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Interview with David Axelrod; Interview with John McCain; Interview With Lynn Woolsey, Peter King

Aired June 10, 2012 - 09:00   ET


CANDY CROWLEY, HOST: Wisconsin and money and jobs, oh, my.


CROWLEY (voice-over): Today, a rocky week at the White House with Obama's senior campaign adviser David Axelrod.

Also --

MCCAIN: Regardless of how politically useful these leaks may have been to the president, they have to stop.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The notion that my White House would purposely release classified national security information is offensive.

CROWLEY: President Obama and his 2008 rival are at it again. Senator John McCain is here for an exclusive interview.

Plus, it is lethal and highly effective. But is the president's drone war making more enemies than it kills?

Congressman Lynn Woolsey and Congressman Peter King join me.

Then, the shifting campaign terrain with CNN senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash and Michael Shearer of the "New York Times."

I'm Candy Crowley -- and this is STATE OF THE UNION.


CROWLEY: To review the bidding, the president's last 10 days include a bleak jobs report, off message surrogates, a shellacking in the Wisconsin recall, a $17 million fund-raising gap with Mitt Romney, and bipartisan outrage over security leaks.

Friday, the president held a news conference, pressing Congress to pass his jobs bill, including more funding to states to ease layoffs of public workers. He noted 27 months of progress on jobs in the private sector.


OBAMA: The private sector is doing fine. (END VIDEO CLIP)



MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's an extraordinary miscalculation and misunderstanding.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CROWLEY: Within hours, the president pressed reset.


OBAMA: Listen, it is absolutely clear that the economy is not doing fine.


CROWLEY: Joining me from Chicago, President Obama's senior campaign adviser, David Axelrod.

David, thank you, as always, for being here.

Let's start out with a simple yes or no. Do you agree with the president that the private sector is doing fine?

AXELROD: I agree with the president who called the press conference on Friday to say that we need to take a series of very urgent steps to accelerate job creation in this country because we have storm clouds rolling in from Europe.

So, Candy, the press conference was called to press for hiring -- credit for small business, to press for clearing red tape away so that families who have underwater homes can refinance under today's low interest rates and save thousands of dollars a year.

And, yes, to push -- to give state and local governments help to rehire some of the hundreds and hundreds of thousands of teachers, firefighters, and police who have been laid off in this -- in this last couple of years.

We've created 4.3 million private sector jobs in the last 27 months, but we've lost almost half a million public sector jobs and half of those are teachers.

CROWLEY: So bottom line, is the private sector doing fine?

AXELROD: The private sector, we need to accelerate job creation in the private sector.


AXELROD: One of the way that is we can do that is putting teachers and firefighters and police back to work because those are good middle class jobs. CROWLEY: That's the public sector.

AXELROD: But that will help accelerate the recovery.

The private -- the small business tax cut will help the private sector. The refinancing will help the private sector because people will have more money in their pockets to spend.

There are a series of steps that we can take right now that will help undergird the economy against the forces that are arrayed. You see what's going on --

CROWLEY: But if I can get in --

AXELROD: -- in Europe in particular. We had -- the first quarter of this year was the best in terms of private sector job creation, was the best in six years. We've had a slowdown in the last three months largely because of global events.

What the president has said is that we need to take some urgent action and he's called and Congress to do that. They've sat on their hands thus far. They're more eager --

CROWLEY: Let me just try this --

AXELROD: -- they're more eager to have a debate over an out of context clause in his remarks than the substance of what he said.

CROWLEY: But I think we put it in context in the opening, you have put it in context in the open. I just want to know whether the administration, whether you believe that the private sector is doing fine. Is it doing better?

AXELROD: I believe -- it's certainly doing better than the public sector, 4.3 million jobs created in the last 27 months. We need to accelerate that, Candy, and we all agree on that. The question is how we do it.

Governor Romney's response was to light on the notion that we should hire -- that we should help state and local governments keep teachers and firefighters and police on the job. He said we don't need any more teachers.

We don't need any more teachers? Two hundred and fifty thousand teachers have lost their jobs in the last couple of years. That is a dramatically bad news for the country. It's certainly not good news for our future.

What planet is he living on where he thinks that we can take this kind of hits in our education system and progress as a country?

CROWLEY: Let me move you on to something New Jersey Governor Chris Christie had to say specifically about the president's remark that the private sector is doing fine.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: He has the audacity to stand up this morning and say that it's the nation's governors and the national's mayors who are driving our economy down by not hiring enough people for government work?


CROWLEY: Your response, David?

AXELROD: Well, that's not, of course, what the president said, and Governor Christie is doing his job as a kind of hit man out there for the Republican Party. What the president said is, among an array of proposals that he says we should move on right now to get -- to add momentum to the economy and undergird us against what's going on around the world is to put teachers and firefighters and police back to work.

And the states have been under tremendous pressure. There have been big cuts. It's noteworthy, Candy, though, to look at Governor Romney's record when he was in Massachusetts where public sector employment grew six times faster than private sector employment and he was 47th in the nation over those four years in job creation, even as he was growing government by 30 percent and growing the state workforce by 5 percent.

So, his record doesn't square with his words, and his vision is a disaster. Two hundred and fifty thousand dollar tax cuts for millionaires and deep cuts in education -- that's not a prescription for a growing economy or a growing middle class.

CROWLEY: Let me -- since you brought up the $250,000 tax cut, should they or should they not be extended for those making over that amount --

AXELROD: Let me just -- let me just -- let me just clarify something. He wants $250,000 above and beyond the extension of the Bush tax cuts so let's make that clear, but anyway, go ahead.

CROWLEY: Let me just read you something that Claire McCaskill, Democrat from Missouri facing a tough re-election, had to say.

"If you want to do something in the spirit of compromise, you don't start out by saying, I refuse to do this or I refuse to do that. It's not my preference to extend tax cuts to millionaires, but I want to keep every option open in the spirit of compromise."

So it's not just Republicans. As you know, there are others, Bill Nelson of Florida, who have said I don't know, I don't know that we shouldn't go ahead and extend those tax cuts.

AXELROD: Candy, Candy --

CROWLEY: You've got problems in the Democratic Party as well, correct?

AXELROD: Candy, first of all let me say I agree with Senator McCaskill, that we ought to have a spirit of compromise, I watched --

CROWLEY: But the president said he'd veto it.

AXELROD: -- I watched Governor Romney on the stage saying that he wouldn't accept one dollar of new revenue even for $10 of tax cuts. That's not the spirit of compromise. That's what is animating the Republicans in Congress. They share that view.

CROWLEY: Is the president veto threat a spirit of compromise? AXELROD: Let me ask you a question, if we want to compromise, why don't we compromise on the thing that we all agree on? We all agree that we should renew those tax cuts for the middle class. Ninety -- if they sent him a bill that would renew those tax cuts for 97 percent of the American people, the president would sign it today. If we want to --

CROWLEY: Sure, they'd agree to it --

AXELROD: Let's compromise on the things we can agree on.

CROWLEY: But obviously they know they would then lose their leverage because you wouldn't go back to do it for those that they want to continue --

AXELROD: Leverage for tax cuts for the wealthy. We have to make a choice as a country, Candy. We do have deficit issues, we do have debt issues.

Are tax cuts for the wealthy more important than bringing down the deficits and investing in things like education and research and development and energy? The things that are going to grow our economy and grow the middle class. That's really what the debate is about.

CROWLEY: Let me ask you a couple questions. First one that concerns you. The attorney general, Eric Holder, has said that he has, in fact -- because he's been under some fire on Capitol Hill for a couple of things, he said that he had spoken to you, that part of his job obviously has political implications.

What did you talk to Eric Holder about and was it in your position in the campaign or was it in your position when you were at the White House?

AXELROD: You know, from time to time at the White House, I would see Holder at meetings and so on. But I rarely spoke to him, and I didn't ever speak to him on issues of policy in the Justice Department. I didn't speak to him about personnel issues other than at the beginning of the administration, I recommended a communications person to him --

CROWLEY: So you didn't give political advice to him?

AXELROD: But I was very sensitive -- I was very sensitive to the fact, Candy, that in the last administration, the political arm of the White House was very active in the Justice Department to the extent that they were picking U.S. attorneys and guiding policy there in ways that were inappropriate.

So, I was very scrupulous about my interactions with the attorney general though he's a friend.

CROWLEY: So you didn't offer any political advice?


CROWLEY: No political advice.

OK. Thank you so much, David Axelrod. It's always too short a time with you. I hope you'll come back. We'll see you over the next couple months.

AXELROD: Good to be with you.

CROWLEY: Next up, Senator John McCain on a kill list, cyber war with Iran and the bipartisan outrage over national security leaks.


SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: When allies become concerned, when an asset's life is in jeopardy or the asset's family's life is in jeopardy, that's a problem.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It seems to be a pattern that is growing worse and more frequent.



CROWLEY: Joining me is Republican Senator John McCain.

I know you were out there in North Dakota, Senator. Welcome and thanks for joining us.

I want to first play -- remind our audience of something the president said Friday and just in case you hadn't heard it because this sounds like a message with your name on it.


OBAMA: The notion that my White House would purposely release classified national security information is offensive. It's wrong.


CROWLEY: Senator McCain, you have been out front and very outspoken saying that you believe these leaks are political. Your reaction to what the president had to say?

MCCAIN: Well, I think it's offensive what has happened. It's offensive to those who are doing the incredibly difficult work of intelligence. It's offensive to our allies who are terribly upset. It's offensive to the chairpersons of both Republican and Democrat of our intelligence committees who have expressed their anger and dissatisfaction.

And so, this is very offensive. Our intelligence leaders in the administration say that this is the worst breach that they have ever seen. So that is what's really offensive about all this.

CROWLEY: But it sounds as though --

MCCAIN: There are leaks in Washington -- go ahead.

CROWLEY: It sounds as though the president certainly does share in your outrage over the leaks. What he finds offensive is that you and others are suggesting that these leaks are politically motivated and designed to make the president look good.

MCCAIN: Well, let me just cite an anecdote from Mr. Sanger's book which is the subject of this controversy. After information was given to the public about the raid that took out bin Laden, including naming SEAL Team Six, the most respected member of the cabinet, Mr. Gates, secretary of defense, went over to the White House and spoke to Mr. Donilon, the national security adviser and said, "I've got a new communication strategy for you," and Mr. Donilon said, "What's that?" And he said, "Shut the F up."

So it certainly is egregious what's already happened that they've made public. It's very clear that this information had to come from the administration. It couldn't have come from anywhere else, and Americans should be deeply disturbed about this betrayal of two of our most important highly classified operations, not only the American people but our allies are very upset about it as well.

CROWLEY: Let me be very direct in this question. That is do you believe in any way, shape, or form that the president of the United States, who has been very tough on terrorism through the drone program, through a number of other things would have anything to do with leaks of highly sensitive information that would help him in some political way?

Are you directly saying the president knows about this? Or do you just mean someone somewhere in the administration is trying to make him look good?

MCCAIN: I have no idea whether the president knew or did not know. I have never alleged such a thing.

But I have alleged that if you look at the information that's been leaked, again, that information in the book says that several officials said that they had to remain anonymous who gave this information because they would lose their jobs. Well, why would they possibly lose their jobs if they weren't leaking information that has to do with national security?

So, I mean, it's obvious on its face that this information came from individuals who are in the administration. The president may not have done it himself, but the president is certainly responsible as commander-in-chief. CROWLEY: I know, as you know, that Attorney General Holder has appointed two U.S. attorneys to look into this, to find the source of these leaks, which the administration is outraged about.

Why isn't that good enough?

MCCAIN: Well, first of all, Mr. Holder's credibility with Congress is -- there is none. As you know, we've continued to have this problem with him withholding information on Fast and Furious which resulted in the killing of a border patrol agent in Arizona. He is close to being held in contempt. There is no credibility.

And the Valerie Plame situation, they appointed a special counsel. This needs a special counsel, someone entirely independent of the Justice Department.

I have great respect for the two individuals that were appointed, but this -- if it is, and it certainly is a most egregious breach of intelligence in anybody's memory, it certainly requires a special counsel who is completely independent, someone with credibility like Mr. Bob Bennett.

CROWLEY: Let me move you to the subject of Syria, another area where you have been very outspoken about the need, you believe, for the U.S. to step in in the sense of help arm some of the opposition in Syria and perhaps even be more forceful.

This is from our secretary to the U.N., Susan Rice.


SUSAN RICE, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: There's not a unified command and control. It's a series of different groups in different cities. There's clearly also an extremist element that is trying to infiltrate elements of the opposition.

So, to argue that we ought to be arming the opposition is a very consequential statement, and I don't think that those that are advocating that have fully thought through the consequences.


CROWLEY: Again, that was Ambassador Susan Rice.

Have you fully thought through the consequences, Senator, of helping to arm the Syrians?

MCCAIN: When I hear a statement like that, I don't know whether to laugh or cry. A shipment of arms from May 26th from Russia came in to Syria. Iranians are on the ground. They have artillery, tanks. They are massacring people in most horrendous fashion.

Meanwhile, member of the administration continue to run out of adverbs and adjectives in expressing their outrage.

Did you hear the president yesterday in his press conference ever mention Syria? The rape and torture and murder that's going on now.

This president way back in 2009 refused to stand up for the people who were demonstrating and begging for his support in Tehran, and that has been the pattern ever since.

These people ought to be able to defend themselves. I'm glad that some of the nations in the Gulf and Saudis are providing some weapons. This cries out for American leadership.

American leadership and this president is missing in action, and the United States of America is now sitting by and watching people being killed, tortured, raped, and these people need our help, and it needs to be done on a multinational fashion and it can be done that way. It requires American leadership which is absolutely missing.

This idea of extremists taking over and all of that, the best way for extremists to take over is for this conflict to drag out and drag out. And by the way, I have seen the movie before. They said the same thing about Libya. They said the same thing about other conflicts that have gone on.

These people have the same hopes and dreams and aspirations that we do, and it is an abrogation of our leadership and, frankly, shameful that we're not helping them.

CROWLEY: Senator, I can't let you go without a political question. Something that governor Romney said on Thursday caught our ear. Here is what he said.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He says we need more firemen, more policemen, more teachers. Did he not get the message of Wisconsin? The American people did. It's time for us to cut back on government and help the American people.


CROWLEY: I actually think that was probably on Friday, but nonetheless, do you think that the message of Wisconsin, Senator, was that the American people don't want more firemen, more policemen, or more teachers?

MCCAIN: No, I think they want an adequate amount in order to fulfill their public service requirements and we al depend on them and love and respect them. But we also know that there is a significant problem with the unions and with pensions. There's cities in California, as you know, San Diego and San Jose, as well as others facing this crisis of the public sector unions which have to be addressed if they want to have some kind of fiscal stability.

CROWLEY: Senator John McCain, thank you for joining us.

MCCAIN: But I certainly think -- could I?

CROWLEY: Sure, go ahead. MCCAIN: Thank you, Candy. I just think to say the public sector is doing fine, I don't know what planet he's on.


CROWLEY: Thank you so much, Senator McCain. It's good to have you on.

When we come back, President Obama's top counterterrorism tool -- is it doing more harm than good?


CROWLEY: U.S. officials say al Qaeda's number two was killed this week by a U.S. drone attack into Pakistan. Drones are those pilotless aerial vehicles armed with spy equipment and/or explosives. Drone strikes are difficult to track but one group says President Obama has authorized almost 300 of them into Pakistan alone since taking office. That is compared to 49 in the last term of the Bush administration.

A lengthy list of terrorists have been taken out in these attacks but a number of organizations say U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia have caused hundreds of civilian deaths, angering citizens in those regions, and making the U.S. a hard sell even to America-friendly politicians.

Drones are not limited to overseas missions. The FAA allows unarmed spy equipped drops to patrol the skies over several U.S. cities. That raises privacy concerns on both sides of the aisle.

House Homeland Security Committee chairman Peter King and Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey on the politics of drones, next.


CROWLEY: I am joined by House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King of New York and Democratic Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey of California.

Thank you both for getting up early this morning. I want to, kind of, set the stage for this discussion by showing our viewers a couple of statistics. Since the second half of the Bush administration into the Obama administration, there have been a reported 302 drone strikes into northwest Pakistan, about 2,800 people killed, we are told, about 17 percent of them civilians.

Again, these are hard to keep track of; these are not exact numbers, but it's the best estimate.

Congresswoman, let me ask you, is anything about that troublesome to you? We are essentially launching these aerial vehicles and dropping or sending bombs into places -- and it's fingerprintless. The U.S. does it from some place else. Are you worried about this at all?

WOOLSEY: Well, I know I am. It's such a trend to dehumanize warfare, and it's machines and computers doing the job. You know what, candy? This is not video games. These are real people, and it's real death, and we are making real enemies around the world by continuing with our drone program.

CROWLEY: And, Congressman King, does anything about this -- you know, certainly we can't argue that we want Americans to go in and risk their lives while doing this because, you know, we want Americans protected. On the other hand, do you worry about U.S. imagery and do you worry that there's never really been much of a debate about the use of these drones?

KING: Candy, if you just bear with me for a second, because I'm on the Intelligence Committee, I can't officially acknowledge that we have a drone program. But assuming that we do...

CROWLEY: If we did?



KING: ... accurate. I had to say that up front. No, I'm not concerned. My belief is that, when you're in war, and we are in war, the idea is to kill as many of the enemy as you can with minimal risk of life to your own people.

As far as the civilian casualties, every one of them is tragic, but the fact is, in every war, there's a large amount of collateral damage, of civilian casualties, whether it's World War II, whether it's the Korean War, and if we were using ordinary explosives, we would also have those type of civilian deaths.

To me, American lives are being saved; the enemy is being killed, we have managed -- and I give the president credit for this -- to devastate core Al Qaida, primarily because of these type of attacks which did begin in the Bush administration, particularly in the last year of the Bush administration, and President Obama has followed them through.

I'm not saying these are easy decisions to make, but life isn't easy; war isn't easy. I believe it's essential that we do complete the mission against Al Qaida, and these drones are obviously a very effective way to do it with a minimal loss of American life.

CROWLEY: Congresswoman, what worries you most? I mean, there certainly is the kind of "ick" factor when you think, wow, it just -- it does seem like a video game. It does, sort of, seem to take the -- if there is humanity in war, which I think we could probably argue, but nonetheless it does seem to, kind of, remove responsibility.

But let's say, beyond that, what worries you policy-wise about these drone attacks?

WOOLSEY: Well, Peter -- I disagree with Peter. I think the Congress has been left out in this -- of this conversation, and I think that is wrong all the way around, particularly about what is a war and what is a conflict that we haven't claimed to be a war.

But what I'd like to say my greatest concern is, you know, the united states is the superpower. We're the standard. People follow what we do. We're setting a standard for all other nations that, when they're ready and want to, if they choose, they can send drones at the united states. Why do we want to get into a world and a humanity that wants to live on earth that way? Why are we not putting our energy into a different kind of security around the world where we invest pennies on the dollar, Candy, we invest in diplomacy; we invest in helping other countries with their development needs, helping them -- when they want to -- I mean, we don't -- shouldn't impose ourselves, but help them not be angry and not need Al Qaida and want to be part of the world organization?

Because I think what goes around comes around, and those drones are going to come right back at us.

CROWLEY: And, Congressman, what do you think about that? Because that question has been raised certainly at the White House from the press corps saying, well, what if Russia suddenly decided to send drones into a place because there were terrorists that they thought were going to attack Russia? Would we be OK with that?

KING: First, let me say we never used drones before September 11th and we still got killed. We had 3,000 Americans killed. So I don't believe drones are encouraging any attacks. What encourages attacks are weakness.

And, yes, I think we have to assume that the Russians would use drones if they could, just as we had to assume during the Cold War that they would use nuclear weapons. I mean, this isn't like golf where you have a handicap and you give somebody eight strokes. The fact is we have to use the weapons that we have. And we're up against Al Qaida which is a devious, evil enemy which wants to kill Americans. I wish we could all live in a world where we could hold hands and love each other. The fact is that's not reality. We have an enemy that wants to kill us.

I live in New York. I lost over 150 constituents on 9/11. And if we can save the next 150 by killing Al Qaida terrorists with drones, then kill them. I have no compunctions about that whatsoever. And we have to assume there's always going to be an increase in weapons. This has been the history of mankind.

That's why we have to make sure our defense budget is not weakened and that we stay ahead of the enemy and that we're in a position to provide leadership. But again, this stuff about drones making enemies -- we used no drones. The only time we used weapons during the 1990s was to defend Muslims in Bosnia and Kosovo and then they turned around -- Al Qaida turned around and attacked us on 9/11. There's evil people in the world. Drones aren't evil. People are evil. We are a force of good and we're using those drones to carry out a policy of righteousness and goodness.

CROWLEY: Can I ask you, Congresswoman, about the use of domestic drones, that the FAA does allow certain cities to have drones fly over for whatever reason, you know, looking for, I don't know, criminal activity, looking for traffic jams, whatever it happens to be. They're equipped with, you know, cameras and things like that, radar.

Do you have any concerns in terms of privacy here?

WOOLSEY: Well, I have great concern about privacy all over our country, not just because of drones and our loss of civil rights and civil liberties based on our need for security. I think we're giving up our security in spite of the fact that we're making people more angry at us all over the world.

And the very argument that my good colleague Peter King just gave us is what is infuriating the rest of the world. And I -- I, too, would like to hold hands and be friendly all over the world, and I know we have to be strong, but I think we can be strong with a domestic -- helping them with their policies and with diplomacy and so they don't -- we don't need to put so much of our funds into war machines and think that we're going to make friends and make this a safe world. We aren't going to. We have to -- we can be -- have tougher and tougher and tougher machines and equipment and more scary and we can just destroy our world, and -- not this year, not tomorrow, but soon.

CROWLEY: Congressman King, I just need a really quick answer from you because I'm out of time here, and that is do you think the domestic use of drones flying over cities to watch several things -- does it give you pause at all or is that OK with you?

KING: I think drones are a legitimate form of law enforcement. Having said that, privacy has to be respected. When you don't have an expectation of privacy if you're in the open -- so we're talking about crowds; we're talking about sidewalks; we're talking about people out in the open. There is no expectation of privacy there. And drones are extremely effective as far as trying to spot things that could be happening in a crowd, certainly, if a child has been kidnapped or lost, also along the border to spot illegals coming across the border, that's true.

And also, I would just say, as far as the use of drones, we have not been attacked since September 11th, and that's a lot better than holding hands.

CROWLEY: OK, that's the last word there.

Thank you so much, Congressman King, Congresswoman Woolsey. Thanks for joining us.

Ahead, a check of the morning news and then a misstep by President Obama, and Mitt Romney pounces. Will it matter in November?


FORMER GOV. MITT ROMNEY, R-MASS., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: For the president of the United States to stand up and say the private sector is doing fine is going to go down in history.



CROWLEY: Time for a check of today's top stories. There are reports of multiple victims in a shooting near Alabama's Auburn University. The incident occurred last night at an off-campus apartment complex. Police are expected to release more details today.

Evacuations have been ordered in northern Colorado, where a wildfire is burning. So far the blaze has consumed 8,000 acres and is expected to grow. No injuries have been reported.

Heavy rains pounded the Gulf Coast this weekend, causing severe flooding. Thirteen inches of rain fell on Pensacola, Florida, where a state of emergency has been declared. Residents in low-lying areas are being urged to evacuate.

The Supreme Court's ruling on the health care law could come as early as tomorrow. The high court could strike down the entire law or just the part involving the individual mandate, which requires everyone to have health care insurance. The remaining rulings from the court for this term will all be handed down by the end of the month.

A week of setbacks for Democrats, a bump in the road or a bad omen for November?


BARRETT: I just got off the phone with Governor Walker and congratulated him on his victory tonight.

CLINTON: I'm very sorry about what happened yesterday.

OBAMA: It is absolutely clear that the economy is not doing fine.



CROWLEY: Here with me are New York Times political reporter Michael Shear and CNN's senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash. Thank you both. I want to talk just quickly about John McCain. Both of you covered him. It seems to me that the rhetoric between President Obama and John McCain has suddenly gone kind of a little nuclear.

MICHAEL SHEAR, NEW YORK TIMES: yes. You know, what's interesting is there was a moment after the presidential campaign in 2008 where you sort of thought that John McCain was going to come back to the Senate having lost the race and go back to the old John McCain who was the compromiser, the guy that brought folks back to the middle, and he just hasn't. Right? He has become a real thorn in the side of President Obama, and has this thing about these moments where he just seems to want to really like jab the needle in. DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. Everything you were discussing with him with regard to the leaks investigation, yes, there is bipartisan outrage about it, about all of these leaks, but he is the one driving the idea that it's political, that it is to help the president, and that it's from the White House.

CROWLEY: And by the way, he wouldn't say no, I don't think the president would do that, I don't think the president -- I gave him a chance and he said I don't really know what the president knows and doesn't know, which I thought was kind of -- usually you kind of give the president a pass on leaking confidential stuff.

SHEAR: Right, although he did seem -- and we were talking just -- he did seem just sort of uncomfortable almost -- like you kept trying to get him to repeat the sort of baldly political, this is being done for baldly political reasons, and he seemed to kind of hesitate. I think even he doesn't quite want to go there.

CROWLEY: Let me tell you about -- there are two kind of oopses this week. One was the president going, oh, you know, the private sector is doing fine, so Republicans pounce all over that. And then Mitt Romney almost immediately goes, he thinks that, you know, we should hire more policemen and teachers and firefighters. Didn't he listen to Wisconsin? And so the Democrats are all over that. Any lasting harm here to either one of them? BASH: Well, you know, it's unclear, again, since we both covered John McCain, we remember when he said the fundamentals of the economy are strong, and that was just a complete disaster for him. It also was because for him people knew that he didn't really get the economy or it wasn't his strong suit.

CROWLEY: It fit into an existing story.

BASH: It fit into a narrative. And for President Obama, for those who are looking for it, it could fit into a narrative as well, that he is a big spending liberal who doesn't get the private sector, he's never worked in the private sector.

But, look, I think the lesson is, unfortunately, in today's day and age, if you mess something up a la Mitt Romney saying I'm not worried about poor people, it's going to be picked up on. It's going to be a bumper sticker, and it's going to be tweeted, and it's going to be out there in a nanosecond. So you have got to clean it up, and that's what the president did.

CROWLEY: We're making for a lot of very timid politicians who are going to say even less than what they're saying now, which is too bad.

But, Michael, you and I had a discussion about this, because I looked at what the president said and thought it's not going to stick to him in the way that I don't care about poor people sticks with Mitt Romney, because no one thinks that the president doesn't understand their pain.

SHEAR: Yes. CROWLEY: But you took a different tact, which I thought was really interesting.

SHEAR: Well, I mean, I do think, look, the president's approval rating when you look at how does he handle the economy is not all that great. It's below 50 percent in most polls. And I do think that, you know, if the Republicans are good at driving this again and again and again, that the idea that somehow he doesn't think the economy is good, and that as Dana said, the -- you know, his relationship with business has not been good over the past couple of years, two or three years.

CROWLEY: His donations are down as well from them.

SHEAR: His donations are down, right, exactly.

CROWLEY: What about Mitt Romney and this whole firefighter/policemen -- that just seemed to me just to be atonal.

BASH: I think you're exactly right. And again, it fits into a narrative that he is this wealthy guy who doesn't get regular people, who's probably never hung out with a firefighter or, you know, somebody who has a job like that.

CROWLEY: But he doesn't want more firemen and more police and more teachers.

BASH: And that's true. He took the whole idea of too much government to a personal level that you just don't go there.

SHEAR: Although it wasn't, as you said, bumper sticker. The other one fits on a bumper sticker. Private economy fine. The way that he said it didn't fit on a bumper sticker as much as some of the past things he said about not caring about poor people. So I still think that that one probably doesn't have as long of a reach as what the president said.

CROWLEY: It's interesting to me that I saw so many headlines over this week talking about literally President Obama's terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week off a children's book. Was it that bad, and is it what we like to call a pivot point? Did it change anything or is this just one of those weeks that they go, OK, move on.

BASH: It was bad. I mean, between the job numbers and him not doing -- Mitt Romney outraising him when it comes to fund-raising, and of course what he said on Friday and the leaks. It was not good. The good news for them is that it's June and it's not September and it's not October. And candidates, as you know, covering, you know, a few elections, they have bad weeks. And, you know, you want to have those bad weeks now.


BASH: Early, and when people are not paying as much attention.

CROWLEY: Michael, I want to show our viewers and listeners a poll that CNN just finished. It's about, you know, who you're going to vote for president. 25 percent registered voters said I could change my mind. Does that seem high to you?

SHEAR: You know, it doesn't. I actually had a conversation with my mother just yesterday, in which she was talking about her hairdresser, who said she hadn't paid any attention to any of this, and didn't know -- hadn't heard any of the stuff going on in the news. And I think that's a lot more common out there among the public. People aren't paying attention.

BASH: Just real quick, I was in Wisconsin this past week. Very, very polarized obviously with regard to Scott Walker. But when I asked voters, just random voters, what about the president? So many of them, even there in polarized Wisconsin, I'm not sure yet.

CROWLEY: I'm not sure, so 25 percent still out there watching, which means that you can now have a good week and it might make a difference for the president. Michael Shear, Dana Bash, thank you both so much.

BASH: Thank you.

CROWLEY: Presidential surrogates off message when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CROWLEY: This week on the campaign trail, surrogates gone astray. Think about it. Do you have a couple dozen friends you'd let travel across the country to speak for you? Such is the nightmare of candidates who can't be everywhere. It's worst when the big dogs wander off, those surrogates people actually listen to. Example, former President Bill Clinton, who suggested in fuzzy language this week that tax cuts even for the rich should be extended for a while, which is not President Obama's language, fuzzy or otherwise.


CLINTON: I didn't have any idea when I was giving that answer that I was wading into some controversy in the campaign. I'm very sorry about what happened yesterday.


CROWLEY: Campaign history is replete with examples from marquee names to the extras. In 2008, Texas State Senator Kirk Watson spoke for candidate Obama.


KIRK WATSON: I'm not going to be able to name you specific --

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC: Can you name any?

WATSON: Items of legislative accomplishment.

MATTHEWS: Can you name anything that he's accomplished as a congressman? WATSON: No, I'm not going to be able to do it tonight.

MATTHEWS: Well, that's a problem, isn't it?


CROWLEY: Another blast from the past, a Clinton campaign ad questioning Obama's readiness to answer a 3:00 a.m. emergency phone call. Adviser Susan Rice had this helpful pushback on behalf of candidate Obama.


SUSAN RICE: She attacked Barack Obama for not being ready. They're both not ready to have that 3:00 a.m. phone call.


CROWLEY: All was apparently forgiven. Rice is now U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Sometimes you just have to believe a candidate understands what the rest of the country knows for sure. Some surrogates are destined to go off the rails. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP: There's a lot of questions as to the authenticity of the birth certificate.

There are many people that do not believe that birth certificate is authentic.

If you're born in a foreign country, you're not allowed to be president so, you know, this is a minor detail.


CROWLEY: For our Machiavellian viewers, one school of thought holds that camp Romney doesn't mind Donald Trump's debunked obsession with the birth issue, because it appeals to a segment of conservative voters that have not warmed up to Romney.

And finally, the one top level surrogate so prone to meander off the trail, there's a name for it. Joe bombs.


JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women, and heterosexual men and women marrying one another are entitled to the same exact rights, all the civil rights, all the civil liberties.


CROWLEY: Regardless, almost all surrogate slips are survivable in the long run, but they are media magnets, and, thus time-consuming in the short run, proving it's really true what your father told you -- if you want something done right, do it yourself.

Thanks for watching "State of the Union." I'm Candy Crowley in Washington. Find today's interviews, some analysis and web exclusives at our website, "Fareed Zakaria GPS" is next for our viewers here in the United States.