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STATE OF THE UNION WITH CANDY CROWLEY
Interview with Martin O'Malley; Interview with John McCain
Aired January 12, 2014 - 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: A leading presidential possibility trips on a bridge. And Iraq may be slipping away. Today, how did he do?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I'm heartbroken about it and I'm incredibly disappointed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Another potential 2016er, Governor Martin O'Malley, gives his read on the Christie chronicles, his own push for a minimum wage hike and whether a progressive record in reliably Democratic Maryland could play nationwide.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
O'MALLEY: It's not about whether we move left or whether we move right, it's about whether we're making the better choices that allow us to move forward.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Then, al Qaeda on the move in Iraq.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: By fleeing Iraq and side-stepping Syria, has the administration helped empower terrorist forces in ways that have created long-term threats to U.S. national security?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: A deadly instability in Iraq, a lousy jobs report in the U.S., and from a man who survived and thrived in the wake of his own political crisis, maybe some tips for Chris Christie. Senator John McCain joins us.
Plus, oh, my, that book -- a man who worked for Republican and Democratic administrations uncorks on politics and politicians. He named names. Our panel dissects the political world according to former Defense secretary, Robert Gates.
This is STATE OF THE UNION. Good morning from Washington.
I'm Candy Crowley.
If 2014 turns out to be the year of the progressive, count in Governor Martin O'Malley. During his seven years in office, he has championed a minimum wage hike, higher taxes for the wealthy, some of the strictest gun laws in the country, same-sex marriage and the president's health care law.
Term-limited, O'Malley will be looking for work at the end of this year, right about the time the 2016 presidential race starts to take shape.
Joining me now, Maryland's Democratic governor, Martin O'Malley.
It's good to see you, Governor.
O'MALLEY: Hey, good to see you, too.
CROWLEY: So you've got a year and then you're going to move on. And I want to get to that a little later.
But let's talk about another 2016 presidential candidate, simply because he's been in the news, Chris Christie. I'm sure you know him, because governors tend to know one another.
What is your takeaway from watching this crisis unfold?
Is he damaged goods?
O'MALLEY: Oh, I don't know. I'm sure you'll have another panel later on in the show about that. The governor of New Jersey and I differ greatly on policy choices. I believe we've been making better choices in Maryland.
And in terms of this incident, I don't know that I can really shed more light on it. I think this is something for the people of New Jersey and the authorities up there to get to the bottom of.
CROWLEY: As a governor, can you conceive of something going on in your inner circle for four months as big as a four day traffic jam in one of your cities and not know about the involvement of your senior staff until four months later?
O'MALLEY: Well, the -- there's certainly no issue that bothers our citizens quite as much as traffic congestion.
O'MALLEY: And I certainly get reports on that all of the time.
And in terms of this matter, I mean I think it's -- I don't know that I can shed a lot of light on it, Candy. I mean this is still early and the people of New Jersey and the authorities up there will get to the bottom of things. CROWLEY: Well, let me talk to a couple of the things that are in the news right now. One of them is long -- benefits for the long-term unemployed.
CROWLEY: You are a supporter of that, one of the governors that has written and said you've got to do this. Unemployment at 6....
O'MALLEY: In fact, I think 14 or 18 of us have written and urged an extension of unemployment benefits.
CROWLEY: I think the question here is your unemployment rate, 6.4 percent, so slightly below the current national number.
O'MALLEY: Right. The most it's been in since the depths of the recession.
CROWLEY: Right. So at what point -- I mean some portion of the unemployed are always going to be the long-term unemployed. Republicans are saying, in one sense, if we can pay for it, we're good. But after six years, this is not emergency aid, this is something you have to factor in and pay for in the budget.
What's wrong with that logic?
O'MALLEY: Well, a lot of the ideologues that now steer the Republican Party always seem to find money for continued tax cuts for the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans. But when it comes to those moms and dads that are still looking for work after a huge structural recession, they start squawking about fiscal responsibility.
So, look, the way you make an economy grow is from consumer demand. And every economist will tell you that if workers have less money, they will spend less and your consumer demand will go down and your economy will not grow.
So if only, Candy, from an economic growth standpoint, we should be extending unemployment benefits for those that are still out there searching for work.
CROWLEY: But isn't that an argument for just continuing to do it?
I mean if it helps the economy, why not give benefits in -- you know, forever to the long-term unemployed?
I think the Republicans, as I understand it, most of them are saying, we can -- we're not opposed to doing it, we're opposed to doing it without paying for it.
O'MALLEY: Well, one of the ways you pay for it is to make your economy grow. So, in other words, these guys have had it backwards for a long time, about 30 years. They have believed that if you make the top 1 percent hyper wealthy, and wealthier and wealthier every year with tax cuts and other things, that somehow that will rain down upon the rest of us.
Their theory did not work. What we need is a more balanced approach. And we need to restore that balance with better choices, like some extension of unemployment benefits, increasing the minimum wage, maybe expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit, all of the things that actually grow your middle class so that consumer demand can can grow your economy.
CROWLEY: You are also championing this year in Maryland, as well as pushing the federal government, to raise the minimum wage.
Where is your mark for the federal government and your state?
Is it the same?
O'MALLEY: Well, it's interesting, if you look at the minimum wage since 1968, and if it had merely kept pace with inflation, it would be a little above $10 an hour. If it had kept pace with productivity, it would be $20 an hour. And if it had kept pace with the earnings of the top 1 percent of Americans, it would be $28 an hour.
CROWLEY: So where -- which one do you like?
O'MALLEY: I think we're zeroing in on around a $10 an hour minimum wage in Maryland, where, over the last five years, our people have achieved the distinction of attaining the highest median income of any state in the nation, the best public schools of any state in the nation. And we went four years in a row without a penny's increase to college tuition, because we believe in expanding opportunity to grow our middle class, to drive consumer demand. And that's why we're coming out of this recession better than other states.
CROWLEY: You are -- well, you are also blessed where other states are not, which is that you have some fairly high income federal workers. I mean it's Maryland. It's around the District. And, obviously, a lot of federal workers work -- live in Maryland and...
O'MALLEY: Sure. Geography...
CROWLEY: -- bring that income.
O'MALLEY: -- geography and those assets, especially in research and innovation, are clearly part of it. But the vast majority of our job creation, where we led the region in 2012, actually came from the private sector, over 80 percent with private sector job growth.
CROWLEY: Let me ask you about your -- the Maryland rollout of your health care marketplace was disastrous by most accounts. You have said, yes, it didn't work the way we thought it would work. There is now criticism that the senior leadership and your administration didn't notice all along that there were signs of trouble.
Were you asleep at the switch? You know, you had contractors that were suing and fighting with each other. You had people resigning. And so a lot of people said those were warning signs that something need to be done.
Did you miss it?
O'MALLEY: Oh, no. This complex IT challenge had ups and downs every step of the way. There were lots of cautionary lights, lots of red lights, but there were also green lights. And then the long article in "The Post" chronicled all of this. This was a very complicated endeavor.
But the bottom line is that we are more than half way to our enrollment goal now in Maryland, which was, albeit, an admittedly...
CROWLEY: Are you going to meet your goal?
O'MALLEY: I think we are going to make our goal. Right now, we're at about 180,000 people who we've enrolled.
Our goal is 260,000. So that Web site is now functional for most citizens. And we're still working through the problems.
It's an -- you know, this is an example of good week/bad week in "The Washington Post." Two days earlier, "The Post" called our health care reforms, in terms of our Medicaid waiver, the most significant grab the bull by the horns in terms of controlling health care costs that has happened in our nation in 50 years.
But the shopping Web site, we squibbed the kickoff. But we're making it better.
CROWLEY: Do you need -- I know you've been offered federal help to kind of take over the Web site to correct the remaining problems.
Is that something -- help you'll accept?
O'MALLEY: Well, that's something we've looked at since June. In other words, in the article today, they talked about, oh, the problems were there and the state people considered going to the federal Web site. The problem is, there was no assurance at that time that the federal Web site was going to work any better.
CROWLEY: And it didn't so...
O'MALLEY: And it didn't. And right now, in fact, our Web site is working a lot better for the majority of our citizens who are signing up for Medicaid than the federal site is. So I think the best time to evaluate that, Candy, will be after the enrollment process.
CROWLEY: So you don't have to make a decision -- that help is always out there if you want to turn it over to the Feds and say can you help with this?
O'MALLEY: They've been terrific. They've been very helpful. And it's not only the benefits, but it's also the risks of switching over in the middle of enrollment...
O'MALLEY: -- and diverting the IT assets and resources to this. Along -- the most important thing, though, is not a single person in Maryland has been denied coverage because of a prior existing condition. And this Affordable Care Act is going to have long-term benefits for our children and grandchildren.
CROWLEY: I want to turn your attention to something Florida Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican, said. As you know, the earnings gap, the shrinking of the middle class...
O'MALLEY: It's a huge problem.
CROWLEY: -- certainly -- and it's also a political year thing that Democrats think favors them in terms of, wait a minute, this income disparity is nuts and the of poverty -- we just celebrated -- if you use that word -- marks the 50th anniversary of Lyndon Johnson's war of poverty.
Marco Rubio said this week that he thinks all the money being spent out of Washington for anti-poverty programs and the programs themselves should be turned over to the states. Here's a little part of what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARCO RUBIO, (R) FLORIDA: Washington continues to rule over the world of anti-poverty policy making with beltway bureaucrats picking and choosing rigid nationwide programs and forcing America's elected state legislatures to watch from the sidelines.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: What do you think?
O'MALLEY: One of those so-called rigid programs is feeding hungry children. I don't think that there is anything rigid about a program where you feed hungry children.
CROWLEY: Sure. But I think his suggestion is we'll give you, Governor O'Malley, the money that we are sending you anyway for this program and you manage it.
O'MALLEY: Actually what he's saying is we'll send you less money because this year we want to cut dollars to feed hungry children.
Look, I think he's right to ask the question about poverty in our country and growing inequality, but I believe we have better answers. The answers to feeding hungry children is not fewer dollars to feed hungry children, it's to do more. It is to raise the minimum wage. It is to increase, not dismantle, the earned income tax credit. It is to make college more affordable for more middle class families, not more expensive. These are the things that grow our middle class. These are the things that drive consumer demand and grow our economy and so we believe in doing more of the things that actually work, not in this cynical shell game of cap and block grant and then dismantle.
CROWLEY: But as a general rule, you -- set the money aside. Let's say you get reasonably what you're getting now. What would be wrong with giving the money to state lawmakers and saying, you figure out how this is spent, use your own program.
You've experimented and gotten waivers and experimented in a lot of ways.
O'MALLEY: Hey, look. In some cases that can work. If your goal is to actually make government work, if instead your goal is to dismantle government for some ideological purpose, then it doesn't work.
I think there might actually be some merit to having greater use of waivers, for example, in work force development and combining those programs with metrics and outcomes so you deliver results.
But this notion that somehow by capping the dollars that the federal government puts into feeding hungry children, that somehow that will miraculously multiply the bread and fishes is poppycock. That's part of the ideology that we've been suffering from and our economy has been suffering from.
If workers have less money in their pockets to put food on the table, they will be spending less money, your economy will suffer. What we need to do is enact policies that actually help our middle class, rather than following this ideology of dismantling Washington and getting Washington out of everything that we do.
We're all in this together. And we need our national government.
CROWLEY: Governor, when you look at your state budget, which had been on a downward trend in terms of the deficit, you're now looking at a fairly large deficit. What happened there? And where are you going to find -- well, where is the next governor going to find the money to make up the deficit you're working with?
O'MALLEY: Yeah. We have been restoring fiscal responsibility for these last seven years. We inherited a $1.7 billion deficit from our predecessor. We're on the verge of closing that. In the budget that I submit this week, we will close it without any new taxes.
What part of what drives our budget, of course, is the economy and the pace of this recession. And it has been an extended recession. However, I've cut more in spending than any governor in modern history, and yet we've also been able to make the record investments in education, to make the number one schools, now record investments in transportation infrastructure and innovation.
And what we also have been able to do is to maintain a AAA bond rating, one of only seven/eight states with a AAA bond rating from all three major rating agencies.
CROWLEY: But if I understand you, there will be no deficit in this year's budget nor a way to project into a deficit for next year? O'MALLEY: No, we balance the budget every year and every year there are forecasts. And those forecasts depend on what sort of rate of growth you put into the economy.
Look, the best way for every state to reduce its deficit is for our national economy to grow at a faster pace. So every year we cut spending. Every year we reduce and shrink the size of that structural deficit. We're on the verge of eliminating it. We won't be able to eliminate it entirely this year, but we are getting to a point where we will be able to eliminate it in the next year or two ahead without any need for new taxes. We've done a lot of the tough choices and the restructuring necessary in order to right our ship. We reduced income taxes for 85 percent of us. We asked the top 15 percent of us to pay more and we are headed in a much better direction.
CROWLEY: Governor, I want to ask you to stick with me. I have to take a quick break, but I want to talk to you a little bit about what you plan to do after your term ends in January.
CROWLEY: Thank you.
CROWLEY: Welcome back. I am here with the governor of Maryland, Martin O'Malley. Before I get to your post governorship plans, I want to ask you about marijuana. You've said that you're opposed actually to the legalization of marijuana for recreational use. Why?
O'MALLEY: I'm opposed to it for a number of reasons.
O'MALLEY: I mean, in our state, I actually have signed legislation that allows police officers to issue citations instead of arrests. We've made a, you know, a mandatory stay and a right of appeal to anybody that's, you know, subjected to any sort of incarceration.
So I think there is something to be said for the proportionality. And I do think that all of that is important. There are fewer people incarcerated in Maryland today than when I was elected.
But for a number of reasons -- you know, one of them, Candy, is purely economic. In our state, a lot of the new opportunities that are opening up for our kids in security and cyber security and other things, they require a background check and they require that kids have clean records and the best...
CROWLEY: But if you legalized it, there wouldn't be a record.
O'MALLEY: Yes, but we can't do that as a state. That would be something only the nation could do. And for us to go down that direction as a single state, I mean I don't...
CROWLEY: Well, Colorado has.
O'MALLEY: Colorado has.
CROWLEY: (INAUDIBLE) legalized...
O'MALLEY: Yes, Colorado has.
O'MALLEY: And for Colorado...
O'MALLEY: -- perhaps that's a good choice and perhaps there's things we can learn from their experiment as a laboratory in democracy.
From Maryland's standpoint, I spend a lot of time in middle schools telling kids to keep a clean record so that they can get a good job and help their families.
CROWLEY: Let me take a look at your record over the last seven years. You've raised taxes on the top 15 percent, state income taxes. You've raised fees or taxes 24 times.
O'MALLEY: We've lowered them on the 85 percent.
CROWLEY: Right. I -- the top 15 percent, the other 85 went down. You supported same-sex marriage, the Dream Act, gun control. Now, you're looking at an increase in the minimum wage.
Can you sell that agenda nationwide, should you run for president?
O'MALLEY: Well, I believe that the people of our state and, also, the people of our country, want us to make choices on their behalf that yield results, results that make our economy grow by making...
CROWLEY: But that's a...
O'MALLEY: -- our middle class...
CROWLEY: -- those are progressive...
O'MALLEY: -- grow.
CROWLEY: -- which we used to call liberal agenda. And there are far more conservatives and moderates in the country than there are those who self-identify as liberal or progressive.
O'MALLEY: Yes. And I'm proud of each of those things. I'm proud of the people of our state.
But, also, having a -- being an inclusive people, respecting the dignity of every individual, these things are also good for an economy. These things are good for building an innovation economy and attracting the most talented workforce.
So, look, I think they all go together. What the people of our country want is not ideology, not trickle-down economics, but middle out economics, where we strengthen our middle class to grow our economy and to give our kids a better future.
CROWLEY: Governor, just straight up yes or no, are you going to run for president?
O'MALLEY: Oh, you know what, it's an honor to be mentioned in the company of those that might lead our country forward after President Obama. And right now, I'm focused on the work at hand and the work of this general assembly session in Maryland.
CROWLEY: Sure. I understand that. But you must be thinking about next year.
Are you thinking about it still?
And when do you think you'll make a decision?
O'MALLEY: Well, sure, I've said I'm thinking about it. CROWLEY: Right.
O'MALLEY: But right now, I'm primarily focused on what I need to do for the good people of our state.
CROWLEY: You've got that answer down pat.
O'MALLEY: I practiced it three times before.
CROWLEY: -- come back. That's -- I bet you did.
O'MALLEY: Candy, thank you.
CROWLEY: Thank you so much, Governor
It's a pleasure having you on.
O'MALLEY: Thanks a lot.
A pleasure being with you, as always.
CROWLEY: When we return, a surge of violence in Iraq raises new questions over how much responsibility the U.S. has to help.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: We are not, obviously, contemplating returning. We're not contemplating putting boots on the ground. This is their fight.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Up next, the resurgence of al Qaeda in Iraq and the riffs to the U.S., with Senator John McCain.
CROWLEY: Joining me now, Senator John McCain, Republican from Arizona.
Senator McCain, thank you for joining us.
I want to start out with Iraq, where the violence, much of it certainly in Fallujah, driven, apparently, by al Qaeda, that is pushing this country toward, it looks like, a civil war between, again, once again, the Sunnis and the Shia.
How do you see the U.S., quote, "involving itself in this?"
MCCAIN: There's none. And that's why we are paying such a heavy price.
The president of the United States said the surge wouldn't succeed, and it did. And he wanted out of Iraq. We're out. And now you've seen increasing Iranian influence. You're seeing Maliki being very -- persecuting the Sunni minority. The Iraq/Syrian border is now becoming a haven for al Qaeda. And now, of course Fallujah.
You know, the battle of Fallujah -- the second battle of Fallujah, Candy, we lost 95 American soldiers and Marines, and 600 wounded, the bloodiest battle of the war. Now we see Fallujah, vehicles driving down the main street with al Qaeda flags.
It's very distressing to those veterans who fought so hard.
And this president wanted out. We got out. They would never say the number of troops that they wanted to have there, so Maliki decided to go his own way. And we are now seeing dramatically increased Iranian influence there in Iraq.
CROWLEY: I want to see if I have this correctly. Watching what's going on in Iraq now, you think there is absolutely nothing the U.S. can do that might help purge, certainly, the al Qaeda members out of Iraq?
You think that is a lost cause?
MCCAIN: No, we can -- we can -- no, no. We can -- I apologize if I gave you the wrong impression.
First of all, no combat troops, obviously. Let's get that out of the way. But we could provide him with assistance. We could provide them with logistic support. We can provide them with Apache helicopters.
But at the same time, Maliki has got to have an Anbar awakening. He's got to reach out to the Sunni. He's got to have reconciliation.
And when we left and the Iranian Shia influence dramatically increased -- and, by the way, we could have kept a residual force there and anybody who tells you that we could have is not telling the truth. MCCAIN: But you know we need -- I would suggest perhaps sending David Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker back over there. Maliki trusts them, and try and get this thing sorted out, because it is not just Iraq. When you look at Iraq-Syria, you are seeing an Al Qaeda enclave there and that is very dangerous to American national security, not to mention what's happening in Syria, of course, where, again, the United States is disengaged. Thank god for the Saudis and Prince Bandar, we're starting to see a little bit of reversal there, thank god.
CROWLEY: And when you look -- as you know, former defense secretary Gates has a book out now that we've seen the excerpts and will soon be up for sale. In which he describes pretty vividly, both Hillary Rodham Clinton, the secretary of state, and the president talking about the political influence on their decisions about a surge in Afghanistan or -- a surge in Iraq. Is this the appropriate time for a member of the president's cabinet to put things like this out there, which is a criticism of the president, frankly, while we're still at war in Afghanistan? Was the timing of the Gates book appropriate?
MCCAIN: I'm a great admirer of Secretary Gates. And he and I have disagreed from time to time. But I think he's one of the finest public servants that I've known. He's obviously very frustrated and felt - which by the way surprised all of us who know him -- and he's decided to really kind of let loose. And by the way most observers who would say that Hillary Clinton's vote for Iraq versus Barack Obama's against it was a determining factor in who gained the Democrat nomination. I'll never forget Hillary Clinton saying she would have to have a willing suspension of disbelief in order to think that the surge would work. But I think that Secretary Gates is frustrated. I'm a great admirer of his. The question--
CROWLEY: Right. But was it appropriate?
MCCAIN: I think, frankly I might have -- if I have giving him advice, I would have waited. But as far as waiting until it is over in Afghanistan, I wouldn't have done that. But maybe retrospect of a little longer than now. But I also respect his ability to voice his views any time he wants to.
CROWLEY: I want to ask you about the National Security Agency. The president this week will begin the talk about the restrictions he wants to place on U.S. surveillance. Do you think any restrictions are needed and what would you go for?
MCCAIN: Well, I would go for a thorough review by Congress, too, because we're going to most likely have to pass legislation to implement or not implement the president's recommendations. Let's face it, when one guy who works for a contractor is able to reveal all this information -- and supposedly there's much more that he hasn't -- then there's something wrong with the system right there. Second of all, there have been overreach, it seems to me. Sometimes these agencies have done things just because they can. I think we need a select committee in Congress to go over this whole scenario because it does overlap many committees and we should have a select committee working with these, among other things, these commission's recommendations and see what we can come up with. Is there anybody that believes that this system is not broken in many respects? I think not.
CROWLEY: Domestically, one of the things that we knew from the exit polls in the last election, that when people felt that the premier quality of a president should be that he cares about people. President Obama won that vote 81 -- by 81 percentile. 81 to 18 with Romney. The most important quality. Now the Republican Party is facing votes on extending jobless benefits for the long term unemployed and, b, raising the minimum wage. Is there any way from a purely perceptual standpoint that Republicans will not take the hit for looking as though they, "don't care about people"?
MCCAIN: Well, first of all, I think it is a very clever strategy on the part of the Democrats anything but Obamacare. Second of all, we Republicans have to be better in our messaging. For example, Senator Reid will not allow us a single amendment on the unemployment insurance. We think we know ways to make it better. Not a single amendment is allowed in the United States Senate.
CROWLEY: Right. I think he's changed his mind on that, has he not? And said he will allow some amendments?
CROWLEY: Well, he changes from day to day. We'll see. I've had numerous conversations with him about it. We should have amendments on -- we've had four Republican amendments in the last several months in the United States Senate. People don't believe that. So we have to be careful how we message. But this is a system that needs to be fixed. It needs to be modified. We needed to have it reviewed. We need to have it paid for. All of those things. And if we could have open debate in the United States Senate and amendments, then maybe we could make it better in the long run. There are negotiations going on as we speak. Instead, it is being rammed through, cut off debate, no amendments, and that's not the way the Senate should function. Now have we got that message across well enough yet? No. But I think we can.
CROWLEY: Finally, Chris Christie, a man I'm sure you know, the New Jersey governor, who is facing a political crisis, I think we can say, about what he did or didn't know about a traffic jam that some of his aides kind of cooked up out of revenge for a mayor. One of the things that Chris Christie said was, look, I didn't know anything about this, about the involvement of my staff, until a couple of days. It had been four months actually since the traffic jams. So my question to you is, does that pass the smell test do you think politically? "I didn't know anything about it," you know, been talked about for four months. And do you think there is more work for Governor Christie to do to get over this?
MCCAIN: I thought he did an excellent job by the very lengthy press conference. Having gone through this, I know that you've got to answer every question. You can't leave any question unanswered. I think that he can now move on as long as another shoe doesn't drop. Too often, Candy, we have seen these things that it's not the end of the story. But I'm a great admirer of Governor Christie. I thought he handled himself extremely well in that press conference and now we'll have to wait and see whether there's any more to the story.
CROWLEY: You run a staff. Do you think it is feasible that senior members of your staff could pull something like this off without you really knowing about it?
MCCAIN: Well, being the governor of a state, as you know, is dramatically different. He points out that he has 45,000, I think, employees. Although obviously these weren't average employees. I think he stated very clearly, he should have known. I think he stated very clearly and very openly and honestly. And that's why he has to answer every single question. Is this a blow to him? Obviously. How permanent it is I think is -- we will know in the days and weeks ahead. But I don't think he could have handled it any better than he has so far.
CROWLEY: Senator John McCain from Phoenix for us today, thank you so much.
MCCAIN: Thank you, Candy.
CROWLEY: When we return, more on that explosive memoir from the former secretary of defense and how it could affect the next presidential election. The political panel is next on STATE OF THE UNION.
CROWLEY: Joining me around the table, Mo Elleithee, he is communications director for the Democratic National Committee. Karen Tumulty, national political correspondent for "The Washington Post," and Sean Spicer, communications director for the Republican National Committee. And there you are in the middle so just (INAUDIBLE).
Let me just start off with the Gates book. Because I did think it was sort of an astonishing timing and really took out after pretty much everybody. One of the things that's getting the most play, of course, is what he said about Joe Biden and this is a quote from the book. "The vice president was poisoning the well with the president with regard to Petraeus and Afghanistan. I said I thought Biden was subjecting Obama to Chinese water torture every day saying, the military can't be trusted, the strategy can't work, it's all failing, the military is trying to game you, to screw you. I said we couldn't operate in that way." He also said that Biden has been wrong on every single foreign policy issue in the last 25 years. Does this in any way figure into politics? Because he also had some negative things to say about Hillary Clinton and the president.
MO ELLEITHEE, DNC COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Well, in this town I think you want everything to factor into politics. Look, I'm going to disagree with Secretary Gates as much as I respect him of his characterization of the vice president. The vice president has believed in foreign policy for a very long time, whether it was Bosnia, whether it's nuclear nonproliferation issues. He has been on the right side more often than not. Here's what I'd (ph) say, we do want to talk politics, let's talk politics. President Obama, Vice President Biden, Secretary Clinton, all came into office on the promise that they were going to end the war in Iraq, that they were going to go after Al Qaeda so we could draw down and end the war in Afghanistan. That's what we've done. And so if you're going to talk politics - either of those two I don't know either of one of them would run for anything ever again. But anyone that runs on that, promise made, promise kept, on that legacy of foreign policy and national security strength that has made America and the world a safer place they will do well running on that.
SEAN SPICER, RNC COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Well, I think what Mo said, what everyone said, Senator McCain has said, Bob Gates is someone that is universally respected in this town. And so when he comes -- someone of that nature, who doesn't come at this from a political angle, has these kind of observations about both policy and politics, how people are coming to these key decisions, it does have an effect. And one of the two is going to run for president. And I think both of them are going to suffer because it is someone who has tremendous amount of credibility and respect in this town.
CROWLEY: And Karen, he did mention in the book that when it came to the surge, that both - that he was astounded that both Hillary Clinton and President Obama admitted that politics figured into their opposition to a surge in Afghanistan. It does make - and by the way, has no love lost for anyone in Washington, apparently. He's hard for the Republicans though, isn't he, because there is also implicit criticism of Republicans.
KAREN TUMULTY, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, "THE WASHINGTON POST": That's right. And I think that what gives the book its power - I mean there's been some criticism of Secretary Gates for having written this book at all, for the timing. But you know, this is a man who served under so many presidents and has had to live over the past decade -- more than the past decade with every day knowing that he was committing troops to combat. And that is really what is so extraordinary about this book. It is a view of leadership that we are simply not going to get from any other person.
CROWLEY: I think the timing more than anything --
SPICER: I think to Karen's point, I mean the politics of this, especially when it comes to Hillary Clinton. That's going to be a big problem. You remember what we were able to do with John Kerry when it came to he was against the war before. It is not always the policy that matters. It is how people come to those decisions. I think what the book highlights is that for Hillary Clinton in particular, it's all political. It's which way does the wind blow. I've got to figure out how I get on that. That's what Gates is getting at. And I think that's what's troubling because --
ELLEITHEE: Except for the fact - except for the fact that, as I said earlier, they all ran. They all ran on a promise to end the war, to end two wars that the American people definitely wanted us to get out of, and they succeeded. At the end of the day, I think that's what people care about much more than --
TUMULTY: And he also - and he also describes her as idealistic and principled and intelligent -- CROWLEY: (INAUDIBLE) almost (ph) everything (ph).
TUMULTY: Exactly. So I think that, you know, it is a real mixed bag for Hillary Clinton. The other thing though is he makes it clear that she was on kind of a pretty short leash with this White House, which it could complicate her ability to run on that credential as secretary of state.
ELLEITHEE: Look. And Secretary Gates himself has been saying for the past couple of days that a lot of how his book is being read and is being misconstrued and misinterpreted. And so there is going to be a lot of time to litigate what's in this book and what's not. But at the end of the day, anyone that runs on that agenda, on that record, is going to have a strong record to run on. CROWLEY: Talk to me about long-term unemployment benefits. Comes up this week in the Senate. Again, are they going to get this? And Sean, to you in particular, isn't this a tough one for Republicans who are always accused of, you don't care about anybody, taking on the long-term unemployed?
SPICER: I think we've got to get the message straight. And the message I think what it comes down to is obviously we as Republicans, our first and foremost responsibility is to help everyone who wants to get a job, a job. Something that's long-term, that means you don't have to live month to month or you don't have to worry about paying that electric bill or your kid's school tuition. That's what our goal is so we're looking at long-term solutions instead of these short-term band-aids that sort of get folks into a cyclical aspect of government dependency.
What we're seeing in the Democratic side is more of a talking point. They want to box Republicans in and win the debate. They don't want to actually necessarily solve the problem. You saw six Republicans joining with Senator Reid saying, hey, we will support this if we can help, a, pay for it and, b, put some programs and reforms in place that help people get back to work.
This is the big issue for me. We have 150 bills that the Republicans in the House have sent to the Senate, including things like the Keystone pipeline, that will put people back to work immediately, and the Democrats would rather not pass those to have a talking point about short-term unemployment. That's just wrong.
ELLEITHEE: Sean (INAUDIBLE) I love you, but with all due respect, this continues to be part of the problem I think of the Republican Party. We just need to get the messaging right. The problem is the agenda is wrong. When you are against the minimum wage increase, when you are against long-term unemployment insurance benefit extension, when you are against all these programs, when you're against Medicaid expansion, what you are doing is fundamentally not only hurting the people that need the most help as we get back on our feet but you're actually undermining the economy in general. I will put the Democratic record up against the Republican record on the economy any day of the week. When we've had 46 straight months of job growth, private sector job growth, when we have actually helped turn around a fiscal -- near fiscal collapse, I will put that record up against you any day of the week. When you are not extending unemployment insurance not only are you hurting people in need but you are hurting the overall economy. That's money that gets pumped back into the economy.
TUMULTY: The nature of the problem is different than we have ever seen it. The rate of the long-term unemployed is higher that it has been since, you know, World War II and both parties are still talking about this from kind of their ideological base, from their -- I think what people are listening for are some ideas that actually sound creative, that maybe are, you know, addressing the problem as opposed to addressing the --
CROWLEY: The long-term solution is how about people get those jobs.
SPICER: And every one of those -- every one of those -- I mean, Karen's right, we're at a 36-year low when it comes to the number of people participating in the labor force. Meaning more people would rather give up looking for work than actually go out and try to find a job. But the problem is that as Mo ticked off all these government programs, all of them are alleviated the second you get a good paying job. I mean all of them. You don't need to worry about the minimum wage most of the time, you don't need to worry about Medicaid. So if we pass -- and I know I go back to it, but it's the easiest thing to go back to. Why are we blocking a bill like the Keystone pipeline that provides tens of thousands of jobs with benefits that will need no dependency on the government that unions support, a lot of Democrats support.
ELLEITHEE: What about all the people who would lose their jobs when -- by not extending unemployment insurance? All the people whose small businesses are supported by these folks actually putting money back into the economy? I mean this is actually a no-brainer in that it helps people that are struggling and it helps the overall economy.
CROWLEY: A question about helping the long-term unemployed or is the question really should we pay for it or should we not pay? Is this an emergency after six years of this benefit or is it not an emergency and we should find some place in the budget for (ph) it (ph)?
TUMULTY: It is an emergency because it is hitting every single demographic group. Young people, old people, college degrees, high school diplomas. It's something that I think just about every family in America is feeling right now.
CROWLEY: Everybody hang on for me. We do have one more round. Chris Christie's long-term prognosis. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
CROWLEY: Back now with Mo Elleithee, Karen Tumulty and Sean Spicer. Let's just start this out with a picture being worth a million words. This is from "New Yorker" magazine their cover, Chris Christie playing in traffic. So I think we all kind of get that. I also would like to share one of Mo Elleithee's tweets during the news conference, which, I'm not going to read all of this, but I think it goes to 140 characters, me, me, me, me, me, me, me, (INAUDIBLE) which made me laugh. But I think my question to you is, yes, he did -- everyone seems to think he did really well defending himself, is it there will be investigations, there will be more documents, there will be all of that stuff, but assuming that Chris Christie is totally telling the truth and there's nothing that shows he knew about this, is this over? Is he still a leading Republican candidate for president?
SPICER: Absolutely. Not only that, but I would argue that how he handled this really says a lot about the type of leaders that we need more of in this country. Not defending what happened, but I think that what America is yearning for is that yes, mistakes will happen, do you own them? Do you take responsibility for them? And do you put -- take action to ensure that they don't happen again. Too often frankly whether it's Benghazi, GSA, the IRS scandal, we don't say me, me, me, me. We say it's somebody else's fault. Blame somebody else. I have nothing to do with this. What Chris Christie did was he said is, yes, the buck stops with me, I'm in charge, I take responsibility for it, I'm going to fix it. That's something we don't see too often in this country frankly right now.
CROWLEY: You're shaking your head, Mo. Let me let you put words to that.
ELLEITHEE: What we saw was a two-hour long display of Chris Christie making himself out to be a victim. That's what we saw. We saw Chris Christie standing up there saying, I cannot believe I was betrayed. I cannot believe that people would lie to me. Not enough of Chris Christie showing real anger about what happened. Here's what we know --
TUMULTY: He fired people.
ELLEITHEE: Here's what we know -- here's what we know that Chris Christie's closest aides did something that hurt the people of New Jersey, he did it -- they did it in a very callous way. Or that he himself used. However, however, Chris Christie, while he may or may not have known, we're still waiting to see how the investigation plays out, clearly created a culture where his office, the people closest to him, thought it would be OK. They did something they thought the boss would like. And that's a problem. That speaks to his leadership.
CROWLEY: The culture -- the culture of a place certainly does add to things, Karen. Does it, though, bring questions to management, to your closest aides did this thing which was all over -- and four months later you go I didn't know they were involved until yesterday. TUMULTY: Intensely personal brand of leadership and I have a story this morning, we do in "The Washington Post" where his former mentor Tom Kean, former governor of New Jersey says, this guy may be the most talented able politician since Bill Clinton but people are going to ask themselves, do we want all that in the White House.
CROWLEY: I want to thank you all so much. Sean Spicer, Karen Tumulty, Mo Elleithee, come back. And thank you all for watching STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Candy Crowley in Washington. Head to CNN.com/SOTU for analysis and extras. If you missed any part of today's show find us on iTunes.
Fareed Zakaria, GPS, is up next for our viewers here in the United States.