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Interview With Oregon Congressman Greg Walden; Interview With New York Congressman Steve Israel; Mystery of Flight 370; Kathleen Sebelius Departs

Aired April 13, 2014 - 09:00   ET



CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: In Washington, good buy, Kathleen; hello, midterms.

And from the depths of the Indian Ocean, five days of silence.

Today, Australia's somber assessment:

TONY ABBOTT, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: No one should underestimate the difficulties of the task still ahead of us.

CROWLEY: And Malaysia's mea culpa:

DATUK SERI HISHAMMUDDIN HUSSEIN, MALAYSIAN TRANSPORT MINISTER: There are times when we -- we are lost in translation. And we're learning through this process.

And, basically, I'm not saying that we -- we were -- we must -- handled it perfectly.

CROWLEY: Our reporters and experts with the latest in the search for Malaysia Flight 370 in waters three miles deep and the coulda, shoulda, wouldas in Kuala Lumpur.

And then:

REP. GREG WALDEN (R), OREGON: Our job is to elect Republicans to office and make sure that there's a check and balance on the Barack Obama administration.

REP. STEVE ISRAEL (D), NEW YORK: Tough climate, no question about it. Won't sugarcoat it.

CROWLEY: The chairmen of the Republican and Democratic congressional campaign committees, Greg Walden and Steve Israel, with the early line on the 2014 elections and whether races are holding up immigration reform.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: She's got bumps. I have got bumps, bruises. CROWLEY: Obamacare remains, and Kathleen Sebelius leaves -- our political panel on whether the departure of the health secretary improves Democrats' chances in November.



CROWLEY: Good morning from Washington. I'm Candy Crowley.

The search for Flight 370 is entering its sixth week -- its sixth week -- and there are fears the batteries that are fueling the beeper on the plane's black boxes may have died. It's been five days since searchers detected what may have been pings from the missing jet's black boxes.

Malaysia's transport minister says finding those data recorders is critical to clearing 370's crew and passengers.

We have CNN reporters covering this story from several angles. Will Ripley is in Perth, in Australia -- Perth, Australia. Joe Johns is in Kuala Lumpur, and Pauline Chiou in Hong Kong.

Thanks, all, for joining us. You're doing yeoman's work out there, I know, and are probably exhausted.

Will, you're in Perth. It is home base for this search. It is nighttime, so the planes have come back or are headed back. Anything new?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, what was new today, the search area size increased by about 6,000 square miles.

And as of our last update, still no debris recovered, and no pings in five days, as you mentioned. So, I guess the big headline here that could be coming up this week is, is the search going to transition from listening to deploying the submersible? We could get answers on that this week, but, today, no major developments as far as what was found out on the Indian Ocean.

CROWLEY: So, the fact that they have broadened the search area, does that indicate that they do think they're now moving back to, we have got to find some debris and obviously put in those underwater sonar detectors?

RIPLEY: You know, for the 307 families, this debris is crucial. Even a photo you have to think might not be enough for some of these families who have now waited so long and have yet to see any physical evidence that this aircraft is where the search teams strongly believe that it is.

But, you know, this debris field, if there is even still debris floating, has been a moving target for 37 days. And so they keep poring over this data, trying to figure out where this -- this stuff might be. And they just -- they just haven't found it. But, you know, this is -- there -- somewhere out there, there is a plane, there are 239 people, and there's definite determination out here to find it for these families and find those people.

CROWLEY: Absolutely.

And, Joe Johns, you're in Kuala Lumpur, home base for, of course, Malaysia Airlines. It is hard to watch over the past now almost six weeks the Kuala Lumpur government dealing with this.

I mean, it's a small country. This is a global story. They were thrust into the headlines all over the world. They don't seem to have a lot of answers. Some of it, you can understand.

But what is your feel for the Malaysian government, how it sees its own role in what it's done? And are they -- when they don't answer questions, is it about not knowing the answers, or are they just not used to giving out all the information?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Oh, it's definitely a little bit of both.

The most important thing, I think, Candy, is, they don't know where the plane is, and neither does anybody else. They have gotten a lot of heat. They have taken a lot of questions, hard questions from the international media, including CNN.

And there's been some pushback, too. Last week, they pushed back against the "Daily Mail" newspaper out of U.K. There's also -- also pushback against CNN, the transport minister retweeting a humorous cartoon lampooning CNN.

I asked one of the lawyers in town, what is all this pushback about from the government? And he said, it's all about public consumption, making people understand here in Malaysia that this government is not intimidated. They may not do everything right, but they can still give as good as they can get, Candy.

CROWLEY: And, Pauline, I want to bring you in from Hong Kong, because it occurs to me that, at the very beginning, we heard a lot from the relatives that obviously were waiting at the airport for this Malaysian flight to come in to China, which was its destination.

And we haven't heard much since. What's happened there? PAULINE CHIOU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think you're not hearing as much public anger and criticism in front of the TV cameras because -- for a couple of reasons. A, it's the 37th day. The families are just exhausted emotionally, and they're frustrated.

And the other issue is, the Chinese government has put a little bit of pressure on the families behind closed doors to step back a little bit and to dial back some of that criticism. And we know this because I was in Beijing for 33 days, and I saw some of the closed- door briefings from the outside, where government officials were inside. And after some of these briefings, the families did tell us that government officials had said to them, listen, it's probably better if you step back a little bit, and let us -- let the government deal with this government to government.

And that has happened probably in the past week-and-a-half or so. But it's quite different from what we saw in the early days. Remember March 24, when Malaysia's prime minister made that announcement on television that the plane had probably gone down in the Indian Ocean and everyone had to presume there were no survivors.

Well, the very next day, Candy, you remember that big protest by the family members in Beijing...


CHIOU: .. as they walked to the Malaysian Embassy. That kind of protest does not happen in Beijing very often.

And the government could have stopped that if they wanted to. But, in essence, it -- in essence, it was really the government saying, let the families put the pressure on the Malaysian government, instead of the Chinese government. This was early on. Now you're seeing a little bit of a shift now, as we're heading into the fifth week.

CROWLEY: You know, Will, sort of spinning off what Pauline just said and what Joe just said, like no other government involved in this, the Australian government has gotten a lot of shine. They have seemed competent. They have been out there every day, apparently giving as much information as they had.

It is interesting to me to see Prime Minister Tony Abbott take such a front seat in this whole thing and be out there in public. I was trying to think if there were a -- if there were a plane crash off the U.S., the president wouldn't be the guy probably to come out and talk about the investigation.

RIPLEY: You know, you have got to think, this is a relatively new prime minister, elected less than a year ago. And this is his first opportunity as prime minister to speak on this international stage.

You know, one thing that I thought was interesting, Candy, you know, you take a look at the local papers here, the national papers in Australia, on the front page here, you don't see any mention of Flight 370. It hasn't been front-page news here for days.

So, the real attention, more than domestically here in Australia, is internationally. And it's also Prime Minister Abbott was in Beijing trying to push through this free trade agreement, which is very important to Australia, given the trade relationship between the two countries.

And so to have this press conference, to show the strength of Australia, to show the command that he has and that -- you know, with his search chief, Angus Houston, it certainly was a deliberate -- it was a deliberate move.

CROWLEY: Sure. Sure. I mean, I think, you know, there are always politics to a crisis, and this one is no different.

Joe Johns, how about in Kuala Lumpur and in Malaysia at large? How is it viewed in that country? Is it as a front-page story? How are they viewing their government and how are they viewing the story itself?

JOHNS: It's not a front-page story every single day, but from time to time, it will pop up. Sort of depends on the exclusive that one newspaper or another might get.

But we went over to a radio station here in town just to try to take the pulse, the temperature of Kuala Lumpur -- a lot of people on the radio talking about it very concerned about the Malaysia public image. They're concerned about relations with China, which is very important to them, obviously, for trade reasons.

And I think they're also concerned about tourism. They're concerned about people coming to this country, considering the fact they have had this problem with this plane.

So, people in Malaysia would like to see this thing, number one, over, and they want the government to sort of give a clear and consistent message every time they speak, because they think it reflects poorly on the country if they don't.


And, Pauline, Joe mentions the relationship between Malaysia and China. What is the nature of it, since it seems that China is quite willing to let the Chinese families criticize the Malaysian government? But we haven't seen a lot of it directly government to government.

CHIOU: Yes, generally, the relationship between China and Malaysia is good.

There are trade and economic issues. For example, China is the third largest trading partner for Malaysia.

CROWLEY: So, it's important, yes.

CHIOU: But Joe was mentioning the tourism issue.

The tourism minister of Malaysia just recently acknowledged in a conference that they have postponed promotional tourism ads for Chinese tourists out of sensitivity over this issue. And -- and Chinese tourists made a huge portion of the tourism industry in Malaysia.

But from a geopolitical point of view, China has territorial spats in the region with Japan, the Philippines, Vietnam. So, it needs allies in the region. So, that's one reason why China doesn't want to really shake up the relationship with Malaysia over this situation.

Sure, MH370, it is a very personal issue for China, with the 154 Chinese nationals on the plane, but there are other issues. There are trade issues. There are territorial disputes as well.


CHIOU: So that's why China is being very careful in -- in how it manages its relationship with Malaysia.

CROWLEY: Yes. And, Will, I want to do one more round with all of you.

And, to you, I saw a quote earlier this week that said, once this search goes to these underwater unmanned vehicles through sonar, it could take a couple weeks and it could take years. How in is the Australian government? Can they afford to continue this search in any kind of meaningful manner for years?

RIPLEY: The prime minister touched on the cost of the search. It hasn't been broken down by country. We know it's in the millions here in Australia.

CNN has estimated in our previous reporting that it's some $21 million a month for the international effort, and Australia obviously fooling -- footing a pretty big share of that bill, considering that they have, you know, their ships out there deploying planes. They're dropping these sonobuoys.

Not once has it been mentioned to me by anybody out on the street who I have talked to, any reporters who I have spoken to -- there have never been -- there's never been a question, are we spending too much money, are spending too much time?

It seems like, at least for now, anecdotally on the ground here, Australians are behind this. They're happy to see their country taking the lead. And I think that Australia is -- you know, is being seen, perceived as really handling this very well by many people.

Now, let's talk again in two months, six months.


RIPLEY: If the -- if the search continues, will that be sustainable? That's the big question.

CROWLEY: And, Will, you know, it looks lovely in Australia right now. And I know it's fall.

But, soon, you will be heading into winter. How does that, if at all, affect the search?

RIPLEY: Well, the weather conditions out on the ocean obviously change depending on the seasons. And that was really a big factor when we were talking about the search area that was much farther south. It was bad heading into early fall, it was and expected to get even worse out on the oceans over the winter. I mean, look, the weather -- the weather in the search area is what really matters. I mean, obviously, planes taking off here, you know, they can be delayed if there's weather conditions.

But it's what's happening out. And we had some pretty bad weather yesterday. There were swells. There were showers. There was poor visibility. And when you're talking about a visual search, looking over the water, that's a really big factor. Underwater, deploying the submersible, not affected by as much by the weather, but you still have to have ships and crews operating in those conditions.

CROWLEY: And, Joe, to you, I know that the president of the United States is headed for Malaysia some time soon.

What do you expect out of that trip? It seems to me it would be awfully hard to get any traction for any story other than this one in Malaysia.

JOHNS: That seems to be the case. But hope always springs eternal that they will have at least some of this resolved by the time President Obama gets here at the end of the month.

It's interesting. Obviously, trade is going to be an issue there. The president, in fact, canceled his trip last time. He was planning on coming around October, Candy. And, of course, they had a crisis. That was the government shutdown. Now, as he prepares to come here this time, it's Malaysia with the crisis. So, that's the way it rolls when you're the head of state in Malaysia and the United States.

CROWLEY: Yes, hard times.

And, finally, Pauline, how active -- I know that the Chinese heard one of the pings, reported hearing a ping when they were out in the region. How active are they now in this search? The bulk of the passengers, most of the passengers on that plane were Chinese.

CHIOU: Very active. And they have thrown a lot of resources towards this search. On any given day recently, we have heard that there are between seven to nine Chinese vessels out there in the search zone.

You have got several Chinese aircraft, Ilyushin aircraft, going back and forth from Perth to the search area. And at one point during the search, China actually acknowledged that 20 Chinese satellites were trained on the search area, presumably to enhance digital imaging of whatever they saw on the surface of the ocean.

We had heard of instances of possible debris. And it's very important, Candy, for China to appear very involved, at least for its domestic audience...

CROWLEY: Sure. CHIOU: ... because it's very personal, with so many Chinese nationals on the plane. And so they have to really show that they're empathetic and they are really a major player in the search.

And, also, from a global stage, from that standpoint, they also can say to the rest of the world, look at how much hardware we have. Look at how much we're putting towards this search. And we know that China has been doubling down on its defense budget.

So, on both fronts, they can sort of flex their muscle to the world and also play to the domestic audience. CROWLEY: Pauline Chiou, Joe Johns, Will Ripley, given your workloads, I doubly appreciate your taking this much time with us this morning. Thank you, guys.

When we return: racing against time.


ABBOTT: The signal from the black box is rapidly fading.


CROWLEY: What to do, where to go when the black box batteries die -- next.


CROWLEY: Joining me, Ken Christensen. He is the president of Integrated Aviation Solutions. He's worked with NASA and the Department of Homeland Security. And Jeff Densmore, he's director of engineering at Dukane Seacom. He designs and develops underwater locator beacons.

So, you are the black box expert here, Mr. Densmore, the beeper -- the pinger expert. Are the batteries dead? JEFF DENSMORE, DIRECTOR OF ENGINEERING, DUKANE SEACOM: More than likely, they're reaching end of life or already have.

We're at day 37. Thirty is the requirement. Thirty-five, we believe, is the upper limit for the design margin. If it's still going, it's very, very quiet at this point.

CROWLEY: And can you tell me, once they just -- it's been five days since they have heard any pings.

Is the information that they gathered when they heard the pings in the first place, assuming they charted where the ship was and, you know, how loud the noise was and all of that, is that information still useful now?


We have been trying to assist best we can with the -- with the search teams and the regulatory folks, trying to review that data and draw some conclusions from it. CROWLEY: What sort of conclusions can you draw?

DENSMORE: You know...

CROWLEY: What's -- tell me the art of the possible.

DENSMORE: I'm sorry. Repeat the question?

CROWLEY: I said, well, what sort of conclusions could you draw? What is possible as you look at this data?


So, the conclusions are, it's a very repeatable signal. It does have some variation to it as location changes. It definitely is a manmade signal and is very consistent with a beacon.

CROWLEY: You can't flat out say it came from this flight, obviously, without finding some sort of wreckage or the boxes themselves?

DENSMORE: Absolutely.

CROWLEY: And so can you...

DENSMORE: That's correct.

CROWLEY: Can you gather further data from just what they have seen from the pings, like where it is specifically? Because it's -- it just seems like they -- we hear a ping, we hear a ping, and, five days later, we're no closer to it, that we know of, than five days ago.

DENSMORE: Well, it helped assist in reducing the search area.

You know, granted, we wish it was a very, very small area, two miles, square miles, or something like that. But it has greatly reduced from -- from where we started.

CROWLEY: Ken, let me bring you into this, because I want to know first, what is the role now of the satellite imagery, assuming it's still coming in and people are poring over it?

What are they now looking for, or are we past needing it?

KEN CHRISTENSEN, PRESIDENT, INTEGRATED AVIATION SOLUTIONS: I think we're past satellite imagery at this point.

Any debris field that might have been floating is -- is not -- or very far from there. I think this is more promising, the pinger, to reduce the search field. And then that would concentrate where they're going to look for it next.

CROWLEY: And I want to show you a -- the latest flight map that we have that shows what the folks from Kuala Lumpur and elsewhere think the plane did, which was, we pretty much knew it kind of headed west and then south.

Now, this -- this trajectory was given to us, saying that the plane flew deliberately outside of Indonesian radar. How then do we know where it went? If it's outside Indonesian radar, and Malaysian radar is no longer tracking it, how do we know that is -- who is tracking that? Is that a satellite thing?

CHRISTENSEN: Well, we don't. From a -- from the air traffic control data that was provided, you -- they obviously did not know where...


CHRISTENSEN: ... it was.

And that's why the airport -- Inmarsat provided that information that the airplane was still pinging it, I guess...


CHRISTENSEN: ... the pulse in the satellite.

And that's what -- they said they had seven-and-a-half-hours of data. So -- and that -- and that arc was where that plane was actually flying and where that flight most probably terminated.

CROWLEY: So -- so, the information of the arc of how it -- how it flew is coming from -- from the ping that was picked up off the satellites, and that information just changed?

CHRISTENSEN: No. I mean...

CROWLEY: Because that's not what we always thought.

CHRISTENSEN: Well, I mean, that -- that gave us the initial search area to look for, for a debris field.

And then now when -- that we have the acoustical locator beacon and they're looking for that, that's even -- that's more concentrated and now that concentrated area is getting more narrowed. So, they're trying to -- trying to get every last bit of life out of the underwater locator beacon...


CHRISTENSEN: ... to reduce that.

CROWLEY: And, Jeff, you know, my last question to you as we close this out, what needs to change, what will change in terms of the battery life, the position of all of those things?

Do you see new regulations, and, in fact, are not new regulations coming for the life of a battery?

DENSMORE: Yes. So, there are two new regulations that are in process. One is already in place. It will require the beacon to last for 90 days. Effective March of 2015, all beacons manufactured after that point must meet a 90-day life requirement. So, that -- we're on the cusp of that.

In 2018, there's another regulation coming up out that will require a low frequency beacon be attached to the air frame. And that will have a much larger detection range to assist in the localization of the debris, which would then help -- help the searchers find the black boxes.

CROWLEY: And, Ken, as you look forward, I think it's still a question whether we actually are looking in the right area.


CROWLEY: We want to be closer to it.

But are we looking in the right area? And, as you look at the data as it came in from satellites, do you think anything changes in terms of technology for satellites or other instruments that you have seen used?

CHRISTENSEN: Absolutely.

I think the increase in the battery life to 90 days is clearly going to help when the wreckage is in the water. But where we really need to ramp up technology is when the aircraft enters the water or on land. If it crashes on land, you have the emergency locator transmitter that will -- will alert, and satellites will pinpoint that.


CHRISTENSEN: But we don't have that sort of pinpoint accuracy when something goes into water.

So, a stand-alone, autonomous GPS transmitter that just says, here I am, here I am every second or every 10 seconds, and they would immediately know where to go when that plane impacted the water. They could concentrate search and rescue forces there. And then the 90-day underwater locator beacon would then give recovery forces more time to...


CROWLEY: ... to go.

CHRISTENSEN: ... to get that out.

CROWLEY: And that technology exists today?

CHRISTENSEN: Yes, but it needs to be integrated on airplanes. So...

CROWLEY: Ken Christensen, Jeff Densmore, again, thank you both.

Race and immigration and firing up the base -- the chairmen of the Republican and Democratic congressional campaign committees talk midterm politics when we come back.


CROWLEY: It's April but the White House and lawmakers on Capitol Hill are in a November state of mind. Earlier I spoke with the two men responsible for getting members of their party elected. Congressman Steve Israel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and Congressman Greg Walden, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. I asked Congressman Israel about the near unanimous belief that Democrats are going to take a hit in November.


ISRAEL: I'm a baseball fan. You never predict the ninth inning in the first inning. And as a Mets fan, you don't predict the ninth inning in the ninth inning. Things change.

CROWLEY: I want to put up -- this is a "CBS News" poll, are you excited about voting in November? Republicans -- 70 percent of Republicans said they're excited. 58 percent of Democrats said they were excited. Independents, 47 percent.

ISRAEL: First, on that poll, the two most important words were in November. It's not November. We're the Democratic National Campaign Committee, not the climate committee. We don't worry about the climate. We build out campaigns. There is unquestionably going to be an issue of voter drop-off, there always is and we're using every tool in our toolbox, accelerating our investments in the field, putting people on the ground, 33 districts covered with staff in order to deal with the drop-off.

And secondly, it is true that the president's numbers may not be where the president wants to be -- wants them to be but we're running against a Republican Congress whose job approval is a fraction of that. There's a new history being written in this midterm, the least popular Republican Congress in history.

CROWLEY: Which takes it right off of my statistics and to you, Congressman Walden, and that is the Republican brand is certainly at one of its lowest points ever if not the lowest point. You have interparty warfare going on.

WALDEN: Yes. And our job is to elect Republicans to office and make sure that there's a check and balance on the Barack Obama administration in Washington. And we're focused on jobs and the economy, trying to grow both. We're focused on energy development and energy export. We're focused on the things that really when you get home people care about, solving problems, trying to grow the economy. Because the economy under President Obama has not been that stellar certainly we had one of the worse recessions but one of the slowest recoveries out of it. And people are really concerned about the future of the country.

CROWLEY: Yes. But people don't much like Republicans these days.

WALDEN: Well you know, remember Congress is controlled also in the Senate by the Democrats. So when you talk about Congress approval ratings, remember you have got Harry Reid and the Democrats running the Senate. And the bills that we've passed in the House some of which by the way been on -- they're pretty big bipartisan margins (ph) to create jobs in American and to develop energy in America languish in the Senate. And that's unfortunate because we should work together to solve these problems, to grow jobs in America, and actually deal with the things people at home care about. They don't care as much about one party's image or another. They care about the price of gasoline going in the van when they're taking the kids to soccer and ballet. They care about whether their hours going to be cut back as they are being cut back under Obamacare as employers go from 40 hours to 30 hours. And that really hurts and hurts people -


ISRAEL: I have to say the Senate passed unemployment insurance extension. Republicans House members will not pass it. The Senate passed a comprehensive immigration bill. Republican House members will not pass.


CROWLEY: I have to say that the Republicans will also say, well here is what we passed on the House and it dies on the Senate. So it sort of boils down to (INAUDIBLE) these people -- the Republicans don't care about you and yours is we give you Obamacare and where are the jobs? That's kind of where we -


WALDEN: -- jobs and the economy really matter to people at home. That's what they care most about.

ISRAEL: 200,000 jobs gained last month, 800,000 jobs lost in the last month --


WALDEN: Fewer people working in America since the 1970's, more people in poverty, more people suffering.


CROWLEY: I don't think you guys are going to agree on this but let me --

WALDEN: Our job together should be, how do we raise people out of poverty, how do we create better paying jobs in America.

(CROSSTALK) CROWLEY: Let me ask you about a couple specific issues. The first is that, as you may know, Attorney General Holder went off script at an event this week where he said that he believes that the treatment he has been -- he has received in the House, particularly during a hearing this week would not have happened if he were not African-American. That he believes it's racism. He believes the opposition to the president has been based on racism. And I wanted to play you something that Nancy Pelosi said when she was asked about this.


REP. NANCY PELOSI, HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: I think race has something to do with the fact that they're not bringing up an immigration bill. I've heard them say to the Irish, if it were just you this would be easy.


CROWLEY: Do you agree with that?

ISRAEL: The American people want solutions in Congress. They want people to oppose certain policies for the right reasons -


CROWLEY: This is about racism. Do you think your Republican colleagues are racist?

ISRAEL: Not all of them, no, of course not. But to a significant extent the Republican base does have elements that are animated by racism and that's unfortunate.

CROWLEY: Even the president has said, look, I think some people oppose me because of race but I think some people support me because of race.

ISRAEL: That's true.

CROWLEY: And so this -- you know, between the war on women and the Republicans are racist or blanketing -- all of them -- if this were Irish, they would have passed immigration by now. Looked very much like election year strategy, trying to get your base out.

ISRAEL: Well look, we don't need to get our base out because frankly we're ready to pass an immigration bill. And we'd rather pass an immigration bill than worry about the election. We have got 190 Democrats ready to vote on a comprehensive immigration bill today. We can do it today. And we know that not every Republican is going to agree with us on that. It passed the Senate with 67 bipartisan votes. All we need is 20 Republicans, just 20 to vote for that bill and it will be law and we don't have to have this debate anymore. We will have --

CROWLEY: But you know how -- you know how the House works. You're in the minority and that's -- you know, the rules are the rules.

ISRAEL: You don't even have to vote for it. The American people want us to at least vote.

CROWLEY: I want to get to your reaction to Nancy Pelosi's suggestion that she does think that race is holding up --

WALDEN: That is both wrong and unfortunate. You know, there have been a lot of executive overreaches by this administration. We see the latest with Lois Lerner and the whole IRS scandal. We're now finally getting to see the email traffic back and forth. The American people just want to know the truth. They want to know the truth about what really happened and the targeting of conservative groups by the IRS. They want to know what happened in Benghazi. They want to know answers and that's all that we're trying to do. Just give us -- just cooperate with the Congress. Cooperate with the investigations. Give us the information we've requested so our constituents can know the truth.

ISRAEL: Fewer witch hunts, more solutions would be good for America right now.

WALDEN: This is not a witch hunt when you're trying to find out why the IRS -- whether it's Republican or Democrat, I don't want the IRS targeting any group, whether it's liberal or conservative. And if they have, somebody should be held accountable, and that's what we're trying to do.


CROWLEY: We'll have more of our my interview with Congressmen Walden and Israel in the noon hour of this program but when we return I'll ask my next guests what they think about the 2014 strategies you've just heard and if Kathleen Sebelius' departure means a reset for Obamacare.


KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, FORMER HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: This is the most meaningful work I've ever been a part of. In fact, it's been the cause of my life.



CROWLEY: Joining me around the table Cornell Belcher, CNN commentator, Ron Brownstein, editorial director of the "National Journal" and a CNN senior political analyst, and Liz Mair, a Republican political consultant. Thanks all for being here.



CROWLEY: So goodbye Kathleen Sebelius. It just seems to be (ph) that the face of Obamacare has left the scene and it does so now because they think they can get the new health and human services secretary through pretty breezily and have a steadier and they hope more favorable look at Obamacare when we move to the midterms.

CORNELL BELCHER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think -- I think -- this is why (INAUDIBLE) push back and I that's wrong because the face of Obamacare is not going to be a cabinet secretary. It's going to be the president. It's going to be President Obama.

MAIR: It's called Obamacare for a reason. BELCHER: Right.

CROWLEY: I agree with that.

BELCHER: Look, I think hats off to her. I think she leaves a job, you know, with millions and millions of Americans having more security in their health care now than ever before. By the way, it's a brutal job. And I think by the way I think you'll see more cabinet people leaving. But the face of Obamacare moving forward is always going to be President Obama.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, I think -- I think the picture is really mixed, both personally for her and politically for the administration. On the one hand, the rollout really was the most disastrous rollout of a federal initiative probably since the ICBMs were blowing up on the runways in the 1950s. And on the other hand they did recover although they had to bring in outside help to do -- they got to a level of enrollment even with 15 percent maybe not paying as high as anybody thought. I think the politics are really interesting. If you look at the long-term, what they are doing I think more successfully now is building an economic constituency for this program and the millions of people who will be part of it the doctors, hospitals, other providers that are going to be invested in this is going to make it harder to repeal. The short- term politics are still pretty hard. The pew poll this week was a wake-up call. Only 28 percent of whites say they support the law. Only 22 percent believe say they believe it will benefit their family, particularly in that -- those blue collar whites that are so important in those key Senate races in the fall. Still an enormous amount of skepticism. So long-term entrenching it, short-term still could be a negative -


BELCHER: But here is the opposite -- (INAUDIBLE) but here's the opposite problem for Republicans. You know what we spent a lot of money in 12 -- around Hispanics on? Health care and health care reform. So at the same time you can talk about where whites are on it. If the Republican party is going to try to expand their reach with it which we all agree they have to do, this is not the way they're going to go about doing it.

MAIR: I'm not sure I totally agree with that. I think the Republican Party very clearly has some major issues with Hispanics. But I'm not sure that Hispanics are necessarily -- is infused (ph) about the Obamacare rollout as a lot of Democrats have been expecting or anticipating. Ultimately this thing has been very, very clearly botched from start to finish. And we can point to numbers when you're looking at white voters. But I don't think that there's really anybody in the country that thinks this thing has been done well.

BELCHER: 7 million people have health care now.

MAIR: Hold on --

BELCHER: I mean millions of people have health care now that didn't have before.

MAIR: 7.5 million have enrolled. Enrollment does not mean having health care. We're also talking about insurance -


BELCHER: It's on the road to it. It doesn't mean health care --

MAIR: On the road does not indicate --

BROWNSTEIN: There's a facts on the ground (INAUDIBLE). As I'm saying, the near-term perceptions are very difficult for the Democrats, particularly among whites. In many ways the bill has backfired. I think for 25 years Democrats have pursued health care reform on the hope they could convince the white middle class the government could be a positive force in their life. By and large the white middle class uses it as a transfer program and that is I think is the source of the resistance. On the other hand, as I'm saying, there is an economic constituency for this law being built in a way that it's going to make it harder and harder to repeal. And the Republicans do face the risk by 2016 with the larger electorate that Cornell is talking about, they are out there talking about repeal in a way that it seems unrealistic and ideological to voters.

MAIR: I agree with your point about repeal and about constituencies and why that is difficult to do. But at the end of the day this thing isn't done yet. We can talk about 7.5 million enrolled. But what does the enrolled figure really means?


People are still watching this as a moving target and assessing what it's doing for them day to day. If it's delivering now but it doesn't deliver tomorrow they're going to --


BROWNSTEIN: Millions more in Medicaid. There are millions more -- young people covered under --

MAIR: This is true.

BROWNSTEIN: I talked to an historian (INAUDIBLE) who said that more people are being touched by this at this point in history than Social Security was this far after the rollout. And I think the risk for Republicans, you kind of see this enormous -- I can picture that first debate next year sometime when there's a question, anyone here who is not for repealing President Obama's big government takeover in health care, please raise their hand. They may all be pressured into a position that may look out of -- a kind of unrealistic by 2016. But 2014 is still something else.

BELCHER: But for their base -- for their base it is awfully important. Look, I think we saw -- we see two elections. We see two general elections -- we saw 12 where health care was front and center, President Obama won a majority. We saw it in an off year where we saw it front and center in Virginia and we saw Terry McAuliffe win in Virginia (inaudible) said, he was not supposed to win where they put this front and center. This is not a majority issue for Republicans.


MAIR: There are two -- there are two points that I would make on that as a Republican. First of all, I really don't think that if we're talking about health care as a determining factor in the 2012 presidential race. Obama is running against the guy who wrote the policy. It was very difficult for Romney to go out...


...and repeal this. Nobody bought that. I didn't buy that. I mean I'm the biggest critic of Romney.


Virginia is a bad example, too, because actually, Obamacare --


Yes. But Obamacare actually enabled Cuccinelli to make inroads in the final weeks. And also we're talking about -- Ken Cuccinelli.

CROWLEY: Let me move you forward...


...Holder made some comments this week that certainly can roughly interpret as an attorney general who was not African-American would not have been treated the way I was treated on the House. He didn't call them a bunch of racists. When I asked -- when someone asked Nancy Pelosi about it, she said, yes, and I think racism is holding up immigration reform because I've heard some people say well if you were Irish, that would be fine. So we also have that, we have the war on women, you know, making new headlines this week as they talk about the Republicans not caring about women and women's pay disparity. And we had -- we have still the minimum wage coming up. This seems to be three major constituents the Democrats have to drive out, right? Minorities, women and labor unions. Because everybody knew the stuff that was put on the floor wasn't going to help. Talk to me about the race issue in this. BELCHER: Well look, I mean we have become -- look I was part of the '08 campaign, and it was -- it was the work of -- the work of most of our lifetimes because none of us thought it would actually happen. But it happened because we expanded the electorate. And if you look at '08 and look at '12 -- look 39 percent of -- he got 39 percent of the white's vote. It wasn't that we sort of persuaded more whites to vote for Obama. Where in fact, what we did was expand the electorate.

And moving forward that new American electorate has won that benefits us right now -- the Republican are going to struggle to sort of to try to get to. If in fact the electorate looks in '14 like it did in '10 the Democrats will lose across the board. What we have to do is expand electorate and these issues around wages and these issues around women's health care hopeful allow us to expand the electorate.

CROWLEY: (INAUDIBLE) expand the electorate or get the votes out?

BROWNSTEIN: If everybody's talking about expanding the electorate is getting -


There are a couple points here. One is that it really is indicative, just stepping back for one second, what Congress and Washington has become. But essentially we are only using this as an arena to kind of make points for the election. The two sides that almost completely -


And secondly, look, we are dealing with the reality of an intensely racially polarized electorate in this period. I mean the reality Republicans are still winning 90 percent of their total votes from whites at a time when non-whites are about 40 percent of the country. 80 percent of the House Republicans in districts that are more white than the national average. They don't feel the political imperative to deal with some of these issues like immigration. It's very important for the party of 2016. I don't think you want to go into 2016 with that issue still on the table -


MAIR: I personally do not, but then again, I've always been a big advocate for comprehensive immigration reform for (INAUDIBLE). So I have a different feel on this and many people on my party.

CROWLEY: But you would agree that it does (ph) in 2014 help the Republican Party to pass immigration reform? 2016 is a different -


MAIR: I'm not sure that I do agree with that. Actually I think when you look at -- full disclosure, this is an issue that my firm does work on. I would argue that when you're starting to look at where a lot of business groups are on this and who they're pressurizing -- when they're pressurizing people like Congressman Walden, I mean clearly there is a political impetus to get this done. It's just not what a lot of people are looking at. It has to do with fundraising and it has to do with backing from a lot of big business.

BROWNSTEIN: Candy, (inaudible) and 2016 is at (ph) the common theme...


CROWLEY: Absolutely.

BROWNSTEIN: ...over and over again. CROWLEY: Liz Mair, Ron Brownstein, Cornell Belcher, thanks all of you. Coming up at the top of the hour, look at the latest unrest in Ukraine and an update on the search for flight 370.


CROWLEY: Updating you now on flight 370, the missing plane's black boxes may be dead as the search enters its sixth week. It has been five days since searchers detected what may have been pings from the black boxes. Malaysia's transport minister says, finding those data recorders is critical to clearing 370's crew and passengers.

Thank you for watching STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Candy Crowley in Washington. Fareed Zakaria, "GPS," starts right now.