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Face the Nation Transcripts July 12, 2015: Boehner, Sanders, Cotton

A transcript from the July 12th edition of Face the Nation. Guests included Speaker of the House John Boehner, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Tom Cotton, and our Foreign Affairs Correspondent Margaret Brennan reporting from Vienna. Our panel included Peggy Noonan, Tavis Smiley, Susan Page, and Jeffrey Goldberg.

JOHN DICKERSON: Today on FACE THE NATION: A nuclear deal with Iran may be within reach. And anti-establishment candidates take both parties by storm.

Thousands turned out to hear Donald Trump talk immigration and just about everything else in Arizona yesterday.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The silent majority is back and we're going to take the country back.



DICKERSON: Did Trump's controversial remark help or hurt the Republican Party? We will talk about the 2016 campaign with House Speaker John Boehner, then hear from the candidate who is drawing big crowds on the Democratic side. Is Vermont socialist Bernie Sanders a real threat to Hillary Clinton?

And as the U.S. gets closer to a nuclear deal with Iran, we will talk to a top critic, Arkansas Republican Senator Tom Cotton. We will have analysis from our roundtable and take a look at Bush vs. Clinton, enemies and then friends from generation to generation. It's all ahead on FACE THE NATION.

Good morning and welcome to FACE THE NATION. I'm John Dickerson.

Negotiators are working around the clock in Vienna, Austria to reach a deal over Iran's nuclear program by tomorrow's deadline.

CBS News foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Brennan is there.

Margaret, are they close to a deal?

MARGARET BRENNAN, CBS NEWS FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, U.S. negotiators say they should know by tonight whether deal is possible. The Russian and Chinese foreign ministers are flying here to Vienna to help make some final decisions.

Before he headed into Sunday mass at the historic St. Stephen's Cathedral, Secretary Kerry told reporters that there are still a few tough things left to do. The handful of contentious issues include whether to phase out an arms embargo that prevents Iran from buying missiles and conventional weapons, also the duration of restrictions on Iran's nuclear development and how to roll out sanctions relief.

So far, negotiators have written about 100 pages of an agreement, and in a hopeful sign yesterday, Iran's' state press released photos of top diplomat Javad Zarif confidently flipping through its pages. So the hope is to get a deal done in the next 36 hours. Diplomats say Secretary of State John Kerry has been here for a marathon 16 days of negotiations.

They say he's obviously not rushing towards a deal and points out that this is actually the most extended stay outside the U.S. by any secretary of state in more than 30 years.

DICKERSON: Margaret Brennan on the case in Vienna, thanks, Margaret.

On Friday, we sat down with House Speaker John Boehner, who is critical of the Iranian nuclear negotiations, for a wide-ranging interview.


DICKERSON: Let me ask you about the Iranian negotiations that are going on. If the president backed out, would you say, good job? Would you applaud him?


DICKERSON: And what next? What happens? It falls apart, and then what happens?

BOEHNER: No deal is better than a bad deal.

And from everything that's leaked from these negotiations, the administration has backed away from almost all of the guidelines that they set out for themselves. And I don't want to see a bad deal. And so if in fact there's no agreement, the sanctions are going to go get back in place.

And at some point, Iranian regime, they're going to have to change their behavior, abandon their efforts to get a nuclear weapon and stop being the largest state sponsor of terrorism in the world.

DICKERSON: But what if neither of those two things happen?

BOEHNER: Then we will have a standoff. But it's a lot better than legitimizing this rogue regime which is about -- if in fact there's a deal, that's what will happen.

DICKERSON: I want to ask you a question about Hillary Clinton. She gave an interview on CNN this week, talked about the issue of her e-mails.


HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Everything I did was permitted by law and regulations. (END VIDEO CLIP)

DICKERSON: What was your response to that interview?

BOEHNER: Our committees asked for her e-mails going back to 2012. And we have been rolled and rolled and held off and held off now for over three years.

The e-mails need to come forward. We have got this investigation with regard to what happened in Benghazi. Four Americans died there. We still don't have the answers because the administration and Secretary Clinton refuse to turn over the relevant documents for the American people to see.

We are not going to walk away from this. And the State Department is rolling these e-mails that they do have over to us at rate of about 4,000 a month. This is going to go on throughout the rest of this year.

DICKERSON: What did you make of her description about these e- mails, though?

BOEHNER: She has got an obligation to turn over all of the e- mails.

DICKERSON: She said she didn't. She said she didn't have to.

BOEHNER: Well, she's wrong. She had...


DICKERSON: She's not telling the truth?

BOEHNER: She is not telling the truth. She had an obligation to turn these e-mails over.

And the fact is the I.G. at the State Department -- we go through these e-mails and make the determinations like they do anyplace else on what's official and what isn't.

DICKERSON: Are you going to take action to subpoena that server? That's what some people would like to see.

BOEHNER: I'm not going to rule in or out any of those options. I would hope we wouldn't have to do that.

She wants this investigation over, she wants this all to be cleaned up, but the fact is, it's not going to be cleaned up until they get the e-mails. I would hope they would turn them over or the State Department would go after the server.

Congress doesn't want the server. The State Department I.G. is the appropriate group of people to go through these e-mails, to make those determinations.

DICKERSON: But I thought Congress does want the server. Trey Gowdy said that he needs your help to get the server. If you're saying you have been rolled for three years and you say that...


BOEHNER: What Trey Gowdy is saying is that the State Department I.G. is the appropriate agency to decide what e-mails are government property and what are not.

DICKERSON: Let's talk about a candidate who is causing some excitement in your party. Is Donald Trump helping or hurting the Republican Party?

BOEHNER: I don't know whether he's helping or hurting, but he's a candidate. There are a lot of candidates in our party running for president. And clearly most of the candidates have disagreed with his assertions with regard to our border. And, certainly, I disagree.

DICKERSON: The chairman of your party called him and told him to tone it down. That seems to be -- he's worried about that the party is being defined by this very colorful character. He's not just one of 16 or whatever the number is. He's putting a big spotlight on a set of comments he made about the Mexicans.

And there are people in the party, as you say, who have spoken out, but who are also worried this is now what people think about the Republican Party. Do you think that's a...


BOEHNER: No, I think it's what they think about Donald Trump. I don't -- other candidates out there have much more responsible positions, in my view.

DICKERSON: What do you think -- what do you make, by the way, of Bernie Sanders and his challenge to Hillary Clinton? He's also come out of nowhere.

BOEHNER: Bernie Sanders came to Congress with me in 1990. He ran as a socialist.

And here you have got one of the most liberal people in the Democrat Party running against Hillary Clinton, and gaining an awful lot of traction. What does that say about the Democrat Party? The press has done an awful lot to pick at all the Republican candidates and they have kind of get their hands of the Bernie Sanders-Hillary fight.

But Bernie Sanders is going to give her a real run for her money.

DICKERSON: What does it say about the Democratic Party?

BOEHNER: That they're out of step with mainstream America.

And there's no limit to the number of taxes that Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton want to raise. There's no limit to the amount of new government they want to create. I don't think that's where the American people want this government to go. They're tired of this big government, big government solutions. Republicans believe in empowering people so that they can pursue their own American dream.

DICKERSON: Let me talk about some policy issues here. Coming out of this debate about immigration and the comments Donald Trump has made and this horrible shooting in San Francisco of the young woman, there's been talk about localities that don't enforce federal immigration laws.

Is there going to be any legislation coming up that would force localities to enforce federal immigration laws?

BOEHNER: We're looking at this.

But these are laws. They are on the books. They are required to be enforced. There's no ifs, ands or buts here. And the fact is that some cities have decided to ignore the law is wrong. It's flat-out wrong.

DICKERSON: This is the so-called issue of sanctuary cities.

BOEHNER: Sanctuary cities.

DICKERSON: But what those cities would say and what others would say is, they're overrun because there's been no federal answer to the immigration problem. The Senate passed the bill. It came over to the House and House leaders didn't do anything on immigration all of last year, so nothing's been done at the federal level and they're overrun by that.

BOEHNER: John, I have been trying to do immigration reform for four years.

But the president said 22 times that he didn't have the authority to do what he eventually did. And what the president has done is, he's poisoned the well. He's stirred up the American people in such a way that it would almost be impossible to do immigration reform, given the environment that we're dealing with.

I want to do immigration reform. And the president knows it. I asked the president about a year ago, gave him some ideas of things that should happen if you want to do immigration reform and some things that he shouldn't do. Well, the president didn't take my advice. And he doubled down on these executive orders that frankly far exceeded his authority, and the courts have got him stopped, but he's really poisoned the well.

DICKERSON: But here is an alternative explanation that I have heard from people in your own party, that last year you had a good run and a good shot to beat the Democrats in the election.

And people in your party who had been elected and also strategists said, let's not talk about immigration. It's going to cause a huge civil war in the Republican Party. It will cause us to be distracted by our own problems when we want to keep attacking the Democrats.

Wasn't that a reason it didn't pass, too?

BOEHNER: No, not at all.

Two things happened. The majority leader at the time lost his primary election, and some of our members thought it had something to do with immigration reform. And, secondly, if you go back a year from today, you had this flood of kids coming across the border. It was on every TV every night.

And between the two, the window for doing immigration reform last summer dissipated. But this issue needs to be dealt with. It's become a political football that's been around now for some 15 years. And it is not going to get solved until the president gets serious and Congress gets serious about resolving it.

DICKERSON: Couldn't you just -- why not just send him a bill? Make him veto it.

BOEHNER: I don't think there's that big of a difference in terms of how to reform our immigration laws. There's been a lot of bipartisan work done on this for years. I want to do it.

DICKERSON: As a final set of questions, I want to ask you a question. You are practicing Catholic and you have gotten the pope, first time ever to come visit Congress.

You have been working on that for a long time.

BOEHNER: Yes, about 20 years ago, I offered my first invitation to a pope. And over the years, three different times, I have attempted to get the pope to come and address a joint session of Congress. We have never had a pope come.

And I'm really happy that the pope has accepted by invitation. For a kid who grew up going to mass every morning, it's a pretty humbling experience.

DICKERSON: You don't talk much about your religion, but I went back and read a speech that you gave, a commencement speech you gave at Catholic, and you talked about your faith, not as speaker, but when you have been bumped out of leadership.

BOEHNER: Well, I have a very deep faith. And my conversations with the lord, they start in the morning early and they go on all day long. You can't do this job by yourself.

DICKERSON: Is it more help in this job or when you were out of power?

BOEHNER: Oh, no, it's helpful all the time, all the time.

DICKERSON: All right, Speaker John Boehner, thanks so much.

BOEHNER: Thank you.


DICKERSON: We will be back in one minute to hear from one of the top critics of any possible deal with Iran, Arkansas Republican Senator Tom Cotton.


DICKERSON: We're back with Arkansas Republican Senator Tom Cotton.

Senator, it looks like they're moving towards a deal. If a deal is passed, what can you do to stop it?

SEN. TOM COTTON (R), ARKANSAS: Well, we have been in this position before.

In early April, they said they had agreement in principle, but there was never a text to which they agreed. We don't know if there is going to be a final agreement this weekend or not. But I think the United States has gone way too far down the road of making concessions to Iran.

We have to remember the goal of these negotiations from the beginning. It was to stop Iran from enriching uranium and developing nuclear weapons capability. The U.N. Security Council has said repeatedly that they have no right to enrich uranium. That's been United States' policy for 40 years.

And the president has repeatedly granted them more concessions to let them enrich uranium. Now we're talking about what kind of access we are going to have to inspect their military sites or whether they're going to get tens or hundreds of billions of dollars in a signing bonus, so I think whatever deal comes out this weekend, it's going to be dangerous for the United States and dangerous for the world.

DICKERSON: So, we have gone from trying to prevent the nuclear program to just kind of manage it?

COTTON: Yes. The clear goal, as president himself stated, was to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons capability, not to manage it, not to limit for a certain period of time, but to stop them from developing it.

DICKERSON: You have taken the position that if the United States just ratcheted up sanctions, walked away from a bad deal, ratcheted up sanctions, that Iran would buckle and come to the table with more favorable terms.

What about an alternative explanation, which lot of experts believe, which is that they would say, forget negotiations, we're going to race towards a breakout on a nuclear bomb? What do you do in that case?

COTTON: Well, it really raises the fundamental question about the credible threat of military force. The president has said repeatedly over the years that the threat of force is on the table.

Just last week, in a hearing at the Armed Services Committee, the incoming chairman of the Joints Chiefs says United States military has the ability to destroy Iran's nuclear facilities. That's not the first choice, that's not the preferred choice, but it has to be a choice that is credible for the Iranians to actually reach the goal that we had hoped, which is giving up their nuclear weapons capabilities.

DICKERSON: The president has said he would move if he saw Iran moving toward a breakout. Do you take him at his word?

COTTON: Well, the real question is whether the Iranians take him at his word. And I'm afraid they don't, because they have seen time and time again that the window for diplomacy with this president and this administration never ends.

You're not really negotiating if you're not willing to walk away from the table. You're only giving more and more concessions, teaching the Iranians a very bad lesson. That's why I think we should have walked away from the table a long time ago and pressed the pause button to get back to that original goal of stopping Iran from developing any nuclear weapons capabilities.

DICKERSON: Do you think this administration has helped elevate Iran's stature in the globe by engaging in these kind of negotiations?

COTTON: Well, unfortunately, Iran is an outlaw regime. They're anti-American. They're terrorists-sponsoring. Just two days ago, two days ago, the supposedly moderate president of Iran, the kind of people that the administration hopes to empower, was in the streets chanting death to America while people were burning American flags and burning Israeli flags.

Iran is destabilizing the Middle East in Iraq, in Syria, in Lebanon, in Yemen. They continue to be the world's worst sponsor of state terrorism. And by engaging in these negotiations, by granting these concessions to Iran, by not demanding, for instance, that Iran release immediately the four hostages that Iran holds who are American citizens, this administration has elevated Iran's role in the region, and the president has even said that he would be happy to see Iran play a role of a very successful regional power.

DICKERSON: Well, and the Iranians are saying, let's get past this negotiation so we can join with the United States in fighting ISIS. Don't we have common interests there? And if we do, could you ever see the United States at least working in parallel with Iran?

COTTON: Well, in fact, Iran is part of the problem with the Islamic State. And the president's desire to retrench entirely from the Middle East helped create the conditions for the Islamic State to arise.

The president's own deputy director of the CIA said the precursor of the Islamic State, al Qaeda in Iraq, was defeated in 2011, because we withdrew all of our troops, because the president did not leave in Syria, al Qaeda in Iraq had a chance to regroup and have the space and the time in Iraq and Syria to become the Islamic State.

And now the president's commitment to a nuclear deal with Iran has tied our hands in Iraq, because we want to placate the Shiite central government, without working with the Sunnis in Anbar province and the Kurds in the North, and we don't want to take any action in Syria, where Bashar Assad is the main client of Iran.

DICKERSON: Let me switch from Iran to the comments by the incoming chairman of the Joints Chief of Staff, Joseph Dunford. You referenced him earlier.

He said in his testimony that Russia was the number one threat to the United States, existential threat. Do you believe that? Do you agree with that?

COTTON: Well, I think Russia is serious threat.

And reason they are such a serious threat is they still remain the one country with the capability of destroying the American way of life because of the legacy nuclear weapon systems they have from the Soviet Union.

Now, whether they have that intent is an open question. With Iran, they clearly have intent. Just two days ago, their president was chanting death to America and burning the American flag with people in Tehran. What we don't want to do is let a regime like that get the same capability that they can use against the United States, whether they strike us directly or strike our troops in the Middle East or give nuclear materials to a terrorist organization that they support who can then strike us.

DICKERSON: But it sounds like you're focused on Iran more than Russia.

COTTON: Well, Russia is a serious threat because they do still have that singular capability in the world. But we can't let Iran get the same capability, since Iran has clearly demonstrated the intent to destroy America.

DICKERSON: All right, Senator Tom Cotton, thank you so much.

COTTON: Thank you.

DICKERSON: We will be right back with the presidential candidate who is bringing in the crowds by the thousands. Stay with us.


DICKERSON: Joining us now from Martha's Vineyard is Vermont Senator and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

Senator Sanders, you and Donald Trump are the two hottest things in politics right now. Why is that?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I don't know about Donald Trump, but I think we are doing well.

Hundreds of thousands of people are joining up on our campaign. We have 250,000 individual contributors averaging $35 a piece. We are drawing large crowds.

And I will tell you what, John. I think the American people understand that establishment politics and establishment economics are not working for the middle class and working families of this country and they want real change.

They want to end the absurdity of seeing the middle class of this country continue its 40-year decline, people working longer hours for lower wages, having the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major country on earth. All the while, there has been a massive transfer of wealth from the middle class to the top one-tenth of 1 percent, so that today almost all of the new wealth and income being created is going to the top 1 percent.

People are saying, enough is enough. That is not what this country is supposed to be about. We want to be able to send our kids to college. We want to be able to have decent child care. We don't want to be the only major nation on earth that doesn't guarantee family and medical leave, paid sick time, paid vacation time. We want a government that starts representing working families and not just wealthy campaign donors, which is what we have right now. I think that is the message that is resonating all across the country.

DICKERSON: Senator, we had Speaker John Boehner on. He said he came to Congress with you and that he characterized you by saying that there's not a tax increase that you haven't liked. What is your response to that? He says you're out of the mainstream of America.

SANDERS: All right. Well, let me respond to that issue by issue. And you determine who is out of the mainstream.

I want to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. A recent "Wall Street Journal" poll said a majority of the American people want to do that. John Boehner is not going to bring up any legislation in the House to raise the minimum wage at all. And many of his members want to do away with the concept of the minimum wage.

I want to see this country expand Social Security benefits, not cut them. John Boehner, his party want to either privatize Social Security or cut Social Security benefits to the elderly and disabled vets. The American people say overwhelmingly we have got to expand Social Security benefits by lifting the cap on taxable incomes.

I want to create millions of jobs by rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure. And I have introduced legislation to do that. Republican Party is very reluctant to spend a nickel to rebuild our infrastructure.

DICKERSON: Senator, you...


SANDERS: I want -- so, I think in terms of who is out of touch with the American people, I would say Republican Party is. They want to give tax breaks to billionaires, not help the middle class.

DICKERSON: You have distinguished yourself now from the Republican Party. A lot of the issues you have mentioned both on wages and income inequality are going to be the topic of a speech by Hillary Clinton, your opponent in the Democratic fight, on Monday. How do you distinguish yourself from her for Democratic voters out there?

SANDERS: Well, first of all, let me say this, John. I have known Hillary Clinton since she was first lady. I have known her for 25 years. I like Hillary Clinton and I respect Hillary Clinton. And I'm not going to engage in personal attacks against Hillary Clinton.

But there are differences of opinion that we have which should be the basis for a serious discussion. Number one, I have spent my political life taking on the big money interests. I have introduced legislation that would break up the large financial institutions on Wall Street. I think, if a bank is too big to fail, it is too big to exist.

I voted against the war in Iraq. And if you go to YouTube, and you look at what I said way back when, sadly enough, much of what I predicted actually happened. Hillary Clinton voted for the war. I believe, along with Pope Francis, that climate change is one of the great international crises that we face.

I have worked as hard as I can to kill the Keystone pipeline program. You will have to ask Hillary Clinton what her view is on that. She has not been very clear. So I think, on issue after issue, whether it's raising minimum wage to $15 an hour, whether it is the trade agreement -- I oppose TPP -- she has not been clear on it -- there are very significant differences of opinion that we have.

DICKERSON: Senator Sanders, we will hold it right here. We will be back in a moment with Senator Sanders. Stay with us.


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

Stay with us.

And we will also have a look back at Bush and Clinton through the years.


DICKERSON: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION. I'm John Dickerson. And we continue our conversation with Vermont independent Senator Bernie Sanders.

Senator, you mentioned that you agree with the pope on the climate change question.

I was wondering, do you agree with him on his harsh condemnation of capitalism?

SANDERS: I think what the pope has been saying in a very profound and deep way is that casino-type capitalism is causing devastating problems not only in terms of our climate but in terms of income and wealth inequality.

He talks about the fact that all over the world, for example, we are ignoring the needs of senior citizens who often, in our country and around the world, are lonely, don't have the money they need for medicine or to heat their homes or to eat the food, buy the food that they need to survive.

He has talked about an issue, John, that I am talking about a lot and that is young people throughout the world in our country today we have youth unemployment for white kids who graduate high school of 33 percent; Hispanic kids, 36 percent; African American kids 51 percent.

And what the pope is saying there's something wrong internationally where almost all of the new wealth in this world is going to people on the top and so many other people are falling by the wayside.

So, yes, I think that Pope Francis has played an extraordinary role; he has been a voice of conscience all over the world, speaking out for those people who don't have a voice, those people who are suffering. And what are you saying, enough is enough.

Money cannot be the God of life. We have got to look at our kids, look at those people who are hurting; we've got to come together to create a new world and not a world in which a handful of people have so much wealth and so many other people are suffering.

I am a great fan of Pope Francis.

DICKERSON: Let me switch now to how you take your ideas and make them a reality in a political system. Let me read you something that Bill Shaheen, who's the husband of one of your colleagues, said about Hillary Clinton and why he supports Hillary Clinton.

He said, speaking of you and Hillary Clinton, "We all want the same things. But the question in the final analysis is who is going to be the person who is going to deliver it for you?"

In other words, like what you're saying but you're just not going to be able to deliver in Washington, what's the answer?

SANDERS: Well, the answer is I will be able to deliver in Washington. I will be able to win the election, and I'll tell you why because we are going to bring more people into the process.

I am going to be going around the country, not only to blue states, John, but to red states, conservative states; we're going to go to Alabama, we're going to go to Mississippi. We're going to go to conservative states. We're going to talk about poverty in this country, the fact that we have 45 million people living in poverty and highest rate of childhood poverty of any major country.

We're going to get young people, working people excited and involved in the political process. We're going to grow voter turnout. The reason the Republicans did so well last election, 63 percent of the American people didn't vote. I think message that we have is resonating; people are going to get involved in the political process, we're going to drive turnout up and when we do that, we win.

DICKERSON: Senator, that sounds exactly like what we heard from Senator Barack Obama, build a movement, change Washington. You don't think it worked in that case. Why do you think -- ?


SANDERS: Here's what I said. John, here's -- well, it worked getting Barack Obama getting elected. And let me be clear.

I think that in 2008, Barack Obama ran one of the great campaigns in the history of the United States of record, an extraordinary grassroots campaign.

Here is the mistake that Barack Obama made, and I'm a friend of Barack Obama's, I have a lot of respect for him although we disagree on a number of issues.

What he did after the election is what he said to the millions of people who were so excited about his campaign, he says, hey, thank you very much for electing me; I will take it from here. I'll sit down with John Boehner. I will sit down with Mitch McConnell. I'll sit down with Republicans and I'm going to negotiate some fair compromises.

The truth is Republicans never wanted to negotiate. All they wanted to do was obstruct.

What I have said throughout this campaign, electing Bernie Sanders as president is not enough. Not going to do it. We need a mass grassroots movement that looks the Republicans in the eye and says, if you don't vote to demand that your wealthy people start paying their fair of taxes, if you don't vote for jobs and raising the wage and expanding Social Security, we know what's going on. We're involved. We're organized, you are out of here if you don't do the right thing. That is the only way we can take on the billionaire class.

DICKERSON: All right, Senator Bernie Sanders, thanks so much.

We'll be right back with our panel.


DICKERSON: This week Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush took the first shots at each other of this campaign. It's going to get ugly but if the past is any guide, it's the beginning of a deep friendship.


HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He doesn't believe in a path to citizenship. If did he at one time, he no longer does. JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That she can't be trusted. There's never a straight answer. Whether it's the server, the emails, Benghazi, just constantly validates this notion that there are two sets of rules.

DICKERSON (voice-over): Weak character: that doesn't seem very friendly. But that was the way the first Bush-Clinton relationship started 23 years ago.

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to talk tonight about this sharp choice that I intend to offer Americans this fall, a choice between different agendas, different directions and, yes, a choice about the character of the man you want to lead this nation.

DICKERSON (voice-over): Bill Clinton returned the shot and defeated George Bush by portraying him as clueless and heartless.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The president is caught in the grip of a failed economic theory. For most Americans, Mr. President, life's a lot less kind and a lot less gentle than it was before your administration.

DICKERSON (voice-over): Bill Clinton ended the Bush 41 era and then he welcomed the next Bush, another George, who wasn't any friendlier.

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Don't equate my integrity and trustworthiness to Bill Clinton. That's about as low a blow as you can give in the Republican primary.

DICKERSON: But after the campaigns and presidencies were over, the three men bonded as ex-presidents. Bush 41 and Bill Clinton became friendly, working on disaster relief after the 2004 tsunami that devastated Southern Asia.

And Clinton and Bush 43 worked together on relief efforts after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

Now they joke about being from the same family.

BILL CLINTON: People began to joke that I was getting so close to the Bush family I had become the black sheep son.

My mother told me not to talk too long today.

And, Barbara, I will not let you down.

DICKERSON (voice-over): The harsh words of campaigns have been replaced by a mutual respect and understanding of what the other has endured. Only five people are alive today who know how hard it is to be President of the United States.

GEORGE BUSH: Clinton and I are getting a little long in the tooth these days.


BILL CLINTON: This is the one month of the year when he's older than me.

So speak for yourself.

DICKERSON (voice-over): Bush and Clinton both say they know it could be a tough campaign but they insist they will remain friends.

Could Jeb and Hillary one day be friends? Perhaps. But being and ex- president is what seals the bond. In 2016, that's an option that's only available to one of them.

We turn now to our panel.

Peggy Noonan is a "Wall Street Journal" columnist and CBS News contributor.

Tavis Smiley is the host of "The Tavis Smiley Show" on PBS.

We're also joined by Susan Page, Washington bureau chief of "USA Today" and Jeffrey Goldberg, national correspondent for "The Atlantic."

Susan, you were with those ex-presidents chumming it up and having a good laugh at each other down in Dallas. But they know it's going to get ugly.

SUSAN PAGE, "USA TODAY": And they say that even of their friends. They say that doesn't mean this campaign is going to go smoother, be nicer and gentler than it would otherwise be.

In fact, they both said they're going to support -- in Bush's case, his brother; in Clinton's case, his wife. And as Clinton said, they should let it rip. But he said -- they both said when -- at the end of the day, when the election is over, they will still be friends and they will still be working on projects like the ones they're working together on now.

DICKERSON: Tavis, Jeb Bush went right to the trust issue with Hillary Clinton, that's not a slow escalation that's going right to the heart. How much of a -- how big a deal sis that for her?

TAVIS SMILEY, HOST, "THE TAVIS SMILEY SHOW" : I think for any candidate it's about trust and about judgment, you heard that in the Obama, Clinton war and the primary of some years ago.

I think it always comes down to trust, it comes down to judgment.

I think what fascinating for me about this, is that this sort of bipartisanship sadly only happens when you're out of office to the point you just made. If we can ever find a way to use some of that bipartisanship while people are in office it might make a difference.

And I think the other thing, and I don't want to douse the excitement here, or the fire, about this great conversation that they had the other day. But I think also adds to the cynicism that exists in the American public, when they see this chummy, chummy, gentlemen's club, whether you are a Republican or Democrat, it's boy's, it's not really about policy, it's not about making America a better nation, it's about a handful of people get chance to do this, and it's a boys' club and that kind of clip just kind of adds I think to the cynicism that exists in our country.

DICKERSON: Yeah, Peggy, what they say in the campaigns is just ephemeral. It's just -- oh, it's just politics.

PEGGY NOONAN, WALL STREET JOURNAL: Look, these are two dynasties, these are two political families that have existed at the top level of American power for a few generations now. I think they're taking shots at each other to try to show their own followers, it's not that chummy at the top we actually can be serious, we can take a few shots of each other.

They're trying to prove that it's not this chummy, elite up at the top by taking shots at each other.

DICKERSON: Right. Marin O'Malley's line that the presidency is not a crown you pass back and forth between two families.

Jeffrey, I want to ask you switching a little bit here now Democratic politics. We saw a coordinated attempt by the Clinton campaign this week in different places all to say we're taking Bernie Sanders very, very seriously. What did you make of that?

JEFFREY GOLDBERG, THE ATLANTIC: Well, I mean, it's useful for them to build up a candidate they believe. And unless they have a radical misunderstanding of American politics, they believe correctly who will never get the Democratic nomination. He's a 73-year-old self professed socialist from the people's Republic of Burlington, Vermont. I mean, he's not going to get the nomination.

So, it's useful when they do vanquish him to say, we took on a huge juggernaut of a candidate.

PAGE: But you you know what strikes me, in your interview with Bernie Sanders, this guy is having a great time, right. Nobody -- he is a joyful warrior out there. And the same thing could be said of Donald Trump on the other side.

And I wonder about the power of that, and kind of -- the contrast with Hillary Clinton who seems like he's not having a great time out on the campaign trail. I think voters understand that they'd like to see somebody who is engaged, who is excited about the issues, who is connecting with them.

SMILEY: And beyond that, I took some heat some weeks ago for suggesting that Hillary Clinton needed a challenge from her left. But this is exactly what I was talking about. I like Hillary Clinton a lot, but left to their own devices the Clintons always find a way to move to the middle, it's that whole DLC, Democratic Leadership Council, and when you have guy from your left flank like Bernie Sanders pushing you on minimum wage and pushing you on income equality and pushing you on economic immobility, the speech we're going to get tomorrow is going to be a bit more of what we want to hear because she got pushed.

GOLDBERG: That's exactly -- that's the value. He's not going to become president but he has tugged the presumptive nominee to the left, so that is his achievement.

NOONAN: But both Trump, the bombastic Bushkins of the 2016 cycle and Bernie Sanders function, I think, as a rebuke to the elites we're discussing and a rebuke to the way things are. And it is a populist rebuke. It's reaching right into people and saying I know how you feel about things, and it ain't fair the way it's working.

SMILEY: I don't want to get ahead of John Dickerson here, but I would put Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump in two different categories. What Donald Trump did this week was not a rebuke, you go where you want to go, but that's not to saying rebuke is what Bernie Sanders gave about income equality respectfully paid.

NOONAN: Well, I don't think it's the same. But it has the same populist feel, it's coming from a different place, but it's...

SMILEY: See, I don't think it's populist, I think it's vitriol, I think..

GOLDBERG: On policy Donald Trump is...


GOLDBERG: doing something else entirely.

PAGE: They are appealing to people who are ticked off, right, in their own parties about how things are going.

DICKERSON: Susan how much of a threat, though, is it for the Republican Party. There are lot of Democrats who are saying, either they're a, happy, or more -- saying that is hurting the Republicans. Is it really hurting the party or is this one of those things...

PAGE: Oh, absolutely. I think it is.

I think Donald Trump is a big threat to the Republicans' chances of winning the White House next year, because he is defining the party as a party that is really harsh on Hispanic voters that Republicans need to do better about, and because the other candidates are not rebuking him in a serious way. You don't have -- one of the serious contenders have been saying in a really forthright way this is not where we are because he makes them a little nervous.

SMILEY: And I'm surprised that Jeb Bush, John, hasn't doesn't done that. I mean, it's so tailor made for him especially.


DICKERSON: He could do it some. I was wonder -- because he did try and make a distinction. I mean, he did make a distinction with Trump. He called him out on comments, said it doesn't represent the party. Is there a way in which that Trump, by throwing a wrench into the works, forces Jeb Bush to say here is exactly what we believe, which ends up helping Jeb Bush.

SMILEY: I think it's -- if we're talking moral conviction and righteous indignation, Jeb Bush ought to have been the person to have done this sooner than right now and quicker than at once, number one.

Number two, it's not just about pushing Trump back because he's wrong on the issue, again this is about moral conviction.

Here is a question I want to just put out here, if a black presidential candidate had used the unrepentant Dylann Roof in Charleston, South Carolina, to bash every white male in the country the way this rich white elitist Donald Trump has used a murder in San Francisco to bash the entire undocumented worker community, would the media have cover understand story the way they did? Would it have the legs that it's had? I'm telling you that it's the worst day I think -- it's bad example, rather, of our profession in the way we've covered this Donald Trump story this week.

This would not have happened if anybody else had been bashing an entire community the way that Donald Trump has. The media wouldn't have jumped on the story that way, they would have killed it.

DICKERSON: Jeffrey, let me ask you a question about Donald Trump and the Republican Party, isn't the worry that he becomes an independent? Not that he stayed -- I mean, there's a worry about what he might do to the party, but it also happens if he left the party?

GOLDMAN: Well, there's a sure way to guarantee that Hillary Clinton becomes president of the United States, which is to have Donald Trump run as an independent. He can be the Ross Perot of this cycle.

Look, he has tremendous power to draw media attention, draw these crowds of angry people. He could really do damage to the Republicans that way, and I think that is probably one of the concerns.

It doesn't mitigate the fact that from a moral perspective, yes, and from a -- they have to come out and say, look, you can't talk about Mexicans this way.

SMILEY: What we're talking about now, Jeffrey, though, is the politics of the way that Donald has done what he's done this week. What I'm talking about is the lack of moral consciousness on the part of those who cover this story for letting someone get away with pushing -- hold on -- pushing a narrative where the facts are in controvertible. There is no link between undocumented workers and a spike in crime.

And the fact that we've cover this story like it's a real issue is asinine. GOLDBERG: But it's more than man that, even, because if you actually watch the speech that he gave yesterday -- I mean, this is a guy who steams like he's ready to launch a drone attack on Macy's.

I mean, you know, we haven't seen the media cover this in all of its eccentricity, let's say, to be polite. And I think that is part of the issue that you might be getting at which is, wait a second, this guy is not Bernie Sanders, he's not giving a policy prescription, not giving policy critique. He's stream of consciousness, vitriol, anger, it's like a freestyle -- it's not normal in the course of events.

DICKERSON: Peggy, weigh in here.

NOONAN: Well, my gosh, there's so much to say about Trump we almost need two hours on him.

I think two things are being overlooked about him. One, what he is saying to people apart from the issues you raise, very important, I've written about them. I think we all have. But he's looking at an American people who for 15 years have been looking at Washington and saying, do us a favor, for now, just get control of the border. Then we'll talk about how we deal with all of our immigration laws. They have been looking at Washington saying, please do this, and no matter who is in power in Washington, Washington will not do that to the satisfaction of the American people.

Second thing, we should not forget that Trump is talking about jobs -- Mexico and jobs. It's a huge issue. We have entrenched an unemployment problem here.

DICKERSON: And he's channeling a lot of that frustration that Bernie Sanders is, even though Sanders doesn't want the association.

I'm going to have to -- Tavis.

NOONAN: But that's some serious stuff...

DICKERSON: I'm going to have interrupt both of you. We're going to go away. We'll be right back. So, stick with us. We'll be right back with our panel with more.


DICKERSON: And we're back with more from our panel.

Jeffrey, I want to talk to you about this emerging Iranian deal. We don't know what the details of it are. But I talked to Senator Cotton about what would happen if the president had walked away. He believes that tougher sanctions would have brought Iran back to the table with under better terms.

Walk us through the alternative explanation if the president had just walked away?

GOLDBERG: Well, this is the saving grace of the Obama administration right now, is that no one has come up with a plausible alternative to this deal that doesn't lead to open confrontation, possibly regional war.

Now, we don't know what's going on inside the negotiations, we don't -- just like when you buy a car, you walk out thinking, I don't know, maybe I could have gotten that for $400 less. You'll never really know what you got. But -- and we don't know the deal yet.

But the answer Republicans give is, well, they should have gotten a harder deal. We don't know if they could have gotten a harder or a better deal on this, to tell you the truth.

But the problem the Republicans will have going forward is, if you reject this deal, the Iranians will be free to go to nuclear breakout. The president has said that he will not allow them to get a nuclear weapon, one plus one equals two. You're talking about military confrontation. Military confrontation does not solve your problem; it opens up possibly a whole new set of problems, including constant warfare, not only in the Persian Gulf but across the Middle East and terrorism internationally.

So until they come up with a solution to this, that doesn't lead to another full-on military confrontation in the Persian Gulf, the Obama administration has certain arguments on its side.

DICKERSON: Susan, what do you expect, if there is a deal, how this will play out in the campaign, in the presidential campaign?

PAGE: Well, we should be clear that we don't know what the deal is. And when the framework agreement came out, it was better deal than Americans -- than we had all expected than the conventional wisdom had been.

I think it's an issue, it will be an issue. It'll be a partisan issue, I would expect. I would expect Hillary Clinton to think it's was a pretty good deal and the Republicans to think it's not a very good deal.

And the question may come down, we -- I think we're confident, from what Senator Cotton told you, that there will be a resolution of disapproval submitted in the Senate. Likely to pass, might get 60 votes. And then the question will be for President Obama, does he veto it and force them to come up with even more votes to disapprove of this deal?

And if he does that, that means he is passing this deal on the basis of perhaps as few as 34 votes in the Senate and that is a risky problem.

DICKERSON: Can a president do that, Peggy?

Doesn't -- he needs the kind of -- he needs Congress behind him.

NOONAN: It is always good to have Congress behind you. You know what I think will be part of how this plays out? I kind of think people sense with President Obama, that, when he's in negotiations, Cuba, Iran, whoever, he always signals that he needs it too much. He always puts his face on it. He always has people leak, this is very important to us, it's part of our legacy, stuff like that.

That's not a good negotiating approach. The deal in the end may be good in a way; I don't think we're going to know. It's going to be a guesswork. But it will always have that overlay of he always wants it too much.

DICKERSON: You've talk to the president a lot, Jeffrey.

Where do you think his head is on this?

GOLDBERG: Well, you know, this is so interesting, talking about legacy. I think that if the deal turns out to be stronger that we thought -- remember, he blew past the deadline. He didn't cave to the Iranians when they wanted -- they said this is the deadline, and we said, no, we're going to keep going.

If that is, I think you can actually credit gay marriage in a kind of strange way for a tougher deal. I mean, the president needs a legacy now less than he used to because of his momentous week a couple of weeks ago. The trade deal and ObamaCare and the Supreme Court, gay marriage, et cetera.

So I think his legacy, from their perspective in the White House, is set already. And I think that you might see this deal be somewhat tougher, I'm hoping, at least, that you see this deal being somewhat tougher because the president might be thinking now that he needs this slightly less than he used to.

I will grant you that they do signal that they want this a little bit too much.


GOLDBERG: But this is now slightly less important from a political perspective than it used to be.

SMILEY: See, Peggy, what I thought you were going to say was that this White House has --

NOONAN: You were nodding as I spoke.


SMILEY: I believe -- and this is what Republicans -- they have a point, that this president, this administration has done a really bad job since day one in negotiations from health care on down of negotiating against themselves. And I think that has been a problem consistent, number one.

Having said that, though, I think your point leads me to this conclusion, which is that there is going to have to be a deal here.

And I think, Jeffrey, this deal is too big to fail. We've put so much on this now --

(CROSSTALK) DICKERSON: That's the last word.

Thank you all very much. Thanks for joining us. We'll be right back.


DICKERSON: That's it for us today. Thanks for watching. Until next week for FACE THE NATION, I'm John Dickerson.

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