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Face the Nation Transcripts March 1, 2015: Boehner, Feinstein, Huckabee

The latest on the Department of Homeland Security funding, U.S.-Israel relations, and a panel on politics with House Speaker John Boehner, Senator Dianne Feinstein, and 2016 Republican candidate Mike Huckabee
March 1: Boehner, Feinstein, Huckabee 54:12

(CBS News) -- A transcript from the March 1, 2015 edition of Face the Nation with guest host John Dickerson. Guests included House Speaker John Boehner, Senator Dianne Feinstein, Mike Huckabee, Jeffrey Goldberg, Peggy Noonan, Maria Cardon, Mark Halperin and Kevin Madden.

JOHN DICKERSON, HOST: I'm John Dickerson.

And today on FACE THE NATION: House Speaker John Boehner joins us for a rare Sunday interview.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The House, by nature and by design, is a hell of a lot more rambunctious place than the Senate, much more.


DICKERSON: That may be understatement after Friday's messy effort to fully fund the Department of Homeland Security. We will ask the speaker what's next for the funding, how he plans to wrangle some of those rambunctious Republicans, and about his controversial invitation to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

We will hear from Senator Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on Intelligence Committee, potential 2016 Republican candidate Mike Huckabee. We will have analysis on the U.S.-Israel relationship and a panel on politics.

It's all ahead on FACE THE NATION.

And good morning. Bob is off today.

We want to welcome the speaker of the House, John Boehner, to the broadcast.

Mr. Speaker, I want to start with the vote on Friday night to keep the Department of Homeland Security open. When Republicans won their big victories in the Senate and the House in November, there was the promise that there would be no more of these crises, these fiscal fishtailings from crisis to crisis, no more cliffhanger moment.

But, on Friday night, there was another cliffhanger moment. Things were supposed to be different. They look the same. Why?

BOEHNER: Well, because the president took actions with regard to immigration that were far beyond what the law allows him to do.

You have to remember, John, that the president said 22 times, 22 times that he couldn't do what he eventually did. I made it clear we were going to do everything we could to block the president's executive overreach.

And that's the basis of the problem that we're trying to deal with. And the Senate refused to pass their own bill. They -- Senator McConnell tried for almost a month to get the Senate to act. But, four times, Senate Democrats blocked the ability to even debate the bill.

And so I thought that a three-week continuing resolution to fund the Department of Homeland Security was ample time to have a Senate- House conference, which we have asked for on Friday night, and more time for the courts to make a decision about whether they're going to keep the stay in order to blocks the president's actions. DICKERSON: You had a plan. You had a Boehner plan to take on the president. It was a three-week effort. But that plan was circumvented.

And we know about the problem with the Democrats, but this is what your allies say. So, you have Congressman Nunes, who is the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, saying -- quote -- "A small group of phony conservative members who have no credible policy proposals and no political strategy to stop Obama's lawlessness," he said they were what caused the problem that thwarted your plan. The people who want to take it to Obama undermined the ability to take it to Obama.

Peter King, also a Republican, said, "This group has no concept of reality."

Can you run a House with that kind of group in your membership?

BOEHNER: We do have some members who disagree from time to time over the tactics that we decide to employ.

But, remember, Republicans are united in this idea that the president has far exceeded his constitutional authority. And we all want to do things to stop the president from his illicit activity.

DICKERSON: Well, that's the thing. You want to do -- you are all working. You want to do the same thing. But they are absolutely undermining...


BOEHNER: We get in an argument over tactics from time to time.


BOEHNER: The goals are all the same.

DICKERSON: But did they have plan that could have succeeded and passed and signed by the president that would have gotten them what they wanted, this small group you say that basically undermined your efforts?

BOEHNER: Not that I know of.

DICKERSON: So, Was it fruitless?

BOEHNER: It's the House of Representatives. As it said in the opener, the House is a rambunctious place. We have 435 members. A lot of members have a lot of different ideas about what we should and shouldn't be doing.

DICKERSON: Can you lead those members?

BOEHNER: I think so. I think so.

I'm not going to suggest it's easy, because it's not. But remember what is causing this. It's the president of the United States overreaching. And that's not just on immigration. You know, 38 times, he made unilateral changes to Obamacare, many of these, I believe, far beyond his constitutional authority to do so.

And so the frustration in the country, represented through the frustration of our members, has people scared to death that the president is just running the country right off the cliff.

DICKERSON: So, what is next? Nancy Pelosi says that you made a promise to her that what would happen next is that a bill that would fund the Department of Homeland Security for the rest of the year would be brought up in the House. Did you make that promise?

BOEHNER: The promise I made to Ms. Pelosi is the same promise I made to Republicans, that we would follow regular order.

The bill is back in the Senate. We have asked for a conference with the Senate. And the Senate majority leader at the time, in May of 2013, said -- and I quote -- "We aren't afraid to try to resolve our differences in a conference committee."

This has been the custom of the Senate and the House of Representatives for almost 200 years. We want to go to conference with the Senate. Now, they have made clear that they don't want to go to conference, that they're going to have a vote. And when they -- if they vote, in fact, not to go to conference, this bill may be coming back to the House.

DICKERSON: What is easier to deal with, Democrats or members of your own conference?

BOEHNER: I like dealing with both parties.

DICKERSON: Let's switch now, Mr. Speaker, to the visit from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

He has an election coming up in two weeks. He is coming because he opposes this deal that he thinks the president is working out with Iran. There has been a lot of political heartburn about this invitation that you offered to him.

Has that heartburn, has that dust-up undermined the prime minister's ability to make his case to his audience?

BOEHNER: Oh, I don't believe so at all.

The demand for seats in the House, the demand for tickets, I have never seen anything like it. Everybody wants to be there. What I do wonder is why the White House feels threatened because the Congress wants to support Israel and wants to hear what a trusted ally has to say.

It has been, frankly, remarkable to me to -- the extent to which, over the last five or six weeks, the White House has attacked the prime minister, attacked me for wanting to hear from one of our closest allies. DICKERSON: Have they damaged the relationship? Has the White House damaged the relationship?

BOEHNER: Well, the animosity between the White House and the prime minister is no secret here in this town. But...

DICKERSON: Have they made it worse?

BOEHNER: But they certainly made it worse over the last five or six weeks.

The threat coming from Iran and the Iranians having a nuclear weapon is a threat to the region, it's a threat to the United States, and it's a threat to the rest of the world. This is a serious issue. And we're not going to resolve this issue by sticking our heads in the sand.

The prime minister can talk about this threat, I believe, better than anyone. And the United States Congress wants to hear from him, and so do the American people.

DICKERSON: Do you -- but there have been some Republican foreign policy experts -- James Baker said this visit might backfire. Robert Kagan writes today in "The Washington Post," says the cost is too high.

BOEHNER: I don't believe so.

Congress has every right to do this. The president devoted a very few words to the threat of radical Islamic terrorism during his State of the Union speech, almost said nothing about the Iranians. These are messages that we need to hear. These are facts that we need to hear. And I'm glad the prime minister accepted my invitation.

DICKERSON: Do you trust President Obama when he says he doesn't want Iran to get a nuclear weapon?

BOEHNER: Yes, I believe what he has to say.

But the fact is, is that the -- from what we have all heard, what they have leaked out about these negotiations, it doesn't -- it just doesn't strike me that the deal is going to be good enough.

DICKERSON: Democrats...

BOEHNER: And this is a concern shared by both Democrats and Republicans.

DICKERSON: Well, that's right. And there were a lot of Democrats who are very strongly supportive of Israel, but now this has become another partisan back-and-forth. Has Democratic support for Israel receded as a result of this?

BOEHNER: Absolutely not.

Israel is one of our most trusted allies. It's -- there's been bipartisan support in the Congress for Israel going back some 50 years. That relationship is going to continue between the Congress and Israel, between the United States and Israel. The really only conflict here is between the White House and Israel.

DICKERSON: Let me switch now to the issue of ISIS. You have occasionally supported this president on foreign policy issues. Do you -- what is your view of his strategy for combating ISIS?

BOEHNER: Well, let's go back to the beginning.

I do believe that we only have one commander in chief at a time. And when it comes to foreign policy, when it comes to international threats, I believe it's important for America to speak with one voice. And so I go out of my way to try to be supportive of the president's foreign policy when I think -- when I think he's right.

When it comes to the issue of ISIS, the president said that he wants to destroy and eliminate ISIS. That's what he said. That's what the goal is. And then he outlines a strategy that nobody believes will accomplish the mission. And then he asks for an authorization of the use of military force, where he actually asks for less authority than what he has today under current and previous authorizations to use military force.

I don't see how he can resolve these differences. We need a robust strategy to take on these terrorists. This is a very serious matter. I mean, they're barbarians. And we're over there kind of poking them in the nose. We're not really there to defeat and destroy. We don't have a plan that will do that.

And so we need a robust strategy to take them on. And I believe that we need then to give the president a robust authorization to use the authority of the commander in chief to eliminate this threat.


DICKERSON: What would you do? If you were advising the president, what would you do?

BOEHNER: Somebody's boots have to be on the ground.

DICKERSON: Somebody's. Ours, U.S. boots on the ground?

BOEHNER: And we -- and...

DICKERSON: U.S. boots on the -- more U.S. boots on the ground?

BOEHNER: We have some 3,000 boots on the ground today.

DICKERSON: Right. More?


BOEHNER: Let's not suggest that we don't.

DICKERSON: But more or... BOEHNER: And whether it's -- I will let the military commanders make that decision.

The Congress shouldn't do it. But the president shouldn't tell our enemies what we're not going to do. And whether they're Iraqi military personnel, whether we can bring Jordanians and other allies, their boots in there, but we are going to have to have some people in there providing advice. And those are boots on the ground.

DICKERSON: Let me ask you a final question. Do you like your job?

BOEHNER: Most days. Friday wasn't all that fun, but most days.

DICKERSON: Why wasn't Friday fun?

BOEHNER: Oh, it was just messy. And I'm not into messy.

But, listen, I enjoy -- I enjoy being in a legislative body. I enjoy all the personalities. And I have got a lot of them.

DICKERSON: You had a little experience with personalities growing up.

BOEHNER: Grew up in a bar. Everything I -- every -- a lot of lessons I learned to do my job, I learned growing up in that bar.

DICKERSON: All right, Speaker John Boehner, thanks so much for being with us.

BOEHNER: Nice to see you.

DICKERSON: We will be right back in a minute to hear from a top Democrat.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) DICKERSON: We're back with the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Dianne Feinstein.


I want to start with the assassination of Boris Nemtsov, the Russian opposition leader gunned down this the street. What does the intelligence community know about this, if anything?

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, not very much so far. And that's somewhat of a problem. It's very difficult to get certain kinds of intelligence with respect to Russia.

But I think it speaks on its face as to what it is. Someone very much opposed to the opposition -- this is a leader of the opposition to Putin, I think a distinguished dissident, not your average person on the street, but someone who actually served in the cabinet of Boris Yeltsin, and who was very respected, spoke fluent English, or was prepared to take on Russia with respect to the Ukraine and what Russia has really been doing there, and was shot down in cold blood.

DICKERSON: Is the key question a connection to Putin?

FEINSTEIN: Pardon me?

DICKERSON: Is the key question about his assassination whether there is a connection to Vladimir Putin?

FEINSTEIN: Oh, I think so. I think there is.

Whether Putin authorized it, whether he didn't, whether he knew about it, or whether it was his friends, or some of his military doing this, we will wait and see what the investigation -- but I think it comes at a very bad time, too, because the armistice is just beginning to be observed. That is Minsk Two, which went into effect on February 15.

And now the drawbacks of the heavy equipment and the troops are beginning to take place. And what I have seen reported is that it is beginning to happen. And we want it to happen. The only solution there is to work out a solution between the governments.

And so this certainly presents an obstacle. And I hope that Mr. Putin will step up. I hope he will see that some diplomacy can prevail, that he can work out a solution with the Ukrainian leadership.

DICKERSON: I would like to switch to talking about ISIS.

Jihad John was identified last week as Mohammed Emwazi. This is the person in that chilling video, the executioner in that chilling hostage video. What do we know about where he is?

FEINSTEIN: Well, I don't know about where he is. That's for sure.

You used "we," so I can't really -- I can't really speak to that. But, clearly, he is in Syria -- or -- it could be Syria or Iraq somewhere. We don't know.

DICKERSON: Should the U.S. be going after him specifically?

FEINSTEIN: Oh, yes, he's a target. There should be no question about that.

DICKERSON: And what do we know about his upbringing, sort of a middle-class upbringing? What does that tell us about who is being recruited to fight for ISIS?

FEINSTEIN: Well, that's the difficult question.

What it tells us is that there are many young people -- and you can see this by the number of tweets on Twitter -- who are so disaffected, even youngsters that have parents that have done quite well in this country, which is somewhat surprising. Whether they feel rejected socially, whether they feel they don't have an opportunity, whether they feel this country is anti-Muslim, which it is not, I don't know.

But it's clearly created a major problem. And now a very disturbing thing for me to hear is that young girls are going and that they are assured of a home, somebody else's home, but a home, and can buy what they need there. This is very distressing.

DICKERSON: Let me ask you now about Israel and the prime minister's visit. You're going to attend the speech?

FEINSTEIN: Yes, I am going to attend.

DICKERSON: Is that a provisional view, or are you absolutely going to attend?

FEINSTEIN: Well, I'm going to go. I'm going to listen quite respectfully. I'm not going to jump up and down, which is likely to be the posture in that room.

I am very concerned by that speech. I went to the speech in 2011. I didn't believe it was helpful then, and I don't believe it's going to be helpful now. I hope that the prime minister will address what he believes will happen if there is not an agreement or if there is an agreement between the other nations, including the big powers, Russia, China, U.K., France, Germany, and it's just United States that is doing this.

What happens then to sanctions, if we were to put on additional sanctions, and the rest of the nations would not abide by them?

DICKERSON: I would like to have you listen to something. Charlie Rose sat down last week with the national security adviser, Susan Rice, and here is what she said about the speech.



SUSAN RICE, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: There has now been injected a degree of partisanship, which is not only unfortunate. I think it's destructive of the fabric of the relationship.


DICKERSON: Destructive?

FEINSTEIN: Well, I think it is -- a lot of crockery, as Aaron Miller said, has been broken. And that's true.

The basis of the relationship, which is a support for an independent state of Israel, a Jewish Democratic state, will remain. There's no question about that. But I think the full-page ad in "The New York Times" yesterday is really beyond the pale.

And this is what breaks...

DICKERSON: Why beyond the pale? I'm sorry. FEINSTEIN: Oh, it's Susan Rice in a position as if she condones genocide. That's the impact with the skulls next to her face.

And she is the president's national security adviser. You may differ with her, but there's no justification for an ad like that.

DICKERSON: Was there anything -- using the word destructive -- John Kerry mentioned that Prime Minister Netanyahu had supported the war in Iraq. Did the administration -- is administration escalating this a little bit too, for a relationship that has to exist after the speech?

FEINSTEIN: I don't think so.

I think it's getting escalated on its own. And we will hear what the prime minister has to say. And the speech in 2011 threw down a lot of harsh red lines, would not accept what had been accepted all along, the '67 border, with some trade of land. So he threw out the gauntlet.

If he throws out the gauntlet again, I would like to know what they intend to do if there is not an agreement.

DICKERSON: All right. And we will all be watching.


DICKERSON: Senator Feinstein, thank you so much.

FEINSTEIN: Thank you.

DICKERSON: We will be back right -- right in a minute.


DICKERSON: Joining us now from Destin, Florida, is former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, who has a new book out that's called "God, Guns, Grits, and Gravy."

Welcome, Governor.

I want to start with the question of the prime minister's visit to Washington. Has the relationship between the United States and Israel become just another political football between Democrats and Republicans, and is that a problem?


And I think it's very important to note that most Democrats in the Congress, as well as, I think, across the United States, understand the valuable relationship that we have with Israel, want to preserve it and keep it. And, yes, there's some Washington politics involved in this.

But let's hope and pray it doesn't spill over into a strained relationship with the one reliable ally that we have, basically, between Africa and Asia, and a very important one.

DICKERSON: You have been in Israel recently. Benjamin Netanyahu has an election in a couple of weeks. How much of a role do you think that plays in this?

HUCKABEE: I don't really think that that's what's at play here.

And I had a chance to speak to the prime minister when I was there. I have been going to Israel for 42 years, first time when I was 17 years old. I feel like I know this country. I know many of the people in government, many of the people in -- on the streets of Israel.

And the fact is, that they are separating the issue of the election from the existential threat they face from the possibility of the Iranians having a nuclear weapon. And Israel is the canary in the coal mine. Something happens to Israel, and that's not the end of it. That is just the beginning of it. And the ultimate target would be the United States.

So, we need to recognize the valuable strategic role that Israel plays in our own safety. This isn't just about Israel. This is about the safety of the United States.

DICKERSON: You referred to how many times you have been to Israel. If you decide to run for president, you will be relying on that experience.

I wanted to ask you a question about Governor Scott Walker. He said his experience combating the 100,000 protesters in Wisconsin meant that he could do the same in leading the world. That was in the context of a question about ISIS. Is it that simple?

HUCKABEE: You know, I have got enough problems trying to explain my own views without trying to explain someone else's.

So, I'm going to say, I don't know how to respond to what he said. He's the only one who can respond to what that meant. And so I will just leave it to him. And I will respond to my own rhetoric.

DICKERSON: Well, let's get your own rhetoric fired up here.

On ISIS, you have said it is a rattlesnake and compared it to a cancer. What would you do to defeat ISIS?

HUCKABEE: Well, first of all, we should have been long ago arming the Kurds. They're the most reliable force that we have in the Middle East, especially in the northern part of Iraq, that is willing and ready to fight ISIS and to do it without American blood being spilled.

We have not kept our promise to the Kurds. The second thing we should do is make sure that, wherever there's an ISIS target, that we bomb the daylights out of it. We make it unpopular, we make it very, very tenuous for anybody to want to join ISIS, because we need to let them know, they are basically sign on to a death sentence if they want to join this hideous, savage, uncivilized group of people who think it's OK to burn people alive and cut their heads off, and not only to do it, John, but I think what is most despicable is that they -- they are proud of it.

They videotape it. They show it to the world. They want us to see what they do. And that makes it even more horrifying.


DICKERSON: Sorry to interrupt, Governor.

Where are you on the question of boots on the ground? Some 2016 candidates are supporting that idea, U.S. boots.

HUCKABEE: We don't leave anything off the table. But if they're going to be boots, they have to be more than just U.S. boots. There's got to be some boots that from come from the Saudis, the Jordanians and others.


DICKERSON: And now, as a final question, I can't let you go without asking about where you are in your presidential journey. You want to just announce it now?

HUCKABEE: Well, let's hold off just a little while.

But we're looking very carefully at the structure that would need to be in place. And I think a decision will be forthcoming. I have always said my timetable is some time in the spring. And by the winter weather we have, we're not quite there yet.

DICKERSON: Leaning more towards yes than you were when you first announced you were leaving FOX News?

HUCKABEE: I think that's fair. I think the fact that I left FOX News is a pretty good indication that I didn't do that just because I enjoyed having Saturdays at home.

DICKERSON: All right.

Well, Governor Huckabee, thank you so much for joining us.

We will be right back.


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 analysis on U.S.-Israel relations and our political panel.

Stay with us.



I'm John Dickerson, sitting in for Bob Schieffer.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is on his way to the United States. Before he left, he visited the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

Netanyahu said although he respects President Obama, he strongly opposes the agreement the United States is working on with Iran, saying it could endanger our very existence.

He later called his journey a fateful, even historic, mission.

Joining us now for some analysis on Prime Minister Netanyahu's speech to Congress on Tuesday, Jeffrey Goldberg of "The Atlantic."

Jeffrey, welcome.

Would you take us out of this political back and forth, who invited who, and talk about the stakes of the U.S. relationship with Israel.

JEFFREY GOLDBERG, "THE ATLANTIC": Well, the stakes the U.S. relationship with Israel and in -- the even greater stakes are what is going to happen with the Iran nuclear deal?

I mean that -- that is the historic feature here.

And the interesting thing here, and, in a way, the kind of perverse genius of Netanyahu is that he's -- he's made this week very much about the partisanship of this speech and his own election and everything else, but -- but what we're facing is -- and maybe this is what's going to happen on Wednesday, after the Netanyahu speech, is we're going to realize that this is about a very dangerous moment for President Obama. I mean he is moving toward a rapprochement with -- with an historic adversary. He's about to make a deal that a lot of people, including people who support the idea of a deal think might be weak.

And so we're heading into an incredibly tense period, not only between Israel and the United States, but -- but the United States and all of its Arab allies, as well, who are also nervous.

DICKERSON: You say -- you write that Netanyahu is hurting his own cause by giving this speech.

What do you mean?

GOLDBERG: I mean that -- that this is a fairly naked play for votes at home. He's going to re--- standing for reelection on -- on the 17th, on March 17th. He could very easily have come on March 18th or 19th to -- to lobby Congress against an Iran deal that won't even be done by that point, even theoretically.

So he -- he has done something that's even more dangerous than just sort of messing around with the Israeli political system. He's threatening to turn Israel into a partisan issue in the United States. The United States is Israel's second line of defense. Its first line of defense is its own army. Its second line of defense is the -- is bipartisan support in Congress and the American people.

If he turns Israel into a wedge issue, one that separates Democrats from Republicans on Middle East issues, that's very dangerous in the long term for -- for Israel.

DICKERSON: And in -- explain what you mean when you say President Obama is harmed by this on Wednesday.

How -- why is he (INAUDIBLE)?

GOLDBERG: Well, no, I -- after we put all the -- all the controversy of the speech aside, we're going to have to refocus our attention on what is actually happening on the Iran negotiations. And it seems, from what we know so far -- and, again, this is leaks and it's half information -- but what we know so far is that there are features of the proposed deal that seem fairly weak, that may put Iran on a pathway, eventually, toward nuclearization.

DICKERSON: If the deal looks weak and the relationship with Israel is bad, does Israel go and act on its own?

GOLDBERG: Well, this has been the fear in Washington for years. The Obama administration and even the Bush administration before it, has done a good job of holding Israel -- holding Israel's fire, if you will, telling them -- I mean literally, in 2012, President Obama said Israel doesn't have to do whatever it's thinking about doing because we've got Israel's back. That's the direct quote.

Netanyahu no longer believes that the United States or President Obama, to be specific, has Israel's back. So, yes, we've come back into a phase where Israel might feel desperate enough and not trusting enough of the United States that it feels it has to go do something on its own.

DICKERSON: What did you feel about the administration's -- the way they've been playing this?

You know, the relationship has to exist on Wednesday, Susan Rice's comments.


DICKERSON: What was your reaction?

GOLDBERG: Well, the relationship is -- this is a very, very important point you make. The relationship must exist and must function on Wednesday, because we're about to head into this very intense period where if the United States makes this deal with Iran, it's going to have to give strategic reassurance to not only Israel, but all of the Arab states. And so they have to have good communications and some level of trust.

I would think, at this point, that the administration realizes that it needs to pull back a little bit from the heated rhetoric. There is -- there is amnesty, genuine amnesty between this administration and the Netanyahu administration.

DICKERSON: What about...

GOLDBERG: But it's too dangerous. You can't have it at a certain point.

DICKERSON: And how about between the president and the prime minister?

GOLDBERG: Well, you know, I -- I asked the president, in 2012, I asked him, I said, do you -- are you and Netanyahu friends?

And he gave me a very elegant answer. He said, well, you know, we're so busy with our own jobs that it's hard to -- but that was (INAUDIBLE) the point. They really don't like each other. They really actively don't like each other and trust each other. And that is a problem for allies.

DICKERSON: How to repair that?

GOLDBERG: This is the $64,000 question. It has to be repaired. Mature voices must be heard and people must understand that, that if this is going to succeed, that if bringing Iran back into the fold or trying to make a strong nuclear deal with Iran is to succeed, that Israel has to understand that this is a -- this is the way to go, that there's no alternative, as Senator Feinstein said, that, you know, we're all waiting for Benjamin Netanyahu to give a better, you know, a better ideas. I mean that's what everybody is waiting for.

So on the Israeli side, they have to recognize that the United States is their true, one and only and indispensable ally and deal with it accordingly.

And the Obama administration has to realize that it can't cut Israel adrift, that that would be not only fair to Israel and it would go against the wishes of the majority of the American people, but it would be dangerous. It would make -- it would destabilize the Middle East, which is already unstable enough.

DICKERSON: All right, Jeffrey Goldberg.

Thanks so much for being with us.

GOLDBERG: Thank you.

DICKERSON: Stay with us.

We'll be back with our political panel in a moment.


DICKERSON: We're back with our political panel.

Joining us now is "Wall Street Journal" columnist and CBS News contributor, Peggy Noonan.

Mark Halperin of Bloomberg Politics is here.

Plus, we're joined by Democratic strategist and CNN political contributor, Maria Cardona, and Republican strategist, Kevin Madden,

Welcome all of you.


DICKERSON: Peggy, I want to start with you.

What is worse for the Republicans running the Congress, that they look like they can't govern or that they disappoint their grassroots, who wants them to take on the president?

PEGGY NOONAN, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": Ooh, that is a complicated question. That's why this question keeps continuing for the past few years.

If you take a look at the Republican leaders of the Congress, I think you can probably fault them for not being able to control their own conference and control the situation. But you cannot fault them for failing to control the dynamics behind the whole thing.

The fact is, there are about 50 or 60 Republican members who are very skeptical and really in opposition to what they see as de facto amnesty in the United States. They are a small group of the Republican Conference and yet they represent probably the thinking of almost half the country.

And they do not really trust the elites of the parties or the elites of America's financial community to come through and address their concerns.

So I see this whole split and tension as something that will likely continue and be very difficult for Mr. Boehner.

DICKERSON: Kevin, you worked for Mr. Boehner.

What's he got to do to get these guys in line?

KEVIN MADDEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, look, I -- I think the question that you raised about whether or not governing or just voting no, I think is a big test. I think that's one of the big problems that John faces, that the speaker faces up on Capitol Hill right now is that you have about 50 votes up there, 50 members that have defined the test of conservatism around voting against this president or voting -- voting no on bills.

And I think that's the wrong message to take from the last election. So many of these members came to Congress because they said, look, I'm going to go to Washington and challenge the status quo, but I'm also going to show that the institution can work again.

And that was the message that both Speaker Boehner and then Minority Leader McConnell, when they came out after that election, that's the argument that they made, which is that we're going to demonstrate we can govern.

So, the big challenge again that John Boehner has is that he has to go out there demonstrate the benefits from the American people and from Republican brand of governing versus having these, you know, one crisis after the next up on Capitol Hill. That is not going to help Republicans.

HALPERIN: Midterms and the Republicans have a big win and the president has shown he has a second act since then. The president has been on the offensive since the mid-terms.

John Boehner and Mitch McConnell need a second act because what happened on Friday will happen again and again if they don't figure out new way to go. The balance you asked Peggy about, impossible to solve in the abstract. But case by case Barbara Boxer and Bernie Sanders they don't have full veto power, but if Democrats are willing to obstruct in the Senate, you don't have to pass on them with John Boehner and Barbara Boxer was before, but close to it.

CARDONA: But here is where I think you can fault the Republican leadership.

Kevin is right, after the mid term election they came out very eloquently talked about how now Republicans who are both in power are going to demonstrate how they can govern, are going to demonstrate how they are going to put the issues that are important to the American people first.

They had to have known when they said those words, especially with additional members of a conservative caucus, what it would take to actually make those words a reality.

So, they either were deluding themselves or they were being deeply dishonest with the American people because they knew when they said, we're going to demonstrate that we're going to govern, that that was going to mean negotiations and compromise which is absolutely anathema to that conservative caucus.

DICKERSON: But Maria, Democrats seem quite happy to have this crack up and seem to be a in posture to not really deal with anybody. So, how does that affect...

CARDONA: I wouldn't say happy about it. I would say that Democrats are underscoring the message that they have said frankly very long time that the conservative ideologues in John Boehner's caucus are a problem because they're not interested in governing. And so what Democrats are using this is to underscore that they are not even willing to put Jesus (ph) -- the funding of DHS at a moment when we need it the most, first as opposed to some ideologues who are trying to prove a point because they don't like something that the president did. DICKERSON: I'm going to switch now to conservative political action conference, which was here this week, where a lot of 2016 candidates were trying out, they all talk about Ronald Reagan, Peggy, you worked for them. Did you see any Reagans out there on the horizon?

NOONAN: Oh, great thing about being a Reagan is when they're on their way up you can never tell, you always see a Reagan in retrospect if you know what I mean. You can sort of see greatness as time passes.

Look, what I saw is a lot of interesting folk, some real awkward moments. I think this is test driving the car, you know. I think it's getting in and saying, I don't know, does the brake work here? Is the gas working right?

So, there were moments of awkwardness, we'll see how it goes. It seemed to me there were a lot of interesting candidates who had plenty of room for improvement, but looked kind of promising.

DICKERSON: Who is running the best race so far, Mark?

HALPERIN: Well, I think CPAC cleaved the field into basically three groups. There's three guys now who, barring some collapse, unexpected collapse, are going to be finalists in this: Jeb Bush, Rand Paul and Scott Walker, all very strong at CPAC, all can raise money, all understand the message they plan to drive straight to Iowa next year.

And I think Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz were both very solid, and they are kind of in their own tier right now to me. They are right at the precipice of being in that group saying we are finalists in this.

Everybody else: Rick Perry, Chris Christie, Mark Huckabee who didn't to go CPAC, I think those guys -- Rick Santorum -- those guys have to fight their way in to say we are going to be finalists in this contest.

DICKERSON: Anybody in the Republican field look like a real threat to the Democrats, to the Democrat Hillary Clinton as it stands right now?

CARDONA: Well, I've said before, that if Jeb Bush makes it to the nomination and it's a big if, I do think that he would be formidable, because I think on all of the issues that right now Republicans are hugely vulnerable on, including their stance on immigration, including their ability to reach out to growing Demographics that they know they need to in order to reach the White House, Jeb Bush has a history, his family has a history, of being able to do that well.

But I just don't see it happening at the moment.

I do think did he well at CPAC. I think he was better than what people anticipated and he handled it well, but I don't know that this is for sure it's not a done deal because the conservatives again are going to continue clocking on immigration and Common Core.

DICKERSON: Kevin, I want to ask you - Peggy mentioned test driving the car. There was a tiny moment when the clutch ground with Scott Walker talking about his ability to take on global problems. He said if I can stand up to the protesters I can manage the world.

MADDEN: Look, I mean, I think too much was made of that. I think one of the lessons that Scott Walker has to take on this will be the test of whether or not his candidacy is up to par. Is when you are -- when you're in Madison, Wisconsin, and you make a mistake nobody notices. When you are a potential presidential candidate everybody notices, the Democrats jump in, and three or four other campaigns that see to their advantage will seek to elevate that.

The big task for Scott Walker now is does he learn from this, and does he become a stronger candidate as a result.

So, I think that is -- I think -- you know, look, the president himself actually compared ISIS to the JV, right, that's the actual commander-in-chief. That's a bigger problem.

If we're going to have a real debate out it. If we're going to have a real debate about, that's a bigger problem. Scott Walker has to learn from this mistake, not to make those type of awkward parallels and then move on.

HALPERIN: I learned talking to people at CPAC I think there's two frontrunners now, Walker and Bush. Bush, everybody talks about he's going to have to defend from the right flank.

To me, his big challenge is more geographic as the front runner, Iowa and New Hampshire, where does he play, where can win.

Walker, I think, coming out of CPAC has a different challenge, which is people think of him as playing in both lanes, right, which is a strength, both social and religious conservative and populist wing as also the establishment wing.

How does he balance that? How does he keep winning favor with the establishment wing that doesn't want Jeb Bush while not alienating people on the left. He balances on the populist (inaudible), he balanced that brilliantly at CPAC.

MADDEN: I think the other big question for Bush is he is the nominal front runner. You know, if you look at the organization and money. He has to make sure he doesn't run like a front runner. He has to run like he knows he has to earn this, particularly in those primary states with those activists who don't -- these activists don't want to be told who their nominee is going to be.

NOONAN: They do not want the run for the nomination to look like a hostile take over in which you nail down all of the strategists, all of the party eggheads and all of the money. That just -- I know that sort of looks like a path to success, but to me it also looks like path to danger.

MADDEN: Nobody ever put a bumper sticker on their truck that said "money and organization."

DICKERSON: Let me ask Mark. What happened to Chris Christie?

HALPERIN: I still think he's an undervalued stock here. He's the best brawler in American politics. And this is going to be a brawl. If he decides he's willing to run with less money, less organization, get in those debates and brawl, I think he can still be a player here.

But I'm amazed at how Republicans across the spectrum have written him off. Trouble raising money, Bush has locked up those fundraiser now, casting himself as an outsider.

He told me in a brief interview I did with him on Wednesday in New Jersey that the reason Jeb Bush is the frontrunner for the nomination is because he's the son and father -- the son and brother of presidents, that is going to be populous message. But if I'm Jeb Bush and I'm worried about who is going to be on the stage with me, I'd be more afraid of Chris Christie.

MADDEN: What is the Chris Christie argument though?

HALPERIN: Chris Christie is going to win because he got elected twice in blue state he can take it to Hillary Clinton.

NOONAN: One of the joy of politics, he's a natural campaigner. Can I point out Chris Christie has the opposite problem of Scott Walker. Scott Walker gets to say things in Wisconsin, the press doesn't notice. Chris Christie is across the river from Mark. He's across the river from the mainstream media. And they kill him every day.

CARDONA: One of the things that struck me coming out of CPAC is that every single candidate took a swing at Hillary Clinton. She was -- they were obsessive about that.

DICKERSON: They had targets.

CARDONA: Well, that's true. But none of the candidates I think -- and I saw this in all the coverage as well, really rose up to the level of being able to deal with foreign policy like she would be able to if she runs.

DICKERSON: Republicans, a lot of them said, if you want to stunt the liberal, ask them what Hillary Clinton achieved as secretary of state. What's the answer to that question?

CARDONA: And that will be a running talking point for sure.

NOONAN: Well, it's a running question.

CARDONA: Well, the short answer to that is that she focused on making sure that America was stronger abroad than it was when Obama took office. And that is absolutely the case. You know, of course Republicans will disagree. HALPERIN: Well, that's not an answer, that's not an answer.

CARDONA: Of course it's an answer.

HALPERIN: It's not a good one.

CARDONA: An important thing to put that out there.

HALPERIN: Besides Iran and Cuba, name a country who the United States has better relationships now than when President Obama took office.

CARDONA: Well, the world is a very complicated place. What Hillary Clinton was able to do is to make sure that those conversations continued to happen behind the scenes, which is something that had to be repaired when President Obama took office. And nobody can say that that is not true.

And I think moving forward, that is going to be her focus if she runs, she's going to focus on how those conversations took place. What she was able to accomplish if Iran gets done, for example. She will have done a lot to make sure, to do the ground work for that to be successful.

NOONAN: I think Carly Fiorina had the best line here. Her criticism of Hillary was that getting on a plane and going some place is something you do, it's an activity. It is not an achievement. You know, I think that kind of broke through the other day.


CARDONA: And that was a good talking point, but when you go back and look at what her achievements might have been at HP, eh, you know.


DICKERSON: Let me ask, before we get to the Fiorina-Clinton knockdown, Mark, the fundraising questions for Clinton, how big a problem?

HALPERIN: They're big and they're careless. Look, I have sympathy for the Clintons on this on this because they were taking money to do great work around the world. But she has known she has wanted to run for president.

Taking money from foreign governments which, when she was in State Department they didn't think was an acceptable good idea, continuing to give paid speeches, I don't quite understand why when this is clearly areas of vulnerability, why she keeps doing these things, why she allowed these things to happen.

Really it's almost inexplicable, because this gives Republicans something to talk about. It gives them something that does break through, you know, plays right in to the narrative about the Clintons that is amongst the most dangerous...


DICKERSON: Peggy, what would you do -- what should Hillary Clinton do to get out from under that? Give back the money? Give a big speech explaining it?

NOONAN: No. Giving back the money would be great. I guess what you're saying is, how do you get rid of this as an issue? I suspect it's simply going to continue as an issue. I don't think she will give a big speech. And I don't think she will give back the money.

And there are Republican criticisms that the money for the Clinton Foundation went not only for wonderful good things, but also for some things that were essentially keeping the Clintons going as an operation.

So, look, that will work its way out. The biggest speech Hillary has to make is the one that tells us why she is running for president, what she wants to do. End of story.

CARDONA: Let's be clear, the Clinton Foundation is a global foundation. They take money from organizations, corporations, governments, individuals, from all over the world because of the kinds of things that they are doing to make millions of people's lives better.

Give back the money? I don't think it's going to happen. If Bush becomes the nominee, should the Bush Library give back money that Kuwait has given? That Saudi Arabia has given the Bush Library?

HALPERIN: It's not his library. It's one thing that's...


CARDONA: It's his family's library. It's not her foundation.

HALPERIN: Well, do you want start talking about Hillary Clinton's brothers and about the president's -- Roger Clinton? I mean, that's not a good...


DICKERSON: I feel like John Boehner here.


DICKERSON: Don't make me do my Boehner impersonation.

MADDEN: The big hangover here is that this is -- the American public looks at this and they see the Clinton drama coming back. And is it something that they want to revisit, particularly at a time where Hillary Clinton's argument, and the key argument I think any presidential candidate has to make is, what is my vision in this contest for the future?

And it's hard when lot of voters are constantly reminded of all the bad things about the Clintons, and the money scandals, and the influence scandals. And that is something that I think really hurts. It really hurts Hillary Clinton.

CARDONA: I think when voters compare the records of the last Clinton and last Bush, I think Hillary Clinton is going to come out winning.

DICKERSON: And that is the last word. Thanks to all of you. Thank you, we'll be right back in a minute.


DICKERSON: Be sure to join us next week as we continue our coverage of the 50th anniversary of the Selma march for voting rights. Senior White House correspondent Bill Plante, who covered the march for CBS 50 years ago, will interview President Obama in Selma for CBS News.

And we'll have some of that conversation here on FACE THE NATION next Sunday.

We'll be back in a moment.


DICKERSON: That's it for us today. Bob will be back next week. Thank for watching FACE THE NATION.

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