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STATE OF THE UNION WITH CANDY CROWLEY

Interview with Senator Graham; Interview with Congressman Schiff; Interview with Rep. Steve Israel

Aired August 4, 2013 - 09:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: An uneasy weekend beneath the shadow of a terrorist threat.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY (voice-over): Today a suspected plot prompts a global warning to Americans far from home. Take care. Senator Lindsey Graham joins us for a talk on al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Edward Snowden in Russia, and crisis in Egypt.

Then, House Intelligence Committee member, Adam Schiff, on whether these security warnings justify the breadth and depth of spying by the National Security Agency.

And, see you in September. Congress takes a month long break, leaving nearly every important piece of business undone. The man spear heading the drive to get more Democrats elected to the House, Congressman Steve Israel, joins us.

Plus --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sit down and shut up.

CROWLEY: Seriously, what are the chances September will be any better? Our power panel is ready to sit down, but they won't shut up. And --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm going with this tight end because he's going to have my tackle.

CROWLEY: The National Football League moves closer to a first down on equality. Our interview with the woman who would be ref and what players are thinking.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All I know is she's wearing black and white stripes and she's got the hat on. And she's the one with the whistle. So, I've got to be really nice to her.

CROWLEY: I'm Candy Crowley, and this is STATE OF THE UNION.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY (on-camera): In what's being called an unprecedented event, some extraordinary precautions are underway across the Muslim world right now. The U.S. has also issued a worldwide travel alert, essentially, warning Americans to keep their heads down. Additionally, 22 embassies and consulates, most of them in the Middle East or Northern Africa, are closed today. The epicenter of this concern is Yemen, home base for al Qaeda's Arabian affiliate.

U.S. officials say the government there is on high alert. At least a dozen tanks are deployed near the U.S. embassy. Some U.S. military forces are on a higher state of readiness, and officials say the threat is greater than it's been in a long time.

CNN's Becky Anderson is standing by in Abu Dhabi and Jim Acosta is at the White House. But we begin with our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, on that higher state of readiness within the U.S. military. When did it start? I assume I know why, but tell me the decision-making process.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Candy, what we have learned is it was earlier this week as the threat emerged, defense secretary, Chuck Hagel, began chairing a series of very high level meetings in the Pentagon, saying to the commanders, where do we have troops, what can we do? So, there are marines on duty in Southern Spain, in Southern Italy, and in the Red Sea.

And Hagel ordered that they be on the highest possible state of readiness. This is something the military doesn't take lightly. They've done it before. How ready can they be? They can be ready to be on airplanes with their weapons ready to go within one hour of getting the order. So, they have them spread out, ready to go, closer to Yemen that sits in the Red Sea if something were to happen.

They have to be in across a wide swath because they don't know if something's going to happen and they don't know where.

CROWLEY: Exactly. Let me bring in our Becky Anderson. She's in Abu Dhabi. I know you are near the shuttered U.S. embassy, Becky. Give us a sense of how this day looks different there, if it does.

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's an interesting one. This is the beginning of the working week across the region. So, you would normally see these embassies open. We've been down to the Abu Dhabi embassy, which is over my shoulder about a mile away. Let me get you a closer shot of that. That's the building with the sloping roof. Now, it's shuttered. There are no staff there today.

It is still secured by the marines. That is nothing out of the ordinary. And there are local authority postings saying no filming in the vicinity. Again, I must say, that that is nothing out of the ordinary. But there are no staff working on what is a working day today. The website saying, out of an abundance of caution and care for our employees and others who may be visiting our installations, we're taking these precautionary steps.

And it's perhaps important that we mustn't read too much into it, Candy. The website goes on to say it is possible we may have additional days of closings as well depending on our analysis. Now, CNN has spoken to a European ambassador today here in the region who says he believes the U.S. is veering on the side of caution, given the attack, of course, in Benghazi and the turmoil in Egypt and Syria at the moment -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Becky, thanks. I want to bring in now Jim Acosta. He's at the White House. Jim, I know, one of the things is when things like this happen, Americans want to know what their president is doing. So, give us a feel on that.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Being briefed regularly on this terror threat. Yesterday, his new national security adviser, Susan Rice, chaired what the White House is calling a principals meeting.

That is essentially a meeting of the president's heavy hitters that are making up his second term national security team, secretary of state, John Kerry, secretary of defense, Chuck Hagel, his new U.N. ambassador, Samantha Power, the director of the CIA, John Brennan, as well as many others.

And then, after that meeting, both Susan Rice and his top counterterrorism adviser, Lisa Monaco, again briefed the president on this ongoing situation. We should point out the president is up at Camp David right now celebrating his 52nd birthday with a group of about 11 friends.

But as you know, Candy, when you're president of the United States, birthday celebrations can't last too long. He'll be coming back to the White House later today, and we'll expect him to be briefed again on this situation if he hasn't been already.

CROWLEY: And Barbara, to you, we also know that Interpol, which is international global police, issued a worldwide security alert, trying to find a connection. There've been prison outbreaks in nine countries, and some of those prisoners are al Qaeda members, certainly sympathetic, or just plain dangerous thugs. Is there a connection?

STARR: Well, it's interesting the places where these prison breaks have happened, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan. Thousands of prisoners now on the loose. They don't think it has a direct connection, but they want to know. That's why Interpol is taking this action it is. But perhaps even equally serious, it certainly puts thousands of very highly trained experienced al Qaeda sympathizers or operatives back out on the street.

CROWLEY: And Jim, back to you. The timing of this entire alerts to Americans and the announcements of the closings of the embassies came shortly after the president visited with the head of Yemen. So, can we assume that in some way the alert sprung out of that meeting?

ACOSTA: I think that is an interesting assumption, Candy, but I have to tell you, we asked White House officials about that, and they simply did not want to go there, but at the same time, we should point out, when the president did meet with the president of Yemen, you know, he did appraise the Yemeni leader for counterterrorism strides that are being made in that country. White House press secretary, Jay Carney, was asked during the Thursday briefing about an uptick in drone strikes there. So, you can assume at the very least the president was probably glad that the country of Yemen is allowing the United States to conduct those drone strikes inside that country. Having said all of that, we should point out, though, that on Wednesday, Vice President Joe Biden, according to senior U.S. officials, was up on Capitol Hill briefing lawmakers, key lawmakers, on a variety of threats, including what is happening right now at these embassies.

A senior U.S. official did say to reporters that part of that briefing did cover what that official called immediate threats, and the White House officials have been saying that the president has known about this threat for some time. So, it's probably better to assume that they've known about this longer than that meeting with the Yemeni president, Candy.

CROWLEY: Right. But probably, they discussed it. Thanks so much, Jim Acosta. Becky Anderson, Abu Dhabi, Barbara Starr. I hope you will both and all stick with us.

We want to move on now to republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. Senator, first, as you watch this unfold, what does it -- what is your general impression here? This looks -- if you're an ordinary American, looks pretty scary.

GRAHAM: Well, I had a briefing with the vice president. It is scary. Al Qaeda's on the rise in this part of the world. And, the NSA program is proving its worth yet again. But we need to reevaluate where we're at in light of these threats. Sequestration has to be fixed. If this happens a year from now, intelligence community and military will be less capable.

AFRICOM needs to be beefed up. That's where the war is going. We're about to withdraw from Afghanistan. I don't want Afghanistan to become Iraq where we withdraw all of our troops and terrorism comes back. You know, western Afghanistan is the safe haven for al Qaeda. So, I appreciate what the administration is doing.

They're taking the right approach to this. Benghazi was a complete failure. The threats were real there. The reporting was real. And we basically dropped the ball. We've learned from Benghazi, thank God, and the administration is doing this right.

CROWLEY: Let me ask you, when you look at this map of U.S. embassies that are closed or consulates or missions, 22 of them, most of them across the Muslim world, when you hear this global warning to all Americans to take care, what do you think that says since the mission of a terrorist is to terrorize. In some sense, do you feel like they've already won? This is kind of a balance, isn't it?

GRAHAM: Well, it is a balance. Shutting down embassies makes sense going out of this. The goal is to drive us out in Mid East. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, al Qaeda in Iraq, al Nusra, all of them have one thing in common, they want to drive the west out of the Mid East and take over this Muslim countries and create an al Qaeda tight religious entity in the place of what it says today.

So, this is an effort to terrorize us, to drive us out of the Mid East. And if we ever take the bait and try to come home and create fortress America, we'll have another 9/11. So, we have to show resolve, but we have to be smart. I'm going to Egypt with Senator McCain very soon here. I know it's dangerous, but we need to be there with our diplomats giving the unified message to Egypt.

Do not let these people drive us out of the Mid East. Do not make us abandon our friends like now Yemen, Israel, the king of (ph) Jordan. We can't let them get away with this. We have to stand up to them. And finally, after Benghazi, they're on steroids. They attacked our consulate. They killed an ambassador.

A year has passed, and nobody's paid a price. After Benghazi, these al Qaeda-types are really on steroids, thinking we're weaker and they're stronger.

CROWLEY: Senator, I want to talk to you about the Egyptian trip and some other things after the break. But quickly, when are you leaving for Egypt?

GRAHAM: Very soon. And to the members of Congress who want to reform the NSA program, great. But if you want to gut it, you make us much less safe, and you're putting our nation at risk. We need to have policies in place that can deal with the threats that exist, and they are real, and they are growing.

CROWLEY: OK. We're going to talk to you right after this break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: We're back with the Republican senator, Lindsey Graham. Senator, we have this global worldwide alert to Americans to stay safe and watch how they travel and watch where they go. We have all these embassies closed down, including the one in Egypt. And you and Senator McCain are going there.

So, I want to know if there's any extra precautions being taken. It just seems like kind of a dual message here.

GRAHAM: Well, I hope they are. And if you're going to pick between the two of us, Senator McCain is far more valuable than I am. But, we've got a call from the president, Secretary Kerry, the message that the Egyptian military and the Muslim Brotherhood is to get out of the streets, back into the voting booth.

The Egyptian military must move more aggressively toward turning over control to the civilian population, civilian organizations. The military can't keep running the country. We need Democratic elections. The brotherhood needs to get off the streets and back into the political arena and fight your differences there, and we need to put Egypt back to work. If this continues, it's going to be a failed state. That's why we're going.

CROWLEY: Well, senator, as you know, the brotherhood can't get back to the voting booth until elections are called, which haven't happened.

GRAHAM: Right.

CROWLEY: The U.S. has been working its military connections very, very hard.

GRAHAM: Right.

CROWLEY: Trying to use the leverage of U.S. aid saying you need to set up elections. You need to stop attacking these protesters. And I want to read you something that General Abdel-Fatal al-Sisi said, he's the Egyptian defense minister, he's the commander of the armed forces. He did an interview, I believe it was with "The Washington Post." And, he had this to say about the U.S. "You left the Egyptians. You turned your back on the Egyptians, and they won't forget that." He is talking about the fact the Egyptians didn't like the Morsy government, and you did nothing to try to correct the direction of the Morsy government. So, this does not sound like the group that is listening to any leverage the U.S. perceives it has with them.

GRAHAM: Well, he'd better start listening if he wants this relationship. The relationship between the United States and Egypt is very important to us. It's the center of the Arab world in general.

CROWLEY: It doesn't seem like it's that important to them, though.

GRAHAM: Well, it's important to people around in the streets demanding, you know, a better life to the general. Democracy is messy. The Morsy government did screw up big time. They went down the Islamic cultural road rather than creating jobs, and the military had to intervene. The one thing that's not sustainable is a military takeover of Egypt.

They promised new elections. They need to deliver. The Muslim Brotherhood needs to get off the streets so the economy can start anew and reorganize and have a political contest, not a contest to violence. I don't want to abandon Egypt. To the general, Senator McCain and myself stopped an effort to cut off aid.

I want to keep the aid flowing to Egypt, but it has to be with the understanding that Egypt's going to march toward democracy, not toward a military dictatorship. And that's the message we're going to send to the Muslim Brotherhood. The only way you're going to be part of Egypt is to allow Egypt to get back to work, stop playing politics. That's the message.

This is a key moment in the history of Egypt, but the narrative in the Mid East needs to change and it needs to change quickly. We abandoned Iraq. It's falling apart. We're talking about leaving Afghanistan. We'd better be smart enough to leave a residual force in Afghanistan to deal with the problems of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

CROWLEY: I've got no time left actually, but I can't let you go without a political question. GRAHAM: Sure. All right.

CROWLEY: You picked up another opponent for the Republican primary. All of them are coming at you from the right and say that you are too quick to compromise with Democrats. Your quick response to that.

GRAHAM: I'm going to keep being a social and fiscal conservative that focuses on our national security, takes care of interests at home, like the port of Charleston, working with my state officials, and be a conservative like Ronald Reagan who will sit down with a Tip O'Neil to solve Americans' problems. I'm conservative, but I do want to solve problems. I'm going to Egypt because my country needs me and Senator McCain in a bipartisan fashion to speak to the Egyptian people about their future and our relationship. I will continue to be Lindsey Graham, a solid fiscal and social conservative who wants to solve problems. I think that's the future of the Republican Party.

CROWLEY: Senator Lindsey Graham, we will watch that race with great interest. Thank you so much. Safe journey.

GRAHAM: Thank you.

CROWLEY: When we return, President Obama sat down with the president of Yemen and said the terrorists are retreating.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What we've seen is al Qaeda in the Arabian peninsula or AQAP moved back out of territories that it was controlling.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Today, we are on alert for an attack in Yemen. The latest on threats to American interests from a member who's seen the intelligence with his own eyes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Joining me now, Congressman Adam Schiff, a Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. Thank you, congressman for being here. I want you to clear up a couple of things from me that I think people must be sort of mulling over in their head. From what you have seen in terms of intelligence reports and what you can tell us, which I understand is limited, how imminent is this threat and how great is this threat?

SCHIFF: Well, I think we know a lot more about the when than the where. And you can tell that from the breadth of the closures across North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. But the when was very specific in terms of a Sunday. Obviously, that may continue and the closures may continue. The travel warning is more extensive.

But this is not the usual kind of chatter, not the more generalized death to the Americans or death to great Satan, but had to be corroborated or come from very reliable sources to take this kind of action. So, I think we're doing what's necessary to protect our people. We're also protecting our sources. And, I think that's exactly the right step.

CROWLEY: There are also reports out there that there's a team of terrorists is already in place. From what you know, is this a single target event or is the fear that it's a multi-target event?

SCHIFF: Well, I think, given the breadth of the closures, you can tell there's concern about seeing something like we saw a year ago where there were riots and attacks at multiple embassies around the world. There has to be a lot of concern as well with the recent prison breaks in Libya, Iraq, and elsewhere where a lot of al Qaeda figures were released.

So, we have a lot of things coming together, including the significance of the end of Ramadan, that would raise our concern, but all of that would not be enough without having some particularly specific information. So, you know, I think we're taking the precautions we should.

We obviously have our military forces deployed in a different way than we did a year ago so that they can take rapid action if necessary. But the concern is a broad one. Hopefully, we'll fend off this attack.

CROWLEY: Senator Graham just told me that he thinks that these threats are yet another reason for those who have been critics of the national security agencies, the depth and the breadth of their intelligence collecting. It should show that that depth and that breadth should stay there. You've been a critic of the sheer reach of the NSA. Does this make you change your mind?

SCHIFF: It doesn't, and I think you have to be very careful about how much you represent that any particular program has contributed to our security. And I know Senator Graham said that this shows that we need to continue these particular programs, but if you look at the one that's most at issue here, that's the bulk metadata program, there's no indication, unless I'm proved wrong later that that program which collects vast amounts of domestic data, domestic telephony data, contributed to information about this particular plot.

And I think that with respect to any of the NSA programs, we need to ask ourselves three questions, we need to ask whether it's constitutional, whether it's effective, and whether it's structured in a way that minimizes any unnecessary imposition on our privacy. And if you look at that third criteria, I don't think the metadata program can survive in its current form.

I've been urging the NSA for some time to restructure the program so that the telephone companies hold on to their own data. There's no reason for the government to obtain all that.

CROWLEY: OK.

SCHIFF: We can still go to those companies when necessary. CROWLEY: Congressman, I want to bring in a couple of other folks in this conversation. Our CNN national security analyst, Peter Bergen, who's written extensively about al Qaeda, and Fran Townsend, a former homeland security adviser to President Bush, she's also a member of the CIA external advisory board. Thank you both for being here. And let me just throw this out there for all of you.

If you are an American traveling abroad and someone says to you, hey, there's a global terrorist alert here, be careful. I can just imagine sitting there in my hotel room in Paris thinking, what am I supposed to do here? What are they supposed to do? What does that even mean?

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL; SECURITY ANALYST: I think go ahead and take the trip. I mean, unless, you're planning a vacation in Afghanistan and you plan to, you know, check into a hotel right next to the U.S. embassy. I mean, you know, so, exercising common sense is really what's required here.

CROWLEY: Congressman, it just seems pretty vague and almost something like that the U.S. has to do, but there's nothing specific for tourists or Americans, expats to do really.

SCHIFF: Well, I think Peter's right. All we can do is take reasonable precautions. There may be certain places that tourists were going to go that they want to write off for this time and this trip, but, you know, I think that all we can do is ask for prudence here, and I think that also we're seeing some of the Benghazi effect here.

We don't want to have another terrible loss of life, and so we're taking a very broad response to this to make sure that we're prepared as possible. But being vigilant, participating in the step program with the state department, these are some reasonable steps people can take.

CROWLEY: And Fran, let me just turn you in a slightly different direction. If nothing happens today, certainly, we hope that's the case, what makes tomorrow safer than today? What makes Tuesday safer than Monday or Wednesday? It just seems to me that this can be kind of -- I mean, you might as well just shut down forever because you can't be shut down awaiting a terrorist attack for whenever it's going to come.

FRANCES FRAGOS TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Candy, that's exactly right, and that's the challenge you always face with these threats. I will say that, you know, Congressman Schiff's comments suggesting that there's a particular focus on a Sunday explains why today, but I'll tell you operationally the reason you do this is it buys the government time, right?

Once you take targets away, it buys you additional time to try and disrupt, to identify the cell, the operators in country and the region, and work with your partners in the region to try and, you know, get them in custody or disrupt the plot. So, some of this operationally is about buying time. And I think that's why you see, you know, in Abu Dhabi, for example, they're saying there may be additional days that they need to announce closures until this threat -- the government is satisfied that they've disrupted this threat.

CROWLEY: I guess, congressman, though, that I would think, were I a terrorist, I'd just wait it out.

SCHIFF: And they may, but Fran makes a good point. As they're waiting for another target of opportunity, we're gathering more intelligence, and it may be it gives us the chance to take some of the leadership off the battlefield or to neutralize the threat or to reinforce our defenses. All of those options are far superior to not making this warning to suffering an attack and the potential loss of life. So it gains us time. It also, you're right, does tip off our adversaries, potentially, if we're not careful, to what the source of information or sources may be, but also they need to pick a better time or target of opportunity. But I think all of those risks and costs are worth it in terms of buying time for more intelligence and protecting our people.

CROWLEY: Congressman, Peter brings us a good point because not just we can bide our time. It's, hey, let's try a softer target here. And that's always a possibility. But as a final question, let me ask you this. I asked this of Senator Graham, if we all know what the intent of terrorism is. It's to make people afraid. Where is that line? When you have the government saying, we're going to shut down 22 embassies. There's this imminent threat. By the way, Americans, be really careful, and we're moving the military around in certain spots, it's getting pretty close to be afraid.

BERGEN: If we're not terrorized, terrorism doesn't work, yet, you know, the government is responsible for the safety of particularly its employees and...

CROWLEY: Sure.

BERGEN: ... all Americans. So, you know, no --

CROWLEY: And you don't want to be the guy that says, now we don't need to tell people and then have it --

BERGEN: You don't want to be the official a year from now sitting here on Capitol Hill testifying about an attack that you --

CROWLEY: Knew about.

BERGEN: Yes.

CROWLEY: Exactly. I hope all of you will stand by. Peter Bergen, Fran Townsend, Congressman Adam Schiff, for getting up so early California time, thank you.

When we return Democrats stay on message, but is it the right one?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Jobs, middle class, broke.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Expanding the middle class and growing jobs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Next up, the man in charge of getting more Democrats jobs in the House of Representatives.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: I'm joined by New York Congressman Steve Israel. He's the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which is a kind of a long way of saying that he's in charge of trying to take over the House next year in those elections.

Congressman, thank you for joining us. We had some jobs figures that came out this week. Unemployment, the jobless rate did come down, but when we looked at the larger picture of what's going on in the jobs market, we see that there's only about 63 percent labor participation. We see that 8.2 million workers are involuntarily working part-time, and we also see that many of these jobs that are being created are low-wage jobs. Is this the kind of economic picture that you can sell next year? ISRAEL: What we have to do is have different priorities than the priorities the House Republicans are giving us right now. In their attempts, their relentless attempts to obstruct the president, to obstruct Democrats from solutions, they're actually obstructing Democratic growth.

Candy, I had the best answer to your question yesterday. I had a town meeting in Oyster Bay. And one of my constituents, a guy named Brook Dixon (ph), said, Congressman, I'm trying to start a small business to create jobs. Why can't those members of Congress do what a small business has to do? Why can't they listen to the customer? I'm hopeful that in August, House Republicans will listen to the customer and choose solutions rather than obstruction.

If you listen to the Republicans, my final point, if you listen to what the Republicans are saying, they're going to come back in September and double down on obstruction that hurts the economy, continuing to repeal the Affordable Care Act. They've done it 40 times. They're going to do it again. And now they're talking about shutting down the government unless they get their ideological objectives. We think there are better priorities.

CROWLEY: Sure. Let me say that probably the customers of some of these Republicans are quite different than the customers at your town hall meeting, because it's a pretty diverse country. But I wanted to ask you about Obamacare, because we had the head of the IRS was up on the Hill, and he was asked about his own health care program in comparison to Obamacare, and here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WERFEL: I prefer to stay with the current policy that I'm pleased with rather than go through a change if I don't need to go through that change.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: This guy was appointed by -- he's the acting IRS commissioner. This can't be helpful.

ISRAEL: Well, I can't speak for him. I can speak for me. As a member of Congress, I'm going to go on the exchange next year. I'm going to shop for my insurance in the marketplace. By the way, in my state, New York, they've announced the exchanges. Premiums are going to go down 50 percent. So I will be on the exchange pursuant to the law.

I'll tell you what I will not do. I will not agree with Republicans in repealing the Affordable Care Act and putting insurance companies in charge of insurance, in charge of health care. I will not give insurance companies free rein to tell a woman with breast cancer that I represent that her breast cancer is a preexisting condition. I will not do that.

CROWLEY: Congressman, let me bring in our roundtable here. Artur Davis, he is a former Democratic congressman from Alabama. I'm sure you know more than others that he switched to the GOP over a difference in economic policies, among other things. Anita Dunn, she is former White House communications director for President Obama. Alex Castellanos and Donna Brazile, both are CNN political commentators.

Let me just extrapolate what we just heard from Congressman Israel, and that is that the election next year, barring some big deal breakthrough and the economy goes booming is, the economy would be much better if the Republicans just weren't standing in our way, vote Democratic. Yes?

CASTELLANOS: I think that's what the congressman would love to have, but if you go out there and ask in America, do you think Congress is so unpopular because they've not done enough or because they've done too much? It's too much. They've put the country in tremendous debt. That was a consensus. They have -- retirement plans, Social Security are all bankrupt. Medicare. All these things. So we actually want Washington to do more. Washington isn't spending and taxing enough. If that's the Democratic message, it's not going to work.

CROWLEY: I think their message is you're standing in the way of Obamacare, you're standing in the way of more jobs.

CASTELLANOS: That's what they'd like it to be, but there is another side.

DUNN: And there is, but I'm sure Alex would be shocked to hear that I disagree with him. CASTELLANOS: The first time.

(LAUGHTER)

DUNN: And, Candy, I think it's an important issue. I think the conventional wisdom, for example, has been that Obamacare as a 2014 issue potentially hurts Democrats. If you look at what's happening right now, Obamacare is hurting the Republican Party that has an enormous split between those who say that they won't fund the government past September 30th if there's any funding for implementation -- the Ted Cruz wing -- and then people like Tom Coburn, and -- who are actually now being accused of being too moderate. And, you know, at the end of the day, the economy is only going to grow if serious people will sit down and work together.

DAVIS: Let me jump in for one second.

(CROSSTALK)

DAVIS: The irony of this recovery is that it's exactly the kind of recovery that, when I was a Democrat, we used to complain was a Republican kind of recovery. And here is what I mean when I say that. If you're an American who's doing very well, frankly, this recovery has been pretty good for you. If you're someone whose income is primarily derived from stocks, if you are someone who owns a company, your profits are up. A lot of companies' profits are up. But if you're a middle-class American, if you are a working-class American, this recovery has not been terribly good for you, and that's the irony of it. Barack Obama and the Democrats have to go into 2014 frankly making the kind of case that, when I was a Democrat, we say these Republicans only --

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: Congressman, I want you to know I hear you. But I am going to -- Donna Brazile for some reason is uncharacteristically quiet here. I'm going to draw her out.

BRAZILE: No, I'm listening.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She's much smarter than me.

BRAZILE: Look, I'm in the choir here, and I'm just listening to the other congregants. But the truth of the matter is, is that Democrats are going to campaign on an economy that is still recovering from the greatest recession since the Great Depression. We're going to campaign, I believe, on the fact that we're trying to end the sequester, which is stalling economic growth, and we're going to campaign on the fact that Democrats have pro-job growth policies. We're not going to sit around and wait for the Republicans to continue to put breaks on the economy at a time when middle class families are struggling.

CASTELLANOS: One thing we can agree on, I think, is that the Republicans have never been very good at playing the shut down the government card. It has actually never helped. We're going to hold our breath until you, the voter, turns blue, is not good political strategy.

CROWLEY: Which is probably why it's not going to happen.

CASTELLANOS: Yes, probably won't.

CROWLEY: But it's a great sort of thing to hit (ph) for the Republicans.

ISRAEL: Candy, may I?

CROWLEY: Yes, Congressman, go ahead.

ISRAEL: Thank you. Two of these points. Look, we're not going to campaign on the fact that the Republicans are chaotic and that the Congress is broken. We're campaigning on the fact that their chaos and the broken Congress is hurting the economy. They left for a six- week recess. They couldn't even pass a highway bill. You don't pass a highway bill, that's fewer contracts for highway companies. That's lower paid checks for highway workers. They couldn't pass a farm bill based on bipartisanship. That's a tougher deal for rural economies. And so the fact of the matter is that their chaos, their extremism is hurting the economy.

And we should pass a budget in September instead of shutting down the government. My final point. We should pass a government -- pass a budget that is solutions based, that reduces debt in a balanced way, that is fair to the middle class, protects rather than privatizes Medicare, and creates rather than costs jobs. If we can do that and cooperate, the economy will be better.

DAVIS: If you talk to so many people who are running businesses, so many people who are working in mid-sized (ph) companies, they'll tell you that there's a big challenge in this economy, and frankly, it's not the things we've been talking about this morning.

The challenge in this economy is that there's so much uncertainty. There's a regulatory environment that keeps getting bigger and bigger. Ordinary people who are having to make business decisions day in and day out, worry about the uncertainty. They worry about the fact that Washington seems to not get the fact that predictability is important.

Context (ph) to (ph) Obamacare. So many families right now, so many people in the business world worry that Obamacare is going to change the state of play for them. That makes it tougher for them to hire.

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: 30 seconds, Anita, real quick.

CASTELLANOS: Poor Congressman Israel seems to forget that Harry Reid didn't pass a budget for four years, and somehow the country moved alone.

CROWLEY: True that, Anita. ISRAEL: But we did now.

(CROSSTALK)

ISRAEL: We have a budget.

(CROSSTALK)

DUNN: -- is traveling to talk about a better bargain for the middle class. He's talking about what we need to do for middle class families. And right now, the Republicans have been very busy voting for the 40th time to repeal Obamacare. I think the American people get choices, and there is a clear choice.

CASTELLANOS: Do you think Washington has the answer to any of America's problems? No one believes that anymore.

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: Congressman Steve Israel, thank you so much for joining us.

ISRAEL: Thank you.

CROWLEY: Donna, Anita, stick around. I think you're going to like this next story. I went down to the New Orleans Saints Training Camp to check out a woman who's about to break into the all boys club in the NFL. You guys might like it too.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Training camps are under way, the start of the football season is approaching and some day soon there may be a different look to the NFL.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Are you ready for some football? And while we're at it, is football ready for this?

So he's going to have that tackle on double-double.

When you think about perhaps being an official in the NFL, what do you worry about as a female?

SARAH THOMAS, FOOTBALL REFEREE: I think the biggest concern I have as a female is making sure that my uniform fits the right way. And other than that, it's just I'm out there just like one of the guys, you know. I've got a job to do just like they do.

CROWLEY: Does that sheer, you know, mass of guys out on the field worry you?

THOMAS: I don't work in fear, Candy. I have a job that I've got to do and manage the line of scrimmage, the line judge position. And with experience comes just that. You know, being able to read the play, whether it's a pass or a run, or if it's a busted play, being able to get out of the way.

CROWLEY: If there's an opening in 2014, Sarah Thomas has a good chance to become the first female full-time NFL official. But breaking the grass ceiling has never been her goal.

THOMAS: The guys that I officiate with, they understand that, yes, I'm a female. And individually we're all different, regardless of race or gender. And I understand that being a female, there's going to be some focus on that. But collectively we're one when we're on that field and we're all out there trying to strive for the same reasons, same goals, to work the perfect game.

CROWLEY: Still, you can't help but notice, right? Have you surprised anybody when you first come onto the field and they find out later you're female?

THOMAS: Well, if I'm around the guys and I'm the only one out here wearing mascara and lipstick, so they kind of pick up on it pretty quickly when they hear me talk. But, you know, I've had a lot of people say I told you that was a girl when I left the field and had my hair down or something. So those are the games I want. I want to go unnoticed just like the other six guys on the field.

I'm going to go with this tight end because he's going to have my tackle.

CROWLEY: At the New Orleans Saints Training Center, they tend to see Thomas' turf-breaking role in black and white.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's pretty cool. For a country that speaks so much about equality, to have women not only officiating the game but at the highest level.

JIMMY GRAHAM, NEW ORLEANS STAINS TIGHT END: All I know is she's wearing black and white stripes and has a hat.

RAMAN HARPER, NEW ORLEANS SAINTS SAFETY: No problem, as long as she's making the right calls, which nobody is going to agree with them. Everybody hates officials and she'll just be hated like the rest of them.

DREW BREES, NEW ORLEANS SAINTS QUARTERBACK: I think it would be hard for a coach to yell at a female official maybe like he would a male official. And that's just being - that's just being honest.

CROWLEY: There are going to be people that are going to judge you as a female.

THOMAS. You know, the bad call is going come and hopefully there's enough good calls out there that precede it. That way when it happens, we're human. And regardless of gender or race or whatever it may be, we are going to make a mistake.

CROWLEY: For a story that may or may not happen for more than a year, Thomas is being pushed aggressively to the media by the NFL. In truth the organization could use a gridiron makeover. In recent months players have been involved in a murder-suicide, charged with manslaughter in a DUI, picked up on concealed weapons charges, accused of racism, arrested for murder.

It says to me that the NFL is trying to put out a good story. Would I be wrong to kind of look at this as a --

DEAN BLANDINO, NFL VICE PRESIDENT OF OFFICIATING: I think it's a -- with diversity, it's a (INAUDIBLE) NFL, so this is right in line with our values. I think Sarah has worked her way to this point and it's just - it's a nice by-product for the NFL, that she's a female. And it's a great story, absolutely.

CROWLEY: We're not sure, although you look like you are on a path to becoming an NFL officiant but it won't be until at least 2014 so in my mind I wonder why they're putting her out there now.

THOMAS: I really -- I can't answer that why they're putting me out here now. I was told I needed to do it, so here I am.

CROWLEY: Other people's agendas are just that. For Thomas the focus is the same as it's always been, officiating the perfect game.

THOMAS: All right, give me the line, give me the line.

CROWLEY: Line judge 153 is ready for some football, and it sounds like football is ready for her.

WALT COLEMAN, NFL REFEREE: She's just going to be another one of those terrible guys that's out there, that's calling the game, that screws up the game for us, you know. And so she's just going to be like the rest of us.

CROWLEY: Viva equality.

COLEMAN: That's right. She's just going to be a striped shirt.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Next up, an update on our top story. Precautions are in place as intelligence officials say Al Qaeda may be planning an attack at any time.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Our top story, the growing concern that Al Qaeda is planning to launch attacks any time now and it's leading to extraordinary precautions. In an unprecedented move, 22 U.S. embassies and consulates are closed today across North Africa, the Middle East and beyond. Officials say the closures may continue. This follows a global alert for Americans abroad. The main concern is Yemen, home base for Al Qaeda's Arabian affiliate. Officials say the threat is greater than it's been in a long time and that has some U.S. military units on higher alert. CNN will continue to monitor the situation and keep you updated throughout the day. Thanks for watching STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Candy Crowley.

Fareed Zakaria, GPS, starts right now.