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STATE OF THE UNION WITH CANDY CROWLEY

Interview with John Barrasso, James Clyburn; Interview with Benjamin Netanyahu

Aired November 17, 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: Good morning from Washington. I'm Candy Crowley. Mama said there'd be days like this, but who knew there'd be months.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If we can just get the darn website working and smooth this thing out --

CROWLEY (voice-over): A politician on a rugged road is generally headed downhill and losing friends along the way. Amid the mess of a broken website and millions of Americans losing health insurance they thought they could keep, the president's approval numbers are sliding. In a totally related development --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On this vote, the yeas are 261, the nays are 157. The bill is passed.

CROWLEY: Thirty-nine Democrats voted against the president and with Republicans on an Obamacare fix. The bill goes nowhere from here, but it's the thought that counts and the thought is that the president's broken keep your health care promise is toxic. Hence, the direct message to voters.

OBAMA: I want them to know that, you know, their senator or congressman, they were making representations based on what I told them and what this White House and our administrative staff told them. And so, it's not on them, it's on us.

CROWLEY: Of the president's numbers collapsing beneath the roll out, this one weighs heaviest. Is Barack Obama honest and trustworthy? Just 44 percent of Americans think so, down 10 points since late September. It has prompted comparisons to George Bush's failed response to the deadly hurricane Katrina.

The situations are entirely different but politically trusted Bush and in the government fell and never recovered, undermining the rest of Bush's term. Without argument, this president is at the lowest political moment of his tenure and it is difficult to govern without trust.

OBAMA: I think it's legitimate for them to expect me to have to win back some credibility on this health care law in particular and on a whole range of these issues in general. CROWLEY: Time is short. As some allies inch away, Republicans are circling.

REP. FRED UPTON, (R) MICHIGAN: Presidencies are often associated with one famous utterance. Ask not what your country can do for you. The only thing we have to fear, tear down this wall. And our current president will be no different. If you like your health care plan, you can keep it. Period.

CROWLEY: Poll numbers are snapshots in time and time moves on. For the president, days like this could become months or they could become different kinds of days entirely.

(END VIDEOTAPE) CROWLEY (on-camera): Joining me now, members of their party leadership, Democratic congressman, James Clyburn and Republican senator, John Barrasso. Gentlemen, thank you both for coming this morning.

I want to pick up first on the Katrina references with generally go to the idea that once a president falls below that 50 percent line when it comes to honesty and trustworthiness it makes it very hard to govern, but that really litigating George Bush and Katrina, Senator Barrasso. Do you buy into that argument that the president may be in a hole he can't get out of?

BARRASSO: He maybe, Candy. I'm a lot less concerned about the president and his legacy than I am about the lives of the people in my state in Wyoming and around the country who are being hurt by the policy of this health care law. They're losing their coverage, millions. They're being hit by sticker shock.

They can't keep their doctors. And what the president is proposing is basically a false fix. It's a political band aid, but it's not a permanent cure for the people that are being hurt by his policies so it's time to start over with trying to get people the health care that they wanted from the beginning which was affordable care from their doctor that they choose.

CROWLEY: Congressman Clyburn, it remains true, however, that a president who loses kind of the faith of Americans finds it hard to pass other things, immigration, all the other things that are on. It was a very ambitious second term agenda for this president. How does he win back trust? I'm assuming you think he can.

CLYBURN: Oh, yes, absolutely. Thank you so much for having me this morning. Look, I think that the president admitted that the buck stops with him. The fact of the matter is, this is a roll out problem. This is not a values problem. And I think that if we were to look at what we were attempted to do with the Affordable Health Care Act, you will know that what we're trying to do is change a value system in our country.

Look, with all due respect to the senator, cancellation letters are not due -- or not new to my constituents. I've been hearing from constituents for the entire 21 years I've been in the Congress about cancellation letters that they've been getting from insurance companies. As soon as a child is born with diabetes, cannot get on health care policy, get sick, go for your second treatment, you get a cancellation letter.

You limit your benefits, you get annual benefits. Cancellation letter from your insurance company. So, the fact of the matter is, we are trying to stop these cancellations, and now, a few insurance companies have decided to use the Affordable Care Act to send out a new set of cancellation letters and what the president has done here is to say, OK, when you send out these letters, we want you to invite those people back in, take a year to let the people know exactly what it is that you canceled.

CROWLEY: Congressman --

CLYBURN: Candy -- yes.

CROWLEY: Look, the question here though is, yes, hopefully the website will get fixed, but isn't this the undermining of trust have to do With a huge management blunder and the question then becomes to Americans looking at this website which hasn't worked, looking at a promise that wasn't quite true saying, wait a minute, if these people can't know ahead of time, they need to really test a website. Can we trust them about implementing the rest of this? Isn't that the trust issue and it's about management?

CLYBURN: Well, sure, paradise lost, paradise regained. And when you lose something, you can find it again. And the president has admitted that he expects to be held responsible for regaining the Americans trust and I think he will. The fact of the matter is, one of our big problems in Washington is that we tend to react to sound bites a little bit too often.

And, therefore, we tend to speak in sound bites. And this is a sound bite that the president probably needed to take some more time to explain to the American people, but you don't get reported. In fact, one of the things in Washington I dislike more than anything else is when people say to me, if you're explaining it, you're losing it.

I don't like that at all. I really believe the American people are deserving of explanations and take the time to explain it and I think the media ought to report those explanations.

CROWLEY: Let me bring in Senator Barrasso. So, this clearly -- the president is off to a rough start on this. But one of the pushbacks whenever Republicans say this is wrong, that's wrong is you never wanted it in the first place. They sort of turn it back on you saying, yes, it's been rough, yes, it's been terrible, but now you're just trying to undermine it. What is your take on the Republicans next move to fix some of the things that you think are wrong with this?

BARRASSO: Well, you know, Candy, this past week, I introduced legislation, the state health care choice act so states could make decisions if they wanted to opt-out of the individual mandate or the employer mandate for the people in their states. I'm concerned about getting people health care that they need and want and can afford and we don't have those happening with these policies.

The website is just the tip of the iceberg, but for only every one person that's been able to sign up, 40 people have gotten cancellation letters and, you know, the president may call these junk policies or substandard policies, but they're policies that work for those people. I was with a rancher yesterday in Wyoming, in Laramie, others who've gotten these letters and it didn't meet the president's standards because the insurance policy didn't include maternity coverage, but this is a woman that's had a hysterectomy.

She shouldn't have to pay for that kind of coverage. Republican solutions are there. We need to level the playing field so that people who buy insurance individually at the same tax rates as those who buy it than get it through work. We need to be able to let people to shop across state lines for better deals with insurance that works for them and their family not something the government says they have to have.

In terms of pre-existing conditions, my wife is a breast cancer survivor. She's been through three operations, chemotherapy twice. I know how critical it is to make sure that people with pre-existing conditions have affordable insurance and states are able to do that.

What we're seeing is this failed website that's just the tip iceberg of lost coverage, losing your doctor, higher premiums and the fraud that is coming even on the healthcare.gov website has been remarkable and that the fraudsters are out there in force, trying to take advantage and steal identity of the American people.

CROWLEY: Let me bring Congressman Clyburn back in. You had a vote last week in the House where 39 Democrats who voted, many of them who voted for if they were here Obamacare sided with Republicans on a fix to this idea of people being thrown off their health care when the president had promised they wouldn't be.

What do you make of those 39 defections, because politically speaking, it clearly is distance between the president and this bill?

CLYBURN: Well, I think what you saw in those 39 people, maybe nine people had real serious concerns. The fact of the matter is about 30 of them, and I've talked to them, were insulating themselves against sound bites and that's part of the problem.

CROWLEY: Meaning that they were -- I'm sorry. Meaning that they looked back home, realized that people were upset and they wanted to be able to say, I voted to fix this?

CLYBURN: Meaning that people look at this and said that this is a bill that allowed me to keep my insurance policy and you voted against it. So, they wanted to insulate themselves from that. But the fact of the matter is, if you look at the second part of that bill, it allowed insurance companies to continue selling what you know to be substandard --

CROWLEY: Right. But they still voted for it.

CLYBURN: -- call them junk.

CROWLEY: Right.

CLYBURN: Yes, they voted for it. And as I said, I don't blame anybody for insulating themselves from these sound bites because that's the world we live in, unfortunately. But that's the world we live in.

CROWLEY: And final word here, Senator Barrasso, do you see Republicans going forward unless something amazing happens between now and next year, this is going to go into force, this law. Will Republicans work with the White House to fix things or will you continue to want to change major portions of it?

BARRASSO: It's time to start over. This health care law is terribly flawed. It is broken. It has failed the American people because they're losing their insurance, they're losing their doctor. Their premiums are going up. I think there's going to be a massive taxpayer bailout needed just to deal with the impact of this health care law.

This is not what the American people wanted. The president did not need to destroy a good health care system to try to make a better one, but that's what we have now. CROWLEY: So, that sort of sounds like a no on trying to fix it. Thanks so much, Senator John Barrasso, Congressman James Clyburn, I appreciate both of your time today.

BARRASSO: Thank you, Candy.

CLYBURN: Thank you.

CROWLEY: When we return, inching closer to a deal on Iran's nuclear program but not everyone is a fan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: To give the most dangerous regime of the 21st century, the world's most dangerous weapons is a big, big mistake.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: My exclusive interview with Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Secretary of state, John Kerry, meets with Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, later this week in Israel. They'll discuss progress on a deal to ease some sanctions against Iran in exchange for concessions on their nuclear program. Democrat and Republican critics are pushing back saying they don't trust Iran's leader, they want fresh sanctions to keep up the pressure. It's a snag in relations between the U.S. and her closest ally in the volatile Middle East. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: Joining me now, Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. Mr. Prime Minister, thanks for being here. As you know, the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council along with Germany will, this week, sit down with their counterparts from Iran to once again work on a deal to hopefully freeze Iran's nuclear ambitions for a period of time.

My question to you, because I know you're very skeptical of this and have not liked what you've heard so far, would you -- is there any interim deal that you would think was all right? NETANYAHU: Well, first of all, I prefer diplomatic solution. I prefer a peaceful solution. Who wouldn't? Israel has the most to gain from a peaceful diplomatic solution because we're on the firing line anyway you look at it. So, we need a good solution. That's the main point. I think the problem with a partial deal is that you reduce the sanctions. And in this case, you reduce the sanctions let out a lot of pressure and Iran is practically giving away nothing.

It's making a minor concession which they can reverse in weeks and you endanger the whole sanctions regime which took years to make. So, I don't think it's a good deal. I think it's a bad deal, an extremely bad deal. We need a good deal.

CROWLEY: Also, at this point, not a done deal and I want to play you something that the president said this week about pursuing a deal with Iran.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will have lost nothing if at the end of the day it turns out that they are not prepared to provide the international community the hard proof and assurances necessary for us to know that they're not pursuing a nuclear weapon.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: So, if there is a deal that provides the kind of assurances the president is talking about to show that Iran is not pursuing, perhaps not getting rid of what they have now but not pursuing any further a nuclear ambition, isn't that a good place to start?

NETANYAHU: Well, I respect the president and I know that we have a common goal to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons and in our case from developing the capacity to make nuclear weapons. In fact, they're not giving up any of their capacity. They have 18,000 centrifuges to enrich uranium to make the core of a bomb.

NETANYAHU: They're not giving up even one centrifuge, Candy, not one. So, they're keeping their capacity. Now, here's what could happen and might very well happen if there are billions of dollars sanctions of easement which is what is proposed by the P5 plus one. You're going to get investors, companies and countries scrambling one after the other to try to get deals with Iran because economies and prices work on future expectations.

If you took all that pressure all these years to build up the sanctions regime and it's finally working. It's finally getting there and Iran is really on the rope, their economy is on the ropes, their economy is close to paralysis, and all of a sudden, you take off the pressure, everybody will understand that you're heading south. You're going to really be in danger of crumbling the sanctions regime.

So, while I appreciate the intention of trying to build it back up, I think it's going to be exceedingly tough if not impossible. I think a lot is being offered by the P5 plus one for Iran. It's getting just an enormous deal from their point of view and it's giving practically nothing in return. They're keeping their infrastructure to make nuclear bombs.

But I think also to the signaling inside Iran that it's over and signaling outside Iran to many countries that will start scrambling to -- for contracts in Iran and it's going to be very hard to keep the sanctions regime. I think the opposite should be done. I think they should not only keep up the pressure, I think you should increase the pressure because it's finally working. And if you give it up now, when you have that pressure, and Iran doesn't even take apart, dismantle one centrifuge, what leverage will you have when you ease the pressure. It just doesn't make sense.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: I do want to talk to you about increasing the sanctions as you know it in the U.S. congress, there's a move towards that, but let me just button this up by playing something that the president said which goes precisely to the point of those sanctions that you fear can never -- that would open up sort of a flood gate of people wanting to do business with Iran. Here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: If it turns out six months from now that they're not serious, we can crank -- we can dial those sanctions right back up.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CROWLEY: What about that?

NETANYAHU: Well, I responded to that, candy, and I think that in practice that may be the president's desire and intention. I have no doubt about that. But my assessment given what I see now, I already see the countries and the investors and the companies scrambling to get to Iran. I already hear that, those voices. I receive that information. Everybody is getting ready to the starting line to rush to Iran to give, to be in part of that deal.

I think -- but if you went the other way and you not only preserve the sanctions instead of reducing them but you actually increase them then, you know, all these countries and all these companies will have to choose between the Iranian economy and the U.S. economy, because that's what additional sanctions mean. It means choose Iran or the U.S. That's a no brainer.

Everybody will choose the U.S. siding up with increased sanctions. Everybody has up to now. And if you continue the pressure now, you can get Iran to cease and desist. You see the options aren't really a bad deal. And this is a bad deal or war. There's a third option. Sanctions, increase the sanctions.

And in fact, if you do a bad deal, you may get to the point where your only option is a military option. So, bad deal actually can lead you to exactly the place you don't want to be. I think if you want a peaceful solution as I do, then the right thing to do is ratchet up the sanctions.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: More of my interview with Prime Minister Netanyahu when we return. The Middle East peace talks with conditions.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NETANYAHU: Everybody talks about Israeli concessions. It's time to talk about Palestinian concessions, too.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Israeli officials were on Capitol Hill last week arguing that an interim nuclear deal with Iran is a dangerous proposition. Some lawmakers on both sides of the aisle agree and they are threatening to place more sanctions on Iran to keep up the heat. Secretary of State Kerry says that would only undermine their credibility in the current negotiations. More now on my interview with Prime Minister Netanyahu.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: The president, Secretary of State Kerry, in particular, Secretary of State Kerry has been up on Capitol Hill saying this is a bad idea because all you do is play into the hands of the hardliners who don't want the new president of Iran to make any kind of deal with us. It will be bad faith. It will certainly make these negotiations go ahead and send Iran back into the corner to build nuclear weaponry.

I want to read you something that Senator Mark Kirk, he is from Illinois, he's a Republican. He was in on one of those behind closed door meetings and he came out and had this to say about Secretary of State John Kerry's briefing. "The administration very disappointingly said discount what the Israelis say." This might speak to a larger problem I think that you and this administration are on totally different sides and really that friction has now gone to Capitol Hill.

NETANYAHU: Well, first of all, this is a big issue and the people of good faith can have different opinions and friends and the best of friend can have different opinions. We agree on a lot of things and some things we disagree on. And by the way I don't think this is a - (INAUDIBLE) what I got or is not a partisan issue either. There are Democrats who are calling for tougher sanctions and the Republicans who are saying keep the sanctions as they are. I'm speaking not from a partisan issue except one. I'm the prime minister of Israel and I have to care for the survival of my country. And Iran maintaining its nuclear weapons capability, that is the capacity to produce nuclear weapons threatens directly the future of the Jewish state. We've been around the Jewish people for about 4,000 years and we're not about to let ayatollah armed with nuclear weapons threaten that. But I will say that I don't think it's an Israeli issue either.

You know, I can tell you and it's no secret that many of the Arab leaders around us have the same view that it have and I always suggest to foreign leaders to world leaders when Israelis and Arabs are saying the same thing that doesn't happen very often. It's worthwhile paying attention. We're here. We're close to Iran. And we understand what Iran is doing.

CROWLEY: Mr. Prime Minister, if a deal should be reached that is not to your liking, it sounds like no interim deal that you want the whole thing complete destruction of what they already have as well as inspections to make sure they don't start up again, if a deal is reached is more along the lines of what this president is pushing for what is Israel's next move?

NETANYAHU: Well, I hope that we can achieve a far better deal, but the president and I have agreed on many thing and we agree that Israel always reserves the right to defend itself against any threat. I personally hope that a better deal is achieved because that's the way to achieve a peaceful diplomatic solution. See a bad deal, you think, will give you relief now or will give you some time to check out something else. But you're not - you're not going to get that because if the first step alleviates the pressure, you're not going to get more pressure down the line. You're not going to increase the pressure by lessening the pressure.

I would say I don't advocate partial deals. I think partial deals are bad deals. But for those who do I've said and I've said this to the United States' government and other p5+1 governments if you want to do a partial deal then decide what the final deal is and then do one step. Decide that the final deal will actually implement the very terms that you, the p5+1 put in the Security Council Resolution namely that Iran dismantle all of its sentry fusion and plutonium reactor which is used for one thing, making nuclear weapons. But Iran is adamant on maintaining these capabilities. And in fact it is maintaining these capabilities. And it's receiving as a first step which may be the final step a reduction of sanctions which could eliminate the sanctions down the line. Not a good idea.

CROWLEY: Let me turn you to another subject that we have talked about over the years many times that is the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks which sort of - seem to have gotten jump started this summer but now a chief Palestinian negotiate has described those talks as frozen. Tell me your description of where these talks are.

NETANYAHU: Well I hope that we can get them finally to an agreement because we need peace.

CROWLEY: Are they frozen now, though?

NETANYAHU: They are not frozen. We're talking. But I think, I like to see some movement on the Palestinian side. Everybody talks about Israeli concession. It's time to talk about Palestinian concessions too. Like recognizing the Jewish state. You want us to recognize the Palestinian state for the Palestinian people. How about recognizing the Jewish state for the Jewish people? Peace is a two way street. It must require - it requires Palestinian concessions alongside Israeli ones.

The real question is do Palestinians want peace with Israel? Do they want a state next to Israel in order to continue the conflict? Are they willing to finally end the conflict? That's what we dream about. And by the way, that's what we dream but with everyone. We'd like to see it with Iran too.

Anyone who has been at war, two wars, like I've been that lost loved one, been wounded in military action, believe me you don't want war but you want a real peace. A real peace, in this case means real peace with the Palestinians in which they recognize the Jewish state and a real peaceful solution with Iran which I and Secretary Kerry want and president Obama wants. We all want the same thing. I think we have to be very clear on how we get it. To get it we have to make sure that Iran doesn't have the capacity to make nuclear bombs. Unfortunately, with the proposed deal they get to maintain that capacity. And I think that doesn't bode well for peace.

CROWLEY: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, thanks for joining us this morning.

NETANYAHU: Thank you. Thank you, Candy.

CROWLEY: I'm joined now by Jim Sciutto, who's CNN's chief national security correspondent. Jim here's one thing I know about interviews. Whoever you're talking to -- whatever you ask will begin by what they want to say and they will end with what they came to say and it's the same message. So I was really struck by the prime minister sitting down and the first thing he says let me make this clear, Israel wants peace. It's how it ended. Nobody wants peace more than me. What does that say to you?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: We'll he's a very different Netanyahu than we saw earlier in the week with these apocalyptic predictions of what any deal with Iran would look like. And I think you get the sense that Netanyahu and even some of the critics of this deal on the Hill (ph) sense momentum moving towards a deal. Senator McCain as well. Earlier in the week he was calling Secretary Kerry a human wrecking ball you'll remember. Now in the last 24 hours he said that he could be open to some sort of agreement with Iran. So I think you sense then - sensing the momentum.

CROWLEY: When you look at this, is there any way to square this so that Iran will be OK with the deal and Israel will at least not be out bashing it? SCIUTTO: Well there's a certain degree you'll never going to get to. Senior administration officials tell me the disagreement with Israel is purely tactical but it's a pretty big tactical disagreement. Because Israel would prefer that Iran retains no right whatsoever to enrich uranium. And it appears that the U.S. administration has found something of a fudge here. They not going to - explicitly recognize this right to enrich but they may allow the Iranians to go home and say, we have a right to enrich. They're going to retain some capacity. And that's something that you're never going to get the Israelis to sit well with.

CROWLEY: Jim Sciutto, our chief national security correspondent. It's getting to be a habit with you and me, Sundays.

SCIUTTO: A good habit.

CROWLEY: Thanks for being here. When we return President Obama steps into unfamiliar territory. Damage control.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our failure to roll out the ACA smoothly has put a burden on Democrats. I feel deeply responsible for making it harder for them rather than easier for them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: How much time does he have to make it right with his party? Our panel up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Joining me around the table CNN CROSSFIRE host, Van Jones, Amy Walter, national editor of the "Cook Political Report," and Ross Douthat, a "New York Times" columnist and CNN political commentator. Thank you. All right let's commentate.

(LAUGHTER)

So I watched what unfold this week including the president, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry. And by the way here's another exception to Obama care and then 39 Democrats voting with the Republicans against the president's wishes on a fix. And it brought me back to the framework for next year's elections and interviews I had last week with Debbie Wasserman Schultz, head of the DNC. And Reince Priebus, head of the RNC.

And here's just a quick (INAUDIBLE) of what they told me.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIR: Democratic candidates will be able to run on Obamacare as an advantage leading into the 2014 elections. REINCE PRIEBUS, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIR: This issue is going to be toxic for the Democrats and believe me we'll tattoo to it their foreheads in 2014, we will run on it and they will lose because of it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: (INAUDIBLE)

AMY WALTER, NATIONAL EDITOR, "THE COOK POLITICAL REPORT": Wow. That sounds painful to be tattooed. But Debbie Wasserman Schultz may be correct but I have yet see them make a positive case for Obamacare yet. This is what the most remarkable thing about this is for me is since this law was passed we've heard a lot of bad things are going to happen. A lot of bad things have happened with the website. And yet I have not seen anybody whether from the White House or from the Democratic side coordinating a positive message about, look at all the great things that are happening. Why is there somebody out every single day telling a story if there's a story told. So they are just on defense and they're going to stay on defense. CROWLEY: Yes, you know, I think they try. You get these paragraphs every once in a while but children can stay on their parents thing -- there's no coordination here. And it doesn't overcome a management mess.

VAN JONES, CNN CROSSFIRE HOST: Sure. Well I think there's a couple of things going on. Right now all the focus is on a broken website and (INAUDIBLE) a broken promise and that has been the story for the past couple of weeks. At some point, though, there are other stories to be told about Obamacare. Most important thing I think is happening you do have places like Kentucky, California, where people's lives are being transformed by Obamacare. Every woman in America right now does have this opportunity not discriminate against. You're 55, 65-year-old woman you were uninsurable before Obamacare. But the Democrats are not telling the story. And I'd tell you why. The Republicans see the success of Obamacare as an existential threat to them. If Obamacare succeeds the Republicans that means government can work for good. That is bad. They are all focused on it. Democrats do not understand that the failure of Obamacare is an existential threat to us so we're still spread out over immigration and a thousand other issues. We've got focus now on making sure that people understand that there are millions of Americans right now with a broken website still who are benefiting from Obamacare.

ROSS DOUTHAT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean I think Van is right, the Democrats should be thinking about this in existential terms. And I think that this is part of why the panic that you're seeing while understandable is probably a mistake. Because ultimately for Democrats to survive 2014 and forget 2014, to survive 2016 you need the program to work.

So if you have Democrats sort of bailing on - bailing on aspects of the law that help it work like moving people into the - into the exchanges out of their existing plans as unpopular as that obviously is then the program is less likely to work and 2014 is more likely to be a disaster. And you also -- I think there's an underappreciated dynamic here though too which is that Obamacare has two big parts, right? One part is the exchanges for people buying on the individual market, including women who are 55 to 65 who, in fact, were insurable in many cases, my mother is 62 years old and had --

JONES: Very expensive and very bad plans. Go ahead. She's better off (INAUDIBLE).

DOUTHAT: My mother has a slightly different take on it.

(LAUGHTER)

But the other piece is Medicaid. Right? There's a big Medicaid expansion which is going forward. And I think what you're seeing from Democrats most of the stories they have to tell are stories about Medicaid. And I think that they're in certain ways scared to tell that story because it makes it the promise of Obamacare was that this just wasn't a new single payer program it was something else and if the success -- CROWLEY: Medicaid is expensive. I mean the whole - I mean this expensive (INAUDIBLE). Let me ask you something about the whole management idea, the Katrina comparison that somehow, you know, the president is at a place where they don't trust him and they don't trust the government. When you look at Sebelius staying (ph), you can understand because she doesn't want to have to like have a confirmation hearing of someone up. Because whoever it is becomes a target for Obamacare. But doesn't something have to happen to say, whoa we are back in charge?

WALTER: Here's the problem. This is not going to get better once the website gets fixed. I mean the fundamental promise, or the fundamental issue with Obamacare is that it is disruptive. 85 percent of people in this country have some form of health care. It is going to be impacted, many people will be impacted negatively who currently have health care. But the trade off is supposed to be 41 million other people who didn't have access to health care now get it. That's not how it was sold. It was sold as, everything is going to be fine. You have your health care, great you can keep it. You're not going to change when seniors start seeing their Medicare advantage benefits drop, when people who have employer sponsored health care see their rates go up they are going to be surprised and that's going a problem.

DOUTHAT: However, the website, I mean, all of that is true but the website create as much more acute crisis because you have people who have - well and because you have all the people getting cancellation notices who need that website to buy new plans.

CROWLEY: Really quick.

JONES: I just think that all of these predictions are very interesting. But we've been wrong on prediction after prediction. There are --

CROWLEY: (INAUDIBLE) it's going to be a mess. And it's pretty much has been a mess so far. Let me just -- hang on a second. When we return, the secretary of explaining stuff shakes up the Obamacare discussion.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I personally believe even if it takes changing the law, the president should honor the commitment the federal government made to those people and let them keep what they got.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Bill Clinton giving cover to restless Democrats or setting the stage for the next president? That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: I'm back with Van Jones, Amy Walter and Ross Douthat. So the famous Bill Clinton quote about, boy, if I were president here's what I would do, two days later the president does it. Widely seen as offering cover to House Democrats who are going home and getting beaten up about Obamacare at this point. I looked at it and thought I think he's try to clear the barriers for his wife's run at the White House in 2016.

JONES: So cynical. So cynical, Candy.

CROWLEY: I know but you can't sustain a bad (INAUDIBLE) Obamacare.

JONES: Look, I just think that he was saying something that a lot of Democrats were feeling. I think it's easy -- it's crazy, cynical maneuver he's trying to think about -- maybe that's true. I love your views about it but a lot of Democrats felt like the president could survive a broken website. He couldn't survive the perception of a broken promise and needed to do something about it. And I think the president also agreed and acted. So I think Clinton -- if Clinton had said nothing, I think the president would have wound up doing the same thing.

WALTER: Yes. I don't disagree - I don't disagree with that at all. The thing for Hillary Clinton in 2016, you know, I love that we this far out are creating all of these scenarios. I do it too. I need to get paid. It's my job. But no idea, number one what 2016 is going to look like. And it's also clear that...

JONES: Thank (ph) you (ph).

WALTER: ...by the way this system is going to work, Obamacare is rolling out, it's not necessarily going to be perfect by 2016 either. It could be better or it could be bad.

JONES: It could be very good.

WALTER: But we also know that it is very hard, close to impossible, for one party to hold the White House three consecutive terms even in a good political climate even where Obamacare is perfect and the economy is booming. It is very hard. So the decision to run for president I think is going to rely much more on what does the economy look like and what is frustration level with the current administration and that's where a Democrat - (CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: Is there anything that would make her not run?

DOUTHAT: Right now you would have to say - I mean I think my assumption has been the only thing that could make her not run is a feeling she would almost certainly lose and, you know, obvious desire not to end her career as a loser. And the sum combination of a total health care catastrophe and, you know, double dip recession or something, that's probably the scenario that keeps her out of the race. I think the interesting question for the Democratic Party as a whole though is what - you know, the Clinton comment sort of hinted this is what is the inter-Democrat debate look like in 2015 as they gear up for the primary if Obamacare is perceived as not working? I'm curious what Van thinks is there a moment where Democrats especially the left wing of the party says, we want someone who will push not to fix Obamacare which was always a compromise but for single payers.

CROWLEY: Single payer.

JONES: Well it's conceivable but I think we're a long way from there. Part of is what it's going to come down to is does the media get tired of pretending that Obamacare is just a website that didn't work and these cancellation notices. If the media were going to be fair, here's what they would do. For every one story about a cancellation notice there would be three stories about people who are benefiting from Obamacare right now. Even with the website broken every woman in America is benefiting because they cannot be discriminated. Even with the website broken you've got every kid under the age of 26 is benefited. We don't tell stories of successes right now. Maybe we get bored with this. We only talk about the downside. The minute that Democrats get it together to promote the incredible successes --

CROWLEY: (INAUDIBLE) message problem. You think it's a message problem and not an Obamacare problem.

DOUTHAT: You run against Hillary Clinton as champion of single payer in 2016, yes or no?

(LAUGHTER)

JONES: Look I'm for single payer. Part of the thing -

DOUTHAT: (INAUDIBLE).

JONES: I am. Part of the problem is we gave up on single payer without a fight. And so now it looks like this moderate Romney care thing is a left wing plot, when in fact the Romney care thing that Obama is putting in place came from Richard Nixon, Heritage Foundation and the Republican --

DOUTHAT: So you're saying this thing from Republicans isn't working and it's time to try something new.

JONES: No. And I'm saying -- I'm saying Democrats can make this Republican program work and you guys should thank us for it.

DOUTHAT: There we go.

CROWLEY: I have got to stop. Van Jones, Amy Walter, Ross Douthat, thank you so much for coming. And thank you for watching STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Candy Crowley in Washington. If you missed any part of today's show you can finds on iTunes. Search STATE OF THE UNION

Fareed Zakaria, GPS, starts right now.