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STATE OF THE UNION WITH CANDY CROWLEY

Wildfires Ravage Southern California; Why Allow Fracking in The Face of Mounting Climate Challenges; Interview with Jerry Brown

Aired May 18, 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: California simmers after wildfires scorch an area bigger than Manhattan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY (voice over): Today, California wildfires and a political flat (ph) point.

GOV. JERRY BROWN (D), CALIFORNIA: Climate change is a factor here. It's not about theory. It's not about politics. This is about fires on the ground.

CROWLEY: Thousands of acres have burned. It's just the beginning of the fire season. We'll talk with California governor Jerry Brown.

Then after weeks of ugly words and open racial divides comes the 60th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision, Brown versus board of education. Words that mattered.

CROWLEY: Without Brown, would Deval Patrick be governor of Massachusetts?

GOV. DEVAL PATRICK (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Who knows? I don't think so.

CROWLEY: Our conversation with Governor Patrick about why it's so hard to talk about race, how his friend, Barack Obama is faring and his worries about Hillary Clinton

And then the Obama administration's twilight years. The growing distance between Democrats and the White House and all things cloak and dagger with the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Dianne Feinstein.

Plus --

JULIAN CASTRO, MAYOR OF SAN ANTONIO: No matter who you are or where you come from, the path is always forward.

CROWLEY: Why would the rising star mayor of San Antonio move to Washington to become Secretary of Housing in an administration with more past than future? Our political panel adds to the latest buzz.

This is STATE OF THE UNION.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CROWLEY: I'm Candy Crowley in Washington. It is 12:00 p.m. on the east coast, 9:00 a.m. out west. And that's where we begin, where southern California wildfires fueled by drought-fierce winds and record high temperatures have burned almost 30,000 acres. Most of the fires are now largely contained, residents are returning home but many are still on edge because they have already seen 1500 wildfires this year, well above the yearly average of 800.

Joining me now, California Governor Jerry Brown. Governor, it is good to see you. It is good to hear that perhaps you are gaining on these fires. Give us an update.

BROWN: We are gaining. A few more fires have been put out. The 5,000 firefighters are getting ready to go back to their normal places where they live or they work. So, yes, it's progress for now, but we are in a very dry year, the third driest. And, yes, fires are going to be an ever-present threat and as this climate tilts drier and drier in the west, we are going to have mounting challenges and mounting expenses.

CROWLEY: And how do you meet those challenges? I know in our interview with our Wolf Blitzer earlier this week, you blamed climate change for, you know, some of the atmospheric and some of this but I wanted to draw to your attention something that the spokesman for Cal Fire, your fire agency, Daniel Berlant told the "National Geographic" recently when he said, "weather does not cause fires, weather just causes a fire to burn. It's the people that have the role of actually preventing that fire."

So, moving forward and aside from a sort of long-term climate change policies, what now, looking at what's been a pretty horrific year, should Californians do?

BROWN: Well, not do anything stupid, of course, avoiding using -- first of all, throwing cigarette butts around or dangerous camp fires. That has to be controlled. And in many places, shouldn't occur at all but even driving -- using a different kind of equipment or driving tractors or certain vehicles can cause sparks. The sparks can cause fires. Then of course, we have lightning and there's just a series of forces of which human beings are certainly a major component.

But all this means we have to be readier. We have to take brush out from around buildings and homes. And have to have the equipment, the planes, the vehicles, the fire troops, to be able to handle these things.

So, look, nature is powerful, more powerful than human beings, for sure. And we have to just watch and prepare and then act with coherence and leadership when the fires start.

CROWLEY: So, do you have the wherewithal to fight these fires at the rate at which they are -- seem to be occurring this year anyway?

BROWN: Well, we have the -- exactly yes to what you said, but if the fires continue, our fire season now, the last decade or two, has been 70 days longer. In fact, we have fire crews year round, instead of just being seasonal.

So, we are gearing up. Things are changing. But you know, this world is still basically about nature. It's not about human beings and our machines and our toys. We're just a small part of a very large, overpowering system that we have to adapt to with great wisdom in preparation and investment. And that's what we are doing in California.

We are ahead of the curve, but as that curve of dryness and fire, disasters continues to escalate, we are going to have to deploy more resources. I've already signed a bill for $600 million. We will probably do more in the coming years. And we will do whatever it takes for humankind to live here in the state of California.

CROWLEY: Let me ask you, because you have been in your state and elsewhere, quite vocal about climate change and things to improve upon going into the future, a lot of people find it curious that you continue to allow and do not ban fracking in your state, pending a study which you have ordered up, but we know you are in a state with a drought and that fracking does, in fact, use water in order to pull those -- go ahead.

BROWN: Sure. Well, there is a lot of water being used. There is a lot of concern about fracking and that's why we are spending millions of dollars and taking the time to understand as much as we can about the consequences, the water use, the seismic potential, the seismic activity that can be created by fracking, but -- and by the way, fracking in the new Monterey Shale out here is very small and before any big expansion occurs, we are going to have a lot more scientific and technological information.

But fracking which is called well stimulation to get the oil and the water out of the ground has been going on for -- in California for more than 50 years. So, we are not going to shut down a third of our oil production and force more oil coming from North Dakota, where they are fracking, a lot more to come by train or more boats and ships coming in from all over the world.

Californians drive 332 billion, that's billion miles a year, fed almost entirely by oil products. So we have got to start hammering at the demand as well as the sources of fossil fuel. And as far as the well stimulation that can be done with recycling water and that's one of the issues that our environmental analysis will provide some answers to over the next year.

CROWLEY: Governor, while I have you here, I want to turn to you two other subjects. One is you have the -- allowed the medical use of marijuana in your state. When I have talked to you, you have always put it in quotes, as many Californians do because (ph) I think it is simply a cover for a lot of people who do recreational marijuana smoking and other things.

So, my question to you is now that Colorado has had a couple of months under its belt, Washington state as well, have you given new consideration to allowing recreational use, which most people already think is already going on in California? BROWN: Well, not really because the real issue will come up the next time we have a general election in two years as to whether people want to go further and legalize marijuana.

CROWLEY: Do you think it's a good idea?

(CROSSTALK)

BROWN: I want to see what goes on in Colorado. With the marijuana you talk about now, they tell me is a lot more powerful and before people get advertised and propagandized into using this chemical excessively, I think we ought to take a look at Colorado and Washington, see how it is. There is no big hurry here. We have medical marijuana that's available, you know, with a 20-minute conversation with any number of hundreds of doctors. So I think we have got the current use handled for now, but going forward, I think we ought to be very careful before we open the flood gates.

CROWLEY: I want to ask you a political question about your party. It looks at this moment as though there will not be much of a primary season for the Democrats in 2016 and I'm wondering if you think that what appears to be Hillary Clinton moving toward a candidacy, which has so far frozen the rest of candidates who might be thinking about it, that there will be no competition during the primary season for Democrats.

Is that healthy for the party?

BROWN: Well, I don't know. If I'm Hillary Clinton, I'm probably glad there isn't. But if there is some opposition out there, they are quite capable of running. Certainly, normally, there are challengers. But you know, each election is its own unique phenomenon.

And today, the action is more on the Republican side, but certainly, Hillary Clinton has a great opportunity to articulate the position and the vision she has, to the extent that that's effective in galvanizing, that will be good for the Democrats and the Republicans can sort out who their candidate will be. Elections at the end of the day are usually pretty exciting. They do resolve matters and I'm certainly looking forward to the next presidential one to find out just how it's going to turn out.

CROWLEY: Me, too. Governor Jerry Brown, as always, we really thank you for your time.

BROWN: Thank you.

CROWLEY: Up next, his humble beginnings echo president Obama's personal biography, so, will Governor Deval Patrick follow in his friend's footsteps and make a bid for the White House?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Candy Crowley with a short story about a long time ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

It's about a boy born in 1956, two years after a land mark Supreme Court decision declared as unconstitutional, state laws segregating public school buys race.

The boy grew up in south side Chicago in a complex known as the Robert Taylor homes, once the largest housing project in the country. He was raised by a single mom, shared bunk bed with her and his sister in his grandparent's two-bedroom apartment. The golden dome state house on Boston's beacon street is lifetimes away from that tenement apartment...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

...the distance between the south side and the corner office paved with education.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Without Brown, would Deval Patrick be governor of Massachusetts?

PATRICK: Who knows? I don't think so. I don't think so. You know, the actual decision, as you know, was just about desegregating the classrooms and just about desegregating elementary school classrooms. But the import of Brown was to, as I say, enable people to imagine a different kind of country and a different kind of community. And I think that's been huge.

CROWLEY: In the arc of civil rights history, place Brown for me in terms of the importance for the advancement of life in the United States for African-Americans?

PATRICK: I mean, there are kind of conspicuous examples, like Barack Obama is our president, or me as the first African-American governor of Massachusetts. But I will say Governor Wilder, as you know, Doug Wilder, is the first election - first African-American elected governor in the country, governor of Virginia, introduced me once in a marvelous way. And he said being free (ph) -- he talked about the fuss that's always made about being the first. He said, being first doesn't mean a thing unless there's a second. And there are so many seconds in so many quarters today because of Brown and I think that's made us a better country.

CROWLEY: You talked about the promise of Brown and the hope of Brown. Has it failed in any way, do you think?

PATRICK: Well, I think there's still work to do, and I think that one - one of the jobs we have to do as Americans is learn to talk about the journey toward justice around race and other ways of exclusion, because we have a hard time acknowledging at the same time the extraordinary progress we've made, much of it in my lifetime, and at the same time acknowledging how much work we have to do.

CROWLEY: In fact, I think sometimes when you've seen the conversations of the past couple weeks, when you've had an NBA owner and you've had a rancher in Nevada, some place in the west, that the conversation seems to go places where it does no good. And then it gets dropped. What's the conversation that needs to happen?

PATRICK: I'm not sure it's just conversation, to tell you the truth, or even mainly conversation. It's about how people live, you know, who they choose as their friends, where they choose to live. I remember a friend of mine describing Brown versus Board of Education as being the example of sending the kids in to do what the adults wouldn't do. The adults wouldn't live together, wouldn't integrate the neighborhoods, so we sent the kids in to integrate the schools.

And the power, the enrichment of leading an integrated life around people who are indifferent, bringing them to your table, bringing them into your lives, into your friendships, into your love, which is how my wife and I have tried to raise our kids, and I think has made for a much richer life for us and I think in many, many other quarters, a richer country.

CROWLEY: This is the second time you've mentioned something sort of in connection with race, sort of outside the confines of a government solution. You talked about race (ph) on the south side where everybody was your family and everybody was watching over you. You know what's happened to the south side of Chicago.

PATRICK: Right. I do.

CROWLEY: What's happened here, do you think, that that this sense of family...

PATRICK: Yes.

CROWLEY: ...in all communities, we're talking the African-American community because of Brown. What's happened?

PATRICK: Well, I think it's a critical question and I think sometimes I hear - I hear people talk about Brown as responsible for the breakdown of that kind of - that kind of sense of community. I don't think that's it at all.

I do think that there is a connectedness that in many, many quarters people no longer feel. You know, we used to have not just the old ladies in church on the south side of Chicago, but our public leaders encouraging us to turn to each other rather than on each other. Talking about the stake in a strong community that we see not just in our own dreams and struggles, but in our neighbors as well. That's one of the reasons I was so attracted to President Obama's candidacy, because he talked in those terms. And I think an awful lot of people responded to that because we're hungry for that kind of connectedness.

CROWLEY: I want to talk to you about your friend, President Barack Obama.

PATRICK: You mean our president?

CROWLEY: Yes, our president, Barack Obama. The recurring storyline now, I think that you are beginning to see is that he has been somewhat of a disappointment to liberals and to the African-American community.

PATRICK: I'm enormously proud of this president. And I say that not as a friend - not just his friend but as a citizen.

I remember -- I remember obviously much smaller scale, Candy, at home, when I ran for the first time and how much euphoria there was. And we had a pretty rough few first months when it felt like folks were really working real hard to -- well, you know, I was making mistakes and folks were working real hard I think also to see - to say, see, you shouldn't have - you shouldn't have invested so much -- so much hope.

Eight years later, we've got terrific results across the board and we have changed the paradigm in terms of focusing on governing for the next generation and not just the next election cycle or news cycle. And I think that's going to be the president's legacy as well.

CROWLEY: I want to read you something that appeared in "The Washington Post" about can anyone run against Hillary, is there a non- Hillary candidate?

PATRICK: Uh-oh. What's in there?

CROWLEY: Deval Patrick. "The Massachusetts governor has gone quiet after opening the door to at least thinking about a 2016 race earlier this spring. Patrick is a gifted speaker who would likely play well among activists on the stump. And if he was the lone African-American candidate in a Hillary-less field, Patrick would have a major leg up."

PATRICK: Wow.

CROWLEY: Yes.

PATRICK: That's very nice.

CROWLEY: What do you think?

PATRICK: I'm not a candidate.

CROWLEY: For sure for 2016?

PATRICK: No, you know, this is the first elected job I've had. And I've -- I've given it everything. I've focused on it. We don't have term limits, so I could technically run again. I was telling you before, I have a term limit named Diane. And she said two terms and that's it, then back into the private sector, at least for a time, because I owe her some time and some earnings. And she's right.

I respect - I respect public office and politics. I may yet - I may yet run -- there was all this speculation because a whole lot of people said you really ought to think about it. And I appreciated that. And I said publicly that I've been asked by a lot of people to think about it. And that turned into news. Who knew?

CROWLEY: And so you've thought about it. And the answer is no.

PATRICK: No, no. This is not - this is not the time that's right for me.

CROWLEY: When you look at 2016, is Hillary all the way, do you think?

PATRICK: Well, I don't know. I guess -- I guess I worry a little bit. She's an enormously capable candidate and leader, but I do worry about the inevitability thing, because I think it's off-putting to the average - the average voter. I think that was an element of her campaign the last time. And I would just -- as an enthusiastic Democrat, I just hope that the people around her pay attention to that this time around.

CROWLEY: Do you consider yourself a Hillary Clinton Democrat?

PATRICK: Is there such a thing? I consider myself --

CROWLEY: Well, or a Joe Biden Democrat?

PATRICK: You mean am I supporting somebody?

CROWLEY: An O'Malley Democrat? I could go on.

PATRICK: I haven't endorsed. I probably - I probably won't. I certainly have been asked. I'll help the nominee if the nominee wants my help.

CROWLEY: So pretty Switzerland right now?

PATRICK: Yes, I've got another job to focus on right now.

CROWLEY: Governor Deval Patrick, thank you for spending some time with us.

PATRICK: Appreciate it. Thank you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Joining me now, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Dianne Feinstein of California. Thank you for being here. Appreciate it.

FEINSTEIN: Good morning.

CROWLEY: I want to talk first about that phenomenon known as a lame duck presidency. We're seeing on a number of issues, Democrats beginning to back away a little from the president's position on a judge or on a specific issue. Have we entered that time as we look ahead to the midterms and we already know the 2016 presidential race is going, that you are looking at a president with less power?

FEINSTEIN: I don't think it's backing away from him at all. I think one of the things that's happening is it's so difficult to move anything through the Senate because of the use of cloture by Republicans so that virtually everything fails. We did have some good things, the agriculture bill and the immigration bill passed the Senate. Those are two major bills.

CROWLEY: You needed him worse than you needed the Republicans on those?

FEINSTEIN: Yes, that's true. I don't see the backing away. I actually believe my colleagues desperately want him to succeed. They want him to leave a legacy. Health care will be that legacy. If we get immigration through, it will be that legacy. I think he is concerned with getting out there, to some degree, maybe too much, because he has to concentrate on getting bills through. That's my view. But I think his legacy has yet to be written, and I think that's where he will concentrate.

CROWLEY: One of the things that some Democrats have objected to is a deal that the president made with Republicans that allowed them one of their judicial nominees, that they wanted to see come through, as long as a group of them passed, groups of nominations on Michael Boggs, on social issues, in particular, they have real problems with him. Would you block that nomination? Would you vote against Michael Boggs?

FEINSTEIN: Well, not at this stage. I want to meet with him. I want to talk with him. I want him to go through the committee hearings first. I did do that. I think the questions are very apparent. I know he has some very strong support, even in the African-American community in the state of Georgia. I have spoken to John Lewis about him in the House and I have great respect for John Lewis who felt that this was a good ticket. I've got to do my own due diligence and when I'm ready, I'll vote.

CROWLEY: I want to move you on, lots of conversation this week about Hillary Clinton and her health, brought up by Karl Rove, a top Republican strategist certainly to former President Bush. He talked about her, her accident when she had a blood clot and was hospitalized. Even President Clinton said it took six months to get over this. When you look at that argument, when you look at the Benghazi argument, when you look at a number of things coming up along the way, what does it tell you about the nature of the battle coming up in 2016, should Hillary Clinton become the Democratic nominee?

FEINSTEIN: Well, first of all, the Karl Rove effort was pathetic and I think it's caused --

CROWLEY: But legitimate?

FEINSTEIN: No.

CROWLEY: The health of the candidate?

FEINSTEIN: No. No. Not legitimate.

CROWLEY: The gist of it, that she has to be --

FEINSTEIN: That she has sustained brain damage? That's legitimate?

CROWLEY: The brain damage quote he denies. Will Hillary Clinton have to be more forthcoming about her health?

FEINSTEIN: In my view, she's in the prime of her political life. She's got the energy. She's articulate, she has the smarts, and has all of the elements of a good leader plus the fact, and this is not to be underestimated, she is enormously attractive to people. She carries the torch for women who are the majority of votes in this country very strongly and holds it very high. I think people respond to her.

CROWLEY: Do you worry that she is too early on this? We heard Governor Patrick say, I worry about this whole inevitability thing. I hope people are watching that because it tends to turn voters off.

FEINSTEIN: Well, this is hard for me because I did talk with her and thought it would be better that she not get out there early because her favorability was so high that all that could happen in this is go down because somebody would do the stupid things that Karl Rove has just done. But I think this. I think her book is coming out. I think the book will likely carry a good bit of her thinking on various big issues.

Certainly foreign policy, certainly the secretary of state, and we would have someone in the White House who would have a real background in foreign policy. And I think that's critical at this point in the world with Russia expanding, with Africa becoming real problems from a terror point of view and on and on and on.

CROWLEY: I want to talk to you about a couple of those things using your expertise as chair of the Intelligence Committee. The first is, as you know, the House set up a select committee on Benghazi. It remains to be seen whether Democrats will join in that new probe. There are Republicans on the Senate saying we either ought to join that probe or have our own select committee. You did a study. Are you satisfied now? Would you go along with a Senate panel looking into this?

FEINSTEIN: I think it's ridiculous. I think it's a hunting mission for a lynch mob actually. I think that's what's going on. There have been four major reports. We spent a year and a half on a report. We held hearings. Thousands of pages were reviewed. The staff spent hours and weeks on it first. That's the first thing. Homeland security in the Senate did an investigation. The accountability review that came up, the Pickering-Mullen review.

And I just don't -- if you compare it to Ronald Reagan, who is the big Republican hero and what happened in Beirut with three attacks, with 240 servicemen with seven CIA officers, with one chief of station being tortured to death and Reagan admitted we weren't ready for it. Well, since then, a lot of things have been done. There were faults. The intelligence was there. Action should have been taken.

CROWLEY: Do you feel -- there were memos, as you now know, that didn't make their way to your committee or any of these other committees. They were revealed under the Freedom of Information Act to an outside group. It was a memo from a spokesman from the National Security Council saying -- rather someone on the National Security Council saying, well, we want to put our best, you know, face forward in general, talking about the talking points. Do you feel that you know what happened in Benghazi, why the ambassador and others were there on 9/11 despite CIA reports despite that it was kind of just a hot bed of terrorist activity in Benghazi at that point? Are you confident you know what happened with those talking points and it was not an attempt to mislead the American people? You think all those questions have been answered?

FEINSTEIN: I believe they have. And they certainly have been -- our report was bipartisan and they were certainly answered to the satisfaction of the intelligence committee.

CROWLEY: OK. Let me ask you about the kidnapped girls in Nigeria. Is there anything new from an intelligence point of view that you can tell us about what happened there?

FEINSTEIN: Well, we're using all our technical means, working with other nations. As you know, France has become very active. All of that is good. I don't think there's any precise information at this time. I think there are real problems with the Nigerian government and the Nigerian military because there was notice that this was going to happen. The military did nothing. Boko Haram has burned down 200 girls' schools. The government has done nothing. So if you do nothing in the face of terror, it does one thing. It brings out more terror.

CROWLEY: And finally, I want to ask you, Glenn Greenwald has a new book out, you know Glenn Greenwald, one of the folks who had Edward Snowden as a source and leaked a lot of information about the NSA. In his new book, he talks about the NSA leaving almost no stone unturned to just collect massive amounts of information, and one of the things he talked about was a plan that intercepts computer equipment and retrofitting it with spyware at ports headed out of the U.S. to other countries.

FEINSTEIN: Well, I haven't read his book. I just saw it for the first time in the green room, as a matter of fact, so I'm not going to comment.

CROWLEY: Does that sound familiar at all though, like taking computers --

FEINSTEIN: No. No, it does not. I can look into it. It does not sound familiar. I can tell you this, we just went through the opening of the 9/11 museum. I know they will come after us if they can. I see the intelligence. Terror is not down in the world. It is up, both deaths, injuries, in many, many different places. Al Qaeda has metastasized. The question becomes how does we prevent an attack in this country? Now, the program that's been so criticized, the 215 program, begins with a targeted terrorist who is abroad calling into this country. It's not a surveillance program.

CROWLEY: Right.

FEINSTEIN: What it is a data collection program and some of that is going to be changed. The House Judiciary Committee has passed a bill. The House Intelligence Committee has passed a bill. We are looking at those bills. It may be that we can find a way to make some improvements that will solve everyone's problem with it to a great extent.

CROWLEY: I am over time at this point. I have to ask you, if you can, in one word or a sentence. You have oversight over the CIA. You and the CIA have had significant differences, particularly over the handling of the report on torture at the CIA. What is your relationship now with the CIA?

FEINSTEIN: Well, my relationship is good.

CROWLEY: Better?

FEINSTEIN: No. What's interesting -- what I have to do is oversight. I'm not there to be the most popular person in any building. It's to see that my committee is diligent, that we do the work of oversight, that when they're wrong, we do something about it. When there's something going on that shouldn't be, we do something about it.

CROWLEY: Thank you so much, Senator Dianne Feinstein. It's always great to talk to you.

FEINSTEIN: Thank you.

CROWLEY: When we return, San Antonio Mayor, Julian Castro, took center stage at the 2012 Democratic National Convention.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JULIAN CASTRO, MAYOR OF SAN ANTONIO: For my generation and all the generations to come, our choice is clear. Our choice is a man who has already chosen us, a man who already is our president, Barack Obama.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Castro has mostly avoided the glare of Washington's spotlight, until now. Our panel on why a rising star may have decided to come to Washington.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Joining me around the table, former White House Communications Director Anita Dunn, Amy Walter, national editor for the "Cook Political Report," and CNN "CROSSFIRE" co-host, Newt Gingrich. Thank you all.

So now we're hearing that one of the Castro brothers -- one of them is already a congressman. This one we're talking about is currently the mayor of San Antonio, is probably going to come to Washington and become Housing secretary. I, you know, bring you Henry Cisneros, once also thought of as an up-and-comer who said to CNN about Castro, "it's a lot more likely he can get oven that ticket," meaning as a vice presidential contender, "from the national office than the mayor's job. He will grow into a national-caliber talent."

Now we all thought that. He wants to take a job so he'll look as a number two on the ticket. What strikes you about this news?

AMY WALTER, NATIONAL EDITOR, "COOK POLITICAL REPORT": Well, I guess the fact that we're talking now about 2016, when we talk about the national ticket. And we're talking about the Democratic Party that has succeeded, in part, because of its ability to attract minority voters and women, and we know there's one woman who is potentially on the top of the ticket. Who could it be, if not her and who could a running mate be? And there are not many, despite all the facts that Democrats get Latino votes, there aren't many high-profile Latino elected officials in big positions, in big jobs.

CROWLEY: Seems kind of funny to have on-the-job training at the Housing Department.

ANITA DUNN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATION DIRECTOR: Well, Candy, I have to jump in with a bit of substance here. He's the mayor of the seventh largest city in the United States. He successfully got the business community to back an initiative to raise the sales tax in 2012 to fund expanded pre-k for the education system down there, which was a major deal and passed comfortably. A tax increase in a year that wasn't seeing a lot of tax increases. If he were nominated, he'd be a very strong candidate for this job.

CROWLEY: It does look -- it's kind of the waning years of the administration, so is this a policy pick or a political pick?

NEWT GINGRICH, CNN CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE": It's a good political pick for the president. It is a smart pick. It also tells you something about their estimation of Texas, which is you're not going to go from being the mayor of San Antonio to be the governor of Texas any time in the near future. Cisneros almost pulled out, he might go by being secretary of HUD, becoming a national -- you'll be seen a lot more in Houston and Dallas if you're the secretary of HUD than the mayor of San Antonio. I think it says Texas is going to remain a very Republican state despite all the early hype for Wendy Davis. That's likely to remain true for a long time.

CROWLEY: I want to look at the other side of this equation. We heard from Chris Christie this week who was talking to Bob Schaeffer who asked him the question. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you still think about running for president and when will you make a decision on that?

GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Yes, later.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Later. He also said this week he didn't think bridgegate, as it's come to be known, will affect at all his standing should he run for president? Are we at that place?

GINGRICH: What is he supposed to say? Yes, I've been mortally wounded. CROWLEY: How about we'll let the voters decide?

DUNN: There are plenty of us to say he's been mortally wounded. He doesn't have to say it himself.

GINGRICH: If you list everyone currently thinking of running for president.

DUNN: I think there are 116.

CROWLEY: And later.

GINGRICH: This is the most open Republican nomination since 1940. I think there are no front-runners, just a lot of runners.

WALTER: I think the bridgegate thing, in many respects, is going to be a smaller road bump on his path if he wants to run than a host of other issues, especially the Sandy funding. That's really where conservatives get upset with Chris Christie is the way he demanded money from the government, the way he chastised Republicans who wanted to pare back some of that Sandy aid and how it's getting spent.

CROWLEY: Is the Republican field large enough to encompass a Jeb Bush, a Chris Christie, that kind of seen as mainstream --

WALTER: Sure.

CROWLEY: He talked about how it would be hard to run against Jeb Bush because he's friends.

DUNN: Because they share a lot of donors.

CROWLEY: Because the money race comes first.

GINGRICH: More importantly, their friends are friends.

CROWLEY: Exactly.

GINGRICH: It seems to me, firstly, this is a party which nominated Bob Dole, George W. Bush, John McCain and Mitt Romney, none on the right, none authentically on the right. Every four years, we're asked can somebody who is not hard right get the nomination. It seems to me this is very wide open. I don't think we know yet what the mood of the country will be when people start to vote in early 2016.

CROWLEY: Quickly, because we've got to take a break and I want to talk about Tuesday races. Should Shinseki resign, yes or no?

GINGRICH: Yes.

WALTER: I can't.

CROWLEY: How did he do on Capitol Hill?

WALTER: Not good. DUNN: He's going to make that decision with the president. What is true is that people need -- you know, this administration needs to deal with this and they need to not just send management over there. But they need to address the real problems of those backlogs and quickly.

CROWLEY: Newt Gingrich, Amy Walter, Anita Dunn, three of the most knowledgeable people on politics that I know. Thank you all so much. When we return, an update on the fires in Southern California and then former Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner admits to Fareed that he used to be a Republican.

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CROWLEY: Thanks for watching. I'm Candy Crowley in Washington. Be sure to set your DVR to "STATE OF THE UNION" just in case you can't be here live. "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS" is next after a check on the headlines.