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STATE OF THE UNION WITH CANDY CROWLEY

Obama Threatens More Sanctions For Russia; Interview with Joe Manchin

Aired May 4, 2014 - 12:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


CANDY CROWLEY, HOST: Ukraine on the cusp, the U.S. Congress on idle.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY (voice over): Today, Ukraine tilts toward civil war, weighted with east/west tension.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If, in fact Mr. Putin's goal is to allow the Ukrainians to make their own decisions, then he is free to offer up his opinions, but it can't be done at the barrel of a gun.

CROWLEY: The U.S. ambassador to the Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, joins us with a view from Kiev. And then Senator Ron Johnson and Congressman Eliot Engel on the stakes and choices for the Obama administration. And Joe Manchin talks to us about the battle to raise the minimum wage. Plus...

ADAM SILVER, NBA COMMISSIONER: I'm banning Mr. Sterling for life.

CROWLEY: Race in America and renewed questions about Benghazi.

MARIE HARF, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: How many more taxpayer dollars we going to spend trying to prove a political point?

CROWLEY: This week's flashpoints, for our political panel, Anna Navarro, Gwen Ifill and Donna Brazile. This is STATE OF THE UNION.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Good morning from Washington. I'm Candy Crowley. Ukraine remains on edge today with increased violence in the eastern part of the country. I'll get to Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt in Kiev very shortly.

But first, two people who have recently been to Ukraine, Congressman Elliot Engel, ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Senator Ron Johnson, he heads the European affairs subcommittee on the Senate side.

I want to start out with something that the president said. As you know, he met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and had a presser with her and came out to warn President Putin of more sanctions in the offing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: The Russian leadership must know that if it continues to destabilize eastern Ukraine and disrupt this month's presidential election, we will move quickly on additional steps, including further sanctions that will impose greater costs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: It seems to me, and let me start with you, congressman, that everything that the U.S. has done, the west has done to this point begins with, if this continues, we're really going to do something harsher. What is the definition of disrupting these elections later in May?

REP. ELIOT ENGEL (D), NEW YORK: Well, the elections are scheduled for May 25th, and I think it's very, very important that the elections go smoothly. Putin is trying everything he can do to disrupt the elections. And I think what President Obama is trying to do is work in conjunction with our European allies. They are much more reluctant to do anything against Russia because they rely on Russia with their energy --

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: They're tied more (ph) than (ph) we (ph) are. Right. But the question is, I think if you'd look at what's going on in Ukraine, the eastern part right now, you can pretty much predict that elections there are going to be a little tough.

SEN. RON JOHNSON (R), WISCONSIN: You know, it really is spinning out of control. And, you know, the sad fact is sanctions haven't worked. All the devaluation of currency, the devaluation of the stock market occurred before the sanctions were ever put in place. Basically, that all happened right after the Russian parliament authorized use of force, and that's when all that devaluation occurs.

So all the sanctions and threats of sanctions really had very little effect and that's unfortunate. Vladimir Putin is only going to respond to action, strength and resolve. He's not going to respond to words. And that's certainly what we hear when we go to Ukraine.

CROWLEY: But action is limited. You know, when Americans hear action, they think, oh, we're going to send troops or do something, which is clearly off the table and is not going to happen. Would you agree that the sanctions thus far have failed to move Putin?

ENGEL: I would say that the sanctions so far have been graduated, have been gradual, and I think they'll continue to be gradual.

CROWLEY: Have they affected Putin's behavior?

ENGEL: Well, I think they've affected his behavior. I mean he has all these troops poised at the Ukrainian border. He hasn't crossed the border yet. I have to think that part of his calculation is that is if he does that, all bets are off and sanctions would kick in. I'm for sanctions. I think it's sanctions that brought Iran to its knees because it hurt their economy and they're negotiating with us now. And I think Putin has to understand that if he continues this nonsense, sanctions will bring his economy to its knees. His economy right now is floundering. He really cannot afford to be so -- too wise about this.

CROWLEY: But probably I think to the point that some Republicans are making that want stiffer sanctions now, and, in fact, more some weaponry to go to the Ukrainian government is that perhaps the Russian economy has been hurt and there are signs that have happened, but it hasn't affected Putin. So sanctions that hurt Russia aren't much good if they don't move Putin.

ENGEL: Well, I think again, none of us know really what's in Putin's calculation. I agree. We do need sanctions. I think we do need to consider giving military aid to Ukraine. We need to let Putin understand that any disruption, and I think Merkel and Obama said that, any disruption of the May 25th elections would bring a response from us.

CROWLEY: What is your definition of disruption in this case? I want to ask both of you, senator.

JOHNSON: We're seeing it right now.

CROWLEY: As far as elections are concerned.

JOHNSON: We're seeing it right now. I mean we are seeing, you know, these Russian sympathizers, and I would say really Russian agents, in many respects, taking over administration buildings, fomenting unrest and now we're really seeing this erupt into real violence, people are dying and that's exactly what Vladimir Putin wants.

He wants to destabilize not only Ukraine, but he's been undermining those breakaway republics for years, because he doesn't want to see successful democracy on his borders because that destabilizes Russia. So he threatens his party and that's what this is all about. It makes no economic rational sense for Putin to be doing what he's doing. He's only doing it to consolidate his own power. And we have to recognize that.

Nobody is talking about combat boots on the ground, but he's amassing tens of thousands of troops and we're sending a couple hundred in. And I think what we need to strengthen NATO -

CROWLEY: NATO.

JOHNSON: Yes. We need to show (ph) some training exercises and we really should provide some defensive weaponry, anti-tank weapons to Ukraine.

CROWLEY: Right. And I wanted to ask you about that this is the first time I've heard it, perhaps you've said it before, but you do think we ought to consider giving actual lethal weapons to the Ukrainian government. Because in essence, people who argue for this say look we're not going to go in and help them.

They should at least have a little more wherewithal. Everyone understands they can't beat the Russian army, but nonetheless, when you're trying to kind of crush this pro-Russia uprising, maybe some lethal weapons would help Ukraine at this point.

ENGEL: Well I think it would, but I think that that's not it. Look, our NATO allies, the ones who were the former soviet bloc countries and former eastern bloc countries, they're scared to death. They think that if Putin gets away with this, they may be next. We have in NATO article five which says an attack on one NATO member is an attack on all.

NATO, the equation of NATO since the fall of the Soviet Union has really been that Russia would be cooperative. If Russia is now going to be an adversary, the whole calculus of NATO needs to change. And by the way, the U.S. provides most of the military aid to NATO, the countries are supposed to do 2 percent of their economy for the military, if they're NATO members, and they haven't. Only three or four countries have. So it really means that we're going to have to work in conjunction with NATO because if we don't then the NATO alliance is dead.

JOHNSON: Candy --

CROWLEY: Let me ask you just to stand by with me because we do have Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt on the phone. I want to see -- Mr. Ambassador, thanks for joining us.

I wanted to ask you first, what is your understanding right now of the situation in eastern Ukraine?

GEOFFREY PYATT, UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE (on the phone): Well, Candy, right now, I mean, Ukraine is a country in mourning. Prime Minister Yatsenyuk was in Odessa today. He made the point that the violence there on Friday was a tragedy not just for the city of Odessa but for the whole country.

And I would say having spent some time in Odessa just three weeks ago and spoken with a broad range of political and civil society leaders, there's nothing that I heard or saw (INAUDIBLE) in that city which would explain what transpired on Friday night. And I think it suggests that somebody wanted this violence to explode the way it did. And I think at this point, the whole country is trying to figure out what happened, how to pull together, and how to make sure that those who are trying to divide the country will not be successful.

CROWLEY: Well, Mr. Ambassador, there's probably no time to beat around the bush. Do you believe that Russia and President Putin are behind what turned out to be I believe the bloodiest day thus far in this back and forth?

PYATT: Well, we certainly believe that Russia is exercising influence across eastern Ukraine. We don't have evidence of the Russian role in the tragedy that transpired on Friday. Prime Minister Yatsenyuk used some very strong words today talking about the role that he believes that Russia played and this is something that we hope impartial and systematic investigation would be able to get to the bottom of very quickly.

CROWLEY: And when you're talking about the tragedy that happened Friday, you mean when pro-Russian demonstrators were pushed into -- back into the government building they were occupying, apparently by pro-Ukrainian protesters, and then the building was set on fire and more than 40 people died. That's what you're talking about, correct?

PYATT: Partially, yes, but also the fact that you had pro-unity demonstrators who were targeted by pro-Russia activists, some of whom appeared to have weapons, guns, and most disturbingly, there seems to be evidence in social media that some of the police in Odessa may have been complicit in allowing the violence to spiral out of control the way it did. That's something that Prime Minister Yatsenyuk spoke today and I see that he has already brought some major changes in the security leadership here in Odessa which I think reflects the deep concern about the role of security establishments in Friday's violence.

CROWLEY: Mr. Ambassador, the ongoing fear here is that President Putin, with these clashes and with the movement of Ukrainian forces trying to quell some of this violence, he now has the excuse he needs to move in. Is that the consensus there?

PYATT: Well, not at all. I mean, we hope that Russia will play a constructive role. It's important to remember the other more hopeful event that happened over this long - over this long May day weekend was the release of the detained OSCE diplomatic military observers in Slavyansk. Russia played a decisive role in accomplishing that.

It demonstrates that Russia has influence and can play a constructive role when it wishes to do so. And we hope that's very much the approach that they will take in the days ahead. But this is an extremely delicate situation, certainly the extraordinary violence in Odessa on Friday has made the situation more fraught.

CROWLEY: And finally, Mr. Ambassador, this looks like a civil war, it certainly sounds like a civil war. Is there any reason to believe that's not what we're watching unfold?

PYATT: No. I don't see that yet, Candy. What I see is a society which is facing extraordinary threats of division, but where the dominant opinion in every public opinion survey from every Ukrainian I talked to is, how can we get our country to pull together again?

Clearly, there are forces that are trying to deepen division and sadly, some of the forces seem to be coming from outside the country, from Russia, but the dominant mood in the country is how do we end this violence and how do we pull the country together again?

CROWLEY: Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt, U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, thanks so much for your time today.

PYATT: Good talking to you.

CROWLEY: Thanks.

So back to you all. You know, you see these pictures, you heard the ambassador. What does the U.S. do next? I feel like there are not a lot of arrows in this quiver.

JOHNSON: Let me first say, we've got an excellent ambassador, Ambassador Pyatt, doing a really good job, very dedicated. One thing you have to understand is how effective Russia has been in terms of propaganda war. When we were there (INAUDIBLE) what are they - what are they lying to Ukrainians about? They're telling them that they are going to - that Kiev is going to be sending death squads to pull people out of their homes. They say they're going to be forced out of their Russian Orthodox, Ukrainian Orthodox faith and into Catholicism (ph).

CROWLEY: The propaganda war.

JOHNSON: So the propaganda is incredibly effective. We need to counter that in far more robust fashion. We pretty well stop (ph) (INAUDILBLE) providing (ph) information (ph).

ENGEL: The most important thing I met with Prime Minister Yatsenyuk when I was there. The most important thing that they're looking for, those elections on May 25th have to happen and they have to happen so the Ukrainian people can exercise their free will. It is so important. Putin's role, obviously, or his game is to try to disrupt them and say they're irrelevant, and that they're therefore, invalid, but we really cannot let him do that.

And again, Putin has to understand that sanctions will follow, tough sanctions on their banking sector, on their mining sector, on their financial sector will follow just the way we did for Iran if Putin doesn't stop his nonsense.

CROWLEY: To both of you, a final question. If Putin decided tonight to roll those tanks across the border from Russia into eastern Ukraine, what stops him?

JOHNSON: Nothing will stop him. This is hindsight, but when Prime Minister Yatsenyuk was here just asking for pretty reasonable request of small arms and ammunition, as a sign, as a sign of strength and resolve of support for Ukrainians. Unfortunately, we didn't provide that. And again, nobody can predict exactly what would have happened, but I think it's that type of weakness that is given Vladimir Putin the -- certainly the signal that he continued to do these things with impunity. We have to change the calculus.

ENGEL: What stops him is he understands that if he were to do that, tough sanctions would follow, both from Europe and the United States. I think that President Obama is starting slowly so we can be in conjunction with our European allies. But he said there will be tough sanctions if Putin continues this nonsense.

CROWLEY: I want to quick ask you about a question that's out there in Nigeria, where, in mid-April, about 270-something, I think, Nigerian school girls, teenagers were kidnapped by a terrorist group that is opposed to western education, who think western education is evil.

There was an interesting article today, an op-ed by Nicholas Kristof of "The New York Times," in which (ph) in part he said, while there has been a major international search for the missing people on Malaysian flight MH370, there has been no meaningful search for the even greater number of missing school girls." We've heard Secretary Kerry said, this is terrible. The Nigerian government is apparently not doing much to help find these young women. We're told they're being sold to be wives of some of these terrorists. It does seem and Kristof spoke to the father of one of these girls, and (ph) we need the U.N., we need the U.S. to do something. Is there something the U.S. can do?

JOHNSON: One thing, I believe the U.S. has been way too silent on the brutality, the lack of human rights in the Muslim world for women. And I think that's one of the roles I think the Senate Foreign Relations Committee can play there is hold hearings, highlight that so Americans, so the world sees this type of abuse. So it really is about communications, it's about awareness.

ENGEL: One thing that's true, the whole world looks to the United States, whether it's in Africa, whether it's in Ukraine, whether it's in Asia, there's no substitute for the United States. And we -- my belief is that we need to be active and engaged. It doesn't mean boots on the ground but there's so much that we can do.

CROWLEY: We could gather an international force saying, find these girls. There's 270 teenage girls.

JOHNSON: America has to lead. That's what's missing now. We simply aren't taking that leadership position across the world and that makes the world very -- a much more dangerous place.

ENGEL: Well I think we are taking the leadership position, but we do have allies, we have to work with them. I think we're doing it and I think Putin understands that.

CROWLEY: Congressman Eliot Engel, Senator Ron Johnson thank you both for coming by. I appreciate it.

ENGEL: Thank you.

JOHNSON: Thank you.

CROWLEY: President Obama blasted Senate Republicans this week for blocking a vote on minimum wage. What will it take to get them on board? How about a Democrat who might just compromise? Our exclusive interview with Senator Joe Manchin is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Joining me now, Senator Joe Manchin, Democrat from West Virginia. Welcome, Senator. Good to see you.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: It's always good to be with you, Candy. CROWLEY: So Republicans this week blocked a $10.10 minimum wage.

MANCHIN: Yes.

CROWLEY: You have said, you know, you want to raise the minimum wage, but you might be willing to find a formula that maybe would bring on some Republicans. Can you find a formula that brings on enough Republicans to get the 60 votes you need?

MANCHIN: Well, we're hoping for that. We are working on that. First of all, I'm for 10.10. Let me give just you the background real quick.

In 1968, the minimum wage was $1.60. If it would have been indexed or adjusted for an inflation it would be $10.68. So the 10.10 is very justifiable. Tom Harkin has done a wonderful job working that. But there has been numbers all over the board. The President at one time put out in his State of the Union that 9 or 9.25. So we have Republicans that basically are saying, well, maybe 10.10's too much. Well, I don't think anybody believes that 7.25 is enough.

CROWLEY: Which is where it is now.

MANCHIN: That's where it is now. So that is unacceptable. It should be to every Republican and every Democrat. With that being said, how do we move forward? In the little state of West Virginia, my beautiful little state of West Virginia, has just passed legislation that will go to 8.75 by 2016 from 7.25. Now, other states have done it, too, but some states with no minimum wage statewide that means they rely on the federal guidelines. We have got to do something and we are sitting down and --

CROWLEY: Can you get enough Republicans?

MANCHIN: We are hopeful of that. I'm meeting with my dear friends and Susan Collins (ph) is a beautiful person to work with. She is very pragmatic. You can sit down and talk with Susan and we're trying to find out if there is a middle and those of us in the middle from the Democrats and Republicans have got to make sure that it stays there.

CROWLEY: So while you are talking about the middle, it's not just can you get enough Republicans, it's whether you can get your leadership, the Democratic leadership to go along with it. I want to play you something.

MANCHIN: Sure.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TOM HARKIN (D), IOWA: We will not compromise on 10.10. That just gets us above the poverty level.

SEN. HARRY REID (D), NEVADA: We are happy to compromise, but we are not going to compromise on locking people in to poverty. $10.10 an hour is the bare minimum. (END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: So, your leadership calls it a bare minimum. So doesn't look so great on the Democratic side either. Do the Democrats want this as a campaign issue or do they want this --

MANCHIN: I'm not going to speak for the leadership of the Democratic Party, the party that I belong to. I will say this 100 percent of nothing is nothing. If you are working or any of your siblings or family members are working for 7.25, they would greatly welcome an increase and they need an increase. We can lift so many people up. The argument against this, the Republicans have used is basically go right to 10.10 overnight it throws people into poverty or it throws people out of work.

CROWLEY: Out of work. Right.

MANCHIN: We know we raised 1 million people out of poverty. We know also that we raised many people off of food stamps which will save $3 to $4 billion a year. We know that's (ph) an awful lot of good. And we know from past performances before, when it had been raised under Democrats and Republicans, with very little fanfare that we did not throw people out of work.

CROWLEY: Do you think you can do anything on Capitol Hill these days that isn't so loaded with politics that it sinks of its own weight?

MANCHIN: There's so much money involved. And Candy, let me give you the scenario that I go to work every day. I go to work every day and I'm expected to raise money against the other side, if you will. So as a Democrat I'll go to work, I'm expected to raise money for the DSCC and my Republican counterparts and my colleagues are expected to raise money for the RSCC. That money is used against any Democrat or Republicans up for election and then expected to go campaign against them.

Now that doesn't add for a good atmosphere for us to start next week, come back, after all this happens the week prior to that and say, OK, Candy, will you work with me now? Can you co-sponsor a bill? That's what's happening. The money has infiltrated and has driven us apart.

CROWLEY: And so which leads me to ask you, when you look at things like the keystone pipeline, something Republicans very much want to -

(CROSSTALK)

MANCHIN: A lot of Democrats. A lot of us want. Sure.

CROWLEY: You do it as well and yet -- you know, it doesn't look as though that's going to happen either. When you look at the whole issue of Benghazi, which came up again this week, with the Republicans wanting to start and will start at least on the House side.

MANCHIN: Candy, the Benghazi thing, you look at Benghazi, I don't think anybody believes that anybody did anything intentionally. Were mistakes made? Absolutely. Reports have been done, you know, the Senate investigation, this and that.

How do you prevent it from happening again is what we really should be focused on. No one intended to do anything. No one says I will do this or don't do this. And with that being said, politics has taken over basically common sense and logic. And you can't let that happen. You can't run this country that way.

CROWLEY: Will politics doom keystone pipeline this year in the Senate?

MANCHIN: Is it sure shouldn't because basically in the Senate, we have -- right now, looks like we are going to get a vote for it. I'm very happy about that. We will get a vote

CROWLEY: Will it be attached to an energy bill that Americans don't want?

MANCHIN: That's what we don't know what we are going to attach it. I would like to think that Harry's going to keep it clean, get a vote on that up or down.

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: Talk like that

MANCHIN: I know, it would be great if we could. Now, they are maneuvering back and forth, I understand that. But the bottom line is the keystone pipeline makes sense from the standpoint, in West Virginia, (INAUDIBLE) to buy from our friends and our enemies and these are our best friends and that product is going to be produced.

CROWLEY: Be really, really honest with me and tell me whether you believe in this election year, given the atmosphere that you're not talking about, whether you believe this Congress is going to get anything big done.

MANCHIN: This Congress has had a hard time getting anything done in the past. So, to believe in a very highly charged election, which could be the difference of who's in the majority, who controls the agenda, to think it's going to now step out of its comfort zone, if you will, or a lack of production zone and do something bold I think would be kind of farfetched.

CROWLEY: Optimistic.

MANCHIN: Farfetched.

CROWLEY: Farfetched. Some of the most frustrated members of Congress I have known throughout my career have been those who were governor first and then came to the U.S. Senate.

MANCHIN: Yes.

CROWLEY: Because it's just -- it's -- for the very things we are talking about. It's very hard to get things done. Whereas -- whereas if you're governor, you can move your state. Do you want out? MANCHIN: Well the bottom line is I want to do something. I have always said this, the best politics is good government. You produce something good, Democrat, Republican can take credit for it. People make decisions and determinations they are going to vote for you or against you, basically. If you're approachable if they know you're sincere and honest, and I have always said in West Virginia, people can shake in your hand, look in your eye and see your soul. This is what we should be doing.

But basically I do want out or I do want to stay? I want to make a difference. The Senate gives me a great vehicle to make a difference in the world and in my country and in my state. With that being said, if I don't see changes being made, if I don't think that I'm being productive and contributing to something in a positive manner, I have got to evaluate where I'm at and where I can maybe be most effective, if I still have the desire of public service, which runs through every part of my vein and body and fiber.

CROWLEY: So a run for governor isn't -- run for governor again is not outside the realm of your possibility, given your frustrations and what you're talking about now?

MANCHIN: Sure, it was one of the most productive periods of my life. I felt more productive as governor than any time in my life in anything I've ever done. I haven't had that same feeling as Senate. I have had an opportunity to learn and grow as a senator, to see the world differently and see my country differently and I think now that I've seen it I would like to be productive enough and be able to contribute to make a difference. If that's going to be stopped because of pure hard-core politics, then I've got to make a decision after this cycle of 2014's over and I will do it. I kept all options open. I will keep all options open.

CROWLEY: Democrats -- you can make some history in 2014 in West Virginia. You will definitely have a woman as U.S. senator.

MANCHIN: Yes.

CROWLEY: And it might be a Republican for the first time since the Eisenhower administration. I know you want the Democrat, but my broader question is has West Virginia turned Republican?

MANCHIN: West Virginia has always been what I call fiscally responsible, fiscally conservative. We have never had the luxury of having money we could just throw at things. So it always had to be -- every individual that runs their household is about the same scenario. With that being said, the social values that we are who we are, we are a god-loving, god-fearing, and --

CROWLEY: Republican state?

MANCHIN: Well, I don't know if you -- why they always determine that to be --

CROWLEY: Well, I mean if you like a Republican president and if for the first time since Eisenhower, you get a Republican senator that would tell you something.

MANCHIN: I respectfully disagree. The energy policy that the president has or the lack of an energy policy as far as I'm concerned, because tough use everything, all the above energy to be energy independent, to be more secured as a nation, not to be fighting words we shouldn't be in for far too long. Rebuilding America.

So, with all that being said, we have had a lot of people lose good jobs are, 60, 70, $80,000 a year jobs in the coal industry, energy market, now to look at minimum wage jobs that turns you. Not Republican or Democrat. That's survival. Just common sense. This administration, the Democratic administration, under President Obama, basically has gone a direction that West Virginia does not accept or agree with.

CROWLEY: Definitely at this point is turning away from this particular way out.

MANCHIN: There could be another Democrat coming down the road differently that can bring everybody back.

CROWLEY: Senator Joe Manchin, I for sure want you to come back after the election.

MANCHIN: I will do that.

CROWLEY: Thanks so much.

MANCHIN: Thanks, Candy.

CROWLEY: When we return, issues of race, the third rail of U.S. culture.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: As a general rule, things don't end well if the sentence starts, "let me tell you something I know about the Negro." You don't really need to hear the rest of it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: That was President Obama at last night's White House Correspondents Dinner here in Washington. With me around the table, Ana Navarro and Donna Brazile on the wings, both CNN political commentators, and in the middle, Gwen Ifill of PBS, also the author of "The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama."

I have to say I thought that was a great joke because there is truth in that. It was almost him saying you don't have to listen beyond that. And so I think my question to you all today, it's the first time we've had the talk about this is, what was the point of this week and the NBA and for that matter the rancher in Nevada? Did it move us forward? GWEN IFILL, CO-ANCHOR AND MANAGING EDITOR OF "PBS NEWS HOUR": I have to say my favorite piece of the clip is the cut to the black tie, white people, all laughing nervously at the joke. Which gets exactly to the heart of this problem here, is we are so uncomfortable when we talk about race and that we are happy when someone goes so far over the pale, when someone is so ridiculous that we can all agree that it's offensive, that we can all agree he's racist, otherwise we don't want to call anything racist.

We don't want to call anything that. We want to pretend the black president means we are beyond racism. It's interesting to me how worked up we get about Cliven Bundy and Donald Sterling for good reason, but how worked up we don't get worked up about Sterling's housing discrimination or Cliven Bundy's squatting on federal land.

CROWLEY: In fact, you made the point to me when we were talking about it that we don't punish actors. We punish the sayers who vocalize something.

IFILL: Exactly.

CROWLEY: It seems to me that we do focus so much on the hole rather than the doughnut.

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: But I think, look, I think the lesson of Cliven Bundy, the lesson of sterling is that racism still exists, but racism is not acceptable. And you can be a racist, but you better not let anybody know about it because if they do, you're going to pay a price and you should because society is not going to look the other way and we are not going to pretend because you're rich or because you're this or you're a political figure it's not happening. There is a cost to racism and something that needs to be weed out.

CROWLEY: To Gwen's point, there wasn't a cost to some of the things the NBA owner did when it came to housing and trying to get minorities out of his housing complexes. There wasn't any of that, so it does seem to me that when someone says something so blatantly racist, it's like low-hanging fruit. We go this is terrible, but when it comes to how about the education gap, how about income disparity, how about, you know, any of these multitude of things that we could be talking about.

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Here we are having a conversation about race 60 years after the Brown versus Board of Education decision, 50 years after the landmark civil rights legislation, probably the most significant piece of legislation in the 20th century in terms of eradicating barriers. And still we have barriers, we have structural impediments that keep African-Americans, Latinos and other Americans from truly achieving the American dream.

It's because we like to talk about the superficial, and we like to use the old language of the 19th century and we're afraid to figure out in the 21st century how we end these so-called glaring problems in our society that requires policy decisions, and nobody wants to talk about policy. NAVARRO: It also requires, Donna, consistency. One of the things about this NBA L.A. Clipper thing that most bothered me and I think has not gotten as much attention, he had been given an award by the L.A. branch of the NAACP and was about to receive another lifetime award.

BRAZILE: Correct.

NAVARRO: They had, what, sold themselves for a few bits of silver? They were trying to -- this guy knew he was going to do what, whitewash his record by giving donations?

BRAZILE: And the chair stepped down, which is a good thing. The NAACP is in the business of promoting justice and equality for all people. They're not in the business of promoting bigotry. And I don't understand the policy behind the donation or what was being awarded to Mr. Sterling, but the point is, Candy, is that in the 21st Century, we haven't figured out the language yet. We haven't figured out the policies, and therefore, we have to constantly go back to the past to see if we could reach some conclusion.

IFILL: I could say one thing to what Ana said it's not OK to be a racist if nobody knows about it, it's not OK for racism to be practiced as long as you don't say it out loud. We are in this interesting position of punishing people for speech in a society that prizes free speech and yet not punishing them for actions. And I do think what we have underlying the outrageousness is a plot of problems which are unaddressed and speak to the things that candy was talking about.

When you talk about education, you talk about who is getting good education and who is not and how much that falls along racial lines. Who is incarcerated, who is not and how much that is the president's talking about, falls along racial lines, who gets opportunities and who doesn't. I don't think that that is insignificant and it's just something we don't seem equipped to deal with unless someone says something outrageous.

CROWLEY: Can I posit this, if we have it, and I think we do. Paul Ryan got himself into a bit of trouble when he talked about the inner city and after a visit that he made there, talking about poverty and the inner city and a culture of people who didn't want to work or that kind of thing. So he was immediately jumped on. This week he went to talk to a congressional black caucus to further explain and he came out and said one thing and I want to play you Elijah Cummings who was in on that meeting right after hearing Paul Ryan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN: The point I've been making all along we are marginalizing and isolating the poor in our communities and we need to stop that doing that in our country.

REPRESENTATIVE ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: He says that he's done a tour of the United States and learned a lot and I think it still has a lot to learn. (END VIDEO CLIP)

IFILL: Politicians are almost the worst people to have this conversation about, because what Paul Ryan was to be is what we say we want him to do, get out of his bubble and see. Now, if you don't agree with him, basically you don't agree with his budget, think his budget is going to harm his constituency, which Elijah Cummings believes, so that's about politics, not what he was attempting to do, which was broaden the conversation, the thing we say we want.

NAVARRO: I'm not comfortable though lumping Paul Ryan with this other conversation.

CROWLEY: I'm not trying to do that at all. Actually, my point here was has it become the third rail of culture, because Paul Ryan is now like every word that comes out, there is the fear that you will say something that's going to be deeply offensive.

NAVARRO: And that's true, but we need more Paul Ryans in the U.S. if you ask me. I am grateful and happy that Paul Ryan is going to some of the Latino centers and he has been touring the country and learning more. That's what we want out of our politicians.

CROWLEY: Get bashed for it was sort my point.

NAVARRO: They live in their own little world in Wisconsin, while he's been out all over the United States in some of the poorer communities and he was inarticulate, but Paul Ryan is one of the good guys and trying to make positive things.

CROWLEY: I'll let you make that point when we come back and wrap it up. I have to take a quick break. You guys will stick with us. When we return, wrapping up this conversation and turning to Benghazi.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: This is the smoking gun that shows they were consciously trying to manipulate the evidence.

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI (D), MINORITY LEADER: Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi. Why aren't we talking about something else?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: I am back. My best gal pals, Na -- na? Ana Navarro --

NAVARRO: Now I'm Nana.

CROWLEY: Donna and Gwen Ifill. Donna, put a button on this talk about race.

BRAZILE: I would hope in this historic year of celebrating so much progress that we can have some way of talking about what change looks like in the future, how we address the growing demographics in our country, the multiculturalism. Diversity is a strength of this nation, it is not a deficit. It is an asset and we should be honoring programs that provide inclusion and people who understand that to grow our economy we're going to have to have a diverse workforce as well. It's a broad issue. That's all.

CROWLEY: Next show, we will decide how to do that.

IFILL: We have got ideas.

NAVARRO: I have to tell you, I have got give you kudos and the team on this program kudos, the Sunday shows are dominated by white men. Not this program, not today, certainly.

CROWLEY: Thank you, Ma'am. I want to move on to Benghazi, back in the news. It actually never really left the news. Some new information that came from a memo from Ben Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser to the president in which he talks about, look the point of Sunday shows, speaking to Susan Rice, is to show that this was about a videotape and not any resurgence of terrorism, not a coat.

This week, we have had John Kerry subpoenaed by one committee for not handing over information and we now have an independent investigation -- a special committee to investigate Benghazi. This is what Harry Reid it had to same for Republicans to waste the American people's time and money staging a partisan political circus instead of focusing on the middle class is simply a bad decision. While Republicans try to gin up yet another political food fight, Senate Democrats will remain focused on fostering economic growth for all hard-working Americans.

BRAZILE: There were five protests across the Arab world, four cities, 50 protests across the world in general. The talking points, I have read the Benghazi report two times shall want to write another report, fine. The American people want us to try to figure out solutions to problems. Hillary Clinton has taken responsibility. Barack Obama has taken responsibility to beef up security. Four Americans have died.

What are the Republicans trying to do in trying to re-litigate this? That's -- Ben Rhodes' memo, because I see White House talking points from time to time, I admit that, too. It was 20 paragraphs, two sentences, stuff that the CIA told him to put in. I don't understand what the big fuss is, but if they want to fight it, let's fight it and keep fighting something else.

NAVARRO: The big fuss for the Republicans, all this time, this White House has said it was not involved in developing those talking points and not about covering up a failure of policy. Look, what's done is done. The politics of this, in the midst of an election, not going to undo the election results, if politics was played something involving national security and the lives and deaths of four Americans, yes, it is worth getting to the bottom of.

BRAZILE: The Senate committee didn't get to the bottom of it?

NAVARRO: That's the point of this memo. This memo was never given. CROWLEY: I would give the last 30 seconds to Gwen, who is loving sitting here.

IFILL: I'm happy to be silent. If this weren't about politics, we would be talking about 200-plus missing girls in Nigeria.

BRAZILE: Amen.

IFILL: We will be talking about the outbreak of war in South Sudan. There are so many important issues around the world, which involve people's lives, hopeless people's lives that can involve attention.

CROWLEY: I agree with you there. The Nigerian girls story is just chilling, absolutely. We all can agree on it. Gwen Ifill, Donna Brazile, Ana Navarro, thank you very much.

Fareed Zakaria starts at the top of the hour. But first, we are getting reports that hundreds of pro-Russian activists stormed a police headquarters in Ukraine. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Thanks for watching. I'm Candy Crowley in Washington. Be sure to set your DVR to "STATE OF THE UNION," if you can't be here live, but if you missed any part of today's show find us on iTunes. Just search "STATE OF THE UNION." "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS" is next after a check of the headlines.