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Interview with Congressman Schiff

Aired August 25, 2013 - 12:00   ET


DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Dana Bash in Candy Crowley with breaking news we're following out of Syria. A U.S. official tells CNN there's very little doubt that the Assad government used chemical weapons against civilians. Syria's government today said it will allow UN weapons inspectors to investigate the site where the alleged attack occurred on Wednesday. The Syrian government denies responsibility and is blaming rebels for that attack that reportedly killed 1,300 people.

Now the incident is testing already-frayed relations between the United States and Russia, which is warning the U.S. not to jump to conclusions about the Syrian government.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon has prepositioned four warships armed with cruise missiles in the region.

And joining me now is CNN's Pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence, and CNN International correspondent, Phil Black. He's live in Moscow, and CNN's Fred Pleitgen in Damascus.

Fred, to you first.


I had an interview earlier today with the deputy foreign minister of Syria. And that's when he told me that the UN weapons inspectors would have immediate and unrestricted access to all of those places where chemical weapons were allegedly used on Wednesday. The only thing that needs to be sorted now is the logistics, of when they can actually go down there, because of course they have to cross the front line towards rebel-controlled territories. So they also have to go into negotiations with the rebels.

The UN for their part is saying they want to begin that mission starting tomorrow.

I want you to listen to a portion of what the deputy foreign minister told me.



PLEITGEN: What sort of agreement have you made with them? AL-MEKAD: We worked for two days. I have never doubted the possibility of reaching an agreement.

PLEITGEN: So they have complete access and they can go anywhere they want, any time they want?


PLEITGEN: Is that the case? In all of these areas?


PLEITGEN: And that can start immediately?



PLEITGEN: So there's the deputy foreign minister. He also warned the United States, saying that if the U.S. decided to take military action here in Syria, it would kill a lot of civilians and that also, the Syrian government would fight back.

However, when I asked him what fighting back exactly meant, he said that he wouldn't say that on CNN television, Dana.

BASH: Fred, thank you very much. Stand by for a second.

I want to go to Moscow to our Phil Black, because this is obviously a very important subplot or maybe even more than a subplot of this story, and that is, the Russian government and how they're reacting. Phil, tell us about that.

PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We've had a couple of statements from the Russian foreign ministry today, Dana. And they boil down to this effectively, they're telling the United States and its allies to use discretion and to not repeat the tragic mistakes of the past. When they talk about using discretion, they're saying wait for this United Nations investigation to run its course, to determine objectively on the ground, precisely what happened with this alleged chemical weapons incident.

When they talk about not repeating the mistakes of the past, they're saying you should not even be thinking about taking military action, that does not follow international law, that does not have the blessing of the United Nations security council.

Now we know that the UN security council to give that blessing, because Russia would use its veto. But the message from the Russian government today very strongly is do not consider going this alone as you've done in the past. And that's why we're hearing Russian officials today talking about Iraq as an example where unilateral military action didn't go so well according to Russia and they would argue the impact in Syria would be just as severe -- Dana.

BASH: Phil, thank you. And stand by to you, too. Chris, I want to talk to you about what you're hearing outside -- inside the administration. The president met with his national security team yesterday, very rare, very telling that he did so on a Saturday. Why is this time the planning inside the administration different than in the past?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well I think you hit the nail on the head. For the president to be working on a Saturday, not only working, but to call in his entire national security team -- the director of the CIA, the national intelligence, I mean, the entire apparatus. And I think what really hits home this time is the fact that Secretary Hagel is traveling overseas in Asia had to phone in on a teleconference call during that trip.

And last time, when the Pentagon updated its military options for the president, it very much felt like it was coming or being driven by pressure from the outside, Republicans, even some Democrats in congress. This time feels differently from sources I've been speaking with, this is more internally driven by the administration realizing they may have to do something.

BASH: Very interesting.

And I want to also now bring into our discussion, Democratic congressman Adam Schiff of California, who is also a senior member of the House Intelligence Committee. What are your thoughts on this?

I know you and I've talked in the halls of Congress before. And you've been very reluctant to arm the Syrian rebels. But is this time different?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF, (D) CALIFORNIA: It is different.

And I have been reluctant, you're right, Dana, because I felt the mission wasn't clear. We weren't going to provide enough weapons to make a difference on the battlefield, but we could very much be drawn into this civil war.

Here, though, I think we've always had a national security interest in deterring the use of chemical weapons and taking strong action against the use of chemical weapons. If this is confirmed, then I think the White House will have to act in concert with our allies, with NATO, with our regional friends. I don't think we can allow repeated use of chemical weapons now, an escalated use of chemical weapons to stand.

If we do, it encourages the broader use of chemical weapons in other conflicts. And we have a core national security interest in making sure that doesn't happen.

BASH: And I want to bring you in, Chris, in one second. But I also want to play for you to sort of set the table for this discussion, something that two of your congressional colleagues said this morning, a Democrat and a Republican about this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: What we've seen indicates that this is clearly a big event of grave concern. I think it is fair to say, that as difficult as the problem is, this is something that is going to require America's attention, hopefully the entire international community's attention.


BASH: Well, that was obviously, a Democrat, an important one, the president. You know, we have breaking news here. But what I was going to...

SCHIFF: A former colleague of mine.

BASH: A former colleague of yours.

Well, what I was going to play, is Democrat Eliot Engel, who is the top Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee and Bob Corker, senator, Republican, both of them saying that we can't wait. We can't wait for Congress to come back to authorize this, there has to be action. And Corker even said that he's talked to the White House, he thinks action could happen relatively soon.

What are you hearing? And do you agree with that?

SCHIFF: Well, I think it very well could happen soon. And I think that's the message that the Assad regime already has, my suspicion is the reason they're now willing to allow UN inspectors in, they think in the absence of doing that, that action could be imminent and this helps them buy some time.

I think, you know, the White House has drawn a red line. And in terms of the credibility of the White House, the cost of not acting now I think exceeds the cost of acting. But they have to be careful to do this in concert with our allies. They have to be careful to limit the scope of what they're trying to achieve. they have to make sure they make it clear. This does not determine design to bring the regime down, that's too big a mission, it's designed to deter any use of chemical weapons by Assad or others think there will be bipartisan support for that. And I think that the cost of inaction now is too high if this is confirmed.

LAWRENCE: And I think we've already heard from administration officials saying too little, too late. They think that any evidence that would be collected five days later, you know, has been corrupted, that there's been intense shelling in that area, other intentional acts by the Assad regime. And that they're not going to put all of that much stock in what comes out six to seven days after the fact.

BASH: And both of you, I want you to listen to Fred Pleitgen, who has a question for you, congressman, from the field in Syria-- Fred.

PLEITGEN: Yeah, Congressman, I was wondering, what sort of action you have in mind. Because if you say that you don't think that changing the regime or bringing down the regime what should be going on and the real aim has to be deterring the use of chemical weapons, how do you do that? How do you make sure that you hit the Assad regime hart enough to get them to stop using chemical weapons and without weakening them to a point where Islamist rebels get the upper hand on the battlefield in places like Aleppo? It seems like a very difficult thing to do.

And one thing I want to say before that is I can also actually confirm from the ground here that there has indeed been intense shelling going on over the past two or three days, that seems to be directed at exactly those neighborhoods where those chemical weapons claims were made.

SCHIFF: Well, I don't think the White House is going to want to risk American lives by sending pilots over Syria, so that really limits our options to cruise strikes and think that's probably where the White House is going to go.

I think there's little danger that targeted cruise strikes are going to so destabilize the Assad regime that it would fall quickly, that would probably be too much to expect of that kind of strike. The bigger risk is actually that the strike won't be significant enough to deter him. But I think it would. I think it could be very punishing. You wouldn't go after the stockpiles, themselves, which only could disperse the chemical weapons, but rather go after his missile stock, go after some of his aircraft, go after his ability to deliver these weapons in the future.

BASH: And Congressman, how important is it that there is international consensus here? And to follow on that, how problematic is it that Russia is so reluctant, not just reluctant, but very much against this?

SCHIEFF: I think it's very important that this be a strong international coalition. If we're going to make a statement about the prohibition, the taboo on the use of chemical weapons, it can't just be the United States. This is where our leadership is going to have to come in.

But I also agree with those who have said, we can't wait on the United Nations to act. The Russians will never allow that to take place, their national security interests are very different than ours. They will seek to make murky who was responsible for this. But I think we do have to act in concert with others and I think we can.

LAWRENCE: So you think it's time to move ahead, don't even bother with the United Nations security council and start to take steps to go forward?

SCHIFF: I think we ought to quickly as possible get those inspectors in to do their investigation. I think we ought to also gather our intelligence and outside sources to make the case.

I think the president will need to go before the American people and explain exactly what actually we're taking in concert with others and why. BASH: Congressman, thank you very much. Appreciate your time coming in on short notice.

Chris Lawrence, Fred Pleitgen from Damascus, and Phil Black from Moscow.

And when we return, our panel is here to discuss Obama's political options on Syria, and what's at stake for his legacy.


BASH: With me now, CNN commentator; Neera Tanden, president and CEO for the Center for American Progress; and CNN commentator Cornell Belcher and Carly Fiorina, chairman of Good360.

Thank you all for joining us.

I want to talk about the pickle that President Obama is in with regard to Syria.

You two in the middle, the Democrats know, especially you, Cornell, that President Obama beat Hillary Clinton, who was unbeatable, everybody thought back in 2008, in part because of the fact that he was an anti-war candidate against Iraq.

So now he finds himself in a position where this could be a really serious situation with chemical weapons in Syria. And there could be mounting pressure, internationally, to get involved.

CORNELL BELCHER, CNN COMMENTATOR: It is a pickle. Because on the one side, you have the basic Democratic Party -- and by the way, not just the Democratic Party, but Americans broadly do not want troops on the ground and bombing in Syria.

Once we start bombing, we kind of own part of the situation there. So it's a tough place. But at the same time, when, if they are using chemical weapons against their own people, the president is going to have to make a case to the American people that they have to decide their own fate. However, there's got to be rules to this, rules of engagement, and they've crossed the line.

BASH: Talk to me about the Left: if the president does have to go further, whether or not he's going to have support, or he's going to have the kind of opposition that the former president had for people like President Obama.

NEERA TANDEN, PRESIDENT & CEO, THE CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Well, look, the differences between Iraq and Syria are huge. You know, the --even back then, President Obama said he wasn't opposed to all wars, he was opposed to stupid wars and the Iraq war was a stupid war.

The issue with Syria is whether the heinous act of using chemical weapons against your own people requires international action. And I think progressives, I hope conservatives, the country would unite if the president chooses to take action. The country, the country would unite to support that.

BASH: And, Carly --


ROSS DOUTHAT, CNN COMMENTATOR: I can remember when dissent was the highest form of patriotism.

Why does the country have to unite?

BELCHER: Well, McCain, will be on the president's side if he's --

DOUTHAT: Yes, I --

TANDEN: The country doesn't have to unite. I'm just saying they wouldn't look at it as a political issue, of opposition to the president, they would just look at it as whether it was the right thing to do.

BASH: You mentioned McCain, Carly; I followed you around on the McCain presidential campaign, watching him talk about President Obama as somebody (inaudible) then Candidate Obama, who would not be effective on the world stage.

Do you think that he has handled the situation thus far in an effective way?

CARLY FIORINA (R), CALIF.: Well certainly I completely understand President Obama's reluctance get involved in Syria. I think President Obama's problem has been his inconsistency.

On the one hand, we throw over Mubarak in two weeks. But President Obama is actually supportive of Ahmadinejad, when there were protests in the street during that election. He talked about Bashar al-Assad as a partner for progress for a long time before he started talking about Bashar al-Assad has to go.

The problem is President Obama has been inconsistent in his policy in the Middle East. Indecipherable in some of our allies' beliefs. When you have the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Israel, Saudi Arabia, our most important allies in the region, all telling us, you guys are getting this wrong on almost everything, you have a problem.

I think on Syria, whatever the president chooses to do and whatever the U.N. inspectors find out, there's no denying now, that somebody is using chemical weapons. The only thing to be figured out now is who. And I think the international community suspects that the government.

But that means that chemical weapons are moving around. Chemical weapons are proliferating. So now I think the community at large has a big problem.

BASH: But the issue is -- I mean we all saw this obviously at the end of the Bush administration, now it's even more so, this is a war-weary country, no matter how big the threat may be.

I mean the last serious polling we have on intervention in Syria, and it is from four to six months ago, and it is before, as Carly says, the proliferation of chemical weapons, is basically nobody, not Democrats, not Republicans, not independents, wants us to get involved in Syria's civil war and it's clear that the president doesn't want us to get involved, either.

And he has good reasons for feeling that way, specifically the fact that the most powerful faction within the anti-Bashar al-Assad opposition is a group with strong links to Al Qaeda. So it's, you know you can bomb Assad on behalf of sort of you know, Islamist terrorism or you can you know, support Assad, and support a brutal dictator.

So it's a nearly impossible problem and it hasn't gotten any easier to solve just because we have this evidence on chemical weapons.

I mean, I agree with Carly, that a line has been crossed and President Obama was very clear that this would be a red line and so on. But it doesn't, having that happen doesn't tell you what to do about it.

BELCHER: And certainly people, look at what, Russia thinks we're insane, to your point, to sort of you know, bomb him out because the alternative to him, could in fact be even worse for us internationally if the Islamist radicals get in power which could very well happen.

TANDEN: Look, I think that the real issue is also, though that if we allow in the Middle East, of all places, if we allow a regime to use chemical weapons, that sets a precedent going forward that threatens not just world security, but in the long run, American security. I appreciate that it's not an easy issue. Obviously --

DOUTHAT: Those are the kind of arguments, you'll recall, that President Obama used to justify the invasion of Iraq.


BASH: I think this tells us -- this tells us --


BASH: -- that one thing to be a candidate, it's another thing to sit in the Oval Office to sit in the Situation Room and have these problems and have to be the one to deal with them.

Carly, Cornell, Neera and Ross, thank you very much. We appreciate it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thanks for having us.

BASH: The fight over ObamaCare and what it means for Republicans who won't vote to defund it. Ted Cruz, former Senator Jim DeMint and former Governor Howard Dean are next. (MUSIC PLAYING)


BASH: President Obama hit the road this week, finding himself among friendly audiences at northeastern colleges, where he criticized Republicans, who want to block his signature legislation.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They're threatening to shut down the government and have another financial crisis, unless, for example, we get rid of the health care reform that we fought to pass and that's going to provide millions of people health care security for the first time. That won't create jobs. That's not going to help our economy. That doesn't strengthen the middle class.


BASH: One Republican determined to defund Obamacare is freshman senator, Ted Cruz.


CRUZ: We've all seen this movie before. What happens next is President Obama and Harry Reid are going to scream and yell those mean, nasty Republicans are threatening to shut down the federal government. One side or the other has to blink, how do we win this fight? Don't blink.


BASH: Joining me now, Howard Dean, the former Vermont governor and chairman of the Democratic National Committee and Jim DeMint, former Republican North Carolina -- excuse me, South Carolina senator and currently the president of the conservative, Heritage Foundation.

Gentlemen, the clock is ticking on this fight over health care. Some of the provisions kick in on October 1st. Candy Crowley sat down with Sen. Ted Cruz to talk about all that and I want to play that and I want to talk about the fact that it actually started with another interesting political controversy and that is that is a question about Ted Cruz's birth place.


CROWLEY: I have to get this birth certificate off the table. I think it's fairly cool that you have dual citizenship. You could go run for the Canadian parliament. You can go run for president. What's wrong with that?

CRUZ: Well, look, I think it's the silly season in politics. I was born in 1970 in Calgary, Canada. My parents were working there in the oil and gas business. My mother was a U.S. citizen by birth, born in Wilmington, Delaware. And so, under U.S. law, I'm an American citizen by birth. And, when I was four, we moved back to Texas.

So, I grew up in Houston, Texas, always been my home. And when I was a kid, my mom told me that if I ever wanted to, I could affirmatively choose to claim Canadian citizenship, but I got a U.S. passport when I was in high school. I never did anything to affirmatively claim citizenship, so I thought that was the end of the matter.

And then the "Dallas Morning News" run a headline where they went and talk with some immigration lawyers that said technically, the immigration lawyers said that I still had dual citizenship. And so, the question was raised, well, if you do, would you renounce your Canadian citizenship? And I said, well, look, if that's right, then sure.

Because serving as a U.S. senator, I was an American by birth and serving as a U.S. senator, I think it's appropriate that I'd be only an American.

CROWLEY: And you know how it's being interpreted, though, with, oh, clearing the way for a 2016 presidential run. You want to get this issue off the table -- CRUZ: Listen, there's a lot of silliness. I thought it was a reasonable question when the "Dallas Morning News" asked for my birth certificate, so I gave it to them.

CROWLEY: Let me move you to health care, Texas has the highest percentage of uninsured citizens of any state. Let's say you're successful in defunding Obamacare, the next day, what do you tell those 6.2 or something million Texans?

CRUZ: Well, number one, Obamacare is the biggest job killer in this country. And there's bipartisan agreement that it isn't working, that it's killing jobs, that it's forcing people to have their hours forcibly reduced to 29 hours a week, that it's driving up the cost of health insurance, that it's causing people to lose their health insurance because businesses are dropping.

And so, the first thing I would say is the single biggest thing we can do to restore economic growth, to bring jobs back is to defund Obamacare.

CROWLEY: But that doesn't help those 6.2 million.

CRUZ: Well, it does, because those numbers -- if you keep seeing employers dropping health insurance, you'll see more and more people unable to afford health care, more and more people losing their health care. Look, once Obamacare is defunded and repealed, there's a great deal we can do on health care reform. I think three reforms are most important.

Number one, we should allow people to purchase health insurance in all 50 states. Right now, it's illegal --

CROWLEY: Cross state purchasing.

CRUZ: And the advantage of that, the biggest barrier to getting health insurance right now is cost, because many people can't afford health insurance.

CROWLEY: Do you think it's right that so many people in this country cannot afford health care and therefore do not have it?

CRUZ: Well, no, and that's why I want to fix that. Secondly, I think we need to expand health savings account, to make it easier to say in a tax advantage way to take care of prevention, to take care of routine medical needs. And third, I think we need to delink health insurance from employment.

If you or I get fired, you don't loses your car insurance, you don't lose your house insurance, you don't lose your life insurance. There's no reason you should lose your health insurance, and of all --


CRUZ: That's exactly right. We should have health insurance policies that are personal, that affordable.

CROWLEY: Are you getting calls in your office from people seeking direction on how to sign up in this health exchanges? Will you or have you helped those people?

CRUZ: You know, we have not been getting significant calls in that regard. We have been getting calls from people saying, please stop Obamacare. Please stop this train wreck. Would you help someone who called and said I want to sign --

CRUZ: Look, we have a major constituent service operation that helps anyone dealing with the government

CROWLEY: Including signing up for something you don't --

CRUZ: Oh, sure, sure. Look, it's the job of someone representing -- you know, I'm honored to represent 26 million Texans and dealing with the government is inherently frustrating. It's inherently confusing. And one of the things that our office takes very seriously is trying to help Americans deal with the government.

CROWLEY: Do you agree with the fact that if someone actually does not support defunding Obamacare, if there are Republican that they ought to be replaced?

CRUZ: What I agree with is I think now is the single best time to stop Obamacare, because there's bipartisan agreement that it's not working. The wheels are coming of. And because defunding it, if it doesn't happen now, it's likely never to happen. CROWLEY: The president is never going to sign a bill that defunds Obamacare.

CRUZ: You know, you may be convinced to that.

CROWLEY: You're not convinced to that?

CRUZ: I am not at all.

CROWLEY: This is his signature. This is what they consider his signature achievement, so far, of his administration in its fifth year.

CRUZ: Here's what I think should happen. The House of Representatives should pass a continuing resolution that funds the federal government in its entirety, every aspect of the federal government, except Obamacare, and it should explicitly prohibit any funding for Obamacare mandatory or discretionary. And I filed legislative language in the Senate to do that.

Now, the next stage, we know how this play goes forward. President Obama and Harry Reid will scream and holler that the mean nasty Republicans are threatening to shut down the government. And at that point, Republicans have to do something we haven't done in a long time. Stand up and win the argument.

We have to stand up and say, no, we want to keep the government open. We have voted to keep the government open, to fund the government. Why is President Obama threatening to shut the government down, to force Obamacare down the threats -- the throats of the American people.

CROWLEY: You will need 41 Republicans. How close were you?

CRUZ: We do not have the votes right now. We need 41 Republicans in the Senate or we need 218 Republicans in the House. And that will only happen, and you know what, this fights is likely to heat up in the month of September. That's going to be when the battle is engaged. And, I'm convinced there's a new paragon in politics that actually has Washington very uncomfortable.

It has politicians in both parties very uncomfortable. And that new paradigm is the rise of the grassroots, the ability of grassroots activist to demand of their elected officials they do the right thing. And I believe if we see a grassroots tsunami, that is going to cause Republicans and Democrats to listen to the people.

CROWLEY: But it's going to take a tsunami?

CRUZ: It is going to take a tsunami and I'm going to do everything I can to encourage that tsunami.

CROWLEY: But what about you lost? You lost. This has been put into law. I mean, this is the argument on the other side. It's already law, why not just get on board and try it? CRUZ: Because it's not working and it's hurting Americans. And by the way, the people it's hurting the most are the most vulnerable among us. The people who are losing their jobs are young people or Hispanics or African-Americans or single moms. I don't think that's fair, I don't think that's right.

CROWLEY: Let me move you on to a couple of political issues. One of them is, do you see yourself supporting incumbents during primary challenges or would you entertain supporting a challenge?

CRUZ: I have not made a definite decision on that. I think it is likely that I'll stay out of all incumbent races on either side. CROWLEY: Would you support Mitch McConnell versus a Tea Party candidate? Would you support Lindsey Graham versus a Tea Party candidate? Would you support a Lamar Alexander versus a Tea Party candidate.

CRUZ: I think it is likely that I'll stay out of all incumbent races. Now, listen, I intend to be very involved in 2014 in open seats and working to help support strong conservative candidates. I think 2014 is a very favorable environment for Republicans to retake the Senate.

CROWLEY: Chris Christie in one of his latest moves as New Jersey governor has outlawed therapy designed to turn gay people straight for children 18 and under. What do you think of that decision?

CRUZ: You know, I like Chris Christie. I think he is a straight forward, brash sometimes blunt speaker. I think he's someone who has managed to stand up and defend his principles in a state that is historically not very friendly to Republicans. And I am glad for that. The decisions that states make locally about health care, I think are best left to the states.

CROWLEY: Could you see yourself on a ticket with Chris Christie?

CRUZ: You know, I am not going to speculate about the future. I can tell you, my focus is 100 percent on the U.S. Senate, because the Senate right now is the battleground.

CROWLEY: So, if it says -- if I read and I did that you were, quote, "seriously mulling" running in 2016, that's incorrect?

CRUZ: You know, I find it amusing these stories that speculate about I don't even know what seriously mulling means. What I can tell you --

CROWLEY: -- you really thinking about it.

CRUZ: I understand in the media, it's fun to cover the game. It's fun to cover politics all the time. But, we've got huge challenges in this country. I am a big, big believer that good policy makes good politics. That if you stand up, you'd do the right thing, need to roll up your sleeve, you try to work with Republicans, with Democrats, with anyone who'll work together to get our economy moving, to bring jobs back, but the rest of it the politics will take care of itself.


BASH: Politics will take care of itself. Well, we'll see about that. And joining us again is Democrat Howard Dean, and Republican Jim DeMint. I want to start with you both about the big issue at hand, the big issue that Ted Cruz is talking about, which of course, is Obamacare.

And Governor Dean, I talk to a lot of worried Democrats on Capitol Hill and elsewhere who say that Ted Cruz is able to gain traction because their constituents are concerned because the Obama administration didn't handle the implementation well. As a politician and as a doctor who knows the angst of patients not just voters, did the White House mess this up?

DEAN: No, all I can say is that was a very long interview with very little content in it. Ted Cruz may be a very good politician, but he certainly does not know anything about health care. First of all, Obamacare is in fact, as John McCain suggested in 2008 going to separate eventually, going to separate health care from employment.

That's actually a good idea which John McCain put forward, and that's going to happen gradually and carefully. Second of all, I don't want the Texas insurance commissioner being the commissioner up here in Vermont. And so buying insurance across state lines is a terrible idea. We've had universal health insurance for all our kids for 20 years.

They have 22 percent of their children uninsured in Texas. I don't want anything to do with Texas' health care system in Vermont and I don't want our people buying Texas health insurance. So, these are crazy ideas from the far right. He's a slick spokesman and God help us if he ever does get to be anything more than the senator from Texas.

BASH: Well, Senator DeMint, you are a friend of Senator Cruz, we'll let you respond to that, not to mention the fact that you agree with Sen. Cruz in terms of his prescription for what to do if not -- if Obamacare is no longer there.

DEMINT: Dana, good morning. Good morning to you, Howard. The real issue here -- Obamacare was passed under false pretenses. American people were lied to and they have every right to demand that their representatives stop this unfair and un-American law. As you know, we're traveling around the country getting people more informed about what this bill is really doing to their jobs and our economy.

Getting them inspired to be involved. Heritage Action is taking the lead on this to tell them how they can get involved as Senator Cruz was talking about. But federal health care is not going to provide good health care to Americans. You can't find a federal program that's working effectively. We need to make health insurance more affordable and available to every American. But it's not going to happen with a cash for clunkers style health care plan is going to come out of Washington. BASH: All right. Well, governor --

DEAN: I disagree -- Jim, I disagree with that. I think Medicare works pretty darn well and people like it and that's a federal program that works very well for people.

DEMINT: Howard, it's tens of trillions of dollars in debt, because it's been mismanaged at the federal level. It's going to leave huge debt on our children and more and more doctors won't even see a Medicare insured patient. So, it is not going to work for the future and it has not been designed well.

DEMINT: And as we put more people on Medicare and Medicaid and that's what Obamacare is going to do is push more people into Medicaid-style plans, fewer and fewer doctors are going to see these folks. So, we need to make sure people get health insurance that doctors will actually take.

BASH: OK, gentlemen. I know, governor, you want to jump in.


BASH: We're going to be able to talk a little bit more about that on the other side of the break. Stay with us, because I also want to ask you, particularly, Senator DeMint which Republicans ought to be replaced who are talking about Obamacare or maybe not talking about Obamacare.

And Joe Biden, was he President Obama's best political decision?


BASH: The battle over Obamacare has conservative activist groups going after one of their own.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Take Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, on the issue of Obamacare, he says.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These laws are disaster and I want you to know we're not backing down from this fight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But when he has the chance to defund Obamacare, some say he is chickening out. Senator McConnell, conservatives don't need a chicken when it comes to Obamacare. Leaders lead, but if you fund it, you own it.


BASH: More with Democrat Howard Dean and Republican Jim DeMint next.


BASH: We're back with Howard Dean and Jim DeMint. And Sen. DeMint, I want to start with you about the kind of fracture that this whole question that you're pushing out there on this tour about shutting down the government if Obamacare is funded, the fracture that it's causing within your party. I want to read our viewers a quote from you earlier this week.

You said, "I think President Obama knows that Republicans are afraid and if they are, they need to be replaced." Well, a fellow conservative group is actually going further than that, you can see the visual with chickens on the screen, talking about Mitch McConnell who, of course, was your former leader in the Senate, the Republican leader.

He is not signing on to your idea of demanding Obamacare be defunded or shut down the government. Do you think he needs to be replaced as leader or even as senator?

DEMINT: Well, the Heritage Foundation doesn't get involved with elections, but I have said on several occasions that if someone runs for office making a promise such as many did to stop Obamacare and then they say they're afraid to do that because they might lose the next election. My personal opinion is they should be replaced regardless of what party they're in.

But I can't speak for Republicans, but I can speak for millions of conservatives across the country that know that this is not going to help the uninsured in America. It's going to diminish health care for all Americans and we see that in every country around the world where national health care has been instituted.

BASH: And just to follow up on that, you can't talk about elections, but you can talk about your party, that's what you do at the Heritage Foundation. And specifically, the House, the only branch of government that's run by Republicans, House Speaker John Boehner also isn't too enthralled with your idea to shut down the government if Obamacare isn't defunded. Should he be replaced as speaker if he doesn't do that?

DEMINT: Well, the Heritage Foundation doesn't represent Republicans or Democrats.

BASH: You personally, senator. You personally, what do you think?

DEMINT: Well, what we think is that Obamacare is clearly a law that's going to hurt the American people. The president is not implementing it fairly. He's given exemptions for Congress, big business. We're saying this thing should be defunded, it should not go forward, the president is arbitrarily implementing the law. That's not law in America. So, we need to stop it and this is a time that it needs to be stopped.

BASH: OK. I just want to turn, since we're talking politics, to politics on the other side of the aisle. Governor Dean, Democratic politics. I want to play for you something that President Obama said about his vice president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: It was the best decision that I ever made politically because I love this guy and he's got heart, and he cares about people and he's willing to fight for what he believes in. And he's got some Scranton in him.


BASH: That sounded, Governor, like a little bit of maybe a soft endorsement looking ahead to 2016. I know you told Jake Tapper earlier this week that you would support Hillary Clinton if she runs, but you're leaving the door open. Would the door still be open if Joe Biden were to run and not Hillary Clinton?

DEAN: Well, before we get to that, let me get a little equal time on health care. You know, I was not a supporter of Obamacare when it passed, I am now. I think this ought to be implemented. In our little medical office in Burlington, Vermont, we discovered that premiums are going to be cut in half for the five people who work from my wife and her partners. So, this is going to make a big difference. I disagree with both Jim and certainly Senator Cruz.

And it's going to help a lot of people. And it's going to -- I think it's going to improve health care significantly in this country.

Now in terms of politics on the Democratic side. There's one thing that Jim DeMint and I can certainly agree on, this is much too early to be talking about this stuff. I'd expect President Obama to say something good about Joe Biden. And Joe Biden has been a great vice president. So this is all politics. This is all moving around. We'll see what happens but it's a little early.

BASH: It's a little early but I do well know that because you've done it before at this point maybe it's at this point maybe it's never too early to be thinking about it behind the scenes even if you don't want to talk about it in public.

Governor Dean, thank you very much. Senator DeMint, appreciate it. We will talk to you soon.

And when we come back, a virtual tour of the 2013 march on Washington, and the only surviving keynote speaker at that 1963 march, Congressman John Lewis, next.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They come from the north, the south, the east and west. They come united in one cause, that today's gathering is the largest in Washington's history.


BASH: Wednesday is the 50th anniversary of the 1963 march on Washington. Thousands will commemorate the event with a march for jobs and justice beginning at the labor department with a call for more government action to address high unemployment. Then a stop at the justice department urging a federal civil rights suit against George Zimmerman, who was acquitted of the killing of Trayvon Martin. The march will pass the Washington monument and the World War II Memorial before ending at the Lincoln Memorial with speeches by presidents Obama, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter. Thousands gathered on the National Mall Saturday to mark the anniversary.

The only surviving keynote speaker of the original march 50 years ago, Congressman John Lewis spoke of that event.

LEWIS: I stood right here in this spot.

BASH: He has just written a graphic novel to coincide with this week's event. Candy spoke with John Lewis.


CROWLEY: Why the graphic novel?

LEWIS: Well, I felt strongly that we needed to do something, to write something, to put it down, to tell the story for another generation, for children, and for people not so young.

CROWLEY: What do you think they don't know about it now?

LEWIS: I wanted young people to understand what it was all about, that we accepted the way of peace, the way of love, the way of nonviolence. That we were beaten and arrested and went to jail and we didn't become bitter or hostile. That we never gave up because we wanted to be what Dr. King called the beloved community.

CROWLEY: I want to play something for you that President Obama said. This was in the wake of the Trayvon Martin case and the jury verdict.

OBAMA: We need to spend some time thinking about how do we bolster and reinforce our African-American boys. Is there more that we can do to give them a sense that their country cares about them and values them and is willing to invest in them.

CROWLEY: What is it the president is talking about?

LEWIS: We needed a president, a man like Barack Obama, to say that. And maybe, just give these young men, not just African- American, but all young men a greater sense of hope, to instill in them some values. During the height of the civil rights movement, we grew up, we had something to stand up for. We had something to believe in. I grew up, I literally grew up on lunch counter stools and going on the freedom ride, I participated in a march.

CROWLEY: A feeling of purpose you're talking about.

LEWIS: You had a sense of purpose. You had goals that we wanted to desegregate the lunch counters, the restaurants, to gain the right to vote.

CROWLEY: When you look back on that day 50 years ago on the Mall, you have talked about it as a key moment in the civil rights movement. So many people have said it's pivotal. What did it change?

LEWIS: The march on Washington was a significant turning point. We had people coming from all over America. And even Americans living abroad, they left France, they left England, they got on planes and they came to Washington. There were people black and white, Latinos, Asian-American, Native American, wanted to bear witness to something. They wanted to petition the government. Members of Congress, the president. And it said through their numbers and through their sense of order and dignity that America would never, ever be the same. You know, President Kennedy didn't like the idea of a march on Washington. He said if you bring all these people to Washington, there will be violence and chaos and disorder. You'll never get a civil rights bill through the Congress. But when the march was all over and Dr. King had delivered that magnificent "I have a dream" speech, the president welcomed us back down to the White House. He stood in the door of the oval office beaming like a proud father, greeting each one of us. He shook our hands and he said you did a good job, you did a good job. And when he got to Dr. King, he said, and you had a dream.

CROWLEY: Congressman John Lewis, you know it's always a pleasure to have you here. Thank you so much.

LEWIS: Thank you so much for having me.


BASH: And when we return, the man who helped shape Republican Senator Ted Cruz's politics, his father, Rafael.


BASH: He fled Cuba in 1957 after being tortured and imprisoned. Now a pastor in Texas, Rafael Cruz talked to Candy about what inspired his son's politics and a possible presidential run.


CROWLEY: So it's not often I get to interview the dad and the son together, so I'm just going to run through the questions he wouldn't answer. Is he running for president? RAFAEL CRUZ, FATHER OF TEXAS SENATOR TED CRUZ: I don't see him running for president. He is standing up for principle in the Senate and I'm very proud of him doing that.

CROWLEY: And would you like him to?

R. CRUZ: I think that is the future -- nobody knows what the future brings.

CROWLEY: Did you want him to get into politics?

R. CRUZ: I think politics has been a part of our lives ever since he was 8, 9 years old. 1979, 1980 I was very much involved in the grassroots level in helping Ronald Reagan get elected. Of course our conversation around the dinner table was all about politics.

CRUZ: When I was a kid my dad used to say over and over again, when I was 2, 3, 4, 5 years old, when we faced oppression in Cuba, I had a place to flee to. If we lose our freedom here, where do we go? And I will tell you, it is an incredible blessing to be the child of an immigrant who fled oppression, because it makes you realize how precious and how fragile the freedom is that we have here in America.


BASH: Stay with CNN throughout the day for continuing coverage of the crisis in Syria. Thanks for watching State of the Union. I'm Dana Bash in for Candy Crowley. Fareed Zakaria, GPS, is next.