Return to Transcripts main page
STATE OF THE UNION WITH CANDY CROWLEY
Interview with Mike Rogers; Interview with Ezekiel Emanuel, John Fleming
Aired October 27, 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: Can you hear me now?
CROWLEY (voice-over): Today looks like the U.S. has been phone- tapping allies. "Ach du lieber."
ANGELA MERKEL, GERMAN CHANCELLOR: What will not be sufficient, to change if necessary.
CROWLEY: The age of Edward Snowden brings sunlight to deep secrets, positively awkward, possibly dangerous. A conversation with the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Mike Rogers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tell us what is wrong, fix it, or try something else.
CROWLEY: Beyond the computer reboot, you and your doctor. The long-term prognosis for that relationship with Republican Congressman John Fleming, Louisiana's 2007 "family doctor of the year"; and Ezekiel Emanuel, an oncologist and former health care policy adviser to the Obama administration.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You look fired up to make the next push, to make sure we get immigration reform done.
CROWLEY: His legacy law entangled inside a half billion or so lines of computer code, the president pushes immigration reform. Tone deaf or spot-on politics?
And election days loom in New Jersey and Virginia. What 2013 will tell us about 2014. Our political panel sorts it all out.
This is STATE OF THE UNION.
CROWLEY: Good morning from Washington. I'm Candy Crowley. The oh so polite world of diplomacy has been rocked by a document dumped from NSA leaker Edward Snowden revealing the U.S. has spied on at least 30 world leaders, including friends.
The German magazine Der Spiegel reports that for a decade the NSA monitored German Chancellor Angela Merkel's phone calls. Merkel placed what has been described as an angry phone call to President Obama. Our CNN chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto joins me now.
Jim, the administration (INAUDIBLE), everybody spies on everybody, has been kind of their pushback. But the reaction says to me that it is not what friends and allies expected.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: No question. This has gone beyond public posturing. You have a German delegation of intelligence officials coming here this week to discuss the limits on this. And you can see the administration admitting to some overreach here.
All week long administration officials were promising a review, in their words, to get a better balance between security concerns and privacy concerns, which would indicate that they haven't got that balance right. Moved a step forward on Friday when Lisa Monaco, the president's homeland security adviser, wrote in USA Today that the president instructed the NSA to be going after intelligence because we need it, not just because we can.
So it seems that the administration is acknowledging that this has been a step too far, although they have also made the point that, hey, wait a second, this kind of thing does go on.
CROWLEY: Mr. Snowden has proven to be quite the treasure trove of information. It seems to me that the real danger here may not be, yes, we listened in, however horrible she feels it was, to Chancellor Merkel, but the idea of, what did the chancellor provide the U.S.?
SCIUTTO: And also more sensitive relationships, worries that further document releases from Snowden will reveal intelligence cooperation with countries not publicly allied in the U.S. Think of countries in the Middle East, South Asia, providing American help on some of our most sensitive intelligence targets. Iran, for instance.
For these countries, when it's revealed how deeply they're involved with the U.S., that can be more damaging at home. And that's a real concern, because it also could be more damaging to these key intelligence relationships.
You remember the Snowden release -- the WikiLeaks release, rather, of diplomatic cables, which cast a pall over some of the diplomatic information sharing relationships, something I ran into during my time at the embassy in China. And that was a problem.
You can imagine more damage from revelations like this because the information is more sensitive. The relationships are more sensitive. And the administration clearly cares because they're sending out warnings to these countries.
CROWLEY: Jim Sciutto, thanks for joining us this morning. Joining me now, Congressman Mike Rogers. He is the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
Congressman, thanks for joining us. It seems that there is no end to these revelations that increasingly look as though they may be damaging at least to U.S. relations with friends. Scale of one to 10, if can you do it, how damaging is it for the German chancellor or the French president to know that we've been keyed into their phone calls?
ROGERS: Well, I think the bigger news story here would be, Candy, if the United States intelligence services weren't trying to collect information that would protect U.S. interests both home and abroad, number one.
But number two, here's the most frustrating thing about this, and I think is so important to understand. So the kerfuffle with the French is the greatest example to me. So there was a one slide that the news media was provided and those who were interpreting it to the news media saw that the word "France" was on the top of it, and started a huge amount of discussion about Americans collecting phone calls in France with French citizens.
That is 100 percent wrong. And that's why this is so dangerous. So when you just go and do a smash and grab, grab a whole bunch of information, see the word "France," they misinterpreted some of the acronyms at the bottom of the slide and saw this 70 million phone call figure, this was about a counter-terrorism program that had nothing to do with French citizens.
CROWLEY: On the other hand, are you saying...
ROGERS: ... I read the paper even as of yesterday -- but, listen. But this is why it's so important, though, Candy. Is that that's just wrong. And so now you've created an international incident on something that's absolutely wrong and incorrect.
And that's why we need to be very careful as we move forward in this debate and in this discussion.
CROWLEY: So you think it's entirely appropriate for the U.S. to have monitored the phone calls of a very strong U.S. ally in Angela Merkel? You think that's appropriate?
ROGERS: Well, I would tell you this, the intelligence services of which was outlined in some of the so-called disclosures doesn't necessarily fit with what is actually happening, right? So it's not an exact correct interpretation of what they're seeing.
They're seeing three or four pieces of 1,000-piece puzzle and trying to come to a conclusion. (INAUDIBLE) talk about the individual decisions on what is and what isn't collected.
But think about this. In the 1930s, we had this debate before. And we decided we were going to kind of turn off our ability to even listen to friends who have -- you know, remember, sometimes our friends have relationships with our adversaries.
And so we say, well, we're not going to do any of those kinds of things, that would not be appropriate. Look what happened in the '30s, the rise of fascism, the rise of communism, the rise of imperialism, and we didn't see any of it.
And it resulted in the death of, really, tens of millions of people. And our argument is, all right, let's -- we need to be respectful but we also need to be -- and we need to be accurate. It needs to be overseen. And we need to make sure that we're not collecting information we don't need. But we should collect information that is helpful to the United States's interest.
CROWLEY: Well, you never know what kind of information...
CROWLEY: ... you need until you get it, do you?
ROGERS: Well, that's true. But there's a reason that the president of the United States's' Blackberry is encrypted. There are a lot of people would like to get those conversations. And here's one thing that I have learned is in this debate...
CROWLEY: So you think that Germany is...
ROGERS: Here's the one thing I have learned in this debate...
CROWLEY: ... tapping into the president's phone calls? Do you think Germany is looking at the president's Blackberry?
ROGERS: Here's the one thing that -- well, here's the one thing that I learned in this -- through these discussions and discussions with my European friends and allies. And, believe me, they're still friends and allies, nobody should make that distinction.
Is that they don't have necessarily the same type of oversight of their intelligence services that we do. And their government is -- their compartmentalization is much smaller than ours.
We have a separate but equal branch of government involved in the oversight plus all the executive branch oversight of our intelligence services. Oh, and by the way, we have to get court orders for certain activities for phone collection and other things.
So you have in all of this levels of oversight so you have a big group of people sitting at the table deciding if what we should do is right or wrong. They don't have that in our -- some of our European capitals.
And some of this has been shocking not to the intelligence services of which some of these disclosures but certainly to the government of which they work. To me, that's the biggest issue here.
I think they need to have a better oversight structure in Europe. I think they would be enlightened to find out what their intelligence services may or may not be doing...
CROWLEY: So essentially our spying on them...
ROGERS: ... in the interests of their own national security.
CROWLEY: Right. So our spying on them is essentially their fault because their spying isn't as good? Is that what you're saying? ROGERS: No, no, no. No. I wouldn't say that. No, no, no. Listen, our intelligence services are designed to collect information that allow the United States to protect itself in all cases.
And, again, think about where we are now. It's called the World Wide Web, right? So we are now engaged in a level of communication around the world that we've never seen before. And that includes phone calls and other things.
So a bad guy in Afghanistan can use networks in France or Germany or Great Britain or the United States and plan operations with somebody else who may be in Afghanistan. But you could still use all of those networks.
So the complication of what the United States intelligence services are doing is so much more difficult than it was even 10 years ago. But what we have to understand is that, again, and that French slide tells -- really should make everyone stop and pause for a second.
If it wasn't French citizens and it was a counter-terrorism program, maybe we should stop and go, hmm, maybe there is something more to that. And I would argue, by the way, if the French citizens knew exactly what that was about, they would be applauding and popping champagne corks.
It's a good thing. It keeps the French safe. It keeps the U.S. safe. It keeps our European allies safe. And so...
CROWLEY: Let me move you on to...
ROGERS: ... this whole notion that we're going to go after each other on what is really legitimate protection of nation-state interests I think is disingenuous.
CROWLEY: Let me move you quickly to Saudi Arabia and recent signals and, in fact, sound from Saudi officials saying we need to distance ourselves from the U.S., particularly on Syria, particularly on Iran.
We're now learning that Syria has met, according to officials, its first deadline on a plan for destroying its chemical weapons. But I want to bring to your attention a quote from Saudi Prince Turki Faisal who said this week:
"The current charade of international control over Bashar's chemical arsenal would be funny if it were not so blatantly perfidious and designed not only to give Mr. Obama an opportunity to back down from military strikes, but also to help Assad to butcher his people." First of all, what do you make of the current state of Saudi- U.S. affairs? And second of all, is this a charade?
ROGERS: Well, two things. I mean, this friction has been developing over the last two years. The Saudis, among others, were trying to organize the Arab League to come together on a solution in Syria. And two years ago they wanted American smart soft power engaged meaning intelligence, training, leadership. And candidly that didn't happen. Everybody wanted to make sure we tried to stay as far away from what was a regional growing conflict as they could. And I thought it was not a good decision by the administration at that time.
And so this -- as it has gotten worse, and it has gotten worse, the situation on the ground today is not even close to what it was two years ago.
So here's what the Saudis saw. They saw a quick rush to deal with the Russians when they thought that the president what not in a good place -- so this is their perception -- on this chemical weapons agreement. And they saw a quick rush to the sweet talk of Mr. Rouhani from Iran about his ability to slow down the nuclear program.
Those are critical issues to the Saudis, to the Qataris, to the Jordanians to others in the Arab League that I think rattled their faith in the administration's ability to protect them in a very dangerous world.
And so what you see is that friction starting to take hold and we have to repair this and repair it soon. We have to have allies in the Middle East. It's good for our national security interests. And seeing that fraying means that they haven't -- they're starting to doubt what we have been doing for the last 60 years, which was be certain with our allies and be strong with our adversaries. And they're seeing that equation that has served us well for last 60 years start to fall apart.
They're going to find other friends. I argue that's not good for the United States.
CROWLEY: On the subject of health care, you are hearing this week you expressed again your real fear about the security of Obamacare as we call it, especially with the hub with seven sort of federal entities gathering information in one place.
We're now told that they should have the computer system and the software fixed by the end of November. Can they fix the security problems by the end of November?
ROGERS: Boy, I don't -- this worries me a lot, Candy. The fact that they have different segments of people controlling pieces of information and they say well we don't store information but they have to store your application at some point. And that's a lot of your very personal information. And it was very clear to me in the hearing that they do not have an overarching solid cybersecurity plan to prevent the loss of private information. I'm even more concerned today than I was even last week. I know that they've called in another private entity to try to help with the security of it. The problem is they may have to redesign the entire system. The way the system is designed, it is not secure. It is something called a boundary. So every time one agency goes to another agency with a piece of information, that is called a boundary. That's the most -- that's the weakest, most vulnerable part of that conversation. And it was clear to me that they don't have those boundaries secure. And that's what I'm concerned about.
CROWLEY: Congressman Mike Rogers, chairman of the select committee on the House intelligence. Thank you so much.
Here's something some Republicans and Democrats can agree on -- it's not just healthcare.gov.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Affordable Care Act is not just a website. It's much more.
REP. FRED UPTON, (R) MICHIGAN: This is more than a website problem. We're also concerned about what happens next. Will enrollment glitches become provider payment glitches?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: What does happen next? Ezekiel Emanuel and John Fleming know a thing or two about health care health care politics. They join me next.
CROWLEY: Critics predict longer waits, less access to primary care physicians and doctor shortages. Some doctor and patients alike are worried about the long term effect of Obamacare. Up next, an architect for the Affordable Care Act and a lawmaker who is trying to take it down. Both are doctors. Both are next.
CROWLEY: Joining me now, Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, the chairman of the department of medical ethics and health policy at the University of Pennsylvania. He was a health policy adviser to the Obama administration from 2009 to 2011. And Republican congressman John Fleming, a vocal critic of Obamacare. He is also a physician and was named Louisiana family doctor of the year in 2007.
Gentlemen, thank you both so much.
I do want to get to the crux of Obamacare and that relationship and how the medical system is changing. But a question on the dynamics of what is going on as I think we all know it's been kind of a mess for people trying to sign up. And I wanted to bring something to the secretary of health and human services Kathleen Sebelius said when asked about should she resign? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: The majority of people calling for me to resign I would say are people who I don't work for and who do not want this program to work in the first place.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: So congressman, I know you have called for her resignation. You have been equally critical of how this launch has gone. Do you think that it's time for someone else to be in charge, that someone really should be fired over this mess?
EMANUEL: Well, that's not my choice, that's the president's choice. What I do think is that we should focus on getting the website right and I think the president has taken the first right move of appointing Jeff Zients as a ceo-like figure to get it moving. He's got a lot of managerial experience. He's been a consultant for the health care industry. I think he's got the right qualifications.
I would also like to see the president appoint someone permanently, because Jeff Zients has a job coming up as director of the National Economic Council. And we need someone who is going to see this website over the next two years and make sure that it is constantly revised and constantly upgraded. And that I think is appropriate.
CROWLEY: Do you think, congressman, that certainly the secretary has a case that many of her critics, and there are some Democratic ones although they're a lot quieter, have never wanted Obamacare to take effect anyway. and it sort of discounts your criticism -- one's criticism of this, Republican Party because, you know, how seriously do you take that criticism when you don't want it to go into effect?
FLEMING: Candy, Americans both Democrat and Republican demand accountability. And Secretary Sebelius is obviously not taking accountability for this. She says the people who want her to resign she doesn't work for. I hate to tell you, but I'm a taxpayer. She works for me. She's a public servant. I'm a public servant. And I work for the American people.
CROWLEY: But are you a (inaudible) messenger, do you think? The Republicans have tried so hard to derail the president's Affordable Care Act that now anything you do is seen as, yeah, well, it's...
FLEMING: Not at all, because -- what we've been, Candy, is try to protect the American people from the damage and the effects. And now after three weeks we're beginning to see those damage and effect. We never had input to this law to begin with. We tried to tell her all along. She was the biggest cheerleader for this. Please, let -- work with us. Let's work together in cooperation. And instead, she said, no, we don't want to hear from Republicans on this.
EZEKIEL EMANUEL, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA: Can I -- can I set the record straight? When we were trying to pass this law in 2009, when I was working on this law, we had a number of hearings in both houses of congress. Senator Baucus worked with Republicans for nine months from January all the way through the end of August trying to get a bipartisan bill. They absolutely refused.
Let me say a second thing. During that time, we tried to have a Republican -- find out the Republican plan that would increase access to all Americans, hold down health care costs and improve the quality of the system through a uniform standard. There was never a Republican plan. The idea that they wanted to work us with is just false.
CROWLEY: OK, I don't want to get sort of bogged down in, you know...
EMANUEL: He claimed they wanted to work with us.
FLEMING: Remember the president said I will go line by line with any members of congress. We wrote him letters a number of times. He shut the door in our face.
CROWLEY: Let me move this along, because I want to take advantage of both your experiences as a physician. I have talked to a number of primary care physician over the past couple of weeks. Every one of whom, Democrat or Republican, has said I think this is the end of a guy hanging out his shingle and being the family physician that there is no room in here, that Medicare is not enough to keep them alive. I heard all those kind of fears. So, he says yes, you say no.
EMANUEL: So here's where how the system is going to improve. First of all, if you look at Massachusetts when they enhanced their system under Governor Romney and had a 600,000 more people move in, the Massachusetts Medical Society did assessments on the waiting time. No change for primary care, no change for specialists. So this idea that we're going to have a shortage is not right. Secondly...
CROWLEY: It's not so much a shortage as is it profitable to be -- I mean they have to make some money. They have got huge bills as you know coming out of medical school, both of you know that. So the question is, is it going to be profitable to be a primary care physician?
FLEMING: Well, for someone who is a primary care physician and who actually has to pay those bills even today, I can tell you first of all the Massachusetts system, the waiting list gets longer and longer.
EMANUEL: That's factually incorrect.
FLEMING: Half of the primary care doctors are not accepting new patients.
But to your point, Candy, Medicare reimbursements keep going down. The work load in terms of paperwork and all that keeps going up. We have an unprecedented number of primary care doctors who are opting out of Medicare.
And so, look, you're going to walk into the doctor's office one day with a card that says I'm entitled to health care and the doctor is not going to be able to accept it. EMANUEL: I don't think that there is no evidence to that effect. In fact, Scott Gottlieb who is from the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative who worked under President Bush just the other day on CNBC said no doctor shortage and no increased lines. And there's no evidence to that effect.
Let me also say a word about quality. Let me say a word about quality. The bill can change a number of things that are going to dramatically improve the quality of the system and already has. For example, the number of hospital acquired infections because hospitals have to improve and focus on them otherwise they get their payment decreased has already shown dramatic improvements.
Similarly, readmission rates. Before the bill, 20 percent. We've already seen them come down to 17.5 percent. All of those are things are positives on the....
FLEMING: ...defensive here about this...
EMANUEL: I'm just giving you the facts.
FLEMING: But these are not factually true at all. You hit it on the head, you're right...
EMANUEL: All of those are data.
FLEMING: No one is -- the primary care doctors are more dispirited today than I've ever seen them in history. It's really terrible what's going on out there.
CROWLEY: And there is some fear not just among doctors -- you know, and I have heard the same kind of thing and surely you have and perhaps explained it to them in different way, but them saying I can't say any more Medicare patients. Because it's -- you know, I have doctors say I will keep my guys, my guys I have now, but I'm not taking any more Medicare patients. Then what?
EMANUEL: Look, that issue of how the physician-patient relationship is going to change, there's no doubt it's going to change.
CROWLEY: In what way?
EMANUEL: Oh, I think much for the better. You're going to have more of a team. You're going to have nurse practitioners, you're going to have physicians, you're going to have pharmacists, you're going to have nutritionists advising patients.
The second thing is a lot more care is going to be moved into the home out of the hospital, which is very appropriate because we're going to have a lot more ability to monitor people in the home: fewer infections, fewer falls and a big cost savings. FLEMING: And this is coming from a doctor who doesn't see patients. Talk to me. I can tell you.
EMANUEL: I'm an oncologist. I'm an oncologist. I treat cancer patients.
FLEMING: I have a practice today that still operates. We have three nurse practitioners. I'm telling you that every year that goes by we have to analyze what our payer mix is. Can we take Medicaid? Can we take Medicare? This is happening all across the country, not in ivory towers.
EMANUEL: We have a health care system that is $2.8 trillion, OK. It's got more than enough money. The issue isn't money here. The issue is delivering efficient care and making sure that we have the right care at the right place.
CROWLEY: I will say that some of the...
FLEMING: ...control does not create efficient care.
CROWLEY: One of the things that I also hear and this mostly from on the patient side is that when the president said over and over and over again if you like your health care, you can keep it. And yet now of course we're hearing lots of insurance companies are dropping patients who don't -- who have health care plans that don't meet the standards of Obamacare. So they are going to change doctors. Are they not?
FLEMING: Almost a million Americans have lost their -- they've had their insurance canceled just in the last few weeks.
EMANUEL: Those insurance plans are not worth the paper they're written on. Many of them exclude key things...
FLEMING: That's absurd, doctor. That is absurd.
EMANUEL: Many of them exclude key things that would...
FLEMING: That is totally false.
EMANUEL: ...these would not allow.
FLEMING: These are big plans that people are being kicked off...
EMANUEL: Are you going to allow me to finish?
FLEMING: But you are doing all the talking. Filibustering is not going to win your argument here, sir.
EMANUEL: We would not allow unsafe cars without seat belts, without air bags on the roads. Similarly, we should not allow health plans out there that are really not health plans. McDonald's had offered a plan it they sold to their people for $50 that will entitle them to $2,000 worth of coverage. That is not a health plan. A health plan that excludes certain kinds of care, like maternity care, is not a health plan. We have to have a minimum standard. If you don't have a minimum standard, you can you not have no pre- existing conditions and guaranteed issue which is what we want.
CROWLEY: And I'll give you the last word.
FLEMING: Well, I would say again, Dr. Emanuel, he's not a physician in the classic sense in terms of actually seeing patients. He doesn't know what's happening in the health care economy. He sits behind a desk reading all of the studies and he's dreaming.
EMANUEL: I have an appointment at a medical school...
FLEMING: Again, please don't interrupt me.
He was an architect for this law. I don't blame him for being defensive, but the people are now experiencing all the damage and the hurt that's coming from this.
CROWLEY: They are, but you would concede, would you not, that people who do not have health care, 30 million, 40 million, whatever it current is -- 50 million, will be helped by this and that's not a bad thing?
FLEMING: Candy, the CBO says that number will never go below 30 million Americans. Never.
EMANUEL: The fact that of the matter is, all of us are --
FLEMING: The CBO says that.
EMANUEL: All of us are hurting from high health care costs and uneven quality. And the bill is going to repair those things. And the Republicans never had a proposal to address high health care cost or uneven quality.
FLEMING: We have...
CROWLEY: I'll have you back, I promise. Dr. Emanuel - doctor and Congressman thank you so much for being here. We appreciate both of you.
FLEMING: Thank you.
CROWLEY: Coming up, President Obama wants you to know this is important.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's good for our economy. It's good for our national security. It's good for our people. And we should do it this year.
CROWLEY (voice over): He's talking about immigration. Where did that come from?
OBAMA: Finishing the job.
(END VIDEO CLIP) (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
CROWLEY: President Obama moved immigration and education to center stage this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: This country should be doing everything in our power to give more kids the chance to go to schools just like this one.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Trying to shift the message from a rough health care launch or a tone deaf message? More with our panel in a moment.
CROWLEY: Joining me around the table CNN commentator Cornell Belcher, A.B. Stoddard, associate editor for "The Hill" newspaper, and Ross Douthat, CNN political commentator and "New York Times" columnist. Welcome all.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you so much.
CROWLEY: It seems to me with have parallel universes in operation now. We have the president out on the road talking about immigration and education and politics, raising money. And then we had Ted Cruz talking health care in Iowa. So who's on -- who's on message here? Is the president clearly trying to shift the focus but does it work?
CORNELL BELCHER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think they're both on message. Look, Ted Cruz is running for president. That is fairly clear. And to those whose Republican caucus goers in Iowa (INAUDIBLE) but those caucus goers which is a different animal, he is very much on message to the grassroots. The president on the same time is on message. He is not running for office again. He has a broader agenda that he's trying to move. Look, we're that leading democracy in the world, well, before shutdown. We can chew gum and walk at the same time. We can deal with multiple issues at the same time. We still got big issues like immigration reform that the president needs to be pushing.
ROSS DOUTHAT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Nothing is going to happen on immigration reform. Probably nothing going to happen period. But certainly nothing is going to happen on immigration reform until that moment around Thanksgiving when the White House officials stands up and says, here is why the Web site is fixed or here is why it isn't.
BELCHER: I will challenge you on that, Ross. Why can't we do it? Why can't Congress? Look, immigration - I mean look the ACA has been debated as McCain said and Republicans often debate, why can't Republicans move to immigration reform?
A.B. STODDARD, COLUMNIST, "THE HILL": Immigration reform is not going to be acted upon until early next summer at best. Because there's a bunch of Republicans who have to get to their primaries and refuse to engage on this issue until and unless they clear those primaries. At the same time, the president is trying to change the subject with immigration reform away from the health care website debacle. But he probably shouldn't. He really probably should see this through, continue to assure the American public. And actually spend the taxpayer dollars that he is spending on these immigration reform appearances trying to get young and healthy people enrolled in the system.
CROWLEY: In the end, I mean, we had an "ABC News" "Washington Post" poll and asked, the question was the health care website problems are sign of broader problems, 55 percent and isolated incident, 40 percent. This will look like nothing if no one signs up. No one is going to care that the computer didn't work.
DOUTHAT: Right. And that's the underlying policy issue here, right? I mean obviously the website can presumably get fixed at some point in the future. But the White House has a window. It was originally six months. Now it's four or five months to get a certain number of people and a certain number of a specific kind of person young, healthy, middle class to sign up for the health care law. And that is the only - I mean the entire presidency at this point is riding on his ability to do that.
BELCHER: This is the problem - this is the problem with this. This is a problem with this story. You go back to a couple years (INAUDIBLE) you had speaker Boehner talking about horrendous rollout of a program and he is talking about prescription drugs. You know, look, these things don't necessarily rollout well. But this is the problem with the story. This is a process sorry. It's about the process. You're missing - you're missing the forest for the trees. It's not about a process. It's about a value (ph) --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's about discouraging people -
DOUTHAT: The policy is the process.
DOUTHAT: This is why it's different. This is what is different from Medicare part D. The prescription drug benefit. The design of this system is built around getting a certain number of people to use the website and sign up. So the rollout wouldn't matter if it was --
BELCHER: Are you telling me that we can't fix a website? Are you are telling me that -
(CROSSTALK) DOUTHAT: I'm not the one telling you that.
BELCHER: The problem is - the problem is not the website. Yes, we have a problem trying to get people enrolled. But the value of -
CROWLEY: It undermines it, does it not?
STODDARD: Ross is right. It's a fundamental structural issue. They needed a great start. You could have had glitches later. You needed to get people pouring into the system because the sick are pouring into the exchanges. The first time they can get covered where they couldn't before. Now you need young, healthy people to balance out the risks and to really actually keep it affordable. Without those people, those consumers, it's not affordable anyway.
DOUTHAT: Cornell is right.
BELCHER: No. That's (ph) right.
DOUTHAT: There is time.
BELCHER: But we've seen this before. And we've seen this before. Guess where we saw it? We saw it in Massachusetts. Well you know what the bulk of the people signed up for Massachusetts they signed up towards the end.
DOUTHAT: But the problem in Massachusetts you didn't have - one it wasn't as polarizing an issue. You weren't trying to sign up people on a national scale. And three you had --
BELCHER: And it should be a polarizing issue now because it is a Republican -
CROWLEY: More later. I have to stop you all here. There is a tale of two Republican parties and pair of upcoming governors' elections. Will it signal a head wind or tail wind for the party in 2014?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: People talk about bipartisanship. But they don't know how to do it. What I've shown over the last four years is how to do it.
KEN CUCCINELLI (R), VIRGINIA GUBERNATORIAL NOMINEE: That is what I'm standing against. And that is what we're up against on the other side.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Back now with Cornell Belcher, A.B. Stoddard and Ross Douthat. New Jersey and Virginia about to have gubernatorial races. If we believe the polls, we will see a Republican victory for Chris Christie in New Jersey and a Virginia Democratic victory for Terry McAuliffe (INAUDIBLE).
Yes, that's right. I want to play you - look first at New Jersey and play you sound that we just got in in a pro-Christie ad.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHAQUILLE O'NEAL, BASKETBALL PLAYER: He's a good man. Excuse me. He's a great man. Please join me in supporting Chris Christie. The governor.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Shaquille O'Neal. What more would a guy want his endorsements go?
BELCHER: Not exactly going out on a limb endorsing a guy who is like 30 points ahead. Look Chris Christie is --
DOUTHAT: Are you calling Shaq a coward?
Is that what you're saying? Because he'll come down here. He won't fit in the seat, but he'll be here.
BELCHER: I think the more interesting and telling race here is Virginia. Chris Christie is a phenomenon. He's an incumbent. He's a state incumbent. But what is going on in Virginia is really interesting because quite frankly, you have a Democrat opening up a 10 point advantage in a state that for years has been a lot more red than it has blue. You look at the "Washington Post" poll on this, when you look at those independent voters - those independent voters were overwhelmingly angry at the Republican party for closing down - for closing down Congress. I think this is where we see what happening in Washington begins to affect what's going on in other states.
CROWLEY: But even before was down.
STODDARD: Trouble before the shutdown. I think Christie is not just a regular incumbent. I think he is a pretty special case. He's in a blue state. He's going to win a second term with 25 to 30 points. Buono is not a terrible candidate at the Democrat. He just happens to be a real singular politician in this country right now. And I think the presidential aspirations aside, it's going to be a very impressive election where lots of Democrats in New Jersey vote for Christie.
CROWLEY: But if a moderate wins in New Jersey, a moderate Republican wins in New Jersey, a Democratic state, and a Democrat who one would categorize as fairly liberal, I mean at least left of center, Terry McAuliffe wins in the --
DOUTHAT: I don't think McAuliffe's ideology is really his defining characteristic.
CROWLEY: But nonetheless, I mean what's the -- how are we going to interpret that?
BELCHER: That's the point. You all have beaten us in Virginia consistently by going ideological and Democrats in Virginia had to run as problem solvers.
DOUTHAT: Virginia is now a swing state, right? I think that is pretty clear. It's pretty clear Cuccinelli was too conservative to win statewide even before the shut down. I think Cornell is absolutely right that there has been some ripple effect in part of the country that where government contracts are a big part of the economy. But I think Cornell is downplaying a little too much, obviously, the significance of Christie. You know, we talk about Christie now. Christie is a moderate Republican and so on. And he is relative (INAUDIBLE) Cuccinelli but he's not a sort of traditional northeastern Rockefeller Republican. He has been very shrewd in positioning himself as someone who is capable of winning state-wide in New Jersey without, you know, running afoul of conservative groups on a lot of issues. And I think that the significance --
BELCHER: I agree with all of that but here's the problem -- to you, the problem is when you put him in a Republican primary for president, against the Ted Cruz's of the world, that doesn't necessarily play out very well for him, does it?
DOUTHAT: Well that's the big question, right? I think - look the Republican primary in 2016 is going to be very, very interesting. If Ted Cruz beats Chris Christie, then you probably are headed for a more Cuccinelli-style national election. But I don't think that that's necessarily going to be the case. And there are going to be a lot of other people in the field, as well, to make things interesting.
CROWLEY: Talk about women in Virginia. They were just critical for president Obama twice. I think that Virginia Democrats have been very good playing the female card.
STODDARD: Oh, I do. But Cuccinelli fell right into that trap again. Just a poor Republican candidate, not only tainted by the governor - Governor McDonnell gift scandal, but too extreme on issues (INAUDIBLE) swinging votes including women. And it really is -- it's a mistake in, I think, in picking the right candidate probably could have won Virginia this year. Running on Obamacare, et cetera, but that didn't - they didn't -
CROWLEY: Hang on, Cornell. Hold that thought. We'll be back.
Up next, a bipartisan agreement in the least likely place. Why some Democratic senators are joining their colleagues across the aisle to ask the president to delay part of his landmark legislation.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CROWLEY: Delay Obamacare deadlines. It's not just for Republicans anymore. Ten Senate Democrats are asking the president to extend the open enrollment period for the affordable care act beyond March 31st. They insist their concern is based on the troubled website, not the law itself. Still, the politics are in the numbers. One of the senators is in charge of getting Democrats elected next year. Seven others are up for re- election. Four of whom are looking at pretty tough races. Republicans he can ignore. Democrats, headed into an election year, not so much. What's a president to do?
CROWLEY: We are back with Cornell Belcher, A.B. Stoddard and Ross Douthat. So the president now, you can no longer say that the Republicans are the only ones who want to put a delay on Obamacare.
BELCHER: It's not a delay.
CROWLEY: That's right. You can't say delay if you're a Democrat. You can say extension.
CROWLEY: Will the president or the White House extend the deadline for signing up, the deadline for finding people? Will that happen?
BELCHER: I don't know if the president is going to extend it or not. However, again, we're getting caught up in the process here. And this is the value. You know, you've got nearly 700,000 people are trying to sort -- sign up for this already. You have millions of people who, for the first time, working-class people, have the freedom to sort of get in the free-marketplace and get health care insurance. What Republicans want to roll this back and kill this, and take the freedom away from these working-class people and give it right back to the insurance company, quite frankly, is a campaign line that I would love for Democrats to run on. Because you know - you know what's more popular right now than Republicans? Obamacare. The interesting thing coming out of these two weeks of shutdown is that Obamacare has actually risen, and while Republicans' numbers have dropped.
STODDARD: If you are a Democrat in the Senate, and you represent a state that Mitt Romney won well and Obama did not do well in, your constituents are calling and saying, this is so confusing. When will I get fined? How will I be penalized? What's going on here? You're going to push for the extension. And at some point, because President Obama's administration has extended and waivered so much of this law, I have a feeling that we're going to see more extensions.
DOUTHAT: Again, to go back to my dispute with Cornell, the issue here is that the policy is the process, and the process is the policy, because you have to get so many people signed up for it to work. So the White House isn't going to follow the senators' lead just yet, but in three weeks, if they're looking at the website, and saying, well, the kinks will be worked out by January 1st, they'll do exactly that, they'll push things back. On the point about insurance companies, right now, the insurance companies of America are hoping desperately that Obamacare works, that this website starts working. Because they are --
CROWLEY: They're in, they're taking on people with --
BELCHER: The insurance company will win regardless. The question is, not whether insurance companies win. The question is, whether working-class Americans can afford to get health care.
CROWLEY: And so, in the end, flash forward a year from now, will we be talking about obstructionist Republicans or will we be talking about the health care not working?
BELCHER: I hope they're talking about -- well, here's the thing, we'll be talking -- the Democrats will be talking about obstructionist Republicans and extremism. The Republicans quite frankly right now, I don't know what they'll run on, because they say no all of the time. No to everything.
CROWLEY: Predominant subject.
STODDARD: Very hard for Democrats to defend Obamacare a third election in a row.
DOUTHAT: We'll be talking about Obamacare. It may not look as bad then as it does now. But we'll be talking about it.
CROWLEY: Thank you, all three of us. Appreciate you being here. Thank you all for watching STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Candy Crowley in Washington. Head to the CNN.com/SOTU analysis and extras. If you missed any part of today's show, find us on iTunes just search, STATE OF THE UNION.
Fareed Zakaria, GPS, is next.