(CBS News) -- A transcript from the October 18, 2015 edition of "Face the Nation." Guests included Rep. Trey Gowdy, Rep. Elijah Cummings, David Axelrod, Bob Woodward, Mark Halperin, Nancy Cordes and Jeffrey Goldberg.
JOHN DICKERSON, CBS HOST: Today on FACE THE NATION: the showdown over Benghazi. Hillary Clinton prepares to testify before Congress.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn e-mails.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DICKERSON: Hillary Clinton may have gotten help from her opponents at the first Democratic debate last week, but the spotlight will be intense as she appears before the congressional committee investigating the attacks on a U.S. facility in Benghazi Libya, a committee that has faced its own share of controversy lately.
We will talk to its chairman, Republican Trey Gowdy, and the top Democrat on the committee, Elijah Cummings.
And we will talk about the Democratic debate and the presidential campaign with our political panel and journalism legend Bob Woodward, who will also talk about revelations in his new book, "The Last of the President's Men," the story of a key player in the fall of the Nixon White House.
It's all ahead on FACE THE NATION.
Good morning. I'm John Dickerson.
This Thursday, all eyes will be on Capitol Hill, where the former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will testify in front of the House committee investigating the September 11, 2012, attacks in Benghazi, Libya. That attack resulted in the deaths of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.
We're joined now by the chairman of that committee, Republican Trey Gowdy, who is in Clemson, South Carolina, this morning.
Good morning, Mr. Chairman.
I want to talk to you about some people from your own party who have talked about this committee. You're familiar with their remarks. But House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy has suggested that this committee has driven down Hillary Clinton's poll numbers. Richard Hanna, a Republican congressman from New York, said explicitly that this was a political investigation. A former investigator on your team has said that this was a politically motivated investigation.
Why would all these people say that? REP. TREY GOWDY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I guess because they don't have any idea what the facts are, John.
If you look at the facts, we have done 50 witnesses, one of whom you could argue was exclusively related to her e-mail, and that was shortest interview we have done. We have 50,000 new documents. Less than 5 percent have anything to do with Secretary Clinton.
She's an important witness, but she is one witness. And by the time we're through, John, we will have interviewed 70 witnesses. So, she's one out of 70. I get that she gets more attention than the other 69. But, frankly, if you ask me, the eyewitnesses on the ground that night in Benghazi are more important to me, as a former prosecutor, than the former secretary of state.
DICKERSON: As a former prosecutor, if you looked at the evidence from Republicans in your own party who said this is a political committee, wouldn't that be enough to least start an investigation into whether this is politically motivated?
It's a pretty big body of evidence.
GOWDY: Well, actually, there's no evidence. There are three people who don't have any idea what they're talking about. Two of my colleagues, the two Republican members of the conference, have never asked for an update on our committee.
They couldn't name three witnesses we talked to. They couldn't tell you a single document production that we have received. And the former staffer left in June. So, he has no idea what we have done since June. And his allegation about Secretary Clinton, he never said until he sat down with somebody in your profession last Friday.
So, these three wouldn't even be called as a witness in my former job, because they have no firsthand knowledge.
DICKERSON: Let me ask you. You told "The New York Times" that you had asked Speaker Boehner to allow another committee to focus on the Clinton e-mails because you worried that it would distract from the work of your committee. Have your fears been realized?
GOWDY: Well, I don't know.
Other people are going to have to make that decision. I will just tell you this, John. When Speaker Boehner called me, he never mentioned Secretary Clinton's name, not once. And my position has always been the same. Four dead Americans is more than enough work for me. She's a witness. She was the secretary of state. You have to talk to her.
But we have already talked to 50 people not named Clinton. We're going to talk to another couple of dozen not named Clinton. So, I understand that there's more attention associated with her, but, from my perspective, I am much more interested in Chris Stevens' e-mails, which we just received, than I am her e-mails, which we just received. DICKERSON: Speaking of the politicization of this, Carly Fiorina, running for president, rendered her view on what these hearings are about -- or what this hearing is about this week.
She said, "I wish, for once, Mrs. Clinton would be prepared to stand to be held accountable for the murder of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya."
What do you make of that comment, and is that what Thursday is about?
GOWDY: No, that is not what Thursday is about.
Thursday is about the three tranches of Benghazi, what happened before, during and after. And, frankly, in Secretary Clinton's defense, she's going to have lot more information about the before than she is the during and the after. So, I get that there's a presidential campaign going on.
I have told my own Republican colleagues and friends, shut up talking about things that you don't know anything about. And unless you're on the committee, you have no idea what we have done, why we have done it and what new facts we have found.
We have found new facts, John, that have absolutely nothing to do with her. I get the people don't want to talk about that, but the seven members of my committee are much more focused on the four dead Americans than we are anyone's presidential aspirations.
DICKERSON: Tell us about the new facts. One of the charges against your committee is there have been seven hearings -- seven investigations in Congress already. Why have another one. What new facts have you got that rebuts that charge?
GOWDY: You know, John, I do hear that there have been seven, which makes me smile because I wonder, how did they miss Ambassador Stevens' e-mails? None of the seven previous committees bothered to access the e-mails of our ambassador.
So, if you want a window into Libya and what was happening in the weeks and months before these four were killed, why would you not look at the ambassador's e-mails? He was a prolific e-mailer. I will give you a one-week time period in June. He's just been put in place as the ambassador, just accepted, on June the 7th. And he is already asking for more security. He knows that there's an uptick in violence and he's asking for more security.
On almost exactly that day, John, he is asked to read and respond to an e-mail from Sidney Blumenthal, who knows nothing about Libya. So, he's asking for security. And Jake Sullivan in Washington is asking our ambassador the day after our facility was attacked with an IED to read and respond to an e-mail from Sidney Blumenthal.
Our ambassador is also asked for public messaging advice on the violence in Libya. Victoria Nuland e-mails him and says, we need help with your public messaging advice. He needed help with security, John. He didn't need help with P.R. And he was asking for more security.
And on one occasion, he even joked in an e-mail, maybe we should ask another government to pay for our security upgrades because our government isn't willing to do it. You want to know what happened in Libya, you got to look at his e-mails.
DICKERSON: And so what do those two points go to, that nobody was listening to Ambassador Stevens?
GOWDY: The total disconnect between what was happening in Libya with the escalation in violence, that we were a soft target, that there was an increase in anti-Western sentiment, that we were facing an uptick in violence while Washington is asking him to read and react to a Sidney Blumenthal e-mail, and help on how to message the violence. He needed help on how to deal with it.
DICKERSON: Any new information about whether there could have been a chance to rescue on that night?
GOWDY: Yes, sir.
There's more information on our military preparedness and our inability/ability to respond. Some of that information, I'm not able to give you publicly. I would just tell you this. We have new information all three tranches of Libya that have nothing to do with this -- with Secretary Clinton.
DICKERSON: What do you want to know from Secretary Clinton then when she shows up?
GOWDY: What I want to know is, while violence was going up in Libya, why was our security profile going down? It wasn't even staying the same. It was going down.
And in the past, John, she has said, well, I had people and processes in place to handle that. Well, you also have people and processes in place to handle drivel that is produced by a guy named Sidney Blumenthal. But that made it to your inbox.
I want to know why certain things made it to your inbox, Madam Secretary, but the plaintiff pleadings of our own ambassador that you put in place for more security never bothered to make it to your inbox. I think that's a fair question.
DICKERSON: Bernie Sanders this week made some headlines in the Democratic debate when he said about Hillary Clinton's e-mails -- he said -- and I'm paraphrasing -- that the country doesn't care about her damn e-mails.
What's your reaction to that?
GOWDY: I care about her e-mails only to the extent that they relate to Libya and Benghazi. There are other folks who may have equities in her e-mails and there may be other entities who are evaluating her e-mails. But my interest in them is solely making sure that I get everything I'm entitled to, so I can do my job. The rest of the it, classification, Clinton Foundation, you name it, I have zero interest in, which is why you haven't seen me send a subpoena related to it or interview a single person, other than Bryan Pagliano, because I need to know that the record is complete.
DICKERSON: Last question, 20 seconds. Mr. Chairman, do you have everything that you need now from Hillary Clinton?
GOWDY: No, sir. We don't have all the e-mails. And the State Department will concede that.
But at a certain point, you have to go ahead and call the witness. So, no, we're still missing large tranches of information from the executive branch and from this administration.
DICKERSON: All right.
GOWDY: But it's been a year-and-a-half, and I need to go ahead and call her.
DICKERSON: All right, Chairman Gowdy, thanks so much.
GOWDY: Thank you, John.
DICKERSON: Joining me now is the top Democrat on the Benghazi Committee, Maryland Representative Elijah Cummings.
Mr. Cummings, your reaction to the chairman?
REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: Well, it's interesting that after 17 months, $4.7 million and counting of taxpayer money, that Chairman Gowdy is now saying he has another two dozen witnesses to interview. It's very interesting.
And I do believe that what he has tried to do -- I listened to him very carefully -- he's now trying to shift back to where we should have been all along. That is looking at the Benghazi incident. And it's clear to me. He can try to dismiss the words of Congressman McCarthy, the second highest ranking member in Congress.
He can try to dismiss the words of Congressman Hanna, and of his hand-picked investigator who quit. But the fact is that he keeps saying, don't listen to what they say, they don't know anything.
Well, we were on the committee, too. By the way, he said there were seven members. There are also five Democrats who are on the committee. We know what has been going on. And listen to this. He has not yet interviewed the head of the CIA. But he brought in Ms. Abedin. He has not yet interviewed the head of Joint Chiefs, the head of the -- secretary of defense, none of that.
DICKERSON: Let me ask you. You mentioned Ms. Abedin. That's Huma Abedin.
DICKERSON: That's the adviser to Hillary Clinton. So, you are basically saying this is political. Is this a sham on Thursday?
CUMMINGS: I think it's a -- I think it's a sad day for all of us, because we made a commitment to the families.
The families came in with tears in their eyes literally and said, please do not make this a political football. That's exactly what's happened. They asked, they said find out more information about what did happen. And then they asked us to do one other thing, and that is try to make sure you figure out how this does not happen again.
And I think we failed at all three.
DICKERSON: But if you listen to Chairman Gowdy, he says at least two new things. One, by looking at the Chris Stevens -- Ambassador Stevens' e-mails, you get a sense of how much he was pleading and not being listened to, lines of communication not open. And he also says there's new information about the ability to respond to an attack like that.
Isn't that where the information...
CUMMINGS: Well, we need to -- we need to -- we need to honor the families' requests. And that is that we figure out how to make sure that this doesn't happen again.
And I would be happy to look into that. But keep in mind, we have had nine investigations. And, by the way, I think we -- and he talked about Sidney Blumenthal and others. I think we need to have a complete, transparent record.
And I'm calling on Mr. Gowdy to make sure that he releases all the transcripts of all these people that he claims that we have interviewed, because I got to tell you, most of them were State Department people or they were Hillary Clinton's former aides, people that worked in her campaigns, speechwriters. So, when he talks about these 50 witnesses, we still have been zeroed in on Hillary Clinton. And that -- there is absolutely no doubt about the, and it's very unfortunate.
DICKERSON: You're the ranking member on the Committee on Oversight, so you know about investigations.
DICKERSON: If you were having an investigation and a key person in it, it turns out, had a totally different way of communicating that people didn't know about, which is to say Hillary Clinton's e-mail server, wouldn't that make you kind of say, hey, I would like to know about this, even to find out if it's totally benign?
Wouldn't that take some time and some energy to go look into that, and it's a total surprise?
CUMMINGS: It might very well. But the fact is, is that this is the Benghazi Committee. Perhaps another committee on oversight might want to look into all that.
But this is a Benghazi committee. And that's -- and we have actually strayed away from what we were supposed to be doing. And, again, I'm looking for transparency. And one of the things I'm going to be doing this week is releasing our report, the Democrats' report of excerpts from the various unclassified transcriptions, where I can tell you that, of all the things that Mr. Gowdy and others have been accusing Hillary Clinton of over the last three years, not a witness verifies any of that.
DICKERSON: So, in your report that you will release this week is basically information that says Hillary Clinton was not involved in what exactly?
CUMMINGS: Was not involved in this decision with regard to security on the ground there, and the fact -- and it also addresses the issue of whether she was responsible for this gun-running, elicit gun-running between Libya and Syria.
And it goes on to -- and then the big allegation that they have made is that she ordered the stand-down of folks to help our four diplomats. That's absolutely not true. And I'm asking for Mr. Gowdy to release all the transcripts, so the American people can see what they paid for.
DICKERSON: Do you think Mr. Gowdy has acted in bad faith?
CUMMINGS: I think that Mr. Gowdy is a good man. I think he's been pressured a lot from the right.
I think he's a great lawyer. But the fact is, is that the facts speak for themselves. I would judge that. But one thing I do know is that we have -- the course that we have taken where we literally a year ago had a plan that Mr. Gowdy presented to us where we would have been interviewing all of these key people, he nearly threw that away went straight after Hillary Clinton.
And we have not had one hearing since January of this year.
DICKERSON: As head of the department at the time, do you think Hillary Clinton bears some responsibility for what happened in Benghazi?
CUMMINGS: Of course she does. And she said she does. She's taken full responsibility.
And when she comes in, I want her to tell us how we can best protect our diplomatic corps and embassies. And I want her to tell us exactly what we can do as a Congress to address these issues also.
DICKERSON: Is there anything else that you want to know? You said you would be glad to look into some of the claims Mr. Gowdy made in terms of new information that he found. Is any there anything else this committee could tell you about the underlying question of Benghazi and the attacks that night?
CUMMINGS: Again, I want to know, what can we do to make things better in the future? But that's what always -- that's what this is all about. That's what the families asked for, and that's what we should be all about.
At some point, we have to move from politics to policy.
DICKERSON: The Republicans would say -- you mentioned the e- mails had nothing to do with Benghazi, but they would say you can't get to the information about Benghazi unless you know what the key person...
CUMMINGS: Well, keep in mind, keep in mind that Hillary Clinton has turned in tens of thousands of pages of e-mails, more than any other secretary in the history of our country, secretary of state in the history of country.
And keep in mind Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice have not turned in one page. So, we have a microscope over her entire tenure as secretary of state. It's going to be interesting.
DICKERSON: It is indeed. Mr. Cummings, thank you so much for being with us.
CUMMINGS: Thank you.
DICKERSON: We will be back in one minute.
DICKERSON: Joining us now from Chicago is Democratic strategist and CNN senior political commentator David Axelrod.
David, thanks for being with us.
What's your sense of the stakes for Hillary Clinton in this Benghazi testimony this week?
DAVID AXELROD, FORMER SENIOR WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: Well, I think that there are stakes for her, but they have been reduced by kind of the circus around this committee, some which you discussed in your interviews with the two leaders of that committee.
I think most Americans suspect that there's a political element to this. That is to say, had Hillary Clinton not been running for president of the United States, there probably would not have been eight investigations. It probably would not have bled into the presidential race, as it has here.
And then you have the testimony of some of his own members. I thought it was pretty remarkable when he kind of went negative on his own members. They're including the majority leader and said he had no idea what the committee was doing.
So, I think it was going to be a very pressure-filled moment for Hillary Clinton. It probably still will be. But now there's lot of pressure on Chairman Gowdy to prove that this whole thing isn't merely a political escapade.
DICKERSON: Speaking of pressure moments on Hillary Clinton, she passed a pressure moment in that debate this week, the Democratic debate. How do you -- people think she did well. Her campaign certainly think she did well. Can she lock in gains after having a good -- what happens after a good performance like that?
AXELROD: Well, I think what she did was, she ended what was a panic.
In the summer and into the fall, there was this concern that she wasn't going to be the strong candidate that people hoped she would be. I think she allayed some of those concerns with a very strong debate performance. I think Bernie Sanders probably did well with his own supporters in that debate.
And between them, they continue to hold about three-quarters of the vote, even with the vice president as a potential candidate in those polls.
DICKERSON: I want to ask you a question about Bernie Sanders.
He said basically what he's going to do is create a revolution. That is going to put pressure on Congress and get the things passed that he proposes. You were a part of doing that with President Obama, trying to take the coalition built in the election to create and effect policy.
Given your experience, how realistic are Bernie Sanders' claims about a revolution effecting policy?
AXELROD: You know, I had this discussion with him. He was on my podcast a few weeks ago.
And I asked him about health care specifically, because he's calling for single-payer health care system. And I pointed out to him that we couldn't even get a public option within the proposal that we had for the Affordable Care Act because some Democrats were resistant to it.
And he said, well, I'm going to have millions of people march on Washington and representatives will look out the window and they will see that. Well, the fact is, a majority of Americans don't support single-payer. I happen to think it's a good idea, but I respect the fact that a lot of Americans don't.
And I think Bernie Sanders knows that. He's been in Congress for 25 years, so he's a very experienced legislator and he knows what the limitations are. He's speaking to people's aspirations. And he's doing well with it.
DICKERSON: Let me ask you about Joe Biden.
The speculation continues. One of the things that is talked about if he were to run is that he would run as more full-throated supporter of President Obama. He's even said to run as a third term of Barack Obama.
Is that a sufficiently distinguishing characteristic to make him that much different than Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary?
AXELROD: I think it's tough.
One of the -- the great impetus for his candidacy through the summer months and into the fall was this sense that Hillary Clinton was deficient as a candidate. I think she's, as I said earlier, turned a bunch of that off. And now he is between 10 and 20 percent in most of these national polls. He's late in terms of raising money. It's difficult to put an organization together.
He's got real challenges ahead if he gets into the race. He's talented. He's got a lot to offer. But it's a hard road forward if he decides to go.
DICKERSON: The reporting has been that he might make a decision this weekend. Now there's new reporting suggesting it might take even longer.
If you were involved in advising him in some capacity, would you -- is his window closing? Has it closed?
AXELROD: Well, there are some -- there are some official reasons why it will close, because a handful of states have filing deadlines in November. And you have to do certain things to get ready for those.
And I also think, particularly within the Democratic community, there's a growing impatience with this period of reflection. I think he really is struggling with the emotional toll of running for president vs. his ambition to do so. And he's obviously going to take every minute he can to weigh the two.
DICKERSON: All right, David Axelrod, thanks so much for being with us, a lot going on in the Democratic race.
We will be back in a moment.
DICKERSON: Donald Trump and Jeb Bush are in a small fight about a big thing, the legacy of the 9/11 attacks and George W. Bush's presidency.
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DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When you talk about George Bush, I mean, say what you want, the World Trade Center came down during his time. TAPPER: Jeb's response next.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DICKERSON: In a tweet, Jeb Bush responded, calling Trump pathetic. "We were attacked, and my brother kept us safe," he wrote, to which Trump responded, "No, Jeb Bush, you're pathetic for saying nothing happened during your brother's term when the World Trade Center was attacked and came down."
Ben Carson came down on George Bush's side.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: You don't think that George Bush has any responsibility fort attacks on 9/11?
BEN CARSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think it's ridiculous to suggest that he's responsible for it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DICKERSON: Jeb Bush doesn't want to be defined by his brother, but he's now using George W. Bush's legacy to define Trump saying in tweets and a video released yesterday that Trump's comments about George W. are evidence that he lacks the judgment to be president.
He's certain that voters agree with him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: As it relates to my brother, there's one thing I know for sure. He kept us safe. I don't know if you remember...
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DICKERSON: Jeb Bush is asking for a referendum on his brother in a public debate with a rival he has yet find a way to beat.
This may work, or it may backfire, further tying Jeb's prospects to his brother's record and rendering a negative verdict on that legacy, which was improving before Jeb entered the race -- back in a moment.
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, including our political panel and a look at a key player in the Watergate saga.
Stay with us.
DICKERSON: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION. I'm John Dickerson.
We're joined by our panel, "The Washington Post's" legendary Bob Woodward, who needs no introduction. Mark Halperin is managing editor of Bloomberg Politics. Nancy Cordes is our CBS News congressional correspondent. And Jeffrey Goldberg is the national correspondent for "The Atlantic."
Bob, I want to start with you. You've seen a few committees. What do you make of the Benghazi committee and this hearing this Thursday?
BOB WOODWARD, WASHINGTON POST: Well, the successful congressional investigations eventually become bipartisan. The Senate Watergate Committee was set up by a vote in the Senate 77-0, dozens of Republicans saying, yes, we need to look at this. And now we've got a fractured committee and so you wind up getting fractured partisan data.
MARK HALPERIN, BLOOMBERG POLITICS: Take -- you take the fact that it's not been bipartisan, the fact that Congressman McCarthy said what he said, Hillary Clinton's on the offense, and that Chairman Gowdy showed this morning that he does not know how to frame for the public broad questions, what did the president know when did he know it, something that will break through. So I think Hillary Clinton is set up to be as strong and as powerful in this hearing unless Chairman Gowdy's sitting on some secret then anyone could have imagined.
DICKERSON: You know, Jeffrey, Mark makes a good point about, this goes down the rabbit hole very quickly.
JEFFREY GOLDBERG, THE ATLANTIC: Right.
DICKERSON: And also when you get charge and counter charge and that's a series of names people don't know. Take us back to 30,000 feet. What's the big question being missed here about U.S. policy and --
GOLDBERG: Well, they're having a hearing about the wrong subject as it relates to Libya. The question facing America not, what happened that night in Benghazi? Those are important questions and we have to have better diplomatic security, quite obviously. But the question for Hillary Clinton going into this race is, why did you support a Libya intervention that has failed? I mean in the debate she owned the intervention. She thought -- she said it was the right thing to do. Libya is in a state of failure. And that should be what we are debating. The role of intervention -- the role the U.S. should be playing in the Middle East in these disintegrating states. And so I think everything is being missed actually.
DICKERSON: Yes. And the role of what you do after you come in.
GOLDBERG: Well, that -- that's -- that's the key. We, you know, this was the half way intervention. And so what's going to be interesting when you go into the general, if she goes into the general, is, is she going to have to distance herself from President Obama's reluctant to actually fully commit in Libya.
DICKERSON: Nancy, what do you make of Clinton posture going into this? How -- what's their feeling about this?
NANCY CORDES, CBS NEWS CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, she's definitely got some wind in her sails, not only because of her strong debate performance, but also because of the gifts that you talked about with your previous guests, with Kevin McCarthy, with Richard Hanna saying that -- or at least admitting that this is partly political. The challenge for her is going to be that Chairman Gowdy has said he wants to do four rounds of questioning, ten minutes per questioner. Now math was never my strongest subject, but with 12 members of the committee, we're looking at eight hours before you even work in lunch, votes, breaks. And it's very hard, even if you're the most disciplined person testifying, not to have a single moment where you say something that you wish you didn't, especially when you're in hour seven or hour eight.
DICKERSON: She's going to have to bring a sleeping bag.
Let's pivot to Joe Biden and the speculation about him.
Bob, what is your gut tell you about Joe Biden?
WOODWARD: I think when we know actually what happens when he announces his decision, we're going to find out that he's decided both ways. I know for a fact months ago he told somebody very, very close to him that he had decided to run. I think what's happened is then he's undecided to run and maybe decided again and so we're in this never neverland. And this when you peel back decision-making, you find that it goes up and down, this way and that way. Where it's going to land, you know, probably he won't, but, surprise, maybe.
DICKERSON: In the calls I've been making, people who have had a view along the way have now reached the "heck if I know" stage of (INAUDIBLE).
Mark, I want to ask you about, there's a Suffolk University poll about New Hampshire in which Democrats were asked, do you want Joe Bide to run. Fifty percent said they did not want him to run, 36 -- only 36 said they did want him to run. What's your sense of the politics?
HALPERIN: I think that the static analysis would tell you that if he got in now it's too late. There's no way to overcome the poll deficits, the fundraising deficits, the organization deficits. My sense is from talking to people that the vice president's not looking at this as a static thing, nor is he afraid to end his career with what some would say is a humiliating loss, nor is he moved by Hillary Clinton getting good reviews in the debate or what happens Thursday. If he runs, he will try to run as an incumbent vice president saying, I'm part of an administration you liked Democrats, I can do better, I can win a general election, and I can talk about economic, middle class, working class economics. I think in the end he, according to people who have talked to him of late, he is as sharp and as focused and as over his grief as he has been since Beau died, but not of them are sure he's all the way there.
DICKERSON: Nancy, I was struck that John Podesta, the top person in Hillary Clinton's campaign, said in -- I think it was "The New York Times," he said Joe Biden needs to kind of make a decision --
DICKERSON: Which felt like a movement from where the Clinton campaign had been, which is, let Joe make his decision, we're not going to weigh in. What did you make of that?
CORDES: I think they're absolutely trying to put pressure on Joe Biden. And people who I've spoken to in his inner circle say, he doesn't care. He is happy to wait. He's willing to withstand the slings and arrows, not just from the Clinton camp, but others in the Democratic Party who say he needs to get off the fence. He's comfortable waiting if he thinks that that's the best thing for him.
Someone else very close to him told me that he has always had saying, that in politics either you are on your way up or you are on your way down. And even if he's leaning against a run, he knows that the minute he says he's not running, he's on the way down. He's a lame duck vice president who is probably leaving office for good in a year and that's something that's difficult to say for someone who spent more than half their life in elected politics.
DICKERSON: Let's move to Bernie Sanders. You know that you have reached a certain position in life when you're being parodied on "Saturday Night Live." Let's take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're doomed. We need a revolution. Millions of people on the streets. And we've got to do something. And we've got to do it now!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DICKERSON: So that's Larry David, the creator of "Seinfeld."
Bob, I want to ask you the question I asked David Axelrod, is Bernie Sanders' argument is he's going to create a revolution and that's going to put pressure on Congress. Given how polarized things are now, what's your sense of what a -- what chances are that that would work?
WOODWARD: I -- you know, I think if you really look at what voters are thinking they want not a revolution but some sort of peace and let's do away with a lot of the slings and arrows that are flying around. So my guess -- and it's a guess -- and it -- but it's about most likely outcome, that the Democrats are going to find a progressive candidate, not a revolutionary or radical one, and the Republicans are going to find the person who most resembles Ronald Reagan. Somebody -- I mean this is the new hero in the Republican Party. And if anybody can stand up convincingly and say, I'm most like Ronald Reagan, that may be the nominee.
GOLDBERG: Just a very quick point on Bernie Sanders. I -- you know, hope and change turned out to be harder to sell than people thought. Despair and change is probably going to be harder to sell than that, I think. So I there's like -- there's a -- there's a top line here that you can't cross.
HALPERIN: If he wins the nomination and wins the general election, there will be a revolution. He will sweep the Democrats in control of the Senate. I think he could well turn the House, because he will have such coat tails if the voters turn out to vote for Bernie Sanders. So I think he's absolutely right that he would have a mandate to do lots of things. He's talking about difficult to get there, but if he got there, he --
WOODWARD: How difficult though? I mean it's almost is impossible, isn't it?
HALPERIN: I don't --
GOLDBERG: I think we're talking about a level of difficulty --
HALPERIN: Very -- very difficult. But I don't think he should -- I don't think we should be so cynical as to say that if he -- if he found a following, if he got the American people to elect him president of the United States, that he wouldn't then have a mandate to make the kind of fundamental changes he wants to make. I agree he's a long shot to do both --
DICKERSON: But if he got there, that would be the follow-on --
HALPERIN: Yes, (INAUDIBLE) coat tails like you've never seen before.
CORDES: And in his defense he's not saying he is going to start a revolution. He's saying that he needs a revolution because he knows that the things he wants to do are going to be impossible to do given this Congress otherwise.
DICKERSON: All right. That's it for now. We'll be right back with our panel in a moment. Stay with us.
DICKERSON: And we're back.
Jeffrey, I want to talk about the Republican side of the race. Donald Trump and Jeb Bush are now in fight over George W. Bush's legacy.
GOLDBERG: Such a useful fight.
What do you make of that?
GOLDBERG: Well, it's, as you pointed out, it's quite an interesting moment. Jeb is tying himself to his brother, which might work in the primaries. But if he gets to general that's death. That doesn't do very much for him.
But this issue that Trump has centered on, has come to the 9/11 issue, is such an interesting one because there are lot of things you can blame George W. Bush for, right. But 9/11 is slightly lower down on the list; the guy was president for eight months. And if you -- when this happened.
And if you look, one of the critiques Trump has of Bush is that his immigration policies led to this.
Now, the 9/11 hijackers were in America before George W. Bush was president. So that's a bit of a stretch.
DICKERSON: Donald Trump making a stretch.
HALPERIN: Bush is in a fight to Marco Rubio to be the establishment alternative to Trump, the establishment assumes some day there will be such a thing and that that person will wind up being the nominee.
He's chosen to open another front in his war against Trump because, in Bush world, they believe, in the end, why will Trump fall? They believe because voters will say he's not a credible commander in chief. Trump opened the door to that attack; it's dangerous for Bush, first of all, fighting a two-front war is hard.
And second, he's caught Trump before on these type of issues and it's not helped him.
DICKERSON: And his most animated moments are in defense of his brother, which creates that lock.
Bob, I want to ask you about, Jeb Bush has tried to get out from under his brother. But this is history. I mean, George W. Bush was president when a tragedy happened in America and two wars resulted afterwards.
I mean, isn't it kind of crazy to think that anybody can get out from a president who presided over such historic times?
WOODWARD: Well, I wrote four books about Bush's wars. And some of it worked; some of it definitely did not work, like the Iraq war. And but Jeffrey's right. Refighting this doesn't work. This is not on people's minds. They want to know, are we going to be safe now not whether we were or weren't in the past.
And I think, again, the Republican Party has -- there's a certain gravitational pull that develops and it is let's do something sensible; we want to win the presidency. And the polling and common sense will take you away from Trump getting the nomination.
And I think it will, as I was saying, you know, who can stand up and say, I like Ronald Reagan, not Donald Trump?
GOLDBERG: A very quick point on something that Bob said.
It's another example, this is another example of fighting about the wrong subject. In Libya, we should be discussing the role of interventionism. When it comes to 9/11, we should be talking about what do we do to defend ourselves from terrorists without hurting or damaging the Constitution, for instance.
And this fight is just a rehash of something that happened, we're not going to fix it by talking about it over and over again.
DICKERSON: Mark, what do you -- we had some fundraising numbers out this week.
What do you make of those numbers, who's -- any dark horses coming out with a lot of money and... ?
HALPERIN: Well, we don't see the super PAC numbers because we don't get those until later. And I think Ted Cruz is probably still doing well there.
The fight over who has got 12 million versus 10 million versus 20 million even does not matter. Presidential politics is about -- Donald Trump is showing that, getting on the news, driving your message personally, being a good candidate matters so much more than raising money for television ads.
So I think it's all a bit silly and the focus on it is a bit silly. Jeb Bush said the ads are going to save him; that's what's going to bring him back.
No. No candidate can be revived with ads. It's got to be speaking to the aspirations of the American people.
CORDES: But what it has become is sort of a proxy for this fight we talked about earlier between Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush, they're fighting over who raised more money and I got 0.3 more than you; no, you didn't because they both want to try and show they're in the strongest position so that when voters, if voters do turn away from Donald Trump and Ben Carson, they seem like the obvious choice.
DICKERSON: But no one bothers ever -- lit the fire of the American imagination talking about dollars and cents of money raised, right?
WOODWARD: Yes, that's true. And then when you start doing that -- is well documented under the follow the money rule. It's corrupt. It's a process that does -- and this is one of the things I think Bernie Sanders and the Democratic debate made really good point about: people are being bought and sold.
DICKERSON: One last question to you, Nancy, before we leave, is Paul Ryan, the question for who is going to be the Speaker of the House.
Where does that stand before Republicans come back to town?
CORDES: Well, there is some news on that front and that is that after weeks if not years of saying, no way, no how, Paul Ryan is now telling those close to him that he is open to running for Speaker.
But there is a big caveat, which is that he's not going to campaign for the support of these 40 or so very conservative members of the House Freedom Caucus. He says he's got a record of conservative leadership; either they believe in that record or they don't.
The problem is they're looking for very significant concessions in exchange for their support. They want new rules, for example. He says if he doesn't get the sense that they're going to be behind him he'll stay where he is as the chair of Ways and Means, which is some place he was very happy with.
DICKERSON: They've got to come to him and there's no real other alternative.
Thank you all for joining me today.
We'll be right back with look at a key player in the Nixon White House and the Watergate investigation. Stay with us.
DICKERSON: Those of you who don't know the name Alexander Butterfield, watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. FRED THOMPSON (R-TN), SENATE WATERGATE COMMITTEE'S CHIEF MINORITY COUNSEL: Mr. Butterfield, are you aware of the installation of any listening devices in the Oval Office of the president?
ALEXANDER BUTTERFIELD, DEPUTY ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT RICHARD NIXON: I was aware of listening devices, yes, sir.
DICKERSON (voice-over): That was in July of 1973 in the Senate Watergate hearings.
That's Butterfield, exposing publicly for the first time the existence of the secret White House taping system that would ultimately bring down President Nixon. It was a bombshell.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DICKERSON: Butterfield is the subject of a new book, "The Last of the President's Men," by none other than famed "Washington Post" reporter, Bob Woodward.
And Bob is back with us now.
Bob, that pause between Fred Thompson's question and Butterfield's answer seems like a whole lifetime in there. Why was his admission about the taping system so important?
WOODWARD: Well, because it was Nixon's biggest secret. In fact, Nixon thought it would never be revealed. And of course the tapes were -- the Supreme Court said they had to be turned over to the prosecutors and the investigators. And they provided the evidence that forced Nixon to resign.
And Nixon was forced to resign when he really look at it by the Republicans who were -- as Barry Goldwater once told Carl Bernstein and me, "Too many lies, too many crimes."
And that's what it was.
DICKERSON: Alexander Butterfield was in the tight circle that knew these tapes existed. Kissinger didn't even know, right, that the recordings existed. And so he knew that it would nail the president.
Why did he give them up?
WOODWARD: Well, there's a long section in the book about this odyssey he took. And his ex-wife thinks he wanted to tell; Butterfield kind of denies that and then says, "Well, subconsciously, maybe I did."
But ultimately in our business we try to figure out why people do things and this finally, I think, gets to the answer. But you see that this is a story about power. This is about Nixon's power and Butterfield, who had that place, office right next to the Oval Office for three years, was witness, front row seat.
And when I started talking to Butterfield and realized that he had thousands of documents, some originals, that he had taken out of the White House.
Some of this stuff, for somebody who spent years looking at Nixon, is shocking.
DICKERSON: Well, that's what's so amazing about this book, because you think we -- Nixon, you know, it's been covered, Watergate, and yet you found someone who was taking careful notes and writing his own, even, story about the period before the tapes exist.
So this is a window -- and he was a bit of a pack rat.
I mean he had everything, right?
DICKERSON: He did.
WOODWARD: Well, I mean he had lots.
WOODWARD: But the real question here is the management of the Vietnam War. That war is the index for -- it tells us who we are to the world and to ourselves. And the Vietnam War still casts this giant shadow over the country, and it should. And what happened in the Vietnam War -- and there's this new memo, the Zilch Memo, which was buried and no one had ever seen it. I talked to people about it, oh, no, it doesn't exist, and so forth.
And there it is...
DICKERSON: Tell us what the Zilch Memo is.
WOODWARD: Yes, right. It's Nixon in his own handwriting in early '72, when he's starting to run for reelection saying that the bombing, three years of beginning which he'd ordered and supervised, accomplished zilch, nothing, and it was a total failure.
And, of course, this contradicts every -- three years of pronouncements about the importance of the bombing. The night before he wrote that, he told CBS News Dan Rather that it was very, very effective.
And so it's a lie. And it is a really significant lie because then that year, Nixon increased and intensified the bombing. And there are tapes and documents that show that it really was done because bombing was popular, according to the polling and Nixon wanted to win reelection. And there -- there's some hair-raising conversations about this.
So you find the bombing was not to win the war, but to win reelection.
DICKERSON: Yes. In Nixon's own handwriting, basically saying it. And he was pushing Kissinger to try and find some other new method that would be more effective.
WOODWARD: And he wanted a study. And the -- I asked Kissinger and he said he doesn't remember the specific memo. He said that Nixon was frequently asking, he said I'll show you 50 memos where Nixon asked for more bombing.
And, you know, there is a social -- I was in the Navy in the late '60s and served on a ship off the coast of Vietnam. There is a social contract between the commander-in-chief and everyone in the military -- you do our job, I'll do my job.
And the job of the commander-in-chief is to protect the military if we're engaged in wars, totty win the war, not to use these -- the means of dropping millions of tons of bombs to win reelection.
I mean that -- that is monstrous behavior. It is -- if there was a memo now that Barack Obama, who's doing all these drone strikes, where he said, well, we've achieved -- we've done all these drone strikes for years, we've achieved zilch and it's a failure, and that became public, people -- I mean he'd -- he might be finished.
DICKERSON: Yes. That is the big monstrous behavior. What your book also categorizes and -- or details and Butterfield details is the small ways in which Nixon was just a very strange character.
And tell us about -- when Butterfield first comes into the job, Haldeman is his boos. And he won't introduce Butterfield to Nixon.
WOODWARD: Well, because he -- it has to be done at the right time. There has to be a briefing memo on it. And it turned out he had to do it at a moment that was not planned. And so Nixon didn't know it was going to happen and there was no talking point, you know, now this new deputy chief of staff is going to be here. And Nixon couldn't talk.
And there is incident after incident where you see Nixon lonely, haunted by the past. You know, he's j every little slight seems to be remembered, when he was on Wall Street as an attorney for being -- after being vice president for eight years.
He rants and raves about those people who were my law partners, the SOBs, did a one of them ever invite me to his country club to play golf?
Did he ever invite me to -- and, you know, this -- I mean Nixon, unfortunately for him and for the country, never relaxed. He was -- he never sensed, hey, your president, there's some goodwill out there, even among Democrats, because they want you to succeed.
And so it was always this war. And so like he was haunted by JFK, John F. Kennedy pictures that were discovered in the staff offices and just went nuts about it, called it an infestation. And Butterfield had to conduct an investigation.
And he wrote Nixon a memo subject, "Sanitization of the EOB Staff Offices."
Bob Woodward, we're going to have to end it there.
A fascinating book.
We'll be right back.
DICKERSON: Thursday, you can watch all of Hillary Clinton's testimony to the Benghazi Committee, starting at 10:00 a.m., live on our digital outlet, CBSN.
Until next week, for FACE THE NATION, I'm John Dickerson.