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STATE OF THE UNION WITH CANDY CROWLEY
Interview with Adam Schiff, Michael McCaul; Panel Discusses Economy; Analysis with Newt Gingrich
Aired December 8, 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: Are we there yet?
CROWLEY (voice-over): Today is the season to be jolly and the president may have reason to be.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're moving in the right direction.
CROWLEY: Is it for real? The lowest jobless rate in five years may mean a new political equation. A conversation with two top economists, Mark Zandi and Kevin Hassett, along with "New York Times" economic writer, Annie Lowrey.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How you doing?
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm good.
CROWLEY: And --
OBAMA: For the first time in over a decade, we have halted advances in the Iranian nuclear program.
CROWLEY: A deal with one of the world's leading state sponsors of terror and what it might mean to the terrorism threat. Republican Mike McCaul and Democrat Adam Schiff join us. Then --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a remarkable leader, someone who studied, someone that was an honor to have met.
CROWLEY: Blowback, Newt Gingrich on the hostility prompted by his praise of nelson Mandela. And our political panel looks at the Republican charm offensive build Hillary's crusade and what Harry Reid said.
This is STATE OF THE UNION.
CROWLEY (on-camera): Good morning. I'm Candy Crowley in Washington. First today, a deadly winter storm that has already caused havoc from Texas to Kentucky is arriving in the northeast. Those are our live pictures from around Washington, D.C. This one from the capitol looking out. That's the Washington monument that you're looking at. And things are starting to get rough here.
So, we will continue to monitor all of this that is beginning to hit the east coast and work its way up the mid-Atlantic. So, warning to folks already out there that this is likely to turn into freezing rain and ice. So, lots of care out there on the road today. We've already seen what it's done in other areas of the country.
Meantime, all the world is a stage and there are lots of actors these days. At an international forum Saturday, President Obama acknowledged the U.S. would accept a peaceful nuclear energy program in Iran.
Meanwhile, 85-year-old Merrill Newman is back on U.S. soil and with family after being detained in North Korea. Pyongyang said it deported the 85-year-old veteran of the Korean War. North Korean authorities seized Newman off a departing plane more than a month ago.
Joining me now, Congressman Michael McCaul, he is chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee and Congressman Adam Schiff, a member of the House Select Intelligence Committee. Thanks for coming in on a snowy day. Not always easy in Washington.
I want to start out with Merrill Newman, because I know his son is in your district, and you had been back and forth with him. Why did North Korea seize him and why did they let him go?
SCHIFF: It's a very good question, and I'm not sure we'll ever know completely the answer. It may be as a North Koreans have said that, you know, part of a personal pique they found out about his war record and they pulled him off the plane. It may have something to do with Iran with the fact that North Korea is the not the focus of attention right now.
They often will grab people to gain attention to get a world leader come and rescue them from North Korea. It may have something to do with the internal fight going on, the purge of Mr. Jang (ph), the uncle of Kim Jong-Un. So, it may be purely internal North Korean politics. It may be a shout to the rest of the world that we want you to pay attention to us again and our nuclear program or it may be simply confined to something Mr. Newman said that caused him to be taken off the plane.
CROWLEY: He was over there, we're told, for closure for his North Korean war activities. So anyway, we're glad he's home. And you're right. The attention has been elsewhere, Mr. Chairman. It has been on Iran, and I want to play you something that the president said yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: We can envision a comprehensive agreement that involves extraordinary constraints and verification mechanisms and intrusive inspections but that permits Iran to have a peaceful nuclear program.
(END VIDEO CLIP) CROWLEY: So, Iran with a peaceful nuclear program means it will have some enriched uranium at a much lower level than the 20 percent that is needed to build a nuclear weapon. Is that OK?
MCCAUL: Look, we've been working on the sanctions for a decade, since I've been in Congress. And to get to the point where the administration, whatever party, could negotiate with Iran to dismantle their nuclear weapons program and what I'm concerned about is that we have not dismantled their program, and yet, we leave (ph) the sanctions, which is a $7 billion economic aid to the country.
When I talked to former administrations and the Bush administration, they tell me one of the biggest mistakes they made in North Korea, where they basically agreed to these accords and the North Korean's got the nuclear weapon. I don't want to see that same mistake happen in Iran. I want to be optimistic. You know, Kennedy said don't fear to negotiate, but don't negotiate out of fear.
What I'm concerned is we're setting up a problem here. Yesterday, just yesterday, the president of Iran, Rouhani, said the centrifuges will never stop in Iran. That sends to me a very cold, hard message that they are not intent on a civilian nuclear peaceful program. But rather towards, you know, getting a nuclear weapon.
CROWLEY: Let me, for you Congressman Schiff, read part of what President Rouhani said yesterday. He said "nuclear technology and uranium enrichment is our definite right, but progress, better living conditions, and welfare for the people is also our definite right." You saw what countries got angry with the deal and you saw what a blow was inflicted on the Zionists.
So, in context, he was talking to a crowd some of whom were not all that happy that Iran is dealing with United States and, of course, other western countries. So, my question to you is, does it complicate things when the administration says, yes, we could see some enriched uranium for nuclear power purposes but nothing else?
SCHIFF: Well, it does. You know, it's one thing to say that Iran can have a peaceful nuclear energy program. You can have a peaceful nuclear energy program with no enrichment. The uranium can be provided for that. It could be taken back. They don't need the centrifuges. They certainly don't need fast speed centrifuges. They certainly don't need thousands of centrifuges.
The only reason why you want to have the kind of capability Iran is developing is if you want a fast breakout capability.
CROWLEY: -- enriched uranium --
SCHIFF: -- quickly if you make a decision to break out. So, what I think the administration needs to push for in this negotiation is a peaceful program without enrichment. And I wouldn't begin the process by conceding anything on enrichment. CROWLEY: It seems like it's already a little bit -- now the exact nature of it, the idea that well maybe we'll, you know, we would ship in enriched uranium capable of nuclear energy only. But nonetheless, a lot of people have complained that it does seem like the administration is giving up something they shouldn't be giving up.
MCCAUL: Yes. If I can make a point, I mean, this violates a U.N. Security Council resolutions, U.N. proliferation treaty and empowers other countries in the Middle East to say, yes we're going to strike an accord with you to allow you to continue your uranium enrichment. And all that does is encourage other countries within the Middle East to say, hey, we've abided by this. But if you allow Iran to do this, then why can't we do this? That's my concern.
CROWLEY: Right. We didn't stop Pakistan. We didn't stop North Korea. So, the idea that Iran can be stopped if they want to make a nuclear weapon seems to not have a great historic precedent. SCHIFF: You know, they have the know how. There always been have the know how. What will it take if they make the decision that they're going to pursue the bomb? It would take a sustained military campaign, not just a bombing campaign, because a bombing campaign would set them back for a period of time. But if they were determined, it would have to be repeated bombing campaign and it may involve boots on the ground.
Because that is such an awful prospect, we need to try everything, in my view, to see if there's a peaceful way to put an end to this program. That's why I think the interim deal makes sense. I share the skepticism that we can get to a final deal.
CROWLEY: -- said the chances were 50/50.
SCHIFF: Very optimistic.
MCCAUL: I would add that, you know, look, we pass and Adam and I voted for the Iranian Sanctions Act on the central bank which is where the energy is coming out of the transaction. Very important legislation that was on its way to the Senate. It has not been passed. I had a letter to Harry Reid. Seventy members have signed on and say, look, let's pass that bill to give us the leverage. This is all about leverage in the negotiations.
CROWLEY: So, sanctions would start -- new sanctions that will start in six months?
MCCAUL: Well, the Iranians know we're serious about sanctions and that would give us a leverage for the administration and their talks. I happen to agree with my colleague that if we can have a civilian program, fine, without nuclear enrichment. That is the goal that I think actually both share on both sides of the aisle.
SCHIFF: I do part company with the idea that we should pass another sanctions bill, and I know there are many pushing that right now. We don't want to be perceived by our partners as the ones that are throttling this agreement before it has a chance to live. And if we do, then I think the coalition that has supported these sanctions which includes many reluctant partners like China and Russia starts to unravel.
It will be one thing if the Iranians renege if they cheat, then deals off. We not only resume the freeze, we add sanctions. But I don't think we should take steps that aren't necessary right now. The Iranians know, and if they don't know, they're stupid, and they're not stupid, that the minute they renege, sanctions are coming flying out of the Congress.
MCCAUL: A better way to demonstrate that than casting out the Senate. The White House can do what they want with it, but to know that we're serious -- we need to give them every leverage we can in these negotiations. CROWLEY: Let me ask you homeland security question, because I had the heads of the intelligence committee is on last week. And both Dianne Feinstein and Mike Rogers said that they felt that the U.S. was less safe now than it has been, both because of the kind of versatile and widespread threat of terrorism. Not just one group but a whole bunch of groups and because one or two people can do a lot of damage.
I want to see if you agree with that, Mr. Chairman, that the United States proper is less safe now because of this moving threat of terrorism.
MCCAUL: I think a lot of programs, policies have been put in place since 9/11 have prevented a 9/11 style attack. On the other hand, I think the threat has become greater, not lesser. So, when the president of the United States talks about the downgrades, the threat is near to his al Qaeda is on the run and since Bin Laden's been killed the threat is no longer existing, I think, is a false narrative and premise.
MCCAUL: Because as we see this threat all throughout the Northern Africa, as we saw Egypt fall, Libya, now Syria is a great culmination of the Sunni-Shia conflict, I personally see it's spreading like a spider web, like a wildfire through Northern Africa and the Middle East.
And as that threat increases overseas, so, too, does it increase to the homeland. And that's my biggest concern is homeland chairman is to keep that threat outside the United States. And I think it's getting worse, not better.
CROWLEY: And congressman, you're only intel committee. You see things most of us don't. I guess, my question is, are we up to this kind of new permutation of the terrorist threat?
SCHIFF: I think we are. And I was surprised when I have to say by the reaction we got from both our chairs last week. I think vis-a- vis the kind of attack we had on 9/11, we are much safer than we were. We have seriously degraded the core of al Qaeda, their ability to organize that kind of a massive attack. It's true there's a proliferation of the spinoffs of these low level attacks, plans of these lone wolves like we saw in Boston. They're still very threatening. But I think we are safer from the big attacks. We do see, you know, continued risk of these smaller attacks. And we see increased instability and Syria right now is ground zero.
CROWLEY: Are we up to the keeping them off our shores, which includes, by the way, U.S. embassies everywhere?
SCHIFF: I think we are better at it now than we have ever been. But we're never going to be 100 percent safe. And the kind of magnet that Syria has become with people flocking to Syria to join the jihad and who may come back is going to be a problem we're going to deal with the next decade.
MCCAUL: If I can associate myself with my colleague's remarks, absolutely. I think Syria is now the training ground for the world. These jihadists are pouring in every day. And these rebel forces, I believe, are more of a threat than anything, particularly, if they got a hand on these chemical weapons. That's one of my greatest concerns over there. I agree that the smaller scale attacks, they've evolved into that.
And 9/11-style probably couldn't happen today, but a small scale like we saw in Boston this very year, we saw Boston attack, the largest since 9/11, that could easily happen again. It's very difficult for our intelligence community to detect, to deter and disrupt that.
CROWLEY: So, one of my questions when I -- this week was a little consumed by the head of Amazon saying, you know, we're going to use drones to deliver packages. Now, whether, you know, self- promotion or, you know, whatever it happened to be, it's possible.
And my question is, if drones become that easy, like hey, we can drop your books off at your doorstep in 30 minutes, what's to keep people who would do us harm from setting up a drone with a dirty bomb or something that could -- I mean is that feasible?
SCHIFF: You know, it's feasible. I don't think that's the primary threat we need to be concerned about. You know, I was watching those drones stories and it kind of struck me as like the Jetsons come to life. It may be nice to get your books from a drone. The thing is that that drone is going to need cameras on it to guide it.
And I think people are going to have real privacy problems, even if it's delivering something you want, that it is scanning all of our neighborhoods as they'll be very little privacy left with that kind of a situation.
I do have a grave concern that as drone technology proliferates, many other countries are going to will start employing it and employing it with lethal capabilities. And that's a big problem. It's something that we need to think about in terms of our own drone program and the precedent we're setting and what that will mean for China and Russia and others. CROWLEY: Last word, congressman?
MCCAUL: Well, I think, you know, drones -- look, we've had a policy in a narrative that is ignoring a major threat that's out there, that I think threatens the homeland. I think drones are a good tool to go after high valued targets. I think that good intelligence, Special Forces, I don't think occupying countries is way to go. I do think that the smart ways to do it, but the problem is drones alone are not going to kill an ideology.
At the end of the day, this is a war of ideology that, in my judgment, the ideology of the enemy is growing and spreading. And I think the only way that we're going to finally end this is not just through military might but by utilizing the moderate Muslim which we have not effectively done to get that message out that, you know, this is not acceptable.
The moderate Muslim can be a very effective tool in this war against terrorism and against this war of ideology. And I think we need to focus on that as more as well.
SCHIFF: I agree completely.
CROWLEY: Congressman McCaul and Congressman Schiff, thanks for coming.
SCHIFF: Thanks for having us.
MCCAUL: Thank you.
CROWLEY: Good luck on the way home.
SCHIFF: Thank you.
CROWLEY: When we return, the number of jobs goes up, the unemployment rate goes down. Our happy times here again. And who gets to plan the victory lap? That's next.
CROWLEY: After five years of stops and starts, the U.S. economy may actually be in a steady recovery. The unemployment rate is the lowest in five years. Home sales and prices are up. Stocks are rising, and gas prices are falling. Not everyone is feeling it, though.
A new CNN poll shows that a quarter of the public believes things are getting better. Nearly four in ten say it's getting worse. Joining me now Kevin Hassett, former economic adviser to Mitt Romney, "New York Times" economic policy reporter, Annie Lowrey, and Mark Zandi, chief economist from Moody's Analytics. Thank you all for joining us. So, is this real? The worst has happened and we're on the road to recovery? Yes? KEVIN HASSETT, DIRECTOR, ECONOMIC POLICY STUDIES, AIEI: Yes. I think that we're clearly in a strong recovery now that if you look at the inflection and the data over the last couple of months, it's really the best couple of months I've seen since the great recession began. Consumer confidence is soaring. Auto sales jumped up to 16.4 million above the 16 million number which is kind of like the 98.6 for the economy.
Everything is looking good. It's that rare moment where we seem to be right on the verge of a --
CROWLEY: Wow! Could something mess with this?
MARK ZANDI, CHIEF ECONOMIST, MOODY'S ANALYTICS: Oh, yes, sure. I'm very excited as well. But it's not going to be a straight line, and there are two big hurdles we have to get over in the next few months. The first one is the battles here in Washington over the budget. We can't go down the same path we went down in October and shut the government down. That would derail things.
CROWLEY: Which, by the way, they seem united in their ability to not close it --
ZANDI: And the other hurdle is the Federal Reserve. So, the Federal Reserve is going to begin pulling back on its bond buying program. And, you know, that could be a little tricky as well. So --
CROWLEY: That's what kept interest rates low.
ZANDI: Exactly. Part of it. And they talked about tapering, so called tapering, that's pulling back on the bond buying early last year. The interest rates soared. So, there is reason to be a little nervous about that a well.
CROWLEY: So, Annie, who gets credit for this?
ANNIE LOWREY, NEW YORK TIMES ECONOMIC POLICY REPORTER: So, I think that this is just the economy finally getting into kind of a self-sustaining recovery years after the recession. It's worth noting even if the recovery picks up and growth gets stronger, we're still really, really far from an economy that's feeling good for most people.
Earnings are down in some cases. Wages are -- wage growth has been really sluggish. So, it doesn't feel great to most Americans even if optimism is picking up. And so, if we had job growth as fast as we saw last month, you're still looking at like six years before you get something like a really healthy, healthy unemployment rate.
CROWLEY: In fact, to that, let me just show you CNN/ORC poll. It was taken between the 18th and the 20th before some of these numbers came out. But the question was, how are things going in the country? And those who said things are going badly, 59 percent, which is a six- point jump from September, is that because of the so-called income gap? Like this sort of the rising rich? You know, my theory is just that, yes, you're seeing on these great figures, but people don't feel it because maybe they haven't actually been the recipient of the recovery.
ZANDI: You know, I think there's really something to the idea that there are two Americas. So, here in the top part of the income distribution, certainly, the top third of the distribution, then, you know, no problem. Your balance sheet is very strong. If you have any debt at all, it's probably a 30-year fixed rate mortgage, you refine down (ph) and you block in this low rates. You have no other debt.
Your house is appreciating. Your stock portfolio is appreciating. If you're in the bottom half, bottom third, you got problems, right? We still have foreclosure issues. Student loan debt is a big issue. And incomes are very -- real incomes after inflation haven't grown. So, very --
CROWLEY: Except for the top one percent.
ZANDI: Except for the top, right. So very different.
HASSETT: There's something to stick in here though which is the good employment news that we saw Friday, for example, had no impact on the top one percent. The people who didn't have a job who now have a job are the people who are really in the bottom half. And -- but also, if you look at the Michigan survey which I think is the most scientific economic survey out there, then sentiments skyrocketed in the last survey. It was the biggest increase I've ever seen. Have you seen one that large --
ZANDI: No. But it's still well, well, below where it was --
HASSETT: The point is that ordinary folks are starting to see it, too, is all I'm saying.
CROWLEY: So, back to the kind of the credit, like who gets credit for this? Because what's going to happen is this will play out in the budget discussions. It will play out first, I think, on extending long term unemployment, because Republicans look at it and say this was a stimulus program. We don't need it anymore now that employment is coming down.
And the Democrats are saying, no, we do. And the president, in fact, argues as many have, look, extended unemployment is great because that money goes right back into the economy. So, is it -- who has the upper hand here when they look at it? Do people look and go, well, the stimulus, you know, may have worked, but it plays out in arguments?
LOWREY: I think the part of what you're seeing with the politics here is that you would have this cliff, right? A lot of people would be getting these extended unemployment benefits and then right after Christmas, they wouldn't. And that's probably not the best way to do it even if you believe that you should start reducing and may -- you know, most days have reduced the weeks of unemployment benefits already.
But that's not the way to go about it. It's just suddenly yank (ph) the rug out from a lot of families that are feeling a lot of pain already. And I think that there's a little bit of -- the Democrats are really going to push for this. I think that there's actually a little bit of queasiness among Republicans that just, you know, kind of like letting two million families all of a sudden see the end of this.
ZANDI: It needs to be extended, in my view. Look, seven percent unemployment rate is about where the employment rate is and the typical American recession since World War II. It's still very difficult. And if you consider the people who are underemployed and given the low wage growth, I think the economy is much too weak at this point.
And here's the other thing. The way the current emergency UI (ph) program is structured, it does phase out as unemployment rates come in then people get less emergency UI. It happens state by state. So, they're in -- the way it's structured, it phases out over time as the economy improves.
CROWLEY: Right. I mean, there's still unemployment benefits, just extended unemployment benefits we're talking about. Do you agree with Mark?
HASSETT: No, I don't, because I think that the lengthy unemployment benefits have created a real problem. We've created the class of folks who are unemployed for longer than a year that it's very, very difficult to reconnect to society. I think that the highest priority right now is to develop programs for the long-term unemployed who are having a really hard time even getting a job interview right now and focusing on sort of extending the problem I think is the wrong thing to focus on.
If you look at President Obama's economic speech, the part that I liked the best was his emphasis on addressing the long term unemployment problem. And he said that he was going to meet with a bunch of executives at the White House soon and announce a new program. I'm actually quite eager to see what he says there, because that's something that I think --
CROWLEY: -- tax credit for hiring someone that's been unemployed --
HASSETT: Exactly, but these folks are really, really in trouble. And the good unemployment news doesn't really affect the long term --
ZANDI: We should do both, right? I mean, we should help the folks that are still in trouble. And Kevin is right. There is an element of the unemployment rate that's there because of the UI program. But even given that, it's been -- CROWLEY: People that stay unemployed because they can get enough from unemployment.
ZANDI: Yes. There's a lot of academic work and research, a lot of debate. But my estimates, two, three-tenths of percentage point on unemployment is due to the UI program. But the net benefit of this is very significant. But Kevin is absolutely right. We've got to work on long term structural employment --
HASSETT: But I just want to say that I disagree that we should do both in the following sense. What we should do, if you want to give more money to the people who are currently unemployed, just give them the money. Give them a lump sum of cash. Don't make them stay unemployed for another three months in order to get the checks. If you give them a lump sum of cash, then they'll go out and look for a job right away and you won't lack them into --
LOWREY: -- noting that also a lot of the long term unemployed, there are four million currently and that's probably underestimating because a lot of people have dropped out of the labor force. Many of them are not receiving UI right now. They're not getting anything, in some cases, except for, perhaps, food stamps or another program.
CROWLEY: Let me play you something that John Boehner said. This is his description of the economy right now. I just want to get quickly whether you agree or disagree with this description.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER, (R) HOUSE SPEAKER: There's no doubt that under President Obama, our country is falling into what I'll call a new normal, slow (ph) economic growth, high unemployment, stagnant wages.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Is that the new economy? Is that recovery?
HASSETT: That's the way the economy looked about three months ago. I think that the latest news has been significantly better than that. And I would say that it's really a challenge to both parties. I think that the Democrats and the Keynesians have been saying that we've got secular stagnation and we need a much bigger stimulus and we're stuck in this new normal, too. I think everybody has been surprised by the good news. And nobody really has figured out what the political story for that is.
LOWREY: But the turns (ph) are good, and the state is bad. I don't think that he's wrong that the economy remains pretty weak.
ZANDI: It's not a new normal, in my view. I mean, I think --
CROWLEY: You think it will get better?
ZANDI: Oh, absolutely. I mean I am -- as convicted as I've ever been about the state of American economy. We have come a long way from righting the wrong that's got us into this mess. We've -- American companies are incredibly competitive. The only thing that we lack us from the growth is confidence, and I can feel that coming back. And as soon as we do, we're going to get stronger --
CROWLEY: Enough talk like this. Everybody is going to get confident (ph). You know, both of you all agreeing and me as well. Mark Zandi, Annie Lowrey, Kevin Hassett, thank you for coming by.
LOWREY: Thank you.
CROWLEY: Appreciate it.
When we return, he called Nelson Mandela one of the greatest leaders of our lifetime and incurred the wrath of his Facebook friends then he fired back. Newt Gingrich is next.
CROWLEY: Welcome back. Let me show you some pictures. They are crowds celebrating the life of Nelson Mandela outside his house in Johannesburg today. Amazing that such a celebration over there certainly sadness but has been largely been a celebration. Joining me for more on Nelson Mandela, CNN CROSSFIRE host, Newt Gingrich.
You wrote a Facebook page and put out a statement praising Nelson Mandela, a man you supported very early on. You were supporter of sanctions against South Africa for apartheid. You wrote that on your Facebook and then we're surprised by some of the reaction you got. And I'm just going to read them for folks, a couple of them.
"Such an amazing rewrite of history since 1962 and 1990. Newt, I thought you of all people, a historian, would be true to who this guy really was." And then from someone else, "this clenched-fist murdering, guerrilla warrior does not deserve respect from informed Americans." What do you make from this backlash?
NEWT GINGRICH, CNN CROSSFIRE HOST: I was very surprised by it. I posted my statement on her Facebook page and was amazed at some of the intensity, some of whom came back three, four, and five times repeating how angry they were.
So I wrote my newsletter, Gingrich Productions, on Friday. Basically, I entitled it, what would you have done? And you know, everybody says they love freedom. Everybody who is proud of the farmers at Lexington and Concord who stood up to the British Army. Everybody who is grateful to George Washington for eight years in the field fighting the British Empire, here you are. You emerge as a young man. He actually went to a Methodist school. And Mandela went on to be largely a nonviolent person.
CROWLEY: A lawyer.
GINGRICH: A lawyer. Tried in court very effectively used his role as defendant. And then you get the takeover in the late '40s by the very, very aggressively, I would say savagely pro-apartheid party, largely (ph) Afrikaans. And all of your options are gone. I mean you're now up against an oppressive dictatorship, which if you're African, and if you're black means that you are going to be in effect in a police state. And he was one of the people who was opposed to it.
Now ironically, most of the things people complain about occurred during the 27 years he was in prison. And so I tried...
CROWLEY: The necklace thing comes up a lot.
GINGRICH: All of that stuff occurs while he's in jail. Now the two points that I make to people about Mandela personally are, first of all, this very long, deep commitment to freedom, which I think most of us could identify with. And second, that after 27 years in prison, he doesn't come out bitter. He doesn't come out angry. He comes out as an extraordinarily wise man, who actually invites his prison guard to sit in the front row at his inauguration as president.
CROWLEY: Do you think that this outpouring online, at least on your Facebook, and Ted Cruz also put out a very complimentary statement and saluting Nelson Mandela and got the same kind of pushback, do you think that these are fellow conservatives? Do you have any -- who do you think these folks are?
GINGRICH: I think there are some people who bought a rationale that defined everybody who were in any way in rebellion against the established system in the third world as anti-American. I don't think they were. I think that the - we in many cases we were - we were the symbol of what they wanted to - we were the kind of country they wanted to become.
But I do think there are people who have sustained this kind of mythology. And there is no question that in the '50s, Mandela moved from a nonviolent model towards being allied with the communists. And my point to conservatives is there weren't any conservative allies. Churchill's ally was Stalin during World War II. And I think in a similar tradition, Mandela was desperate by that stage. He saw the scale of the oppression. And the only allies that were available, frankly, were on the hard left.
CROWLEY: As you well know, President Ronald Reagan opposed putting sanctions on South Africa for its apartheid government. He rejected calls for Mandela to be released. Same with Margaret Thatcher, another leading conservative of the time. We know they were very focused on communism and South Africa had been the -- the South African government had been an ally. But they were on the wrong side of history.
GINGRICH: Well they were. In all fairness to Reagan, Reagan's ambassador to South Africa consistently put pressure on the government to modify its position, and consistently condemned apartheid. But their -- their commitment was to defeat the Soviet empire. Frankly they underestimated the importance of Islamic terrorism because they didn't want to think about it.
I mean they had one goal, which was a pretty big goal, which was to defeat the Soviet empire, and they succeeded. And in the process, they weren't willing to be diverted to what they would have called secondary issues, when you look at the worldwide scale of the Cold War. I think there's no question that you had a continued American effort to end apartheid. There were arguments about how --
CROWLEY: They weren't pro apartheid, they were just against sanctions.
GINGRICH: They were against sanctions. At the same time, for example I met at the time with Chief Buthelezi of the Zulu, and he was against sanctions. There was a really split argument inside South Africa, but a group of us decided in the end, a number of younger conservatives at that time, Bob Walker, Vin Weber, myself, to lead an effort. They argued if you're pro freedom, then you can't possibly be tolerant of apartheid.
CROWLEY: Newt Gingrich, thank you. Always interesting, appreciate it.
CROWLEY: When we return, Senate majority leader Harry Reid says the president if you like your health care plan pledge was true. Did he not get that memo? Our political panel is next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HARRY REID (D), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: What he said was true.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.
REID: If you want to keep those insurance you have you can keep it. The problem is that we did not put the bill into effect that way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: So that's the majority leader in the Senate Harry Reid explaining why the president did not break his promise and that people can keep their health care if they want despite the fact that millions are actually losing their health care.
Joining me around the table Mo Elleithee is communications director for the Democratic National Committee. Susan Page, she's Washington Bureau Chief of "USA Today." And former Ohio secretary state and current senior fellow at "The Family Research Council," Ken Blackwell. Welcome all.
So we've seem to have gotten past at least from the statistics the White House will give us the idea that the website is a mess. What we don't know is how it's actually going to play out. I'm not sure Harry Reid helped him at all in that particular interview. What do you see moving forward as the president's main problem as he tries to sell this? MO ELLEITHEE, DNC, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Well I think what the president's been doing the past week and is going to be doing over the next couple weeks is highlighting all the various benefits that the American people are already getting. And I think that is an important thing because first, he had to fix the website. And it looks like we're well on track to getting there. But also make sure that people realize it's not just several hundred thousand people that are signing up. But there are millions of people benefiting already, whether it's through pre-existing -- the potentials against pre- existing conditions or young people being allowed to stay on their policy. And other piece of it that I think is very important is that the American people understand that there is actually another choice besides this. And that is the Republican plan which is repeal. Which is to take all of that away from you. And that's what we need to keep doing as Democrats.
CROWLEY: Can the - we've heard from some economist that the economy is getting better. (INAUDIBLE) the president's arguing position on a lot of things, health care salvageable to you?
KEN BLACKWELL, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL, SENIOR FELLOW: No. I really don't think so. I think Obamacare is still unworkable, unpopular and unfundable. What this is a program that has accelerated our path to a single pair system even though the president denies this. You know, Harry Reid's comment, I mean that, was a classic case of who are you going to believe, your lying eyes or me? Your lying neighbor and they're (INAUDIBLE) about how hard it is to work into the program, how skyrocketing their health care costs is under this new. You know, this is a case where repeal is the only logical way of avoiding a catastrophe.
CROWLEY: But Susan, does the president in this argument and he's not going to repeal, he's not (INAUDIBLE) going to let this law get repealed, does he have new juice now? Because he does -- the website horror stories are trickling downward. The economy is looking like not great but better. Does he gather some new steam from this?
SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "USA TODAY": I think it's one of the cases where the reality will matter. You know, obviously the website is working better for consumers but we don't know how well it's working for working with the insurers who are then getting these people who are trying to enroll. The administration said on Friday one out of 10 people now signing up.
There are errors in the forms that then go to the -- on the back end form that's go to the insurance companies. That also needs to work out. And you know, I think there's been a lot of damage to the promise he made and broke that if you like your plan you can keep it. Whatever explanation can be made including Senator Reid's kind of perplexing one, I think that cost him a lot of credibility with the Americans. He needs to rebuild that and it can be rebuilt. But it's a process of rebuilding it and it doesn't happen automatically.
ELLEITHEE: And let's be clear. I mean the president -- when that - when that problem came to light, the president actually moved forward with a fix. Because that's what the American people want. The American people don't want repeal. They could not be more clear that they don't want repeal. The president and Democrats moved forward with the fix. But the Republicans keep saying that this is unfixable, that it should be scrapped, that is not what the American people want. And it is that point of view that has also led this obsession - with (ph) repeal has led to complete and total gridlock. There's no movement on immigration reform. There's no movement on employment, (INAUDIBLE) discrimination (ph). There's no movement on any other economic or budget matters, and that's going to be even more problematic. I think when people see those two sides put up against one another, that they actually appreciate the position that we're fighting.
CROWLEY: I'll let you do that right when we get back, but we have to take a quick break here.
When we return the Republicans are getting some tutoring, learning how to run against women. I'm not kidding.
CROWLEY: We are back with Mo Elleithee, Susan Page and Ken Blackwell. I have to move you along to this subject. We have learned this week that congressional Republicans are learning how to talk to women and how to run against women. I'm going to give Mo first crack at this, because he loves this story. But before you do, I just want to give you a few little blasts from the past from our current president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I don't think I'm that bad.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You're likable enough, Hillary (INAUDIBLE).
CLINTON: Thank you so much.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How are you going to help the American auto worker?
OBAMA: Hold on one second, sweetie. We're going to do - we'll do (INAUDIBLE).
-- because she's one of the finer looking politicians.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: So anyway, that was just to kind of calm you down a bit about Republicans learning to talk to women. What did you think of it?
ELLEITHEE: Well look I mean I think the Republicans' problem, what was so amusing to me, as a Democratic operative about this story that they were going to start pulling sensitive trainings (ph) on how to talk to and about women. Was that they still think it's about - that their entire problem is about the rhetoric, it's not. It's really about the policies. It's about the fact that Republicans say they want to do more and better outreach to women while continuing to try to push greater restrictions on women's access to health care. They're doing nothing in the Congress right now except for repeal and continuing to push further restrictions on women's access to health care. I don't see how they get over the hump.
CROWLEY: Ken, you have to at least be able to get women or any constituency to listen to you, and if the rhetoric turns you off, it may actually be rhetoric. I didn't think it was actually that bad of an idea to say, listen folks, sit down and listen to me, these are not ways to do this.
BLACKWELL: Look in improving communication skills to a variety of (INAUDIBLE) is always important the president improved his communication skills talking with women as we saw from that tape.
Look, at the end of the day, Republicans don't have a problem working with and talking with women. We control 30 of the governor ships. We control 26 state houses and Senate chambers. You know, we in fact know how to speak to women on their policy issues. I would agree with Mo, as long as it is about improving the art of communication and not abandoning policy, I think it's a pretty smart move.
CROWLEY: How about toning down some of the big things. What Mo's suggesting is that whenever you talk about a woman's right to choose, that somehow this loses you --
BLACKWELL: Mo and I disagree on the question of life and religious liberty and I'm saying that we both need to know how to speak to women on those issues without abandoning our policy differences because that's what politics is all about, being able to convince people that your policy is right.
CROWLEY: But you know, Susan --
BLACKWELL: And we have done that in the state and we can do it on the national level.
CROWLEY: And what is true, Susan, is that Republicans among white married women tend to do very well.
PAGE: Yes, but women have elected Democratic presidents, there's been a big gender gap on the national level for the Republican Party. Women are so perplexing, if you call them sweetie, it turnings them off. If you joke about rape or minimize the crime of rape, the violence of rape it turns women off.
(CROSSTALK) PAGE: Exactly. So maybe that's a lesson that everybody ought to learn.
CROWLEY: Right. And just sort of think through what you're actually about to say. So I've got to thank you all here, Mo Elleithee, Susan Page, Ken Blackwell, thanks for coming by. And thank you all for watching STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Candy Crowley in Washington.
Fareed Zakaria, GPS, starts right now.