Watch CBS News

Face the Nation Transcripts November 29, 2015: Carson, Bush, McCain, and Graham

Guests included Ben Carson, Jeb Bush, John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Peggy Noonan, David Ignatius, Jeffrey Goldberg, Michael Gerson, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Karl Rove, Jon Meacham, and Edward Larson.

JOHN DICKERSON, CBS HOST: Today on FACE THE NATION: Ben Carson goes on overseas fact-finding mission, and Jeb Bush says Donald Trump isn't ready to be commander in chief.

With the polls showing voters skeptical about Ben Carson's national security skills following the Paris terror attacks, the retired surgeon takes his campaign overseas to visit Syrian refugee camps.


BEN CARSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're just getting a good impression of what is going on here.


DICKERSON: Back at home, a new ad takes on the president.


CARSON: The Obama-Clinton tough talk was just empty rhetoric. We need leaders who will stop whining and start winning.


DICKERSON: Dr. Carson will join us from Amman, Jordan.

Plus, Jeb Bush tells us how he will defeat ISIS and has some tough talk about Donald Trump.


JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He's all over the map, misinformed at best and preying on people's fear at worst.


DICKERSON: Joining us from Baghdad, are two key foreign policy voices in Congress, Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham.

We will have analysis on the politics of the war on terror, then finish up with our annual Thanksgiving book panel. This year, we will talk about some new books on presidents past.

It's all ahead on FACE THE NATION.

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

Republican presidential hopeful Ben Carson is in the Middle East this weekend and joins us from Amman, Jordan.

Dr. Carson, I want to ask you. You visited a Syrian refugee camp. What did you learn there?

CARSON: Well, first of all, I was very impressed by the outpouring of humanitarian effort on behalf of the Jordanians.

This has been going on for many decades. But they have really reached out to the Syrians in a very big way. And I had an opportunity to talk with many of the Syrians. And that was very eye- opening, asking them, what is their desire, what is their main desire?

And their main desire is to be repatriated in their homeland. And I said, what kinds of things could a nation like United States do to help? And there was a pretty uniform answer on that. That was, they can support the efforts of the Jordanians. The Jordanians have done a yeoman's job in terms much putting up these camps, but the reason that the camps are not full is because they are not supported by the international community.

It seems like everybody in the international community is spending more time saying, how can we bring refugees here, rather than how can we support a facility that is already in place that the refugees are finding perfectly fine when it's adequately funded?

DICKERSON: So, your assessment visiting there is that Jordan could take all the refugees; it's just a matter of getting more financial resources?

CARSON: I think Jordan could take a lot more of the refugees than they're taking right now.

I don't see any reason, quite frankly, that some of the other nations in the area shouldn't also be asked to do it, so that you don't have to go through a big cultural change with them.

And in terms of money, you know, when I looked at the refugee camps in Jordan, there's about a $3 billion shortfall annually. That's how much money we spent last year on Halloween candy. Is it something that can be done? If we bring 10,000 or 25,000 of them to the United States, that's not solving a problem. That's a little Band-Aid that makes a few people say, hey, we're good guys. That's not what we want to do.

We want to actually solve the problem.

DICKERSON: So, how -- make the link between Halloween and the refugees for me. Are you talking about a national fund-raising drive or...

CARSON: I talked about in terms of the amount of money that it would take to fund the shortfall.

Our country has done a great job in terms of providing support. There's no question about that. And -- but I believe that the entire international community could easily make up that $3 billion shortfall. My point in comparing it to Halloween candy is to say that this is not a big deal.

DICKERSON: I would like to ask you about the war on ISIS. You have new advertisement out that says -- that is entitled "Winning vs. Whining."

Who is whining?

CARSON: My point in that advertisement is, you know, let's not sit here and talk about what we can't do and why this is too difficult.

Instead, we have some terrific military intelligence and advisers who know how to get the job done. Let's ask them, what do they need in order to get the job done? And then let's make a decision. Are we going to give it to them?

DICKERSON: Do you think those advisers...


CARSON: Or are we just going to keep, you know...

DICKERSON: Are those advisers not being consulted?

CARSON: Whether they're being consulted or not is irrelevant if we're not paying attention to what they're saying.

DICKERSON: And what do you think that they're saying that is not being paid attention to?

CARSON: If we're trying to micro -- if we're trying to micromanage them -- I think they're being micromanaged.

DICKERSON: In what specific way?

CARSON: All you need to do is go out and talk to a number of the generals who have retired, in many cases prematurely. They can give you a very good answer to what I'm just talking about.

DICKERSON: But you -- do you have an answer to that question?

CARSON: My answer is for you to go out and talk to them and ask them specifically. You want to know the exact reasons why we're not winning and ask what advice has been given and how it has been ignored, I would suggest that you talk to them.


I would like to ask you about a domestic political event or what some people see has a political element to it, and that's the shooting at a Planned Parenthood location in Colorado Springs.

Some abortion rights supporters have said that the rhetoric has led to that kind of violence. What's your view on that?

CARSON: There is no question that hateful rhetoric, no matter which side it comes from, right or left, is something that is detrimental to our society.

This has been a big problem. Our strength in this country has traditionally been in our unity. And we are allowing all kinds of circumstances to divide us and make us hateful toward each other. And the rhetoric is extremely immature, divisive, and is not helpful.

When you have outside forces, global Islamic radical jihadists who want to destroy us, why would we be doing that to ourselves? We at some point have got to become more mature. No question the hateful rhetoric exacerbates the situation, and we should be doing all we can to engage an intelligence, civil discussion about our differences.

That's how we solve problems. We don't ever solve them with hateful rhetoric.

DICKERSON: Should abortion rights -- excuse me -- should those who oppose abortion rights tone down their rhetoric?

CARSON: I think both sides should tone down their rhetoric and engage in civil discussion.

DICKERSON: All right.

All right, Dr. Ben Carson, thanks so much for joining us.

We spoke with another Republican presidential candidate, former Governor Jeb Bush, earlier and asked him how his strategy to defeat ISIS would be any faster or more effective than the current one.


BUSH: I would say a no-fly zone, creating safe zones in Syria, directly arming the Kurds in Iraq, reengaging both politically and militarily with the Sunnis, the Sunni tribal leaders that were effective partners in the creation of the surge.

Have our troops be embedded with the Iraqi military. But, basically, all of this needs to be a strategy, not just one-off kind of incremental decisions being made by this president who wants to run out the clock. The strategy ought to be, how do we destroy ISIS and how do we create stability in the aftermath? And, right now, we have neither.

DICKERSON: You have talked about saying you would listen to the generals in terms of their advice about ground troops to fight ISIS in Syria or in Iraq.

One of the things the president has said is that his military advisers have told him that, without a force on the ground to help U.S. troops, that, basically, if you were going to put U.S. troops in, they would have to stay as an occupational force. Is that wrong, in your view?

BUSH: I think it is wrong.

I think that had we kept a small force in Iraq, we wouldn't have the mess that we have right now. Look, the president and Hillary Clinton both said that al Qaeda in Iraq was decimated, was gone. And when we pulled back diplomatically, politically -- remember, Hillary Clinton only traveled to Iraq one time during her four years.

That lack of commitment created the instability that now has created a caliphate. So, of course we need to have engagement. And without American leadership, this isn't going to happen. And we're going to -- it's going to require troops on the ground, mostly special operators that are helping build this force, but we need to lead in this regard to garner the support of the Persian Gulf countries, other Arab nations and Europe.

DICKERSON: I guess what I'm trying to figure out is what the number is here between -- you want troops to go in, but then everybody seems to agree there need to be some kind of stability afterwards. You have mentioned the surge from George W. Bush's president -- presidency.

That surge was successful because hundreds of troops were in there. So, how does it work in this case without that many troops?

BUSH: Well, first of all, had we kept 10,000 troops, as the military leaders had recommended, we wouldn't have ISIS.

My point is, in the post-ISIS world, there needs to be stability. You can't just allow the void to be filled. I think we need to do this not unilaterally. We need to do this in concert with the Syrian Sunni-led forces, well-trained, backed up by air superiority, and we need to garner the support of the support of the Arab world, not to -- not to -- in a unified fashion to create a fighting force that will both take out ISIS, as well as bring about change in the Assad regime.

DICKERSON: If 10,000 was a good sustaining force in Iraq after all the activities had been there, this is a totally new adventure, so it would seem that upwards of 10,000 troops would be necessary for the kind of engagement you're talking about.

BUSH: If I'm commander in chief, my first order is, give me options, and if the military says that we need a fighting force of X- thousand, and this is the best way to destroy ISIS, then I would take that under advisement for sure. I believe most people that I have talked to, military leaders, think that we can't do this alone, but it's going to require more effort than we have right now.

DICKERSON: In terms of building a coalition, you have said that you would -- Russia could be an ally in this fight, but only if they abandon their alliance with Assad in Syria.

How do you get them to do that?

BUSH: I don't think we will. I have great doubts whether Russia would make -- make that big kind of sea change.

But we always should be in dialogue with Russia. My problem is, talking to Russia from a position of weakness only enables their objectives. It has nothing to do with ours. If we were stronger, we would be in a better position to deal with them.

DICKERSON: One of your security advisers, John Noonan, referred to Donald Trump and his plan for registering Muslims, he called him a fascist. Do you agree with that?

BUSH: Look, I just think he's uninformed.

He's -- he knows what he is saying. He's smart. He's playing you guys like a fiddle, the press, by saying outrageous things, and garnering attention. That's his strategy, is to dominate the news. The simple fact is that he has been wrong on Syria and on the refugees pretty consistently. And no one is holding him to account.

He first said we should -- we had no interest in being involved in Syria. Then he said, let the Russians take out ISIS. Then he said, let ISIS take out Assad. Back and forth it goes. And the net effect of this is, in these really serious times, he's not a serious leader.

DICKERSON: So, why, if he became the nominee, would you still support him, as you have pledged to?

BUSH: Look, I have said -- I -- because anybody is better than Hillary Clinton. Let me just be clear about that.

But I have great doubts about Donald Trump's ability to be commander in chief. I really do. I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt to see how the campaign unfolded. But if you listen to him talk, it's kind of scary, to be honest with you, because he's not a serious candidate.

He doesn't talk about the issues at hand that are of national security importance for our country. To keep us safe is the first priority of the president. And he's all over the map, misinformed at best, and preying on people's fear at worst.

DICKERSON: How would any of that specifically be better than Hillary Clinton? BUSH: Well, I will let voters decide about Donald Trump. I'm pretty confident that, the more they hear of him, the less likely it is he's going to get the Republican nomination.

DICKERSON: Let me ask you about your position on refugees. You mention that perhaps an approach might be to allow Christian Syrian refugees in.

How would having a kind of religious test like that, wouldn't that play into the narrative ISIS wants, which is, this is a battle between the Christians and Islam?

BUSH: Look, it is already in the law that there is a requirement to screen for religion. This is -- this is the practice of our country.

There was a bipartisan bill that of course didn't pass in Congress this year to provide preference for Christians who are being slaughtered in the Middle East, persecuted based on their faith. Religious minorities, I think, should have some preference.

I think we ought to do what we can to provide support for the refugees. The best means to do it are safe havens inside of Syria. That is ultimately what we need to do, and this president hasn't led in that regard.

DICKERSON: All right, Governor Jeb Bush, thanks so much for being with us.

BUSH: You bet.


DICKERSON: And we will be back in one minute.


DICKERSON: Back now with two key Republicans when it comes to foreign policy, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain and GOP presidential candidate Senator Lindsey Graham. They join us from Baghdad in the U.S. Embassy there.

Senator McCain, I want to start with you.

There are two problems in Syria, Bashar Assad and ISIS. What are your plans for handling both of those?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Well, I think you have to handle both, and the biggest mistake we could make is some kind of alliance with Russia, since Vladimir Putin's ambitions are vastly different from ours.

First, you have to obviously take out ISIS. But, at the same time, you have to establish a no-fly zone, which sends the message to Bashar Assad that he can stop barrel-bombing people and slaughtering his innocent civilian men, women and children and driving millions into refugee status, which we are coping -- trying to cope with now.

DICKERSON: Senator Graham, that's two simultaneous military engagements that Senator McCain just sketched out there. Do you think the American people are ready for that kind of a commitment in Syria?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They better be, because if we don't destroy ISIL in Syria, which is their headquarters, we're going to get attacked at home.

So, the region is ready to fight. The region hates ISIL. They are coming after the Sunni Arab nations. And Turkey hates ISIL. The entire region wants Assad gone, so there's an opportunity here with some American leadership to do two things, which is to destroy ISIL before we get hit at home and also to push Assad out and not give yet another Arab capital to Damascus.

I can't overemphasize enough the influence of Iran. We have been here for a day-and-a-half. Iran is all over Iraq. They filled in the vacuum that was created when we left. And the region is very worried about Iranian dominance as much as ISIL.

DICKERSON: Robert Kagan in "The Wall Street Journal," Senator Graham, wrote that the kind of operation that you both are recommending could require 40,000 to 50,000 troops. Is that what people should be considering here?

GRAHAM: I think it will require more than that, but the good news, 90 percent will come from the condition.

The kind of force that John and I are talking about is that 10 percent of the force will come from Western powers. The force that we're talking about will come from regional armies. There are large regional armies, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey. They have regional armies. They would go into the fight if you put Assad on the table.

So, most of the fighting would be done by the region. They will pay for this war. But one thing I can tell you about Iraq, the next president of the United States is going to be dealing with ISIL in Iraq, because what we have in place here is small, it's limited in focus, and it will get limited results.

General MacFarland is doing a very good job with limited capability. We don't have enough American troops inside of Iraq to destroy ISIL any time soon.

MCCAIN: I believe we will take Ramadi back, which is very important, within a relatively short period of time. But that's just the beginning.

There is Fallujah, there is Mosul, and others. We need a more robust presence. And, John, again, as all of our candidates bloviate about refugees, we see Bashar Assad is a major cause of the refugees which are now flooding Europe and causing such consternation in the United States.

A no-fly zone will provide a refuge at least for some of these refugees.

GRAHAM: The one thing I would say, John, there is no ground force, there is no ground force being formed in Syria. And if you don't look at Iraq and Syria as one battle space, you are making a huge mistake.

DICKERSON: So, Senator Graham, the president says, because there is no ground force, military advisers tell him that it would require an occupational U.S. force. And that is a recipe for lots and lots of forces for a long period of time. What is your response to that?

GRAHAM: I haven't been told that by anybody.

The holding force would be the region. We're talking about regional armies being -- coming together with a Western component, 90 percent them, 10 percent us. The holding will be done by Sunni Arab states. We will turn to Assad and say, you must go. Russia and Iran will be on the outside looking in to an entire regional army, including Turkey, with Western elements. They will fold like a cheap suit.

Inside of Iraq, if we had 10,000 American forces, with some Western coalitions helping us, I think we could get them out of Mosul a lot quicker.

I cannot stress to you how urgent it is that we destroy ISIL. Every day that goes by that they hold millions of people under their sway is a bad day for us, because they're going to hit us at home if we don't put them on the run.

DICKERSON: You mentioned the bloviating of presidential candidates.

How much of an effect, let's say, Donald Trump, when he talks about registering Muslims in the United States. Does that have any real effect outside of the United States in the fight against ISIS?

MCCAIN: Well, I think it has an interesting effect of turning Muslims all over the world against the United States of America, which is 99.44 percent people who practice an honorable religion.

And, by the way, the fact is that we can succeed here, and ISIS is not that strong, but the longer they say in power, the more this poison spreads and metastasizes from as far away as Afghanistan, Africa, and other parts of the world.

DICKERSON: Final question to you, Senator McCain.

You're talking about a regional force, but the administration has been trying to get Gulf states to participate, have been unsuccessful. You're talking about a regional force that would be involved not with the Russians, but the Russians would be active there.

I mean, people are highly skeptical that such a force could be put together.

MCCAIN: Well, let them be skeptical. We haven't tried it.

Second of all, they are ready, but also that Assad has to be part of the equation. He cannot stay in power for one day longer than necessary. And so if you had the right president and the right leadership, they would coalesce.

But there is no confidence in the Arab world today in the United States of America. That has to be restored if we want to put together a regional force, which has to have American participation.

DICKERSON: Senator McCain and Senator Graham, thank you so much.

And stay with us. We will be right back.


DICKERSON: Now for some analysis.

Peggy Noonan is a "Wall Street Journal" columnist, CBS News contributor and the author of "The Time of Our Lives." David Ignatius is a columnist with "The Washington Post." Jeffrey Goldberg is national correspondent for "The Atlantic." And Michael Gerson is also a columnist for "The Washington Post."

David, I will start with you.

You had three people there who are auditioning to be commander in chief. What did you make of it?

DAVID IGNATIUS, COLUMNIST, "THE WASHINGTON POST": My strongest impression was that Jeb Bush did the thing he's got to do to survive as a candidate, which is to sound like a convincing commander in chief. I thought he gave a good account of how he would augment President Obama's strategy for dealing with ISIS, the additional things he'd try to do, a no-fly zone, more forward-leaning position with our special operations forces.

I thought he was powerful in taking out, calling out Donald Trump. I thought that this was moment in which he went to the heart of the matter, that Trump is playing on people's fears. This is -- it's getting toward Bush's last chance.

So, my takeaway from that was, this is a person who in this environment of anxiety and foreign policy concern can speak to the country's worries.

DICKERSON: Jeffrey, what did you make of the group?

JEFFREY GOLDBERG, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, "THE ATLANTIC": Well, I would agree with that, except I don't think that Bush is penetrating in a way that, say, Chris Christie is penetrating on these issues.

I would just jump to Ben Carson for one minute and say that he said something very sensible, which is that the solution to the refugee problem is in Syria. It's not in the United States or anywhere else. And we need to be focused on the fact that more than half the population of Syria is not even in Syria anymore.

Can't solve this problem without a Syrian solution. But on what David was saying, yes, there is some important ideas that are being put forward by Jeb Bush, by Chris Christie and others. The thing I'm struck by is that there is this buffet line approach: I'm going to take a safe zone and a no-fly zone, and I'm going to get the NATO allies to do X, and I'm going to get the Arab allies to do Y.

It's all highly theoretical. And each one of these options that everyone is talking about, they're incredibly difficult to pull off. And we haven't thought about the second- and third-order consequences of all these ideas.

DICKERSON: Quickly, David, about 30 seconds. On this notion that McCain and Graham are talking about, the regional armies that would handle 90 percent of the ground troop operations, how big of a lift is that? How plausible is that?

IGNATIUS: It's a huge lift. And I think that that was the great weakness that what McCain and Graham said. It's typical of them, that they're on the scene, they're looking, they're reporting. That's really admirable.

But our problem has been getting our Sunni allies to stand up. They're fighting a war now in Yemen. They're fighting a proxy war against their regional adversary, Iran. They're not focused on ISIS. So, the distance that they have to travel to be the force that will fight with us and clear and hold Ramadi, Fallujah, Mosul, long way.

DICKERSON: All right. All right.

We will be back with all of you in a moment. Stay with us.


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


DICKERSON: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION. I'm John Dickerson.

We want to continue with our panel, which includes Peggy Noonan of "The Wall Street Journal," David Ignatius of "The Washington Post," Jeffrey Goldberg is with "The Atlantic," and "Washington Post" columnist Michael Gerson is also here.

And, Michael, I want to start with you.

Since the attacks in Paris, how, if at all, do you see the Republican race changing? Are a lot of people saying it's changed, but what do you think's really actually happened?

MICHAEL GERSON, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, I think some of them, at least, are pressing an important case. You know, after Paris, we now have ISIS, which has shown the strategic ability to strike in western capitals, it solidified its holds on territory, it has affiliates or followers in 20 different countries. So I really identify with Senator Graham's sense of urgency here. We seem to have a strategy in place to have a five-year defeat of ISIS, but maybe we need a strategy for a one to two-year defeat of ISIS. Republican -- all the -- you know, it's correct, the president's correct that many of the things they're proposing are the same, but the difference is urgency and leadership.

DICKERSON: Did -- did you get that sense of urgency from the -- the men you heard today or in general do you get that sense?

PEGGY NOONAN, CBS NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: No, I don't think anybody on the Republican side or the Democratic side communicates a sense that they know exactly what needs to be done, how to do it and how it could all realistically happen. I heard the other day -- I just throw this fourthism (ph) idea. Mike Morell said, one of the things that can concentrate the mind when thinking about policy, when thinking about ISIS is, suppose ISIS hit the United States, as everybody fears. What would we all be thinking the next day was absolutely the right, urgent, strong thing to do? He said, maybe concentrate on the answer to that question.


So, David, do you know what that is? I mean that would be preemptive action of some sort. And isn't that -- the tricky thing about that formulation is, we would need the initiating event to get the country behind the action, it seems to me, that would be then required.

NOONAN: Oh, he's saying, use your imagination. What would that look like to us? And what would be the proper response at this point?

DICKERSON: And do you think, David, the country would be behind such a thing?

IGNATIUS: I -- certainly if we're hit directly, the public will support and even demand retaliation. I think there -- there are two roots that -- that we would follow in that case and should think about following now. One is to augment the direct action strikes that our special forces are already making every day inside Syria and Iraq. We are killing dozens of people who get back in touch with would-be attackers in the United States, who come in on -- on social media. And if you call -- if you get a call back, if you're one of those people who's trying to direct an operation, we'll try to kill you. And so -- you know, that's already going on. It should -- it should be augmented.

The second, harder question is, whether to add ground troops. I mean from all the talk from McCain and Graham, there is not an Arab ground force that can clear Raqqa or any of these places reliably. Are we going to provide that? Will we do that with NATO, with the -- with air -- a coalition of Arabs? Those are the kinds of questions that we would ask the next day and we should ask now.

DICKERSON: And hold Raqqa too, right? After you clear it, don't you have to do something with what happens after?

GOLDBERG: Well, this -- and we have a lot of experience of -- it's easy to take some of these Sunni Arab cities, as we learned in Iraq. It's also hard to hold them. And so I think -- look, I -- I have very little doubt that President Obama would be under huge pressure to insert ground troops in a major way. And -- and to not -- to take territory from ISIS should, God forbid, there be an attack in America. I also know that he has a tragic sense of the difficulty of -- of taking Raqqa and then doing something with it.

You know, the first week, we'd have a victory. The second week, we're being attacked by Sunni militants. We've seen that movie over and over again. So the challenge is huge, which is why he, for many reasons, is hoping that he never has to face this question.

DICKERSON: Michael, on refugees, Dr. Carson's plan that more can go into Jordan, do you -- what -- what did you think of his --

GERSON: I think Republicans have hurt their ability to make critique by their relative indifference to refugees. I mean we are seeing a situation in the Middle East, the massive betrayal of children on an unprecedented scale, millions of children who are refugees in these circumstances. Ten thousand dead in the country. You know, children who are forced to work or forced into early marriages. And, you know, the response of the administration, according to the special advisor that they employed for Syria is -- he called it a pantomime of outrage. There should be a serious moral outrage at the problem here. Republicans can't provide that because they're conflicted about both the issue of Islam and the issue -- issue of -- of refugees.

GOLDBERG: The issue, analytically speaking, I'm not making a moral judgement, the issue is that Americans seem to be so tired of the Middle East. They want to cauterize an entire region. They don't want to hear about it or know about it and don't believe that anything we can do will actually make it better. And so that's the problem that any policymaker who's looking for any kind of intervention is facing.

DICKERSON: Of course.

NOONAN: A -- a foreign policy person once told me that Americans think, when they consider foreign policy issue, they always think back to Vietnam or that's in Munich. I think -- do you -- do you know what I mean? The dynamic at play. I think when they think of --


NOONAN: Yes, when they think of the Mideast they think, that's Chinatown. That's where tragedy happens no matter how hard we try to do the right thing.

GERSON: But what's happening there is that young people are being put in these camps or in refugee situations, being marinated in the outrage of their parents. We're creating generations of problems here. This is not just, we can ignore this. we're actually creating generations of violence here.

NOONAN: Well, is it reasonable to say then, let's get the Christians in Syria who are desperate, who want to flee, who are living in terrible conditions, let's get them over here. They appear to be people who are not infected with those who have vowed to blow us up? Is that reasonable?

IGNATIUS: There are many -- there are minorities in general in the Middle East are in great peril. We saw that with the Yazidis. We've seen it with a range of minorities. I'd hate to just say, Christians only are the ones who we're worried about.

You know, John, I heard one thing today on your show that really surprised me. I heard from John McCain talk about candidates bloviating in this race. I heard from Ben Carson talk about hateful rhetoric that was hurting the country. And I heard from Jeb Bush how Donald Trump was preying on people's fears. It's the first time I can remember hearing on one show three candidates speak out against the tone in the Republican race.


IGNATIUS: Maybe that marks a turning point here.

DICKERSON: Let me ask Michael about this. Donald Trump has -- has offended a lot of different groups and there's been a lot of controversy. This year he operated in new ground and he appeared, and we're going to watch here for a second, to make fun of a disabled newspaper reporter.

And --


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This guy, oh, I don't know what I said. Ah, I don't remember. He's going like, I don't remember.


DICKERSON: Now -- now what -- Trump denies that he was impersonating the reporter at the event. The photo -- excuse me, the reporter, Serge Kovaleski, is with "The New York Times" and he has a disability. Trump says, I wasn't -- he wasn't referring to him.

But picking up on David's point, Donald Trump is wildly popular within the polling among Republicans. What's the state of things here?

GERSON: Well, I think it's time, as some of the candidates seem to do, to confront not just Trump but his followers. There are people who buy this. It is fashionable in certain quarters to accept a kind of reality TV, shock radio, you know, social media version of reality, in which it is fashionable to attack people and groups in this sort of way. If -- you know, this is exactly at odds with what the founders talked about when they talked about civic virtue. Civic virtue, in their view, was restraint and civility and all these things that undergird democracy are being undermined in this case. NOONAN: Yes.

DICKERSON: Thirty seconds. Last to you, Peggy.

NOONAN: He's got 35 percent, it appears, of the Republican base. So that's a significant piece, but only a piece, of the electorate. It seems to me everybody's always saying with Trump, that's going to do it him. That's going to -- oh, that crazy thing, he said, that's the end of him. It's never true. But at the end of the day, a cumulative affect and impression comes together and, in his case, it will not help him.

DICKERSON: All right, Peggy, thanks so much. Thanks to all of you. We'll be right back with our panel of presidential authors.


DICKERSON: We're back with our presidential books panel. Doris Kearns Goodwin is the author of "Lindon Johnson and the American Dream," long time George W. Bush political strategist Karl Rove is the author of "The Triumph of William McKinley," Jon Meacham's new book is "Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush," and Edward Larson, the author of "The Return of George Washington: Uniting the states in 1783-1789." He's also with us -- almost lost it there at the end.

Let's --


DICKERSON: Let's talk about presidential attributes. We are in a season of electing presidents. Let's talk about each of your presidents and what they can -- what they did that will help us inform our choices this time around.

Doris, start with you. What attribute from the presidents you've written about should we be looking for, prospecting for in these presidential candidates now?

GOODWIN: Well, I think the first thing we need to figure out is whether they can master themselves and their own emotions. Have they been able to get through adversity? Have they come through trials of fire? Have they been able to manage their negative emotions? And then, once they've grown themselves, can they grow other people? Can they inspire a staff? Can they make collaboration happen? Can they communicate with people in a way that country is going to understand?

And I really think that's what we should be looking at, as we're dealing with this presidential candidacy. We've been dealing with polls and who's got more money and who says something stupid in a debate. Your question is exactly what we should be asking. We should look at our guise for guidance. They can tell us something, the dead guys.

DICKERSON: Karl, you've written about the dead guys and you've been on the inside. So what in McKinley's life should we use to help us inform our thoughts today?

KARL ROVE, "THE TRIUMPH OF WILLIAM MCKINLEY": Well, first, Doris was right, I mean here's a man who was a unbelievably courageous individual in the civil war, three battlefield commissions, suffered enormous personal tragedy in his life. And these, I think, informed his character. And in the campaign of 1896, he wins an election that's up in the air because he, first of all, you -- he deliberately seeks to unite the country. His opponent is using language like the enemy's country, referring to the east, and attacking Wall Street, and excoriating the rich. And here's a man who is determined to help the working class people rise in life and he seeks a language that is conciliatory and unifying in -- in his race, and thereby contributes a great deal to -- to winning the contest.

The other thing is, is that he doesn't -- he wants to initially not engage on the biggest issue of the campaign. He wants to straddle it. And then he wakes up in the middle --

DICKERSON: This is the money question.

ROVE: The money question. And he wakes up in the middle of August and realizes, I don't get to choose the issues, the voters get to choose the issues, and I've got to talk about that issue in a way that allows the people who are up for grabs in this election, working class laborers, to vote for me. And finally he takes on the biggest pressure group in the country and confronts the anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic sentiment and thereby modernizes his party and creates a new governing coalition that lasts for nearly four decades after him.

DICKERSON: The American Protective Association.

John, what -- give us an attribute that we should look for from George Herbert Walker Bush.

JON MEACHAM, "DESTINY & POWER": Prudence, stability. The fundamental political transaction in a democracy is, do we trust our fates in his hands or her hands. And George H.W. Bush became president, I think, because in -- through a series of life experiences, he was able to convince enough people that he was someone who could be trusted at the helm. It was not a glamorous -- he was not a glamorous figure. He was not the greatest of orators I think it's safe to say. But he gave up an ineffable sense of command. And I think that whether it was being the last president of the World War II generation, a series of jobs, almost impossible to imagine now someone with his resume getting even remotely through a primary. U.N. Ambassador, envoy to China, chairman of the Republican National Committee during Watergate, what second prize. You know, director of the CIA, vice president for eight years. He was a public servant who I think culturally and temperamentally had as much in common with the founding father as he's had with his own successors.

DICKERSON: I want to talk about present day in a moment, but, Ed, tell us where George Washington, I mean, my goodness, he seemed to have it all. But what would you pick in terms of something we should look for, for the fellas who are -- and women who are running these days?

EDWARD J. LARSON, "THE RETURN OF GEORGE WASHINGTON": Well, did he have it all. And he characterized everything Doris said about the attributes of leadership, Washington exemplified. I always think of the c's. I think he was courageous, he was consensus, and he was a cautious risk taker. He was courageous in the sense he always led from the front. Whether it was during the revolution or as president, he led from the front. He didn't send other people out in front. He was in front.

And as consensus, Doris, of course, famously talked about the team of rival with Lincoln. Well, nobody put together a team of rivals like him. Jefferson, Adams, Knox, Randolph, in the same group, because he wanted to pull a consensus together. That's how he led his battles. Every time before a battle he'd call all his lieutenants together and get their advice and then think about it and then make a decision. He made them all a part of the team.

And then cautious (ph) risk taker, which I think we need in any president. He is -- he was willing to take risks. Think of -- think of Trenton and crossing the Delaware, or Yorktown. And then as president, Jay's (ph) Treaty or other things. He -- and the national bank. He was -- he was a -- he was a risk taker, but it was always cautious and it was always by building a team first. And that's sort of -- of how Washington made it work in a very difficult time. It's the same thing we need today.

GOODWIN: Absolutely.

GODWIN: You know, I think one thing I'd like to add. I think what you're looking for, they're all ambitious when they run for president. But is there ambition double? Is it for the people in accomplishing something that will stand the test of time? When I think about the risks that Lyndon Johnson took when he became president after Kennedy died, he made a priority to have that civil rights bill that would end segregation in the south pass. If he had failed in that, his whole presidency would have fail. He would never have been elected in November. Even succeeding, he knew that he was going to undo the south for a generation for the Republican Party. But he took that risk. And then once that ambition was fulfilled, then he wanted to go for voting rights. Then he wanted to go for affirmative action. Then he wanted to go for fair housing. When you feel that as a president, that you're really able to use that power to do something important, then you become a different person.

DICKERSON: Let's talk about risk taking for a moment. It seems like what we're talking about here is leadership. We hear the word a lot, but it's a little bent out of shape. Jon, what would you say in George Herbert Walker Bush's career, his son Jeb named -- says basically, going back on his no new taxes pledge was a great symbol of modern presidential leadership. I don't know if you would pick that. But what moment would you pick that was a risk-taking moment where he really stepped up?

MEACHAM: Well, in 1968, as a member of Congress from Houston, he voted for the Fair Housing Act, which lifted racial discrimination from the housing market. He had opposed the 1964 Civil Rights Act that Doris mentioned when he was running for the Senate. But once -- in 1964. But once he had power, he did the right thing. He consistently did that. The 1988 campaign was a hard-hitting race. But once he got to Washington, to go to Ed's point, he tried to seek consensus. He would have members of Congress come down and take pictures of them with the Polaroid One Step. It was the early selfie. He would -- no one used the residence, the horseshoe pit, the golf course, Camp David, as much as he did. He loved -- to George H.W. Bush, life was one long class reunion.

Some of his best friends were Democrats. Lud Ashleigh (ph) of Ohio, Sunny Montgomery (ph) of Mississippi. Rosti (ph). For him, the ambient reality of Washington was a more bipartisan one. And so, when he faced the tough decisions, he was able to make a consensus-based one. It hurt him with the right. It hurt him with his own party. He broke with the base of his party on read my lips. But -- and I asked him once, I said, what -- what's your regret in public life? And he said, I shouldn't have said, "read my lips." So he was honest --

DICKERSON: Not shouldn't have been an underlined deal, just the rhetoric.

GOODWIN: Not shouldn't have done it, right.

DICKERSON: Yes. All right.

ROVE: Is there a reason why you pointed to me when you kept saying "the right"?

MEACHAM: With great love.

DICKERSON: We're going to come back to the right here after this commercial and talk about McKinley with Karl Rove and then the rest of our panel as well.


DICKERSON: Our presidential books panel. Karl Rove, I want to go back to you on McKinley and the American -- the American Protective Association. This is -- well, tell us what this is and why there might be a parallel with today's Republican Party.

ROVE: First, one quick comment. We talked about all these presidents who -- Lincoln, with rivals and Washington and so forth. Their -- presidents have to have a certain amount of self-confidence and self-awareness. They have to be confident that they can command these different personalities and they have to be self-aware that they're not necessarily and should not be always the smartest person in the room. And McKinley was like this as well. He -- this is why he brought together the divergent elements of the Republican Party.

But the -- the example you ask about, the largest pressure group in America in the 1980s is the American Protective Association, which has nothing to do with protective tariffs. It is a virulently anti- Catholic, an anti-immigrant group founded in Clinton, Iowa. It has millions of members, plays a huge role in voter guides to tell people how to vote. And they declare in the 1896 that one candidate alone is unacceptable on the Republican side and that's William McKinley because he's thought to be too close to the Catholics. McKinley is smart enough to know that the country's changing rapidly demographically and that many of the new immigrants, industrial workers, are Catholics and not from the normal sources of immigration. They're not from the British Isles and from Germany. They're from eastern Europe and southern Europe and central Europe.

And so he wants to modernize his party. He wants to win. And in order to win, he wants to get the vote of catholic voters and of urban ethnics. And he goes out to do so by Literally taking on the APA frontally, but in a very smart way. He doesn't call them names. He doesn't excoriate them. He mocks them. They say he's a member of secret catholic society. So his campaign puts out a list of the secret societies to which he belongs -- the Grand Army of the Republics, the Loyal Union League and a college fraternity. And he then, on the first day of the Republican National Convention, demonstrates that he's in command by not having the traditional invocation offered by a protestant priest but by inviting a Jewish rabbi to come and give the invocation, deliberately saying to the APA, in essence, I'm in charge, you aren't. And this coalition that he creates for 40 years is large -- has a significant number of Catholics and urban workers, and he's the first Republican ever endorsed by a member of the catholic hierarchy.

DICKERSON: Ed Larson, I want to ask you. You were talking about Washington, that he was a cautious risk taker. I was struck when they're trying to convince him to come to the constitutional convention. He says that the -- the train of evils must be sorely felt in the country. In other words, people maybe weren't up in arms about how bad the existing order was and so he wasn't going to go yet. That sort of smartness about political capital, talk about that a little bit.

LARSON: Washington was a tremendous retail politician. He knew people. He was -- he was dignified, but he wasn't aloof. And he had this sense about where the country was going. And he knew that in the years after the revolution, and before the -- the new country, the building of the Constitution, that a stronger government was needed because we needed a national market economy and that required a central government that controlled interstate commerce. And we needed a strong country that could raise taxes and build a military because we needed national defense. He showed the issues were economic -- economic progress and respect overseas, a strong military, national security. And he realized the country had to be ready to buy that because the idea of the new Constitution, which he strongly supported from the time of the revolution, strong -- had to be -- had to have popular support.


LARSON: So how to bring the people together. And he knew he only had limited capital from the -- from the revolution. So he had to wait until the time was right. So timing was right. And build together a large consensus. And he would only go when he had a vision of what could happen. Cautious risk taker. Taking the risks to have a new Constitution. Taking that -- waiting for the right time but building a consensus. And that's what he did.

DICKERSON: Doris, you've written about presidents who have a good sense of timing. Do you see in our current political moment a -- a moment -- something that one of the presidents you've written about would kind of grab and say, this is what they would do?

GOODWIN: Well, I think there's two things that two of the guys that I've lived with would do. One is FDR. I mean think about how confusing ISIS is. We don't even know where they are. We can't figure out on a map where they are. In 1942, we were in a similar situation. We'd lost in Pearl Harbor. We'd lost in the Asian theater. And he said, I want everybody to get a map in front of them for the fireside chat this weekend and I'm going to point out to you why this is a different war. Why it has different methods. Why you have to care about what's happening in these far-flung parts of the war because it's our security and we're going to get through this.

There was a run on maps unlike anything ever seen. (INAUDIBLE) map stores sold more maps in that week than they'd sold the whole year. Even the guy's wife, who never had liked maps, and he's been selling them for 50 years, said, bring me a map home, I want to watch what FDR is going to do or listen to him. So I think we should do that now. I think we need to understand from our president where ISIS is. We need to look on our maps. We have to figure out where it is and what we can do about it and how it's going to affect us.

DICKERSON: All right. Well, we're going to have this conversation. It's going to continue online. Thank you all so much for being with us.

There's a lot more I can talk about. Unfortunately, we're going to do that right after the show. It will be on -- posted later on

And we'll be right back.


DICKERSON: Until next week, for FACE THE NATION, I'm John Dickerson.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.