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IN THE ARENA
Weiner Admits to Lying about Lewd Photo; Violence in Syria
Aired June 6, 2011 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ELIOT SPITZER, HOST: Good evening. I'm Eliot Spitzer. Welcome to the program.
Today, Congressman Anthony Weiner held a press conference. It was the kind of moment that neither politicians nor journalists should be proud of, and believe me, I know. I've been there. And I've held both jobs.
It was the latest chapter in a cringe-worthy saga involving the New York Democrat and the Internet. Weiner said he would not resign, even as he confessed to some very unpleasant things.
REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK: Last Friday night, I tweeted a photograph of myself that I intended to send as a direct message as part of a joke to a woman in Seattle. Once I realized I had posted it to Twitter, I panicked, I took it down and said that I had been hacked. I then continued with that story, to stick to that story, which was a hugely regrettable mistake.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
SPITZER: We'll have a lot more on this in just a moment, but first, a look at the other stories I'll be drilling down on tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SPITZER: Syria's war on its own people. CNN's Arwa Damon has the story of the military's latest atrocity.
And a country in chaos. Yemen's president is in Saudi Arabia getting surgery. He says he's going back. The State Department says that's a bad idea. E.D. Hill asks, will al Qaeda fill a power vacuum?
Then, Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts, wants to be president. Michael Dukakis, former governor of Massachusetts once ran for president. Dukakis says Romney's a fraud.
MICHAEL DUKAKIS (D), FORMER MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR: He's smart, he's slick. Unfortunately, he's slippery.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
SPITZER: Now for more on our top story. Anthony Weiner's bizarre circus of a press conference earlier this afternoon. Let me play a bit more of what the congressman had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WEINER: For the past few years, I have engaged in several inappropriate conversations conducted over Twitter, Facebook, e-mail, and occasionally on the phone with women I had met online. I have exchanged messages and photos of an explicit nature with about six women over the last three years.
For the most part, these relations -- these communications took place before my marriage, though some have, sadly, took place after. To be clear, I have never met any of these women or had physical relationships at any time.
I haven't told the truth -- and I've done things that I deeply regret. I've brought pain to people I care about the most and the people who believed in me, and for that I'm deeply sorry.
I was embarrassed. And I didn't want it to lead to other embarrassing things. And I did -- I did a -- it was a dumb thing to do, to try to tell lies about it because it just led to more lies. But almost -- but almost immediately after, I said the lie I knew that I was putting people in a very bad position, and I didn't want to continue doing it.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Are you going to split up with your wife because of this?
WEINER: I love my wife very much and --
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Are you going to split up?
WEINER: I love my wife very much, and we have no intention of splitting up over this. We have been through -- we have been through a great deal together, and we will weather this. I love her very much and she loves me.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
SPITZER: Shortly after this press conference, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called for House Ethics investigation. Weiner says he'll cooperate fully.
For more now, I've got a powerhouse political panel with me. In New Orleans, CNN contributor James Carville. In Durham, North Carolina, Rick Lazio, a former New York congressman who ran for the Senate against Hillary Clinton. And Howard Kurtz, Washington bureau chief for "Newsweek" magazine and "The Daily Beast", and host of CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES."
Thank you all for being here.
James, let me begin with you. You were in the Clinton White House, in charge or there in moments of crisis management. Assuming that Anthony Weiner has told the truth, has it made it possible for himself, for him to survive, as he goes forward?
JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, history shows that a lot of people have survived, but I'll tell you that right now the Democrats are furious at this guy. I mean, you can see what Leader Pelosi is calling for an ethics investigation.
He's married to one of the most popular people in the Democratic Party, and people are livid at him. You know, my general view on these kind of things is let the voters decide. I mean if they want to send him back, that's a choice for the people of the Ninth Congressional District of New York.
But it may be that the amount of damage that he's suffered makes it more difficult for him to stay. That's a choice that he's going to have to make. And I don't know if he broke any laws. You know, I don't exactly know what the law is on this.
I know the Ethics Committee is going to be in, and he's certainly got to tell the truth there. He's got a ways to go. He's in a sticky spot right now, no doubt about that.
SPITZER: Look, no question about that. And look, the decision to resign is a deeply personal one, and let me be very upfront about this, as most folks probably know.
SPITZER: I made the other decision. I did resign.
And Rick Lazio, let me go to you. You've been in the Congress, you've seen these facts unfold as they have, unfortunately, over the past week. Do you think that Anthony Weiner made the right decision? And I ask you to speak now not as a partisan, but just as somebody who was a member of an institution that has -- you know that is the United States Congress.
RICK LAZIO (R), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: Yes. It's a deeply personal and political tragedy for Anthony Weiner and for the people that love him and his family. It's a public humiliation, obviously, but the fact is, you know, you have a situation where a member of the Congress didn't just fib at one point, but he had a plan and executed a plan for over a week where he repeatedly lied and made up stories about this.
You know, the honorable thing, I think, to do in this situation, which you can make a comparison, every situation is different, Eliot, but you can make a comparison with Chris Lee, a colleague of his from New York, who chose to resign, put his constituents first, and get past this thing, let him focus on his own personal challenges.
That would probably be the choice that if a friend came to me I'd give to him. He looks like he's not going down that road. It's clearly embarrassing to the House of Representatives, generally speaking. Nobody is going to kick Weiner out, but the voters of that district, as James said, ultimately, it will be up to his voters. I'm not sure that his voters will care that much about this. Enough of them will care to make a difference. It does depend on what else comes out.
And clearly, the idea of it not just being one person, but a number of different women that he was reaching out to, and at least in one case, it seems like the one that has been most highly publicized, this was not a welcome invitation to come in and start sending lewd pictures to her. I think that all matters.
SPITZER: You know, Howard, let me come to you. I don't think anybody knows the media, certainly, the political media, better than you do. It seems to me that Anthony's web of untruths, lies, there's no other way -- nothing else you can call it -- last week where repeatedly he just said over and over, he denied it, denied it, denied it, did come clean today.
Doesn't that make it that much harder? Will the media let him get away with this over the next weeks, months, into the foreseeable future?
HOWARD KURTZ, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, NEWSWEEK AND THE DAILY BEAST: Probably not. I mean, I remember the embarrassing day when you resigned as governor, Eliot, but the difference is you hadn't given 27 television interviews the week before saying that you didn't do something and you had, as Weiner has done here.
It was monumentally stupid because it becomes about the cover-up. This was a riveting and yet revolting news conference. It was almost like Anthony Weiner wanted to be flagellated by the press, which was happy to comply, by the way -- you know the New York press corps -- as a way of exposing himself to a ritual humiliation to show that he could take it, to show that he was truly sorry.
One last point about the voters. I talked to one voter, my mom, who lives in Sheepshead Bay in Weiner's Brooklyn district, she said this was a big and stupid mistake by Weiner, but that she would vote for him again because he's always fought for the district.
SPITZER: You know --
KURTZ: So voters may care less about this than journalists.
SPITZER: Howard, I -- you know a couple of moments I'll get to my theory about what might happen. But you're right. You speak to your mom who lives in the district, that's more important that anything we are going to say right now.
SPITZER: But let me ask you this, did he do himself a favor by suffering the flagellation -- and you are right, I know the New York press corps, as bizarre as it is, I'm now part of it. But did he do himself a favor to the extent that by having stood there for 30 minutes he has said, OK, guys, take your shot?
SPITZER: Do what you want to me, now can I move beyond this?
KURTZ: Weiner would have done himself a bigger favor if he had done that several days ago before repeating all the lies. But you don't want to be in a position where he comes out, reads a statement, walks off, and there are all these unanswered questions.
He took the heat. He had -- has to answer question about phone sex, and that kind of thing. He had to talk about the women in detail, the sexually explicit photos. People got to see him getting beat up, and he was beating himself up at the same time. Maybe that creates some sympathy for him, maybe it doesn't. But at this point, since it was all going to start to come out, it's all starting to unravel, I don't think he had much choice.
SPITZER: Yes. James, I want to come back to you. You oversaw the absolutely masterful return of Bill Clinton as the most popular president and politician in America. And the way he did it, it struck me, was by being president. He actually used the office to do what people cared about. He had the pedestal, the grandeur, all of the powers of that office.
It's different when you're a congressman. The presidency is one thing, a congressional seat is another thing. Can Anthony Weiner use his position to try to emulate that strategy?
CARVILLE: Well, there are a couple of things that are different. First of all, Anthony Weiner in terms of political skill is not Bill Clinton, OK. So we can just go ahead and stipulate that.
Secondly, the Republicans appear to have learned, because some of the most odious people in modern American history came out against President Clinton, and that, you know, really turned people sort of against him.
I think that Speaker Boehner and the Republicans are being pretty smart here, they're not jumping up and down, they're letting this whole thing -- let him stew in his own juices, if you will.
It's actually the Democrats that have sort of taken the charge here, which is the kind of way it should be. So there's a considerable amount of difference here that we're talking about.
And also, being a congressman is just -- you're right, it's a different form, a different place. But we do know that people look at the situation in Louisiana, you know, what we had here in terms of our own senator, and he got re-elected. So -- and if there's any other things that people have gotten in this kind of thing, that they have been re-elected.
That's something -- choice the voters will have to make. But he's not very popular in this caucus now, and usually this kind of behavior, he practically said it six times, you better hope it's not seven. I mean it will be tough.
SPITZER: Well, let me throw out a different idea here. And it comes back to Howard, your mom may be willing to vote for him. She may not get a chance. In other words, New York state, because of redistricting, is going to probably lose two congressional seats. And if the politics hold their normal course, it will be one upstate, one down state. One Republican, one Democratic seat.
Won't the members -- and James, this goes to your point a second ago, if he's not popular within the Democratic caucus, the conference, won't the New York legislature, when it redraws the lines, say to itself, look, if we've got to sacrifice a Democratic seat down state, Anthony, sorry, your district is going to disappear?
KURTZ: I'm sure that Weiner's Democratic colleagues would like him to just go away at this point, not have to defend him as a symbol of bad judgment and excess in other races. But let's be clear. He didn't -- you know what didn't he do? He didn't father a love child with his housekeeper or his campaign videographer.
He didn't leave an impeachment drive against the president while carrying out with a House staffer. But says he didn't -- ever met any of this women, but he did do something really, really stupid. He lied about it repeatedly, and for that reason, Eliot, I think you're right, voters may not get a shot at him.
SPITZER: Rick, last --
CARVILLE: You're a lawyer. I don't know the answer to this. Is it legal to, like, Twitter -- I don't know Twitter is, and I don't even know what it looks like, but is it legal to send somebody a sort of graphic photo of yourself that's uninvited? I don't know what the law is on that.
SPITZER: You know --
KURTZ: Ask the teenagers of America.
SPITZER: You know, James, I'm not sure there's a clear answer to that, but nobody I've heard has said, here's the statute that he broke, here is --
SPITZER: And frankly, we haven't seen the pictures, or at least I haven't, all of them, we don't know what the content was. And so I think it's impossible to answer the question in a vacuum. Nobody has stood up and said, it's a clear violation of law. Nobody has yet given a citation of anything he clearly did.
SPITZER: As Howard says, he certainly was untruthful.
Rick, let me come back to you for the last question because time runs short. LAZIO: Yes.
SPITZER: If it were the Republican Party, which historically, at least, and by reputation is more controlled, more top-down hierarchy, would the leadership have said to him, come on, game over, we're not going to tolerate this?
LAZIO: I believe that would be the case, yes. I think you'd find that Republicans just -- partly because of their constituency and the fact that they do make -- tend to make values and morality a big part of who they are as a party, and I'm not suggesting, by the way, the Democrats aren't. I'm just saying the Republicans tend to position themselves in this space.
That they would almost certainly, I think, coalesce around trying to push him out. And I think you'd see an outpouring of people saying, it's time to step aside. I think that's why Chris Lee stepped aside so quickly. I don't think he wanted to deal with that.
But let me just say one other thing. You know I think there is a major difference, going to Howard's point. You know you look at a different -- slightly different situation, by Charlie Rangel up in Harlem, who was censured and, you know, there was a lot of controversy around what he did and said.
And, you know, he was re-elected overwhelmingly in that district. So the question is not, as you said earlier in the program, not what we all think. It's what their voters think. And I think it's why a lot of voters are turned off to the system, to politicians. They think there's no accountability, they think there's two sets of rules. One for the rich and powerful and one for everybody else.
And you know I just think that the honorable thing to do is when you mess up, you screw up, and this situation where you lie for over a week and try and manipulate the system and try to destroy someone else's reputation in a sense of (INAUDIBLE), there ought to be some accountability, personal accountability.
SPITZER: All right, look. Interesting and important points from all of you.
James Carville, Howard Kurtz, Rick Lazio, thank you all for being with us. Unfortunately, this story probably is not over.
Coming up, Arwa Damon joins us with an absolutely awful story from the brutal regime that is clinging to power in Syria.
Arwa, what's the latest?
ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Shocking new video has emerged from Daraa appearing to show Syrian military forces planting weapons on the bodies of dead activists, another indication, the opposition says, of the government's smear campaign.
SPITZER: Arwa just keeps breaking unbelievable and terrible news in Syria. We'll see that in a moment. But first, Michael Dukakis weighs in on Mitt Romney. He is not a fan, to say the least. You'll want to hear what Dukakis has to say. Stay with us.
SPITZER: Mitt Romney and Michael Dukakis shared two key lines on their resume. Both were governor of Massachusetts and both have run for president of the United States.
So Dukakis is in a unique position to evaluate Romney, as both a leader and as a politician.
Mike Dukakis joins me from Boston, where he's a professor of political science at Northeastern University.
Governor Dukakis, thanks so much for joining us. Let's cut right to the chase. How do you grade Mitt Romney in his tenure as the governor of Massachusetts?
DUKAKIS: Very poorly. On his signature issue of the economy, he was really nowhere. I mean, we had very little economic growth. There was a lot of talk, but no action. He left the state's infrastructure a wreck. I mean, you have no idea how bad it was.
It's a pattern that we've now seen in his campaigns and, as I say, just very disappointing.
SPITZER: I mean, let's take these issues sequentially, although I want to begin with health care, which is the issue perhaps that is most dominating the conversation nationally in terms of Mitt Romney.
Do you disagree with Mitt Romney's underlying premise about the individual mandate? The individual mandate was his idea. He said everybody has to participate, one way or another. He now disavows it, but was he right in that policy determination?
DUKAKIS: Absolutely. You cannot have a health care system in which working people and their families are guaranteed decent, affordable health care unless you require all of us to contribute. And that includes employers and employees alike.
And Romney was absolutely correct. And by the way, was eloquent as governor in insisting that it was a key part of the plan. By the way, Pawlenty and Huntsman also supported the individual mandate, and said so at the time.
SPITZER: So your grievance with Mitt Romney is not that when he created the system he was wrong, but that he has since run away from it as quickly as he possibly could for no discernible reason?
DUKAKIS: Ran away from it, ran away from it in Massachusetts in the closing days of the debate over it. And now is he with it or isn't he? I don't know. I mean it's not clear, and unfortunately, that's one of the most troubling things about Romney. That these days, it seems as if he'll do what his poster told him to do yesterday.
So it's really, as I say, a huge disappointment, both when he was governor and now as he's a candidate.
SPITZER: But staying with Massachusetts health care for a moment, has the system worked?
DUKAKIS: Ninety-nine percent of the people of Massachusetts now have comprehensive health care, and no state -- with the possible exception of Hawaii, who's close, can make that statement. It is something that I think we should have had in the United States a long time ago.
Now we're still working on the cost control side, and the current governor, Governor Patrick, is working very hard at that, so is the legislature. And I think by the end of this legislative session, we're going to have a comprehensive cost control.
SPITZER: Well, but clearly, he is modulating, to put it kindly, his perspective on many issues, given that he is facing a Republican primary voter somewhat different than what he faced in Massachusetts.
I get the sense that you view this -- and I don't want to mince words about it. You view this as a character flaw, such that he has forsaken core values and his principles in return for political expediency. Am I seeing this properly?
DUKAKIS: That's exactly -- that's exactly right. And it's one of the saddest things I've ever seen.
Look, you and I have been in the political business for a long time. We may agree or disagree. We may have colleagues more conservative than we are who take opposite positions. But I think most of us admire people in public life who have the courage of their convictions, and support those positions consistently, and Mitt has just been the proverbial weather vane, Eliot.
I mean going one way, going the other way, switching his position, doing so generally because I guess he thinks it's to his political advantage to do so. And the last thing we need in the White House is another -- is a weather vane.
We need somebody who's going to be consistent, who's going to articulate the values that are important to this country and follow through on them. And that's why it's been just so disappointing to see this guy in action. You know, he's smart, he's slick. Unfortunately, he's slippery.
SPITZER: Is there anybody in the Republican world, among the announced or soon-to-be announced Republican candidates for president whom you look at, even though you might disagree with them ideologically? With respect to whom you would not level such a harsh critique in terms of their intellectual malleability and their willingness to switch position merely for the sake of a few points in the polls? DUKAKIS: Yes, John Huntsman. I have a lot of respect for him. I don't want him to be the president, I want the current president to be re-elected, but I have a lot of respect for Huntsman.
DUKAKIS: For who he is, for his values, for -- well, because he has values, he expresses them, he's consistent, he's not flip-flopping around like Mitt or Pawlenty, for that matter, and I regret to say that I think the fact that he does have these strong values and he is and has been consistent probably will hurt him in the Republican race.
SPITZER: All right. Governor Mike Dukakis, thank you so much for joining us and giving us your --
DUKAKIS: Thanks, Eliot.
SPITZER: -- heartfelt views on this matter.
DUKAKIS: Good to talk with you.
SPITZER: We reached out to the Romney campaign for a response tonight. They chose not to provide us with one. But you can hear from Romney himself when he sits down with Piers Morgan for his first primetime interview on CNN tonight immediately after our show at 9:00 p.m.
Coming up, shocking new video, allegedly showing Syrian forces covering up murder by planting weapons on unarmed men. The latest disturbing chapter from the crackdown there. Stay with us.
SPITZER: Extreme violence today until Syria, as the government says 120 security forces were killed by, quote, "armed gangs."
CNN cannot confirm this because Syrian officials have banned CNN and other international news agencies from entering the country. The majority of information coming out of Syria is from the government, but disturbing new video we have obtained shows just how far the government will go to discredit the opposition forces.
What we see in Syria is not only being controlled, but also, it appears, to be staged, even fabricated.
Arwa Damon has the report.
DAMON (voice-over): Five bodies lie in pools of blood. The image is so graphic that we had to blur them. Most appear to have been shot in the head.
Standing over them, Syrian soldiers, talking to the camera.
One of the many jokes about eyeliner on the face of one of the dead. CNN cannot verify the authenticity of the video, but a Syrian human rights group says the killings took place in Daraa at the end of April.
At one point, a voice says, "Show me those weapons. Put them there," and what looks like a gun is placed on one of the bodies.
"Leave them there, they are the weapons the committee will come film," the man says.
We reached an activist from Daraa, Abdullah Abazid (ph), by phone.
"The committee is from Syrian TV. They come film and say these people were armed and they had to be killed."
Abazid says planting weapons on victims is a part of the regime's strategy, to paint protesters as terrorists.
Syrian state television claimed security forces were targeting an armed group in Daraa and aired this strangely emotionless statement by Mustafa Mohammed Dhun (ph). Two of the dead men were his sons, two his nephews.
"There was a gunfight between the army and the group inside, which included my children and my nephews," he says. And then adds, "I saw them carrying weapons and killing and shooting at the army."
Activists says Dhun was forced to make the statement. Abazid says the men were unarmed and were instead responsible for food distributions during the siege of Daraa.
This video, also just posted, shows how people came up with their own methods to distribute food across the battle zone, filling water drums with vegetables and other basics and using a pulley system to move them.
Abazid told us the five men who were killed were using the same technique when Syrian security forces shot them dead.
"They killed them to starve the people," Abazid claims. They hope to break the will of the opposition.
DAMON: And Eliot, activists claim that the Syrian regime is undertaking a vicious campaign to try to smear the opposition, repeatedly using threats to force confessions and to cover up their own crimes. And they point to that video that emerged from Daraa as yet another example of the atrocities committed by the Syrian regime. And the government has not yet responded to CNN's request for a response this video, which underscores how difficult it is to get an accurate picture of what is happening inside Syria.
SPITZER: As you point out, you are not there, thankfully, for your own security, but it makes it so hard for us to estimate what is going on within the opposition forces. Is there any way to understand whether, in fact, the opposition is, indeed, gaining momentum day by day, or whether or not the viciousness of Assad's crackdown is having their desired effect to force the opposition voices to be dissipated?
DAMON: We continue to see demonstrations erupting, even if it's just for short periods of time in areas that the military has under siege, where there is a military crackdown taking place. We even saw children going out and demonstrating.
If after you, and I'm sure many of our viewers will remember, that horrific video of 13-year-old Hamza emerged, the young child alleged to have been abused by Syrian security forces, and after that we saw children taking to the streets.
So the activists and opposition will tell you that the harsher the crackdown, the even greater their response will have to be. Because they do realize that they'll have in a certain sense reach the point of no return.
And they'll tell you there are only two outcomes at this stage. One outcome is that the Syrian regime does fall and Assad does leave, and the other outcome is that the regime is somehow going to massacre all of them.
SPITZER: All right, Arwa. thank you for that fascinating and somewhat terrifying report.
Coming up, the deadline is approaching. Either Congress raises the debt ceiling or the United States goes into default. But could there be another way? I'll talk to man who says we can fix the problem and all it will cost you is a penny. Stay with us.
SPITZER: It's a high stakes game of chicken playing out behind closed doors in the nation's capital. Raise the debt ceiling, the amount of money the U.S. can borrow to pay its bills, or let the nation default on its debt.
Florida Republican Connie Mack says he's got a plan to balance the budget by cutting one cent of every federal dollar spent. He joins me. Welcome, thanks for being here.
REP. CONNIE MACK (R), FLORIDA: Thank you so much.
SPITZER: Let me begin with the basic question. You don't think it's such a big deal if you don't raise the debt ceiling and we actually have to sort of delay payment on either T-bills or re- borrowing or anything like that?
MACK: Well, actually I would disagree. I do think it is a big deal to raise the debt ceiling.
SPITZER: If we don't do it? MACK: I think that we shouldn't raise a debt ceiling. In fact, instead of having a discussion about raising the debt ceiling, we ought to be having a discussion about how do we cut spending so we don't have to raise it. And I further say, why have a debt ceiling if all you're going to do is raise it when you approach it.
SPITZER: All right, the response to that is why pass bills requiring spending if you're not going to either tax the money to raise taxes to revenue or else borrow to spend it.
But let me ask you what is your plan real quick and obviously, I disagree with you about the impact of not raising it. Give us real quickly what is your plan is.
MACK: So what we would do is cut 1 percent of spending every year for six years. In the seventh year, we'd cap spending to 18 percent of GDP. In the eight year, we balance the budget, and after 10 years, we cut $7.5 trillion in spending.
SPITZER: OK, now just so folks understand, the trend line in spending goes up every year. You're saying not only raise it that way, but cut it 1 percent so the impact in year two, 2013, would be $143 billion. Those are your numbers, I believe.
MACK: That's correct.
SPITZER: OK, now so you don't want to raise anymore revenue?
MACK: I don't think -- we don't have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem.
SPITZER: So, you don't want to close any loopholes, for instance?
MACK: For what so, what I want to do is I want to cut 1 percent out of every federal dollar. That's one penny. Everybody back home has had to cut a lot more than one penny out of their home budget, and every business out there has had to cut more than one penny out of their professional budget.
SPITZER: All right, fair enough point. So in year two, we'd be cutting $143 billion from where the trend line would otherwise be.
MACK: Out of a $3.8 or $3.7 trillion budget.
SPITZER: Precisely correct. Now, do you specify how those cuts are allocated across government spending?
MACK: So here's what we do. We say that the Congress and the president act together. If they can't come up with a 1 percent requisite, then it's across the board.
SPITZER: Across the board, without regard to -- you're not going to pick between defense, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid?
MACK: That's correct. Now here's the thing, so you know, that's a big stick for the Congress. So the Congress and the president must work together to make sure that we cut up with the cuts so we don't have to touch those programs.
SPITZER: Just so it's clear what you're saying then. Since as you and I both know about two-thirds of government spending is in the entitlements and defense, what you're saying is two-thirds of that $143 or call it $100 billion, roughly, $100 billion in year two comes out of Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and defense spending?
MACK: What we're saying is that if the Congress and the president fail to act and make the 1 percent requisite cut, it would be across the board. If the Congress does a half a percent, it would only be a half a percent across the board.
SPITZER: That sounds eminently reasonable. You're a little bit copping out saying, we're doing it across the board. Make the choices for us, where would you do it?
I've seen your list including $15 billion of sales of excess property. That maybe fine in year one. I could dispute the number, put it aside. So in year two, how are you going to allocate that money? And year three, it's $278 billion.
MACK: So here's what I would say, this is a democracy, not a dictatorship. It's not my decision alone to make, but it is the decision of the Congress. The Congress must act responsibly, and the president must work with us. If we work together, we can make the 1 percent requisite cuts. If not, then everyone is held accountable for the 1 percent across the board.
SPITZER: But look, by the time you get to year four, you're talking about $468 billion.
MACK: Out off a $3.8 trillion budget.
SPITZER: Most of it coming out of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. At least half of it, right?
MACK: If the Congress fails to act.
SPITZER: So are you saying you would be eliminating Social Security. You'd be eliminating Medicare and Medicaid? I want to make sure that's what you're saying.
MACK: If the Congress and president can make the cuts necessary, if not, it will be across the board.
SPITZER: OK, and again, no loophole closings. We saw a list today of all sorts of company making billions of dollars in profit and not paying a penny in taxes. You're not saying, we've got to simplify the tax code and make them pay something?
MACK: Of course, we need to simplify the tax code, but what I'm talking about is spending. So if we cut 1 percent a year for six years and cap it at 18 percent of GDP, we'll balance the budget in the eighth year. SPITZER: OK, and by the year 2018, these are your numbers you gave us here today about $1.1 trillion, the vast majority of which is going to come out of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
MACK: I would say that the Congress and president better start working together to make these cuts --
SPITZER: But your default position, when you're talking that much, there's no place else to take it. We both know only 12 percent of the budget is nondefense discretionary. All the other stuff, people like to talk about, because it's easier. The vast majority have to come out of entitlements. You and I can agree on that.
MACK: So what I would agree with you is that we need to get serious about reforms in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. And so far the congress has failed to act, and the Congress and the president need to work together to make chose changes. So we can come up with the savings.
SPITZER: I agree with you about that so far, but would you raise the social security age immediately to get to this number?
MACK: Again, it's not a dictatorship.
SPITZER: One last question, you got the power, Congressman --
MACK: I refuse to be a dictator. That's not what I believe in.
SPITZER: All right, so would you do it? We all believe -- raise the social security --
MACK: No, I would say this is up to the Congress. We need to work together with the president to come up with the reforms needed.
SPITZER: Interesting idea. Here's what we're going to do. I want you to come back when we have more time and I want you to tell me exactly where those cuts are coming, because that's where the rubber meets the road. All right, thank you, Congressman Mack.
Coming up, with Yemen's ailing president abroad, can al Qaeda take advantage of the power vacuum? Former member of the CIA's counterterrorism unit helps E.D. sort through this, the chaos in Yemen. Stay with us.
E.D. HILL, CNN ANCHOR: The president of Yemen, an ally of the U.S., is in a Saudi hospital and severely hurt according to a CNN source following a rocket attack on his compound over the weekend.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton indicates the U.S. would rather he stay away, but Yemen is the home of the most active branch of al Qaeda. If president Saleh isn't there, how does that impact us?
Phil Mudd, the former deputy director of counterterrorism for the CIA and he joins us now. Thanks for being with us. PHILIP MUDD, FORMER CIA DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF COUNTERTERRORISM: Thank you.
HILL: Well, if he's not there, who then takes over as being in charge?
MUDD: Well, near him, you have a vice president who does not have a lot of power or not a lot of respect in the country.
And you have factions, including some very powerful tribes, who also have some military support behind them, going against the government. So you have, theoretically, a government in power, but essentially, you're going to have something amounting to civil wars in the capital of Yemen.
HILL: You know how this works. The Saudis, when they want something done or we ask them to get something done, they throw money at the problem. They throw money at Saleh, does he stay away?
MUDD: I'm not sure about that. I think we can bring a lot of pressure on Saleh to stay away. I think the Saudis -- we have a lot of common interest with the Saudis and other people in the gulf and the Europeans on this.
I suppose they could tell him not to get into an air bag, but the man has his own mind. He's been very difficult to deal with. I suspect he'll stay away, I suspect people will prevent him from doing back, but he's a difficult customer to deal with.
HILL: Now in talking over the past number of years to people on the select intelligence committees they've always gave me the impression that he has been behind the scenes, not overtly.
But covertly very helpful when we've been trying to track folks, in particular the people we released from Guantanamo Bay, so why does it feel like we're throwing him under the bus now?
MUDD: "Very helpful" is not a term I would use. When you're dealing with a place like Yemen, essentially outside the capital in ungoverned space, you can't operate unilaterally all the time. So you've got to have a local partner.
So you dance with the partner that takes you to the dance. He was the partner we had to deal with. He was good some days, not so good the others. So I say we can find something to deal with, with the military or with whoever comes after in Yemen in years to come, but I would not say in the past he was an easy partner to deal with. We dealt with him because he was there.
HILL: Of course, our big concern is al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. But are they the biggest players there? Are there other terror threats we should be more concerned about, or perhaps are more concerned about?
MUDD: Not at the moment. They are the biggest threat we face, and the most significant terrorist threat, organize terrorist threat outside the travel areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan.
That said, when you're talking about terrorist in places like Libya or Syria or Yemen, you're talking about a few hundred guys. This is not a lot of people. This is a country of 23 million people.
You're talking about a political opposition and tribal militants that number in the thousands and tens of thousands. So al Qaeda's our biggest concern, but the real issue in Yemen right now is potential civil war with once of thousands of people and rival tribes on either side.
HILL: All right, let me play devil's advocate here. Is that the worst thing that could happen, if we look at the big picture? If there is civil war, doesn't al Qaeda then have to be concerned about what's going on there, on somehow trying to consolidate these groups to increase their hold?
And don't they have sort of a -- I won't say a natural enemy in southern Yemen, but certainly not a group that is naturally aligned with the al Qaeda ideology.
MUDD: I think short-term, you're right. Long-term, I think we disagree. For example, you look at two places where you've seen civil war, a place like Somalia, where we've got civil war now. The militants and it's a relatively small sliver of the opposition in Somalia, who are focused against the west United States.
They're now diverting their attention to the civil war inside the country. So they spend less time on us. In the past, though, you remember the militants who were focused on civil war in Afghanistan allowed for safe haven to be established. That safe haven was taken over partly by al Qaeda.
What I worry about long-term is if you get civil war in Yemen, right now Pakistan's very hot for the al Qaeda guys, and a lot of people, recruits and fund-raisers, will look at a place like Yemen where the government cannot exercise authority and say, maybe we'd ought to go there. I'd worry about safe haven and space for them to operate long-term.
HILL: When we start figuring out how we're going to deal with certain countries, I get very nervous because you take a look at Libya. We think, OK, there's this Arab spring, we're going to be supportive of the people wanting to spread what we call democracy.
The way they look at it, it seems to be very different if we're talking about that in Yemen and the president being ousted and someone else coming in, are we getting anybody, perhaps, better than what we've already got, or are we just sort of throwing it up into the air and seeing what lands?
MUDD: I think we are way too optimistic about this and I think when history is written in 10, 20, or 30 years, this word "Arab spring" will be laughed at.
Look, what we've got here is a process that we, as Americans, belief will lead to democracy. It's not clear to me at all that that's where we're at. We're already having questions in Egypt about economic performance. Youth are asking where jobs are.
If we get elections, we're going to have the rise of one of the Muslim parties, people backed by the Muslim parties in Egypt. The military is going to start saying, military traditionally very conservative, is going to start saying, what do I do? So I think we're going to do down a road of a lot of unrest after the Arab spring.
HILL: Phil Mudd, thanks so much for joining us.
MUDD: My pleasure, thank you.
HILL: Coming up, still more on the violence in the Middle East, this time on the Syrian-Israeli border. Eliot asks an expert on the region with accusations and bullets flying, is there any hope for peace?
SPITZER: Being at the vortex of every Middle Eastern negotiation effort for decades. What is the meaning of this last assault, presumably orchestrated by Assad through the Golan Heights?
AARON DAVID MILLER, FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT ANALYST AND NEGOTIATOR: It shows how much the world is changing. June 1st, 1974, Henry Kissinger negotiates to disengage with an agreement with Israel and Syria, the Golan Heights becomes literally the quiet space in the entire region.
Now with the Arab spring, and in the Syrian case, the Arab winter, you have devolution of control and authority and an embattled regime, the Assads, any effort to throw up balls in the air, in order to divert attention from the tragedy that is taking place on the ground.
A brutal oppression in face of world sanction, it doesn't seem to matter. So the Syrians are essentially sending the message, we still have options. We can still play in the Arab/Israeli conflict, and they are essentially border crashing.
SPITZER: So at one level, there's no doubt in your mind that Assad orchestrated this saying, look, guys, I can generate chaos. You might prefer me to the anarchy that could come after me.
MILLER: This is orchestrated. My wife, Lindsay and I were up on the Israeli-occupied Golan from the Syrian side last May, and you can't get there without permits and without clearances.
So, absolutely, they bus these people in, probably from Damascus, and it's an effort to show that the Syrians still represent the vanguard of Arab nationalism.
SPITZER: And the issue of the Israeli response, Assad knows that there will be an Israeli response. There will be bullets that will fly. There will be reports, 25 supposedly killed. First, was that response appropriate in terms of proportionality, and second, where does it lead?
MILLER: These Israelis are determined to protect their borders. I mean, every country has the right to defend themselves. I think the Israelis are clearly trying to restrain and exercise restraint. But there's no doubt in response to calculation, the Israelis aren't going to let those people cross the fence.
And as far as Assad is concerned, he's prepared to fight, literally, to the last Palestinian. Remember, these are Palestinians, probably from camps in the Damascus area.
SPITZER: OK, just so it is clear, based upon the tapes, based upon the information we have about the bullets that flew and the carnage at the border, were the people who were shot and wounded or killed, were they on the Israeli side of the border, having crossed the border into Israel, or were they shot while they were still in the Golan Heights?
MILLER: My understanding, you have stone markers representing U.N. lines. You have barbed wire, and then you have a fence and they were shot by Israeli snipers as they climbed over the fence into Israeli-occupied Golan.
SPITZER: So as the diplomat who has need to deal with this as a public relations matter, as a matter of law, you think this was appropriate, too much, excessive? How would you grade the Israelis?
MILLER: Look, every time you got live fire being used against people without weapons, it's clearly cause for concern, even if it was orchestrated. But, again, the Israelis are determined to defend their borders. This isn't going to be the real issue. The issue is going to be on the Israeli/Palestinian front.
SPITZER: When will that metastasize or crystallize?
MILLER: These are trial runs, these are tests, it seems to me, foreshadowing a much more intense escalation as September approaches.
As the Palestinians introduce their U.N. general assembly resolution for statehood, you may get an effort on the ground orchestrated, as well, in order to create in a celebratory atmosphere, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians pressing against the checkpoints. At least that's the Israeli concern.
SPITZER: Just so folks are clear, in September, the Palestinians have said that they are going to go to the United Nations to have the United Nations say the Palestinian state exists and to have it recognized by the U.N.
President Obama saying very clearly, this is a bad idea. The United States will oppose it. Who will stand by the United States in opposing that effort? Will the Europeans be with us or not?
MILLER: Well, the question is, how many European countries can be paired off? The French and the Brits, that's what the administration is trying to do. The Spanish, the Italians, they're also targets of this campaign.
But the idea is 192 countries, 116 aligned with the movement, they'll vote with the resolution. In the end, it may well just be Israel, the United States, and the Marshall Islands. That's not the greatest position for the United States to be in.
SPITZER: Does it matter?
MILLER: It matters if you want to be on the right side of an issue that has extraordinary resonance in the international community and in the region.
But what matters more is whether or not you drive home the principle that the only way this conflict is going to be resolved is through the long, tortuous, imperfect process of negotiation. Palestinians cannot create a state, a virtual state or a real state through a paper resolution
SPITZER: Look, the U.N. vote is not going to matter one wit in terms of actual creation of a state. The second question I have, though, is does this succeed in doing what Assad wants, what Gadhafi wants, what the president of Yemen arguably wants, which is to distract attention from the Arab spring, which has been domestically driven, organic, come up from the bottom, redirect attention to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict? Does it succeed in doing that?
MILLER: I don't think so because by September, it may well will be Gadhafi may be gone. Saleh may have gone back to his own country. It may be that the autocrats, the ones who aren't acquiescing in the Arab spring may well have to by the fall.
I don't think this is a diversionary tactic. I worry greatly that in September against the backdrop of the unilateral effort to create a Palestinian state, you could also see violence on the ground.
SPITZER: OK. We have literally 20 seconds left. Gadhafi, can he survive another year with the NATO attacks? Assad, can he survive meaningful sanctions?
MILLER: Next year at this time if I'm back, Gadhafi will not be in Libya. He'll either be dead or forced out of the country. The Assads, the arc on that one will run a little longer.
SPITZER: All right, you'll be back long before that. Thank you for your wisdom and I certainly hope you're right as most people do. All right, Aaron David Miller, thanks for your insight. Good night from New York. "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT" starts right now.