Face the Nation Transcripts November 16, 2014: Netanyahu, Romney
(CBS News) -- A transcript from the November 16, 2014 edition of Face the Nation. Guests included Benjamin Netanyahu, Mitt Romney, Charlie D'Agata, Claire McCaskill, Mike Lee, James Clapper, Ruth Marcus, Dana Milbank, Gerald Seib and Jeffrey Goldberg.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Today on FACE THE NATION, breaking news overnight, it appears ISIS has executed another American hostage.
A new video has surfaced indicating that American aid worker Peter Kassig has been beheaded, the latest on that. And we'll talk to former Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney; Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, two key Senate Armed Services Committee members, Missouri Democrat Claire McCaskill and Utah Tea Party Republican Mike Lee. Plus, America's top spy, National Intelligence Director James Clapper and a panel of analysts.
Sixty years of news because this is FACE THE NATION.
Good morning, again. We are going first to London and CBS News veteran Iraq correspondent Charlie D'Agata for more on this atrocity. Charlie.
CHARLIE D'AGATA (CBS News Foreign Correspondent): Good morning, Bob. Well, the video has surfaced this morning. It appears to show that same English-speaking ISIS militant seen in previous videos claiming to beheaded, Peter Kassig. Unlike those previous videos this one did not show Kassig alive before the alleged beheading. The twenty-six-year-old aid worker was captured in Syria just over a year ago while trying to deliver food. He's a former Army ranger who'd served in Iraq, and he had set up his own agency. His family is from Indiana. They released a statement today saying they're aware of the reports of the death of their treasured son, but they're awaiting confirmation from the U.S. government. National Security Council said this morning, they're trying to confirm the authenticity of the video but if true, the U.S. government is appalled by the brutal murder of an innocent American aid worker. The fifteen-minute video included a gory scene, which purported to show the beheading of more than a dozen Syrian soldiers and unlike previous videos that usually cut away, this one showed every last detail. Bob.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Thank you so much, Charlie. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu now joins us from Jerusalem. Prime Minister, thank you for coming, another of these hideous videos, another execution. Are we losing this war with ISIS?
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU (Israeli Prime Minister): No, I think you're fully engaged in it. First let me say that we see these horrors, this additional atrocity and the people of Israel are with you, we're with the family. We're with all the American people who understand the savagery that we're all up against and we support you in this battle. We support President Obama in leading this coalition. It has to be fought. ISIS has to be defeated and it can be defeated.
BOB SCHIEFFER: The last time we talked you said that Israel was ready to help in any way possible. You did not go beyond that. Are you going to take-- is Israel going to take a more active role in this fight against ISIS?
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: We're fully coordinated with the United States. We exchange all the information that needs to be exchanged and I really don't want to go beyond that, but I will say that I think we have a global conflict here. I mean, basically, the Middle East is awash with militant Islamists. The militant Islamists led by al Qaeda and-- and ISIS on the Sunni side, the militant Islamist led by Iran and Hezbollah. On the Shiite side, we want both of them to lose. The last thing we want is to have any one of them get weapons of mass destruction. Look at what ISIS is doing now with assault rifles and pickup trucks. Just imagine what Iran would do if it had nuclear weapons. So both our enemies are fighting one another. And when they are, we can both-- don't strengthen either one.
BOB SCHIEFFER: President Obama says his reaching out to Iran to help in the fight against ISIS has nothing to do with Iran's nuclear program. Should the United States try to work with Iran to fight ISIS?
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Iran is not your ally. Iran is not your friend. Iran is your enemy. It's not your partner. Iran is committed to the destruction of Israel just as the P5+1, the United States and the world powers are negotiating with Iran on nuclear agreement. The Ayatollah Khamenei, the ruler of Iran, calls for the annihilation of Israel. He just did that four days ago. He specified nine ways and reasons by which Israel should be destroyed. He has participated in rallies and chants of death to America, death to Israel. This is not a friend. Neither in the battle against ISIS nor in the effort, the great effort that should be made to deprive them the capacity to make nuclear weapons. Don't fall for Iran's ruse. They are not your friend.
BOB SCHIEFFER: There is about a week left to the deadline for the U.S.-Iran nuclear talks. Do you think the United States should agree to any concessions in order to make a deal with Iran?
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: I-- I want to be clear what has to be achieved. It's not merely preventing Iran from having nuclear weapons today, it's to prevent them, Bob, from having nuclear weapons tomorrow. That means that Iran should not be left with the residual capacity to enrich uranium that you need for an atomic bomb nor to have the long-range ballistic missiles, the ICBMs, intercontinental ballistic missiles to launch them. Why has Khamenei developed? Why have they developed ballistic missiles? They don't need them to reach Israel, they need them to reach the United States. Now they're asking for the capacity to make in very short order the nuclear bombs to put on those missiles that can reach the United States. They should be deprived from having that capacity to make those weapons. And I think that's what's on the table. I-- I think it's important to continue the sanctions. The alternative to a bad deal is not war. The alternative to a bad deal are more sanctions, tougher sanctions that will make Iran dismantle its capacity to make nuclear bombs.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Prime Minister, I would like to hear your characterization of how you think relations are now between the United States and Israel. As you well know, an administration official told the Atlantic that you were a chicken expletive. Have those comments affected your relationship with President Obama?
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Look, I'm not going to deal with anonymous sources that issue all sorts of critical statements. I think that's not appropriate. I will say this. I think the-- the relationship between Israel and the United States is very, very strong. I mean, there is bipartisan support for Israel which we appreciate. And not only that, I think support for Israel among the American people is at an all-time high. Because I think Americans, when they look around the Middle East and they see ISIS beheading Americans, they see the chants, death to American in Tehran, they see the fluidity that's an understatement, the-- the-- the fact that one state after another is collapsing, and they see this Democratic state of Israel admittedly a beleaguered democracy but one that stands for American values of democracy and personal liberty and free speech, and an organized society, and a hi-tech society. People instinctively understand that Israel is America's best ally in the United States, in-- in the Middle East, the best ally of the United States. And, you know, in Israel, we think America is our best ally, too, so there is a very, very strong bond there. And, yes, we can have disagreements between governments, that happens in the best of families. But we are one family.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Prime minister, thank you so much for joining us this morning.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Thank you, Bob.
BOB SCHIEFFER: And we go now to Salt Lake City where former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is standing by. Governor, thank you so much for joining us. This is the third American now that we've seen executed. You said recently about the President's foreign policy. I'm going to quote here, "It's tempting to think he is just inept." What should we be doing differently now in this war against ISIS and are we doing enough?
MITT ROMNEY (Former Massachusetts Governor): Well, first of all, what we should have done by now is have-- is have American troops staying by in-- in Iraq, that was something that we argued for years ago. The President didn't do it. Likewise, we should have armed the moderates in Syria a long time ago so that they'd be able to keep something like ISIS from being formed. And as a result of the mistakes that have been made in the past on the President's part, we now have terrible visions being shown on TV and-- and, of course, the threat to ourselves here in the homeland. And-- and the right course for this nation is to do whatever it takes to destroy and defeat ISIS. And, of course, it's appropriate for us to provide support to the Iraqi military and intelligence. That we should have been doing a long time ago. And I think the President's wrong in saying that under no circumstances will he consider ground troops. No one wants to put their own ground troops there. But if you're going to defeat something, you don't tell the enemy exactly what you plan on doing or what you won't do. You say we're going to defeat you regardless of the consequence.
BOB SCHIEFFER: So what you're saying, Governor, is that if it comes to it that we may have to send American fighting forces, not just advisors, but American fighting forces on the ground back into Iraq and, perhaps, even into Syria?
MITT ROMNEY: Well, no one wants that. But when the President says we're going to destroy ISIS, then you have to recognize that that is a statement which means something and it doesn't mean something if you say, well, we'll destroy it unless or only in the following ways you say instead we're going to do whatever it takes to destroy ISIS. And that's something that President is ultimately going to have to make a decision on. I hope that we're able to see ISIS destroyed with troops from Iraq and with troops from other neighboring nations. But if that does not work, I certainly hope it does work, but if it doesn't work, we have to be open to whatever it takes to destroy ISIS. It is not acceptable for ISIS to represent the kind of threat it does to the peace of the world and to our interests as Americans.
BOB SCHIEFFER: So sending American ground troops back into Iraq is still on the table?
MITT ROMNEY: Well, no one wants to call it on the table, I don't think. I just don't think you take things off the table. I don't think you say that we're going to destroy ISIS. When the President says, for instance, that ISIS is a cancer and it must be eliminated. He's right. But you don't say well, we're only going to use the following tools in doing so. You say we're going to do whatever it takes and, hopefully, we will be able to do that with other people's troops but if it takes our own troops, you don't take that as a-- as a source of our strength from the battlefield.
BOB SCHIEFFER: All right. Let's shift to domestic politics. Apparently, a big battle coming in the Congress over immigration, the President saying he may take unilateral action that will keep millions of people in this country, illegal immigrants, from being deported. Republicans say that's waving a red flag in front of a bull. They're going to try to stop that, some are even talking about maybe shutting down the government. What is your advice to the Republicans at this point, Governor?
MITT ROMNEY: Well-- well, my advice to the-- to the Democrats at this point and to the President, in particular, is take a breath. The President said that he was not on the ballot in the election that was just held but that his policies were. And the American people sent a very clear message to the President about his policies, they're not happy about them. The President ought to let the Republican Congress, the Republican House and the Republican Senate come together with legislation that they put on his desk which relates to immigration. And he can veto it or not, but let the Congress and let the selection have its say as opposed to jumping in and by doing something unilaterally and in a way which is extra constitutional, he's poking an eye into-- at the Republican leaders and in Congress and he's making it more difficult for there to be a permanent solution to this issue. What he's proposing to do is a temporary solution which would ultimately potentially be reversed by a Republican President. It's the wrong way to go. It doesn't help the people that are really are hurt by the lack of policy in this area. And it's-- it's going to set back as opposed to bring forward the-- the needed reforms that the American people want.
BOB SCHIEFFER: If it came to shutting down the government to prevent him from doing that, would you advise Republicans to do that or would you want them to do something else?
MITT ROMNEY: Well, I think they've got to be more productive ways for us to be able to impress on the President the need to work for a permanent solution as opposed to a temporary stopgap solution. This idea of poking Republicans with a stick in the eye is not a good idea. He knows that. Look I had a circumstance where I fought very hard to get a majority in my state of Democrats whittled down a bit and so I ran Republican state senators and state representatives. We worked very hard, and guess what I lost. I didn't pick up a single seat. But instead of fighting the Democrat majority we sat down and said, you know, we got to go about the people's business. The President has got to learn that he lost this last election round. The American people spoke loud and clear. Let those people who were elected come together with a piece of legislation on this and other topics and then he has a chance to veto them, if he doesn't like them. But the idea of violating the principles of our Constitution which is a balance of power, checks and balances, that is something which is wrong and I think would not to be to the President's benefit.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Governor, thank you so much for being with us, this morning. We hope we'll see you again. We will hear next from Democrat Claire McCaskill when we come back in one minute.
BOB SCHIEFFER: We're back now with Missouri's Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill. You just heard Governor Romney. He seems to be saying keep the option of American troops going back in to Iraq on the table at least. You're a member of the Armed Services Committee, what's your take on that?
SENATOR CLAIRE MCCASKILL (Armed Services Committee/D-Missouri): Well, I think the President is trying to not repeat the mistakes of the past. That is we've got to have a unified Iraq with a competent military unless we want to tell the American people, it is our job for the-- as far as the eye can see, to, in fact, be the military of Iraq. So we are slowing down the advancement of ISIS. The strikes have been effective in terms of slowing their progress. We are working very hard with some of the moderate Sunnis who aren't with these guys because of their origin ideology. They're with them because of a political failure of Maliki in Iraq. So I do think we need to give time to this strategy to work and make sure that for the first time we have the Arab neighbors who have so much at stake in this war that they are participating fully instead of the United States carrying the entire load.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Let me talk a little bit about what he said on immigration. He said what the Republicans have been saying up on the Hill, the President taking unilateral action on immigration is a poke in the eye like waving a red flag in front of a bull. Are you comfortable with the President taking unilateral action?
SENATOR CLAIRE MCCASKILL: You know I'm not crazy about it. But let me say this, I'll tell what you a poke in the eye is. A poke in the eye is for the United States Senate almost a year and a half ago passing by a two-thirds majority and a comprehensive immigration bill with Republicans voting for it from places like Tennessee and South Carolina that just got re-elected by double digits. And Speaker Boehner has refused to debate one of the most complicated and difficult problems facing our country. They won't take our bill up. All he has to do next week if he doesn't want the President to act-- act is take up the Senate bill, amend it, change it, put up your own bill. Let's get back to doing our work instead of just blaming the President for everything.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, if-- if-- if you had your wish, would it be that the President not make the first move here, give the Republicans a chance to do something first?
SENATOR CLAIRE MCCASKILL: My wish would be that on Monday Speaker Boehner would say, you know, we've realized this election was about change and us being functional. Here is what we're going to do. We're going to come up with a health care plan and vote on it that-- to replace Obamacare, which they will not do. We're going to debate immigration, another serious problem in our country that deserves debate on the floor of the House. I am tired of a politics of, let's just blame the President, let's just say everything is wrong with the President, let's just say everything is wrong with Washington. We need a policy partner here to compromise and find consensus. I think that's what this election was about.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Let's talk about Democratic leadership. You were one of I think at least six Democrats who voted against Harry Reid to be-- to stay on as your leader in the Senate. Is leadership among Democrats one of the problems here?
SENATOR CLAIRE MCCASKILL: Well, I think this was a message from the American people. Our party got walloped and I think they're saying we need to change what we're doing. And I think change begins with leadership. It's just common sense, and it's not complicated.
BOB SCHIEFFER: So what do you-- what do you think, what do you do from here on?
SENATOR CLAIRE MCCASKILL: Well, I think we have to begin to find those things we can work on together. My hope the lame duck sets that tone. We're going to have to get a national security reform bill through. We've got to fund our government. I'd like us to fund our roads and bridges for longer than six months at a time. If we get out of this mode of just trying to make the other guys look bad, and get back to working on things we can agree on, that's why it's part of the, kind of moderate middle in the Senate I hope to be somebody who is driving people to the center instead of the politics of today which has a tendency to be on the edges.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Let me ask you this: Elizabeth Warren, the fiery populist from Massachusetts has now been part of the-- voted in as part of the leadership in the Senate. How do you feel about that? It's another woman in leadership. But is this going to leave the impression that the party is moving to the left when a lot of people think the only way that you can get anything done is if both parties move toward the center?
SENATOR CLAIRE MCCASKILL: I think that the leadership team, hopefully, may expand even more with more moderates in it. And by the way the same day that Elizabeth Warren was selected, so was Jon Tester, a flat top farmer from Montana who is about as salt of earth as you can get, and who is a moderate through and through and so his voice is going to be in that room along with Elizabeth Warren's.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Senator, thank you so much for being with us.
SENATOR CLAIRE MCCASKILL: You bet.
BOB SCHIEFFER: We'll be right back. We'll talk to some more Republicans in a minute.
BOB SCHIEFFER: For a third point of view, we turn to Republican Senator Mike Lee, conservative Republican I should add. He's from Utah but he joins us here in Washington this morning. We're glad to have you. Let me just ask you, Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, said there's no way that he's going to let the government shut down again. That he's done with that. But do you-- do you support that? Would you see circumstances where, for example, if the President takes unilateral action on immigration that you all might threaten to shut down this government?
SENATOR MIKE LEE (Armed Services Committee/R-Utah): I think Senator McConnell is right. I think we're not heading into a government shutdown and there are a lot of reasons for that. One of them has to do with the fact that this President has a few options in front of him. Now he can listen to the American people who have just spoken just weeks after he said that his policies will be on the ballot. And one of those policies was, in fact, possible executive action on amnesty. He can listen to the American people, which I think would be good or he can turn away from what the American people have said. Look, ultimately, this Congress is a Congress that's neither Republican nor Democratic, it's the American people's congress. And Congress is going to stand up to the President and the American people expect them to do that. Seventy-four percent of those who've voted in last week's election oppose the President taking this kind of unilateral executive action. And I think even if he doesn't respect elections, he at least needs to respect the rule of law. Ours is not a government of one, and he doesn't have the legislative power.
BOB SCHIEFFER: But what if he does? I mean how far will you be willing to go to stop it?
SENATOR MIKE LEE: You know exactly what we do may depend on what he does and when he does it. How he goes about it, and what his proposed basis for doing that is. It's difficult for us to know how best we should respond when we don't know what he's going to do yet. But we're standing ready looking at the fact that it's important for us to defend the rule of law and to make sure that the institutional prerogative of Congress, which again belongs to neither party, it just belongs to the American people, that the institutional prerogative of Congress to be the law making body is respected.
BOB SCHIEFFER: A lot of people on your side at the aisle and over on the conservative part of the Republican Party I should say, the very conservative part of the Republican Party, say that there will be an effort to repeal Obamacare. Now, you know as well as I do that whatever you do on that you don't have the votes to override a presidential veto.
SENATOR MIKE LEE: That's right.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Will that be a big priority for you or will you concede that there's no way you can defeat ObamaCare?
SENATOR MIKE LEE: Look, there are a lot of important policies for us to tackle in the upcoming Congress. We've got a lot of things to go after. I think that's one of them. I do think that a vote on a full repeal measure is likely, possibly, on budget reconciliation. And, even though, we don't have the votes to override the veto. If that's what the President wants to do, the President needs to stand ready to explain to the American people why it is that a health care law that's making health care more expensive and more difficult for many people to get is still a law that he wants to impose on them.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, what will you-- what will you-- will you try to change it?
SENATOR MIKE LEE: Yes, I think there will also be a number of efforts to change it. Among other things I think very soon we will see a vote to repeal the medical device tax in Obamacare. And I think we may see a number of other votes on other provisions as well, such as the rule-- moving the work week down to thirty hours which is hurting poor and middle-class Americans disproportionately, possibly, a vote on repealing the individual mandate and some other provisions.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Do you think-- your-- your colleague, Ted Cruz, said that if you nominate for President next time out somebody like Bob Dole or John McCain that you're going to elect Hillary Clinton. Does it have to be a conservative candidate next time out for you and who will that be?
SENATOR MIKE LEE: Well, look, we're a long ways away from 2016. I don't know who our nominee is going to be. For me the important thing is the policies that the person stands for. I want somebody who will defend the basic principles that are important to so many Americans, the ability to have more government decisions made closer to home. The ability to have more decisions affecting patients, made by patients themselves in consultation with their doctors and not by government bureaucrats in Washington. Those are the things that I am worried about. I am focused on the policies, not the personalities.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Senator, thank you so much for joining us. And we'll be right back.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, some of our stations are leaving us now. But for most of you, we'll be right back with a lot more, including a rare interview with America's top spy and my commentary. So stay with us.
BOB SCHIEFFER: And welcome back to FACE THE NATION. Our panel today, Ruth Marcus, a columnist with the Washington Post; Jerry Seib, the Washington Bureau of Chief for the Wall Street Journal; Dana Milbank, also a columnist for the Washington Post; and Jeffrey Goldberg is with the Atlantic and Bloomberg View. And, Jeffrey, I'm going to start with you. You are the one that some official in the United States government told that Prime Minister Netanyahu was a chicken blank, okay. I asked him about that. You are the Prime Minister. He said relations are better than ever with the United States. Number one, if you'd care to reveal who told you that I'd be happy to listen this morning. And also I'd like just to get your take on U.S. and Israeli relations right now.
JEFFREY GOLDBERG (Bloomberg View/The Atlantic): I'll decline your first offer.
RUTH MARCUS (Washington Post): I think it's very (INDISTINCT) of it.
JEFFREY GOLDBERG: Well, it is but it's appropriate. And the-- on the second point, you know, let's-- let's-- let's separate out two issues. Relations between the Israel and United States remain strong, the defense relationship, the intelligence relationship. The people to people, if you will. The relationship between the President of the United States and the prime minister of Israel has never been worse. I mean let's-- you go back to the Eisenhower period to look for a more tense time.
BOB SCHIEFFER: What's the deal?
JEFFREY GOLDBERG: The deal is that, they're very, very different men with very, very different ideological viewpoints and this administration here believes that Netanyahu is-- how shall I put this in a more diplomatic way and it's a general feeling that he doesn't take risks for peace, that he doesn't-- he doesn't do what he needs to do to solve the Middle East crisis. For his part, Netanyahu believes that this administration doesn't understand the Middle East. I mean, it's-- it's as simple as that. You know, one is-- leans liberal, the other leans conservative, their-- their dispositions are-- are different and so they have a very dysfunctional relationship and it's going to be very interesting and tense to watch as they move to these Iran talks how it's going to go.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Jerry Seib, we saw this hideous video this morning, and this is the worst of the worst. This seems to me that the war on terrorism is a long way from being over. You heard Mitt Romney say we should keep on the table. The, you know, the idea of putting American troops back into Iraq. Is this administration, where do you think they are?
JERRY SEIB (Wall Street Journal): You know, it's interesting because President Obama talking today before he left Asia to come back home after the G-20 meeting, actually left the door open a little crack at least for the-- on that question of U.S. troops on the ground. They're going to be more U.S. troops on the ground. Anyway, more advices are going. But, you know, I think the key here is that this is-- this is a long struggle. You know, we're not losing the war against ISIS, but we're not winning it and we as kind of a in the Morpheus group it's the U.S., it's Iraq, it's the Free Syrian Army, which is in real trouble up in Syria, it's the moderate Arab states, it's the Saudis, that whole collection is not winning this war, and it's going to take a while to turn it around and it's going to be ugly along the way.
BOB SCHIEFFER: One of the Kurdish officials is saying this morning that there may be two hundred thousand of these ISIS people. Now that-- that seems pretty high to me.
JERRY SEIB: That's-- that's very high. You know, the truth is, what we don't know about ISIS exceeds what we do know. The numbers that-- that seem to be most reasonable, somewhere in the eighteen thousand to thirty thousand range, but again, they're drawing people and-- and the longer it seems we can't stop them, the more attractive they will be to-- to radicals from around the world.
RUTH MARCUS: And, you know, one thing that's really interesting and horrifying about this terrible video, is that ISIS is its own worst enemy. I think you have seen the administration, General Dempsey last week, increasingly open the door, not just to more troops, but to the possibility of getting increasingly involved in combat things and we saw this in the past, when ISIS engages in brutalities like this, and videotapes them and puts them out for the American public to see, it riles up the American public and it makes it easier for better or for worse for the President and the military to do what it needs to take to deal with ISIS.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Dana, I want to-- let me shift here just to this immigration situation.
DANA MILBANK (Washington Post): Mm-Hm.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Obviously, we're heading to some kind of a showdown up on Capitol Hill.
DANA MILBANK: Right.
BOB SCHIEFFER: The President saying he's going to take unilateral action that would protect millions of--
DANA MILBANK: Mm-Hm.
BOB SCHIEFFER: --of illegal immigrants in this country from being deported.
DANA MILBANK: Right.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Congress is saying don't do it. You heard what both sides were saying. Where do you see this going? Do you think there is any possibility, because some on the-- on the right are actually talking about maybe it will come to shutting down the government again.
DANA MILBANK: Yeah.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Maybe we'll have to do that.
DANA MILBANK: Well, I love this notion that everybody is floating that old poison the well as if everybody's been drinking pure water up there, and it's not already full of arsenic and PCBs already. So the-- the well is poisoned. The President has no choice. He-- he-- he made this promise. He probably should have done it earlier on. And the truth is he has an incentive to do it now because he wants to provoke a fight. If you saw the way he's come out, he's all about fighting this new Republican majority. He'd love to lure them into that shut down, maybe even some impeachment proceedings, maybe another lawsuit to draw those distinctions. He won the shutdown fight over Obamacare and the exit polls were lopsided in favor of legalizing the illegal immigrants. That's a fight he wants.
BOB SCHIEFFER: So this may be burrow rabbit, you know, don't throw me into that old briar patch. I mean we remember that.
DANA MILBANK: Everything about his news conference was-- was saying, I'd-- you know, it's not-- not my fault, no mistake here, and I'm going to go right back at it with climate change, with immigration, with minimum wage, all the things they don't want to have.
RUTH MARCUS: This has definitely been a let's go back at it week or a few weeks since the election, really interesting on a number of fronts--climate change, threatening a veto on the keystone XL Pipeline, going out definitely with the net routes on internet neutrality. And I totally agree with Dana, there is no way he can back down on filling-- fulfilling this immigration promise. I think that it's clear also from the Republican point of view that the grownups in the party, the leadership in the party do not want to shut down, but to go with the bull metaphor and the flag, this is definitely waving a red flag and the question is, whether they can control the bull because, even though, nobody rational wants a shutdown, it may be hard to avoid it.
GERALD SEIB (Wall Street Journal): Well, there's one issue, though, in which I think the President is showing he maybe prepared to challenge the left, and that is free trade.
RUTH MARCUS: Exactly.
GERALD SEIB: That's a big one. And he talked about that a lot in Asia as well and that is not popular on the left. I think that's a real litmus test
for him is he going to go big just on things Republicans don't like or go big on things that defined the Obama agenda not somebody else's agenda.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, let me tell you something. If there is-- if you needed an example that-- that everybody is on edge up there on-- on Capitol Hill, we got it this week during Nancy Pelosi, the House leader for Democrats when she had a news conference. And our Nancy Cordes asked her if she, since they have lost the majority in two straight elections, if she was thinking about giving up her leadership post; and, well, let me just show you what she said.
NANCY PELOSI (Thursday): I was never on the front of TIME Magazine even though I was the first woman to be-- isn't that a curiosity that the-- the Republicans win; Boehner's on the front of TIME Magazine. Mitch McConnell wins; he's on the front of TIME Magazine. Isn't there a pattern here? Now, as I said, my-- who I am does not depend on any of that, with all due respect to all of you. But, as a woman, it's like is there a message here? Is there something that we're missing?
BOB SCHIEFFER: Ruth?
RUTH MARCUS: May-- may I say, as a woman--
JEFFREY GOLDBERG: As a woman.
RUTH MARCUS: Oh, please. It's not as if Nancy Pelosi, when she became the first woman speaker of the House, did not get a ton of attention, including from yours truly. So I think with all due respect to the former speaker playing the gender card here, not a great idea but illustrative of the really tough feelings, it's not a lot of fun these days--
JEFFREY GOLDBERG: By the way--
RUTH MARCUS: --to be a Democrat in the House.
JEFFREY GOLDBERG: By the way a great week for TIME Magazine. Didn't know that it was-- didn't like--
RUTH MARCUS: It was nice cover.
JEFFREY GOLDBERG: Yeah. No, didn't know that it was still-- the cover still mattered this much.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, what about this, Dana? I mean she is a terrific fund raiser for Democrats. Is it her fault that that they lost the majority two times in a row?
DANA MILBANK: Well, it's not her fault, per se. But, you know, the only question now, is-- is it the worst standing for House Democrats since 1946 or 1928? And when you're the leader of a party that's been brought to that point you got to say, well, maybe I need some fresh faces. And the-- the top three leaders are, you know, people can do very well in their seventies but they're seventy-four, seventy-five.
RUTH MARCUS: Guys-- you hear, Dana.
DANA MILBANK: Yeah. And seventy-four. Maybe they need to bring in a-- a little fresh blood at a higher level. You've seen none of that in the House and very little of it in the Senate, a little bit with Elizabeth Warren. No indication that I see that either side is getting ready to cut some deals or do anything but it seems--
BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, we just had Claire McCaskill here who-- who voted against bringing Harry Reid back. And I think we know of six votes, six senators but those votes are in secret, so there may actually have been more. But what about, Jerry, this idea bring Elizabeth Warren into the-- into the leadership. She is a fire brand. She is fun to interview but she is from the left. Is that going to give the right impression to people out there about the Democratic Party--
GERALD SEIB: Well, I think there is two--
BOB SCHIEFFER: --that they're moving to the left as-- as Republicans are moving to the right?
GERALD SEIB: Well, I think she had to be taken into account. She's a force and-- and she represents a force. But the other thing that's happening and you had Senator Claire McCaskill, who is from the other part of the party, the moderate part of the party and she said I'm one of the-- I'm part of the moderate middle in the Senate where we'd like to get some things done. The problem is that moderate middle just got wiped out or not wiped out at least got diluted a lot. I mean you had Senator Pryor and-- and Senator Hagan and North Carolina Senator Udall, they all lost. So there is not as much in the middle left. So the left is a-- the left is right in saying, hey, we deserve some representation.
JEFFREY GOLDBERG: I-- I was struck-- I was struck how quickly she-- she mentioned Senator Tester is also coming in the leadership, the flat top farmer or whatever the expression was. You know, as almost to neutralize whatever signal Elizabeth Warren sent which doesn't seem like an effective messaging, you're messaging-- we're-- we're still sort of the same mix of-- of what we were.
RUTH MARCUS: The Democratic Party isn't really clear what it wants to be right now. It's clear that it doesn't want to be a minority party but it's not clear how that's going to be solved.
DANA MILBANK: It's not entirely cleared by the way.
RUTH MARCUS: And I-- and I think that it's going to need to actually take a say presidential election with a certain candidate to come to really have that debate flushes out.
DANA MILBANK: Harry Reid is not about to change his stripes. He's an old cop, he's an old boxer, he punched his future father-in-law. He once tried to strangle a guy who tried to offer him a bribe. He's not going to be backing down and cutting deals here, particularly, as Jerry pointed out, that the moderates are gone. He's going to be slugging it out for the next two years.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Let me just go around the table, just a quick answer from-- who thinks Mitt Romney is going to run for President again?
JEFFREY GOLDBERG: We were talking about that before. I think he likes being on TV. That doesn't necessarily suggest that he's going to run for President. I-- I'd find it hard to believe that he does.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Dana?
DANA MILBANK: I think he would like to be President but not run for it. And he's not on his list of thirty-two possible candidates the Republican Party put out this week.
GERALD SEIB: He's available to be drafted to run for President. I don't think he's going to run for President.
RUTH MARCUS: I'm going to go out on a little bit more of a limb, what's he doing up so early on Sunday morning? And I have to say, a lot of the points that he's making and that he made in the last campaign are looking pretty good in retrospect.
BOB SCHIEFFER: I think that if Jeb Bush does not decide to run, he will give it very serious thought. And I think that's probably where it is right now at least from my sources. We'll be back in a moment with my interview of Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. Thank you all very much.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Who puts going to North Korea on their bucket list, America's top spy. That's who and that's just one of the things we found out Friday when James Clapper, the director of National Intelligence, invited us to his office to talk about his top secret trip there to bring home two American prisoners, Kenneth Bae and Matthew Miller.
Why do you suppose they chose the top spy in the United States?
JAMES CLAPPER (Director of National Intelligence): Well, that's a great question. For one, they wanted an active-- someone who is currently in the government who was part the National Security Council. And I think-- I kind of followed the Korean Peninsula ever since I served there as director of Intelligence for U.S. forces in Korea in the mid-eighties.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Had you ever been to North Korea?
JAMES CLAPPER: Well, this is the first time I flew over North Korea with permission. I was on a helicopter when I served in Korea, in December 1985, that strayed into North Korea--obviously without their permission--and they shot at us. And, fortunately, we made it back to the South. So my line it's the first time I went in with permission.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Let me talk about when that United States aircraft, it was a transport plane, set down in the North Korean capital, what went through your mind? Were you apprehensive?
JAMES CLAPPER: Yes, I was quite apprehensive because we weren't sure how this was going to play out. I personally was not completely confident that we would actually-- that they would release our two citizens. And so, yes, it was apprehensive and from personal standpoint, it's kind of always been on my professional bucket list, you know, to visit North Korea and so I did get to do that.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Paint the scene for me, what did it look like? You said it was nighttime.
JAMES CLAPPER: It's dark anyway, in North Korea, and I think, well, you know, it's a famous picture overhead shot of contrasting the two parts of the peninsula at night with North Korea being quite dark and South Korea being all lit up. And so that image I think was kind of sustained, but it was overall just a very dark appearance. And so we went immediately off the plane, and into a limo that would-- that took-- two- or three-vehicle convoy that took us to the state guest house in downtown Pyongyang.
BOB SCHIEFFER: And what happened then? And who greeted you?
JAMES CLAPPER: A small green party that was headed by the minister of state security and, of course, a translator.
BOB SCHIEFFER: And what did they talk about?
JAMES CLAPPER: I made the point that, I was, you know, very interested in recovering our two citizens. I think they were disappointed, frankly, that I didn't have some breakthrough.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, you did bring a letter from President Obama?
JAMES CLAPPER: Generally, it was a pretty short letter which basically, identified me as president's envoy and characterizing their willingness to release our two citizens as a positive gesture.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Did you take any kind of a reply back to the President?
JAMES CLAPPER: I think the major message from them was their disappointment that there wasn't some offer or some-- again, the term they used was breakthrough. I did take a ray of optimism from a younger interlocutor who accompanied me on the way out to the airport. And I think it illustrates the potential here for the future because I do think there's a generational difference between the older part of the regime, I say older, my generation.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Our generation.
JAMES CLAPPER: Yes, who were kind of stuck on their narrative and whereas, I think there is a-- I saw a difference generationally in this forty something interlocutor who I think professed interest in more dialogue, asked me if I'd be willing to come back to Pyongyang, which I certainly would.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Let's go back to-- so you got there, you were taken to the hotel, was there a dinner or something like that?
JAMES CLAPPER: Yes. I was hosted by the head of the-- what's called a Reconnaissance Guidance Bureau, which is their kind of a combination intelligence and special operations force.
BOB SCHIEFFER: What was the-- what was the tone of the dinner?
JAMES CLAPPER: It was pretty terse. They-- I think, you know, you-- at least-- it reinforced for me is something I-- I always think I haven't understood about North Korea is a country that feels itself to be under siege. There's a certain institutional paranoia and that was certainly reflected in a lot of things that he said, for example, allegations about our exercises that we conduct in the Republic of Korea. They did bring up the human rights issue at one point although we were well into the dialogue, criticizing us for our-- our interventionist approach, our interventionist policies in their internal matters. So it was that sort of dialogue back and forth. It wasn't exactly a pleasant dinner.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Where did you finally find out that you're-- that they were going to release these people?
JAMES CLAPPER: We spent the rest of the day waiting, after for quite some time and until late afternoon, and then they-- MSS representative came by the state guesthouse, said you have twenty minutes to pick up your luggage, we've leaving. Check out and then we were taken to the (INDISTINCT) Hotel downtown and we're ushered into a room in which the amnesty-granting ceremony, I guess I'd call it, was conducted.
BOB SCHIEFFER: But they hadn't up until that point actually told you they were going to release them.
JAMES CLAPPER: Not directly, no, right. Well, until we were moving and went to the hotel and then during this amnesty-granting ceremony, and afterwards he turned to me and said he hoped we had more dialogue but not about detainees. We shook hands, I said, thank you, we walked out. Our two detainees changed clothes and we went out to the Sunan Airport and got on the aircraft and-- and flew.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Do you think this has changed anything?
JAMES CLAPPER: That's a good question. I think that remains to be seen as to what-- where do we go from here, is this-- will this perhaps serve as a catalyst or stimulus for more dialogue? I hope so, but I don't know.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Director, how would you rate North Korea on a scale of dangerous places in the world? Is it the most dangerous in your view?
JAMES CLAPPER: Well, that's-- these days, that's, you know, it's hard to-- hard to rank. There's lots of dangerous spots around the world. My half century or so in intelligence, I don't know a time when we've been beset by a greater array, a more diverse array of challenges and crises than we are today. So, yes, North Korea potentially is a dangerous spot but are hot-- but so-- there are others.
BOB SCHIEFFER: You mentioned different danger points in the world. I wonder, could-- could I get your take on what's happening now in Iraq and Syria where we hear of this alliance between al-Qaeda and Syria and-- and ISIS. Do you--
JAMES CLAPPER: Well, I think--
BOB SCHIEFFER: What do you-- what do you-- how do you see that?
JAMES CLAPPER: I don't see that. We don't see that basically because of the countervailing competing objectives, I think what you're specifically referring to is al-Nusra--
BOB SCHIEFFER: Yes.
JAMES CLAPPER: --which is the al Qaeda chapter, a franchise in Syria, and ISIS. And because of their counter-- their competing objectives and who would be-- have to be subordinate to the other really don't see that, at the strategic level. There have been tactical accommodations on the battlefield on occasion where local groups have united in the interest of the tactical objective, but, broadly, I don't see those two uniting at least yet.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Thank you so much, Mister Clapper.
JAMES CLAPPER: Thank you.
BOB SCHIEFFER: I was dumbstruck when I heard the comments that are surfacing from an economist named Jonathan Gruber, who was paid four hundred thousand dollars to help shape the President's health care plan. First, he allowed his health plan passed only because of a lack of transparency and this is a direct quote, "the stupidity of the American people." Then Friday our Nancy Cordes found a couple of other things he said going back to 2011.
JONATHAN GRUBER: First by mislabeling it, calling it a tax on insurance plans rather than a tax on people and we all know it's really a tax on people who hold those insurance plans.
BOB SCHIEFFER: And there was this about Massachusetts health care plan.
JONATHAN GRUBER: The dirty secret in Massachusetts is the Feds pay for our bill. Okay. Ted Kennedy and smart people in Massachusetts had basically figured out way to sort of rip off the Feds for about four hundred million dollars a year.
BOB SCHIEFFER: I'll be honest, while I favor health insurance, I am not wild about the new plan and how it became law either. But here is my question for Mister Gruber. If all this was as bad as you say, why did you take the money you earned as an advisor, nor is it too late to give it back? What we have here is another example of the sorry state of American politics where people take money for things in which they don't believe and whether it's good for the American people is not even a question. As for the President he may want to consider that old politician's prayer, Lord, I can take care of my enemies; just protect me from my friends.
Back in a minute.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, that's it for today for us. We'll see you next week right here on FACE THE NATION.
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