Watch CBSN Live

Full transcript of "Face the Nation" on July 7, 2019

7/7: Cuccinelli, Coons, Delaney
7/7: Cuccinelli, Coons, Delaney 46:57

On this "Face the Nation" broadcast moderated by Margaret Brennan:

  • Ken Cuccinelli, Acting Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (read more)
  • Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del. (read more)
  • 2020 Democratic Presidential Candidate John Delaney (read more)
  • Glen Johnson, author of "Window Seat on the World" (watch)
  • Panelists: Jamelle Bouie, Susan Page, Michael Gerson, and David Nakamura (watch)

Click here to browse full transcripts of "Face the Nation."

MARGARET BRENNAN: It's Sunday, July 7th. I am Margaret Brennan and this is FACE THE NATION.

Dangerous overcrowding and unsanitary conditions at the border. That's how a new government report describes facilities used to detain migrants. But on Friday, the President dismissed it--

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I've seen some of those places, and they are run beautifully. They are clean. They are good.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --and renewed his vow to start mass deportation rates fairly soon.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Well, I don't call them raids. I say they came in illegally, and we're bringing them out legally.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Our guests, acting director of Citizenship and Immigration Services Ken Cuccinelli and Delaware Democrat Senator Chris Coons. Plus, Joe Biden apologizes.

JOE BIDEN: Now was I wrong a few weeks ago? Yes. I was.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Telling voters he regrets recent comments about past work with segregationist senators.

JOE BIDEN: I am sorry for any of the pain or misconception I may have caused anybody.

MARGARET BRENNAN: That after post-debate polls showed the former vice president losing support, while California Senator Kamala Harris gained ground.

KAMALA HARRIS: Join me as we right what is wrong.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll talk with one candidate hoping to beat them both. Former Maryland Congressman John Delaney.

All that, and political analysis of the week up next on FACE THE NATION.

Good morning. Welcome to FACE THE NATION. We begin today with the acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Ken Cuccinelli. His agency is part of Homeland Security and it manages the processing of applications for refugees, those claiming asylum or seeking citizenship. Thank you for being here.

KEN CUCCINELLI (Acting Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services/@USCISCuccinelli): My pleasure.

MARGARET BRENNAN: President Trump said he was going to delay the round-up of migrants for two weeks until Congress overhauled asylum laws.


MARGARET BRENNAN: It's been two weeks. This has not happened.


MARGARET BRENNAN: So what is the administration going to do?

KEN CUCCINELLI: Well, essentially, at this point, it's been put in Matt Albence's hand, the acting director at-- at ICE. He's a career ICE officer. He came up through the ranks. And they're ready to just perform their mission, which is to go and find and-- and detain and then deport the approximately one million people who have final removal orders. They've been all the way through the due process, and have final removal orders. Who among those will be targeted for this particular effort or not is really just information kept within ICE at this point.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So there had been reports that this would be just in the thousands. You're saying the round-ups will be far larger scale.

KEN CUCCINELLI: No, no, I am just pointing out that the pool of those with final removal orders--


KEN CUCCINELLI: --is enormous. And, you know, it's-- it's important to note, here we are talking about ICE doing its job as if it's special, and really this should be going on on a rolling basis for ICE. And they've been interfered with effectively and held up by the politics of Washington to a certain extent. And--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, the Trump administration--

KEN CUCCINELLI: --they're looking forward to just getting back to doing their job.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So Congress hasn't changed asylum laws.

KEN CUCCINELLI: They have not touched it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you expect anything?

KEN CUCCINELLI: You know I just saw the House calendar put out, I think, by the speaker's office, and was disappointed to see nothing on that calendar to address this subject before they all go on vacation in August. So-- and there is some relatively--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Can you act without Congress?

KEN CUCCINELLI: Well, there are things we're doing. There are regulatory changes. But they take a long time. And they are not the equivalent of a legal change by Congress. We really need Congress, for instance, to fix the trafficking loophole that allows children from the Northern Triangle, for instance, and other countries around the world, to not be repatriated quickly and return to their families. We need help with the Flores fix, the Flores settlement that even the Obama administration fought the judge in that case in 2015 expanding it--

MARGARET BRENNAN: This puts a twenty-day limit on being able to detain.

KEN CUCCINELLI: Well, right, but it was for almost twenty years it was understood that that was to deal with unaccompanied children. A judge in 2015, opposed by the Obama administration, expanded that to families. And that has tied our facilities up in knots. It's made it very difficult to manage that population, to keep the families together in detention while they go through the due process.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I understand you're new to the job, but you were just pointing out the Democratic-controlled House hasn't acted on asylum laws. Why didn't the Trump administration do anything on this when Republicans were in control of two Houses?

KEN CUCCINELLI: Oh, I think-- I think the effort--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Why didn't President Trump and Leader McConnell do it?

KEN CUCCINELLI: Yeah, I think the effort was being made and Congress wasn't responsive.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Leader McConnell wasn't able to get this done?

KEN CUCCINELLI: Well, and right now you see the only effort arising out of Senator Graham working with Senator Durbin is the discussion I observe.


KEN CUCCINELLI: I see it from the same perspective you do, meaning outside, to try to work on asylum loophole fixes. That's the only place we see any effort going on right now.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Tell me about some of the regulatory changes you think you can make without congressional approval.

KEN CUCCINELLI: Right. Well, there are some coming over the next few months like public charge rule. We're looking at what we can do in the Flores environment without short of legislation to ease the pressure on our agencies. And, I mean the three immigration agencies are my agency, USCIS, which handles asylum and--


KEN CUCCINELLI: --and refugees, as you noted, and, of course, ICE, detention and removal, and interior enforcement, and then the Border Patrol, CBP, doing what their name describes as border protection. So all working together. And we also have some adjustments in the asylum space coming we hope they're working on, but part of what we have to analyze is--

MARGARET BRENNAN: What do you mean--

KEN CUCCINELLI: --does Congress have to do this, and-- and how much can we do? So those are things that I'm just diving in here in my first month as to determine how far we can go without Congress because until they're willing to act we're not going to see a significant change.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And-- and you are not-- you have not been formally nominated and appointed by the President.


MARGARET BRENNAN: And Congress has not confirmed you to this job.

KEN CUCCINELLI: Correct. My appointment was principal deputy--

MARGARET BRENNAN: So how much authority--

KEN CUCCINELLI: --and I serve as acting director.

MARGARET BRENNAN: How much authority do you think you have to make these changes? I mean, it seems like, and critics will certainly say you continue to try to bypass Congress to make changes in a way that is not how their oversight role is supposed to function.

KEN CUCCINELLI: Look, I mean, you're hearing from me. You'll hear from the acting secretary. You've heard from the President. We want to see Congress act. It's a congressional solution that's going to be required for long-term lasting change that doesn't get tied up in courts in the way that every regulation does.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, on those regulatory changes, can you change the definition of who is allowed to immigrate and claim asylum, and how do you do that in a way that doesn't keep people who are legitimately fleeing violence--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --and persecution--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --from seeking safe haven?

KEN CUCCINELLI: Yeah. And it's important for people to realize that we continue to effectuate an asylum process that is intended to help people who are persecuted for political, religious, et cetera, reasons. But that whole process is being swamped by fraudulent asylum claims from our border.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And the administration tried and failed to change that, though, had tried to block those fleeing domestic violence--

KEN CUCCINELLI: That's right.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --had tried to block those fleeing gang violence. And the courts said no. So--

KEN CUCCINELLI: Well, the courts-- the-- the President has taken-- attempted to undertake several actions, including cutting off asylum between ports of entry, for instance, last November. That was enjoined by courts. That's being litigated. The-- the level of judicial activism to stop this administration is historically unprecedented. We have never seen anything like it before.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to get on to the border detention facility as you don't have oversight of those--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --in your current role. But this IG report that came out this week, just confirmed what we have been hearing from Homeland Security since back in March about the horrific conditions in many of these facilities, overcrowding, thousands more detainees in-- being held--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --for longer, including children, than they should have been.


MARGARET BRENNAN: So you now have billions of dollars from Congress. When does this change?

KEN CUCCINELLI: Well, it's already changed. Most of the money in the supplemental, which is what I assume you're referencing, went to address children in this process. And, in fact, in-- over the course of the last month, since that supplemental, we have gone from about twenty-five hundred children in facilities not designed for them down to a fraction of that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So those images that we saw this week, that-- a government investigator released.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Is that still happening at U.S. facilities, that overcrowding?

KEN CUCCINELLI: That is not happening with respect to children in particular. We do have overcrowding in some places but that's a matter of the rush at the border and what-- what our system has been designed to absorb. And while the same people come down to the border from Congress and complain about it, they don't actually go back to Washington and do anything to fix it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Lastly, on this census, there-- there seems to be consensus that you do need to know the number of people in the country. But when it comes to the-- the question of citizenship, which is where we have seen this back and forth with Supreme Court saying--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --the administration can't move forward with its legal justification at this time, the President says he still wants to. The-- the concern here is that it could also cause by including it a skewing of the results, inaccurate figures--

KEN CUCCINELLI: Well, it's been collected--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --by asking if it's similar to a citizenship.

KEN CUCCINELLI: It's been collected in many, many times in the past. And that concern is never raised--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Not including this question since the 50s or 60s.

KEN CUCCINELLI: It has been. In the 1950s it's been included. And it's also been included in the more detailed example. I don't know what the-- what the Commerce Department calls it that's-- that it doesn't count every single entity.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But immigration officials like yourself will not see ultimately the details of this census in terms of--

KEN CUCCINELLI: Answers of any person--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --immigration status--

KEN CUCCINELLI: --are not tied. It's aggregated data.


KEN CUCCINELLI: So that's correct. This isn't--

MARGARET BRENNAN: So the concern that this is being used for political purposes? Is why I am asking you that question.

KEN CUCCINELLI: Right. Well, the-- the census is intended to gather an awful lot of information the way it's used now. However, if your question is will my agency or other agencies see a person who says, no, I'm not a citizen and their name and address and so forth, that's taken on an aggregated basis, that's not individualized data that comes to us.



MARGARET BRENNAN: Thank you very much, Mister Cuccinelli.

KEN CUCCINELLI: Good to be with you.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We turn now to Democrat Chris Coons who is part of a bipartisan group of senators who continue to work on immigration reform. He joins us from Wilmington, Delaware. Welcome, Senator. You-- you just heard from Mister Cuccinelli that the administration is going to try to change asylum or the ability to claim asylum because Congress isn't doing anything. Is there going to be any proposal put forward by Congress?

SENATOR CHRIS COONS (D-Delaware/@ChrisCoons): Well, Margaret, the challenge that those of us in Congress who want to make progress on addressing our broken immigration system have faced is the ways in which President Trump initially embraces and then abruptly reverses himself and opposes those bipartisan proposals that have been brought to him. Ken Cuccinelli just referenced correctly that Senators Graham and Durbin, a seasoned Republican and Democrat, have tried repeatedly to get a proposal moving that could win both bipartisan support in the Senate and, ultimately, be embraced by President Trump. Several times many of us who have worked across the aisle on this issue have been deeply frustrated by the ways in which President Trump, after initially saying he would welcome a proposal, gets criticized for it for a day or two by the right wing and then reverses himself and campaigns against it or threatens to veto it. So, frankly, I don't see how we're going to make progress unless President Trump is willing to take a fixed point and say, "I will accept these changes." And, frankly, Margaret, the ways in which Ken just referred to loopholes as things that are legal protections for children and their parents in detention I think misreads the core issue. These aren't loopholes. These are core features of American law that protect children in American custody.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, specifically, on the things that Cuccinelli referenced that was about being able to-- the time, duration which children and their family members can be held and about trafficking. What part of that, since you've worked on trafficking, do you think was false?

SENATOR CHRIS COONS: Well, my concern here is that we've got an administration that has intentionally used cruelty to children as a tool of immigration policy. I'll remind you that their zero tolerance policy that forcibly separated children from their parents at the border a year ago was a humanitarian disaster--


SENATOR CHRIS COONS: --and faced a bipartisan outcry of both Republicans and Democrats. So they don't have a lot of moral authority to stand on in arguing that they'd like Congress to give them an unlimited ability to detain children and their parents at the border. The bipartisan bill that just made it out of Congress to provide funding increases the number of immigration judges and increases support for more humane conditions at the border. That's the right direction for us to go.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But you just referenced the border conditions in that IG report. The inspector general report that came out this week people seemed to be horrified, perhaps rightfully so, at some of the images, but these were things that the administration had been warning about going back to-- as far back as March during Congressional hearings. Why hasn't there been more swift action to try to improve the conditions for people being held in U.S. detention and don't Democrats deserve some criticism on that front?

SENATOR CHRIS COONS: Well, Margaret, we have been trying, on a bipartisan basis, to avoid this inevitable humanitarian catastrophe at the border. But I'll remind you, it was a lawyer representing this administration who-- who argued in court just two weeks ago, that safe and sanitary conditions for children doesn't include a requirement that they provide soap or toothpaste or toothbrushes or beds. There are ways in which the administration has demonstrably failed in its moral responsibility to provide minimally reasonable care for children in their custody. I think all of us, as parents, as Americans, were horrified by the picture of Oscar Ramirez Martinez and his daughter Valeria, who drowned trying to cross the Rio Grande. We have to find a bipartisan solution to this, Margaret. And, as a Democrat, I have voted repeatedly--


SENATOR CHRIS COONS: --for bills that would dramatically increase investment in border security and make humane changes to our immigration system. The President just needs to be clear about what he's willing to embrace and it has to get a majority of his own party. His proposal--


SENATOR CHRIS COONS: --last February was the only one that got sixty no votes even in a Republican majority Senate.

MARGARET BRENNAN: More to talk about on immigration. There always is. But I have to ask you about your friend, who you are supporting, the former Vice President Joe Biden. After more than, you know, three weeks since he first made the comments, Biden apologized yesterday for his remark on past work with segregationists. Listen.

JOE BIDEN (Saturday): Folks, now was I wrong a few weeks ago to somehow give the impression to people that I was praising those men who I successfully opposed time and again? Yes, I was. I regret it. I'm sorry for any of the pain or misconception I may have caused anybody.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Why did it take nearly three weeks to say those words, why weren't they said on the debate stage or in prior interviews?

SENATOR CHRIS COONS: Well, Margaret, one of the challenges of the debate stage that we saw in Miami last week is that everybody's got sixty seconds to address very complex issues. I know Joe Biden. I know his heart. I know his record. And I think the American people do to--

MARGARET BRENNAN: I'm sorry doesn't take very long.

SENATOR CHRIS COONS: --and they know--I'm sorry.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Saying I'm sorry doesn't take thirty seconds.

SENATOR CHRIS COONS: Well, I think it's important that he gave a speech in which he recognized that the ways in which he talked about working across the aisle, in the context of the Senate of decades ago, may have caused some concern or heartbreak. But the reality is, his actual record, his lifelong record of standing up and fighting for civil rights is what he should be judged on.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Senator, always good to speak with you.

We'll be back in one minute with 2020 Democratic presidential candidate John Delaney. Don't go away.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We're back with 2020 Democratic presidential candidate and former Maryland Congressman John Delaney. He's been seeking his party's nomination, now for almost two years you have been on that trail. I think you declared just six months after President Trump was inaugurated. Why do you want to be President?

JOHN DELANEY (2020 Democratic Presidential Candidate/@JohnDelaney): Well, I think the central issue facing this country is how terribly divided we are and how our government doesn't work anymore meaning we don't get anything done. And I'm running for President to get America working again so that we can actually fix health care, build infrastructure, improve public education, make sure there's jobs in every community in this country. Those are the reasons I'm running for President. And-- but to do any of those things we actually have to start coming together. We have to find common ground. We can't act like bipartisan solutions are dirty words that we can't say in Washington anymore.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I think a lot of people would agree with that in principle but know in practice it's a lot harder to get things done particularly on issues like immigration.


MARGARET BRENNAN: So what would you do? Two questions here, would you decriminalize border crossing? And-- and what would you do with the thousands of migrants who are currently in U.S. custody?

JOHN DELANEY: So I wouldn't decriminalize border crossings, but I would make it illegal to separate children from their families. What I would do as President is the two things that we have to focus on.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Would you change the Flores Agreement in terms of the limitation on the amount of time children can be held?

JOHN DELANEY: Yes, I would. I mean we have to treat children--

MARGARET BRENNAN: You would allow them to be detained for longer?

JOHN DELANEY: No, no I-- want-- I don't want children to be detained long at all. I-- I want to go the other way. We have to treat people who cross our borders with a measure of dignity. Right? It has to be reflective of our values. But we should not lose sight of the two things that we have to focus on. We need comprehensive immigration reform. It should have passed in 2013. I think with the right President focusing on this in the first hundred days of an administration, we can get it done. But the other thing we need to do, Margaret, is we need to fix what's going on in those Central American countries. My wife and I, we were down at the border at the beginning of the year. We took fourteen law students and two law professors for a week, and went into the largest detention facility in this country. And-- and what we're doing, we're helping asylum seekers make their case. And when you listen to the stories from these people, you realize that everyone is leaving for the right reason. They feel threatened, their children are threatened, and unless we do things to rebuild civil society in the three Central American countries, we're going to continue to have this refugee crisis. So, I've called for something called Plan Central America which is very similar to something called Plan Colombia--


JOHN DELANEY: --that we did a few decades ago where we actually get all the relevant countries around the table, NGOs that can operate in these countries, and we fix the problem. Because we actually have to focus on that or we will continue to see a migration, kind of refugee crisis at our southern border.

MARGARET BRENNAN: What would you do with the migrants already in U.S. custody, the overcrowding that we are seeing?

JOHN DELANEY: Well, we're putting more money there, right, based on the bill that passed this week, which I totally agree with. We need to make our asylum laws more efficient in terms of how these things are processed. We need more asylum judges. We need--


JOHN DELANEY: --to enforce our laws.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --this administration is arguing for, right?

JOHN DELANEY: I know. And-- and-- well, we do need those, right? And we need more facilities. I mean, we have a crisis at the southern border. It's caused by what's happening in those countries. We have to stabilize what's going in in those countries. We have to make sure we have sufficient capacity at the border to handle these individuals. They have to be, kind of, treated with a measure of dignity. We have to make sure children aren't separated from their parents and we have to actually apply our laws, but we can't apply our laws unless we have the judges, et cetera, to do it. But this is an example of how broken Washington is, right?


JOHN DELANEY: Because there are solutions here. There are bipartisan compromises. We actually just saw one this past week which I thought was a good step forward. We can fix this immigration system that we have in this country. It's broken. We can do things to stabilize what's going on in Central America, but then we can also get to work on the other issues that really matter to the American people. Like fixing our health care system--


JOHN DELANEY: --lowering pharmaceutical prices, building infrastructure, doing things to improve public education, make college more affordable, expanding, you know, pre-K to make it universal. We also have to--

MARGARET BRENNAN: And health care is your--

JOHN DELANEY: --focus on these issues.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Health care is your signature issue as-- as I know. And in the last debate you said Medicare-for-all is not good policy and it's not good politics.


MARGARET BRENNAN: But more than eight of the candidates of the twenty-four or twenty-five now, support this. Are-- are voters just being misled by your fellow Democratic candidates?

JOHN DELANEY: Yeah, I think they're wrong. I mean, look at so many of the candidates, Senator Warren, so many of these people have outsourced their health care plan to Bernie Sanders, right? Because this is Bernie Sanders's plan. And it will take private insurance away from more than half of the country and they will reject that if we run on that. It will-- it will also reduce quality and access in our health care system because Medicare doesn't reimburse sufficiently to keep all the hospitals--


JOHN DELANEY: --and providers.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --booed on the debate stage when you raised this, though, so--

JOHN DELANEY: I understand that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, it does seem popular at least with people who vote in primaries.

JOHN DELANEY: But here's the thing. Medicare-for-all is a great slogan. They've hijacked the good name of Medicare and applied it to a law that will cause upheaval in our health care system and I-- I was the first person to actually talk about this. Now we're seeing the debate change on this issue as people start to realize. My plan which is called Better Care is a universal health care plan. Every single American gets health care as a basic right of citizenship for free. But I preserve options. If people want to opt out and keep their private insurance, they can. If they want to buy supplemental plans, they can. It's a much better way to create a universal health care system.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And non-citizens?

JOHN DELANEY: Non-citizens are not covered by my Better Care plan--


JOHN DELANEY: --but under my immigration reform they will have legal status. While they-- while they wait on a path to citizenship which would allow them to then be covered.


JOHN DELANEY: So if you take immigration and health care together you kind of see how we can start solving these problems.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to very quickly ask you on foreign policy. You criticized the Obama-era nuclear deal. Iran has said it is now going to break through, yet, another limit that was set by that deal on their nuclear program. What would you do as commander-in-chief?

JOHN DELANEY: Well, I actually voted for the deal.


JOHN DELANEY: I thought it was imperfect, but I thought it was the right way forward. I would want to get us back in a deal but I think the deal can be better, right I--

MARGARET BRENNAN: You think you can get back in the deal?


MARGARET BRENNAN: That it's already starting to unravel?

JOHN DELANEY: I absolutely-- I absolutely think I can get back in the deal and I absolutely can make it better.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Even though the sunset clauses are in 2020 and 2023?

JOHN DELANEY: That's the problem you got to fix. I think I can get us back in the deal and extend those sunset clauses. I mean foreign policy really needs to be discussed more in this presidential debate. Things like trade-- I was one of the few Democrats to support President Obama with his Trans-Pacific Partnership. I don't think you can run against President Trump unless you supported the Trans-Pacific Partnership--


JOHN DELANEY: --because rejecting that deal is effectively Trumpian view of the world.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And we're going to have to leave it there because I have to take a quick break. Thank you very much--

JOHN DELANEY: Thank you, Margaret.


We'll be back in a moment.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll be right back with our political panel.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION. It's time now for some political analysis from our panel. Susan Page is the Washington Bureau chief of USA Today. David Nakamura covers the White House for the Washington Post. Michael Gerson is also at the Washington Post as a nationally syndicated columnist, and Jamelle Bouie is a columnist for The New York Times and a CBS News political analyst. Welcome. Happy delayed Fourth of July.

MICHAEL GERSON (The Washington Post/@MJGerson): Thank you.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You know there was a lot that continued to happen despite the holiday, particularly, on the campaign trail. One of them, of course, being what Joe Biden said yesterday. And, Susan, I want to start with you on that. You heard Senator Chris Coons, who is a surrogate for the vice president; say that, you know, the delay wasn't an issue, that taking three weeks to issue this apology is something that, you know, was just a matter of timing and nothing significant. Can the vice president brush this off?

SUSAN PAGE (USA Today/@SusanPage): You know I think it's-- it's good for his campaign that he did some clean-up on, that but it's alarming I think to his supporters that it took nearly three weeks for him to do that. And you really-- you really-- you got to laugh out of Senator Coons when you know that it wouldn't have taken very long to say, I made a mistake or I'm sorry during the debate itself. So, you know, it's going to be a long campaign. People are going to have missteps and-- and recoveries. Maybe that is just what this is with Senator Biden, but it-- with Vice President Biden. But it certainly underscores some of the difficulties he has, which is his long history in American politics. Questions about positions that he's taken in the past out of step with today's Democratic Party and his nimbleness in trying to respond to them.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Jamelle, did he need to do this?

JAMELLE BOUIE(CBS News Political Analyst/@jbouie): I think he did it. And I think the question of his nimbleness is a big one. Biden's campaign is premised on the idea that he is the most electable; that he is the most ready to take on Trump. And so when you stumble like that in a debate and then take three weeks to actually issue an apology and really respond to the concerns the signal that sends is that the core issue of your campaign, the core claim of your campaign that you are most prepared to run in a general election is undermined. And I think other candidates will have their missteps and stumbles. But for Biden, in particular, has to-- his missteps can't be like this.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Was it a nimbleness issue or I mean the vice president initially had said he-- there wasn't anything to apologize for. So it seemed to change in his own understanding of what had happened.

MICHAEL GERSON: I think it does highlight that he's an institutionalist. This is the way that the Senate works. The Senate is his home, you know, his emotional home. It was actually the people that took him in when he had tragedy in his own family. You look at his history. And I think Nancy Pelosi is an institutionalist too. She wants institutions to work. But, you know, can you elect an institutionalist in a time of ideology. That's what rules in both our parties right now. And I-- I think it could present a problem for Biden. That's what he really believes.

DAVID NAKAMURA (The Washington Post/@DavidNakamura): And that's true. I mean, you know, if anything, what was the lesson of eight years for President Obama? I mean President Obama came in saying he was going to galvanize the country and lead to this idea that, that can cross over partisan lines and sort of get above the sort of day-to-day fray. If anything, of course, we saw Obama and his administration face more obstruction and outright sort of, you know declaration from Mitch McConnell that he was going to try to stop Obama's agenda at all costs. If-- Biden does not seem to have learned the lesson that, that was the lesson of the Obama years. If anything, Washington has gotten more partisan since then. So, Biden sort of harkening back to his time thirty years ago and crossing over is not a message I think that ordinary voters, even on the Democratic side. They might want to hear it but I don't think it-- it strikes, you know, the core of reality.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Michael, you know, the-- the former vice president has sort of recoiled through some of the activists in his party and presented himself as someone who is able to find compromise or moderate. Is that enough to attract some disaffected Republicans? I know you have been vocal about your criticism of the President, this particular President. But is it enough to win over Republicans?

MICHAEL GERSON: Yeah. It's-- it's possible. I think that there are a group of Trump voters who voted for Obama, for example, who might well be open to a different kind of Democrat. And I do think it's a-- a requirement that whoever the Democratic nominee is that they can go to Philadelphia and go to a fire station and talk to people. That's I think a requirement in this case. So I think that Biden does have a case to make but so far he is just defending himself and--


MICHAEL GERSON: --explaining himself rather than making a-- a real positive case for his electability.

SUSAN PAGE: And then he got good news today in The Washington Post/ABC poll. He's the only one of the Democratic candidates in five or six matchups who decisively defeated Donald Trump. And what Democrats worry about is the idea that President Trump has a winnable race ahead of him, that it is entirely possible with an economy that is as strong as this economy has proved to be that President Trump could win a second term despite the fact that most Americans, two-thirds of Americans, say he doesn't act in a presidential way, have problems with the way he behaves.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And, David, that Washington Post poll that Susan just referenced, it shows President Trump's approval rating at its highest level among registered voters since he took office.

DAVID NAKAMURA: Well, you have seen good news on the economy and it continued to be something the President is going to continue to boast about. And-- and the President is also coming off a time where he is certainly seem to be doing things, and whether-- some of those are controversial. But I was on the trip, of course to, Japan, where the President was right in the mix with a number of foreign leaders. And, of course, a big sort of showy meeting with Kim Jong-un on the DMZ, a lot of experts say that's something that is not going to maybe make any breakthrough on the question of the nuclear question with North Korea, but it certainly is something that the President seems to be demonstrating to his resolve and sort of showing that he is, you know, on-- on the world stage I think, certainly, can-- can lead to him looking more presidential in that regard.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Jamelle, somebody else who has had a good week or past few, Senator Kamala Harris.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Those latest polls that have come out post-debate show that Joe Biden's loss of a few points, though, he's still a front-runner seem to be her gain.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Is there more she can follow through to this next round of debates, or are the targets going to be set on her?

JAMELLE BOUIE: I mean I think her-- her clear current strategy with regards to Biden is basically to puncture the-- the-- the aura of electability he seems to have, the sense that he is the most capable to take on Trump. And I think if she continues-- continues to do that, she may continue to pull from Biden. If you look at the-- the Democratic race, there is a very obvious top tier. It's-- it's Biden, it's Sanders, it's Warren, it's Harris, it's Buttigieg, maybe it's Booker, and Castro, as well. And in the same way that Warren and Sanders are kind of competing for the same group of voters, Biden and Harris are, too. And so as long as Harris can, kind of, demonstrate to voters on this debate stages where she-- she did quite well in this first debate that she is sharp and can rattle the other candidates and seems ready to take on Trump. I think, she will do quite well going forward.

MICHAEL GERSON: I do think that Harris has an interesting challenge. She has to attack Biden from the left, but also then occupy the center left because I think that's her place, her winning position in the party. And that I think is a difficult challenge for her.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I'm going to take a quick break. But there's more to talk to you about-- about patriotism in this country, the celebrations we saw this week, and much more on the international front.

So we will be right back.


MARGARET BRENNAN: And we're back now with more analysis from our political panel. This was the week of Fourth of July, quite the celebration that we saw here in Washington. And it brings me, Michael, to the results of this poll that we saw out from Gallup this week on the question of how confident and proud Americans are feeling these days. And the number of Democrats polled said they were extremely proud, but it was at the lowest level ever recorded, just twenty-two percent. Republicans for the most part have remained extremely proud over the past twenty years generally. But you saw this real feeling of malaise or lack of patriotism. What is going on in terms of faith in the Democratic system?

MICHAEL GERSON: Well, I think that the President has staked out extreme nationalism as his trademark, and I think that there is a revolt against that in a highly-polarized environment. I think that people view that extreme nationalism as Trump's territory, particularly on the left, and I think the President is trying to do something in his definition of the American experiment that is quite disturbing. I mean he wants to define America as a place that is undermined by diversity, that is adulterated by new members coming. And that I think is-- is causing a backlash in this country.

MARGARET BRENNAN: When that poll had some different results when you broke it down by parts of the American institution and democracy in terms of pride felt. And on this question of immigration and nationalism, Jamelle, you know, there is an interesting Washington Post editorial by the former Obama administration Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson who said, basically, there needs to be more straight talk on things like immigration and among Democrats. He hit at some Democratic candidates. He didn't name them but said, basically saying decriminalizing crossing the borders or not deporting people who continue to flout American law when they're here is basically, you know, I'm paraphrasing, but amounting to an open-border policy that's just not realistic--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --or enforceable. So you are seeing some sort of friendly fire with-- among Democrats disagreeing about how to carry out these policies right now. Is there not enough straight talk as he says?

JAMELLE BOUIE: See-- I see the willingness to put forth more lenient border policies as being a kind of straight talk is being opened, at least among some candidates about what they really want to see in the country. And I think that what-- what is happening, and I'm-- what I'm not sure Democratic-- internal Democratic Party politics knows how to respond to, is liberals, left wingers, concerned moderates looking at what's happening at the border right now with child detention, with family separation, with the border crisis, and deciding that the-- the kinds of policies we have in place now have a long providence. It's not just Trump. They-- they stem back decades and wanting to decisively repudiate that and looking for ways to decisively repudiate that with both rhetoric and policy. And so something like Julian Castro's proposal to decriminalize border crossings is very much, I think, a reflection of what he sincerely wants, a response to conditions in an attempt to build a new paradigm for how we think about immigration. Whether that's politically wise or popular, I don't know, but there does seem to be a kind of-- I-- I'm not sure I call it a moral awakening, but it's a sort of moral fervor among the American left and liberals about what to do about immigration, about how to affirm this as a diverse country, about how to affirm a kind of civic cosmopolitanism that Trump is rejecting.


MARGARET BRENNAN: But what you hear from Johnson in this op-ed, Susan, though, is-- is him saying that this, basically, is going to exacerbate the problem because you're going to have even more of an influx of people coming across the southern border.

SUSAN PAGE: So I understand the moral debate and the practical effect, but let's talk about the political one, which is a big gift to President Trump. Because for one thing, it allows him to portray Democrats as supporting open borders. It get-- enables them to change the conversation from the horrific conditions that we see with-- that children being held in at some of these border crossing detention facilities. And what we see, I think, with Jeh Johnson's interesting op-ed this morning is moderates are--not exactly moderates--centrists, center-lefters pushing back against the most progressive elements of the Democratic Party on immigration in the-- in the question of Julian Castro's proposal. Also, on the issue of health care, where we're seeing more pushback on the idea of Medicare for All, which amounts to abandoning the Affordable Care Act, something that Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden, to name two, very much want to support and maintain.

DAVID NAKAMURA: We saw the Obama administration really struggle with the same issue at the border honestly. And--


DAVID NAKAMURA: --we remember the images from 2014 when we had the initial border crisis of unaccompanied children. There were crowded jail cells. The Border Patrol was buying baby formula and-- and video games to try to entertain the kids in these overcrowded conditions. We also saw the administration and Jeh Johnson himself talked about in the op-ed make some sort of effort to give this holistic response and sort of address the-- the dynamics in Central America, but what we saw from 2014 was a slight dip in 2015 and the numbers went back up to the highest levels in Obama's final year. They had not solved the problem. And Obama took a lot of heat for not pursuing more liberal policies on immigrating. He was called deporter in chief. And Jeh Johnson and the President were-- were frustrated by criticism from the left. And so Jeh Johnson is-- is sort of referring to his time there, but it was-- it was certainly a challenge for his administration as well.

MICHAEL GERSON: But also we're seeing right now that there are people, high-level people at the White House who think that the next step should be a new show of cruelty.


MICHAEL GERSON: Going after immigrant families all over the country up to a million. Who knows what the actual number will be. The President has undermined that in the past through his tweets, but I think they are preparing to take some action.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I also want to ask about Maureen Dowd's column, Susan, with this interview that she had with Speaker Pelosi, in which the speaker made clear that she was frustrated that at least four Democrats did not vote to provide this border supplemental funding to help alleviate some of the conditions, that they had wanted to see more restrictions put on the money. This was almost a Twitter fight I think with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the speaker that resulted.

SUSAN PAGE: Without naming names, right?


SUSAN PAGE: Because Nancy Pelosi didn't name AOC, but said these people with their-- with their public whatever and Twitter following. AOC responded with a tweet that did not name Nancy Pelosi but was a response to a retweet of a tweet that did refer to her saying, we call that public sentiment. And in a separate tweet, she said that they shouldn't be campaigning as though it's 2008. So this is, you know, there's long been-- since the election, since the midterm election, there has been tension between the most progressive elements of the House Democrats and Nancy Pelosi trying to hold everyone together, but this was definitely I thought a new stage and a new sign of concern among Democrats about whether they can hang together as some of these very difficult issues come up.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Michael, final word here. We saw one House Republican say he doesn't want to be part of the party any longer. Justin Amash becoming an independent. What do you make of that? Is it a existential--

MICHAEL GERSON: Well, I make of it that--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --threat to the party or just a one-off?

MICHAEL GERSON: Well, libertarians tend to be very principled people. They're in politics for-- for a reason. And that I think is the case in this case. But I-- I think the-- the party as a whole has really come under the President's influence nearly totally.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm. All right. Thanks to all of you. Always good to have a conversation.

We'll be back in a moment.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We're back now with Glen Johnson, a political reporter-turned deputy assistant secretary of state who traveled the world with former Secretary of State John Kerry. His new book, Window Seat on the World, is a look at some of the historic moments he witnessed. Glen, good to have you here.

GLEN JOHNSON (Window Seat on the World/@ByGlenJohnson): Thank you for having me on, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I'm-- I'm used to seeing you on the back of the plane when I was a reporter covering the secretary. I want to ask you as to why you felt it was important to write this book. You start off with a very personal story of a Foreign Service officer who was killed in Afghanistan, and you make the point that Americans kind of don't really understand what diplomats do.

GLEN JOHNSON: Yeah. I-- I just approached it from my own perspective. I was actually somebody that covered government for a number of years, almost thirty years, but I did not know that much about the State Department. And here it is our first and oldest cabinet agency, it's the most forward deployed element of our government. We have over seventy thousand people working for the department, many of them here, but numerous people, two hundred and eighty-five posts around the world, and they represent our interests all throughout the globe. And so every time that I came back from one of these trips, I was always asked questions that made me realize, there was an interest in-- in-- in learning more about this essential function of our government.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You say unless people lost their passport, they often don't think about what the State Department actually does. And you had in your particular role an extraordinary amount of access--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --inside these meetings. And you took I think a hundred thousand photos--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --many of them that we have here, trying to set up a photo archive of what the then-secretary was seeing and doing. What do you think that helped to illuminate?

GLEN JOHNSON: Well, several fold. I think the book, one of the things that the book tries to do is just explain the fundamentals of diplomacy, what a bilateral meeting is like, what a multilateral meeting is like. The challenge of dealing with authoritarian regimes like the Chinese and the Russians in particular, and then some case studies of how to try and apply these diplomatic principles to things like the Middle East peace talks, the Iran nuclear talks, things that were in the past and several years ago but still are very much a concern today. I mean we see this with Iran and their increasing enrichment. We see this with the ongoing situation, settlement building and other work in-- in the Middle East and the administration trying to improve the economy between the Palestinians and the Israelis. And so I hope it-- it's instructive that people will have a chance to see how one diplomat approached these issues and understand the context for them because they carry on today.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You mentioned Iran. And we were just showing some of those pictures there. Secretary Kerry was the, I think, American-- the only American official who had spent that much time--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --with an Iranian official in American history.


MARGARET BRENNAN: That deal, as we know, appears to be unraveling. And the Trump administration has pulled out of it. What was that like watching it? I know what it was like covering it--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --but being on the inside and seeing what those teams were trying to do?

GLEN JOHNSON: Yeah, a couple of things. First of all, I knew John Kerry as a political reporter and sort of the public caricature almost of him, but to see him in those meetings, the patience and the creativity and the stick-to-itiveness that he displayed all the way through. And then also as a driving force behind that, he was herding cats all the time whether it was the P5+1 nations, these U.N. Security Council--

MARGARET BRENNAN: The world powers. Mm-Hm.

GLEN JOHNSON: The world powers, you know, to trying to get the E.U. on board, to then actually leading most of the technical and back-- back-and-forth negotiations with the Iranians. So he had multiple constituencies that he was trying to handle at one time. And so it gave me a real appreciation both for him as a diplomat in that way, but also for the challenge of creating something. That's why I think when you cast that aside, this was not the U.S. and Iran making a nuclear deal. This was the U.S. working with unanimously all the members of the U.N. Security Council and a twenty-eight-member European Union. When is the last time they agreed on anything? And they all unanimously agreed to this. And now we've walked away from that. So that-- that unraveling I think has come at some expense to our credibility and to, you know, the future stability of that area.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And you write a bit about John Kerry the man and sort of the personal journey that you saw him take, particularly, when he went back as America's top diplomat to Vietnam.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Tell me about that, particularly I think a personal experience of him meeting a former Viet Cong fighter.

GLEN JOHNSON: Right. We made four trips there, and this was something that I always knew about is the myth of John Kerry. Kerry and Vietnam almost synonymous, both good and bad. He was a soldier who then became an anti-war activist. But then we went back there and culminating in his final visit went back up the river where he had his most famous battle while he was a soldier, and where he engaged in this firefight that drew a lot of derision, accusations of him being a war criminal, fuel for the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. And you know what? When we came back to the dock, there was a Viet Cong soldier there that told John Kerry that the person that he had killed was an actual combatant, was not a child, was not shot in the back, and-- and it put a lie to a lot of the myths that had been around him. And so to stand there and see this person give him this truth at this time was amazing experience to witness. And I think, you know, put a nice close to a-- a life of public service that began when he was Navy lieutenant and then finished all the way as a secretary of state.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You were a journalist. And then you worked with journalists--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --in communication when you were working for the secretary. When you see the loss of press access, the fewer press briefings that are carried out under this administration, what do you think the impact is?

GLEN JOHNSON: I think it's a real loss, and especially for the administration itself. When you're a diplomat and you go into a diplomatic engagement, you have to constituencies. You're, obviously, dealing face to face with somebody and trying to negotiate in your best interests, but you're also trying to sell what you are doing and let the public know about what it is and why you're doing it. Every-- all the trips that we went on with the secretary, a hundred and nine, one of my jobs was to help plan the events that we did for him while we were overseas. So it wasn't just so that he could see and learn and do things--


GLEN JOHNSON: --it was so that people could understand what he was about and what was of interest to him.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Glen, thank you so much. The book is Window Seat on the World.

We'll be right back.


MARGARET BRENNAN: That's it for us. Thank you for watching. We want to congratulate the U.S. women's national soccer team on making it to the World Cup final. Good luck this morning. For FACE THE NATION, I'm Margaret Brennan.

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.