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Interview with Debbie Wasserman Schultz

Aired September 29, 2013 - 12:00   ET


CANDY CROWLEY, HOST: Closing down the government and rolling out Obamacare. Today, debate, division and deadlines.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The House Republicans are so concerned with appeasing the tea party that they've threatened a government shutdown.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is the right thing to do to fund the government, avoiding a shutdown, but not to fund Obamacare.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: This is it. Time has gone.

CROWLEY (voice-over): A spending bill moves from the House to the Senate to the House and back to the Senate, legislative ping-pong likely to end in a government shutdown. Has anyone got a plan D? We'll ask Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chair of the DNC.


BILL CLINTON, 42ND PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What does this open enrollment mean?

CROWLEY: Ready, set, go. Obamacare on-line, sign-up starts Tuesday. A conversation with two doctors who know a thing or two about politics: Senator John Barrasso, and former Governor Howard Dean.


OBAMA: Good afternoon, everybody.

Just now I spoke on the phone with President Rouhani of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

CROWLEY: It has been more than 30 years between calls. Our powerhouse political panel weighs in on whether a short chat between the presidents of Iran and the U.S. can eventually lead to a new dynamic in the Middle East.


(END VIDEOTAPE) CROWLEY: Unless a deal is reached by midnight tomorrow, parts of the government will shut down. Early this morning the House passed legislation that will fund the government but also delay Obamacare. That bill now goes to the Senate where Democratic leaders say it will be rejected.

Republicans in the House don't appear to be caving though. They insist their strategy can work.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When this fails will you go for a one-week (ph) clean CR?

REP. DARRELL ISSA (R), CALIFORNIA: How dare you presume a failure? How dare you? How dare you? How dare you presume a failure? The fact is -- the fact is this country is based on people saying they won't do things and at the end of the day coming together for compromise.


CROWLEY: And right now there is no sign of any bipartisan negotiations that might bring us back from this brink. We have a stalemate. Joining me now is Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz from Florida. She is chair of the Democratic National Committee.

Thanks for being here.


CROWLEY: Be a pundit for a moment and tell me how this ends.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, I can tell you how I hope it ends, as a member of Congress who represents hundreds of thousands of people in South Florida, I hope it ends with cooler heads prevailing on the Republican side of the aisle, where they finally understand that they should not hold the economy hostage, that they should not play chicken with our economic stability by tying a completely unrelated issue, Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act, to whether we are, A, going to keep the government running or, B, pay the nation's bills. That's totally and wholly irresponsible.

CROWLEY: Well, and Republicans will say and have said, first of all, Obamacare will affect the budget, does affect the budget, we are spending on the budget. But more than that, they hope Democrats will come to their senses and that they will do some negotiating.

If it is so important, if it's going to be so terrible when the government shuts down, shouldn't some Democrat somewhere and some Republican somewhere say, why don't we have a meeting, why don't we figure our way out of this?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: You know, if you look at the polling, Candy, even people who oppose the Affordable Care Act, they overwhelmingly oppose using the strategy of defunding Obamacare and they oppose shutting the government down and tying it to Obamacare.

So what should happen? And I sit on the Appropriations Committee. And we used to do this all the time, sit down today, hammer out the negotiations over what we are going to fund in the budget. Are we going to make sure -- what level are we funding education and health care and our troops and defense?

CROWLEY: But some of those budgets -- I mean, that's the normal budget process which hasn't happened in six years.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: You're right. And that process needs to be fixed. But last night you have Republican tea party extremists actually celebrating on the House Floor, publicly celebrating that they got -- Michele Bachmann said she got everything she wanted.

You have other Republicans who have said they're delighted over shutting the government down. What we need to do is come together. And let me just give you an analogy here. This is -- there's clear evidence that the tail is wagging the dog and you have got Republicans on the other side who are irrational and not playing with a full deck.

Would you -- if you didn't like the redesign of your kitchen, would you burn the whole house down or would you try to make modifications to the kitchen? These people have come unhinged.

CROWLEY: So, I mean, that's fairly rough. You are talking about people who come from districts who have constituents who don't want Obamacare. I mean, that's what they would say. Let's say it may be irrational, but this is our chance to make some difference here.

I wanted to play for you something that Senator Rand Paul, who is opposed to Obamacare, but didn't think that this was going to work, and he had a suggestion here. And it's about a conference committee.


SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: Why don't we have a conference committee on this? You could appoint one today that could meet tomorrow and hash out the differences. That's the way it's supposed to work. Republicans and Democrats are supposed to find a middle ground. But right now it's the president saying my way or the highway.


CROWLEY: And, in fact, can you not look at this through the other looking glass and say, here is Senator Reid saying I want a clean CR, that's all I want. Because, you know, Republicans are saying, why are we the ones shutting down the government when Harry Reid is over there refusing to negotiate and the president won't pick up the phone?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Look, we could absolutely have a conference committee. In conference committees, there is give and take over an appropriations bill on the funding for the government. We are not...


CROWLEY: But not for the CR.


CROWLEY: How about for this -- I mean, you know, not a budget, but...

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: The other issue is, I mean, not to get too technical, if we don't have conference committees over the CR...

CROWLEY: Hey, if the government is going to shut down, why not?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: If the government shuts down, it is wholly the Republicans' fault because we have voted 43 times now to delay or defund the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, which has been settled for years now.

What the Republicans are doing, let's understand what they're doing. They're willing to shut the government down and deny further health care research. They're willing to close national parks. They're willing to close some Head Start programs all over whether or not we are going to make sure that everyone in America has access to quality, affordable health care.

Their amendment last night to delay Obamacare by a year, what it does is, it would prevent people like me, who have a pre-existing condition as a breast cancer survivor, from knowing that we have the comfort of never being dropped or denied coverage for a pre-existing condition. That is what they're willing to shut the government down over.

CROWLEY: So if you look at what they proposed before, which was, let's defund it entirely, they say, we came back and said, OK, delay it for a year.


CROWLEY: So they are compromising, they believe, on their side. Would you look at the medical device tax, which is also there?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: We are not going to allow the Republicans to hold the economy hostage over whether or not we are going to make sure that people have access to quality, affordable health care.

They -- the Congress passed this, and the president signed it into law. The Supreme Court upheld it as constitutional. And we had an election in which President Obama was re-elected over the central question of Obamacare. And the Republicans won't let it go.

Enough, already. Let's move on.

CROWLEY: How about the medical device tax, which a lot of Democrats don't like the tax on medical devices? They would like it repealed. How about -- and the idea that, no, we're not going to delay Obamacare but how about... WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: How about we not shut the government down? And then, as President Obama has said, as so many of us have said, because we know, look, the implementation of anything significant like the Affordable Care Act, is not going to be completely smooth.

So let's work together to iron out the kinks as they come up. But let's not allow extremists in the Republican Party to hold our economy hostage and stall what is already a fragile recovery and prevent people from affordable health care. That's not negotiation, that's hostage-taking.

CROWLEY: Let's pretend that the speaker -- Speaker Boehner says, fine, I'll put a clean CR on the floor, I'll take the CR and put it on the floor. He is going to lose Republican votes...


CROWLEY: ... as you know. He may lose more than half his caucus. We don't know. Are there enough Republicans, quickly, if you can tell me -- I mean, enough Democrats, sorry, to fill in that gap? Will they vote for it?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: We'll pass a clean CR. Absolutely. And then down the road as we implement Obamacare, make sure everybody has access to health care, let's work together to iron out the kinks as they come up.

CROWLEY: Debbie Wasserman Schultz, it's always nice to see you.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Thank you, Candy.

CROWLEY: At the crux of this Congressional battle is the fate of President Obama's health care law. It's a crucial week, Tuesday the health insurance exchanges open for enrollment. CNN's senior White House correspondent, Brianna Keilar, joins us from the White House. Brianna, the president has been bullish on this roll out. What's the biggest concern at the White House?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Candy, the biggest concern is really just getting people to be aware of this program of Obamacare. You know, we talk a whole about it. So, it may be hard to imagine, but a lot of folks just don't know about it. A recent poll shows two-thirds of those who were surveyed really lack even basic understanding about Obamacare. We found anecdotal evidence of that going out and talking to people and doing stories just to see what they know and they don't know.

A lot of people don't know a whole lot. It's why President Obama has really taken it upon himself to be the main messenger on that, holding a couple of high profile events this past week, one with former President Bill Clinton, another big campaign style event in Maryland. Reminding people to go to, that's sort of the tag line he's been using.

But there's a number of other concerns as well, not just the general public awareness but really targeting those young healthy people, many of whom are uninsured at this point, a lot of them take the risk of being uninsured and not paying for insurance because they don't really get sick and they sort of make that gamble. But they are required under the law to sign up for health insurance and it's essential to keeping costs down because they really are healthy.

And so, it doesn't cost a lot for their health care. Then a couple of other issues, the technical glitches, and we've already seen some of these, for instance, in the online enrollment website for small businesses. We're expecting that to be online coming Tuesday. That's been pushed back a week. And, of course, the White House is concerned that there will be bad press around some of the glitches, Candy.

CROWLEY: Brianna Keilar at the White House, busy week for you as well. Thank you.

Joining me now, former Vermont governor and doctor, Howard Dean, and senator and doctor, John Barrasso of Wyoming. Let me start with the question I asked Brianna about the White House. You both have been in practice. What are your long term concerns if any about the implementation of the Affordable Care Act?

BARRASSO: Well, it's not going to be affordable. There's going to be sticker shock, number one. And number two, it's going to be harder for people to actually get what they wanted which is the care they need from a doctor they want at lower cost. The president made a couple of promises. One with the exchanges, and he said it would be cheaper than a cell phone bill.

And I don't expect a lot of people to be able to find something less than $71 a month on the exchanges. People are going to be paying more. And he said you can keep the doc -- if you have your doctor and you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. We're seeing all across the country exchanges that trying to get the price down have had to exclude many doctors.

CROWLEY: Governor Dean, we are -- it really does seem to me, it depends on which state you're in, because this is very hard to keep track of, because in some states, some people are saying oh, mine will be much lower. And other states it appears to be much higher. Long term --

DEAN: Candy, the vast majority of states, in fact, the premiums are significantly lower including mine. I mean, really lower, like 40 percent in some cases. So, I would disagree with Senator Doctor Barrasso on that. Look, I think there are going to be some glitches.

As you know, I wasn't a big supporter of this bill, but now, that we're at the day I'm looking forward to it. I really do think it's going to change things and it's changed (ph) in the private sector. These people are going to go on the exchanges and they're going to get private insurance. That's what this does. So, I don't buy this doctors aren't going to accept this.

Doctors always have trouble accepting, some doctors don't accept Medicare, but this is going to work. It's a sensible solution. There are going to be glitches. None of them, so far, are major. We'll see how this - the big one is the federal exchange. For all the folks who refuse, governors who refuse to become part of the -- their own estate exchange are now in a big 33-state federal exchange. And that's what they've got to do right and we'll have to see how it works, but I'm very optimistic. I think it's going to be good for the public. And I think when they see what this looks like, this debate that we're having, which is outrageous is going to look really stupid.

CROWLEY: Go ahead with the --

BARRASSO: I think the exchanges are being held together right now with duct tape and chicken wire. We're not sure what's --


BARRASSO: We see many states, even governors home state of Vermont has had problems. They're not going to be able to accept payments online. Oregon is backing down. Other states and the District of Columbia last week said, hey, we're not ready. Huge ability, I think, for fraud, for identity theft on the exchanges. The bottom line is, I think it's not just an issue of will doctors still see patient.

Patients are going to have a hard time finding a doctor to take care of them under these exchanges. In New Hampshire, where Howard was on Monday giving a speech, we know that there's an uproar, because - Blue Cross/Blue Shield is excluding 10 of the 28 hospitals in that state.


BARRASSO: And pediatricians aren't going to be able to take care of kids they've been taking care of.

DEAN: That does need to be fixed that that's the fault of New Hampshire state government, not the fault of Obamacare. Look, we're going to see, I don't think the sky is falling. We've been through much more. This is what they said about Medicare. The right wingers said this about Medicare. The sky was going to fall. Nothing was going to happen. It was going to be awful. And it's one of the most popular programs in the country.

CROWLEY: But you know, we are seeing what they call those with concierge (ph), doctors or are saying --

DEAN: That was long before this ever started.

CROWLEY: Exactly, but will we see more? And these are doctors who say forget insurance. If you can come and pay me, you know, write new check --

DEAN: The reason you're not going to see a lot of that is there's not much of a market for it. There are a couple of those in Vermont. There's more in New York and L.A. This is just -- look, this is what's going to happen. People are going to have a different system. The glitch in Vermont and D.C. is minimal, but you can sign up for health care. Now, it doesn't matter if you can pay for it today or November 1st, because it doesn't go into effect until January 1st. I look at this stuff inside out, because I look at it from a point of view of somebody who didn't like what they did in the beginning. I actually wanted Medicare, public option so we could sign up for something we knew what it was and understood it more easily. But we are where we are.

This is going to be a very positive thing for the public. And I think you saw the desperation in Cathy Morris' voice is about the fact that they realize that once this goes into effect, people are going to like it. And the right-wing, very conservative let's not spend another dime people, are going to be stuck supporting another entitlement, which is really --

BARRASSO: This law is unworkable. It's unpopular. It is unaffordable for us as a nation. It's hurting jobs. It's hurting the economy. And now, what I'm hearing and I was at a health fair in Wyoming yesterday, it is unfair. Someone said to me why is it that the president is going to give my boss a one-year delay? The bosses are getting a delay, but the workers are not. And we need a delay in the individual mandate.

CROWLEY: Hold that thought. We're going to come back with the two of you. And when we return, the Obamacare exchange is open Tuesday, but the question is, will patients sign up?


CROWLEY: From theory to practice, Obamacare exchanges open for business Tuesday in a CNN iReport (INAUDIBLE) Virginia Beach weighs in.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER, (R) HOUSE SPEAKER: Well, I think the election changes that. It's pretty clear that president was re-elected. Obamacare is the law of the land.


CROWLEY: Really? That was not who we were expecting (ph). That was the speaker of the House, John Boehner, for sure. We will have more when Howard Dean and John Barrasso next.


CROWLEY: I'm back with our two doctors, former Vermont governor, Howard Dean, and Wyoming senator, John Barrasso.

From a patient's point of view, clearly, if you don't have insurance now and you're going to be offered insurance that you can afford along with government subsidies to help you get it, you are better off. What does it do in terms of putting 40 million new people into the marketplace for doctors? And what does it do in temperature of patient choices from their point of view?

DEAN: Well, first of all, Candy, it doesn't put 40 million new people into the marketplace. Those people in the marketplace now --

CROWLEY: Takes them --

DEAN: It takes them out of the emergency room. It takes them out of getting really sick before they go get care. I think it helps. The people who are going to benefit this demographically are actually the people who are most opposed to it, over 55-year-old people who've been laid off and can't get hired because nobody will take their risk in their personal insurance tool. That's a problem.

So, those people are going to benefit disproportionately. The other people who are going to benefit which we haven't talked about, I think, this is an unintended consequence of the law is small businesses, because small businesses are going to dump their employees into the exchange. I think that's a good thing.

John McCain proposed it in his 2008 campaign to separate employment from health insurance. That's something the conservatives want to do for a long time until recently. And I think that's going to happen as a result of this bill.

BARRASSO: Howard just said small businesses are going to dump their employees who are currently paying for their health insurance. Dump them on to the exchange, dump them on to taxpayer subsidies. Now, think about that. The president said if you like what you have, you can keep it.

There are people all around the country who like the insurance that they have and can't keep it because as Howard said, they're going to get dumped into the exchanges. And the people that are going to pay the most are going to be most abused by this are the young people, those were going to be forced to pay more than they would base on their own risk to subsidize others.


DEAN: We disagree on this. I support community raiding. We've had (ph) it for 20 years in Vermont. We have a better insurance market than some states. So, you know, I know a lot about this, because we did it. A lot of Obamacare we did in 1992, and it's worked really well. Every child in my state is covered under the age of 18.

We have community rating. So, you can't charge 55-year-old more than 20 percent above what you charge 25-year-olds. I think that's a good model for medicine. That's what's coming out in Obamacare. Something like that.

BARRASSO: And community ratings mean can you give no incentives to people who go to the gym, who watch what they eat, who take care of themselves, who do wellness programs. No benefit of that at all.

CROWLEY: They will cover --

DEAN: That's not really true.

CROWLEY: Insurance companies will be required to have healthy care benefits.

DEAN: Right. And that's the way they --


CROWLEY: Can I -- go ahead, make your point.

DEAN: This is my life, right? So, the large companies and high end small businesses are not going to dump their people into the exchange. Low end businesses who struggle to pay for health insurance are going to want to do that. So, what you're going to see is a leveling of the playing field in small business community between those who can afford it and can't.

But those with highly paid and small businesses or large businesses, fortune 500 are not going to do this because they use health care benefits as an attraction to really attract the employees. So, I think the system is in the private sector. The benefit of that is that you're going to see the flexibility and the ingenuity of the private sector sculpt this thing in some ways that none of the people who voted for ever expected.

CROWLEY: As a final question in our last minute or so. Are we headed to, as some democrats hope, a single payer system and by that I mean government funded health care insurance?

BARRASSO: Well, that's what Harry Reid said in a discussion in Nevada on a television interview. He said there's going -- the Obama health care law is going to fail and we go to a single payer system which is like the system in Britain or Canada where the care is free, but the waits are very long. I've operated on people from Canada who have come down because they couldn't wait. They couldn't afford to wait for their free operation. And death rates from cancer are much higher in England and the United States because the care is delayed.

DEAN: Fifty million people in this country are already on a single payer. It's called Medicare. That is how the Canadian system works. Basically, the same way our Medicare does. Fifty million people Americans already are in a single --

CROWLEY: That's a huge --


DEAN: It's a difference, but it works in America for people over 65. There's no reason it can't work for more people.

BARRASSO: In Canada, they say we're going to do this many total joints a year. Once it's over, and usually that's by Halloween, you get no more health care until the end of the year.

CROWLEY: Don't have a bad joint (INAUDIBLE) Canada.


CROWLEY: Sen. John Barrasso and Gov. Howard Dean, thanks for your perspective.


CROWLEY: Coming up, Bill Clinton fuels more speculation about a Hillary 2016 presidential run.


CROWLEY: The uncertainty of Obamacare, frustration over the economy, and concerns about foreign policy appear to be behind President Obama's eroding poll numbers. CNN's average of four recent national surveys finds the president's job approval rating at 45 percent, disapproval, 49 percent. The bright spot for the president, Congressional Republican numbers are worse. Our political panel is next.


CROWLEY: Joining me today around the table, John Podesta, he is former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton and chair of the Center for American Progress. Artur Davis, a former Democratic congressman from Alabama. But he switched to the Republican Party over policy differences on entitlements in health care. Ruth Marcus is a columnist for "The Washington Post" and Ben Ferguson is a CNN commentator and syndicated radio host. Thank you all so much for joining me. Let's start with the poll numbers and whether or not they affect the president's hand as we watch both this budget fight and the possible government shutdown and the debt ceiling fight.


RUTH MARCUS, "WASHINGTON POST" COLUMNIST: We're all too polite. I would say I actually really wonder whether they do because he doesn't have to worry about running for re-election. Who is it? Who is going in the Republican Party? Who is going to feel compelled to support him or less compelled to oppose him because his poll numbers are low? We're so divided and so factualized that -- look, you want to have stronger poll numbers but his party is essentially with him on keeping Obamacare, keeping the government running, avoiding the dead ceiling. And the other part is in a different position.

BEN FERGUSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: See, I think Obama just doesn't care and it's pretty obvious. I mean he's playing golf yesterday as a sign I think really I'm not going to negotiate with you. I'll negotiate with Tehran. I'll negotiate with Assad and chemical weapons and terrorists but I will not negotiate with Republicans. And I think that message is probably going to hurt those running for re-election that are Democrats because how can you say that you're willing to work with those people but you refuse to acknowledge the existence of the House of Representatives which, by the way, you're not in the majority there. You're in the minority. And that's a problem.

JOHN PODESTA, CHAIR, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Look, he's come into this fight with the GOP wanting to (INAUDIBLE) a crisis and that's what he's got. And I think that's the story that people are hearing around America. And they had an opportunity after the Senate sent continuing resolution back to have a clean continuing resolution, to keep the government functioning. They chose again I think for the 43rd time to vote to defund or to push off Obamacare. And I think that the public gets that it's the Republicans that are forcing this crisis. ARTUR DAVIS, FORMER CONGRESSMAN: Candy, two quick points. There is no question that Obama has incredibly weak hand. If you would have said six months ago his approval rating would be in the low to mid 40s, no one would have bought that. But as a Republican, I do worry about the way this debate is playing out. I think Republicans win the substance on Obamacare and have been winning the substance for three years. I'm not convinced Republicans who had an argument over the mechanics. I'm not convinced Republicans win an argument over brinksmanship. I would rather see Republicans right now making a case about how we as a party can do this better than the Democrats.


DAVIS: I think not making that case but arguing that, frankly, let's just leave health care alone. Let's not do anything about health care.


DAVIS: I want to do it better.

FERGUSON: Republicans made that case and they took back the House by making the case that Obamacare was not a good thing. The American people believe that Obama care is not a good thing. Doctors are not out there championing this. Even members of Congress are saying I don't know if I want to be a part of this. And so they did make the case. The problem is the president's not willing to negotiate. And unfortunately, when you live in a country for him right now where your job is to negotiate with Congress and saying I refuse to negotiate, I think the American people are going to look at it and go, that's not real leadership right now.

MARCUS: Republicans made had a case. But Republicans made that case in 2012 and guess who got re-elected president? And the poll numbers that I think may be relevant --

FERGUSON: And that was before people read the bill.

MARCUS: Let me finish here. The poll numbers have -- no, that wasn't before people read the bill. I think the poll numbers that may be relevant is however Obamacare polls, people do not want to see a shutdown over defunding or delaying as you say Obamacare. And that's where I think you're totally right. The Republican Party is in a pickle.

DAVIS: This is the challenge right now for Republicans. We win an argument over whether or not these exchanges are too complicated. We win an argument over whether mandates are a good thing. We win an argument over the unpredictability of over (ph) the people's premiums are going up. We win all of that. We do not win an argument over brinksmanship and frankly we haven't won one as a party in the last 15 or 16 years. I want to see Republicans come to the table and say we can fix this and we can run it more efficiently and we can run it better.

PODESTA: A Republican leadership did not want this brinksmanship to take place. Ted Cruz is now running the House of Representatives. And I think that they're going to pay a price for this because it's very clear that they're forcing the government into a shutdown.

CROWLEY: I'm going to pick up on this point, John, when we come back. We'll be talking about Republican infighting over defunding Obamacare. It's taken a nasty turn.


CROWLEY: Headline this week posed the following question, Cruz for House speaker? A reference to the efforts of Senator Ted Cruz to convince like minded House members to stand firm against Obamacare. An effort not universally appreciated.


REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: He's a false leader. I mean he had led people down a false path here. And he's been putting pressure on conservative Republicans.


CROWLEY: Ted Cruz and the Republican blowup with our panel next.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there anyone here who has something serious to say about the new health care system?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm Senator Ted Cruz. And I do not like you in a box. I do not like you with a fox.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, no more Dr. Seuss. Come on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I speak for the trees! Because the trees do not speak. But if they could speak, they would say shut down the federal government! (inaudible) the only thing I'm hearing right now is socialism.


CROWLEY: The latest from "Saturday Night Live" opening its season. We're back with John Podesta, Artur Davis, Ruth Marcus and Ben Ferguson. The role of Ted Cruz has set up some real now open party feuding, certainly with Senate members. And also with some members of the House. Where is this headed?

PODESTA: This is really incredible, because if you go back to '95 and '96 and the last government shutdown, which knocked half a point off the GDP in the United States, at least Gingrich was in charge of his caucus. Now, you know, it appears that Heritage Action and Ted Cruz and the Koch brothers are running the Republican House caucus. And it is amazing the weakness, I think, that the leadership has shown in not staring these guys down. FERGUSON: It's amazing to me how terrified you are of a guy who ran for the Senate on saying he was going to be -- actually what he said he was going to do. And here's the thing people don't understand about Ted Cruz. Ted Cruz did not come to Washington, D.C. to make friends with John McCain and Lindsey Graham or with John Boehner. He went there with the people who said this is how I'm going to get elected. This is --


FERGUSON: Let me get this in real quick. This is important. John McCain and Ted Cruz are two totally different people. And John McCain says I don't like you because you're getting too much press. I don't like you because you're being too effective. That's what it boils down to.


DAVIS: -- beyond the personalities, because personalities would come and go. What's missing in the Republican Party right now is someone who's a credible national figure who is not just a columnist or a pundit like some of us, who can actually step forward and provide a different vision of conservatism and the one that Ted Cruz believes in. There is room in the Republican Party for a vision of conservatism that says, yes, we don't want to fix health care in this big bloated bureaucratic way the way the Democrats want to do it, but we do think that we can figure out ways to deal with the problem of the uninsured. We think we can deal with the problem of businesses and cost containment. But we can do it in a better, more constructive way. And on issue after issue on food stamps, there is a vision the Republican Party that says we're not going to throw the program out and gut it. But we can reform it and make it better. That reform vision is missing on the national stage and that ought to be the counter of Cruz. Yes, if it's Obama against Cruz, of course it's easy for Republicans to -


MARCUS: I think on the national stage for Republicans and I'm not afraid of Ted Cruz. I don't find Ted Cruz scary.


MARCUS: Let me finish here. I don't find Ted Cruz scary. What I find scary is the notion that he is in charge of the House of Representatives. Of course, if he became speaker -


MARCUS: But wait. Of course if he became speaker, he might find that it's not a very pleasant job. But what is scary isn't the presence of Cruz. What is scary is the absence of Boehner. The absence of strong Republican leadership who can call the bluff of this fairly small faction of House Republicans and say yes -

(CROSSTALK) CROWLEY: -- they voted unanimously.

FERGUSON: Yes. It's not small.

CROWLEY: Let me interrupt you. I have got to get a question to take advantage here of John's relationship with the Clintons. Bill Clinton, former president, was on "ABC" this morning talking about learning the lessons of the last election for Hillary Clinton and will she run again. So there are lots of lessons to be learned. And then he said, "the next one will be better. It will be different. Whether she's in it or not, they're all different. The main thing you can't do, the great trick in any human endeavor, including politics, is you must learn the lessons of your mistakes and your failures without becoming a general who fights the last war." Is he the only one that is not convinced she's running? It would seem to me. He pretty much (inaudible).

PODESTA: Well, look I think - I saw her this week. I was up at the Clinton Global Initiative. And I think she's going to put (ph) off (ph) a decision about whether to run. I hope she does. It sounds like the president hopes she does as well. And I think she'll be a formidable candidate. The other thing the president said which I think is very much front and center right now is you have to have a vision for the country. And I think she'll provide that if she does run. But what we're lacking right now as Artur said, is a vision from the Republicans about where we want to take the country. You know, even Mitt Romney came out against what's happening in Washington right now.

CROWLEY: I'm going to hang on. I'll have you all have hang on here. Because we're now going to go global. Obama on the world stage. Did his overture toward Iran help him or hurt him?


CROWLEY: New diplomatic overtures between the U.S. and Iran will undoubtedly be a key topic when the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with President Obama at the White House tomorrow. The development is raising concerns for the U.S.'s closest Middle East ally. I want to bring in CNN's Jim Clancy. He's in Jerusalem. Jim, what is on Netanyahu's agenda?

JIM CLANCY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: One big item, Candy, turn everything around. Israel is really worried that the wars that broke the ice between Iran and the U.S. is going to heat up Tehran's determination to advance its nuclear program. As he was leaving for New York to address the general assembly and that (ph) White House meeting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said this, "I will tell the truth in the face of the sweet-talk and the onslaught of smiles. One must talk facts and one must tell the truth." But the prime minister will likely tell the world that while President Rouhani was smiling in New York, the centrifuges were still spinning back home in Iran. He will compare Iran to North Korea which developed a bomb while talking peace. He will reveal intelligence data and he will try to make the case that a state that sponsor terrorism, Iran, cannot be allowed to possess a nuclear weapon. Candy. CROWLEY: So Jim, Israel's options in terms of what it can and can't get the U.S. to do are what?

CLANCY: Well yes. His talks Monday with the president certainly will underline the fears here that the Iranians will use negotiations to stall for time. He'll pushing timelines, deadlines and specifics. Two months ago Israel was hoping to convince the U.S. that it was best suited to conduct a military strike. Last month, with the Syria deal, it learned that the U.S. wasn't willing and it would have to go it alone and now even that option with Iran and U.S. talking appears off the table. Candy.

CROWLEY: Jim Clancy, thanks so much. When we come back, our panel on the promise and perils of diplomacy with Iran.



OBAMA: Resolving this issue obviously could also serve as a major step forward in a new relationship between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran. One based on mutual interests and mutual respect. It would also help facilitate a better relationship between Iran and the international community as well as others in the region.


CROWLEY: That's president Obama on Friday after his phone call with the new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Where they talked about the impasse over Iran's nuclear program and raised a possibility that an improved relationship with the Iranians could expand throughout the Middle East.

We are back. John Podesta, Artur Davis, Ruth Marcus and Ben Ferguson. So we have a meeting tomorrow between the president and the prime minister of Israel. I want to start with you, John, because you met with President Rouhani in a small group last week. Give us your sense of this guy because there are two opinions, he's new and he's moderate. This might really be a breakthrough and don't trust this guy.

PODESTA: Look he ran and he won in the first round with the pledge to fix the economy in order to do that he's got to get rid of the sanctions. So I think he came with seriousness but this is going to be a very tough negotiation. I think they're going to demand that the world recognize their right to enrich. I think they're going to -- the world is going to demand that they roll back their nuclear program. So I think it's going to be very tough. But the one good sign I think is that the supreme leader, Mr. Khamenei, has agreed to let the foreign minister take the lead in these negotiations. He met with Secretary Kerry at the U.N. this week. He's a pragmatist. But this is going to be a very tough to close the gap between the two sides.

DAVIS: Candy, one quick point. This is the price of Obama's mishandling of Syria. The Iranian government could credibly conclude that Barack Obama could not marshal the country or the Congress in the use of force resolution against Iran unless Iran were to do something openly provocative. Post-Syria the dynamics have been greatly complicated. The U.S.'s bargaining hand -


PODESTA: -- that we are now on the brink of rolling back one of the largest chemical weapons programs in the world.

FERGUSON: Possibly. Possibly.

MARCUS: Do the Iranians look at Assad and say, he was better off with chemical weapons or better off without chemical weapons? I think they look at his chemical weapons and they say, geez, we're going to keep developing our nuclear weapons because chemical weapons in a sense are what is keeping Assad - helping keep Assad in power. I think that there is --


CROWLEY: But Iran also has a bad history with chemical weapons. It's always been--

MARCUS: What I'm saying is they look at their nuclear program and they say, we need to keep pushing this. Yes. It's all about the economy, stupid, in Iran as well as here. Nonetheless, the sanctions -- the question is whether sanctions are hitting hard enough to make it worthwhile for them to give up the nuclear program. It's not clear that's happened yet.

FERGUSON: You're not dealing with sane people. I mean that's one of the issues here. And I think you look at Iran and you look at this new leader and it's like Reagan when he talked to Gorbachev. I don't think there is a problem with having a basic phone call and it might open up a direct dialogue, that's a good thing. But I think Iran knows if they can keep Barack Obama talking and they can keep others in our government talking, that gives them more time to get nuclear weapons. Because once you get them, you don't have to talk to anybody ever again in theory and that's their overall goal. And the other issue is Barack Obama after Syria, the world does not fear him under the leadership of what he's going to do. Because he said here's my red line and it didn't happen. And then we go and we punt to Russia. The biggest ally for Syria and now they're in charge? That makes us look incredibly weak.


PODESTA: It's really a bad move to actually destroy the chemical weapons in Syria.

CROWLEY: Can I ask you all (INAUDIBLE) -


MARCUS: -- chemical weapons in Syria. It's not a great move to erode the credibility of the United States. And that's my concern here.

DAVIS: How we got there and the process of not assembling a congressional resolution and Obama's inability to sell it. Obama had 15 votes in the House for a force resolution.

CROWLEY: In the last minute and a half we've got, I want you to figure Israel into this mix. It of course has always said before they acquire nuclear weapons we will destroy them. They obviously wanted the U.S. as a partner if not in the lead. What does a kind of blossoming maybe relationship with Iran due to Israeli/U.S. relationship and how Israel views Iran?

PODESTA: Well look. I don't know that this is a blossoming relationship. There is talk and there's diplomacy and that's a good thing. I think that Israelis are skeptical. They'll watch it very closely. And I think the United States is skeptical quite frankly about whether they can get to the end game. But ultimately they've got - they must, together, stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.

MARCUS: Israel is way more cynical about whether the Iranians are serious here and they're way more skeptical about whether President Obama can really be trusted to watch out for their security so I think unfolding in Syria it just makes Israel that much more likely to be willing if it think it's necessary for its own survival to act on its own.


DAVIS: It will act in its own interest and they will not follow the lead of the United States on this question.

FERGUSON: Israel is not going to be sitting there waiting on Obama. They'll have to do what they need to protect --


FERGUSON: Yes. Protect themselves.

CROWLEY: I've got to leave it there. Thank you all so much for coming. Ben Ferguson, Ruth Marcus, Artur Davis, John Podesta, appreciate it. Thank you all for watching STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Candy Crowley in Washington. Head to for analysis and extras including our "Getting to know" interview with Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rogers and what she'll get for Christmas this year. If you missed any part of today's show find us on iTunes, just search STATE OF THE UNION.

Fareed Zakaria, GPS and his exclusive interview with national security adviser Susan Rice is next for our viewers here in the United States.