for every dollar we spend on unemployment benefits, the government and the country gets back fifty cents extra. It’s so important to do this, the gross domestic project-- product would be increased to-- by twenty-three billion dollars. It’s the right thing to do. We have long-term unemployment. That’s why the American people support this, Democrats, independents, and Republicans.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, Senator, you praised the budget deal back in December for reducing the deficit. You said that’s something that had to be done. But aren’t you just undoing that now with this?

SENATOR HARRY REID: Bob, the-- the place we always look to find out what’s happening with the deficit is Bowles-Simpson. They set a goal of four trillion dollars. We’ve already approached nine trillion dollars and if we did comprehensive immigration reform it would be taken care of. We'd be at four trillion dollars. So it seems to me that we should start focusing as we have on reducing the debt, we’ve done that. But let’s start focusing on helping the middle class. We have a situation in America today that is really not good. The last thirty years, the top one percent of Americans, and their income and wealth has increased three hundred percent. The middle class during that same thirty years has lost almost ten percent. We’ve got to turn this around. I'm-- I want-- I want the economy to be good. I want people to be rich. I have nothing against rich people. But the rich are getting richer. The poor are getting poorer. The middle class are being squeezed out of existence.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, let me just ask you about a-- a straight out political question here. If the Republicans try to filibuster this, and so far I think there’s only one Republican Senator that has said he’s ready to go along with you on this. Do you have the votes to block a filibuster on this?

SENATOR HARRY REID: It seems to me that here we have a bipartisan bill. We have one of the liberal members of the Senate, Jack Reed of Rhode Island, and one of the conservative members to Senate, Dean Heller from Nevada. They say we should extend these unemployment benefits. And they’re right.

BOB SCHIEFFER: But that’s the only Republican, am I not?

SENATOR HARRY REID: Well, remember--

BOB SCHIEFFER: Am I wrong about that.

SENATOR HARRY REID: --there’s fifty-five of us and there’s forty-five of them. It would seem to me that five Republicans in the Senate should agree with the Republicans around the country. Republicans around America want us to do something to extend these benefits. Why? Because it's good for the economy, it’s good for the country. Every one of these people that's long-term unemployed they get one of these checks they spend the money, they don’t put it in the bank. It helps small business. That’s why small business favor this. The same reason they favor doing something about minimum wage. They know it’s good for the economy. And so Republicans in Congress have to get away from being Republicans in Congress. Background checks, ninety percent of the Americans want that. Republicans in Congress oppose it. Extending unemployment benefits, seventy-five percent of Americans want that done, Republicans in Congress oppose it.

 

BOB SCHIEFFER: Extending minimum wage, same thing--

BOB SCHIEFFER: You don’t--

SENATOR HARRY REID: I mean they’re just not-- they are out of touch with what’s going on in America today.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Let me just ask you this, Senator: I think most people would say that last-- the last meeting of Congress was probably the least productive, maybe in history. It's certainly the least productive that I can remember. What you seem to be saying to me is, listen, we are in for the absolute same thing, nothing much is going to change here.

SENATOR HARRY REID: Bob, unless the Republicans in Congress decide they should do something for the American people, I am sorry to say that’s true. Rating of Congress is down. If somebody called me on a poll I would vote with them. This is awful what's been going on. And that’s-- that’s the reason, Bob, that we had to change the rules. They were even opposing people who were part of Obama’s team. Never in the history of the country to show you how outline this has gotten. My predecessor, one of my predecessors, Lyndon Johnson was leader for six years. He had to overcome one or two filibusters; me, four hundred and thirty filibusters. Things are gotten way out of whack and that’s why we change the rules, and now we say, majority-- majority of them not such a bad word is it, majority is going to determine who can be on President Obama's team. The Founding Fathers, you know, this-- this filibuster that they so love is not part of the Constitution. It’s not a privilege, it’s a right.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Let me ask you this.

SENATOR HARRY REID: I mean, I'm sorry, it’s a privilege not a right. And-- and, Bob, just-- also I want to just say this, the Founding Fathers they decided what should be a super majority, you know, impeachments and stuff like that. One of them wasn’t improving nominations-- approving nominations.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, let me just ask you this: I mean listening to you this morning if the Republicans continue to throw up the kind of opposition you’ve been receiving, you say you’ve been receiving, do you have plans to extend this ban on filibusters? Right now you’ve-- you’ve worked out this rule which they vehemently oppose that-- so they-- it’s very difficult for him to filibuster nominations. Would you be willing to just go to a Senate where just majority rules and that’s it?

SENATOR HARRY REID: Well, Bob, I think it’s something that we have to understand.

BOB SCHIEFFER: So you’re thinking about that?

SENATOR HARRY REID: But that-- that’s-- that’s-- that’s this. We cannot have a country that’s paralyzed because of a group of people, the group of people who are like Tea Party-driven Republicans in Congress, not Republicans. I'm not here to bad mouth the Republicans around the country. I get a lot of support from Republicans in Nevada, and always have had. But they are mainstream Republicans. They’re not driven by this craziness that we have in American today. So the answer is this: We-- we-- we should pass raising the minimum wage. We should extend unemployment benefits. We should get rid of these tax loopholes and create jobs so the middle class can-- can start growing, not shrinking.

BOB SCHIEFFER: But would you do away with filibusters entirely?

SENATOR HARRY REID: Well, I’m-- we’re-- we're not there yet. I think that we-- we--

BOB SCHIEFFER: I mean are you even thinking about that?

SENATOR HARRY REID: No, I’m not thinking about it today. But I-- I think--

BOB SCHIEFFER: You’re saying you’re holding that out. Is-- that is a possibility?

SENATOR HARRY REID: I-- I-- I think everyone should understand that the country cannot continue on the road that it’s on. It cannot have-- you cannot have when you have vacancies in the judiciary as we’ve had, DC Circuit, some say it’s more important than the Supreme Court. But it’s, at least, the second most important. They said we’re not going to fill these spots because we don’t want to. You can't. That’s not the way we legislate.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Do you think that the minimum wage will pass? Can you get the votes to pass in increasing the minimum wage?

SENATOR HARRY REID: I think that the-- there are five Republicans, five Republicans--Dean Heller plus four Republicans. Remember, Dean Heller is not some maverick that is out spewing socialism. Here is a guy who is really a conservative person and he wants to extend unemployment benefits. I admire him for doing that. And can’t we get four Republicans agree with the American people that we should do that? I would certainly hope so.

BOB SCHIEFFER: So you’re saying that that’s still very much in doubt because you can’t get four Republicans?

SENATOR HARRY REID: Well, I am saying hopefully.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Hopefully, you can get them.

SENATOR HARRY REID: Hopefully, we can get four more Republicans, gee, whiz. I mean this is--

BOB SCHIEFFER: Let me--

SENATOR HARRY REID: --something we’ve never stopped unemployment benefits.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Let me just ask you quickly. Getting back to the budget agreement we talked about that you all made in December. You have just two weeks to get those funds appropriated and allocated to get the whole package through the Congress again. Do you think that that’s going to happen?

SENATOR HARRY REID: Bob, the answer is, yes. But let me just say this as a cautionary--

BOB SCHIEFFER: Because if you don’t--

SENATOR HARRY REID: Let me-- a cautionary note.

BOB SCHIEFFER: If you don’t raise the debt ceiling--

SENATOR HARRY REID: Yes, I understand it. Cautionary note. What was done by Congressman Ryan and Senator Murray was historic. It’s wonderful that these two people on opposite sides of the political spectrum got together and did good work. I will always admire them for that. And we should get the appropriation. Now we got Mikulski. She’s doing a great job and she’s working with the counterpart in the House. But, Bob, I’m afraid. Why am I afraid? It was just matter of a couple of months ago that two-thirds of the Republicans in the House of Representatives voted to keep the government closed and default on the debt. So I-- I hope we can get this done. But I have really-- I am-- I am really concerned about what’s going on with Republicans in Congress. Repeat to that your-- your viewers. Two-thirds of the people in the House of Representatives are Republicans, voted to close the government, keep it closed more than sixteen days and default on our debt. That-- I mean I-- I want this to pass. I hope it does. It should. That we have an Omnibus Appropriation Bill, but I don’t know.

 

BOB SCHIEFFER: What do you think about the future of Obamacare? Republicans were willing to shut down the government in an effort to kill it. They didn't do it. Then it had this disastrous roll out when this is an election year for a bunch of your Democrats in the Senate, twenty-one of them-- twenty-one seats.

SENATOR HARRY REID: Twenty-one of us, fourteen of them.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Yeah.

SENATOR HARRY REID: Bob--

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, the-- well, Democrats run--

SENATOR HARRY REID: Yeah.

BOB SCHIEFFER: --as proud sponsors of Obamacare or will they run away from him?

SENATOR HARRY REID: It’s interesting. I-- I can’t come here and say the rollout was great, it was awful. But look, let-- let’s-- look where we are today. The website has been fixed. Perfect? No. But right now, as we speak, there’re nine million Americans--nine million Americans who have health care that didn’t have it before. We have-- we have-- as you know, we have three million Medicare. We have three million on their policies because they haven’t reached-- reached-- they haven’t reached age twenty-six. They stay on their parents' policy. And we'll have more than two million. They’re coming. I talked to President's Chief of Staff a day or two ago, Denis McDonough. They’re coming on at the rate of thirty thousand a day. We’re-- well, I think we're going to have some staggering numbers even more than this come April first. So I-- you know, we’re at nine million already. It’s the law. Is that important? Of course. Women are no longer considered a preexisting disability. Seniors, the donut hole is being filled. They can have their checks. They can do Pap smears, all this stuff that women couldn’t do before. We-- insurance companies can’t cancel you for no reason. We have--

BOB SCHIEFFER: So anyway, you think it's going to work.

SENATOR HARRY REID: Yeah. It’s-- it’s already-- it’s already working.

BOB SCHIEFFER: All right.

SENATOR HARRY REID: And-- and Republicans should get a life and start talking about doing something constructively.

BOB SCHIEFFER: All right.

SENATOR HARRY REID: They-- all they talk about is how bad Obamacare is. They don’t talk about doing anything to improve it. Let’s start working together.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, we've got a couple of them in the wings here and we’ll see what they say about it. Mister Leader, thank you so much--

SENATOR HARRY REID: You bet.

BOB SCHIEFFER: --for joining us. We appreciate having you.

And now how it looks from the other side of the street? We do have, indeed, two Republicans. Congressman Peter King is in New York and Congressman Matt Salmon joins us from his district in Phoenix. So let me just go to you. I’ll go to you first, Congressman King. What’s your reaction to what you heard from Senator Reid here this morning?

REPRESENTATIVE PETER KING (Intelligence Committee/R-New York): Actually, Bob, I was very disappointed because I thought the days of government shutdowns were behind us, and just the whole implication with Senator Reid is when you basically said--are you going to pass the Omnibus Appropriation Bill. And he sort of hesitated, somehow sending out a threat of maybe shutting down the government or slowing down the process. That’s the wrong attitude to have at the beginning of the year. We can have disagreements but I think we have to find ways to compromise on-- on all the issues he was talking about. I think there’s a possibility for compromise. But if he’s going to be talking from day one implying that there could be shutdowns, to me that-- that’s the wrong way to start, it’s the wrong message to send, and if something does happen, it will-- I think it can be traced right back to the show this morning what-- basically what Senator Reid said.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, Congressman Salmon, what’s your reaction?

REPRESENTATIVE MATT SALMON (Foreign Affairs Committee/R-Arizona): Well, I think it’s interesting that Senator Reid spent his entire time just blaming Republicans for everything, every calamity in the world, and not really offering any solutions. I think that's why the American people think that Congress is so dysfunctional because it’s just partisan politics. Honestly, I think we deserve better. And if Senator Reid is that interested in improving the economy and in helping us get jobs again, maybe he could just take up at least one of the thirty-nine bills, jobs-related bills, that we’ve sent from the Republican House to the Senate which language is in his drawer. The fact is these giveaway programs, government programs, don’t create one job, not one job. If we want to energize the job market, we need to get rid of back-breaking, job-breaking regulations and our tax policy that is-- is hurting our economy.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, let me-- let me just ask you, Mister Salmon, what about this extending the unemployment benefits? He does make the point and economy has backed this up that-- that some of this unemployment insurance that is paid out does go back into the economy. It’s-- it’s not all a giveaway. I mean, when you-- obviously, it’s a-- it’s a big cost, a big ticket item, twenty-six billion dollars for a year. But some of it does get back into the economy. Will you-- will you support that in some fashion?

REPRESENTATIVE MATT SALMON: If the senator comes up with any kind of a reasonable idea to offset the twenty-six billion, I think that he might find some people that are willing to talk to him. But I think that we need to focus our attention more on not what the-- the--the-- the-- the out-- the problem itself, but focus on the root cause. And that is unemployment. Let’s get people back to work. Let’s approve the Keystone Pipeline. Let’s deal with one of the thirty-nine jobs’ bills that we’ve sent him to try to get our economy going again and people working in the private sector.

BOB SCHIEFFER: All right. Well, let me--

REPRESENTATIVE MATT SALMON: The answer isn’t government, the answer is the private sector, and let’s get it going again.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Congressman King, do you see any way, any kind of a compromise that could be struck to continue at least some part of this unemployment insurance for these people?

 

REPRESENTATIVE PETER KING: Yeah. I agree with Matt said about cutting back on the regulations and trying to unleash the economy in the private sector. I would, however, want to support the extension of unemployment benefits at least to some extent for brief period of time. And only speaking for myself, I am-- I’m not saying it's be offset dollar for dollar, but there has to be some compromise coming from the Democrats. I don’t want to have this permanent state of unemployment insurance where you end up like Europe. On the other hand there are people who are looking for work, who need some help. So I would like to find a way to get a compromise to extend unemployment insurance, at least, for a brief period of time. But at the same time the Democrats should make compromise as far as some, you know, burdensome regulations that attempt to unleash the economy because the ultimate answer is not unemployment insurance, the ultimate answer is more jobs. But for a temporary period of time I could see an extension of unemployment benefits, but again with restrictions on it so we don’t have a permanent class of people on unemployment insurance and it doesn’t become an impediment to jobs.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Let me--

REPRESENTATIVE PETER KING: And it doesn’t create a state of dependency.

BOB SCHIEFFER: And let me ask both of you, is-- do you think there is any chance that raising the minimum wage will happen this year, Mister Salmon?

REPRESENTATIVE MATT SALMON: Well, first of all, I think that the raising of the minimum wage actually hurts the very people we’re trying to help. If the Obama administration wants to the raise minimum wage to ten bucks an hour, I-- I don’t believe, again, that’s the government is the answer. I believe that the answer is to strengthen our economy.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, can I-- can I just stop you and just ask you an obvious question?

REPRESENTATIVE MATT SALMON: Yeah, please.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Why, does it hurt someone to pay them more money? Because that’s what you just said.

REPRESENTATIVE MATT SALMON: Well, I’ll tell you how it hurts them. The people that are mostly on minimum wage are the folks that are eighteen to twenty-eight. And those folks right now have the highest unemployment rate in the country, by far, not even close. And history has shown us that when the minimum wage rises those companies that are paying minimum wage jobs end up laying people off and they end up hiring less people.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Okay. All right.

REPRESENTATIVE MATT SALMON: And that’s what I mean by them actually being the people that are hurt.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Got you. Mister King, what do you think about, have you-- do you think we ought to raise the minimum wage?

REPRESENTATIVE PETER KING: I’ve supported it in the past. For the last several years I have not because when the economy is down the way it is, I think it-- it’s an extra burden that you’re imposing on employers as they try to come out of the recession. I would again consider an increase in it but it has to be coinciding with a cutting back on some of the burdens that are on employers because otherwise as-- as Matt was saying we can increase the minimum wage but it would mean more people being laid off. To me we have to-- again, we can get to compromise, we can get things on the table where the Democrats are willing to give up some of these restrictions and burdens that are on businesses, then I’d be willing to consider somewhat of an increase in the minimum wage. But again the ultimate answer is to allow the private sector expand and we're not going to do that so long as we keep adding regulations on top of regulation and people like Senator Reid, you know, refuse to talk about lifting any of those regulations.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Let me ask you, Mister Salmon.

REPRESENTATIVE MATT SALMON: A lot of-- Bob, a lot of the--

BOB SCHIEFFER: Go ahead.

REPRESENTATIVE MATT SALMON: Yeah. I was just going to say that I-- I have conversations with a lot of the Democrats on the floor, a lot of them very, very difference than mine and they’re as frustrated as I am with leaders like Harry Reid that just want to continue to push partisan agenda. They, like us, believe that there are answers that we can cross the aisle and work together but I think that the leadership has to come from the top. When I was in Congress before we served with Bill Clinton as President, in fact, Peter King and I both served together during the nineties and we were able to do all kinds of things. Trade policies that grew our economy, reducing the deficit, in fact, we balanced the budget for the first time in forty years in '98.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Okay.

REPRESENTATIVE MATT SALMON: This president is a polarizing figure that does nothing but address a "my way or the highway" attitude.

BOB SCHIEFFER: All right.

REPRESENTATIVE MATT SALMON: And until we have a President that’s willing to reach across the aisle, it’s going to be very, very difficult.

BOB SCHIEFFER: All right. We have to stop at there. The clock just ran out.

REPRESENTATIVE PETER KING: Okay.

BOB SCHIEFFER: We’ll be back in one minute with a look at the history of FACE THE NATION.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

BOB SCHIEFFER: “It seems like only yesterday.” People always say that, but actually it doesn’t seem that way. It seems like about sixty years ago, because it was November 7, 1954, that CBS launched FACE THE NATION. Contrary to the belief of some I have not been at FACE THE NATION the entire time. I have only been at CBS forty-five years, the last twenty-three at FACE THE NATION.

(Begin VT)

BOB SCHIEFFER: face, as we call it, was the brainchild of the late Frank Stanton, who ran the network in the early days. When I asked him some years ago why he started it, he said simply, “Because NBC had MEET THE PRESS,” and I thought we needed a program like that. Today the two broadcasts are the oldest programs on television. The first guest was Joe McCarthy. Producers were apprehensive; he had shown up at another network packing a pistol, but he came to CBS unarmed. Over the years, everyone from Nikita Khrushchev and a parade of foreign potentates--

YASSER ARAFAT: Against our rights.

BOB SCHIEFFER: --to the cream of the crop of American politics--Presidents, candidates, diplomats, civil rights leaders, war leaders and revolutionaries--

RUHOLLAH KHOMEINI: I am their leader.

BOB SCHIEFFER: --authors and opinion makers, all came to FACE THE NATION.

GEORGE MEANY: To tell these unions their business.

BOB SCHIEFFER: AFL-CIO chief George Meany was one of the few who showed up late. When moderator George Herman chided him by saying, “Don’t you know I am a good union man?” Meany responded, “Yours is not much of a union.” In the early days FACE THE NATION included a live report beamed to New York all the way from New Jersey. Now we can speak to newsmakers at any point on the globe. For all the technology, the remarkable thing about FACE THE NATION is how little it has changed. We still do exactly what they did in the beginning: We sit down the key newsmakers of the week, turn on the lights, and ask them about the news of the day.

(End VT)

BOB SCHIEFFER: You, our viewers, have seemed to appreciate that over the years, so in case you’re wondering, we’ll try to get better, but basically we’ll celebrate this sixtieth year by doing just what we’ve been doing. We won’t change much.

Back in a minute.

 

  
   (ANNOUNCEMENTS)

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, some of our stations are leaving us now, but for most of you, we'll be right back. So stay with us.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, welcome back to FACE THE NATION on this cold Sunday. And joining us now for some analysis and, boy, do we have a lot to talk about. Peggy Noonan, a columnist for the Wall Street Journal; Washington Post columnist David Ignatius; David Sanger, the national security correspondent for the New York Times; and own CBS News political director John Dickerson. John, Harry Reid came out both barrels blazing this morning. If anybody was talking about a new attitude in Congress, I'm-- I didn’t really see that this morning.

JOHN DICKERSON (CBS News Political Director): That’s right. He had one target that was the Republicans in Congress. He must have said it five different times. He had his talking points ready. Two thousand fourteen is not going to be a happy year. And why? Let's look at the Senate, let's just look at elections in the Senate, okay? The Republicans need to take six seats to take Harry jo-- Harry Reid’s job away from him. In seven of the seats that where Democrats are in danger, they are in states where Mitt Romney won the election. We’ve seen over the last twenty years a correlation between voters in the state vote for a Republican president, they are likely to vote for a Republican senator. And so Democrats have a tough year with the elections and so Harry Reid begins a tough election year starting with tough words about Republicans.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Does-- does the roll out of Obamacare make it tougher for these Democrats? I asked Harry Reid the question, and he didn’t really answer. And I said are they going to be run as proud sponsors of Obamacare or are they going to run away from it?

JOHN DICKERSON: It does for-- for a few reasons. One, it’s just a distraction. Every minute a Democrat is talking about Obamacare it’s not a minute they can be talking about unemployment insurance extensions, minimum wage or whatever else it is that they want to be talking about. So that’s just at a basic level Democrats are on their heels a little bit. Also, it riles up Republican voters. In midterm elections the people who vote tend to be your base voters and the people who tend to vote, there’s only been one election since 1958 in which the President’s party gained seats. Why is that? Because the party that’s out of power in the White House is more riled up. Well, the Affordable Care Act riles up those Republicans. And in those tough races, which are all in red states, those are riled up Republicans with an issue that they don’t like, the Affordable Care Act and every Republican I talked to in the House and the Senate says this is what we’re going to be talking about this year not only on the stump but in oversight hearings in the House and in every opportunity they can find.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Let me go to Peggy. Republicans, a lot of people thought Republicans had really hurt themselves when they led the drive to shut down the government in 2013.

PEGGY NOONAN (Wall Street Journal): Yeah.

BOB SCHIEFFER: The publicity about the roll out of Obamacare kind of blunted that to some extent. But do you think we’ll now see a battle over the debt ceiling to let the government default on the bills that-- for things they’ve-- money they’ve already spent.

PEGGY NOONAN: No.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Because as you heard Harry Reid this morning, he doesn’t seem in a mood to put anything-- make any kind of compromises on that.

PEGGY NOONAN: No, he didn’t.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Do anything to get Republican votes to-- to raise the debt ceiling.

PEGGY NOONAN: There’s a little jujutsu going on there. He thinks the government shutdown would be really terrible. I think he would love it. It would not be good--

BOB SCHIEFFER: Really?

PEGGY NOONAN: Yeah. It would not be good for the Republicans and I-- I think they would try hard, actually, to-- to see that that didn’t happen but I thought the big thing about the Reid interview is that it was not full of reaching out in committee and we can do this together with the Republicans. It was those bad Republicans and that terrible historically bad Tea Party. So I consider that quite suggestive of maybe a bit of a freeze in 2014.

BOB SCHIEFFER: You’re nodding your head, David.

DAVID IGNATIUS (Washington Post): I feel the same way that Peggy does. Last year ended with scenes of comedy in bipartisanship. You had Paul Ryan and-- and Patty Murray put together a budget deal that blunted the affects of sequestration. You had John Boehner declare his independence from the Tea Party in-- in an amazing press conference he said, they’ve lost all credibility. And, you know, you had-- you wouldn’t have been crazy to think that this year would begin with someone like Harry Reid offering a more gentle tone--

PEGGY NOONAN: Yeah.

DAVID IGNATIUS: --and sort of reaching out to Boehner, saying Boehner has come some distance. And what was surprising this morning was that rather than try to see if legislating, which appears to be popular with the public, might be a strategy. I-- I heard Harry Reid saying, no, going to be more of the same polarized bipartisan politics, and I’m surprised.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, David, I mean, you-- you cover foreign policy, you cover national security, and things like that, just step back from this interview this morning and-- and how did you take it?

DAVID SANGER (New York Times): Well, I thought there were-- there were two interesting things across the three interviews you had. The first was you didn’t hear a broad vision from any of the three who you interviewed for an American resurgence out of this. And for President Obama I think that’s troublesome because Obamacare has really led to the question, can these guys execute the way that President Obama had really promised when he came to office first in-- in 2009. I think that was the most harmful part of Obamacare. But the second thing that President Obama and I think Harry Reid and the other Democrats who are leading the party tried to grab in 2009 was a vision of where the country was going. And you heard a very down in the weeds, you know, what kind of advance can we make as far as February and getting past the next budget hurdle. And I'm not sure right now heading into elections that’s really their-- their best strategy because you see a hunger for the question of American resurgence and then the question of whether or not the U.S. is leaving a power vacuum around the world in many of the places we’re seeing erupt.

JOHN DICKERSON: And in domestic context I think the larger argument Democrats want to try and make is that we are the party that cares about you. That's what minimum wage is about. That's what extending unemployment benefits is about and we care about you in working hard for these things and those mean Republicans don't. In the middle of the Affordable Care Act's launch pad disaster--when it launched so poorly when the website wasn’t working talking to Democrats both in the House and the Senate, they said we need a new fight. We need a budget fight because budgets are about priorities. And even if it's a little issue like a minimum wage, that's a priority. It's a question of are you for the little guy or are you for the companies? And that's a fight where Democrats are comfortable. It’s part of their longtime hymnal that they can all sing together as opposed to Affordable Care Act where they are kind of fighting a little bit with each other. And so their larger national narrative for domestic politics which I think is going to rule in these elections is going to be about whose-- who cares about you. And they’ll find every little tiny thing to make that argument and that’s what the fight about the minimum wage and then on unemployment benefits, that’s what that will be about.

 

 

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, the President is talking about income inequality. I mean we-- we get word from Hawaii that that’s what he’s coming back to Washington to talk about. What does that mean to you, Peggy?

PEGGY NOONAN (Wall Street Journal): What it means to me is that he does not want to talk about Obamacare. It is widely assumed that in 2014 the bad news of Obamacare, the dislocations, the lost coverage, the price hikes, the premium hikes, et cetera, et cetera. That all of this will continue. It’s not the website. The website is the old story. It is the program. It will unveil over the next two years and it’s going to be problematic. The President does not want to talk about it. The Democrats do not want to talk about it. Therefore, income inequality, minimum wage, et cetera, et cetera. They need to change the subject.

BOB SCHIEFFER: David, how did this go so wrong? I mean when you stop and think about it, I mean the fact that people ought to have health insurance, and if poor people can’t afford it they ought to be able to get some relief on that. I mean that would seem to be kind of a universal truth.

DAVID IGNATIUS (Washington Post): You know and a-- country and corporate America was--

BOB SCHIEFFER: And yet this thing is most tangled up. I’ve never seen anything quite like the way this thing has unfolded.

DAVID IGNATIUS: Historians will-- will-- will write memorable books about-- about how this got so messed up. How the President left the details to people who couldn’t execute them is the biggest mystery of all.

PEGGY NOONAN: Yeah.

DAVID IGNATIUS: There was a consensus back in 2008 that something needed to be done about the delivery of health care services. It cost too much. What we monkeyed with instead is how health care is financed which I think was a-- was a mistake.

PEGGY NOONAN: Yeah.

DAVID IGNATIUS: And I think you look back on debate in 2009, President really didn’t have the votes, he had to jam it through with some sort of legislatives maneuvers because the Congress wasn’t quite-- quite ready and the country wasn’t quite ready. So we’re living with the after affects of that now. You know thinking about this year ahead, the election of a new mayor in New York, very liberal replacing the defining figure of centrism and-- and moderation Mayor Bloomberg. I wonder whether this is going to be a year in which these liberal themes, even Obamacare, but you know, minimum wage, income inequality will move to the front for Democrats and for the country.

PEGGY NOONAN: Yeah.

DAVID SANGER: Well, the President’s got an opportunity in that regard because, you know, he ended the year with the stock market at an incredible high and with this termination of some of the unemployment benefits. And that's quite a division that the President can sort of run through when he gets to the State of the Union. Now whether or not he manages to do that without further polarizing on already polarized system, that's the hard question.

JOHN DICKERSON: That's right because income inequality is a real big issue. It's not like he’s off finding some phony little side issue. What will be interesting, though, is what the solution is. If Republicans and Democrats can roughly agree that inequality is a problem, the question is how do you fix it. And one interesting figure is in the course of health care and the fight over affordable health care now Gallup says that fifty-six percent of the country doesn’t believe everybody should have insurance. That used to be a majority opinion. So the question is, if everybody thinks inequality is a problem, how does once we get through this big fight, who wins the argument and what the solution is. And does that warp and change the way people think about inequality because people do feel like things have gotten out of whack. The question is the President will be framing it one way, Republicans will be saying, well, this is about jobs.

PEGGY NOONAN: The funny thing about inequality is it's as if everybody has just discovered this problem of the rich are really rich and the poor are really poor and the middle is not gaining.

BOB SCHIEFFER: That they’re getting-- the argument, though, is that they’re getting more so the rich are getting a lot richer.

PEGGY NOONAN: Yes. And normally this administration used to brag about how well the-- the-- the stock market was going and in a way it’s almost the negative side of-- of one argument. But the answer so far to inequality is being presented now even in New York, brand new mayor, progressive, lefty, former Sandinista-- what he’s saying essentially is the old answer.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Former Sandinista? And I didn’t know that part.

PEGGY NOONAN: Sorry. Former-- I beg your pardon, that is not true, former enthusiast for Sandinista like political movement in Nicaragua. But what he’s saying, essentially, is the old playbook, not the new playbook. The old playbook is inequality, I will raise your taxes and I will raise spending. Well, there’s nothing revolutionary about that. That’s the old playbook.

JOHN DICKERSON: I think that’s why Obama people are so nervous and are saying on unemployment and minimum wage, it has economic growth benefits. You hear them talk a lot about the number of jobs and the GDP effects. That’s all about saying this is about growth, business, and-- and shrinking the deficit.

PEGGY NOONAN: Yeah.

JOHN DICKERSON: It’s not about redistribution in these old arguments.

BOB SCHIEFFER: All right. Let’s take a little break here and we’ll come back and talk-- I’m want to talk about the United States overseas and what’s going on there when we come back.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, we are back now with our panel. And I want to talk to David Sanger a little bit about this. You know I thought one of the saddest pieces of news last week was what’s happening in Iraq now, where in Fallujah, this is a place, Anbar province, where one-third of the Americans who were killed in the Iraq war lost their lives in-- in that province. It now looks like it’s in the hands of anti-government forces, if not will soon be. What’s happened there?

    DAVID SANGER: It is. What’s happened here is that as America left Iraq and as leaving Afghanistan and as many perceive the U.S. to be pulling back some from the Middle East, something I think a contention that John Kerry would-- would argue with as he’s there now, you have seen a power vacuum develop. And power vacuums get filled in that region by extremist groups. And in this case the extremist group is the Islamic state in Iraq and Syria which is basically an al Qaeda-Sunni affiliate that wants to not only take back Ramadi and Fallujah but the erase the barrier, erase the border between Iraq and Syria, make the Syrian conflict into a trans-national one. The big question is what could President Obama have done differently? And so we went in to Iraq with the concept that we would somehow change the state, and I think we’ve all concluded that there was a fair bit of hubris to that. But when President Obama came out his view was that a light footprint strategy could keep fighting back against al Qaeda and its affiliates. And I think what we’re seeing now, Bob, is that the light footprint which was basically the use of Special Forces, of drones, of cyber, these weapons that don’t involve Americans to go in on the ground very much or stay very long that’s running out of gas.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, David, what happens now? What can we do? What should we do?

DAVID IGNATIUS: Well, someone, some-- someone, some group of people is going to have to take on al Qaeda in the Euphrates Valley in Syria and Iraq both. And the danger is that we’ve had coalescence of al Qaeda forces that’s being done now by the Maliki government, the Shiite-led Iranian-backed Maliki government of Baghdad. In Syria it’s being done to the extent it’s being done at all by the government of President Bashar al-Assad and elements of-- of the opposition we’ve been trying to back. I mean while I understand David’s point about the big Spenglerian themes of American decline. As I look at the story, I-- I see little mistakes. It wasn’t inevitable or essential that people would stop paying the Sons of Iraq, the tribal fighters in Fallujah which was just overwhelmed this week, in Ramadi, in these cities to stand up against al Qaeda. That was-- it happened because Maliki let it happen and we basically acquiesced. Same thing in Syria. Secretary Clinton, General Petraeus, Secretary Panetta, all of our top National Security officials said in mid 2012, we've got to get started backing rebels who can suppress al Qaeda. We’re going to have a huge problem. The President decided not to do it. It was a-- it wasn’t a huge mistake, it was a small mistake but today that’s what we’re living with. And there’s going to be a new war against al Qaeda in that part of the world. That’s coming.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, I mean will the United States go back to Iraq?

DAVID IGNATIUS: Not in the, as David said, not in the large footprint way, but, you know, we are already providing, Iraq is the only country in the world asking for NSA surveillance technology. We are providing every kind of-- of-- of, you know, tool we can give them to help them go after al Qaeda, find out who they are and go after them.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Will that be enough, David?

DAVID SANGER: That’s the big question because every time that President Obama has chosen this method of trying a small arm shipments, whether it’s in Syria or whether it’s in Iraq, it’s proven not to be up to the job. And the problem that he faces right now is that in-- in President Maliki in-- in Iraq, he has allied himself or has found himself stuck with somebody who has not been willing to make any kind of compromise or concession and so that's opened up this Sunni-Shia divide. In Afghanistan we haven’t done a whole lot better with President Karzai and I think the big question is if you don’t have leaders on the ground who you can trust to take this on and do it in a smart way, what do you do short of re-engaging, and I'm in complete agreement with David, there is no way that President Obama is going to send back American forces on the ground into places that he staked his presidency on-- on coming out of

JOHN DICKERSON: And that's particularly true of a year where one of the bright spots he hopes for him is being able to celebrate the return of troops from Afghanistan, even though, some are staying--seven to ten thousand. He’s going to champion the fact that forty-some thousand are coming back and that that’s a promise fulfilled from his original campaign.

 

 

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, in fact, no, I mean is the Afghan government going to sign off on the agreements that will allow us to keep seven thousand there? Because I can't imagine we’re going to keep American troops there if they are subject to being arrested and-- and prosecuted by Afghan forces if the Afghans somehow say they’ve committed some sort of crime. And that’s one of the issues here. We’ll not-- we’ll not put our troops in that position. Would be, David?

DAVID IGNATIUS: We would not. And-- and my guess is that this will be finessed. I think-- I think that the position U.S. taking is the agreement is signed, Karzai is going to go along with it and-- and he will get pushed from every political direction. Afghans do not want to-- for the most part do not want to see the U.S. leaving. They know what's ahead which is another civil war.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Peggy.

PEGGY NOONAN: It all feels sad and repetitive and I think once again we have-- we go back or we will go back to debating the question what is in America’s strategic interest in this part of the world as it struggles through the mess it is in. Second question as I keep wondering is this going to--what’s going on in Iraq and Syria spill over in to Lebanon which would be very tragic.

DAVID IGNATIUS: I'm afraid it already-- it already has, sadly.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Yeah.

PEGGY NOONAN: Yeah. Well, I mean in a big way. That would be really something.

BOB SCHIEFFER: David, let me just, if I could shift quickly because I meant to ask you this earlier and I forgot, the New York Times really, your newspaper saying you’re responsible for everything in there while we have you here today. Your newspaper said that Edward Snowden should somehow be given some sort of amnesty and they called him a whistleblower not a traitor. What’s going on here?

DAVID SANGER: This was in editorial in the Times--

BOB SCHIEFFER: Yes.

DAVID SANGER: --and as you point out I’m-- I’m on the news side not the editorial side--

BOB SCHIEFFER: Of course, you are.

DAVID SANGER: --but-- but I thought the editorial is interesting because both the Times and The Guardian in-- in Britain came out to a basically the same position which was that the United States should either offer an amnesty or some kind of deal to get Snowden back. What I find particularly interesting is that it was echoing something that had been said on 60 MINUTES--

BOB SHCIEFFER: Yeah.

DAVID SANGER: --by the man at the NSA who has been trying to track down what it was that Snowden left with. And he was raising the possibility, which his boss immediately shot-- shot down, that Snowden might be offered a deal so that you could recover what it is that he has stolen. I’m not sure at this point it’s recoverable because we don’t know where all the copies of it are. What I find interesting is that inside the White House, there is absolutely no appetite for this at all. Their view is Snowden broke a law, broke his own agreements, and there will be no deal.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Do you think, John, that the President will, though, call for the National Security Agency to be reined in in some way?

JOHN DICKERSON: He will. He will. It was interesting--

BOB SCHIEFFER: You think?

JOHN DICKERSON: -- his press conference at the end of the year that he said the balance has been struck and I’m confident and there’s been no abuses. But and then he said because of the Snowden releases and people’s worries about this, reforms need to be put in place and so two that are being considered is, one, having all of this metadata, the phone numbers, the tracking be held by a third party not by the government. And the other is having some kind of an advocate so if all of the information is in a box somewhere with a key that you have a tougher process for getting the key to get into the box and that those are some safeguards to make sure this isn’t abused but the President is not going to admit that it’s abused. What will be interesting in his speech is whether he tries to make a larger strategic argument about where we are more than ten years after 9/11.

BOB SCHIEFFER: All right. Well, I want to thank all of you. We'll be back with a look back at one of the most notorious guests ever to appear in the sixty years of FACE THE NATION.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

BOB SCHIEFFER: Of all of the guests who have appeared on FACE THE NATION over the past sixty years, none got here under more bizarre circumstances than Fidel Castro who appeared on this broadcast fifty-five years ago on January 11, 1959. Just weeks after he and a group of young revolutionaries overthrew Cuba's dictator. That is our FACE THE NATION Flashback.

(Begin VT)

BOB SCHIEFFER: When a CBS News crew got word that Castro agreed to the interview, they flew to Havana only to learn they had been scooped by of all people, CBS entertainment star, Ed Sullivan, who had flown in ahead of them and interviewed Castro in a jungle town. Sullivan felt and I'm not making this up that if he got a big interview, CBS News Chief Ed Murrow would be impressed and invite him be on the end of the year correspondents' roundtable. When Castro finally showed up for the FACE THE NATION interview it was a wild scene. Two hundred armed men came with him. Two of whom kept carbines pointed at producer Ted Ayers throughout the broadcast.

MAN: Fidel Castro, FACE THE NATION.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Once the interview got underway, Castro made a series of decorations and promises none of which ever came true.

STUART NOVINS: As a lawyer and as one who has spoken very eloquently about the civil rights--

FIDEL CASTRO: Yes.

STUART NOVINS: -- that must be guaranteed to the Cuban people how do you explain?

FIDEL CASTRO: I will never be against any rights (INDISTINCT).

STUART NOVINS: Very good.

FIDEL CASTRO: I am not communist at all, but I will never be against any right.

STUART NOVINS: Will all political parties be allowed to run candidates in these elections?

FIDEL CASTRO: Yes, of course.

STUART NOVINS: All political parties, including the directorial?

FIDEL CASTRO: Of course, if we don’t give free to all the political parties to organize it, we’re not a democratic country. We’ve fought for the democracy here. We will live in democracy.

(End VT)

BOB SCHIEFFER: As interviews go that one stands alone in that almost nothing Castro said proved correct. And one footnote, since FACE THE NATION aired before Ed Sullivan’s Sunday night prime-time show the FACE THE NATION interview was the first on American television. And as you might guess, a furious Edward R. Murrow never invited Sullivan to be on any CBS News program.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, that’s it for today. Before we go a little shout out to our graphic artist Deborah Hasselmark, who has been designing and redesigning our special sixty years of FACE THE NATION graphics for months now. We want to say thank you, Deb.

And be sure to tune in tomorrow for the latest on this freezing winter weather on CBS THIS MORNING with Norah O'Donnell, Charlie Rose, and Gayle King. As for FACE THE NATION, we’ll be back here next Sunday. We'll see you then.




 



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