BOB SCHIEFFER: Today on Face the Nation. Breaking news this morning: Another scandal comes to light in the Secret Service. Trouble at the Veteran's Administration. And what is Vladimir Putin up to in Ukraine?
BOB SCHIEFFER VOICEOVER: And as the world watches the heartbreaking story of the missing Nigerian schoolgirls, what can the US do to help? We'll sit down with former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers and Clarissa Ward, who's on the scene in Ukraine. Plus, we'll talk with Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, who's shaking things up on Capitol Hill. CBS News got the first look from inside the Washington Monument which reopens tomorrow after three years of repairs...and as always, we'll have analysis on all of this from an all-star panel. 60 Years of News because this is Face the Nation.
BOB SCHIEFFER: And good morning again, We begin with the news from overnight: The Washington Post reports that top officials of the Secret Service ordered officers who the Post says are part of a squad that patrols the perimeter of the White House to leave their posts and drive to southern Maryland to check on then Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan's assistant who was having trouble with her neighbors.
The Post says these trips took place over a two month period in 2011. The Secret Service told us this morning they happened only over a fourth of July weekend when the president was not at the White House. Sullivan has since retired as Secret Service director but said in a statement to the Post that "the Secret Service has always taken seriously threats made against employees."
Even so, the Post says the agents involved were so concerned about being pulled away from their assignments that they kept records of the episode and reported it to superiors. We'll have more as that story develops, we'll turn now to the ongoing crisis in Ukraine where today parts of eastern Ukraine voted on becoming independent republics. A possible first step towards succession to Russia, just as we saw in Crimea. Clarissa Ward is in Donetsk, Clarissa.
Clarissa Ward: Good morning, Bob. Well we have been to quite a few polling stations this morning and there are some long lines out there. Everybody who we saw with the exception of one young woman appeared to be voting yes for independence but let's be clear this vote does not meet any international standards. We visited polling stations where there were no booths where people were simply voting out in the open at a large desk. We saw one older woman who voted twice because she panicked that she accidentally voted no the first time round and one young man who was allowed to vote in a polling station where he wasn't actually registered. And then of course there are the many people who don't support the pro-Russian separatist movement. They are not even voting in today's referendum because like the government of Ukraine and of the US and much of the international community they view this vote as being illegal and illegitimate.
Bob Schieffer: Alright well thank you so much Clarissa and we'll be watching.
And joining us now, the chairman of the House Intelligence committee, Mike Rogers. Mr. Chairman, so far so good over there. No violence at least. But I want to ask you about this thing that happened last week where Putin said he was going to pull back his troops that were amassed along the border. Have you seen any indication that he's done that?
REP. MIKE ROGERS: Well, the only thing we've really seen, Bob, is that they're pulling troops out but for the sole purpose of rotating out their conscripts. They have a two year conscription there in Russia. Those two years are up for a lot of those forces along the border, so they're really rotating them out. I would not read that he is wholesale pulling his troops back. This is a function of making sure he has fresh conscripts up along the border.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, we'll sure be watching that. I want to ask you also this morning about this horrible story that we keep learning about in Nigeria. The kidnapping of almost 300 schoolgirls. We understand the United States has sent some help in there. Do you know what it is exactly we're doing?
REP. MIKE ROGERS: Well, there's a hostage negotiator and then some military advisors. But here's the point on this, Bob, and if we look at this, this was a problem in 2010 when Boko Haram said that they wanted to be part of al Qaeda. That's where the problem started.
And so this policy, this new ecosystem of terrorism that's all the way from Nigeria all the way across northern Africa, the HUAP in Yemen, all the way over to Pakistan and Afghanistan, you can't base your policy on what's trending on Twitter. It has to be more than hashtags and selfies. This is a huge and growing problem that's really been relatively ignored.
I just got back from Chad. Chad has been screaming for help from the United States for two years. On one front Boko Haram, on the north they have al Qaeda, and in their southeast they have Al-Shabaab. And they're fighting to try to push all of that back candidly not a lot of help from the United States.
Can we help with the girls? I think we can and we should and we must. But we also have to worry about the women of Afghanistan, some 11 million. We're getting ready to walk away from them. In Syria you have 12 million women who are under siege. Some 150,000 Syrians. Last week a school was bombed. Twenty-five kids killed. This is going to continue to happen unless we have a robust, holistic approach to what is radicalism and extremism popping up all around the world.
BOB SCHIEFFER: There's so much to ask you about this morning. Let me just as you simply what is your take on this thing involving the Secret Service?
REP. MIKE ROGERS: Well, it's unfortunate. I will tell you it's an important organization. There are some fine, upstanding, great Secret Service agents who are patriots for their country. This is just one of those black marks that make you scratch your head. You have to ask if there is a leadership culture that needs to be ripped out at the Secret Service.
This is just one more example of a leadership failure at the Secret Service. Very, very concerning. When you have someone removed from a post whose primary responsibility is to protect the president, and the White House and its occupants, that is very, very concerning.
And the one concern that I have is during that episode the new director was the chief of staff, so they're going to have some explaining to do. And maybe they've got great explanations. But they're going to have to come up and explain. And if they can't get this piece right I think you're going to have to look at a cultural leadership shift in the Secret Service.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Speaking of leadership shifts, these stories have continued out of the V.A. where these veterans who have life-threatening diseases, some of whom have actually died while they were waiting to try to get in to a V.A. hospital, is the secretary over there, Eric Shinseki, is he going to have to go?
REP. MIKE ROGERS: Well, he's had five years to fix this problem. Five years. And what I found most disturbing about this is that when the Veterans Affairs committee was trying to get him up, it took a subpoena to get him up to answer questions. That's a huge problem.
You cannot, as a veteran myself, walk away, turn your back on what also appears to be a cultural problem throughout the Veteran's Affairs of trying to make it look good without it being good. Our soldiers, our sailors and Marines, our airmen, they deserve better. We have to get this right. And if you can't come up to Congress and say, "Here's exactly how I'm going to fix it," then he needs to move along.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, how did it get into the mess that it's in?
REP. MIKE ROGERS: Well, again, it's hard to know. The money has been there. We've appropriated every year. Congress has been very generous to the V.A. We've tried to improve mental health issues and other things. And services and access. It just sure seems that they can't quite get it right at the mid-management level at the Veteran's Affairs.
And it is frustrating. And I hear it when I'm back home in my district. Every week somebody brings a new problem about the Veteran's Affairs and their inability to get it right. That's a leadership problem. And, again, if Mr. Shinseki can't come here and tell Congress how exactly he's going to change that culture there, I think we need to find somebody who's willing to go in and shake up the Veteran's Affairs so that their number one, two and third priority is taking care of the men and women who serve this country.
BOB SCHIEFFER: We really haven't heard all that much from the president about this.
REP. MIKE ROGERS: Unfortunately. I think he needs to focus on it. He's going to have to spend some time and focus on this issue. We've got soldiers deployed. They're coming home. Some are going to still be injured and wounded in ways that are going to need all of America's support. The first line of defense in that is their Veteran's Affairs in the V.A. where they can get good healthcare, mental services and others. If that part isn't working their integration into society is going to be less successful. We should not stand for that.
And so, yes, the president is going to have to get involved. He's going to have to make a decision on Mr. Shinseki. Just saying that he's okay and everything's fine is not going to work in a case were we know for a fact that veterans have lost their lives because of the bureaucracy inside the V.A.
BOB SCHIEFFER: All right. Mr. Chairman, thank you so much.
REP. MIKE ROGERS: Thank you.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Earlier, we travelled to the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia where Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is now chancellor and we asked him about the problems in the V.A.
SECRETARY ROBERT GATES: ...If there's one bureaucracy in Washington that's more intractable than the Department of Defense, it's V.A. And, you know, I give a lot of credit to Eric Shinseki. I think Secretary Shinseki has all the will in the world to do the right thing by veterans. He's totally committed. But he sits astride a very tough bureaucracy. The administration has protected the V.A. in terms of budgets and so on. I think, my own view is that the problem is below the Secretary. And I think it's really important for him to delve into this. And then if there are real problems, then to hold people accountable.
BOB SCHIEFFER: I mean, I think its fine to have these congressional investigations, and certainly this deserves one, but it seems to me the priority should be some kind of a crash program to make sure these people that were supposed to be on these lists for treatment get treatment immediately. I mean, for them, it's not a bureaucratic problem, it's a life or death problem, it seems to me. Is that possible? Can't they do that?
SECRETARY ROBERT GATES: Yes, they can do that. And I think that that's why it really needs to be handled on an urgent basis within the executive branch. We can't wait for a congressional investigation and findings and so on. This needs immediate action. And I'm hopeful that Secretary Shinseki will take that action. And then, as I said, hold people accountable.
BOB SCHIEFFER: John Boehner said he didn't think it was Shinseki's fault. He thought it was just systemic. And that seems to be what you're saying here.
SECRETARY ROBERT GATES: I worked very closely with Secretary Shinseki and I know that he and I would agree to a lot of things. And unless he personally bird-dogged it, it was very tough for those things to get done in V.A. I had my own problems in the Department of Defense. But I know it was a challenge for him and frankly for his predecessors.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Secretary, we had this awful situation involving these missing Nigerian children. Is there anything the United States can do here?
SECRETARY ROBERT GATES: I think there is, Bob. I think that we have intelligence assets that, particularly technical intelligence assets that may prove useful. I think if we had Special Forces, advisers that could perhaps help the Nigerian military and police. I don't think we ought to be involved militarily at all, but I think we do have assets that could be brought to bear if the Nigerian government was willing to ask for our help.
BOB SCHIEFFER: I want to ask you about this situation in Ukraine. You have dealt with Vladimir Putin for a long time in various capacities in the United States government. What's he trying to do here?
SECRETARY ROBERT GATES: I think the key to understanding Putin is the past. Vladimir Putin is all about lost empire, lost glory, lost power. When he said that the collapse of the Soviet Union was the greatest geostrategic, geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century, he meant it...He moved into the Crimea after his pro-Russian president of Ukraine was overthrown. He did not want to risk losing that naval base or Russia's only warm-water port in Crimea. So he was going to take it over and frankly, that's, as far as I'm concerned, that's a done deal. There's nothing we can do to change that situation. What he wants to accomplish in eastern Ukraine, I'm not sure he knows at this point, other than to, in the long-term objective of protecting the Russians and making sure the Ukraine ultimately leans back toward Russia. I don't think he'll rest until there's a pro-Russian government in Kiev or a federated Ukraine where the eastern part of the country, for all practical purposes, looks to Russia.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Do you think, in the end, that's what we're going to wind up with? Because it seems like we don't have many cards in our hand that we can play here.
SECRETARY ROBERT GATES: Well, the president's in a tough, our president is in a tough spot. We really have very few tactical options. There is no real military option. And in the short term, there's not a lot we can do. My view is, if Putin is playing a long game, that's what we need to do. And we need to figure out how we can push back on the periphery of Russia, in terms of making sure those states have the independence to choose with whom they want to ally or have economic relations...I'm very worried about the Baltic states. I'm not worried about Putin sending troops in. But he, Russia has essentially an economic stranglehold on those countries.
And so my worry is that he will begin to exercise that influence and I think one of the contingents he thinks we, in the West, need to be thinking about is what kind of an economic safety net can we create for the Baltic states so they're given no, so they have a choice other than knuckling under to Russia.
BOB SCHIEFFER: We see a longer-than-usual military parade in Moscow today, showing off all the weapons. Putin shows up in the Crimea. What do you make of that?
SECRETARY ROBERT GATES: I think this is, again, about asserting Russia's place on the international stage. Basically saying Russia is back. And particularly under his leadership, that they are a force to be reckoned with. I think we have underestimated, for a long time, the magnitude of the humiliation that Russians felt with the collapse of the Soviet Union because it also involved the collapse of the Russian empire. And the way the West tried to teach them how to conduct their economy and their affairs and they bitterly resented it. So I think what we're seeing is Putin reasserting Russia's place as a superpower and a force to be reckoned with around the world.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Do you, I take it you do not see, though, Russia as posing the greatest national security threat to this country at this point?
SECRETARY ROBERT GATES: I think the greatest national security threat to this country at this point is the two square miles that encompasses the Capitol building and the White House.
BOB SCHIEFFER: He'll explain to us what he means by that? And he'll tell us a lot more in our next half hour.
In a minute, one of the Democrats' rising stars--Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren.
BOB SCHIEFFER: And we're back now with Senator Elizabeth Warren. Her new book, "A Fighting Chance," currently is in the number two position on the New York Times bestseller list. Senator, welcome to Face the Nation. I want to ask you first about this legislation you unveiled to allow people to refinance their student loans...
SEN. WARREN: Yep.
BOB SCHIEFFER: ...which you say is now higher than either credit card debt or auto loan debt in this country.
SEN. WARREN: That's right.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Already, Republicans said no way, no how. Senator Cornyn said it looks like just another way to raise taxes so is that it?
SEN. WARREN: No. So let's start by just reminding everybody what this is. Our young people are being crushed by student loan debt, 1.2 trillion dollars in outstanding student loan debt, and it is exploding. In less than a decade, student loan debt has gone up 71 percent for the average amount that young people are borrowing. This is a crisis that now is not just affecting families that get hurt by it, it's affecting the whole economy.
BOB SCHIEFFER: My mantra is that the Congress is broken, our whole political system is broken, and not much can get done. You take kind of a different take in your book. You say the system is rigged...
SEN. WARREN: It is.
BOB SCHIEFFER: ...rigged to help the rich people and the big banks.
SEN. WARREN. Yeah.
BOB SCHIEFFER: So what is your solution? What do you see as the way out of all of this?
SEN. WARREN: Well so, as I talk about in my book, what I really see, this is a first-hand account in the book. It's kind of the eyewitness from going to Washington, in different fights along the way, always running into the moneyed interest, so that Washington works for anyone who can hire an army of lobbyists and lawyers. It just doesn't work for regular families. So what I think that's going to have to be about is, they've got the concentration of money and power that makes sure that every rule works for those who are rich. What we have on the other side, is we've only got two things. We've got our voices and we've got our votes. And we've got to make sure we get heard. That's the only way we ever get a level playing field.
BOB SCHIEFFER: We've got a Democratic administration. President Obama's been in there for more than five years now.
SEN. WARREN: He has.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Is your fight with him or is it with the Republicans?
SEN. WARREN: You know, look. As I make clear in the book. I have had very strong and frankly, pretty public, disagreements with both the Bush administration and with the current administration particularly during the financial bailout over the treatment of the biggest banks. My view was there was too much-and still is-too much of tilting the playing field in their favor. But I also want to say on this, we always have to remember. I got out there in fought for a little consumer financial protection bureau, idea behind it was that credit card companies and mortgage companies shouldn't be able to cheat ordinary families. Do you know who stood up for that? It was President Obama.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Let me ask you a little bit about politics. You've got midterm elections coming up here. My sense is that there's a very good chance that Republicans are going to take back the senate.
SEN. WARREN: Well, I'm going to be out there fighting that. I'll tell you that because I know which side, which party stands with American families, stands with America's middle class, who wants to give the middle class a fair shot. And so I'm going to be out there doing everything I can for the Democratic candidates. We've got good people in the United States Senate. We've tried to move something forward. Take a look at the House if you want to see what happens when Republicans take over. What are they on now, is this their fiftieth vote to repeal Obamacare? That's not how you run a country. We have real issues we need to deal with. Minimum wage, student loan debt, equal pay for equal work, a little accountability for the big financial institutions.
BOB SCHIEFFER: You know, your fans say you're a populist, but your critics say you're just basically a socialist.
SEN. WARREN: (LAUGHS) I just don't know where they get that. You know, look at the issues. I mean this, really. Let's take a look at them. Minimum wage? I just believe nobody should work full time and live in poverty. And you know what? Most of America agrees. Student loans, I don't think the U.S. government should be making tens of billions of dollars in profits off the backs of our students, which is what the current student loan system is doing. And I think most Americans agree with me on that.
BOB SCHIEFFER: You know two years into your term now, you have written a book, that's exactly what Barack Obama did two years into his Senate term. But you've also said about 19 times that you are not running for President. So I'm going to give you a chance to say for the 20th time -
SEN. WARREN: I am not running for President.
BOB SCHIEFFER: But if Hillary Clinton decides not to run, will you reassess?
SEN. WARREN: You know, I am not running for president, but let me say something about that book, because it's important. This is my tenth book, not my first or second. This book is about my life's work. I have written all these books about what's happening to America's middle class and I have watched as America's middle class just gets hammered one more time and one more time and one more time. I have watched as Washington tilts more and more and more toward the rich and the powerful. I wrote this book because I'm out there trying to make sure that every kid gets a fighting chance.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Are you going to endorse Hillary Clinton?
SEN. WARREN: We're not there. This is about the issues on the table right now. We've got to talk about student loans, we've got to talk about minimum wage, we have got to make changes, and we have an election coming up in 2014 where those issues are going to be right on the table. People will have voted and the voters will have a chance to look at how the senate voted.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Elizabeth Warren, thank you so much.
SEN. WARREN: Thank you, it's good to be here.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Thank you. And we'll be right back.
BOB SCHIEFFER: And on this mother's day, a little poem I wrote in honor of my own mom some years ago.
What is there to say about Moms that hasn't been said before? Here's just a couple of things, maybe three or four. When you were just a little one, who was it that taught you a song?
And even more important, the difference 'tween right and wrong? When others turned against you,
Who was always there? Who always took your side no matter when or where?
If you're like me it was Mom.
Who kept the family going, whether times were good or not?
Who always could remember the things that we forgot Birthdays, homework deadlines A hundred things or more. And on school days, wide awake or not Got you out the door?
If you're like me it was Mom.
Who told you you were just as good as any rich man's son? And not to look for some excuse
To do what needed done. You've known movers and shakers, some may even know you.
But in the final accounting, who taught you most that's true?
If you're like me it was Mom.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Some of our stations are leaving us now, but for most of you we'll be right back with a lot more Face the Nation. Stay with us.
BOB SCHIEFFER: And welcome back to Face the Nation and as promised more nor from our interview with former Defense Secretary and we pick up where we left off when we asked him if he considered Russia a serious threat to our national security.
SECRETARY ROBERT GATES: I think the greatest national security threat to this country at this point is the two square miles that encompasses the Capitol building and the White House.
BOB SCHIEFFER: How do you mean that?
SECRETARY ROBERT GATES: If we can't get some of our problems solved here at home, if we can't get our finances in a more ordered fashion, if we can't begin to tackle some of the internal issues that we have, if we can't get some compromises on the Hill that move the country forward, then I think these foreign threats recede significantly into, as far as being a risk to the well-being and the future of this country.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Do you think these things, this sort of gridlock that Washington finds itself in now, do you think this is seen in other countries as, does it hurt our credibility abroad?
SECRETARY ROBERT GATES: Oh, absolutely. I think that other countries are watching us very carefully. Our allies are watching to wonder whether we will be there for them if they are challenged internally or externally. Other countries, whether it's Russia or China or Iran or North Korea, are looking to see if what they perceive as our withdrawal from international leadership, presents them opportunities down the road that they can take advantage of so I absolutely believe that other countries are watching us. You know, getting out, withdrawing from wars that don't end in clear-cut victories is a tricky business. And to avoid the impression that you're withdrawing from global responsibility. Nixon and Kissinger I think don't get the credit they deserve for diverting attention from our loss in Vietnam by their initiatives with the Soviet Union and China in the early 1970s, which sent the message to the rest of the world, We may have had this problem in Vietnam, but the United States is still going to be the preeminent superpower in this world. And we're still going to be in the catbird seat when it comes to dealing with the major powers.Unfortunately, there aren't opportunities like that right now. And the more the only message people hear is that we're coming home and we're going to do nation building at home, the more they wonder whether we will be there for them if they're needed, if we're needed.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Your book, "Duty," was a fascinating look from the inside. But I want to ask you, were you surprised at the, some of the responses to your book? Because I think a lot of people, and I will say myself, I was actually surprised that you said some of the things that you said while the president was still in office. You were, you were pretty hard on him. Why did you, were you surprised at the response you got from some corners?
SECRETARY ROBERT GATES: I was surprised that a particular journalist cherry-picked quotes out of the book to make it appear to be more critical of President Obama than it actually is. And frankly, that narrative only lasted a few days, and as more journalists and more reviewers actually read the book, they realized that it, as the reviewer said, it's a pretty balanced and straightforward accounting. I think that, I think that I'm very fair toward both President Bush and President Obama and give them a lot of credit for a lot of things. And I, you know one of the conclusions of the book is that I saw them both take decisions that were against their political interest, but in the best interest of the United States, and for that, they had my highest respect.
BOB SCHIEFFER: You were advisor to how many presidents and how many administrations were...
SECRETARY ROBERT GATES: Well, I worked for eight presidents. I worked closely probably with four, maybe five.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Do you feel that President Obama made the best use of you that he could?
SECRETARY ROBERT GATES: Actually I think I did, I think he did. I think we had a, we had a very good relationship. He was, we were very candid with one another. I met privately with him a great deal. I supported virtually every decision he made for the first two years I was Secretary. I began to disagree with some of the decisions in early 2011. I didn't agree with the way we handled President Mubarak in Egypt. I didn't agree with intervening in Libya. And we began to have some differences over the defense budget, but he always treated me well and with a great deal of courtesy. He was probably more patient with me sometimes than I deserved. But I think, I think we had a, I think we had a very productive, good relationship. And, you know, I joked with people, sometimes people write Washington memoirs to say, "If they'd only done what I recommended." The truth is, a lot of the time, he did do what I recommended so I felt pretty good about it.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Talk a little bit about Syria. I mean, it's become just this humanitarian and strategic disaster. A hundred and fifty thousand dead, 11,000 children dead, three million refugees. Three years ago, President Obama called on Assad to go, but he's still there. Is he winning?
SECRETARY ROBERT GATES: Yes. I think that it'll be hard for him to reassume control over the entirety of Syria, but if winning means remaining as president of Syria, I think he is winning. I think, you know, in all honesty, having just said some very positive things, I think that this, this is one of the sad stories of the president's foreign policy. And I think last fall was a real low point, where we went in the space of a week from saying, "Assad must go," to "Assad must stay," in order to fulfill the agreement sponsored by Putin to get rid of the chemical weapons that Assad had used against his own people. And I think we got distracted and lost our perspective. There have been hundreds of atrocities against civilians in this civil war. Fourteen hundred were killed in that chemical attack. But as you say, 150,000 were killed in, by conventional means. And we got, we got distracted from the 150,000 for the 1,400. And, and I think that it has, and the Geneva negotiations have collapsed. I think there was a chance for the administration to do something that, and others in the region, to do something early on in the civil war. I think was, I think Assad was back on his heels and a significant amount of assistance at that time might have made a big difference. Now I think it's very difficult.
BOB SCHIEFFER: So what, can we live with what's happening there? I mean...
SECRETARY ROBERT GATES: Well I think...
BOB SCHIEFFER: ...what do we do now?
SECRETARY ROBERT GATES: ...I think we may have to.
BOB SCHIEFFER: We may have to? And you, you don't see very much changing there, right?
SECRETARY ROBERT GATES: Well, I certainly don't see a diplomatic solution.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Yeah. I want to ask you about China. There are increasing signs they are becoming even more aggressive. In the last couple of days we hear about the Chinese trying to put an oil rig in that area claimed by both Vietnam and China in the South China Sea. I'm told they sent 80 ships to patrol the area. And according to the Vietnamese, they rammed a couple of Vietnamese vessels. Where does this go?
SECRETARY ROBERT GATES: I think that what we're seeing is a manifestation of what we were talking about earlier. And that is, if there is a perception that the U.S. is withdrawing back home, then other countries are going to look for opportunities to advance old nationalist ambitions or satisfy revanchist claims. And I think, you know, this is what I was referring to when I said you may see more frequent conflicts and confrontations in the future if people don't believe the United States is willing to assert its role, if you will, as a guardian of the international order. You know, a lot of people don't like to hear that, but it's a role we've played for decades. It doesn't necessarily mean getting ourselves involved in conflict all the time. But it does mean a presence and it means that people know that when we say we will do something, we will do it.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Have you ever thought of running for president?
SECRETARY ROBERT GATES: Absolutely not. Two words, instant divorce.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Secretary, it's always a pleasure to talk to you.
SECRETARY ROBERT GATES: Thank you, Bob.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Thanks so much.
BOB SCHIEFFER: We'll be right back with our panel. Stay with us.
BOB SCHIEFFER: And joining us now for some analysis, David Ignatius of The Washington Post and Michael Crowley, who wrote the cover story for this week's Time Magazine on Vladimir Putin, and our own State Department correspondent Margaret Brennan. David, let me just start with you. It was very interesting to hear Secretary Gates. It's always interesting to hear these officials after they've been there and they can step back. A little time has passed. I think his book was a fairly balanced account, as he argued in this interview. But he wasn't afraid to say that they've made some (UNINTEL) mistakes.
DAVID IGNATIUS: No, but the reason that Secretary Gates was so effective and so (UNINTEL) this I thought throughout your interesting interview with him, he is smart. He's bipartisan. He's served presidents from both parties. And he's tough. And he kept saying about Shinseki at the V.A., "Shinseki needs to impose accountability. He needs to go in there and dig."
And I've watched Secretary Gates, covering the Pentagon, fire people. And if you did the wrong thing in Bob Gates' eyes, you were out. And he imposed a degree of accountability on that big, impossible to manage place, that is rarely seen. And I think that's really the message I'd take away from that interview. That you talk about the Secret Service problems. They need accountability in (UNINTEL) and somebody to just go in and look at what happened and fire the people who did things wrong. Same thing with the V.A. Same thing with the kind of policies in our financial sector that Elizabeth Warren talks about. That seems like the missing thing right now in our public life, is holding people accountable, not in a partisan, nasty way but in the sense of good public management.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, I mean to your point, I remember very well when the Air Force, what turned up as being kind of careless with handling nuclear weapons, he fired not only the Air Force chief of staff--
DAVID IGNATIUS: And the secretary.
BOB SCHIEFFER: --he also fired the secretary as--
DAVID IGNATIUS: I remember being around the building right after that. And I'll tell you, Bob, people were scared of being seen to be making mistakes in the eyes of Secretary Bob Gates. The whole place tightened down. And everybody started, "Well, I better better get this right," which is the kind of management culture this town needs so badly.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Let's talk a little bit about Syria and what's going on there. He obviously said we should have done some things in the beginning, Margaret and also Michael, that we didn't do and now we (UNINTEL) we had. Where do you see this thing coming (UNINTEL)?
MICHAEL CROWLEY: Well, it looks like Assad has the upper hand now. Their rebels have essentially given up-- I mean they dug into a hole in Homs, which was the birthplace of the revolution and have agreed to a deal with the government. There was a time when there was no talk of doing any kind of a deal with the government. It would be unthinkable.
The Obama administration I think might dispute that there was a time when you could really turn the course of this thing. That there was ever a way that we could manage that chaos to an outcome we want. And by the way Bob, I think there's some ambivalence about what outcome we do want. There are people in this administration who think that what would follow Assad might very well be worse. That you could have radical Islamist al Qaeda-affiliated elements running in these large portions of the country. And that would be very bad and Assad might be the least of the evils here.
The last thing I'll say, something worth watching very close, there's a debate underway right now about whether to provide more sophisticated weaponry for the rebels. In particular surface-to-air missiles that the rebels are pleading for and the Saudis are pressuring the Obama administration to provide.
There's this fascinating conversation happening right now. Can you outfit these surface-to-air missiles with biometric locks and GPS devices that would prevent them from being taken to other areas or given to other people and potentially to shoot down civilian airliners, which could freeze up the global air traffic system and cause an economic catastrophe. It's a really hard call, but there's a lot of pressure on the administration right now to move forward with that.
BOB SCHIEFFER: I think that is an excellent point. Well, Margaret, you're at the State Department every day. What do you think is going to happen here? Are we going to give more aid? Is there very much we can do right now?
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, I'll tell you no one at the State Department would say on the record what Secretary Gates did, which was there's no diplomatic solution, because officially that's the U.S. position. We can't negotiate with someone, Bashar al-Assad, who has no interest whatsoever in negotiating himself out of power.
What we are seeing quietly and that's not talked about is some of the increased support with getting the Gulf countries slowly on the same page in terms of who they're funneling money and weapons to. You've heard some progress on that front. And an awareness that the people who end up running the countries are not the ones necessarily who will be at the White House or here in Washington this week.
You do have the leaders in the Syrian opposition going to the White House later this week. And that's supposed to be a sign back home in Syria that the U.S. is standing by you. We are increasing non-lethal support officially. But it's more of a sort of (UNINTEL) in terms of support. The administration has been incredibly reluctant to really get full on engaged in a conflict--
BOB SCHIEFFER: Will the president see this leader? This rebel leader who is coming?
MARGARET BRENNAN: Unclear and officials were very noncommittal about that. Ahmad al-Jarba, who's now the head of the political opposition, is supposed to meet with Susan Rice. Perhaps the president could drop by, but there's no official statement of any of that. He did meet with Secretary Kerry this week.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Michael, you did the cover story on Putin. Let me just ask you what I asked Secretary Gates. What's this about? From Putin's point of view.
MICHAEL CROWLEY: I think it's about a couple things, Bob. The one thing that people will have heard a lot of discussion about is restoring Russia to its lost greatness. Putin very strongly felt a kind of humiliation in the collapse of Soviet Union and a feeling that the West kind of advanced on the Soviet Union's grave, expanded NATO, according to Putin violating explicit promises not to do so, right up to Russia's doorstep.
And a feeling that Ukraine was never really a real country. Should never have been an independent country. And he has accomplished a lot of that now. I'm not sure he will actually occupy or invade Ukraine, but he's fully destabilized it. It's going to force decentralization by the government in Kiev after these next elections. Prevent any short-term NATO-E.U. membership.
The other point that has not gotten as much attention is what's going on at home. Putin is over 80% in his approval ratings. That is a four year high. He is clamping down on opposition, forcing bloggers to register. Knocking some bloggers offline entirely. Shutting down develop stations. What few independent critical voices there were are now being silenced.
And this guy is consolidating his power. Remember, after a time it has not been a totally smooth ride for him. He did face some substantial protests in Moscow and other parts of the country after he returned to the presidency. So in some ways that may be the most important part of this game for him and I think he's winning it.
BOB SCHIEFFER: I think Mike Rogers made an interesting point talking about that we keep hearing about movement of those troops along the border. He says they're just replacing troops. That this is a rotation that's going on.
DAVID IGNATIUS: Putin clearly wants to keep that pressure on, I'm sure through the Ukrainian elections on May 25. Probably long after. We've learned a lot about Vladimir Putin watching him in this crisis. And the only disagreement I have with Michael is I think Putin is running a country that's much weaker economically and politically than we sometimes realize.
That the Russian financial markets have fallen on the order of 15%. And that was from a fairly weak base to start off with. It's basically a one commodity economy. Export of energy. It isn't modernizing in the way that its Western European neighbors are. Putin is going to have trouble keeping as many troops in the field for as long as he seems to want to. And I've finally been struck by the way in which he's kind of winging it. He massed those troops. Appeared ready to invade Ukraine. Then I think as he saw that the U.S. and Germany were standing together--
MALE VOICE: But I think (UNINTEL)--
DAVID IGNATIUS: --and thought that is not such a good idea and has been pulling back. And made a statement last week that he felt the elections should go forward. So we shouldn't think that this is a master player who's thought every move through the end of a chess game. He's a very aggressive, kind of bumptious leader who's trying to put his country back in the game. But I don't think he's thought it through all the way.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Are there more sanctions coming?
MARGARET BRENNAN: From the E.U.. You hear from European officials you could see some as soon as Monday. Certainly later in the week. But the U.S. is dealing with him much, much more slowly on this. And we did see some tightening. It's very interesting that the U.S. sanctioned Russia for the first time for its support of Syria.
Remember, they're also backing the Assad regime on a few fronts. Ukraine and others. They're not doing what we would like. By the (UNINTEL) this May 25th election that the U.S. and Europe are very focused on. And they're going to flood the country with election monitors. A tenth of that delegation's going to be Americans to try to see that this election actually becomes legitimate. And that'll help put in place a new government in Ukraine. But Putin maybe didn't even need to invade, because he certainly destabilized and achieved that aim.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Let me ask you all about this awful thing that's happening in Nigeria. You heard Secretary Gates say there really is not a lot they can do besides providing some intelligence help. Drones, things of that nature. But you also heard Mike Rogers say we should have gotten more involved in that whole situation a long time ago. Michael?
MICHAEL CROWLEY: Well, there has been a robust debate about that. And Hillary Clinton and her camp are on the defensive right now because it has been reported that she chose not to be put Boko Haram on the terrorist designation list a couple years ago. I think it's a reasonable argument. There were a lot of smart people who said there were reasons not to do this. The top State Department official who worked on Africa advised against it. And it's not entirely clear at all to me that that would have made a decisive difference in what's happening now.
One big problem we have had-- I actually was at the remarks the president before a meeting with the president of Nigeria when he was up for the U.N. in 2013, is human rights by Nigerian military, which I think have frozen now a cooperation with them to fight Boko Haram, because that military has been guilty of allegedly some serious human rights abuses. So it's really hard to find a neat solution on this.
The last thing I'll say though is I think Michael Rogers made the right point, which is that there is a lot of Islamic radicalism in northern Africa right now. You remember the terrible attack on the mall in Kenya. You remember when Mali was sort of the big foreign crisis of the day.
And this is a new iteration of al Qaeda that I think the government still is getting its arms around. How do we deal with it? It's very different from these core al Qaeda in Pakistan we're used to dealing with. A lot of these guys are not actually al Qaeda but they are affiliated with them and inspired by them. How do you fight that?
BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, although we all hope that somehow or another those children are still alive, nearly 300 of them, at this point there is no indication that they are. We really still don't know anything about that situation. Well, thank you all and we'll be right back.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Turning now to the good news--a turn we don't seem to take much anymore--I'm happy to announce that the Washington Monument which has been closed for repairs for 3 years--will reopen to the public tomorrow morning.
VOICEOVER: Washington without the monument has been like Thanksgiving without the turkey. Since its dedication in 1885, it has been standing watch over the city...the backdrop for speeches and marches that changed history...for rallies and protests...concerts and fireworks..and a destination for tourists from around the world.
But three years ago, a minor earthquake shook its very foundation and cracked the walls in 150 places. We've watched the repairs unfold from the outside...and even enjoyed a surprise light show.
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell took CBS This Morning's Jan Crawford inside for the first glimpse of a view Washington hasn't seen for a while.
JAN CRAWFORD: So this is the view Washington has not had for the last few years?
SALLY JEWEL: It is. And this is arguably the only way you can get any kind of view like this in Washington, short of flying over in an airplane, which of course you're not allowed to do so this is the best view there is in town.
BOB SCHIEFFER: A great view for a good price since local billionaire David Rubenstein agreed to pay half the 15 million dollar repair bill.
DAVID RUBENSTEIN: I try to call what I've done a patriotic philanthropy, which is to say try to give back to your country in any way you can and that's part of what I tried to do with the Washington Monument.
BOB SCHIEFFER: So the Washington Monument is back in business and don't worry about all that scaffolding going to waste--work is now underway to repair the capitol dome.
BOB SCHIEFFER: That's it; we'll see you next week, right here.
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Jackie Berkowitz, firstname.lastname@example.org