"Face the Nation" transcripts November 11, 2012: Sen. Graham, David Axelrod


(CBS News) Below is a transcript of "Face the Nation" on November 11, 2012, hosted by CBS News' Bob Schieffer. Guests include Senator Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Obama senior adviser David Axelrod and a roundtable of Peggy Noonan, David Gergen, Dee Dee Myers, and John Dickerson.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Today on FACE THE NATION, back to reality, the Petraeus thunderbolt and breaking the Washington gridlock.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I want to be clear. I'm not wedded to every detail of my plan. I'm open to compromise. I'm open to new ideas. I'm committed to solving our fiscal challenges. But I refuse to accept any approach that isn't balanced.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Can the two sides find a way to get the country back on a sound financial footing before draconian cuts in social and defense programs and an automatic tax increase go into effect at year's end?

SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: Well, this is an opportunity for the President to lead. Now, this is his moment to engage the Congress and work towards a solution that can pass both chambers.

BOB SCHIEFFER: If uncertainty over making a deal were not enough, Washington was rocked by the scandal involving CIA Chief David Petraeus. We'll get the latest on Petraeus and the chances of compromise on the financial argument from Republican Senator Lindsey Graham. We'll get inside on the President's thinking from his top strategist David Axelrod.

Then, we'll go to our all-star panel of analysts. Peggy Noonan of The Wall Street Journal, David Gergen of Harvard University, Dee Dee Myers of Vanity Fair, and our own John Dickerson. Election 2012 is in the books, but the story is just beginning. And this is FACE THE NATION.

ANNOUNCER: From CBS News in Washington, FACE THE NATION with Bob Schieffer.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Good morning again on this Veterans Day, and we begin with Senator Graham who's in Clemson, South Carolina. Senator, thank you for coming. You are on the Armed Services Committee, of course, so I want to start out with this out of the blue thunderbolt that hit Washington, Friday, concerning David Petraeus, the CIA director. He resigned saying he had exercised bad judgment and had an affair. CBS News and several other agencies have now confirmed that the FBI got on to this after a third woman told them she had received threatening e-mails from the woman he has reported to have had the affair with. So I guess I would just simply start, do you have any additional information to any of this?

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-South Carolina): No, not really. I was just as surprised and from a national point of view, General Petraeus turned around Iraq, we were losing Iraq when he took over. We had it in good spot. Unfortunately, I think the Obama administration has fumbled the ball with Iraq, but he turned Iraq around (AUDIO CUT) Afghanistan. He's a great general, and his resignation is-- is a loss for the country, but I understand why he had to resign.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Do you, there are-- there are all these stories, these-- these pieces of it that are now coming together that now there seems to be another woman who was involved--


BOB SCHIEFFER: --and she went to the FBI because she was frightened of these e-mails. Do you-- do you think there ought to be a congressional investigation to sort this out or is it best to just go on and leave it where it is?

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: Well, if there's no effect of the affair on national security, I think we need to move on. But at the end of the day, the one thing that has to happen in my view is we got to get to the bottom of Benghazi. I hate what happened to General Petraeus for his family and the families for those involved, but we have four dead Americans in Benghazi. We have a national security failure along in the making. I don't see how in the world you can find out what happened in Benghazi before, during, and after the attack if General Petraeus doesn't testify. So from my point of view, it's absolutely essential that he give testimony before the Congress, so we can figure out Benghazi and from the Congress's point of view, instead of doing this in a stovepipe way, you've got the Department of Defense that needs to explain themselves, the intelligence committee. God knows the State Department needs to answer for their behavior regarding Benghazi. I would suggest that we have a joint select committee of House and Senate members and we do this together, not have three different committees going off in three different directions, so we can get to the bottom of it like we did in Watergate and Iran-Contra. I think that would be smart for the Congress to combine resources.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, you're on record as having said that the administration either deliberately misled people about what led to the deaths of the ambassador and those three other Americans or it was just gross incompetence.


BOB SCHIEFFER: Now, Susan Rice, who is the U.N. ambassador at this point, was pretty much the point person on this for the administration. She went out on the Sunday shows and first said that it was not a-- a planned terrorist attack, but was result of a spontaneous demonstration. She is now being mentioned as one of those being considered for Secretary of State. Do you think what she said during the early days of this investigation? Should that factor in any way on whether she should be considered as Secretary of State?

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: Absolutely, without a doubt. I generally defer to presidential selections for cabinets and judges. I voted for both Supreme Court judges, not because I would have chose them, because the President has a lot leeway, and if they're qualified people, I-- I tend to support presidential picks. However, I do reserve until myself and other members of Congress the ability to say no when justified. I cannot imagine promoting anybody associated with Benghazi at this point. It's not just what she said after, how did the place become a death trap for months? Why did we keep it open or not reinforce it? There are too many questions to be answered. I don't quite frankly trust her rendition of Benghazi. So, I think Susan Rice would have an incredibly difficult time getting through the Senate. I would not vote for her unless there's a tremendous opening up of information explaining herself in a way she has not yet done.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, I mean, would you try to lead a move to-- to block her from getting the nomination if, in fact, she is nominated?